Race report: VLM 2016 for Hatswell. TL;DR – a mixed bag

After a spell of homelessness around a house move disrupting training and posting, I’m pleased to finally be able to report how my marathon went, six weeks ago. Not quite as relevant anymore, but given how quiet the site is at the moment at least it’s something to read.

Coming in to this year, I had a couple of aims. Firstly was to get back to something approaching ‘form’ after a year ravaged by the dreaded plantar fascitis and the practicalities of becoming a father i.e. not getting enough sleep. However with lots of expensive sports massages helping the PF, and now having a baby that sleeps though the night, all was set in January for an all out assault on PBs at all distances.

The buildup was going extremely well until the end of February, when I totally overcooked it with an 88 mile week including the National XC, a 29 mile day (23 + 6), two sessions, weights and more. Cue 2 weeks of easy running.


By the time I was recovered enough to start training, an important block had been missed, but overall I was in decent shape, having put in about 25% more training than when I got my personal best. This meant my three targets would be:

‘A’: A result that was in line with the training and fitness – 2:33 to 2:37 dependent on the conditions on the day (cold makes me slow)
‘B’: A personal best – it seems like a long time since VLM 2014 when I got a 2:39.15, so to get back to pre-baby pre-PF, pre-turning 30 speed would be great
‘C’: Securing a place on the Championship start for VLM 2017 – with 2014 now being some time ago, another poor performance (2015 was hobbing around in a 2:48) would lead to demotion back to Good for Age qualification

With the goals set, we approached race week, only for the weather forecast to be essentially summed up as ‘locusts’. On Tuesday driving cold train was predicted, by Thursday it was snow. Come the day however, London delivered. Broken sunshine, and a slight breeze – perfect weather for a jog! Spirits were lifted by a brief chat with Steve Way in the warmup area, and the rest of the team feeling good.7c79a3415a72a4b295756a04a8de760f

After a phenomenal countdown from Tim Peake, we were off. After 10 miles (a 10 mile PB), the pace was a worry – it all felt a bit easy, should I be pushing on? Am I leaving money on the table by not going harder? Half way was crossed with a bit more like work in 1:16.34, and a steady pace. The whole thing looked rather peachy. And then disaster.


At about mile 19.5, after metronomic pacing, all of a sudden my calves turned to spaghetti. It was like they were being grabbed and squeezed, slowing me immediately. A most unwelcome surprise having had no issues at all in training. Crossing the 20 mile marker (also a 20 mile PB) I knew a 40 minute 10k would get me PB, though that is easier said than done (despite having done that pace with the buggy at Parkrun a fortnight before). Over the last 6 miles there was increasing amounts of pain, and people streaming past me. Interestingly the result was a hit to my pace of 20s per km, rather than the classic gradual slowing – everything was consistent before, and consistent afterwards.

Skipping the discussion of agony which I do not wish to repeat, and managing not to quit and start walking (which nearly happened several times), the finish line was crossed, final time later determined to be 2:38.38, a 37 second personal best. From 0-19.6 miles, 1:55.10 (5.52/mile), from 19.6 – 24.4 miles, 43.50 (6.27/mile) – a sudden drop.


Comparing to my personal best from 2014, the training was more consistent over the 16 week block (7 vs 19 days off), the volume higher (average 68 vs 54 miles a week), not to mention adding in a weekly gym session, and core workouts most weeks (I wasn’t as diligent with those). Broadly every 10k extra I ran in the 16 week buildup made me 1s faster. Is that worth it?

In summary therefore it is a bit of a mixed bag, with definite pros and cons:

– A PB is a PB!
– Finally made it back in to some form, with a legitimate personal best (not a soft one for a distance I’ve only raced once)
– If I can PB despite the final third going that wrong, there is definite potential for improvement
– No recurrence of PF, or Achilles issues (2013’s problem)
– Championship start secured for next year, with a question for the future of looking down at what might come next, rather than wondering if I had peaked

– Despite dramatic increases in training volume, little concrete return seen on my time
– So much pain
– Something went very wrong

Overall I take the positives, and am looking forward to the rest of the year, where I now know I can go after some/all of my other personal bests. Photo below with a friend who has a different outlook on running!


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