Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 Race Report – Yes… it’s here

Just in time for VMLM 2018, comes the VMLM 2017 race report. The report would have been released sooner, were it not for the countless emails from VMLM organisers advising those unsure how to run on a sunny day, how to run on a sunny day. If only these useful info pack emails were released in time for Commonwealth Marathon.

Readers of the blog will be forgiven for need a quick recap on the buildup to this race… personally I would recommend re reading the pre race amble blog post, however those on a tight schedule, well you’re probably screwed anyway by the time we’ve finished writing this report.

Our intrepid team met in the championship start nicely planted in sodden grass. Spirits were mixed, with Jordan in potential PB shape, and Hywel & Simkiss determined to crack the 2.30 barrier. Pearce and Hatswell were somewhat less perky having been ravaged by injury in the buildup. Pearce and Hatswell of the group were the only ones with kids under 1, which is likely related. Simkiss (Chris) also descended upon the big smoke, lining up at the start of the Fast Good For Age’rs.

A quick warmup on the washing machine of Shooters hill road, team photo, and that was the last they would see each other for the rest of the day. A very late Simkiss pushing towards the front of the Championship start to join Hywel, with Jordan who’d lined up 20mins prior some 20m back, the gun sounded and the <2.30 trio set off down the road at a steady clip keeping loosely together at first. Further back Pearce and Hatswell agreed to aim for the 2.50-2.55 area, and get to the finish in one piece. Simkiss Snr (Chris) aiming for a good day out, not quite sure what was on the cards.

Simkiss requested a split from Jordan as they downed the hill through 5k with Hywel… “This is plenty” he said, indicating the trio probably shouldn’t be going quite so fast… a 5k split of 17:27 was equivalent to 2:27 pace, perhaps a smidge speedy, but nothing too severe given the descent in the third mile. The trio wound back to target pace and as they passed through one of the drink stations, Simkiss was caught napping and got dropped finding himself 25m back from Jordan and Hywel and not quite sure what had happeded. The miles that followed were all about slowly catching up with Hywel and Jordan. Through 10k in 35:16 (2:28:50 pace) and 5 secs behind Hywel/Jordan, 15k still on 2:28:50 pace, and still 5secs behind the other McCarkissians, it wasn’t until the Halfway point that  Simkiss regained contact with CJ & Davies, going through in 1:14:26, arguably a perfect pacing strategy.

A mile or two down the road at this point Pearce and Hatswell were chatting along, and resisting the urge to speed up, which did happen when going for water without thinking about it. Half way in 1.25 without too much exertion. The other half should be nice and easy.

25-30k saw the first sign of struggle in the McCarkiss sub 2:30 bus – the first half had been as expected, to schedule (within seconds) and for all intents and purposes as ‘easy’ as could be expected. It later transpired that Warrior Hywel had begun struggling with foot pain at this point in the race. Through miles 16-17 a blink of an eye further down the field Pearce was feeling good and decided to up the pace by around a second a mile. Too much for Hatswell, he was dropped – the start of a long road home, feeling increasingly worse

Entering Canary Wharf and Hywel had dropped back, only 8 seconds, but 8 seconds at PB pace, when you’re struggling, is a big 8 seconds. Simkiss on track, but now feeling like he was working hard to stay with Jordan… The ever reliable Jordan giving words of encouragement recounted the following miles as ‘just like one of [our] Sunday long runswhich typically involves Simkiss struggling to maintain Marathon Pace in the latter miles.

Back in the pack, Pearce was feeling good and moving through the field like a steam train… [Pearce to add] [Ed – Forgot to ask Pearce to add anything]

Please excuse Simkiss’ (even more than usual) self indulgent writings of his closing stages:

Running through Canary Wharf was the start of the ‘business end’ of this 2:30 attempt, the pace was achievable, but now having to work for it. Running with Jordan through these few miles was unbelievably helpful in pulling me along on target… we were still on track for just under 2:29 (I’d planned this… knowing the inevitable fade in the latter miles no matter how hard I try and negative split!) but it was getting harder. The biggest positive I could take as the elastic stretched between myself and Jordan, was that I’d gotten further than I had in Berlin without suffering with Hamstring issues.

Through the switchback at 19.5mi, I could see Hywel had dropped back – sadly there’s usually little chance of a comeback in the dying stages of a marathon, so 2:30 was looking a tall order for him. By 35k Hywel had realised the sub 2:30 was gone, and rather than put himself ‘deep in the hurtbox’ for a time with little meaning to him, he eased off a little, not that it helped the foot pain or made the pace ‘easy’.

I’d fallen 8 seconds shy of Jordan – he was now another vest ahead to focus on and try to minimise the gap growth yet the hamstrings were now suggesting they weren’t overwhelmingly happy – my plan this time round was to throw as many gels, drinks and electrolytes into the body as I could… and hope for the best!

Through 35k in 2:03:44 – on track for a 2:29:11… 16 seconds lost, and only 49 left in the (rapidly emptying) bag. 35-40k was, as Hywel referred to in his blog “just a death march and it never gets easier”. Fighting the inevitable pace drop. With each mile the 2:30 goal was fading – running as hard as your legs will let you only to see the splits get slower and slower.

One thing in particular stuck in my mind from my many training runs with Chris Jordan as we approached this 2:30 attempt (and I’ll probably misquote it here), and that being the notion that to run under 2:30, going through 40k in 2:22 (or under) is a milestone. In Jordan’s experience, outside 2:22:00 and it’s unlikely to happen (or at least it hasn’t for him), under 2:22:00 and you should have enough confidence that you can hold pace to break 2:30.

I went through in 40k 2:22:10. In theory that’s on track for 2:29:57 – In reality my pace had been slowing progressively for miles.

Too many training miles had I run, too many hours spent angered by the outcome in Berlin, to throw in the towel… either I was going to break 2:30 on this day, or I was going to finish knowing I’ve given everything I could (and continue to be grumpy about this marathoning lark)

I can honestly say the next mile of racing was the hardest I’ve ever experienced since I started as a fatty back in November 2005, and as I rounded the final bend onto the Mall I had no idea of my time – looking at the watch was pointless when I was already giving everything… “What a hero…” I hear you say.

Simkiss VMLM 2017 Final Bend

Nearing the finish and the clock was in sight… slightly blurry eyed I recall seeing 2:29:34 (I think), and thinking I should be able to make it – but that Mall is longer than you expect – I tried to kick but the hamstrings instantly started to cramp, so I eased back to “hell this hurts” pace – teetering on the see saw of Crampsville. Jordan shouting encouragement from the other side… 2:55, 56, 57, 58, 59… the clock was out of sight as I ran under it.Simkiss VMLM 2017 Finish Line

Then the wait… oh jeez the wait – I had no idea if I’d done it… and part of me didn’t even care, I was just so relieved to have finished having given it everything. Jordan was as just keen as I was to find out my time and was in a much better state to do it. Checking the app, he confirmed a chip time of 2:29:57.

Well thank f#ck for that!Jordan Simkiss VMLM 2017 Medals

Jordan himself had run a 2:29:28, Hywel came in a few moments later as one of the first shown on the BBC red button finish line camera in 2:33:18, Pearce next up with a solid second half to finish in 2:50:06. A few km’s back Hatswell was suffering. Not quite over pneumonia (did we forget to mention he’d had pneumonia?) and still on antibiotics whilst also radically under trained is not a brilliant combination. Knowing there were a few minutes in the bag he was determined to drag himself round in a good for age time, and preferably under 3 hours to keep it respectable. By wringing every little bit left in every muscle from his body he made it home in 2.58, a mere 20 minutes slower than 12 months previously.

Simkiss Snr ran an ‘enjoyable’ 3:06:29 and our female membership (Jude) ran a painful (but incredibly impressive) 3:22:59.

After the race the team disbanded – seemingly nothing has happened in the 12 months since then, but in the interests of posting this before the 2018 race takes place… we’ll call it a day there!

Onwards to VMLM 2018…

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