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PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: How not to run a marathon..!

PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: How not to run a marathon..!

With marathon season on the horizon, we've revisited a cracking blog, that Matt here at Runr HQ, wrote a little while back!


So you've been training for months, following a training program, and you've been slowly building up the miles. And now the big day is here. You're ready. And the gun goes!

Edinburgh 2012 was my second marathon after my sub 4 near miss (4:01:11) in Paris the year before. I had trained hard, albeit not following an exact plan but had run three 22 mile runs so I knew I was feeling confident. What I hadn't factored in was how confident I was feeling.

My training runs were around 08:45 min/mile pace - usually finishing strong with a couple of sub 08:30s in there too. But you get the gist of the sort of pace I should be targeting to run.

The race day itself was a warm end of May day with little wind. From what I recall of the course the first 10km used to start higher up and you'd wind yourself down to the flat seafront part of course so the course was renowned for being very fast. I believe the course changed a little couple of years later but it is still considered to be one of fastest in the UK.

I had planned to run with my training partner but the adrenaline and excitement got the better of me so on the gun I set off quickly. I'd deliberated many many times about the benefits of easing yourself into a run compared to banking some time early on for when the wheels fall off later on.

I was banking about 1 minute per mile running approximately 7:40 min miles early on. My target race time was to beat that Paris marathon near miss of sub 4. But the race plan was to run at 8:45 min miles as per our training runs.

The 10km mark came and went holding steady at 7:40 min miles ish.

The next landmark I use is the Great South Run i.e. 10 miles and I flew through that at sub 80 mins.

I recall looking around me as I approached the half marathon point. There were a lot of club people in running vests and there was me - none of the gear, and no idea! At this point I thought I've 'possibly' overcooked it early on but I felt great. Legs were ticking over nicely, energy levels felt good and I had banked a ridiculous amount of time so confidence was brimming.

My second half race strategy / mind games is forget everything up to this point. Try to completely blank it out and get yourself to mile 17. Once you are there you are counting down single digits that are left.

I managed to get to mile 17 and I could feel energy levels were waning somewhat but that's not really unexpected - it was a warm day and I'd be running for ~2:15 hours. At mile 21 I was still on 7:45 pacing approximately. I could have walked in and still smashed my PB.

But now this is where it all starts to get a little hazy. 

According to the St Johns ambulance staff.... mile 22 something I was staggering around the course completely out of it. One of the stewards grabbed me and propped me up against a wall next to St Johns ambulance. I was out for the count.

A couple of minutes later I came round and vomited twice on the pavement next to me. Apparently this was a good sign and paramedics were relieved. I must admit I didn't think it was positive at the time!

They asked my name, where I lived, and did I know where I was. Frighteningly, I genuinely couldn't answer ANY of those questions. I was rather concerned, and confused, as to what had gone on.

They wheeled me (I think!) to a tent that was setup conveniently a short distance from my position on the pavement. There I lay for approximately 2 hours on a bed with people probing me and feeding me Gatorade energy drink and McCoys Ready Salted crisps.

Apparently they took my race number off of me as it had next of kin information. Me being me, and I've no idea how, I had put my OWN contact details as next of kin. So if they were to ring anyone... the phone attached to my arm would have started buzzing!

2 hours later I was given the all clear. I was very grateful and requested a lift to the end to which they replied you'll have to walk! I had approximately 4 miles to go so I picked up my feet and plodded / shuffled to the finish line. I finished in 5:27 hours - far from my PB but I was glad to be alive!

When it comes to race day, be careful.

  • Understand the conditions especially if it unexpectedly hot.
  • Stay hydrated throughout especially early on when you may not be feeling thirsty. Let fluids flow into your system so you can reap the reward later in the race.
  • Stick to your race strategy and keep it in line with your training plan. It is good to bank time early on but do it conservatively. A negative split is the best way, and safest, to race in my experience.

And finally remember this.... you're not the new Mo Farah! SLOW DOWN!!!!

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