We had a fantastic turnout of blue singlets at the Auckland Marathon last weekend, what a great event to be part of. Nick chatted to Keith Burrows, our fastest marathoner on the day and fastest in his age category, about his build up and race, and convinced him to write a few words for us. Here's his analysis - a fascinating reminder of how - even in a long race - it comes down to the little things. Enjoy!
"Nick asked me if my race went to plan and could I give some quotes, instead he got an earful on the phone which are now in words for therapy 😉
The short version
In good shape due to big mileage.
Followed my training exactly of "run a lot, run a bit of it harder than the rest".
A marathon was on that I could run and I had a great taper.
Ran a very good time for me for the course
Possibly my best marathon overall in fact
But not happy about the outcome
The longer, therapeutic version...
For some reason I run a lot, I am not a massive fan of running, but I do like getting out the house for an hour or two before working from home. So, I run. Other, smarter folk probably do the NZ thing and grab a coffee, but I don't drink coffee.
Anyhow as a result of this I have ended up regularly at 100 mile weeks and as a result of this I have got quicker and quicker, which I do like.
This year I had planned to run London, Rotorua, Gold Coast and Auckland marathons, with GC being my main target. However, as they all fell by the wayside it ended up being Auckland with the only one.
I tweaked my hamstring in June and my back seized for a week in July, but other than that I have maintained 130+ weeks from about January. Over the second lockdown I ended up with 157, 161, 164, 177 k's per week, I then thought I had jiggered my achilles, but it transpired I had an infected blister which put me in bed for a day or so, but this again meant a couple of low weeks. Then of course I had to taper off a bit for the relays, to appease Nick.
I then ramped back up with two more solid 100 mile weeks, equalling my 5k pb at O'Hagan's and even dropped the legendary Dan Coates in the Waitaks (though he had been injured). So, to cut a long story short I was in pretty good shape, tapered for 10 days which I think suits me well and still managed to maintain some intensity with O'Hagan's, race09 and parkruns at a solid pace.
I found out that the London championship qualifying start has moved to being a sub 2:40 cut off, which I was possibly in shape for on one of those perfect runs where you are surrounded by people on a flat course. Of course, being over this side of the world there is not many of those as an option and Auckland it is not. However, am also aware of a chance of a non-ballot route into Tokyo marathon with a sub 2:45 which is a marathon I am very keen to run.
So, the plan was to get over the lumps for the first 5k and then assess if any of <2:40 (unlikely), pb, <2:45 were on.
I was over the hills just under 2:45 pace very comfortably, I had been running on my own since 1k, I stepped it up a notch as planned and was comfortable, ran the bridge well and then on to my home turf of the waterfront...
But I struggle with Auckland marathon, in fact any running where I am on my own at pace, be it intervals, time trials or anything else, I was overtaken by 2 people the whole race and I think passed 3, so it was pretty lonely and if I think about it, I was not pushing as hard as I did at say London. At the turn at St Heliers I saw that Mitch was a lot closer than I had hoped, but that gave me some impetus to push on into the headwind, which is what I needed.
I had realised 2:40 was never going to happen pretty quickly, the pb thoughts went around 22k and then at 37k I did some ropey calculations that I was likely to miss 2:45, I think I then lost a bit of concentration as I ran 3 >4min k's on the bounce.
Since June every time I run < 3:20 my hamstring feels weak. This is mainly fine as I never run that fast, but pre-relays I did some fast hundreds and it weakened, at the aforementioned 5k it happened again as it had at 3:16k. I then spend the next days doing various drops to strengthen it. Each occasion it has worked.
However, at 42k I realised that I was in with a shot, so stepped it back up and up and up, at the little ramp at the park I could see 2:44:5, but when I first pushed on the down of the ramp I felt my hamstring weaken, (I was motoring by this point), so I waited to get off the ramp before really pushing and agonisingly watched the time tick over to 2:45:03 as I finished. However, I knew I had not crossed the start at 0:00 so I knew there was a chance...
I think it was Tim Mitchell that told me first I had come in at exactly 2:45, of course everyone is saying what a great time it is (which it is), but I knew I needed under.
So, I checked the results and if you look at my splits, it adds up to 2:44:59.
I emailed Auckland marathon as I figured they may be timing down to 10's of a second and that it was a rounding and possibly I could get something official agreeing with the splits...
And they responded with this:
Basically, I missed being under by 17 hundredths of a second. Which I think is just under 1 metre.
Clearly, I can think back to many points where that could have been saved...
Here are some:
The kick off the ramp would have been enough...
Side stepping around a fellow Owai guy at the start (I won't name names here).
When I came past someone on the waterfront, I moved to pass him and he moved at the same time to let me through, so I had to move twice.
Not taking the tightest line at one corner on the motorway.
Not leaning forward enough coming down the bridge.
The shambolic road surface at Quay Street
Not stopping for a pint at Swashbucklers (ok that one didn't happen)
But it was none of the above. The reason I missed it was the loss of concentration coming back into town that screwed it. Nick had asked me to say if I had any advice, I would suggest not calculating potential finish times at 37k or in fact ever and keep pushing... But this is why I like marathons, that mental game at 38k to stay on the on.
And to top it all off I am back to strengthening the damn hamstring again so I can drop like a stone at Kerikeri in circa 3 weeks."
All the best for Kerikeri, Keith!
Spot the Owai blue singlets ⬇️