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4 weeks = 4 PBs - Karima Harris

To be clear, I never planned to do two marathons followed by two half marathons. It happened partly by accident and partly due to a failure on my part to review my calendar carefully. However, as unplanned experiments go, it was a success.

The original plan was hatched on 3rd October 2021. I had just run London in 2.58.51 (my first sub 3 marathon) and was back at home. Gildas called to congratulate me. He told me how I had smashed it and how brilliant it was. He did however drop in to the conversation that I was still 30 secs behind his PB of 2.58.22 And there it was. Mission accepted. “Operation Beat Gildas’ PB” was born that day. 😊

The warm up was Vienna in April. Good for a couple of reasons. One, a reminder not to run off too quickly (a common issue with me and racing) and more importantly, it confirmed that not taking in energy meant the wheels would fall off around 28kms. This happened in Vienna.

After Vienna, I decided that putting all my eggs in one basket (being London 2022) was risky. Gildas had said he ran his PB in Berlin so I decided that that was what I would do. When I had booked it all, I entered the race in the calendar and realised I would be doing two in a row. Oh well, it was a post summer holiday problem.

The build up to London was slightly unconventional. Three weeks in the south of France, drinking perhaps more Rosé than recommended pre a marathon. However, I did do lots of long runs in 30 degrees of heat, which on reflection turned out to be really good training. Fiona even joined me for a couple, albeit her idea of a run includes scrambling up hills and down again and getting a little bit lost. All part of the fun… 😊

Berlin was hard. I found it a bit lonely. I had my loyal supporters (Ed and the kids) but no London crowds or familiar sites and I found myself running behind the 3 hour pacers, unable to catch them. I also really struggled to take in the gels. I managed one and while the first 28kms were fine, the last 14kms were hard. Once again, as with Vienna, from 28kms I got slower and slower, but did somehow manage to finish in a PB of 2.58.26. However, post race Ed called to report I had missed the target by 4 seconds… Fortunately, there was still London.

London. I went to the expo with Georgia and Sophie, and Sophie suggested I try honey gels, given the other gels make me gag. I was running the marathon with Georgia. The plan was to help her get a sub 3. My role was simply to stop her jetting off too quickly (as she also has form) in the first 13 miles and if I didn’t fall apart after half way (which had been suggested….by Gildas…I could tell, he was getting worried….) we would continue together. Some did question the logic of having two people who can’t pace themselves joining forces BUT odder things have happened. London was awesome. The support was incredible!! So many QPHs, friends and family along the way. It made such a difference.

I must however apologise to Anita and Gilly, who I managed to blank (twice apparently) as I was "waving at some Highgate men" on the other side of the road. Anita was very quick to point this out in the pub afterwards. 😊 Georgia and I paced ourselves perfectly and she even told me when I had to take a gel (must be the paramedic in her). The honey gels were also brilliant so thank you Sophie. And thank you Georgia for a fantastic run! We crossed the line together and yes, I got a PB of 2.57.31. Mission accomplished.

I was running the Royal Parks half because a work colleague lost a friend in the Bali bombings and her friend’s wife (who survived with 43% burns) has places each year for her charity. The plan was to do a tempo run, but I do find that the best laid plans fall apart in a racing environment. I had also attended Geogia and Alex’s wedding the night before. And as Emma recounted to me the next day, she had asked me if I was racing and I had replied “no way". I did find the last 8kms hard BUT on the plus side, it did feel much shorter than the week before. Anyway, I was very pleased to get a PB of 1.25.16. My work colleague and I also raised £3k for the charity so it was worth the effort.

Bath - this was the delayed Bath half. It was supposed to be much earlier in the year so the race timing was not down to my bad diary planning. I had NO expectations at all. It was after all, the fourth race in four weekends. I went off planning to race it until I fell apart, just as an experiment. I found myself running with the same person from about the fifth km. Not chatting but just the exact same pace. It felt surprisingly ok. I stopped looking at my watch. At mile 9, I over heard him tell someone he was aiming for 1.23 and I thought he had really got his maths wrong. I told him I was going for 1.25. Anyway, I just stuck with him and when we turned the final corner and saw the finishing clock, I was amazed. I did it in a PB of 1.23.31.

So, there you have it. Not very conventional. Not something any running coach would suggest. But, it worked for me. :) Next target is beating Gildas’s PB for a half of 1.23.16. :)


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