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Jo Meek's Musings about her Marathon

by Cheryl Fox on April 29, 2021

My first race of 2021. Those pre-race nerves had been long forgotten but this time were welcomed. I get horribly sweaty palms even after 20years of racing! The old routine fell into line as I got up at 5. Had a coffee and then left home to travel 2hours to the race which started at 9. We all queued up to get our bib numbers 2m apart. It felt great to pin on a bib number again.

Pre race Pinning

It felt even better to see fellow runners- old friends and meet new ones.

Holly Rush and Jo Meek post race

Smiles and chat! And a sunny day too! The race vibe was there; people were warming up and queuing for the toilets as usual! On arrival we were told we could start anytime between 9-10 so previous allocated times seemed to have been revoked. I stripped off to vest and shorts, applied Premax anti-chaf balm in the appropriate places, wrapped my dodgy ankle in Rocktape, approached the start line and then the starter said go! I started my watch and the timing chip and that was it; no jostling, no going off too fast because others around you are, no chat; just me and my pace. It stayed that way for the whole 26.2miles.

I had a target pace in my head. I had no proof I could sustain it, however, I had done 13miles at it with a friend in training and I wanted to see if I could hang on.

 Photo credit: Siân Longthorpe + training buddy

I realise I probably should have done more sessions at marathon pace!

At the start of the year with no specific races to aim for I thought I would concentrate on marathon training. It’s good for targeting speed and pace, however, it also has room for those long runs which is my natural leaning. I lined up a 12 week block and hoped by April there would be a race to enter.

If I’m honest I lost my way a bit in training with reality versus expectations. Up until a month before the race I constantly thought I should be able to run faster than I was. I had randomly pulled a time/ pace out of the air based on what I thought I should be able to do. I have run faster (marathon PB is 2hrs 46), I follow some very talented runners on social media who make it look effortlessly possible and I train with some local legends; all of these and the fact I don’t have much natural speed, so constantly work at it, fed into this narrative. I was setting my pace on the treadmill or road and if I wasn’t meeting it thought something was wrong rather than see that I’d set myself up to fail from the offset.

Noble Pro treadmill session

My mileage throughout was fairly constant but I was training too hard/ too fast. Friends were running or cycling with me and I was finding it hard to elevate my heart rate. I felt awful asking people to join me and then not being able to keep up! I addressed these feelings of over-cooking it, some developing niggles and my covid jab response, with about 4-5 weeks to go, and paused for a week. I also changed my eating and fuelling habits with regards to eating more carbohydrate pre- and during training because I was wondering if my heart rate was a result of not utilising carbohydrate enough being such an efficient fat burner (I wrote a post on it– if you’re interested).

Contemplative post- run bail out

On returning to training I made my slow runs slow, I only did 2 hard sessions a week and I set realistic pace goals. What a difference this all made! I has satisfaction from completing my sessions and I was looking forward to the race as a positive challenge with an achievable goal.

I set off at 6.40min/mile pace and maintained it for 21miles. I fuelled every 40mins with a 32Gi gel and grabbed water from the aid stations which were about every 5miles.

Photo credit: Clare Capper. Lap 1

Photo credit: Clare Capper. Lap 2

I then turned to run the homeward stretch.

Photo credit: Tosh Simpkin (race photographer)

At the same time as my stomach acid was rising, the wind was more constantly persistent and there were a few lumps to climb in the road so my pace dropped slightly. I managed to average 6.43min/mile pace and finished in 2:56:13; 1st female. “That will do squirrel, that will do!”

Photo credit: Pete Stables

Now back to the trails!

Thanks go to ~ the event organisers for the opportunity to race again; Jon for looking after Puppy Wilfred on the day and the nights before; Andy Valance for running with me on the Granite Way; Siân for the Exe Estuary escapades; and Clare for being that cycling pacer and travel companion and all my sponsors 😍