Virgin London Marathon Part 1

So here I am on the eve of the VLM, and I am probably the most excited I have been in a long long time before a race. I have felt a bit flat mentally the past few years with racing, almost as if it is just business as usual. I have known pretty much to the minute what sort of time I would get, and as such, race day had no excitement. It had no what if and maybe this. There is always the possibility of a muscle pull or missing a train or a mechanical issue on the bike of course, but assuming no issues, I have known what sort of time I would get.

This is different. I genuinely feel a buzz going into this as I have trained hard, am injury free, and feel like a coiled up spring waiting for action. Tomorrow could be anywhere from the great (3:10) to the ugly (Sub 4). My benchmark training sessions and key races point towards me running strongly towards the upper end of that estimate, but it is a dive into the unknown.

Following on from my last post, I am determined not to let my mind get the better of me from the off. I feel that I could quite easily run a conservative, well paced 3:30 tomorrow. However, in the pursuit of greatness (for me anyway), I am going to throw caution to the wind and just go for it.

My half marathon last weekend of 1:33 when put into pace calculators gives me an estimated time of 3:15. I ran a 20 miler last month in 2:37 which is around 3:20 – 25 pace. I have put in a good block of training, and ontop of this, I am now rested and my legs aren’t running on empty.

I’m not afraid to fail tomorrow. I’m going to go out on the heels of the 3:15 pacer, and I am going to hold onto that flag for as long as possible. Traditional views of trying to negative split don’t work for me as far as I am concerned with this particular race. Yes, I could negative split off a 1:45 half marathon, but there is no way I would do a 1:30 second half!

I think for all of us, elite or not, there comes a time when you have to just accept that failing is part of success. If the worst comes tomorrow and I fade to an undignified walk home in the rain, then so be it, but what if.

What if…

Carb loading at its finest.

Carb loading at its finest.

Do we defeat ourselves?

A recent blog entry from an athlete of mine got me thinking. The general gist of the message was that my manĀ felt he was just a bucket list athlete, and didn’t stack up against others such as myself. He felt despondent at having not found a love within multi-sport racing, and that it had not fulfilled him as he thought it would.

I had a similar discussion with some training buddies not long ago, and we concluded that due to the circles we frequent, it is all too easy to get lost in a world of pb’s and wattage figures. For everyone out there, certainly everyone who does this sport as an amateur, there will always be those we look up to. My pb’s will be amazing to some, a bad training day to others, but the point is they are mine.

I thought about the negativity that I sometimes use around my running ability. I frequently lament my poor running, but actually, it isn’t that I am a bad runner, far from it, it is just that I don’t stack up against those running 31 – 35 mins for a 10k, or a 3:10 marathon split in the Ironman. Very few of us do!

I wouldn’t say that I ‘race’ triathlons any more than the next person on that start line – as age groupers we are all going to get smashed by the pros. Do we take all the fun out of the sport by ourselves? Do we get too carried away with what is considered ‘good’, and forget about why we are doing this in the first place? I don’t really see myself as any different from those I coach. I am a decent triathlete, but again, this goes back to a definition of what is decent? This will differ from person to person.

This is particularly at the forefront as I build up to the London marathon in under two weeks time. I am hoping to finally have that breakthrough run and go around the 3h15 mark, but will I still think that’s pretty average? I personally know people who would do that off an Ironman bike and some, but does that belittle what I may achieve? To my mind no, and this is the point. I won’t be in the press the next day beside Mo Farah, but I will be damn happy should I hit my target. Do we put the pressure on ourselves, and in doing so, ruin the enjoyment that we may gain from pursuing the impossible? Do we label ourselves bad runner, bucket-list athlete, poor swimmer, fat plodder as a means of protecting ourselves from criticism, and in doing so, are we ourselves the biggest barrier to enjoyment and success?

In recognising that we have the discipline to train daily, and to even ask the question how good can I be, do we need to change our mindsetĀ to that of an ‘athlete’? Ultimately, very few will have their names pressed into the record books for eternity, but the one consistent theme of those who do make it is a long list of failures.

A love for what you do is important to success in all walks of life as without this we will not suffer to be the best we can be. If triathlon, duathlon, fencing, bowling, teaching, physio, whatever is not your passion then by all means stop, but take time to recognise what you have achieved, and maybe in doing this, you will recognise that you achieved more than you give yourself credit for.