The Kensington Palace charity reception turned out to be not quite the cavalcade of D-List celebrities and lower civil list minor Royals that I’d imagined. It was rammed with hangers-on just like me, all desperately trying to grab some free champagne and to mug the scarce canapé-carrying waitresses of their meagre wares.
Still, it was an experience to be there and it was great to meet up with my work colleague William Pitt who is the only other colleague from my company running the Sierra Leone marathon.
The founder of the Street Child Charity (who arrange the marathon) gave a really impassioned speech and impressively we learned that for the next three months, they have been awarded fund-matching by the U.K. Government.
This recognises the worth and integrity of the charity and means that all amounts raised up to June will be doubled by the Government matching.
I know it can be incredibly tiresome when runners ask for sponsorship, so I will ask this only once. As you sip your glass of wine and eat your nice fresh food from Waitrose, please think of the less fortunate children in Sierra Leone for just 30 seconds. Without Street Child most could never go to school. Could you spare the price of that glass of wine? Think about it. Here’s the link:
My invite for Thursday came with a “+1” so I invited Georgina, a work colleague from the London office. She seemed keen to sample Kensington Palace, residence of the late Princess Di.
We left just before 10, a little hungry. As we scuttled towards Notting Hill in the pouring rain, we stumbled across the Café Diana – a down market Turkish/Middle Eastern eatery on the Bayswater Road. We were the only diners at such a late hour.
The place was an unnerving shrine to the late Princess of the People (The Sunday People that is). There must have been five hundred pictures of Diana adorning the walls. I asked the waitress if Diana had ever eaten there, “No” she said, “But I think she came in once, she didn’t order anything”…
I caught the milk train from King’s Cross back to Leeds – eventually arriving home at 3 a.m.
With fewer than three weeks to go, I am officially in the taper period, but I think I may have tapered a bit too much this week – I ran only 36 miles. My main goal this week was the Thirsk 10 mile race, my last serious effort before the marathon in Manchester in two weeks.
I harboured faint hopes of beating the hour for 10 miles, but after really struggling to run 5k in 18:38 on Saturday morning at South Manchester parkrun, I knew that was a very stiff target. To be fair, the parkrun was after a night of curry and beer, but even so, running 3 miles at 6:00 pace felt ludicrously hard, I doubted I would be able to sustain that effort for 10 miles.
Conditions for Thirsk were OK, but not ideal. It was chilly and breezy, I reckoned that we would have a dead headwind for the first 4-5 miles, with a helping or cross wind for the rest of the race except for a mile switchback section up a side road at 7 miles.
Stupidly, I didn’t reset my goals because of the headwind. I went out too aggressively – reaching half way in 29:53. Into the wind that was too much of an effort and I started paying it back in the second half of the race. Rather than holding my position, I was drifting back in the field, being passed by a steady stream of runners. Not a great feeling.
I had a really bad patch in the up and back switchback section, my pace had dropped to slower than 6:20 miling. As I ran around the 180 degree turnaround there was 2.5 miles to go. At this point you pass the runners directly behind you in the field. I saw the red and white vest and fluorescent orange Adidas trainers of Tom Williams, host of the Marathon Talk podcast, right behind me. He looked extremely purposeful.
Tom had told the listenership this week that he was aiming for a 60:40 time at Thirsk as his Jantastic target. Knowing that he was just 30 metres or so behind me gave me a bit of a kick up the backside and I dug in for more effort.
I held off the inevitable until about 1 mile to go when Tom came past me. My legs were screaming, but I gave it everything and managed to latch right on to him, running in his slipstream as we tackled the final mile back to the racecourse.
Knowing that I have a good short sprint finish, I figured that if I could somehow get towed to the last 100 metres, I might be able to take him at the end. I used the trick of visualising that there was a cord from his back attached to me, imagining that he was pulling me along, but man it was agony to stay with him.
With 600 metres to go, I sensed he was squeezing the pedal, winding it up – by now I could taste blood in my mouth, a sure sign that you are giving it everything. I remembered that there was a sharp left hand turn into the finish straight, then just a very short 30 metres or so to the line – I would have to get to that left hander first if I was going to take him.
I went for my big final effort, but I was so deep into the red zone that my legs almost buckled and I semi-stumbled. Simultaneously, Tom had kicked again and taken a crucial 3 metres out of me to finally break the elastic. The photo below was taken just before the finish – I felt as bad as I look!
We rounded the left hander and Tom beat me by 2 seconds. Both of us were completely battered at the end, sprawled on the tarmac apron of the racecourse coughing and retching. A great race!
My time was 60:56, a personal best for 10 miles by a minute and 25 seconds. I am pleased with that, but I know that I didn’t pace it very well – my splits of 29:53 for the first 5 miles into the wind and 31:03 for the second with the wind tell that story. However, I don’t think that I could have quite broken 60 minutes today even with better pacing – that will remain the target for another day.
Next week I’ll continue the taper with plenty of steady running, probably around 35-40 miles again. I’ll still go to the Tuesday night speed session with Valley Striders, but I won’t be going full bore.
It’s all about staying fit and healthy now. I’ll try to eat really well – lots of green veg and meat, beetroot juice and few carbs.
M – 2 Weeks / 36 miles. Longest run 10 miles. Parkrun (South Manchester) 18:38 (7th). Weight after Sunday run 11 st. 2.6 lb