Flash back to a year ago, when my hopes were high, my legs fresh, my heart racing to the start line of Stirling 2017. Bang. The gun goes and so do I, intent on making this the fastest 26.2 mile I will ever do. If i reach my goal, there will never be another 26.2 again. Or so I believe. Then fast forward by 2 hours and 53 minutes to the most deflated and disappointed I have ever been in my adult (entire?) life. A huge personal best for me, but absolutely no doubt the race I feel I have underachieved the most, and believe me there's a lot of them. Now it may appear that I am dwelling on this particular occasion, and I suppose I am in someways, but it set something off in me. I've said it before and I know I don't ever want to be that disappointed again (we all remember the photo). But it has been purchased and printed off. I look at it more often than any other printed photo. It reminds me of the heartache and pain, and the absolute disappointment I had in myself that I felt in the days after Stirling. And herein lies the catalyst that fueled me for this training block.
So back to 2018. Blackpool is this years choice of marathon. And I make the same deal to myself. If I set out and achieve what I want, then the 26.2 is done and I would be absolutely happy with that. For a few months anyway until I move the goal posts again probably. Training started well, so much better than the piss poor weather we had. I don't think I took my gloves off until the end of March. The snow certainly hampered my speed sessions with me slipping all over the place but it did allow for some great hill sessions and some of the most fun I've ever had running. I was starting to feel pretty good and almost on track with what I wanted. The only thing that I could have changed looking back now is more speed sessions. I did plenty, but 100% of them were on my own. I'm not sure about other people who may be reading but I really do struggle to get proper fast on my own for whatever reason. I've tried many different things to sort this - time of day, what I've eaten, length of session, intervals etc and just about everything that I can think of. I just really struggle to get to my top end speed without getting to the running club.
So why not get to the club you may ask? Well it would be that wee thing called a family!
Trying to achieve a work/training balance is hard enough, but throw in a wife, 2 kids and shift work to that and it makes it so much tougher. Now my wife is the most supportive person I've ever met, and I've said loads that she gives up all her own dreams to focus on mine. She never (rarely) moans when I want to go running and I never wash or find any of my own kit, so it's certainly not on her part that I didn't manage to get down, it just happens that I'm one of these people who love my wife and kids and love spending time with them. Well that and daughter number 2 was an absolute nightmare at bedtime for the entire duration of this year. From 7pm one of us was completely tied to her, so these other things rightly took priority. It's just so difficult at times. I sometimes feel I've thrown my two Mizuno, my two kids, my wife and my job up in the air and I need to try and juggle them all, without letting one drop down even a wee bit. And I'm shit at juggling.
By the end of March I was sure I wasn't going to meet my target, but hopefully wouldn't be a kick in the arse aff it.
But April soon sorted that. I'm a healthy chap and until this moment had never had a day off sick in my adult life, but at the start of the month I was totally wiped out. None of this common cold crap, I couldn't even sit up without feeling dizzy. So it caused me to miss a run. And another. And another. Then finally I succumbed and had to phone in sick for work, my pride hurting more than anything else right enough. In the end I missed a full months training. I ran a few days in the 'taper week' of the marathon but even then I knew I wasn't right. I even thought about not running which is unheard of for me. But the hotel was booked and a weekend away with Mrs Shaw to the romantic capital of Blackpool was on. Chris and his wife Lynsay were coming so at least it would be a good weekend away full of banter (even if Chris still has to find some) and it would be good to hang about with someone who has more grey hair than me I suppose. The trip down was good with Mrs Runners enjoying a drink, while me and Chris went mental with some pints of fizzy juice and water. Pre race madness I tell you.
Race morning I felt good. The weather didn't and it was pishing down and freezing. Never one to have dampened spirits, Mrs Shaw soon led the charge to the shop for some prossecco while we set off for the 26.2 miles of fun. It's an out and back looped course so I looked forward to seeing Chris at a few points, along with Danny, Willy and a few others I knew running.
Despite my month lay off I was still pretty ambitious so I set out aiming for a PB (I don't believe in aiming low), and if I started to feel unwell I would ease off then simmer down to a more comfy pace where I would be sure I wouldn't keel over and die. It all went well until about 2 miles in, and I knew it was time to simmer down and ease off. I just wasn't feeling up to it (although it is the first day I had felt normal in a month). So I just totally eased off and tried to enjoy myself, and surprisingly enough, I totally did. The main reason for this was that I totally loved seeing Chris, and the others I knew, out there working hard and getting what they deserved with their hard work. There aren't many things I like more than seeing people achieving their goals (look back to the finish line photo blog post). It was brilliant to see Danny get a sub 3 after everything he has been through, (even though I missed it by being a mile behind haha), and Willy finishing hungover after sinking about 15 pints the day before.
I was fortunate enough to spot Chris running to the finish line, and seeing him powering hard to the finish after spending the effort out there on the course was amazing. I just love seeing others achieve what they think is beyond them, and it never is. The body achieves what the mind believes, and I 100% believe that.
So even though I finished 11 massive minutes outside my PB, it's not all bad. If you had asked me a year ago if I would have been happy with that I would have laughed in your face and thought you were crazy. But I seen a different side of racing again from this. I never got what I set out to do, but I know one day I will. The flip side of seeing others achieve is massive for me and I love seeing others succeed on the day and much as I want to see myself succeed. Maybe I'm getting older and wiser, maybe helping others here and there will become more important to me than my own current goals, who knows. One thing I do know is that even if I do get that elusive 26.2 target I have, every year I'll be back there whether I'm aiming for that or just to finish. I'll still be running and racing as long as I am able. Sorry Mrs Shaw...
As always I ran my road miles in Mizuno Hitogami which have powered me over all my road miles for the last few years. 100% the one for me. Now the focus heads back to the longer stuff. Next race up is the Great Glen Ultra at the beginning of July. Stay tuned!