Seville Marathon 2014 Race Report

 Time:              2 hours 45 mins 1 sec             

Position:        156th out of c8000                  

Mens V40:    26th                                                            

1st Half:         1 hr 22 min 18 secs.        

2nd Half:        1 hr 22 min 43 secs

Av Speed:      6.15 mins/mile

Av 10km split: 39.00 mins


We travelled out to Seville on the Friday.  I was full of excitement and anticipation after 12 weeks of near perfect training.  Even the weather had been kind to me – training for a February marathon had meant doing all of my preparation during the winter months.  But an absence of snow meant that I managed a lot of my key sessions in reasonable weather – although I was forced into 3 long goal pace runs on the dreaded treadmill (for over 2 hours….) ……good for building mental strength I guess.

Having achieved a 7 minute PB at London last year, in 2 hrs 48 mins, I was now aiming to go sub 2:45 – hoping to secure a London Championship place for 2015.

The family came over with me to support and to enjoy a few days in Seville.  We arrived there late on Friday night.  After a good night’s sleep, I took myself off for a gentle 3 miler to loosen the legs after the flight.  The weather was great – clear skies and building up to around 20C.  After that, my son and I went off to the Expo, and having successfully negotiated the registration without too many language problems, we were free to enjoy the rest of the day.

I went through my usual pre-race night routine: getting my kit sorted, a good yoga session (there are benefits to being married to a yoga teacher!) and a review of my previous 12 weeks of training records – which is a really good confidence booster.  I went to bed about 10.30pm, hoping for a decent 6 hours sleep before the alarm would wake me at 5am on race day.  But at 1.30am I was still awake.  I just felt as though my eyes would never close.  In the end I think I managed 2-3 hours of kip.  Not great, but I wasn’t panicking – I’d had a similar experience last year in London and had still run well.

A good bowl of porridge and then off I went in search of a taxi to the Olympic Stadium (it’s called that as they once bid for the Olympics unsuccessfully – but it has hosted the 1999 World Championships).  I arrived at the stadium about 7.20am.  When I got out the taxi it was freezing.  I had 1 hour 40 mins until the race started.  I went through my usual routine of several toilet trips, then some stretches and a bit more yoga – with a couple of trips into a café I’d found, just to warm through for a few minutes.  Then about 8.30am I followed the masses on the 1km walk to the start line.

I used the journey to the start area to begin some running warm ups.  I soon arrived at my starting pen, where there was a great atmosphere.  Lots of cheesy guitar rock, which the locals were quite happy to shout and sing along to, punching the air!  I was feeling very pumped up and it took all my restraint not to break into some air guitar as Dire Straits Money for Nothing blasted out its riff (OK maybe I didn’t manage to stop myself….).

As there was plenty of space in the pen, I decided to leave it for a while and went and did some running at the side of the starting area.  I was in a good place, feeling focused, relaxed and determined.  Suddenly without warning, about 15 mins before the race start, everyone moved forward and my start pen was filled with runners from the slower starting areas behind – and I was still at the side.  My lack of Spanish had become a problem for the first time.  I panicked, charging into the pen and squeezing through the crowds, until I finally got myself to what I think we the right place.  10 minutes left for me to try and compose myself again – or maybe singalong to AC DC Highway to Hell, with the other runners.

I was soon feeling good again.  Feeling confident that I could race well and achieve my 2.45 goal!

The Race

Miles 1-13: Steady and strong

Off we went.  I was only about 15 yards behind the start line, and so very quickly I crossed the line.  I was treading carefully, trying to find a channel to run in until the race spaced out.  It was pretty busy at first.  Not long at all after the start line we lurched to the right, avoiding one of the elite women runners who was on the floor.  I feel bad that I didn’t stop to help her, but it all happened really quickly and by the time I had registered what had happened I was 10 yards past her and in a crowd of runners.  Luckily someone did help her.  It turned out that she was a Scottish runner and that she sustained broken ribs and a broken nose.  Amazingly she still finished in 2 hours 41 mins, finishing 4th woman.  An incredible achievement, but I’m sure it was a really scary experience.

After the early drama I found myself some good space to run in, and soon the field began to spread out as we ran along a long straight dual carriageway towards the city.  I concentrated hard on holding my speed back.  My first mile was a bit faster than my target of 6 mins 17 second miles, but not significantly.  I settled into a good rhythm and was averaging a nice 6.14-6.15 pace in the early miles.  My plan was to start a little slower than that but I felt very good and decided to go with that pace.

It was a beautiful day.  Clear blue skies, but still cool – about 7C.  But I knew it would warm up considerably in the next 2-3 hours.

After 5km we crossed the river and turned left to run alongside the river with the old Santa Cruz area on our right.  Soon, at La Torre del Oro, I saw Kate and the children, and our friends Darren, Juli and Lucas.  It was great to see them before they headed off to the stadium in time for the finish.

Waving to my supporters

In the early miles I was sticking close to a Spanish club runner in a blue vest.  He seemed to be going about my pace and so I tracked him for about 4 or 5 miles, before letting him go at about mile 7 when he seemed to speed up.  I wasn’t going to be tempted to race anyone at this early stage.   Before then, I’d clocked up the first 10km in around 38 mins 50 seconds.

The race was going well in the early stages.  I kept repeating to myself that I felt good, that I was relaxed and that I was strong.  I was sticking to my plan of eating (the usual Cliff Shot Bloks) and drinking water every 4 miles or so,.  I was also sticking to the shade wherever possible, conscious that the day was slowly warming up.

As we headed right, away from the river, the crowd thickened.  They were standing very close on both sides, in a way that reminded me of the Tour de France Mountain sections (but without the same amount of beer, wine and fancy dress).  It was a great atmosphere, but didn’t leave much margin for error.

About 8 miles in, I joined a small pack of 4-5 runners who I ran with for some time.  In particular I ran with guy in a white vest (picture below) within that pack, and stayed with him for about 4 miles.  This was a great tactic and pulled me along nicely.  It is something I often try to do in marathons, and definitely makes the early miles pass more quickly, and eases both the physical and mental effort.  Eventually I let him go at about 12 miles, when he picked up the speed too much for my liking.

Tracking the guy in the white vest

Although I felt fine, my pace dropped a bit in miles 12-13, with those miles being a little slower than target speed.  I hoped this wasn’t a sign of the race starting to feel harder – it was far to early for that.  Not long after that I finished the first half marathon, in 1 hour 22 mins and 18 seconds.  As long as I could maintain this steady pace, then that was perfect.  But with a tendency to slow a little in the second half of marathons I was worried that it might be a bit tight to get under the magical 2 hours 45 mins.

Miles 13-22: Carving through the field

After half way is where we get towards the business end of the race!  The next few miles were where I was able to make it count and set myself up for a good time.

After being worried about slower miles 12-13, my pace picked up after half way, clocking 6.05 and 6.11 for miles 14 and 15.  I think I’d been running into a headwind before the half way mark.  I felt strong, and from halfway onwards I was steadily passing people.

This was potentially a tough part of the race, going through some out of town areas with fewer sights to see and not so much support.  But I maintained my focus, telling myself that I was strong and running well.  I also remained disciplined in eating and drinking regularly and it seemed to be working.

There were a few bands on the course, and during this stage I passed the best one, which was a group blasting out Mama Mia in a Spanish accent.  Another highlight of this section, as we got towards mile 20, was passing the guy in the white vest who I had run with but who had then powered off ahead.  He was gracious in passing on congratulations and encouragement.  This was a good confidence boost, and vindication for my steady paced strategy.

As the course wound it’s way around the outskirts of the city, I continued to press on strongly.  I was still passing runners regularly, and hadn’t been overtaken myself since the first half of the race.  I was maintaining an average speed of around 6 mins 14 seconds per mile.  This was ahead of my 6.17 target pace.  I kept recalculating after each mile.  By 20 miles I realized I could drop the pace to around 6 mins 25 seconds for the rest of the race and still hit my target.  This was a good feeling, as I was still maintaining a good pace.

The weather was also getting warmer and there was a lot less shade to hide in.  I was feeling a bit of an ache in my legs, but the feeling of overtaking others was helping me put that to one side.

At 20 miles we reached the river again, and arrived at the start of a nice section through Santa Cruz – the area where we were staying, and where the main sites are.  We turned right and went through a nice wooded park which took us to the spectacular Plaza de Espana.  It definitely helped to be able to enjoy some of the City’s highlights and to see more supporters.  Although running the tight loop  around the inside of the Plaza de Espana was a bit annoying and unnecessary.

Leaving the Plaza de Espana

I continued through Santa Cruz centre, passing the very grand Cathedral and Alcazar.  I continued to ease past other runners.  My pace had dropped slightly to around 6 mins 20 per mile and the increasing heat was starting to take its toll.  But the miles were ticking on.  As I approached the end of Santa Cruz I only had 4 miles to go, and could still afford to drop the pace a bit further if necessary.


Miles 23-26 Hanging on

It was now about mental strength.  Maintaining focus and trying to put the increasing tiredness to one side.  But it was starting to get tough.  As I approached the end of mile 23 it looked as though it was starting to go wrong.  This was a quiet, less scenic section for couple of miles until we reached the Stadium Park.  It was getting hot with no shade.  My legs felt heavy, and I felt as though the previous night’s lack of sleep was catching up with me.  Mile 23 took 6 min 24 secs – not bad, but my slowest mile of the race – a worrying sign.

As we crossed the river, I felt as though I had lost all my energy and would have to drop the pace quite a bit.  Two runners overtook me – I hadn’t been passed for over 10 miles.  I worried that this would be the start of a load of people passing me, which would have hit me hard mentally.  I was starting to realise that I wasn’t going to do this in my 2:45 target time.  Then I got lucky!

I heard footsteps behind me, and waited for the next group of runners to pass me.  As they did, I realized it was the 2:45 Pacer, with a group of 4 runners.  I decided I would try and hang on to them for the last 3 miles.  If I could do that then I could still manage to achieve my goal.  It was tough hanging on for the first mile, but the pacer was great and gave me a lot of support and encouragement.  After mile 24 I could see the stadium in view, and I knew that I could do it.  I was picking up speed and strength.  Mile 24 was done in 6 mins 19 seconds, faster than the previous mile.  We dropped a couple of runners from the pack, leaving me and another guy running with the pacer.

The stadium park is really annoying.  We got to within a few hundred metres of the stadium, but there was still about a mile to go, as the route winds around the park, eeking out the distance to 26.2 miles.  I was back into the pattern of passing other runners.  This included overtaking the club runner in the blue vest, who I had tracked in the early miles before he pressed ahead – very satisfying!

I stuck with the pacer, thinking I would push on in the final half mile if I felt OK.  Miles 25 and 26 were both done at around 6.15 min/mile pace.  I’d got over my tough patch.  I was going to achieve my goal.

As we approached the 26 mile point, the stadium loomed large.  I decided to push on, leaving the pacer behind and thanking him as I went by.  I hit 26 miles in 2 hours 42 mins and 48 second – leaving me over 2 minutes spare to run the final 0.2 miles.

I reached the stadium entrance with about 26.1 miles on my watch.  I assumed I’d go through the tunnel and then run down the final straight to the finish.  The stadium entrance involved quite a steep ramp down to the track.  I emerged from this into the stadium, hearing the crowd cheering.  I looked up, and realized that I wasn’t on the home straight of the track.  The finish line was on the other side of the stadium and there was still 300 metres to go.  My watch had passed 2 hours 44 mins by now.  I mentally slumped.  This was meant to be my moment of glory.  But I wasn’t going to get there within 2:45.00 after all.

I still pushed on strongly, overtaking another couple of runners on the track.  But as I hit the home straight, the race clock over the finish line was approaching 2:45.00.  I hadn’t started on the start line, so knew my chip time would be about 10 seconds less than the official race clock.  But I wasn’t going to get there in time.

I crossed the line with the stadium clock showing 2:45.12.  I stopped my watch on 2:45.03.  Agony – I was 4 seconds out!  It later got worse when my official chip time came through as 2:45.01.  My watch showed a total distance of 26.4 miles.


As I crossed the line I put my head in my hands.  I should have been enjoying the moment.  I had beaten my personal best by over 3 minutes.  But having thought that I’d done it as I reached the stadium, I’d missed my sub 2:45 target by just 2 seconds.  I was gutted.

I started the long walk around the back of my stadium, thinking it all through, wishing I could rewind and enter the stadium again.  When I saw I had 300 metres to go, I had let my self mentally give up, thinking that I couldn’t get to the finish in time.  Had I realized that it would boil down to just 2 seconds then I know I could have pushed that bit harder.  I was also kicking myself for basing my goal pace of 6.17 mins per mile on a 26.2 mile distance.  The official 26.2 miles involves running a perfect line.  My last 3 marathons have all measured 26.4 miles on my Garmin.  I should have realized this and targeted a slightly faster pace.  I actually ran at 6 mins 15 secs per mile (2 seconds per mile faster than my target) and still just missed out.

I reached the bag collection area and saw Kate, Jonny and Francesca waiting for me, along with Darren, Juli and Lucas.  It was great to see them.  I had heard Kate screaming my name from the stands as I ran down the home straight – apparently standing on her seat!!  Now seeing my family and friends, I started to enjoy the occasion.   I had beaten my PB by 3 mins and 19 seconds.  In the last year I had taken over 10 minutes of my pre-2013 PB.  I was very happy with that.  The race had gone almost perfectly.  I had maintained a consistent, fast pace throughout.  I’d gained 60-70 places in the second half of the race, running strongly throughout.  I’d got over a mini slump at 23-24 miles, with some luck in meeting the pacer – and I’d finished by running the last 0.4 miles at 5 min 38 seconds per mile pace.  I had some small learning points, but really I had to be happy with how it had gone.    I also had a cracking new race medal – probably the best one yet!

It was time to go and enjoy Seville and celebrate a great day and a great race!

The best marathon medal ever!


Mile splits:




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