The goal for the last few months has been to sub 3:30 at the Jersey marathon. I wasn't sure if this was realistic, taking 15 minutes off last years time of 3:45 but after my ultras and some proper focused training this year I was ready to go for it.
The lead up
Being worried about the weather and storm Lorenzo coming in the week leading up to Sunday, my last easy run on Thursday was in the torrential rain and crazy winds. I convinced myself it would be fine if the weather was like this on race day… however I didn't need to as the weather couldn’t have been more perfect on the day. Blue skies, sunny periods and a nice breeze, what a relief - perfect!
Many people carb load the week leading up to race day. I tried to do this as best as I could by eating a variety of different carbs at every meal. However, I quickly realised that my normal diet is about 80% carbs anyways so there wasn’t much to change haha. I also drank a lot of water - hydration is key! Most importantly, I didn’t change anything to my normal routine.
My main priority for the week was sleep. Trying to get into a pattern of early bedtime and rising early to practice for the day itself. I got in a few 10pm bedtimes and 8am get ups - banking 10 hour sleeps leading up to the race which just made me feel amazing. Disclaimer: I don’t normally sleep that much, I aim for 8 hours a night.
Trusting your training during the taper is hard. It's so difficult to stay confident that you’ve done enough and you start to doubt yourself and whether you will be fast enough on the day - but it’s science and has been proven to work hundreds of times! None of my big runs were all at marathon pace, it would be 3-5miles on and off in the middle of an easy run (about 1-2mins slower than marathon pace). Running easy (feeling relaxed and being able to hold a conversation) is so important whilst training for a marathon.
A surprise mention
The night before the marathon I was surprised to see I got name checked in the JEP race preview, as one of the Jersey woman’s entries with Mel Messervy (Island Games triathlete) and Leanne Rive (one of the Islands best known ultra-marathon runners). It was great to be mentioned with such illustrious company but also quite scary to have a level of expectation on my race performance when I have so far in my running been used to going “unnoticed”.
Having a restless night's sleep on Saturday (because who actually sleeps well the night before a race), I woke up nice and early to have my coffee and a bagel with peanut butter and jam. Gathering all my gear and prepping my drop bag for the end with spare trainers, socks, jumper and rain jacket, I had a gentle jog to the start at Weighbridge Place which was about 0.5miles to loosen up.
One of the best things about a smaller marathon like jersey is the availability to go to the toilet right up until the gun goes off. Sounds funny, but there is no waiting in a pen nervously for hours holding in that nerve pee.
I sipped on my water right up until the start to calm the nerves and get rid of the inevitable pre race dry mouth. I also love to talk to people to hear their goals/how they’re feeling. It’s really important to pace yourself at the start so you don’t get carried away trying to keep up with someone that is trying to finish 30 mins ahead of you … easily done as I recently found out!
I placed myself just in front of the 3:30 pacer flag (these amazing and experienced runners wear the timing flag on their back and pace the race to perfection so you can run with them to ensure you get in under the time). I wanted to make sure I was just in front the whole way by about 2-3mins to make sure if I slowed down in the second half I could still push myself to just get in.
I headed off at 7:50ish pace like planned and really felt like I was holding back, which is great - I never thought I’d feel comfortable running at this pace but my shoulders felt chilled and breathing was all in check. I learnt my lesson at the Spartan half after going out way too fast in the first mile and suffering as a result. This time I was determined to pace perfectly!
Heading into the first relay station at 3 miles I was running alone, which I actually didn’t mind. I had my bone conducting headphones in (which don't actually sit in the ear and are therefore allowed for some marathons) and my dance tunes were getting me through.
The hills were coming up at mile 4 and I got into a good rhythm to try get them done as quickly as possible. A male runner passed me at the bottom of the first hill and I decided to stick to the back of him and let him pace me all the way up. This helped because it meant I didn't have to think about pace but could just concentrate on my breathing. I knew the next hill was around the corner and I did the same thing. When the hills were done at mile 6 I knew the challenging section was behind me and I could look forward to a nice long flat 20 miles.
Just before relay station two (about 8 miles) my friend Rich and a group of runners caught up with me including crazy Leanne, who flew by even though she had just completed the 246km Spartathlon ultra the week before!
Rich and I were both aiming for a sub 3:30 and both had the same game plan for pacing. We stuck together and powered through the next few miles at a steady 7:50 pace keeping each other sane and motivated. Just having someone next to you when running long distance makes it so much easier, you don't even have to talk much, it's just the comfort of someone there knowing they are feeling the same emotions as you.
Rich explained he was going on the 10/10/10 method, where you break the marathon into 10miles, 10miles and 10km - so I tried this too. It's so much easier breaking something like a marathon into chunks to make it more realistic and not too overwhelming at the start.
Running through St Ouens village and relay station 4 at Les Quennevais were highlights for me with so many people coming out to cheer on the runners!
I started to struggle around mile 17, once we reached the end of the railway walk at Corbiere on the road back to Les Quennevais. I was forcing my 4th SIS gel down and remembered this section from last year is where I started to hit “the wall”. I decided that I was not going to let this stretch defeat me again and Rich and I carried on powering out the miles at our set pace.
That long stretch is mentally the worst, its long with a slight uphill gradient and hardly anyone around to cheer but my sub 3:30 was looking definite and I couldn't help but still smile and tried to enjoy each mile knowing that I was close to my goal!
Rather quickly, the final 10km came! We flew down the downhill stretch of the railway walk and quickly hit the crowds at St Aubins to run the final stretch along the seafront, the route I run frequently in training.
Rich and I were silent, digging deep and kept going at our steady pace. I had a few sips of powerade before I realised how stupid that was and moved straight back to water. You do daft things with ‘runners brain’, where your brain is mush and you make silly decisions!
Leanne (5th woman) was just ahead but my legs just couldn't speed up to catch her. We overtook a few people that had hit their own wall and were walking with some even being carried. Don’t underestimate the last 10km, a lot can still go wrong - keep the legs moving and the energy up!
We were in the final 400 metres and I let Rich know he had to jump over the finish line with me (Sorry Rich). The realisation in the last corner that we weren’t just going to break the 3:30 mark, but 3:25… I was ecstatic as we sprinted our way down the last few metres with a loud crowd cheering us through the finish line!
We made it. 3:24:39.
Never been so happy with how a race went. I loved it and the goal was smashed.
Thanks so much to Rich, who made the whole race so much more bearable, positive and helping me around. Thanks to my dad as always for being the best support...here, there and everywhere. And of course the event organisers and marshalls, what a fantastic day!