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London Marathon 2022 by Russell Bentley

London Marathon Week 12 of 12

26/10/2022

Mon – AM rest PM rest

Tue – AM 4nb progression – 9.49,8.33,6.38,6.30. 2 x 100m PM 4 x mile (60sec rest) @ 5:20m/m. 5 total
Morning run will be exactly the same every day this week (except for Sun). Up at 6.40am

Wed – AM 4nb progression – 10.02,8.29,6.22,6.11. 2 x 100m PM rest
go to expo to get race number. No drama. Funny how people recognise you even wearing a mask, must be my beautiful big blue eyes

Thu – AM 4nb progression – 10.06,8.30,6.14,6.04. 2 x 100m PM rest
perfect weather every morning. Feeling sharper every morning

Fri – AM 4nb progression – 11.38,8.18,5.59,5.48. 2 x 100m PM rest
Knew I was feeling good pretty early. Trying to hold back. Running sub 6 pace nb is a lovely feeling

Sat – AM 4nb progression – 10.00,8.33,5.29,8.33. 2 x 100m PM rest
shut it down after 3rd mile. 5 people wished me good luck while I was running, felt nice!

Sun – AM 1 easy, London Marathon – 2.23.51. 31st PM rest
Had some major issues with fueling yest, that was all it took to take the edge off today. Tired from the start

Total: 52 miles. tm = treadmill, nb = nose breathing

London Marathon Final Week

With the final week of training, I like to keep it really simple. After a rest day on Monday, I had the exact same morning routine for the rest of the week. I woke up at 6.40am (3hrs before race start time), got out the door, did my Kenyan shuffle first two miles. Then took some layers off and ran 2 more miles, letting the pace increase as my body warmed up. I ran the same course, put the same song on repeat (Imagine Dragons – Monday), ran in beat to it , and did nose breathing, to make sure everything felt calm and relaxed.

I felt like this worked really well through the week. Times were coming down as I was freshening up and getting used to moving fast, early in the morning. I had front loaded my work, so I had less to do as the race got nearer. Picked up number at Expo, all calm, I was very careful to wear my mask in all crowded places, didn’t want to pick up a last minute bug now did I.

London Marathon 2022

In the movie Gladiator, the evil Emperor Commodus confronts his nemesis, the noble warrior, Maximus, who is bound in chains. Commodus stabs Maximus in the ribs, then challenges him to a fight to the death.

Maximus is put in armour, to hide the blood, then released from the bonds. The two men are stood on a platform, which is raised from the dark under belly of the stadium up to the brilliant sunlight and expectant crowds of the arena floor.

As the thousands of spectators cheer, they know nothing of Maximus’ mortal wound. He must fight anyway. He reaches slowly for the floor and feels the dirt, steeling himself for battle.

…fast forward two thousand years, and there I am, the modern day gladiator, making my way through the crowds of Blackheath, towards my arena.

Walking through the masses of runners in a major marathon, I usually feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. My body and mind have been finely tuned, twice a day, for years, towards this particular challenge we are all about to face. It’s a thrill.

I had no swagger on this day. No confidence, just the stab in the ribs thing. I swear to God I even knelt down to touch the road, the way Maximus does, Just trying to wake myself up and get connected to the moment.

The day before, I had finally succumbed to a particularly contagious tummy bug that had swept through my family. The symptoms had worsened throughout the day. I had no appetite, the smell of food made me feel sick, and I was suffering from diarrhea.

My heart rate was up 10-15 beats. I put half my dinner back in the pot, the other half in the bin, and went to bed shivering. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much. I pay precious little attention to my Garmin watch, but it was breaking all sorts of records. Highest resting heart rate, worst night’s sleep, training status: STRAINED. Never seen that one before.

Hardly touched my breakfast, weighed myself, had lost 4lbs in fluids and calories.

There was no point telling anyone. I had already decided I was doing the race. I would be giving myself an excuse before giving myself a chance. I pretended this wasn’t happening, convinced myself. Maximus vanquished the evil Commodus after all (before dying in a bloody heap himself).

I queued for the toilet, again. Warmed up with friend and training partner, Tom, and we weaved towards the start line.

We began, my legs felt like jelly. The first mile was 5:19 and I knew it was going to be a long day. A runner asked what time I was aiming for. I said 2.20. He dropped away. Someone else said he had heard of me and would hang with me as that was the pace he was aiming for.

I later found out this was Jordan Skelley, excellent runner. We stayed more or less on pace. But it was feeling hard. I wanted to be more help, seeing as he had heard of me and all, but around mile 4 I had to fall behind and try to hang on. There is a phrase for marathons; get bored before you get tired. But what if you are tired from the beginning?

We became a group of four. I recognised Rob (in yellow), we had raced before a few times. The weather was absolutely perfect. The crowds were stunning. So many people cheered my name it was incredible, humbling. I struggled to smile. I had to focus straight ahead, I was the Star Wars pilot making a torpedo run down the gauntlet of the Death Star; ‘Stay on target, stay on target…’

As we crested the wave of Tower Bridge, we were slowing, Jordan pulled away to stay on pace. I couldn’t go with him. We hit halfway at 70.10. Faster than when I ran Wrexham Marathon 6 months ago, but I knew I was on borrowed time.Everything was a drag, none of the mile markers came quickly enough.

Somewhere around mile 17, after I had seen my family at Mudshit (I was in a bad mood), I was having to concentrate quite intently on not making a mess of my shorts. How was I going to run another 9 miles like this? Oh how nice it would be to just stop. Rob started to pull away.

I had a vision of Nina, waiting hopefully for me at mile 25. I don’t arrive. She sees me walking towards her on the pavement, on the wrong side of the cheering crowds. That look of sympathy on her face.

I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t do it to her. I clawed back onto Rob and just committed to hanging on until the next mile marker if it killed me. And that was what I was going to do. Just get to the next mile until something stopped me.

On reflection, I am very proud of the decisions that I had to make at mile 20.

I did some calculations with my foggy brain. In my current state I was not going to run a PB (personal best). I might be able to salvage an SB (season best) but it would require a few risks:

I had been in this predicament before (Berlin Marathon 2018). I could stop at a portaloo, but after a first visit, I would likely need a second. It would take minutes off my time.

The other option, well, you know what the other option would be. But it was a lovely day. I had loads of friends and family out on the course. For an SB? No.

Also, with no fuel and fluids, my legs were threatening to cramp. I would have to start grinding out 5:25 miles to salvage an SB. There was a very high chance that I would pull a calf muscle and have to walk, I’ve done that too (London Marathon 2019).

In the last 6 miles, I let my pace slow, somewhere around the 5.40 mark. At times it felt foolishly easy, at other times, it was a struggle to keep everything tidy.

I saw Nina and family, I was on the right side of the crowds, and I was running. I got my high 5s and all of a sudden it was only a mile to the finish. I didn’t do anything stupid. I crossed the line just under 2:24.

Then the pain set in. I have had the DEXA scans, I have abnormally dense bones. But after a road marathon my legs always feel like stems of a wine glass. On the verge of shattering. The ache is like a buzz, almost unbearable.

A lot of friendly marshals asked me if I was ok, my eyes were wrenched shut. I hobbled into the first aid tent. They wouldn’t let me sit down, so I lay down.

They were right, it offered no release. They helped me stumble to the toilet. I was in there a while.

After, two physios kindly massaged my calves and force fed me a jelly bean, I felt well enough to face the world again, they let me sign out.

I walked up some steps, the same ones where I had helped a mum with her pram years ago (London Marathon 2018). I sat on some monument I didn’t recognise. As the pain blissfully subsided into manageable, I had a little moment to myself. I groaned and yelled. I got my phone out. Checked how my athletes were doing. They all ran big PBs and I found it hard to get back into my self-pity.

I moved to the pub. Bones were still buzzing, but thankfully so were my friends and teammates. Ell and Tom smashed their race. The ice cold Coke started to hit home and I let some pride soak in. A few more trips to the toilet didn’t ruin a lovely afternoon.

Thank you so much for your support. I really felt it and hope you enjoyed sharing the journey.

Back home my nose bled for a full 10 minutes. In keeping with comparing myself to Hollywood heros, I recited a line from Bourne Identity; ‘look at what they make us give’.

Not sure where I was going with that one.

The next morning I wanted some Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. A bit of a ritual for me. I walked, gingerly, to the supermarket, then dropped the box and the cornflakes spilled all over the shiny floor. I tried to tell the shop floor assistant. But she was moving too quickly through the aisles, I couldn’t catch her. I found myself limping through the supermarket in an impromptu race. It felt longer and harder than the marathon. After having eventually informed the assistant, with my new box, I went to the self checkout. I couldn’t get the machine to work. The screen asked me to select payment method, I couldn’t select ‘Card/Contactless’. It’s a massive button, but I just couldn’t manage it. Paid cash.

We headed home to Wales after breakfast. I took over the driving from Nina when we reached the M6. Whereupon I expertly navigated us onto the M1 and down towards London. I realised my error, took the next junction off, then exited the roundabout back in the same direction, still towards London.

A lot of banging the steering wheel and swearing. Nina, ever helpful, loaded up Google maps on her phone and mounted it on the dash. The voice assistant had just enough time to announce this detour had added 30 minutes to our journey before being switched off and thrown in the footwell. ‘The unfairness of the universe!’ I screamed. Or something similar.


Time, space, perspective.

Going through my stages (read about them here).

I know people think 2.23 is a good time and so what am I complaining about?

But I didn’t put 14 weeks of 100 mile weeks together, just to run a minute slower than my last marathon in April.

But then…

…there was a training run I did. 17 miles. Week two on our holiday in France and I had been up at 5:30am every morning, round the same vineyard loop before dawn. By now, the animals had become accustomed to my daily presence. The wild boars ignored me and carried on with their foraging, and this morning, the bats started flying past me, brushing their wings against my ears. They were playing with me. It sent tingles down my spine. I have googled this, I can’t find any mention of the phenomenon, but it happened. It would not have happened if not for the goal I was striving towards.

Also, walking the kids to school, my little girl holding my hand, wearing my medal to show at dewis a dweud (show and tell), and repeating the numbers to herself to remember them; 31st position, 2hrs 23min.

Feelings older than words.

She went in and told everyone I ran 2hrs03 and who was I to correct her.

I’ve had better luck. I’ve had worse. If I had caught the virus a day earlier there would have been no way I could have raced. I am ambitious, but I’m not obsessed. I know it is a privilege to be fit and healthy. These are the days I will recall with a golden sunrise and deep blue skies. I leart a lot. My experience prevented a sub par day becoming a nightmare. I’m proud that I gave the best version of myself on that day, and that is all anyone can do.

And I didn’t shit my pants.


I have put together a helpful Youtube video of all the movie scenes I made reference to above.

[embedded content]
pre blog publication, 32 people have watched this already. Would love to know what they made of it

RUNNING RELATED HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:

Getting the high 5 at mile 25 felt every bit as good as I hoped

NON-RUNNING RELATED HIGHLIGHT THE WEEK:

Perspective is giving something the correct shape, size and position, in relation to everything else.

Getting out into the mountains with my kids super charges my ability to find perspective. Here we are on a 6 hour adventure to put Y Ddraig Goch ontop of Carnedd Llewelyn.


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Russell Bentley
Russell Bentley
Track runner. Trained in Kenya, Won the Snowdonia Marathon 2018, PB Berlin Marathon 2:20:20

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