Last weekend at the 2021 London Marathon, our very own Sam Begg from Compete PR took part in his first marathon race and paced it perfectly. Going through halfway in 1:19:09 and finishing in 2:38:13, he achieved a negative split and we caught up with him to see how he managed this in his first-ever long-distance race.
“First of all – what an experience! The London Marathon is different from any race I’ve ever been to. I’ve always heard about the atmosphere and the buzz, but until you get to experience it you can’t quite prepare yourself for it. The crowds were incredible from start to finish and even walking around London afterwards you get strangers congratulating you and offering to buy you drinks. A must-have for anyone looking to do a marathon!
“My training in the build-up to the event had gone pretty much perfectly. I’d been consistently running lots of miles at my target marathon pace in training sessions and in the middle of long runs, so I knew that this pace would feel comfortable and I would be able to slot into it without having to rely on checking my GPS or watch too often.
“I was lucky enough to have qualified for a Championships start at London, so I knew that there would be plenty of fast runners in the same wave who would be going for faster times than me. With that in mind, I set off very conservatively in the first 3 miles, knowing that it was also slightly downhill overall. Plenty of people were streaming past me at this point but I knew my pace from training and I settled into it. 5km, 10km and 15km flew by without even really realising what was happening, I was so focused on the support, the sheer volume of runners alongside me and ensuring I was sipping water. I’ve always struggled with dehydration in long training runs, so I knew that being on top of this from the start was going to be key.
“10km into the race, I had the first of my three SiS Beta Fuel gels, which slipped down without a problem. Highlights from the first half were Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, and first seeing my support crew (of just the one in case anyone from London Marathon is reading this ) at Canada Water just after 8.5 miles. I had to stop myself from getting carried away from the lift that I got from them. This was one of the first races I felt like I could go over and high five them and not lose any ground. I had my second Beta Fuel gel just before crossing Tower Bridge (about 20km) and then was treated to seeing the lead women going the other direction at almost 2 hours into their race. As good as I felt, they made it look effortless. One of the best things about running is the mixing of abilities, shapes and sizes all battling it out on the same course on the same day. Mile after mile I kept the pace consistent, ensuring to manually lap my watch at every mile marker so that any GPS errors didn’t affect my run.
“The pace first started to bite when we reached Canary Wharf and there was one section where we emerged from the shelter of the buildings and got hit with a headwind. It was probably only a few mph but it felt like a hurricane at that point and I was praying that it wouldn’t face us along the entire embankment, or it was going to be a slog to the finish line. This was the first point I noticed people really struggling, and shouted words of encouragement to a few who were stretching out their hips or walkers who were paying the price for a speedy start.
“I saw my support crew again at Limehouse which gave me a lift, or maybe it was the caffeine gel that I took at 30km that was kicking in. Either way, from there on I don’t think I was overtaken once! Every person in the distance acted as my next marker to tick off and I focused on that rather than the pace or distance. Embankment, which I had been dreading, was my crowning glory and I blazed down the streets well under goal MP. Although my quads were clearly tired and a dull ache buzzed through them with every stride, my mental state was one of the best it’s ever been in a race. I embraced the pain, focusing on picking people off one by one.
“I got to Parliament Square with 1500m to go and threw everything I had at the finish, possibly a bit early to start a marathon kick as I shortly found out! I made it to 400m to go before the quads really fought back but I held on to drag myself down the mall for an elated finish in 2:38:13 in my first ever marathon, earning another championship entry for the future, and beating my A goal of sub 2:40!”
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