I have a lot to be grateful for. Not least that I am healthy enough and have the resources to run marathons.
I was nervous in the build up to yesterday inaugural Newport marathon. I was aiming for a sub-three hour time, an ambitious time. My training had gone reasonably well but I hadn't really hit the required pace. To add a little spice to proceedings the first train to Newport was at 8:04, leaving a slim margin of time before the 9am start time. As it turned out the train was on time and not packed which surprised me. On the train I put on my first layer of deep heat, and lordy lord did it stink.
I didn't really know where the start line and just followed everyone else. As we walked down the waterfront there was a part of the street by the Wetherspoons had been cordoned off with police tape. The night before an 18 year old had driven into a crowd. Welcome to Newport.
It was a slightly chaotic scene at the waterfront. The Marshall I asked didn't know where the white start was: "Errr, that way?" It wasn't hard to find but I do get a bit chippy just before the start of a race. I had been a bit - errr - over eager to sign up, and as a result I had the bib number of 16, which I was slightly ashamed and proud of in equal measures.
The start time got pushed back by 15 minutes, then a following 15 minutes because of the delay people had getting into Newport. It was always going to happen, and is something that Run4Wales will learn. Also it would be good to keep spectators away from the running pens, there were lots of people just wandering around.
After the delays we were off at 9:30am, and I was right at the start. I got off quick and did the first mile in a very pacey 6:33, and despite having lots of opportunity before hand I needed a slash within the first mile, I stopped just before mile 2 but it didn't really slow down. I managed to keep a sub 7 hour pace for the first 7 miles before it started to slip away and I saw the 3 hour pace setter pass me and gradually fade into the horizon.
Despite this the pace was good, I felt strong and i was dipping below the 7 mile pace on a regular basis. The route was great, very flat (as promised) with lots of straight, long country roads. it's hard to see how they could grow the race as I could imagine that the route could get pretty congested. I was lucky to have a lot of space from the get go. There was were few supporters on the route because of how out of the way it was. I didn't find this a problem cause I'm happy to chew the miles with just my own thoughts.
The way i handled the race was as soon as I got over mile 17 I'd think 'Only 8 more miles to go...' of course it was actually just under 9 miles but it was just what I'd tell myself to keep churning the miles. Alas my faithful Garmin didn't seem to be able to churn with me, it kept turning itself off after mile 19, which was really frustrating. Although I couldn't see what my overall time was i kept switching it back on to keep an eye on my pace, which was around 8 - 7:30 minute miles. Around this time I began to get a weird nerve pain in my left arm. it's something different each marathon, at Brighton it was my shoulders,
I knew at this point - miles 19 - 21 - that I wasn't going to get a sub-three hour, i knew it awhile before in fact, but I knew that if I dug deep that I'd be on for a PB. I did think that if my time was good I'd Moonwalk over the finish line, in the end I decided not to.
i really had to dig deep for the last three miles, because traditionally that's where it wall falls apart for me. At mile 24 we double backed on ourselves and on the other side I could see the 3 hour 15 pace setter. I knew I had to stay ahead of him to have a hope of a PB, I was still doing a respectable time, but I could feel him snapping at my heals as I came up to mile 25. I just ground my teeth, dug in and used everything I had to speed up in the last mile. Then in the distance I could see the finish line and the clock ticking at the 3 hour 13 mark, I sprinted and crossed the line at 3 hours 14 minutes and 59 seconds. Four minutes off my PB at Tokyo and ten minutes faster than my time in Brighton last year. The pace setter came in just after me.
I was happy crossing the finish line, and without knowing it made the volunteer who was giving out medals put it on me like Princess Leia putting the medal on Han Solo at the end of Star Wars. I got my t-shit and some water and walked past the crime scene (now with forensic experts swabbing) to the station and had to run (oh the indignity!) to catch the train.
A great course, which has the makings of a great race once Run 4 Wales have got over their teething troubles. My quest for a sub three hour marathon continues...