Well, its over, and I did it. When I started this fall's adventure, I was looking for a 3:25 marathon time. My target pace was 7:50 per mile or 4:52 per kilometre, which would bring me across the finish line in 3:25:14 or 3:25:22 depending on which measure you used. But I would have been happy with anything faster than my previous best of 3:29:01 achieved in Virginia Beach over 2 years ago.
Everything went according to plan. I was relatively relaxed going into the run. Coach Brian and I had split a litre of wine with our spaghetti dinner on Saturday night, and had a couple of other beers during the day, so we each got a good night's sleep. Jenny, who was battling a bit of a cold, unfortunately didn't sleep so well, but was able to support us both in spite of not feeling 100%.
Brian was battling some knee pain in previous long runs, so we decided that he'd run with me for the first 3 miles, just to keep my speed in check, and then join me for the last 8 miles. While we were targeting 7:50/mile, we started off with the first three miles looking for 8:00 per mile which we achieved easily. We met Jenny at a corner in the route and he left me on my own. By the time I saw them again at the halfway mark, I was pretty much bang-on my target time -- just ahead of target by about 20 seconds or just 1 second per kilometre!
While the Road2Hope Marathon is a significant net downhill, the first 13 miles had lots of gradual ups and downs. So I was happy to see the top of the Red Hill Parkway where I knew it would be a significant downhill for 6 or 7 kilometres.
During the time on the Parkway, I let my speed increase a bit, from 4:52/k target to no faster than 4:30 per kilometre. So by the time I found Jenny and Brian at the 29K mark, I was about 2 minutes and 20 seconds ahead of schedule -- yet my quads weren't too beat up from the downhill running. But I knew that the worst was certainly yet to come.
Brian and I kept a very consistent pace for the next 6 kilometres. At the 35K mark, with just 7.2K to go, I was starting to fade -- and that is where Brian kicked into gear to keep me focused -- head up and concentrating on my stride, not my watch. I kept struggling and with about 4 kilometres to go told him just to not let me walk. And if the wind was causing me issues, I'd just shout "wind!" and he'd work to get in a position to block it for me.
The toughest part was the last kilometre. We had to pass by the finish line and go around the water slide in Centennial Park and then return to the finish. I was really struggling and really, really, really wanted to walk. But with Brian's encouragement, I kept going. With 200m to go he told me to give it a final kick and I started to pass a couple of other runners. But one runner wasn't going to give up without a fight, so we ended up racing across the finish in a full-out sprint.
Chip time: 3:25:41. Personal Best. Boston Qualifier by over 5 minutes. I'm now a '3:25 guy'!