This is our first of three guest posts this week as some of our heroic Manchester runners reflect on their epic marathon journey. Susan Redpath has well and truly caught the running bug having run the Stirling Marathon in 2017 and looked to step up her performance levels in Manchester. Well safe to say Susan performed brilliantly, knocking 16 minutes off her Stirling Marathon time showing the results of a tough winter’s training.
A great read as she looks back on training in apocalyptic winter conditions, following a more structured programme, becoming more aware of training principles, training fatigue, recovery and the importance of a supportive running buddy.
It’s the beginning of December and the start of Marathon training. Eek! Having talked a few fellow runners into doing it after Stirling Marathon and booking our hotel rooms in June, the beginning of the training was here, eek again! Manchester is billed as the fastest and flattest Marathon in the UK so I wanted to give it a go to try to run a sub 4 hour Marathon having completed my first marathon in Stirling in 4:13:57 in 2017. The mileage is not too bad to start with but oh wait, here comes the freezing temperatures which means ice, slippy roads & pavements. We didn’t have that last year. Oh dear, that’s because it was a full 6 weeks earlier. That’s ok, we can run on the grass when it’s icy. Oh how the weather got so,so much worse into the plan playing complete havoc with my plan and my legs and my head! But let’s stick with talking about the plan just now, we can come back to the weather.
The plan was hauled off the Hal Higdon website. Fellow Runbetweener & Harrier Gillian pointed me that way last year when we were training for Stirling. Hal who? No idea who he was or even that people followed marathon plans! I had always just got out and ran. No plan, no tempo runs (had to ask what that meant!) or speed sessions, just a blether with some running pals, mostly on a Sunday before I started going to the Runbetweeners sessions on a Monday (started May 2016). I then joined the Bella Harrier running crew in March 2017 so I had done way more running than before Stirling in 2017 so was feeling more ‘intermediate 1’ than Novice marathon runner, so I printed that one off.
Still felt a bit of a novice though but I liked the ‘intermediate’, it made me sound like I knew what I was doing. Ok so plan in place, I’m sticking to it. Too much too soon the year before resulted in an IT band injury. That was sore and is apparently a classic injury for a novice marathon runner but here I was as an intermediate so I knew better, right? Kind of but does anyone really know what they’re doing? It’s all trial and error, limits and recovery are personal to you. I’m old so I’m going to take longer to recover than a twenty something year old. So the 18 week plan was in place, now to implement it.
That’s where my running buddy, drinking Prosecco partner in crime, fellow Creme egg lover & Runbetweener (we met there) and Harrier comes in; Jill Mair. The pocket rocket! We ran as much together as we could and tried to do as many of our long runs together. This is important as it takes the pain & boredom out of the long, long runs and there are a few! You keep each other going. Three hours of running go by much more easily with company unless you’re running through a foot of snow, not once but several times. So let’s talk about the weather.
Ice, wind, snow, rain and lots of it, particularly the snow. We even travelled to the coast one Sunday to avoid the snow (at my suggestion) in Glasgow only for it to snow half way through our 14 mile run, finishing through a snow storm and an inch of snow on the beach! It never snows at the coast! It did that day and some. Another Sunday we ran 12 miles in six degrees below freezing. I couldn’t feel my fingers for most of it despite the gloves. Poor Jill fell on that run but no lasting damage except another jacket with a hole in it.
Hal recommends a half marathon about half way through the plan. There aren’t many in February in Scotland. Actually the only one that we found was in Livingston, a new race. So we entered. Now I think there’s a reason why there are no other half’s at all at that time of year; sheet ice. I mean ice everywhere and no attempt at gritting it by the organisers. This was a complete disaster. The race should never have gone ahead, it was far too dangerous. I said at the start ‘let’s go home, I don’t want to get injured’. Obviously we ran it . “We’re here now so let’s treat it as a training run.” So we did and I fell half way round. Whacked my knee straight down onto the tarmac & winded myself trying to catch the ‘jolly green giant man’ in front. Ouch! Picked myself up and carried on of course. It was character building and I’m happy to report that my character is now huge after the weather we had to train in! So it was Jill 1:Susan 1 for the fall total but I lived.
The countdown was now on and the mileage was increasing ever rapidly. It was now getting serious and the reality becoming more and more apparent that I actually was running another Marathon. We were doing 18.5 mile training runs in mountains of snow around Glasgow which was really tough going. What was I thinking? I was scunnered with the training. I’m so tired but hey, I can actually eat and drink loads and not worry too much, bonus! Oh I just want this over with. What’s my marathon pace? Marathon pace? What even is that? What if I need the toilet half way round and I can’t find a loo? Then 3 weeks of tapering began. Everything started to hurt and I’m not sure why. Most of it was in my head of course. Maranoia is real, look it up. All the self doubt set in but before I knew it, it was time and there was no turning back.
We travelled down to Manchester by car the day before and met up with fellow runners and had a nice night at Zizzis carb loading and exchanging (mainly toilet) stories. An early night and early awake to get to the start about an hour before. Standing in the queue for the toilets most of that time of course. Before I knew it, we were over the start mat and all the anxieties disappeared. Telling myself ‘It’s another training run’.
Jill and I ran together for the first 16 miles and chatted all the way round. Such a great atmosphere and so much fun. A highlight for me was at mile 6 when the Proclaimers ‘500 miles’ belted through the speakers of the stage next to the course with the ‘118’ runners on it. The atmosphere was electric and I felt great. The pace was on track for a sub 4 hour marathon.
We caught up with another fellow Harrier, Tania at mile 16 and that’s when I started to feel it and my pace slowed. Miles 16 to 22 were tough for me so I was grateful for Tania’s company. I felt tired and sore but I knew if I dug in I’d feel better. The course has sparse support at this mileage point as it’s difficult to access other than by foot or bike and wondered if that had an effect on me too. I managed to pick my pace up for the last 4 miles just as the support starting building up again. I wasn’t letting the sub 4 hour marathon elude me. I knew the good for age time (3:50) was out of reach but Sub 4 Hours wasn’t. The noise was incredible from the crowds on the final leg which gave me a real boost. Manchester didn’t disappoint and I finished in 3:57:19. Not quite a good for age time but I’m really delighted! London next year, anyone fancy it?