Race Report: London 2020
A virtual race in a storm called Alex.

A little bit of a surprise for me, but my first post in this brand new blog is about a ... virtual race?

But I suppose that's what happens in the year of COVID-19.

London 2020 was not my first virtual race. My previous virtual race was the Hackney Half, earlier this year. That race convinced me that virtual races aren't worthwhile - I basically ran a half marathon on my own, uploaded the results, and that was that. It didn't feel any different than running a 5k time trial and uploading it to Strava - there was no point.

I found the London experience to be different. Maybe the commentary and cheers in the app actually helped. Maybe it's because I was sure that the people out there on the road with me were running the same race. Maybe a marathon is just that much more intense.

For whatever reason, I found this to be an experience unlike any other run. For that, it was worthwhile.

So, let's het into it ...

The Goal

It's a race. And for every race, there's a goal. Here were mine:

A Goal: Under three hours.

B Goal: Boston Qualifying time. (3:10)

C Goal: Personal Best (3:18:56) - Success!

D Goal: Raise money for Shelter - Success, and ongoing!

The Route

I elected to go with the Outer Circle at Regent's Park in London for the virtual race.

This was a difficult decision - I didn't know if I should go scenic (along the Thames?), flat (Battersea Park?), close to home (HILLY!), or what. In the end, Regent's Park was the choice because:

  • It was close enough to home to be able to start the 40th London Marathon on the 4th of October (my 44th birthday) at 4:44 am.
  • It was close enough to then finish the marathon and get home in time to watch the elites on TV.
  • It wasn't too hilly.
  • Some of the entrances/exits are closed to traffic in the early morning, so no cars to worry about.
  • At over 2.5 miles long, it limited the number of loops.

In the end, I think I should have chosen something else. I was soaking wet, freezing, and exhausted at the end ... with no shelter nearby, and a good 45 minutes to get home.

The Prep

I ran more than I ever have before in the run-up to this race. I did the Pfitzenger 18/85 plan, which had me running as many as 89 miles per week.

What's more, it's the first time I've done a whole training plan - no missed sessions, no injuries. Ran every single one.

I felt great. In the shape of my life.

The Run

The stats can be seen on Strava, but this is how it went:

Regent's Park, 4 am

The bus schedule had me arrive in Regent's Park 20 minutes early. It was raining hard. It was very cold. I was dressed for running - which is to say, not warmly.

I started early.

This was a great idea (no pneumonia!), but also a terrible idea because I had ate breakfast under the assumption that I had another 20 minutes to digest it. This is the likely cause of a considerable amount of digestive discomfort later.

The early miles went well. I was a bit slower than my intended pace, but given the weather conditions, I would take it.

It was so damn wet.

I passed through 5k in just under 22 minutes, and 10k in just over 44. Not an A Goal day, but cruising along nicely towards the B Goal.

15k I'm at 1:06:23 ... the time still looks OK, but things are starting to hurt now. And I'm not even halfway through. Things aren't supposed to hurt before 15 miles.

This might not be a good day.

My splits start to slow a bit, but I'm not falling far off the pace set in the early miles.

The sky notices this, and dumps extra misery on me. The wind picks up. I'm fully soaked through at this point, and it's cold. I turn in a 7:30 mile on mile 14. Two miles later, a 7:44.

And now these are just normal Sunday long run mile times.

The great thing is THAT THESE ARE REGULAR SUNDAY LONG MILE TIMES. I can do these for another ten miles, easy. Or "easy", anyways. And they're enough to pull in a PB.

And I'm not alone anymore. There's a cheer squad out there, just for me.

I pushed through the last ten miles at a much more pedestrian place, was rewarded with a new Personal Best (unofficial, sadly) of 3:14:06, and received a gorgeous and unexpected medal on the spot:

What's next?

Well, the Boston Qualifying time is still out there - the goal is to run all the majors, and I've already got two (London and Berlin), and a deferred place for a third (Chicago).

London 2021 is calling, with my deferred 2020 place as well.

But next up? My first ultra, with a 50k happening in November ...

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