Aaaaand breathe. That was tough. Cobbles, PB, target achieved, resisting the cheap Czech beer – great weekend away.
It is the end of an odd part of the year – having events so close to each other was difficult to work out what to do between them – looking from the Brighton Marathon, I needed to recover, ease my way back into training – however at the other end, the Prague Marathon, I needed to taper my training – lowering what I did. Whatever I did, it appears to have worked. I took over 5 minutes off my Brighton time when I completed Prague this weekend – setting myself a new PB and achieving the marathon target I set myself at the end of last year of a sub-3.15 marathon. 3 hours 14 minutes & 17 seconds.
Having spent the weeks before Prague fitting in small runs and cycles, I flew to Prague not too confident of improving my time from Brighton. I thought that I hadn’t done enough over the 3 weeks & that the cobbles may cause me too many problems with my history of ankle & knees injuries. The alarm went off beautifully early on Saturday morning to fly out, 4.30 we were out of the door and on our way to Stansted, arriving in Prague at 10.30 local time, where (thankfully) there was a lovely English speaking lady to sell public transport tickets & draw the route I required to take to get to the expo to get my number & goodies. The expo had a lot of stalls in, but with this being my third expo in as many weeks, nothing really interested me as I had already spent all my money. Our hotel was right near the centre of Prague, fantastically placed for the Marathon, all transport links & seeing Prague. We checked in and then chilled. I sorted my race number & clothes before heading into the Old Town square to meet Alex and Tui, who had been given the local tour by Tui’s Uncle who has lived there for 25ish years. I tried to calm Alex’s nerves, but I don’t think I was successful. One thing I do have going for me, is I don’t get nervous – downside is that I don’t really know how to deal with other peoples nerves well – sorry Alex!!
On to the race. 10,000 of us gathered around the Old Town Square on Sunday morning, waiting for 9am to come and for the pro’s to sprint off at their ridiculous pace. The first kilometre was difficult to get going as the streets were pretty narrow and there were a large amount of people trying to get their rhythm. Once we crossed the river for the first time, it was time for the most important part of the race – toilet break. The first bit of green since the start appeared at exactly 1km and hundreds of men (and a few women) dashed into the grass to relieve themselves. From there, not only did I feel more comfortable, I had more space to settle in at a comfortable pace. The first 5km went quite slowly in my head, which initially was a worry as this part of the race normally flies by. Maybe it was something to do with passing by the 33km sign and thinking about how far there was to go. But after then, I found myself over half way without having counted many of the other significant distances and only the cobbles causing me a bit of discomfort Halfway was reached at 1.33.15 – almost 2 minutes ahead of where I had planned to be – I felt pretty good. I reached 26km without much trouble, but it was then that I started to feel it. My hamstrings, the guys who gave in first at Brighton, were starting to feel tighter and I had to plan what I did with my pace. I slowed myself down ever so slightly to try and let them settle. It worked perfectly. One issue with running a race that doesn’t have many English people in is that you don’t distract yourself much, meaning your brain settles in on other things. Luckily for me, this is where I saw Alex. Approx. 1km in front of me on one of the out and back areas. This took my mind off of the hamstring, and I forgot about it – for the rest of the race. The rest of the race was time management. I thought that Chloe & Tui would have set themselves up at aound 32km – so that was my next part. Get to them and then there’s 10km to go. I got there and I knew 3.15 was on. I looked at my time and knew that as long as I didn’t have a dramatic crash of energy I was going to complete the final 10km in less than 50minutes. I knew it would be tight, but I felt good.
Arrive the finish line, I looked at my watch (which was reading that I had already completed a marathon…) and I was almost there. I could see the finish line, but it wasn’t until I was about 50 metres away that I had the confirmation that I had hit my target. Easily too.
I enjoyed the race a lot – it says something about how good a race was if you can’t remember much of it – it means that you are focused for one. Loss of focus is never a good sign for me as I then settle in at a slower pace naturally and everything goes to pot. The cobbles were bad – but that is part of the charm of the Prague marathon – running through the old & the new parts of the city. The crowds need some work! Where there was crowd, there wasn’t much noise. Now I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been blessed to have run the well supported events of Paris & Brighton, but the crowd give you energy and they need to work on that in Czech Republic! Maybe they were feeling their 9am beers.
I now have 7 weeks until the next event – one that I am completely unsure about. Ultimate Trails – this won’t be one that I shall be sprinting around. I have 12 hours to complete it and if it takes me that long then I have no issue. This is one about completing it, not about a time. Over the next 7 weeks my training will change dramatically, focus will switch to cycling more than anything else with any running sessions being through woods or up and down hills. Ideally, I would only be training for the Ultra, but I haven’t given myself that privilege so I have to sacrifice the time to make sure I split it so I can complete the Ultra and hit my target time for the Ironman. Whilst playing cricket every week. Free time = zero.