Oh lordy! I finally did it. 11 years after my only other (non-Ironman) marathon finishes (a 1:20 first half; 1:50 second half capitulation at Rotorua and a 3:03 at Wellington) in 2006, I finally managed to run with my head and not some other part of my body and achieved a sub-3hr, negative split marathon. Stoked, chuffed, made-up, all understatements. I was beginning to think the marathon distance was my achillies heel; the thing I’ll never nail.
This year’s Wellington Marathon was a bit of an after thought. I entered 3 weeks before the event, albeit with a bit of a plan in place beforehand and a decent level of endurance after the build up for Tarawera Ultra and Rarotonga Triathlon in the Summer and Autumn. Kerry at Squadrun had given me an awesome 9 week marathon plan and I incorporated some of those sessions into my Rarotonga Triathlon build-up and then chucked in some specific work in the last 4 weeks to get myself marathon ready.
Race morning was a stunner. Clear, light (for Wellington) winds and perfect temperatures. I had a 3-stage plan – pace for 2:52, be happy with 2:55, but by god just get under that 3 hours! With that I mind, I set off clocking a perfect 4:05/km pace. I hit halfway bang on the money at 1:26. For the first 25km I ran with two others, our pace was pretty much aligned. I was waiting for the hurt to come. But it was me that started to pull away from them. At 28km my Garmin lost signal so I started my stopwatch at 30k and clicked the lap marker at every km marker. I was getting faster! A couple of 3:55s, some low 4s, and I was passing people with less than 5km to go. What mythical feeling is this?!? The negative split! The hurt finally came with about 3km to go, but by then I was in a really happy place. I gritted my teeth, dug it in and finished hard. 2:51:11! Oh boy did that feel good.
In all honesty, I’ve never felt so comfortable in a long-distance run. I ran within myself and stayed focused and strong for the duration. At 37 years old, I think this was my coming of age performance for marathoning. I’ve run a 1:15:20 half before, and a 3:03 marathon PB was not something I was particularly proud of. Although the online calculators suggest, based on a 1:15 half, I should be capable of a 2:35-40ish marathon, for now I’m taking this 2:51 and I’m cherishing it.
As a bonus, this was the NZ Marathon Champs and I scored a bronze medal in the 35-39 age group! Very cool.
Once again, massive thanks to Kerry at Squadrun for the awesome training programme, pep-talks when I’m ready to quit and general all-round amazing support. This guy not only knows his stuff, he knows how to dose it out in a way that gets maximum effect.
As always, final (and biggest) thanks to Natasha and the kids for their endless encouragement and support and for keeping me grounded when I get home (“cool medal Dad, can you make me some toast?“).