Yesterday I ran the Goodwood Marathon… for the 3rd time.
This means I’ve now run round the Goodwood Motor Circuit 33 times. That’s a lot for quite a dull course . So if anyone hears me contemplating running it again, please punch me.
The reason I did it again was because after running the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December as a “can I still run marathons post baby” kind of test and feeling like it went really well, I wanted to do another marathon where I could push the pace and see how well I could do. The only available marathon nearby and relatively soon was Goodwood. So Goodwood it was!
My training had been really good so I felt quietly confident. My overall goal was for a sub-3.30 hour marathon. I felt like I could achieve this if things went well on the day. Like the weather wasn’t horrendous and I didn’t have any sickness or injury issues (always a risk during a marathon). And internally I hoped I could get a significant sub-3.30… it just depended how much I could give and how well I could run (of course).
The weather unfortunately wasn’t the best. It was very cold (standard for February obviously) and fairly windy. I’ve run Goodwood before when it’s been super windy and it was really hard work. I spent the first half of the lap battling the wind and then the second half recovering. I wasn’t that excited for the prospect of another race like that. But you can’t control nor change it, you just have to accept what you’re given on the day.
The night before Isaac stayed with my mum and dad so I could get a solid stretch of sleep. I was very grateful! But also, both sets of grandparents really love to babysit Isaac and take turns each week having him for a night. So we just made sure their turn was the night before the race.
I had a large veggie pizza from Asda and went to bed at 10pm. Because I’m breastfeeding, when Isaac stays with the grandparents I have to pump before I go to bed, during the night and first thing in the morning.
Obviously in the middle of the night isn’t the most fun experience but I’ve got it down to 15 minutes of entire wake time for the whole process so it’s really not that hard. This helps keep our milk stores in the freezer topped up so I can give the grandparents milk when they look after him. It also means my boobs don’t feel like they’re going to explode!
Anyway, that all went fine and I was awake bright and early at 6.50am and we were leaving the house at 7.45am to get to Goodwood for around 8.20am, where we were meeting my parents (and Isaac) and Kyle’s mum. I ate toast on route. I normally have porridge but because I know there aren’t any toilets on the course I wanted to limit the amount of liquid I’d be having before the race.
I picked up my bib, went for a wee and was ready to go. It was cold and breezy but I knew once I started running I’d be fine. My family got themselves a bacon bap and a hot drink and wished me good luck.
We were called in waves of predicted start time and I went with the sub-3:30 bunch. I stood chatting with two other ladies while we waited to start. They were aiming for similar times and so once we started we naturally just stuck together in a little group.
One of the women had the Nike Vaporfly shoes on and they squeaked with every footfall. In fact, it amused me greatly that you could tell who was wearing them without even looking because of that tell-tale squeak.
The first few laps were fairly dull. I found I was comfortably ticking along the miles at 7.40ish and this didn’t feel too much of an effort. I love the marathon for this reason. It’s a strategy game. A pace that feels good at the start can be so much harder later, but do you risk it? Do you play it safe and go slower then hope to speed up later? The risk being you might not speed up and might have missed banking those faster times. But can you ever truly bank time in a marathon?
Normally my strategy is to go slow and increase as I carry on. 7.40 isn’t a slow pace for me by any means but it has been a comfortable pace I’ve been running a lot of my long runs. I could potentially knock it down to 7.30/20 later on if things went well. So I decided to try and keep under that pace.
The wind was from the south which meant it was dead against us as we ran along the stretch past the supporters (the complete opposite to the last time I ran it). This was SO much better because as hard as the force of the wind was, you could use the crowd’s cheers to push you along. And then when you got round to the quieter section of the course the wind was pushing you along – exactly where you needed it.
By lap three I was on my own having just gently stretched ahead of the two ladies. The 20 miler race had started so there were more people on the course now and the faster runners were speeding past. It made things somewhat more interesting.
After the first lap, the nanas escaped, sensibly, to the warmth inside but my dad and Kyle braved the viewing deck and cheered me on every lap which was lovely. I will stress that I never ask my family to come and support me. Of course I’m always over the moon when they come to one of my races but equally if they don’t want to I’m absolutely fine with going on my own. After all, it’s my hobby and it’s not exactly a quick thing!
But they were really keen to come. I mean, let’s be honest the nanas love spending time with Isaac so that helped 😉 but my dad and Kyle are always really enthusiastic about cheering me on and getting geeky about pace times and goals. I think they were quite happy it was a race I was actually going for this time as that’s always a bit more fun for them to watch!
Anyway Isaac was having a whale of time apparently while I was out running.
By lap five I’d decided I needed a wee and started to look for good spots to run off the course to a well concealed bush. Unfortunately, Goodwood isn’t that great for hidden spots. The spot I’d seen others heading to (and a spot I’d used on the previous marathons) was quite a way off the course. However I managed to find a concealed spot behind a barrier quite close to the course (I stress it wasn’t an area people would normally walk!).
Ahh relief! I knew I’d only need that one wee during the race so I felt a lot better. Then my next plan of action for the next lap was to pick up my fuel from the aid station table. The race organisers had said we could leave our own water bottles and fuel at the water station so I had a bottle and a box with some Guylian Seashells and my headphones.
I’d decided that I didn’t want to use traditional gels (mainly because I didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy more) so figured chocolate would be a) more enjoyable and b) just as effective. Quick acting carbs! Guylian Seashells are quite melt-in-the-mouth so I hoped they’d be easy to get down. I have quite a strong stomach when it comes to what fuel I can use (I’ve used chocolate before) so I knew it’d be OK.
Unfortunately with the cold weather they weren’t quite as melty as I’d hoped and involved a bit more chewing. This was fine tho, it just meant I needed to hang on to my water for a bit longer so I could wash them down. I had two and felt a bit more peppered up!
I have to say there isn’t much to talk about from then until mile 20ish really. The laps were ticking past and I was bored out of my mind. To keep myself amused I was counting up to 100 and back down again. There really wasn’t anything else to do other than look at other runners and smile at the marshals (who were incredible by the way – standing out in that windy cold weather cheering us on. Utter heroes!). I ran past my friends Mike (who I ran the Portsmouth Coastal with) and Gabby. They were going a more leisurely pace without a goal time in mind. They seemed very chilled and relaxed! It was nice to briefly speak to them.
As I got past mile 20 I decided to pop my earphones in and listen to some music to rev me up a bit. I stopped at the aid station to grab them and had a bit of a fluster when I couldn’t find my box. Luckily the marshals had just moved it to one side, whew!
As I got going again I had one lap of music before I decided to switch to a bit more of a higher tempo playlist. Unfortunately for whatever reason this caused my earphones to stop working and I lost the music altogether. Ho hum!
But by now I really only had two laps to go so I was a bit more focused and ready to push as much as I could. I started counting faster in the hope that would help things. From the time on my watch I knew I was firmly in the sub-3:30 territory… and suddenly had the realisation that I could get close to sub-3:20!
My dad and Kyle were being the most fantastic supporters and I could tell they knew what I knew and that I was looking to be getting a faster than predicted time.
I definitely gave a bit too much in my penultimate lap and realised I wasn’t going to be able to take much more seconds off my pace. My legs were feeling incredibly hard done by and I didn’t have much more in the tank to suddenly drop a gear and zoom ahead.
As I got to the final lap I passed Mike and Gabby again and they enthusiastically cheered me on which MASSIVELY helped. My dad and Kyle were shouting at me to keep on pushing but jeeze as I got the full force of the wind again down that straight it just felt impossible to go any faster. In fact my pace slipped to 7.45+. I tried my best to push through and it was only after getting round so the wind was more of a crosswind that I could catch my breath and bring the pace back down again.
Then I started to feel droplets of cold rain. This last lap wasn’t going to be pretty. I was literally counting down each 0.1. I could see I had the chance to get under 3:20 if I really pushed hard. The marshals were amazing and they cheered me along – as they had every lap. It really mattered!
By the time I was hitting the final mile and seeing the finish line in sight the rain was starting to come down and the wind was stronger. It was such a grind to get to that finish straight and to push myself forward. I looked at my watch and realised I had about one minute to get there.
My whole family were at the finish line and were cheering me on as I grinded my way to the end. I could barely raise a smile to them I was so focused on just FINISHING.
And whew, I finished in 3:19:37!
I am SO chuffed you wouldn’t believe. I really worked hard for that time in this race. It wasn’t a breeze. While I still managed to wave and smile, it definitely wasn’t the level I’m usually at during a marathon when it’s all flowers and rainbows and I’m loving life.
This race was a rarity for me in that I went there for a purpose: to see how I could do. It wasn’t about enjoying the miles, like I normally do. It was seeing what my body could achieve seven months postpartum. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the race. It was bloody hard and I fully grafted my way through it, but I still get such a thrill. Just not to the extent of some of my other marathons where I’m not going for a time.
I’m very proud of myself. I honestly didn’t think I’d do as well as I did. I thought I was in a sub-3:30 shape, possibly 3:25. Realistically I knew I’d never be in reach of my PB because honestly I’d have had to have gone out a lot faster and felt more comfortable increasing the pace later (which I definitely wasn’t able to do), but I didn’t think I’d get my second fastest marathon.
So I’m very pleased! A tough marathon but one I’m very proud of. And again, I can’t stress how much I appreciate my incredible supporters – especially now we have Isaac and can’t just swan off whenever we want. I’m beyond grateful to them and feel very lucky to have such a supportive family 🙂
Now on to the next marathon – Southampton in April (fingers crossed!).