Muscat Marathon 2015 – the sub-4hr dream

Back in 2014 I set myself the aim of running a full, standalone, road marathon. I’ve run marathons before; my first was as part of Ironman UK back in 2012, an Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series marathon on the North York Moors left me rehabbing an ITB problem for 6 months following the race it was so hilly, with the long stage of the Oman Desert Marathon 2014 just falling short of a full marathon (40.8km) in the desert heat and sand. Like most amateur club runners, I’d always thought that getting a sub-4 hour marathon time would be a good goal, although it never really seemed hugely do-able. I ran 4:27 in my Ironman marathon, off the back of a 7 hour bike ride, so in theory it should have been possible to take 27 minutes off my time by focussing just on the running, resting well and preparing properly.

Ironman UK 2012, Endurancelife CTS North York Moors 2013, Oman Desert marathon 2014

Ironman UK 2012, Endurancelife CTS North York Moors 2013, Oman Desert marathon 2014

Last year I ran the Muscat Half Marathon – held on the same day and the same course as the full marathon (2 laps of the ½ marathon course), in a time of 1:53. Although technically that was a ½ marathon PB for me (having only ever run one ‘proper’ half marathon road race before), I’d been posting faster times than that during my long run sessions in the run-up to my Ironman. Basically I’d never regained the running form (mostly the endurance speed) from my Ironman training. Unsurprising really given how much time I’d had available to me for training whilst prepping for IM.

Muscat Half Marathon 2014. Early doors registration, running along the seafront, runners on Qurm Corniche

Muscat Half Marathon 2014. Early doors registration, running along the seafront, runners on Qurm Corniche

I decided after the half marathon that I wanted to run the full marathon the following year. Late summer and autumn saw me doing a lot of training, in preparation for the Oman Desert Marathon in early November. After taking a week or two off from long running sessions after that (with a brief jaunt up Wadi Bani Auf for the relay), I joined back in with the weekly Friday Friendly early morning social runs with Muscat Road Runners. By the 20th of December I was back up to a 31km long run, but still with 5 weeks to go till race day. My plan was to do one more long (30km-ish) run the first weekend of January whilst at home in the UK, and then to taper slowly after that. Best laid plans and all that – I got food poisoning on the 28/29th Dec which wiped me out for the rest of the holidays. I’d managed a few runs before then, including a delightfully muddy half marathon along the canal on Christmas Eve, but then didn’t run after I’d been ill until I flew back to Oman on the 4th Jan.

First run back after the Desert Marathon, Wadi Bani Auf Relay, MRR Winter Series Amirat run

First run back after the Desert Marathon, Wadi Bani Auf Relay, MRR Winter Series Amirat run

MRR Tuesday Trauma group, Friday Friendly coconut water stop, chilly UK Christmas running

MRR Tuesday Trauma group, Friday Friendly coconut water stop, chilly UK Christmas running

The following weekend I ran 21km (Club winter series half marathon – 1:46), followed an early morning 16km the following week. During the last two weeks before race day I managed very little training, due to the fact that I had to fly to Doha (Qatar) both weeks for fieldwork. With the exception of one 8km run in Doha (mostly spent dodging traffic until I got onto the corniche), I did very little exercise! Consequently I was a bit stressed; I’d spent months of training on pretty good marathon prep, and I felt like it was all going to pot in the last 4 weeks of the training period. The final weekend before the race I opted not to run at all, instead we did a 10km hike up in the mountains – 6 hours of hiking, with a total of 1500m ascent and then descent, with absolutely stunning views. Back to Doha for the second time, cycle commute on the Wednesday morning, last minute sports massage on Wednesday night, and then a final cycle commute on the Thursday morning to spin the legs out a bit after the previous night’s massage.

Post 1/2 marathon foam rollering and stretching. Early doors run along Seeb corniche. Dodging traffic in Doha.

Post 1/2 marathon foam rollering and stretching. Early doors run along Seeb corniche. Dodging traffic in Doha.

Friday morning (race day) rolled around far too quickly when my alarm went off at 04:10. I’d been pondering whether to eat anything before the run or not – I don’t always eat before a long run purely because I value my sleep more! I opted for a compromise, 1 scrambled egg, a piece of leftover roasted squash, and a small date& nut bar, seeing as I wouldn’t actually start racing till 6am.

After a half-hearted warm-up and stretch, we were off!! I know the marathon course extremely well given that we train around it on our regular club runs anyway – this definitely helped! I was running with the aim of finishing sub 4 hours, which I knew would mean aiming for 5:40min/km pace overall. I set off steady, speeding up a bit to a pace of around 5:25min/km after the first km or so. I’d decided to play it safe, and give myself a bit positive split if I needed it for the last 10-15km of the race or so. I’d found a couple of other people running at the same pace (including fellow MRR runner Hitesh – always fun to run with him and his larger-than-life approach to the world) so I settled in, didn’t concentrate too much on the distance and just concentrated on keeping the 5:25min/km pace for as long as I could. I went through the half marathon distance in 1hr 53:53 – pretty much exactly the same time that I’d managed to finish the ½ marathon in the previous year! I was mildly concerned that I’d gone off a bit too fast, but figured that I actually felt pretty good, so I’d just carry on and see where it took me. I’d started eating my homemade date, nut, sultana, coconut and cinnamon bars at around 12km, nibbling half of one every 4-5km.

I went through the 30km mark at 2:42:57, still feeling pretty good (but a bit fed up of date & nut bars!) and plodded on through the 32km mark at 2:53:27 – at this point I realised that not only was I actually going to get under 4 hours, even if I had to slow to 6km/hour, but that if I kept up my current pace I’d also sneak under the 3:50 mark as well. What’s 10km to run when you’ve already run 32? Basically the home stretch (or something like that anyway). Grabbed a banana from my special needs bag with 8km to go, and headed in to Qurm park for the last lap. I’d been keeping an eye on the other females at the turnarounds, and knew that I was in third placed female. Asta was so far ahead of me I’d not even seen her on the turnarounds on the second lap, but at 32km the 2nd placed girl was only 3minutes ahead of me. During the lap in Qurm park I realised that I was going to be able to overtake her, which I did with 3km left to go. Bugger, that meant I still had 3km of her chasing me down before we got to the finish!

Marathon prep. Homemade date, nut, sultana, coconut and cinnamon energy bars. Muscat Marathon 2015 - DONE!!

Marathon prep. Homemade date, nut, sultana, coconut and cinnamon energy bars. Muscat Marathon 2015 – DONE!!

I am extremely chuffed to say that I kept my steady pace, finishing with an average pace of 5:23min/km for a total marathon time of 3:46:08.

Despite aiming for a large positive split, I actually finished up with a negative split of 1.5 minutes. Pretty good going for a non-runner I reckon J The best thing for me? I could still walk at the end (well, more of a little bit of a hobble, but definitely none of the horrendous ITB/knee pain that I’ve suffered from in the past). Win-win situation!

Stats:

  • Marathon: 03:45:51 (chip time)
  • Average pace: 5:23min/km
  • 1st half: 1:53:53
  • 2nd half: 1:52:39
  • 2nd female overall
  • 1st open (18-40yrs) female
  • 22/111 finishers

Muscat Road Runners did an excellent job of marshalling and running the event – the only thing missing was someone to take photos of me hehehe. This year I was too busy running!

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