At my school there was this kid, he must have been about 2 foot nine. He just seemed to want to get into fights. With minimal of provocation, he would just leap onto someone twice the size of him (most people) and start trying to scrape and gouge, like a demented honey badger. We called him "Barim" as that was what he would yell as he leapt to his ascent of the victim. (I think he meant to say "batter him!")
But it was only ever a matter of time. Weighing all of about 40 pounds his flailing and scratching was never going to succeed. The inevitable victory of physics will see a well-struck punch or kick send the little bastard sprawling across the playground, maybe inviting an extra kick in the head if he rolled into the girls playing hopscotch.
He didn't seem too dejected though. He'd just stand up, dust himself off and run off onto another misadventure, presumably with zero chance of success.
I think Barim was the inspiration behind my race this weekend. In short, I had trained to run a 3-hour marathon. I think I was there, at least in cool conditions. Unfortunately, it was hot, 27 degrees. I'd need to be capable of running a 2.45 cool marathon to get sub three today. The typical advice is to "adjust your goals" and go for a more conservative time, maybe 3.20 or something. A target my own size.
But I didn't want to do that, I wanted to be like Barim. I thought "fuck it, I'm going to jump on this beast and try to scratch its face off until it boots me across the tarmac". No chance of success and every chance of a good beating.
So anyway, yeah I wanted to run a three-hour marathon. I thought if I told enough people about it then it might help it happen. Today there was no chance of it happening and if I did try I'd pay heavily. Two weeks before I watched all those trying the same in the London marathon have their big day spoiled by some uncharacteristic good weather in the UK in April. It was sad to see so many friends miss their targets, but my understanding of probability gave me hope. Well that's summer done with, a nice overcast 10C for my marathon guaranteed.
The day before I stood outside at 10am. I thought "this feels ok, a bit warm but I can get on with this". It was due to be the same tomorrow. Tomorrow came, after the lubing and the queuing for the toilets and deliberately getting the L and R on my socks correct I stood at the start line shortly before 10. It was uncomfortable. I was hot and not even started running yet.
There was the usual pre-race talk about the greatest day of our lives and then straight into the countdown. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 - BARIM!!!!
The first mile is always hard to gauge. You feel like you are not running fast enough as you try to wind past flappy arms Steve, grunting Pete and "started way too near the front still twiddling with your iPhone" Malcolm. I recall the first mile is uphill, so don't bother too much if the pace is a bit sedate, say 6.50.
I am still subscribing to the slowdown approach for marathons, a realistic view that you WILL slow down in 26 mile, whatever the pace so I was aiming to be running the first half in about 1.28 and then the second in 1.32. My first miles need to be around the 6.40 mark. The first was 6.31, so far so good. I saw a couple of Serpies pass me at this point, they were much faster than me and would normally be going under 3 themselves. I didn't try to stay with them.
I held it pretty well for the first few miles, they are exposed on the boulevards of Milton Keynes. Water was every 5k and I was going to drink and splash myself at every one. Any chance I could take to get cooler.
I felt like I was within myself for the first half an hour. Knocking off some nice miles 6.49, 6.47, 6.32, 6.42, 6.31. This is what I would normally do. At 5 miles I got caught by the 3 hour pacer, I carried on as normal and seemed to drop him again. That felt good. Those miles from 6-9 I wondered whether this might happen after all.
I was wearing my fetcheveryone running top. It seemed to be a good bet for pbs over the last couple of years, plus I can only fit into it when I am in shape. I don't think the black makes a difference. Check out this link for 101 colourful graphs of how my race went to shit.
Gemma and my 2 year old twins were waiting for me at around mile 11. Mile 10 was my first mile over 7, 7.04 but then I got it back under at 6.59 for 11. I knew now things were going to unravel but I at least wanted to stay ahead of the balloons until I saw the kids. I didn't want them to see me chasing balloons.
I made it, just. It was nice to see them and at that stage looking "on target", but I knew as soon as they were out of sight my grip on the bigger boy was about to falter and the kick across the playground was imminent. Mile 12 - 7.19, mile 13 - 7.20, Half Marathon - 1.29.50. The balloons passed me without much of a fight. 14 - 7.34 15 - 8.11! 16 - 8.03, then the punch. Finally the race had had enough with me and dispatched me across the floor
It's a shame this wasn't a half-marathon. In the conditions I would have been happy to just run under 1.30, keep it looking tidy and write it off as a hot day. I felt like I had just raced a half marathon and now had another half to do. I felt a bit sick, my legs were jelly and I felt quite hot and bothered. At this stage whether I got 3.15 or 3.50 wasn't a concern. I felt quite binary about it. Sub 3 or whatevs.
I started to walk, something I've not done in a road marathon for sometime. I debated dropping out. I had no reason to. I was fine, just spent. I've felt much worse in races with much more than 10 miles to go.
I think I may have forgotten how to suffer. I could have run more. I seemed to be happy to stay in the "plod when you can" mode that I might usually be if I was near the end of a much longer race. I enjoyed the spectacle though. City road marathons are fun! People lining outside their houses giving out ice-pops and spraying me with water. Sometimes I just wasn't looking and got shot right in the face.
I felt pretty comfortable once I started to walk though I didn't fancy spending all afternoon on it. Walking about 14 minutes a mile (I was quite pleased with that pace) I did at least run some towards the end. Every time I did run I passed many more walking. One chap who said he was "taking it easy as he has a 100 miler in a few weeks" - bloody smug ultra-runners.
I need to up my whinging game when I get back into ultras. Here I am talking about feeling a bit sick, a bit hot and bothered and my legs being a bit knackered. In ultra speak that's SEVERE GI DISTRESS, BORDERLINE HEATSTROKE and CATASTROPHIC LEGGULAR DISTROPHY. I need more practice at blogging.
I finished in 3.49, (SO CLOSE!) The finish in the stadium is pretty cool. Milton Keynes you should take a bow as this is an incredible event, well recommended.
I don't regret what I did. I wasn't really interested in adding another 3.1x marathon to my results. Even after I'd blown it I had a lot of fun. I am going to give myself a couple more shots at the marathon distance in the next couple of months but I won't be clearing much space for tapering. I want to get going on training for the Autumn 100 in October. The actual "training" is going to be similar to marathon training anyway, just adding a bit more slow plod to my usual tempos and shorter runs. I really enjoyed the process. The Tuesday night 20s and leaving the house at 4.30am on Sunday morning to have the country roads of Bedfordshire to myself while I tried to run fast. That was nice. I'm going to try to keep on doing that.
I can't race that much, it's hard on Gemma having to look after the kids while I'm running. My lack of races could be a blessing though. I think I am willing to burn more now.
I do wonder what became of Barim. I wonder if he grew taller? I'd like to think he's now an accomplished rodeo rider. Who knows, I wish I knew his real name. Hopefully he may recognise himself from this and feel that warm and fuzzy feeling that the 1001 fights he lost in school were not in vain but 30 years later they would inspire a man to an epic positive split in a marathon.