Desperation, desire, greed, disappointment, commitment, camaraderie, hope, or even panic. Why did I enter the Edinburgh Marathon, and is that why it went wrong?
The obvious choice from the short-listed words above is ‘disappointment’. For 12 weeks I had trained with the commitment and dedication that most would consider wasted on running. I missed 2 sessions – because I was kept in hospital overnight on a Friday and banned from running until the Monday – and at times I did more mileage than the training plan requested. I lined up for the Manchester Marathon in the shape of my life – only to fail in my attempt at a sub 3 hour time. I’ve blogged about the race, the struggle and the disappointment. I have also spoken of fist pumping the air in delight as I crossed the finish line having set a new PB after one hell of a battle. Disappointment. No, that was’t it.
I guess similarly, it wasn’t desperation. That was only really my first proper attempt at a sub 3 – I didn’t really believe it was achievable before Loch Ness last year and 3:05:25 was probably better than I was capable of on paper! It’s not like Edinburgh bought me one last chance.
Camaraderie? Well, the fact that my finish time in Manchester opened the door for me to enter Edinburgh as a ‘good for age’ participant was highlighted to me by good friend and club mate, Metronome Dave (or Disco Dave if you prefer!) I had not even thought about it until I received his message whilst enjoying a beer the evening after completing Manchester. I was sore and tired and not ready to think about it, but my entry would have to be made by 1700 the following day.
Once it was evident that another good friend and club mate, Jason (who needs a blog nickname) could also run, and that the Metronome himself would enter as our pacer for a sub 3, I came round to the idea. Before breakfast the next morning I had entered. ‘Camaraderie’, it would seem, could be the culprit. The truth is though, I had decided I would run it, and entered, before either of the other two had confirmed.
Did I panic? The fact that I had a little over 24 hours to decide on entry meant I failed to heed the advice of Olympic Athlete Frank Shorter. Basically, forget your last marathon before you try another. I didn’t panic, but I did have to make a pretty rapid decision. No, I can’t blame the lads, and I don’t think it was a race entered in panic. I had the Yorkshire Marathon in October lined up already, but I certainly hadn’t forgotten Manchester yet!
Desire, commitment and hope. Undoubtably these were all contributing factors. I’d already demonstrated my commitment towards the sub 3 goal in my training for Manchester, but the desire was more apparent in the race itself. Some of you may have heard my quote read out on the brilliant podcast ‘Marathon Talk’. In response to the question “what have you learnt from your Spring Marathon?”, I answered, “that every Marathon is a fight and that the referee is not always in your corner.” Only my desire for sub 3 got me through that race, and I guess I had hope when I entered, that Edinburgh would bring me that sub 3 time I so desire.
The truth is, however, that I entered that race out of greed. I felt almost as though I deserved a sub 3 and that Edinburgh would provide it off the back of the hard training I had already completed. The marathon should never be undertaken lightly and neither should your recovery time afterwards. Struggling through several niggles, I continued to train after Manchester. Racing a relay leg of the Highland Fling 3 weeks after the race, and then the Leeds Half Marathon two weeks after that, was probably too much. Running the Monklands Half Marathon the following week (the week before Edinburgh) was bloody stupid – even if I did run it ‘relatively’ easily. My body was not marathon fit when I stood on the start line in Edinburgh.
Further more, Edinburgh was never on my – already busy – race schedule for the year. A schedule that already contained two marathons. Adding a third was greedy and I got what I deserved. I blew up 8 miles in and suffered a long, slow, painful run to the finish.
In Charlie Spedding’s autobiography, he discusses choosing an animal to compare himself to in his running life (there’s more to it than that, but read the book, it’s excellent). He doesn’t choose a cheetah or a gazelle. He chooses, wait for it… a caterpillar.
At first I was baffled, but as he explained his thinking I began to see myself in the same light. Spedding (perhaps not as naturally gifted as his rivals but always willing to work hard in training) viewed the creature as living it’s life for that one moment. That moment when it would shine and be the best it could be. The moment it became a beautiful butterfly.
Transfer this to your running. You choose a race. You choose a target time. You choose a training plan. You, ultimately, choose a moment in your life when you will be that butterfly! On race day you will perform better than you are capable of doing in training because as the caterpillar, you worked for, and gave everything for, this one moment of glory. Spedding states that his performances in non-key races were usually comparatively poor.
Edinburgh was not my day to become a butterfly. It was not a key race. It was a greedy attempt at achieving my target without the long period of pre-race build up which allows you to perform often beyond your own expectations.
Still, as Edinburgh are refusing to make the results public, please congratulate me on my time of 2:41:26 next time you see me!