The worst taper ever, flu and planes, trains and automobiles…(+another PB) Vienna marathon 

 Hello it’s been quite a while…Three weeks from my last post and again I can describe them as frustrating however the quote every cloud has a silver lining has been massively appropriate. As I entered into my taper my home life changed quite dramatically and I found that time was at a premium however this wasn’t the reason I had what can be described as the taper from hell!! That was the cold/flu that decided to take as I started my taper. This disrupted my training and became a source of real frustration for me. I’d spent the last 15 weeks training religiously, in races I had been surpassing expectations and I was quietly confident going into my biggest test of the year so far the Vienna Marathon that I could attack my previous marathon PB of 3:50:24 As Vienna approached I still managed to get the runs in but I was feeling quite ill aches, pains, temperature this was my worst nightmare, all I kept thinking was all my hard work will be for nothing if I get a bad run out of Vienna. I’d built myself up for it and I was ready however I wasn’t ready for something threatening my chances. The week before a big race I begin to ask myself the same questions and become quite anxious however when I start the race all anxiety goes away and I fall into a pace, this is normal however I didn’t help myself googling, self-diagnosis and help via the net is as we all know a no no however I challenge anyone to tell me honestly they haven’t at some point done it…My search history involved such phrases as ‘Can I run with Flu’ ‘Running a marathon with flu’ and after a while I was becoming more worried with what I was reading So I gave up.
  My journey to Vienna, which involved all forms of transport planes, trains and automobiles started on Friday 8th April at Liverpool Lime Street with the 7:40am train down to London Euston station followed by a couple of trains to Stansted Airport eventually landing In Vienna around 6pm to arrive at my hotel via transfer by 7pm. This was a long day however the cost of flying from London than Liverpool/Manchester was much less.

 Upon landing in Vienna it was dark the weather was dull and it was raining I found somewhere for some food and then took myself to bed feeling quite honestly awful!! I awoke the next day feeling slightly better however I wasn’t anywhere near what I would expect to feel the day before I was to run a marathon. With Vienna being my first run abroad and only my second ever marathon I was unsure of what to expect and spent quite a bit of time on google maps planning my Saturday making sure I had everything in place for the run in less than 24 hours’ time. Today was the day I had to head down to the expo to pick up my number and begin to soak up some of the atmosphere I also planned to walk to the start from my hotel as well as finding the finish as I planned to walk back after the run to loosen off. I was leaving nothing to chance however as the I reached the expo and headed to the number pick up I was feeling tightness in my legs but I had a decision to make…do I change my starting pen. My place was based on my previous PB time of 3:50:24 and I knew when fresh I was running closer to 3:30:00 so as I reached the front of the line, signed my health waver and my ‘huge’ bib was printed out I asked how I went about reassigning my start position. Even feeling groggy I felt I could give the route a good go so after a short trip to the help desk and a well placed sticker my starting pen had been changed from 3 to 2. After registering I had 10 minutes wandering around the expo picked up my T-shirt, joined in with graffiti on the running wall and had my photo by the official advertising backdrop.

  It was at this point my morning dose of day nurse was fading and I was beginning to feel bad again. I headed back to the hotel for a rest then went about my day of fact finding and carb loading whilst mainly trying to keep my mind from worrying about the enormity of run the next day. The one thing I’d promised myself was an early night and after a busy day I crawled into bed around 8:30 however as my mind was active, worrying on if I’d do myself justice the next day. I didn’t manage to get to sleep till gone 11:30pm…so much for rest!! 

Sunday 10th April 2015 – Race day.

I awoke feeling slightly better but my legs felt like lead. I’d planned my routine bath, deep heat and volterol cream on the legs, down to breakfast for a coffee, back to the room as brought my usual pre race breakfast, more deep heat and volterol, changed then begin my walk to the start as bag drop was to leave the start at 8:15am. This was a problem as the race didn’t start till 9am so psychologically I was worrying on my tight legs if I was to be stood in a pen for 15/20 minutes before the race started. As I set out over the Danube the weather was crisp but thankfully the rain had subsided. 

 I had made the decision to run in just shorts and a vest. Even though initially it was cold I figured as I got going I’d be better dressed that way than in tights and base layers, however there was an argument to be had for each outfit. As the nerves were building I managed to find my number specific bag drop, made my last preparations and made my way to find my alocated starting pen. I eventually found my pen and squeezed in but I didn’t realise how close I was to the front. With 42,000 runners ( marathon, half marathon and marathon relay) crammed into a small area it was hard to move, you couldn’t see beyond the mass of people however a positive was it was warm due to the sheer number of people!! This was a bonus as the chill was biting at times especially in just shorts and a vest. As time ticked by slowly the elite runners were eventually set on their way the realisation we were next frightened yet excited me…I readied my stop watch, my starva and my playlist and away we went. 17 weeks hard work would be completed today !!

A sea of runners from numerous backgrounds snaked their way over the Danube river jostling for a position, me I had a plan and wanted to stick to it as much as I could. Find a comfortable pace within the first mile and sit on it. I had given myself two targets before I started but I had kept them private so as to not put more pressure on myself.

Target 1 – my dads fastest ever marathon time of 3:39:00

Target 2 – 3:29:59

As 1 mile passed and my Strava notifications told me I was running 7:30 average. This was pleasently surpring as I felt comfortable and more importantly there seemed no repercussions on the bug I’d been fighting. This trend carried on as the route headed out of the city buildings and into a park. This is where I frustrating decided I couldn’t hold the feeling of needing the toilet for 26.2 miles so between mile 3 and 4 I lost 45 seconds having to sort the ‘problem’ out!! Frustrating however I managed to catch up the time in ten next few miles. 

Back home I knew my dad, my wife and a few friends were tracking my  progress on the app and I knew they got updates every 5km so as I passed through the first two check points my consistency was continuing 23:22 for 5km then 23:42 for 10km. The course was enjoyable, wide and flat with decent support along the streets and I could feel around 10km my apprehension had disappeared and I was enjoying the day. I wasn’t nieve to think I could keep this 100% positive thought and feeling going for another 20 miles but I was determined to try!! The miles fell and with water stations every 5km I was able to rehydrate appropriately which was a relief as I’d read stories of water stations in Vienna being a nightmare. This wasn’t the case for me however a couple of friends I met after the run who started in a pen further back did witness a ‘free for all’ at water stations at times which isn’t great as water is essential when putting your body through such gruelling torture. The first test car at 11 miles where the route took a slight incline. Up until that point I was in a pace I was comfortable however this slowed me down slightly and also reminded me that I had 15 miles to go!!! Head down, blinkers on and get on with it!!

   As the course split and the half marathon runners headed to their conclusions I had completed my first half of the run in a respectable 1:39:27. At this the field began to thin out and I had to focus on keeping with my plan, staying consistent and I would get my rewards at the end. The miles continued to fall and I continued to enjoy my run the atmosphere was good spectators and runner and the the weather was holding out however as we hit 30km my thought processes changed. 

30km we ran back into the wooded area we had passed through at 3-5 miles but with an added bit to take us past the stadium in the city. Psychologically I knew I was 12 km off finishing, I knew I was on course for a PB it was just a matter of how big it would be. As the spectators went to zero and the miles became harder on the legs and the mind this was the first point of the race I started to struggle. There was no wall, no niggling doubt of me stopping and walking (that’s never an option) so I had to focus. 32,33,34,35 km fell and this was where my splits began to wobble. 25 minutes between 30km and 35km however the end was in sight if not physically but definitely mentally, I just had to keep pushing. As I dug deep and took my last energy gel which I had planned perfectly, I ploughed through 35-40 km in 26 minutes. At 40km I was notified I had been running for 3:14:00!! Fantastic…This gave me the boost I needed as I knew I had over 35 minutes grace to beat my previous PB I just had to keep going. It was at this point I started to hear the music and spectators at the finishing line but more importantly a poignant song shuffled on to my playlist, the song that reminds me of the reason I started this journey 2 and a half years ago-Creed-with arms wife open, my grandads song. This coincidence alongside the pride I was feeling at knowing I was nearly done as well as knowing that my nearest and dearest were tracking me at home made me extra emotional. As I turned the corner at the Rathaus I could see the finish and a glance at my watch confirmed what I’d hoped my first target was to be smashed. I was now realising the pain but euphoria began to take over. I had a smile to myself  and a double thumbs up to the camera!! I’d made it…


The finishing line was crossed and I stopped my watch but didn’t have the vision to be able to see what time I’d recorded and I remember very little about the next few minutes but I obviously scared this fella on the line as he gave out quite a squeal… 

I passed through the medal collection to be greeted with a hug from the lady who presented my medal. I grabbed some water and messaged my wife and her response along side the messages I began to receive from my dad made a 37 year old man, balancing on the brink of emotion tip over the edge! They were proud and this meant the world to me, I don’t run for gratification from others however when those you care about most are speechless at your achievements it means a great deal. 

I’d completed my second ever marathon, my first abroad, in a personal best time of 3:25:26 which is 24:58 off my last marathon best. Not only that I’d ran it well, avoided the wall and my splits were as consistent as I’ve ever had them and I’d ran my second half just six minutes slower-result!

  After changing into warm gear and having a little ‘proud’ cry I began to make my way back to my hotel via a boozer for a well earned pint. News of my success had started to spread and I was beginning to get some lovely and quite humbling messages. It seems my journey had inspired a few people even some people who may not have mentioned it before but have been watching and that made me happy. After a bath and a rest I headed back down the city to meet up with a couple from England who now live in Spain. I’d connected with them through Twitter and specifically the ukrunchat community which has been an invaluable source of motivation and support the last month or so to me. We discussed the run, Vienna and our future running plans. They are running a marathon and 10 triathlons for charity and I tip my hat to them. A great couple loving  life and I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours of beer and chat we had, it rounded off a great day all round. 

I sit here now just about recovered not just from the marathon but the big that threatened to derail my plans and also the travelling. I’m still smiling about the experience as well as deciding how in body art form I celebrate the achievement. I throughly enjoyed my European running experience, it was different to home running timing chips the size of small countries on your lace being one of the differences however it hasn’t put me off. 18 weeks ago I set out on a journey to run a marathon abroad possibly breaking my PB all whilst retaining my love for running. The early mornings layered up through the frost, wind and rain have all been hard but have paid off. A marathon is so much harder than some people realise and running a 20 minute 5km doesn’t mean you’ll run a 3 hour marathon however with dedication, persistence and honesty to yourself you can get close to transferring that drive over 5km into 42km. As a wise man once said to me 

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” 

I’m pleased to say in this cycle of training I prepared right and I succeeded! Now onto my next race tomorrow a small matter of a 10km around the scenic village of Port Sunlight on the Wirral but im now keeping one eye on my next big challenge the even smaller matter of 52 miles in a day, an ultra marathon!! Another PB ?? 



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