Thursday, 12 November 2015

It definitely wasn`t a case of `beware of Greeks bearing gifts`

…….as this one is a beauty.

After what seems like ages I`m back running – ok it`s not advisable to jump straight into a Marathon length run but tickets & hotel were booked.

A few steps back as it were – When you complete a race like Comrades you feel invincible however you are not - I needed to rest but didn`t & paid the price. August & September`s total running mileage was huge 76 Miles. I did, however do 444 miles on the bike inc. a 4 ½ hrs sportive.  October was `better` at 61 miles including the brilliant `Back to the Future Day` race – jogged out a ½ Marathon distance run in just under 2hrs 15 mins.

I had entered Athens Marathon for a couple of reasons – Athens is a fantastic City – full of culture, it`s relevantly close, great for exploring before or after the race, it is a great event inc the iconic finish stadium, the crowds are wonderful, the weather can be lovely & hot AND route has hills !!  Plus I had ran this race in 2010 – see race report here. I had also hoped to bag a good Comrades pen placement from it. Flights and hotel wise I managed to get the flights via Nectar points & the hotel ( Novotel Hotel in the Omonia District ) was doing an offer.

I flew out late Thursday afternoon, arrived ok & jumped on the train / Metro heading into the heart of the City. I checked in and after a quick shower I was out to my favourite part of the City – Monastiraki  area.  After a fantastic meal & a couple of Mythos I headed back. In the next day I wanted to explore the City – first stop (but I guess actually 12 or so along the metro) was the Olympic Area. Fantastic structures but didn`t appear to be used. After 30 mins or so it was all the way back down to Port part of the City for the Expo. Eventually found it but despite that locating trouble it was a far better expo then last time and a better expo than I was expecting.

The next day I was meeting Wendy & husband Steve we had planned a nice trip up to see the Acropolis & a bit of lunch – it`s a great way to see the city too. The rest of the day was chill time.

I planned, like 2010 to catch one of the earliest buses so up at 4.15 for shower & breakfast. I had already sorted out my kit. I do think travelling through a big City on race morning is just brilliant – the tingles of excitement building. We travelled towards the town of `Marathon` where we go at 9.00am. I briefly see Wendy & wish her well. I get into pen 4  not that I was sprinting off. I chatted to  Bernice from Gosport Road Runners who was also missing the second XC of the Southern Cross Country league
L The plan was a cheeky sub 5 run (& therefore quality for Comrades) – I had a 4 hrs 50 mins pace band as I wanted to see, maybe in the latter part of the race where I was & where I needed to be to achieve this time.

I knew because of the lack of running miles pacing was the key – as we set off it felt like the whole field was going past me but I kept it steady at just over 10 minute / m. I must of had 15 miles of `feeling of being over taken` - then the hills appeared. To be fair they were there all the time but I think folks ran out of gas a bit. An advantage of running Comrades was that when I looked up and saw a hill or incline I just thought “I`ve run Polly Shortts” and picked up the pace. Talking of pace my mile splits were very constant despite the course profile I had started to pass folks who went steaming passed me earlier. I was taking a gel an hour & the water station was simply – water over arm, water over head & drink the rest.
I broke the race down as a 20 miler as that was when it became a downhill course. As I approached the 20 mile point (3.26 hrs) I knew I had done it as long as I didn`t go too mad on this last downhill section. It was a good feeling to slow things down despite the pick-up of pace. I made sure that I kept hydrated & my salt level up so I used one of my SIS tabs in my hand held which I have to say helped – at least it made a nice change of the taste of just water.

My Garmin had gained a bit of distance so I knew I was going to miss a `cherry on top` target but I have to say all things considered was that the run itself was one best I`ve ever done and yes I`ve have run negative split marathons before – inc my PB @ London).
Ok I had a good day & do not get it right every time but one lesson that needs to be learnt is that good pacing in runs so important. No better feeling that nailing a good long run with a good strong finish.

By this stage I had picked up the pace to around 9 min 20 and overtaking loads – the crowds were brilliant esp if you gave them back a bit of acknowledgement. I can say I
didn`t want the race to end but it did and what a finish – the Old Olympic Stadium.  They had switched finishing sides which I have to say plus all the other little tweaks from 2010 had vastly improved the event. The bag collection area was easier to get to. I quickly got changed and headed back to the stands to watch others finish. It is truly brilliant to just sit there and watch others `win` their particular Marathon battle.

ravo Athens !!!

Splits – 1st Half = 02:16:07 v 2nd Half = 02:15:03

Next up – more strength build up in the form of Cross Country ;-) #LoveMud

Oh got my Comrades Qualifier - Pen G - but do have two Marathons planned next year to bump up a bit. #OffToSouthAfrica #BackToBack