In May, a group of runners sponsored by Nike, are going to attempt to run a marathon in under two hours. This will not only be a world record but be a significant milestone in human running achievement, something akin to the 4 minute mile but over a rather longer distance. To put this into perspective, to do 26.2 miles in 2 hours means an average pace of 4 minutes 38 seconds per mile. Now if you understand running pace you will realise that’s absolutely flying! In my running club we do a “timed mile” several times a year and in the last two years we haven’t recorded a single sub 6 minute mile. I think some of our members are capable of breaking through the 6 minute mile barrier but to keep up a much faster pace for two hours is simply astonishing.
To perform this record attempt the day and hour will be selected by the team for optimal conditions, a luxury not afforded to us amateur runners who have to accept whatever conditions prevail on race day. You have to think this arrangement is a bit of a fix but it doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of these athletes’ ability.
For most of us, the thing we might be able to do in under two hours is half that distance and sub-two hours for a half marathon is a great goal for the amateur runner. Some experienced and able athletes might scoff at this but set your fitness back a peg or two and you realise that running that distance in under two hours is some challenge. A week ago I was considering “not running” the Ackworth Half because I was concerned my legs wouldn’t last the distance at any speed. However I made myself do it because firstly I had paid for it and secondly, I told myself I could treat it as a training run and run-walk if necessary (yeah, right).
I had driven round the route a few days before and convinced myself that it was going to be some approximation to hell on earth (due to the hilliness). On the day, I felt like I was looking forward to it in a way but also a bit worried I might come a cropper with both knee and foot concerns. It felt a little chilly in my running t-shirt at the start and there was very little wind, making it pretty much “Goldilocks” running weather so that was a good start and made me feel a little better. When we set off I didn’t exactly do the run-walk thing but did try and pace myself knowing that I had not tested myself beyond 6 miles since the Snake Lane 10 about two months ago.
Result? Well, better than I could ever have hoped since not only did I get round without injury to either my knee or foot but broke that 2 hour barrier with a time of 1:56:48. My wife put this into perspective for me by reminding me that I effectively hadn’t trained for the race. This therefore, is a much needed boost to my running confidence and makes me hopeful of a good performance at the Leeds Half in May. For the record, the Ackworth half is a great race, it is well organised and the route isn’t so bad after all; I shall certainly do it again.
What made the day even better was that the two fellow members of my running club also did pretty well too. Jo-Anne, who was also in an “I’ll jest get round” mood also did under two hours and John pipped me at the post even though I caught him walking on the last hill.
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20