Commonwealth Marathon Reflections

Well I’m now back in Australia and awake at 4.45am and so am putting my jetlag to good use with a few feelings about my race last Sunday. I finished in 14th place, in 2.16.50, and was behind my other 2 England teammates (fact for you – apparently the oldest ever trio of Commonwealth teammates – combined age of 109 and I’m the young one!). Coming into the race I’d had some very mixed form, with a pretty disappointing 12k XC and a 30.13 10k. However, my longer stuff had gone pretty well and I’d not suffered any big interruptions to my build-up so the fitness was there, I was just struggling for form over the shorter distances. I’d also made a few changes to my training and diet – incorporating more of longer efforts at marathon pace and less carb reliance, and the point of this was to make me more of a ‘diesel’ engine which would actually explain the drop in form over shorter distances.

One of the difficult things with being in the athletes village building up to a race is the amount of time to think and you have to really focus to not let the negatives creep into your thoughts. The rest and recovery is a definite positive, but it’s a tough test mentally I think. I definitely had moments when I doubted my ability to run a good race and had to force myself to think rationally and positively. The way I dealt with that was not to think about the time I wanted to run, but just to think of it as a race, and take out the mental pressures of all the splits I need to run. I’d also had a tight hip flexor for 2 weeks but there’s nothing I can do about that on race day so just pushed it to the back of my mind.

So, to the race. It was a 9.02am start so I got up at 5.45 and got some food and then got the bus with the team to the race start, where we sat and waited. It was a nice drizzley day –  a relief after the hot days we’d had previously! Finally, the days of waiting were over and we got underway. My plan was to try and get in a group that was moving at a pace that felt comfortable enough, and for the first 5k, that was the lead group as the race started cagily. We moved through 5k in 15.45 or so and the pace felt ok. Not super easy, but ok. There were a couple of moments where the lead group surged a bit and slowed, but soon after 5k, they surged away and left a group with the 3 English guys, Derek Hawkins (Scotland) and Martin Dent from Aus. I knew there would be a few casualties from the lead group so I sat in this group, not really thinking about the pace we were running at, but just what felt comfortable. As it was, we were actually running at sub 2.14 pace, so reasonably quickly.

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I still didn’t really feel comfortable at this pace. I knew I had to stay with the group, but it didn’t feel super easy, and that was worrying me a bit. Steve and Nick seemed pretty comfortable, but there were times when I would drop off by a few yards, and then work to get back to the group. All I was telling myself was to back my strength, and to stay calm. I wasn’t looking at my splits – I didn’t want to know if I was slowing down. I wanted to just think of it as a race and not a time trial, as this made me feel more confident and positive.

The crowds were amazing all of the way round but as we looped back towards the end of the 1st of 2 laps we hit the crowds again and the noise was amazing. I was trying to identify familiar faces in the crowd and was getting a lot of shouts but there were so many I couldn’t do it! There were a few moments that were real hairs on the back of your neck moments and I’ve only ever experienced that before at London marathon. Certainly a far cry from the 14 spectators and a monkey at Delhi!! At one of the points Steve surged a bit and gave a fist pump to the crowd. I was thinking ‘keep calm Steve, long way to go yet’, but clearly as it turned out he had things well under control!

As we hit halfway, this was the first time I looked at the clock – 66.50. I was now dropping off of the group and was finding things tough. The course is 2 13.1 mile loops and I actually quite liked it. IT had a few short hills in, but the final 10k of each loop is a gradual downhill. I knew I was going to find 20-30k quite hard, with the hills and the breeze that was getting 1547914_10152656121645786_1816168415355164899_o (1)stronger. As I started running on my own the negative thoughts came back. Should I drop out? How bad is this going to get? Is my hip flexor going to hold up? The answers were: you don’t drop out, whatever happens. You can’t let people down by dropping out. As to how bad, well just run at the pace that feels manageable. Hip flexor – forget about it. It hurts a bit, but it’s doing ok.

Somewhere between 20-30k I passed Marty Dent who had a bad day, but the other guys were pulling well clear of me. I kept telling myself that everything can change in the final 10k and just hold it together. I struggled up the hills and the windy sections and knew I was slowing down but now just wanted to get to the final sections of the race. Weirdly, something Steve said to be at the start of the week came into my head: think how happy you’ll be on your honeymoon (I head to Bolivia this week!) if you can sit back and think you gave it everything. That was all I thought about for a few km – being satisfied with myself and not giving in.

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I got to 35k and thought – I’m not dying, this feels ok. A couple people started coming back and now I told myself I could push hard and try and pick people off. I could see in the distance that Nick Torry was coming back, but Steve and Derek were a long way ahead. I rallied a bit in the last 5k and picked off 2 Africans and was gaining quickly on Nick but eventually ran out of road and finished 15 seconds behind him.

As I finished I saw Mike Shelley vomiting but with a flag draped on him and asked Liam Adams how he did who told me he won. An incredible run. Another incredible run was from Steve Way – 2.15 for a 40year old and another big PB. Legend.

I’m still not sure what to think of my race. On one hand, 1 minute outside my PB on a course that isn’t super fast and with a slight lack of form, isn’t bad. On the other, people ran PBs and I still feel I’m not getting the marathon performance I should be capable of. It was a tough slog for me and I never really felt great – unlike Fukuoka where I felt incredible for so long. My hip flexor was very sore afterwards but will assess it when I get back into running and see if it’s ok.

The atmosphere was amazing – and I actually really enjoyed the course too. Enough variety to keep things interesting without making it super hard! Highlights on the course were spotting several people I didn’t expect to; being shouted “Go on Wales!”; several people trying to say ‘Moreau’ and failing; and someone obviously thinking I was French and shouting “Allez, allez allez!”…!

I’m extremely proud to have made it to two Commonwealth Games – I would never have thought that was a realistic thing to happen. It’s also been a privilege to have Nick and Steve as team-mates, and to have had so much support on race day and the build-up was fantastic.

In any case, I have 2 weeks in Bolivia to reflect and not run, so will enjoy that greatly 🙂

Splits:

5k – 15.49
10k – 15.45
15k – 15.51
20k – 15.46
Half – 66.50
25k – 16.29
30k – 16.56
35k – 16.34
40k – 16.26

Results here

6 thoughts on “Commonwealth Marathon Reflections

  1. Well done Ben. Great read and a great run when you take everything into consideration. Most importantly you can look yourself in the mirror, knowing that you gave it your best on the day. Enjoy the honeymoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the report Ben. Well run – well done.
    I was in Pollok park shouting “Well done Ben!” and hoping I’d remembered your name correctly. I’m a Scotsman, but was delighted to be able to cheer on the athletes in my home town – including the English.
    Enjoy your holiday – you’ve earned it!

    Like

  3. Thanks for a great read and well done on the race – particularly gutsing it out between 20-30km. Tough mentally and physically. They didn’t show Shelly on television vomiting, but they showed his face full of pain over the last few miles. Many inspirational performances, which made it a very enjoyable race to watch (from the comfort of the armchair). Hope you both have a great time and well earned rest in Bolivia.

    Like

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