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  • Ollie McCarthy

The Marathon Blog: Finale


It has taken me a while to write this, which actually has allowed me a lot of time to reflect on the marathon.

I think if you asked me immediately after whether I was happy with my time I would have said no. However, on reflection and after several reminders from loved ones of what I achieved I am proud of what I did.

I think if anything I was frustrated because I know I have more to give to marathon training. Being that much fitter, lighter and having trained more consistently than ever before to only beat my previous best my 4 minutes was frustrating.

But I constantly tell my clients to think of the bigger picture. And the bigger picture leaves clues to how I can run a better time next time. Maybe working 13 days straight before a marathon wasn’t such a good idea. The two best nights sleep I got for the two months leading into that marathon were the night before and the night after the race.

15.5 miles as my longest run was always going to be a gamble. But I guess when you take a marathon 3 weeks out you don’t really have many other options.

The Race

I was nervous before we started. I knew I was out to try and run a time, but at the end of the day I just wanted to get round.

I started strong and felt good. The first 5 miles were comfortable although I forgot how undulating the first half of the marathon course was. I stuck to the game plan and kept at pace, taking on gels every 30 minutes and hydrating.

It was a hot day which I knew would cause problems so I took advantage of water stations and any showers to run through. Keeping cool would be as beneficial as taking on fluid.

10 miles in and I definitely felt the hills on my legs. However, knowing what the course offered I knew as soon as I got back into Brighton it was pretty flat running.

I got through the half marathon on pace for a sub 4 hour marathon (my aim) and saw my sister and her friends which gave me an extra little boost.

As I headed past mile 15 I felt tired but good. I knew mentally I could keep pushing but wasn’t sure at what point my legs may start to tire. People were struggling. I knew with the heat, and marathon running in general this is where things began getting tough.

The loop into Hove and out again is roughly 3 miles. On both sides of the road (going in and out) I could see people struggling. More people were walking now despite the amazing support from the crowd.

I kept my head down and kept pushing, taking quiet satisfaction from each person I passed. “Get to mile 18” I thought.

My game plan was to race the first 20 miles and suffer the rest. I figured my training would probably get me around there and then it would be a struggle for the last 6 miles. So at mile 10 I told myself I was half way.

As I passed mile 18 and was still running I wondered how far I could get. I knew I would fall to pieces at some point. It was was just a matter of where.

I don’t know if it was my training or the fact that psychologically mile 20 was what I was always aiming for. But I passed mile 20 and nose dived off a cliff. My legs began to cramp and I slowed to a walk/ shuffle.

I don’t think it was the “wall” per se which is usually down to a lack of fuel in the latter stages of a race. I also don’t think it was a hydration issue as both of those things had no effect when I drank/ ate.

In my head this was a conditioning issue, which I always thought could be the case. My groin and quads were both cramping so I would run, walk, stretch and repeat. Frustrating as I had been on time for sub 4 up to that point.

As we neared mile 23 Ciaran (client and good friend) caught up with me. He had been running on feel and just wanted to complete the marathon. Although he was suffering (as everyone is at that stage) he was still moving pretty well and kept pushing on.

I could see him getting further and further away trying to keep up with him but my legs weren’t having any of it. I knew I would get round but it was now a case of how long it would take.

As we got to the 24 mile mark I could see him waiting at a water station.

“Let’s finish this together pal” he said and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing how much running with someone would help me in the last 2 miles.

The last 2 were grizzly but great. Crossing the line together after starting this journey together 2 years before was a great end.

I am always caught out by the difficulty of marathons. Having run further, I often forget how fucking hard they are, which seems ridiculous to say. But trying to run that distance at speed is tough and I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who attempts one, let along completes one.

Closing the door on a chapter of life.

This marathon was significant for a number of reasons. We started this journey 2 years ago wanting to run Paris marathon in April 2020.

In that time I have changed job twice, been in and back out of a relationship and moved house/ area I live in. Thats before we even think about the pandemic. There has been huge amount of change all of which has been positive in many ways (even when it seems to not be.)

This marathon for me signifies an end to that period. Leaving the past behind and moving into the future. The act of moving from one point to another, can be powerful.

Moving forwards. Figuratively and literally.

The end of this marathon journey is over. But the next chapter has just begun.

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