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The Sub 4 Hour Goal by Hayley

The Sub 4 Hour Goal by Hayley

After completing the London Marathon in 2016 in a time of 4 hours and 1 minute I was desperate to get rid of that 1 minute! I was determined to run another marathon and get sub 4 hours – I tried for the next 2 years to get into London via the ballot again and after not getting in for 2019 I decided to sign up for the Manchester Marathon instead.

I signed up for online coaching with PMG Coaching to achieve my goals and began my marathon training block in December. The whole approach to this marathon was completely different. I had speed sessions planned, hill sessions and ‘easy’ runs which meant running at least 1-2 minutes slower than normal. The ‘easy’ runs were possibly the most difficult to get to grips with. Before this marathon block, I had always run constantly looking at my pace and aiming for at least 8 – 830 minute miles all the time no matter the distance so to consciously slow down took some getting used to. I did a lot of reading about the benefits to all the different types of runs on my training plan and stuck with it, just trusting the process.

I had made no secret of wanting to get sub 4 – announcing it to my friends and documenting it on my running Instagram. The morning arrived and the pressure was on. I had a weird maranoia dream about getting lost during the race the night before as well! As I lined up in the pen, I was secretly hoping for a 3:45 time (I had only told one friend about this) or a time as close to that as possible. I felt this was an achievable aim, but as I had a said over and over I just wanted the time to start with a 3. I’d have been happy with a 3:59. However, I saw the 3:45 pace maker go into the pen ahead of me and I panicked as I saw the 3:58 pacer come to the front of my pen. I messaged my friend who simply said just get in front of the 3:58 pacer and don’t let them overtake you then you know you’ve got it! Wise words. I then knew I just had to run my own race and pace myself sensibly.

I had friends at various mile markers so I used that to help break down the miles as well using my gel intake (every 5 miles) as a countdown! All the way along I was conscious of my pacing and not getting ahead of myself. My pace per mile at the start was around 8:10 – 8:20 and at times I was making an effort tos low a bit. Although this may sound silly, I just didn’t want to crash towards the end. At mile 8 I spotted my friends which was great and powered on with a huge smile knowing I would see them again in another 4 miles. Miles 11 and 13 double up and you start seeing people on the other side of the road. The road seems to go on forever but there are so many people cheering it defitely helped! I had read there was hill at the halfway point and this was spot on! On my way out of Alrtincham I saw my friends again and this time they ran about 100m with me. This was amazing although I definitely got carried away and ended up running a sub 8 minute mile at miles 13. Oops!

After leaving them, I told myself to slow down and get back to the pace I was before. Halfway to go and another 4 miles until I saw my other friends. Miles 13 to 17 I picked up the pace a little bit but mindful not to go too crazy. Just before mile 17 I saw my friends and ran past thme with a huge smile. Flashback to London, this was my struggle point and I remember seeing the same friend at mile 17 in Lodnon and almost crying for her to ring my mum and get muy gels ready as I was in desparet need. But right there in Manchester I waved and told her I was fine. I really was fine!

The next few miles headed out in the countryside a bit and the miles dragged. I took a gel a little earlier than planned at mile 18 rather than 20 as I felt like I needed it. I looked at my watch to see what the time was and suddenly went into mathematician mode! I worked out how long ledt of running I had. I was running roughly 8 minute miles by this point. With 8 miles to go … I remember saying to myself 8 lots of 8 is 64. 64ish minutes add that to the time now and that is well under 3 hours and 45 minutes! I actually couldn’t believe it!

Passing the 20 mile marker along a country road you could hear lots of cheers from runners, “yessssssss 10k to go!” As I turned a bend and saw another long country road all I could think was oh no. I kept thinking ok this is my max now – the human body shouldn’t run any more than 20 miles that is the peak! I then heard screaming, two of my friends had driven to this point to cheer me on. I couldn’t believe it, they were supposed to be at the end waiting for me but they couldn’t have turned up at a better time. It was just what I needed and I am so grateful for that. Heading into mile 22, I spoke to a lady (my friends think I am mad for having a chat with people but it can be lonely out there you know) who asked me what I was aiming for. We both said that we wanted sub 4 and deep down 3:45 and we were both on for beating that. I remember saying I just want to get to 23 miles then I know it’s only a parkrun to go and the lady laughed as she said she was thinking the same. She pushed on a bit with the pace but I just continued as I was comfortable in my running.

At mile 25 I saw my coach Jordan and I literally screamed at her “I’ve smashed sub 3:45” – I was so excited. The finish line was visible quite a way back and the whole way to the finish there were people cheering and shouting the names of runners. This made my cry a bit as I had realised I had achieved so much more than what I set out to do. About 50 yards from the end I suddenly heard “GO ON HAAAAAZZZZZA” I looked and saw it was husband cheering me for the last bit. I said “I’ve done it, I’ve done it” and then continued to finish line jumping for joy. I paused my watch and saw the time 3:34. I had got my sub 4 and some!!!!! A whole 27 minute PB.

All those dark, early mornings during the winter were worth it. Now with a London Good for Age time for 2020 I am excited about what is to come!


Thanks to Hayley for sharing her great achievement and it shows what you can achieve if you put your mind to it!

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Happy running!

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