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Running column: Wymondham 20 was a stark reminder of what's coming on marathon day

Dominic Blake crosses the finish line at the Wymondhamn 20. Picture: Mark Armstrong

Dominic Blake crosses the finish line at the Wymondhamn 20. Picture: Mark Armstrong

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I must admit I could have done without reporting on the Wymondham 20 at the weekend.

Mark Armstrong in action at the Cambridge Half Marathon. Picture: Cambridge Half MarathonMark Armstrong in action at the Cambridge Half Marathon. Picture: Cambridge Half Marathon

Don’t get me wrong, it was another great event put on by Wymondham AC and I’ve no doubt a lot of runners will have learned a great deal from the experience, especially if they are running a marathon in a few weeks’ time.

I really enjoyed having the chance to chat to a few people but being at the finish line was just a reminder how hard all this endurance lark is for runners at all levels. It was a stark reminder of what’s coming for me in Manchester if I don’t get the pace right.

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover quite a few events so far this year, but they have mostly been 10Ks. As you would expect, Sunday was very different.

I’ll state the obvious – 20 miles is a very long way for most people.

You can become slightly blasé when you’re training for a marathon about distance.

In a marathon cycle only anything over about 15 miles feels like a long run to me.

But there will be a lot of people, particularly first timers, who will be looking to get to 20 miles in their training before they tackle the full 26.2 miles.

A 20-mile run will give you a really good gauge of where you are with your pace for the big day.

Judging from what I saw on the finish line there were more than a few people who didn’t get it quite right ahead of their main races, including the winner Dominic Blake.

Dom has put in years of hard work and is able to post times that many of us can only dream of but he overcooked it on Sunday.

Dom is a competitor and loves racing – I enjoyed his reaction to winning the Ringland Half at the start of the month and when I heard on a marshal’s radio that he was well out in front I was ready to film what I thought would be another euphoric punch of the air as he crossed the finish line.

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However, as Dom strode through the home straight on Lady’s Lane, it was clear there was only one emotion going through his head – relief.

He had overdone it in the middle part of the race and got slightly carried away, striding along at a pace that he couldn’t sustain over that distance.

Fortunately, Dom was experienced enough to rein it in during the latter miles and was able to hold it together to finish strongly.

Despite winning the race he was frustrated he had allowed himself to get caught up in the race and lose his pace discipline in what was essentially a training run ahead of the London Marathon next month. It’s a mistake that I have made all too regularly but sometimes you need to push yourself hard to understand the limits you can push your body to over that distance.

Sunday will have proved so valuable to Dom and I would wager he will go on to produce a very strong, consistent run at the London Marathon as a result.

I hope others can take on similar lessons because there were more than a few that were close to exhaustion at the end.

I didn’t blame one mum for ushering her children away from the immediate finish line given some of the industrial language used.

However, she also fully understood that if you can’t mutter an expletive after running 20 miles then when can you?

I was able to feel slightly smug having run 20-odd miles the day before as my last long run (I couldn’t trust myself to treat Wymondham as a training run).

No swearing was necessary at the end as it turned out to be my most positive long run yet and I feel like I’ve finally found my pace for Manchester in just over a week’s time. I feel ready – that’s what I’m telling myself anyway and that’s half the battle.

I’ve got the miles in my legs and it’s just about letting them absorb all that training and staying sharp ahead of race day.

It’s all I can think about – I’ve just got to get through the next week without driving myself and everyone around me insane…

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