This was the first of fifteen marathons/ultras before New Year, and the first of four in four weeks, so I planned to take it easy, finish strong, and not leave myself needing too much recovery time. Which lasted about 3 minutes.
The gun went off, and I got immediately caught up the excitement of the day, a flat quick start, and the fact that the half marathon started at the same time meant it was easy to keep a tidy pace. On the first loop I didn’t really notice much. Every time I looked at my watch I thought I was going a bit quick, but felt ok, and figured if I started to struggle I’d just slow down a bit.
The weather was nice, and the course was a bit undulating, but that was more helpful than anything, helping to shift the load on my legs a bit. Just before half way a couple of people passed me which annoyed me a bit, I gave chase and pegged them back, just as they peeled off to the half marathon finish and I was directed out for another, slightly different, loop.
Immediately after halfway the race felt different. All of a sudden I was completely on my own with nobody around me, and if it hadn’t been for the million marshals on the course I’d have been totally lost. I didn’t even think to look at my Garmin until a little way after the second loop, but when I did it said 1:36 so I knew I had a chance of a PB, unless I imploded, which I was pretty sure would happen.
After that it was all kind of a blur. I carried on running, struggled a bit with the 500ml bottles they were dishing out (until a local with their own aid station gave me a 330ml one that I carried most of the last 5 miles), and kept the effort as steady as I could. I only saw seven people on the second loop (passed them all), and all of a sudden I was at the bottom of the final hill heading up to the finish.
I glanced at my watch as it ticked over 3:05 with just under a mile to go and gave myself a target for the first time, thinking sub 3:10 would be neat. As I turned into the finish line the clock turned 3:09:00 and was counting up as I hoofed it the last few hundred metres, finishing in 3:09:33, a PB by over four minutes.