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Yorkshire Marathon

Ian Saunders
October 8th, 2017 · 7 min read

Race information

  • What? Yorkshire Marathon
  • When? October 8th, 2017
  • How far? 26.2 miles
  • Where? York, UK
  • Website: The Yorkshire marathon
  • Strava activity: strava
  • Finish time: 3:07:05 hours (Chip time) - 154th place


  • A Goal: Sub-3:00
  • B Goal: 3:05
  • C Goal: Sub-3:10


Having spent most of the last 8 months running progressively longer runs cumulating with the NDW100 I felt it was time to work on speed. Having never followed a training program before, and based on the recommendations from ARTC I decided to pick-up a copy of Advanced Marathoning - I also read How to Run a 3 hour Marathon, a Just Enough Training Approach for a little balance.

In the end I roughly ended up with a weekly plan of:

  • Fartleks
  • Tempo run
  • Long run

I also threw in a few Park Runs and some double days to try top-up the volume. I needed 2 weeks to recover from NDW100 and with 1 week taper it meant that this training cycle was roughly 6 weeks. As I had a pretty strong aerobic base I decided to focus on speed work and form. To this end I also joined a running club (Go London City Runners!).

I managed to PR my 5 km time, reducing it from ~20:02 to 18:01. I was averaging about 50 kms (30 miles) a week. After reading and doing some calculations I thought that there was potential for a sub-3 hour marathon, though it would be tight. My previous Marathon PR was ~3:35 at San Francisco marathon, but I didn’t really race it, just aiming to finish with an alright time.

I should also mention I put a lot of effort into hydration in the build up to this race. With long-distance running I tend to have a strategy of sip little but often. This cadence allows the body to keep hydrated without overloading. I didn’t really want to run with water, so for this training cycle I worked on being okay with getting hydration every 5 km.

Olde style bib Kit ready the day before!


A last minute business trip to San Francisco threw a minor spanner in the works with timing. I arrived back in London on Friday - 2 days before the race. I did my best to mitigate jet-lag and tiredness but ¯\(ツ)/¯.

All the ultra distance running has got me into the habit of planning the races, haha! I came up with a bit of strategy, and read as many race-reports as possible. Fortunately there was a great race-report from Andy Wu - Run to Win - Yorkshire Marathon 2016 which matched my approximate race-strategy. I used this as a rough-guide to my plan of attack. I did the usual carbo-loading which I am always quite meh about!

My sister, Tanya, was running her first marathon on the day and our friend, Martin, was running his second. Martin’s family is from York and very gracefully housed and fed us! Thanks Nelson family - they were really accommodating to all my pre-race day rituals!

We got the start line early to avoid stress, dropped off our bag and went to our starting pens.

York isn’t a huge marathon and I found myself in #1 pen with the local elites and others aiming to go sub-3. One of the advantages of the first pen is there is a bit more space, so I began a few dynamic stretches and strides. I tried to figure out where to put myself in the pen and was about 4 or 5 rows back. As I looked around I spotted Andy Wu from York blogging fame! He was back in York for another sub-3 attempt. Myself and a few others felt obliged to say hello and thank him for a very useful race report - after a few good-lucks we settled down to run…

Ready to go Ready to go

Miles [0] to [18]

I decided to either positive or even split the race, i.e do the second half a bit slower than the first. I settled into roughly a 4:12 mins/km a pace. I had originally intended to go out with the 3-hour pacer, but his pace seemed a touch on the high-side for me, perhaps he was banking time for later in the race. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar yellow running shirt. It looks like Andy and I were on a similar race strategy, we formed a secondary sub-3 hour group with about 5 other runners and began working together to bring this in.

The miles zoomed by and everything went pretty smoothly. We lapsed a few times dropping into 4:16 to 4:20 min/km race - but the watches are always off by 1% or 2% so I wasn’t too concerned. The group was great and had a chat with a number of runners. I enjoy having a good chat during ultras, but didn’t realize it was a thing on marathons! I kept chipping away at my stinger waffles and had half a Gu. Hydration seemed to be working okay and the pace seemed fine. Only minor incident was a shoe-lace coming undone - this was my first race with my Nike Vaporfly 4% and they were performing very well! We crossed the half-way point in 1:29:30 which was pretty much bang on where we wanted to be. Given that I hardly run half-marathons this also happened to be a half-marathon PB!

During this section the sub-3 group became a little transient with people dropping off and new members joining in. Myself and Andy made a blood oath to keep together and we kept the pace just right!

Miles [19] to [21]

It was around here that the wheels started to come off.

There was a long drawn out soft up-hill section where we kept the pace around 4:18 min/km, we rotated wind blocking. Andy and another chap did a fantastic job of pushing but I was feeling the exertion a little at this point.

Once we crested the top of the hill there was a nice soft downhill, we upped the pace to 4:10 min/km to bank time for the return leg of this out-and-back section. I really started to feel the burn at this point, I dug in deep to keep with Andy and the other chap. The extra exertion was off-set by them taking most of the wind! I decided that perhaps a Gel was in-order. I though we were only a few hundred meters from a water station so smashed the whole gel. A few minutes later we arrived at the water station, guess what, it was on the other bloody side of the road - damn those out-and-backs. For those of you who don’t suffer energy gels, they kind of stick to your throat and are best followed up with a swift sip of water. I had limited choice to push on, but this certainly had some mental toll.

As we ended the down section and turned to go back up the hill I decided to drop the pace a bit to avoid a bigger crash. Andy was already a good 10m in-front of me. He looked back and pointed at his shoes but I waved him on. He was looking strong and if anyone could bring in that sub-3 today, it was him, Go Andy!

A few minutes later I hit the $%@$ water station - this time on the correct side of the road. After drinking some water I felt a bit better, I decided to increase the pace again and try catch-up to Andy. For about 5 minutes. Then I decided that was wishful thinking.

Miles [21] to [26]

The last 5 miles were a war-of-attrition. I always try to be a strong finisher - really race the last section. Unfortunately my mind was having none of it. I became a nice target for a few strong finishers to zoom passed - this proved a mixed blessing as I tucked in behind and used them as a bit of a mental target to push myself on. In the back of my mind I thought perhaps a final surge at the 5 km point could bring in the bacon, when I tried to increase cadence I just didn’t have it in me.

Whilst on the final damn steep hill only the crowd shouting kept me from walking - eurgh shame this isn’t a trail race! I ran hard to prevent any last minute runners snatching my 154th place. And done.

As I crossed the finish line Andy had decided to stick around to welcome me in! This was a lovely bit of camaraderie and I appreciated the gesture. Over a cold Erdinger AF I filled in the blanks from when he left me, and he did the same! If you are curious how Andy did he wrote up a great race-report here.

After picking up our bags Andy headed off to go meet his wife and I retired to the finish to cheer on runners and wait for Tanya and Martin to finish. Tanya brought it in at 4:59 and Martin shortly afterwards!

Finished - and enjoying the sun Finished - and enjoying the sun

When in Yorkshire! When in Yorkshire!


I am disappointed I didn’t manage to push through the wall and keep the pace at the appropriate level to bring in the sub-3. I’ve been through much more painful and mentally straining sections during the NDW100 & the ONER. After a weeks reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that even though I had the mental toughness to get over the wall, I was not prepared to push through it quickly. When you are running for ~24 hours dropping pace by 1 minute a km and taking 45 minutes to get yourself back into race mode is not an issue. In a marathon you don’t really have that time.

I didn’t get fueling quite right. I was trying a slightly different strategy here, which was a hybrid of my other races. 2 Stinger waffles and then 3 Gu gels (I only consumed 1.5 gels). I also need to work on timing and getting the nutrition in.

Note: Try avoid long international flights 2 days before a race.

Given the short training cycle, limited pace work and low-mileage it was always going to be a little bit of a stretch to go sub-3. Perhaps another 4 weeks with a few more longer marathon pace runs would have done the trick?

Other positives?

  • I smashed my marathon PB by about ~28 minutes.
  • This was my first attempt at actually trying to race a marathon rather than just grind it out. Glad to see that targeted training pays dividends.
  • There are ample areas that I can use to trim those remaining minutes.

Above all, I got to run with a bunch of amazing runners who made the day that much more enjoyable, hopefully I will get to race with them once again!

What’s next?

Only two more proper races left in 2017, the Brecon Beacon Ultra (76 km) in mid-November and a 5 km track race just before Christmas with the club. It will be my second run of Brecon and looking to roll the dice a bit ^_^.

Waiting! Waiting!


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