“It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”Rocky Balboa
They say that you learn a lot about yourself when training for and running a marathon. I am not sure who ‘they’ are but they weren’t wrong. Both of my parents have run marathons in the past. I had seen firsthand how a marathon can break someone down, how it brings out raw emotion, and how it will take you to the edge and then shove you right over. I was under no illusion about what could happen, but there were vests to chase and dreams to be realised, this was my time.
MCR? My Career-ending Race?
Chapter 1 – Ill and Injured
With the Manchester marathon being the main focus for 2022 I wanted to end 2021 strong and ready to take on anything. I had Telford 10K to give me focus in the final embers of a game-changing year for my running. I was in shape and chomping at the bit to crack 30, James Heneghan (a 1500m boy) had done it and this lived rent-free in my head. Anyone who has run Telford will know the beginning is classified as a black ski run, the first mile is a freebie and the main aim is to stay upright. I felt smooth and yoyoed through 5K in around 14:50.
Last known images of me before I had a bigger pain in the ass than a donkey with kidney stones.
Will Bryan with a glute injury is a more iconic duo than a has-been runner with a hatred of carbon shoes. It cramped up, bollocks. I felt like Anakin with a faulty jet in a pod race, but no amount of random switch flipping could fix it. My bum was screaming at me every time I tried to squeeze the throttle. I wanted to drop out but my uncle, aunt and sister were there to watch me, I had to finish. 30:33, not long ago I would have been thrilled with that but I’ve moved on since then. I woke up the next day with flu, fan…flu-cking… tastic. I had no choice but to rest a week then hop on the bike for 2 more, I needed to hoard as much fitness as I could, I was down but not out. I still wanted it, I even doubled on the bike on Christmas day whilst my seitan turkey roasting away.
Chapter 2 – Decisions
Many, many glute bridges and much massage gun pounding later I managed to actually start the year running. That lasted about 5 minutes, 6 days into January and I was back on the bike. I was fully conscious now that time was slipping away and I was questioning whether to scrap the marathon dream before it really got going. If I keep pursuing it, it would mean losing other races like Highgate 10000m which I could target instead. Susan (the mother) set me straight though, she reminded me that running the marathon would be a huge achievement whatever time I ran and that I needed to stick it out. What are Susan’s for, eh?
19th January, my first proper marathon session, 10 x (3mins on / 3mins off). I was a great white that smelled blood, a middle-aged mum hearing the merlot screw cap crack, I was hungry to get going. It was a solid session, I knew what I wanted regardless of what happened next. I was all in.
Chapter 3 – Training Gets Real
As I said, I thought I knew how tough this was going to be. I didn’t, well not completely. 5:15am starts in January to get out and do a 2.5hr run before work hits different. Doing “speed” sessions where trying to get up to 5K speed for 1-minute reps is tough, that hits different. Falling asleep at your desk at work as you’ve buried yourself day after day… that hits different. I was living the dream. I was giving it my best, as long as I was doing that that’s all that mattered. Most weeks consisted of a speedier session, a mid-week longish run and a phat marathon-specific session, with easy/steady bits in between.
There were a few ‘make you or break you’ sessions. Big boy track efforts at MP, double session days with 20K @ MP in the morning and 10K + 10x3mins in the evening. It made that threshold feeling more like ‘fresh-hold’. That doesn’t make sense but I wanted to do a pun and couldn’t, fight me.
Very lucky to have had my coaches support me on this one. 30K track @ MP hits different. They were hypothermic in the end, even if I thanked them every day until the grave it wouldn’t be enough x
Now, this wasn’t plain sailing. I am bored of writing about the struggles of this block already. But just know there were 2 more blips before the race. 1 I thought was going to end it all and I spent two days on the verge of tears cos big boys cry too. The bike became my best and worst friend, some weeks I totaled 5.5 hours on there. My gf was questioning me when I said that all the riding was causing the bruised ass.
Chapter 4 – The Race
Rudely, I have gotten this far without mentioning Kieran Walker. The beast from the North East. This guy was putting in work that was making the Germans shocked at his ruthless efficiency. I was seeing a bloke smashing out 120, 125, 130miles a week. He was making heads turn from all the Inside Jogging Podcast mentions. I saw that he was running similar splits to me. I knew I needed to link in with this guy so we could work together for the race.
After many awkward zoom chats discussing training and nutrition insights we met up in person the day before Manchester. By his side were Helen & Jackie, don’t ask which one is mum as it’s up for debate. I was lucky to see them, they were so lovely and friendly that they erased a lot of the pre-race jitters.
5:45am, the morning of the race. It’s the only time cramming down oats isn’t a pleasure but a necessity. It was a crisp morning with little wind. One-mile jog, drills and strides. This was it, over 3 months+ of training led to this moment. I was as ready as I could be, lessgo.
Kieran and I had schemed over a garlic bread and pizza that we’d bang out 2:18-19 pace together for 20 miles and then ‘see what happens’. We stuck to that plan, the early miles felt so good, I must have looked good as Anna decided to cheer for Kieran and not me 🥲A group formed which Kez and I lead out for a long old time.
It was a privilege to grind away with that bloke. Even if I had to shout at him to slow down when he decided to drop it to 5:00 min/mile (we’re not 2:11 guess yet, it would be dumb to run far quicker than MP in the race…). He was even a cutie and picked up my bottle which I had fisted due to fatigue. We made it to 22/23 miles together in the end and I loved every step ❤
I tried to lay down some speed and push on for the last 5K but as I had learned during the block, I can’t run faster than MP. I thought I was winding up but looking at my splits I hadn’t, Will Bryan being Will Bryan as ever. I could see the clock for hundreds of meters out, a blurry 2:16:XX was looking back at me. This was going to be huge, my eyes were fixated on the clock willing it to slow down. 2:17:53, ooof. I had done it, I had more than done it. Before the block I had wanted more but given EVERYTHING I was ecstatic, it could have been farrrr worse. But where was my boy? I spun around and could make out the ivory hair in the distance. “Come on Kieran” I bellowed at him relentlessly, I could see he was working. 2:19… he’d smashed it. I gave him the second best sweaty hug I’ve ever had x. And for the second time in the block I cried.
2 utter stallions with cheeky smiles. Wagu quality beef right there!
Chapter 5 – Reflection
Even a week after the race it still seems like a dream. As anyone knows that’s hit a massive goal, the satisfaction is something else. I have learned about myself. I learned I can’t quit on myself. I learned that if I want it bad enough I will get it done. And I learned I need to embrace my emotions more with running, bad days will come and having accepted that more this time around really helped me mentally cope. If I had bottled them up I know the outcome would have been different.
Chapter 6 – Shameless Plug
If you’ve made it this far then you’re either bored and/or are interested in running. If you’re also interested in making yourself the best version of yourself and chasing those dreams then I want to hear from you. I have joined Kieran after his success with NEP to create the South Coast Project (SCP). We will give you specific training plans suited to your ability and lifestyle.
Give me a bell at 07964345782, firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the form here!
Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and if you can give it a share you’ll make my good list 😉
Love as ever,