On 31st October 2020 I took part in the virtual New York Marathon. I was signed up to be an official pacer for New York Road Runners and finish in sub 4 for the second year in a row. I was so excited to be back in New York, but alas that will wait until next year. Take a look at my New York Marathon 2019 review HERE. To make sure I still had a bite of the Big Apple this year I decided to enter the Virtual New York Marathon. This marathon will not count towards the 100 marathon club, and I will not be adding it to my count of marathons. Instead it is a run for me, a long training run with a purpose, my virtual marathon.
I had originally intended on just run the marathon at my usual sub 4 pace. I had booked an event with Phoenix Running tomorrow so I could do my virtual marathon during an actual event. But then I was contacted to take part in a campaign with Intersport and New Balance to try and pick up the pace. I have been wanting to aim for a sub 3 and Boston Marathon qualification for years, so this was the kick I needed, I jumped at the chance.
Disclaimer… I did not get a sub 3 or Boston Qualification, but I never expected to. I need longer to get ready for this, but what this challenge has done is kick start that journey again, given me the hunger, and this run gives me confidence that I can.
My plan was to run around about 7:15 / 7:20 pace. I have spent the last 4 weeks talking with coach Kev, and he did not even want me to attempt running at 6:52, we both knew I am not ready. I started with a knee injury after the Virtual London Marathon, and a lot of this process has been making sure my body is injury free. The plan was to go out slower and see how I felt, and although this was the virtual New York Marathon, it is really just the beginning.
I always tell people, that every day cannot be your day, and when it comes to race day, ask yourself one question. Can you hold this pace until the very end? If the answer is yes, then speed up, if no, slow down, if maybe, then keep going. Well I hit the first mile bang on in 7:19. It felt good, but I asked that question, and was realistic, I wasn’t going to hold the pace until the end. So I backed off to around 7:30 pace and I decided I would be happy with 3:20.
I had gone to the start prepared and left a few bottles of water on a bench. My route was 19 1.38 mile laps… you heard right, 19 laps. After 4 laps I had almost finished my lucozade so was looking for to picking up a bottle of water. Unfortunately on lap 5, despite it being just after 7am, someone had stolen all my bottles that I had laid out… fortunately my wife and children came to see me after 7 laps and saved the day cheering me on for a few laps and giving me water.
At around 14 miles Coach Kev paid me a surprise visit as part of his morning run and joined me for a couple of laps. It was such great to have someone with me for a few miles, and he told me how great I was doing and it was great to have reassurance. After a few miles Coach Kev headed off home, and my family were back in the park waiting for me. I was motivated and still holding around 7:32 average pace.
Mile 17 I was alone. One section, which I ran 19 times, was a long incline, and it had strong head wind which was building throughout the day. I still felt ok physically, but mentally it was difficult. I was not having fun at this point, but just trying to maintain a reasonable pace, so I let myself drop to an 8 min mile. I slowed in the incline and sped up for the rest of the lap, but I was finding that each lap it was harder to pick up the pace. To be honest, I didn’t care. I had done what I wanted, and that was to give myself confidence that I can run a marathon faster, and give me that base. I know if I was in race conditions I could have held a 7:20 pace. I also know with some dedicated training that I will be able to get a sub 3 (or very close to it) in spring 2021.
I ran out of water again at about 20 miles, but at about 21 miles my family turned up to save the day once again. It was a nice little boost to see them, and I only had 3 laps to go and feeling good. I told them when I was on the final lap, and they set up an awesome finish line for me.
And just like that I finished the New York Marathon, virtually. As I have said, it wasn’t the same as being in New York, but it was good to be part of it. I did not achieve my target time, but I ran faster than I have in 4 years, and this is outside of race conditions. It feels like it is only the beginning. I achieved a time of 3:25:10 according to strava, based on my Garmin. However, according to the Official NYRR app I finished in 2:53. Of course I did not run that fast, but it would be nice, but frankly it will be proportional to everyone else who is doing the virtual race, as I assume the app is generous for everyone?
I would have loved a sub 3, I would have been really happy with 3:10. However, I need to be sensible and realistic. I need more time to be in the shape I was 7 years ago when I got my PB of 3:08, but this is the start of the journey. A 3:25:10 is a great place to start and I am really happy with that.
Did you run the Virtual New York Marathon, if so, how did you get on?