Valencia Marathon

I scheduled the Valencia Marathon back in June just as I was starting my comeback from injury.  At that point I had only been running again for a matter of weeks since all of the foot problems that put me out of action for the best part of 18 months.  I therefore decided to hedge my bets and enter the Bournemouth Marathon in October and Valencia in December.  I figured that way I would have a reasonable shot at being fit for one of the two races… as it turned out I was fit for both!

Since Bournemouth I’ve been ticking over as there hasn’t been enough time for a fresh build up phase, plus I had a week away in Thailand 2-3 weeks out from this race.  Getting to Valencia was a bit of a journey that involved staying down at Heathrow on the Friday night, then flying to Valencia via Madrid so I didn’t land in the city until 5pm on Saturday.  By the time I got to the expo to collect my number it was gone 7pm and was then faced with trying to find somewhere open to eat, which for some reason seemed harder than it should have been.  By the time I got to our hotel it had gone 9pm and I had ended up walking 2-3 miles to/from the expo plus all the travel earlier in the day.  I was pretty knackered and the ‘pingyness’ in my legs had completely gone.  Not good preparation.

I had no target time as such, a good chunk of me just wasn’t up for it as in some ways it was already ‘mission accomplished’ from my exploits at Bournemouth.  On the other hand, I knew my time at Bournemouth wasn’t representative due to running by myself the whole way and the conditions on the day.  I thought possibly sub 2.23 could be on but to be honest I would have taken any PB (i.e. sub 2.25.48).

The usual pre-race photo.  Clutching four gels to run with as the course only provided two gel stations at 20 / 30 km.  Some had an expiry date of 2017 (not used because of my injury!)

Impressive start.  I can just about be spotted - in the gap between the two fences.

Somewhat unusually I was several rows back from the front at the start; I knew my place as I’m not considered anywhere near elite for an IAAF Gold Label event.  Nonetheless, at the off I was clearly going quicker than I expected and went through the first two km pretty much at my 10k PB pace.  It felt strange though as I was relaxed but at the same time I knew it was way too quick.  I tried to ease back a bit but ended up doing the next two km at the same pace.  It was at this stage some groups started to develop and I just slotted in.  I was amongst various elite runners (as they all had numbers on their front and back), including the leading ladies, Scott Overall (on pacing duties) and Ben Johnson amongst others. At the 5km mark though when we went to the first water station it was carnage – the whole group just splintered as the elites struggled to find their water bottles.  For me it was a bit easier as I just got plain old water but resulted in me dropping the group!

10k in.  In the back of the group (see end of video) and dropping back.  I was originally in the first of the groups in the video.

I eased back a bit and over the next km the group started to reform and it was at this stage it looked like it was a sub 2.18 train after having a brief chat with one of the other British runners.  When I told him I was a 2.25 runner I’m sure he thought I was a bit of an idiot who was going far too fast!  I was now really conscious that I was trying to cash a cheque that my body hadn’t paid for and that I would suffer for this early exertion.  Although my breathing was fine, my legs just felt like the early pace was starting to tell and I naturally started to fall away into a far larger group that I suspected was aiming for 2.20.  I hung about with this group (that involved a minor altercation between one of the Keynan pacers and a British runner which was an interesting distraction) up to the 15km mark but eventually I started to drop off this as well and I was now getting worried that it was all going to pot even if my Garmin was still predicting a 2.20 finish time at this stage.  Up to half way I was getting passed by ones and twos and I was literally overtaking no one in return.  The thing is my pace wasn’t terrible, but my legs were feeling heavier than they should be at this point of the race.  Gone were the 3.15 km’s which were replaced with 3.20’s so not too shabby considering my average splits of 3.27 at Bournemouth in October – all time in the bank.  However, between 15-17km my splits slipped further to 3.22 and 3.25 – at this point the rot was setting in and I could easily foresee the dreaded wall coming later on in the race.

I eventually managed to hang on to a couple of runners which arrested my continued pace slippage and I went through half way in 1.10.09, a good minute and a half quicker than Bournemouth.  I started to get a second wind but considering that my legs still felt heavier than they should at this stage of the race I was telling myself to just hold steady, but no, I took a chance and started to push on.

Half way.  Just beginning to drop the two runners I had latched onto earlier on.

23.5 km in.  Afterburners now kicking in, but quite worried about how my race was going.

Strained sinews.  Glad to have seen my wife - huge morale boost.  Yet another straight road ahead and now starting to get warm.  Start was 14 degrees but 19 degrees at the end but warmer still where there was no shade.

Quite quickly I dropped those around me and gone were the 3.22 min splits and I started to now to hit 3.12 – 3.17 which was pretty smoking.  That’s not to say that I felt comfortable doing what I was doing but I felt that I could hold the pace and then just hang on towards the end.  That said, I was suffering and I was really looking forward to see my wife for a bit of a morale boost.  I eventually passed her at 23.5km and she looked like she was welling up a bit although I wasn’t sure whether I had imagined it.  I wondered perhaps whether she knew I was well ahead of my PB pace.  I did think about what she thought of my race thus far as she was tracking me through the app – I thought she must have known that I went off like a lunatic and then saw my race position going backwards.  I did ask her after the race how I looked as at this stage I was pushing on – her comment was that I looked strained which was probably a fair reflection.

30km in.  Now rapidly hunting down those ahead of me, but the effort was now starting to bite.

As each km ticked off I was rapidly catching and overtaking a number of runners, some of which I recognised earlier.  I did intend a few times to take a breather as I made the catch before trying to move on, but the pace differential most of the time was too great.  I was pushing on and they were fading so in the most part I just continued and ran by myself.  My Garmin was still predicting roughly 2.20.00 and with 15k to go I was never really considering this a viable finish time, however I was now thinking that sub 2.23 was on.

With just 10k to go my watch continued to predict 2.20.00 although I knew I was starting to slip a bit into the 3.20 to 3.25 range but my pace was still strong and I continued to pick people off.  It was just a case of holding this to the finish although I wont pretend that the last 7 km didn’t hurt and the final 3km hurt even more!  With those final few km left I knew my pace was ok and although my Garmin was now predicting 2.20.15 the aim was just to finish sub 2.21 which still wasn’t a certainty as I knew my watch was bleeping splits about 100 metres before the official marker.

Now with just 2km to go.  Hitting 22 degrees, not that I noticed as I was in too much pain to care.

The final few hundred metres involved running into the stadia built for the finish and I crossed the line in 2.20.48.

Home straight.

Finished, before wobbly leg syndrome kicked in...

Pretty pathetic raising of my arms as I crossed the finish - all I could muster!

Overall, I finished 74th out of about 22,000 and 5th Brit.  I’m ecstatic with the time, what made it even sweeter was the fact that things looked like they were slipping away early on, but I realised the warning signs, adjusted and came back stronger in the second half.

I ran a fairly even split 1.10.09 in the first half and 1.10.37 that demonstrated I stayed strong throughout, albeit some ups and downs within each half.  I don’t think I could have done any better than the result I got and barring a few seconds here or there I extracted the maximum performance that was available on the day.  That said as a runner you always want more so a sub 2.20 performance has got to be the next target.  I had a taste of the sub 2.18 train and it tasted good, so that is the next piece of the jigsaw to work out.

Splits.  A fast start; after burners then hanging on.

This expresses the race better than how words can.  Fast start, got overtaken by loads of people and thinking my race was going to pot before a second wind and hunting those ahead of me...  In the second half of the race not a single person overtook me.

As I ran sub 2.23 I’ve achieved the ‘England Development Standard’ for the marathon, although to be honest I’ve got no idea what, if anything this means in practice.  I think in theory it means that I can be selected for England in future events but whether my time is good enough is doubtful.  Overall for the year I’m now ranked 22nd in England, 1st in the West Midlands Region and 8th V35+.  Sounds impressive but I want more than that.

It is quite interesting as for some time I’ve felt like I’m under the radar – I’m pretty sure most people have never heard of me (and to be fair I don’t really follow what goes on around me so is a two-way thing), I don’t race often other than some occasional local races and technically have no first claim club for track, road or XC.  It wasn’t lost on me that a website that previewed British interests at Valencia didn’t mention me at all, yet I was 5th Brit to finish.  None of this is a complaint in the slightest as I’m happy doing what I’m doing although by not being part of the crowd I suspect I’m breaking every conventional rule in Marathon Training Vol.1.  I quickly need to work out whether I should continue what I'm doing as I must be doing something right running a 2.20, or whether I need someone with a bit of expertise to give me the structure and foresight I probably lack.

As to the future… it gives me a dilemma, realistically I’m not going to be able to get a better time at events such as Bournemouth and Chester etc as the standard of competition is just not the same.  As much as I love the intimacy of these events I will need to shift my focus onto the bigger marathons, so London next April is probably calling.

In the meantime, I think a few days rest are called for, enjoy the rest of December before the Wheaton Aston 10k on the 27th.  I suspect my 32.13 10k PB has surely got to be under threat?!


  1. Brilliant Lloyd. Proud of you, super brave and determined. Hope to catch up in the new year. 👍🏻 JON Bowie

    1. Cheers Jon. You had a great race too - stayed strong until the end.

    2. I've been after sub 2.30 for ages, I was a little Conservative during the second half as I knew I was under 2.30 pace and played it safe. I think I'm in maybe 2.25/2.26 shape. I'll have a good go in the spring somewhere now that sub 2.30 is ticked off. London for you then?

    3. Well if you did feel like jogging like you mentioned, then it suggests you are in good shape for 2.26 or better. I can see why you played it safe as sub 2.30 is a major benchmark and best not to go all in and potentially come home with nothing. For me I didn't really make any conscious decision to go hard at the outset, it just played out that way and thankfully saw the warning signs before it all went pear shaped, not that I knew at the time whether the damage had already been done.

      Yep, mind has been made up that its now London. Just got the Wheaton Aston 10k next on the 27th, then aiming for Reading and Vitality Big Half I think and maybe a 10k late Jan or something. How about you, whats the plan?

    4. Might do a bit of xc, then off to Armagh with Andy (Davies) to do a 5km in Feb. Looks like I'll probably do Manchester mara, as it fits with holiday with family the week after..... And I'm going to do valencia again I think. I'm a postman and so it fits well to be recovering during December when it's mad busy at work. Not much fun trying run big miles whilst working from 0430-1500!


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