Maybe I couldn’t catch up, no
I’ve never felt so relaxed going into a race. It felt foreign not being amped up, feeling pressure and nervous. There were a few reasons why I was laid back; it wasn’t really a qualifying race and there was little media speculation on the record (which was nice!). Most of all, my calmness stemmed from having a disaster of a race in NYC one month prior. After NYC my confidence was so low that I wasn’t excited at the idea of racing a marathon in a month. As I turned things around it was as though I got a second life on this marathon. I shouldn’t have been in a position to try and run 2:09-2:11 one month after running 64:53, and yet I felt I had a shot. In the end my last few weeks of good training was probably too little too late.
Going into Fukuoka in December 2013 my training had gone so well I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get in that sort of shape again so I put a lot of pressure on myself to capitalize on that fitness (ended up 2:11:24). Whereas going into London this weekend I felt it was a build-up I could easily replicate, and most likely do better.
The thing I had going for me in London was a great group (Scott Overall 2:10:55PB, Ryan Vail 2:11:45PB, Chris Thompson debut but has run under 27:30 twice and 61 for half), a good course and ideal weather. We had a pacer in Fernando Cabada who just ran 62:54 two weeks prior to London. His job was to take us through halfway between 64:45 and 65:00 and hopefully go to 30km.
The crew the evening before the race.
On the bus to the start line.
The morning of the race the wind was actually stronger than we expected but the temps were perfect. The Virgin Money London Marathon is well organized and they put on a great show. Needless to say I was pretty pumped to race on Sunday morning and in a good frame of mind.
When we were standing on the start line with less than a minute to go the crowd started counting down and I was worried someone was going to go on their “one.” How cheeky of the crowd. Luckily no one jumped the gun and 15 seconds later they had the official countdown with a horn to signal the start of the race.
Four hundred metres into the race we had our group in order, Fernando leading the four of us plus one other Brit and one Ethiopian. The more the merrier. We cruised through 5km in 15:09, which might seem fast but there is long downhill in there.
At one point a guy from the crowd ran on the course and ran beside Fernando taking a selfie video. Fernando lunged for the phone and missed, I wish he would have grabbed it. And then Nick (I gathered his name from people cheering for him) ran up to the kid and pushed him aside, we had a body guard! (The Ethiopian had already fallen off our pack).
We went through 11 miles right on pace and then slowed a bit to pass half in 65:05 where Fernando dropped out. We were hoping Fernando would go further but he was knackered and did give an even effort through 20.5 km. Nick took it upon himself to lead the group until mile 14 before pulling up, good on him! After that we were on our own and to tell you the truth I’m kind of surprised with two Brits in our group we only had one pacer.
I took a pull for a few minutes but worried I was pushing the pace so dropped back in the line and tried to get a feel for the pace before I took the lead again. By mile 15 there were just three of us (Overall was fading) and I was getting a little tired. Chris led a 5:06, Ryan led a 5:03. I didn’t feel like leading but I thought if I beat these guys and didn’t do my part I couldn’t live with myself. From mile 17 to 18 I led a 5:06 and it was then that I started to get into trouble.
I settled in behind the other two and quickly lost a bit of ground. My hips and upper quads were getting tired, tight and sore. This was going to be a problem.
For the next couple of miles I kept Chris and Ryan in sight and was going alright. Somewhere around mile 21 it became very hard to keep pace and I was unable to fight the fatigue in my hips and started to slow. Real bad.
I caught up to Jeilan (World 10km champ) and felt good going past him and tried desperately to keep that momentum going. I kept a good pace long enough to bury him but not much longer. Passing Paulo from Brazil who finished 8th in the 2012 Olympic marathon was also a spirit lifter and also short lived. He actually started walking as I pulled up beside him. I passed one more Ethiopian and didn’t see anyone after that. He too started to walk. It’s a though I have the “pass of death.”
In the final 10 km I was doing a lot of time checks which resulted in a lot of realizations that today was going to be a 2:12 day.. and then a 2:13 day.
In the end 2:13:40 does not make me happy. Finishing 13th and one spot out of the prize money doesn’t make it any better. At the same time I’m not overly disappointed. One month ago I raced 64:53 for a half marathon and I went through halfway about 10 seconds slower and didn’t completely die.
Ryan Vail ended up 10th in 2:10:57 and Chris Thompson was 11th in 2:11:19. 12th place was the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion marathon Stephen Kiprotich.
Many thoughts go through my head after a race as I try to make sense of it. Sometimes I think that maybe my best days are behind me, that I can’t hack it anymore. I don’t believe that though. That thought also crossed my mind after Rotterdam last year and I went on to achieve my best fitness ever last fall. I know where I lacked in my training and I know where I can make gains. I’ve come to learn more about what works for me in these marathon build-ups and what I need to focus on more and what doesn’t work.
The timing of a small injury in Kenya, my travel dates and timing of races were not optimal and caused me to miss or adjust key sessions. This is something that I can learn from and do better next time. I also got very tired and had a few weeks where I needed all the recovery I could get and cut out my altitude tent and fasted runs. If I detect the signs of over-training sooner I can keep up with all the things I need to do. Strengthening my hips will also be something that I will look into.
Talking to Scott and Chris after the race they too had specific problems with their hips (we couldn’t figure that one out?). We found out that the other groups were further off their halfway targets than we were showing that we may have fought the wind too hard. Anyone who found themselves running alone felt the wind. Looking over results you can see that many guys were a few minutes slower than expected. Of course Wilson Kipsang made it look easy, running 2:04:29, one minute off his world record. Surprisingly 5th place was only 2:08.
|1||Kipsang, Wilson (KEN)||-||-||+00:00||02:04:29|
|2||Biwott, Stanley (KEN)||-||-||+00:26||02:04:55|
|3||Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH)||-||-||+02:01||02:06:30|
|4||Abshero, Ayele (ETH)||-||-||+02:02||02:06:31|
|5||Mekonnen, Tsegaye (ETH)||-||-||+03:37||02:08:06|
|6||Mutai, Geoffrey (KEN)||-||-||+03:49||02:08:18|
|7||Mutai, Emmanuel (KEN)||-||-||+03:50||02:08:19|
|8||Farah, Mo (GBR)||-||-||+03:52||02:08:21|
|9||Lilesa, Feyisa (ETH)||-||-||+03:57||02:08:26|
|10||Vail, Ryan (USA)||-||-||+06:28||02:10:57|
|11||Thompson, Chris (GBR)||-||-||+06:50||02:11:19|
|12||Kiprotich, Stephen (UGA)||-||-||+07:08||02:11:37|
|13||Coolsaet, Reid (CAN)||-||-||+09:11||02:13:40|
|14||Nimo, Pedro (ESP)||-||-||+09:46||02:14:15|
|15||Livesey, Ben (GBR)||-||-||+13:15||02:17:44|
|16||Tsegay, Samuel (ERI)||-||-||+14:41||02:19:10|
|17||Overall, Scott (GBR)||-||-||+15:26||02:19:55|
The overall experience at the London Marathon was awesome and I would jump at another opportunity to race there again and would recommend the race to anyone. The crowds were amazing and very supportive.
What I need is the weather from Toronto 2010, the pacer from Toronto 2011, fitness from Fukuoka 2013 and the group from London 2014. Too much to ask? haha!
Right now the thought of consistent, hard training gets me excited. But my mind is ahead of my legs because they’ll need a couple weeks of recovery.
Scott Overall’s London Blog.
last 2.2km: 7:30