There are good events, there are bad events and then there are those events that you’d really like to forget. It’s been a very long time since I last recorded a DNF (that stands for did not finish for anyone who doesn’t know). Unfortunately, for various reasons I ended up adding another one to the list today.

Like so many things I’ve signed up for over the years it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’d managed to get round the Yeovil Half Marathon  and set a new PB for the distance in the process. In the aftermath of that success I made the decision to sign up for the real thing. To a Cyclist 26.2 miles doesn’t sound like a big deal, on a bike I could do that in my sleep. I failed to realise just how much of an ask it is to complete that distance on foot. Error number one.

Looking back at it the timing of my chosen event was far from ideal. Back in March exam season seemed a long way away, in reality the deadlines and revision meant that I had far less time on my hands to train than I would have liked. In training my longest run was a mere ten miles, this would have been fine if I was training for a shorter race but sadly as I later found out there truly is no substitute for getting in the mileage when it comes to the longer ones.

I’ve written plenty about how much of a mare this last winter turned out to be; bad weather, mechanical problems and illness all made it very difficult to maintain let alone increase my fitness. Fortunately these last three months have been far better and I’ve been making steady progress toward getting back to the level I want to be operating at. The one thing I haven’t yet succeeded in doing is getting back down to racing weight, I’m still 5kg heavier when compared to this point last year. While it really doesn’t help with cycling it’s running where that extra baggage has been most evident, with hills being far more taxing than they otherwise would be. Sadly your feet don’t have a granny gear you can use to spin up a steep incline.

Unsurprisingly the psychological side of things also had a big part to play. It might sound very strange if you’re not familiar with the weird world of academia but let me tell you that exam season really takes it’s toll on your mental resilience and it takes some time to recover from it. With the benefit of hindsight I can safely say that taking on such a tough physical and mental challenge that I’d never faced before as a first post-exam event was a bad idea.

You’re not going to be surprised to hear that I did exactly what I’ve advised against doing many, many times on here. Namely letting the ego get in the way of my pacing strategy. I had a target time of 3:30 in mind originally, had I stuck to it I might well have managed to get round. Sadly by mile five I’d decided to stick with the group of runners I’d found myself in, at first the pace was very manageable. With a Half Marathon PB of 1:32 I’d have thought that a pace delivering a first half split of 1:40 wouldn’t have presented any major issues.

For the most part I felt good during those first eight miles; settling into a decent rhythm, sticking to a tried and tested nutrition strategy and not getting any complaints from my feet and ankles. A combination of the various reasons above were responsible for what happened next. At first it was a slight twinge in the my right calf, it wasn’t long before this started to get progressively worse. By mile ten my feet were seriously protesting, I’d have thought nothing of it in a Half Marathon but with 16 miles still to go it was a big worry.

Coming to the end of the first lap and running straight past the site of the finish line was very demoralising. It was at that point that for the first time I properly understood just how difficult running a Marathon actually was. I’ve got a new found respect for anyone who can simply manage to get round a 26.2, let alone run one quickly. By mile 14 my feet were so painful that I was forced to change my footstrike modality, giving my forefeet at rest by heel striking. The relief from this was short lived, almost immediately my ankles began to ache.

At the beginning of mile 15 I began to think it might be game over, unfortunately once that thought gets into your head it’s very difficult to get rid of it. There is nowhere to hide if you overdo it on a run, no option of spinning home at an easy pace. With body and mind telling me in unison that it wasn’t going to happen I did my best to push on, hoping that it would pass and I’d manage to find my feet again. Sadly this was not to be, following a steep hill at the beginning of mile 16 my legs gave up the ghost. I was completely spent.

The relief of stopping soon gave way to disappointment and frustration, getting rescued from the roadside is not the way I’d pictured finishing the event. At the moment with the episode still very fresh in my mind it’s very hard to see the positives. In many ways it could of course have been much worse. I’m hurting but not injured to the point of needing to take a lot of time away from training.  At 21 years of age I think it’s safe to say that there will be plenty of opportunities to redeem myself and tick a Marathon off the bucket list. Next time I’ll know exactly what not to do.

I’m planing on having a couple of weeks off from running. For the latter half of the 2018 season my focus will be on cycling time trials, getting back to something I’m more familiar with and hopefully boosting my morale with some good performances in the process. If nothing else ‘field testing’ a TT setup should lead to reclaiming a few of the KOM’s I’ve lost over the winter. Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading.