Isle of Wight Marathon 2020

This one happened a while ago (4th October), meaning I’m on my second blog post and I’ve already ballsed up my timeline.

At the start of 2020 I set myself some running targets; complete 12 races in 12 months (starting from May 2019) and then move on to ultra training. The plan was for those races to include my first sub 40min 10km and getting my marathon PB below 3:30:00. I ran a local 10miler in February and was all set for a 10km race in late March…

… Quite rightly the 10km didn’t go ahead and the following day the UK went into national lockdown. Who knew when we’d be racing again? I kept my running going, enjoying a long, solid training block through to August. I lost my way a bit when my 50km race in August was cancelled, but then came the news that my local marathon was planning to go ahead. I ran it last year, four weeks after my first marathon, in 3:51. 12 minutes slower than my first marathon, but this one is a hilly bugger; the last 10km is all up and down and the last hill is brutal. I let myself get completely psyched out by that last hill and didn’t enjoy a lot of the race because of it. Essentially I had a score to settle.

Race day arrived and it was cold, wet and windy. The event starts at 11:30am to give overners time to travel to the island (lazy buggers, we just get up early to get to your 9am starts) so there was a lot of waiting around. Fuelling for a race that runs over lunch is also a massive ball ache, especially for someone like me who always under fuels. To make matters worse my current fuelling technique was liquid carbs in the form of Tailwind, but we couldn’t leave our own drinks at aid stations due to COVID. So second breakfast of porridge and a pint of Tailwind and a banana before, then packed my flip belt full of gels and malt loaf for the race and hoped for the best.

A rolling, socially distanced start and we were off. I was super comfortable from the get go, taking it easy on the up hills and zipping down hill. My form felt great, everything felt easy and smooth, and my splits were far too quick. I kept this up for about 13km, but as the course got flatter and the field spread out things started to feel a bit harder. Still I was making good time until I hit the causeway footpath out of Yarmouth, which was stony, riddled with puddles, and in places open to a very strong, cold wind blowing river water into our faces. I kept motivated by reminding myself it was halfway at the end of this section, but all attempts at easy, bouncy running form were sucked out of me by that wind. I hit the half way mark in just over 1:36 so well above target but that was the easy half.

For the next 10km I barely glimpsed any other runners, the good form of earlier was gone but I was plodding along at target pace without too much issue. This was the part of the race where you just had to put your head down and let the miles pass you by. I was lucky enough to have family cheering me on at various points which really helped keep my motivation up. The last 10km got a bit busier, unfortunately because there are a few big hills and I’m not quick going up hill, so a few people cruised by me. I didn’t mind, my splits had swung the wrong side of my target pace but overall I was still way ahead of that coveted 3:30 finish time. My tired legs didn’t quite fly down the hills as speedily now but I made sure I pushed to make up time where I could. Whilst the hills were slow, they weren’t cripplingly slow. I still felt pretty good and I made my way up the last hill, my nemesis, without incident.

The final kilometre is a slight downhill followed by a flat finish so I got my head up and pushed on. It felt good, but seeing a photo of myself in that last stretch my form was ruined and looking back at the splits it wasn’t as quick as it felt. Who care though, I rounded the final corner with a beaming smile on my face and crossed the line in 3:21:12 smashing my target and taking 30 minutes off my previous time for this race. Weirdly as soon as I crossed the finish line the muscle soreness kicked in. I hobbled up the road to meet my family and by the time I got there I was a shivery, achey mess. The next day my legs barely worked and it took 2-3 days for them to recover. No rest for the wicked though, the following weekend I ran two 30km training runs back to back in a last bit of prep for my first ultra.

I’ve made this one a bit matter of fact and in so doing completely missed the most important thing about this race for me, but I’m not a very creative writer so it’s easier to make the point separately at the end for impact. I enjoyed every single second of this race (OK except for the causeway segment). I ran it all with a smile on my face, well smiling on the inside at least, and whilst getting my time was amazing, it was better just to be racing again. I run for a lot of different reasons, first and foremost because I enjoy it, and races often intensify all of those reasons. It can be an emotional day in a lot of different ways, this one for me was just insanely good fun!

If you’re interested in Strava you can see my run here.