Coronavirus derailed our Australian running ambassador's 2020 London Marathon plan last month - but that wasn't the end of his dream.
A few weeks ago, before Australia imposed their restrictions, Andrew Heyden decided to run his own marathon, to mark his 46th birthday.
The veteran of 50 marathons, he was convinced he could lower his PB of 2:36 in the London Marathon, so set out to emulate the race at home. Here, he shares his story about running his fastest 26-miler since 2006:
LAST October we arranged a family holiday to London to coincide with Easter and the London Marathon, giving me a chance to finally return to my favourite race after 14 years and get my tenth finisher’s medal.
For the first time in ten years I decided to ‘put all my eggs in one basket’ and just train for the marathon with a solid 16-week block of training.
Around March 14, the inevitable happened - the London Marathon was postponed due to Coronavirus - and my cousin’s wedding too - and it became clear we wouldn’t risk travelling either.
Whilst I knew it was coming, I was gutted. Really gutted. But I decided to still do something after reading a few marathon coaches saying it is best to simulate a race then take a period off to reset and prepare to train for a potential Sept/Oct races such as Boston and London (if they happen).
As I was working from home, and the moves towards avoiding ‘non-essential travel’ escalated, I started wondering if I could run a marathon near our home. I’d completed a few 1km and 2km rep sessions around a flat and quiet loop in my suburb of St Ives, so I started thinking I could run the whole marathon on the loop while maintaining social distancing rules. Plus, with a friend living in one of the streets, I could use his front lawn as a rehydration station.
With my 46th birthday approaching, and the chance Australia could soon follow the UK of restricting outdoor exercise, I decided to have a go on my birthday, three weeks earlier than the planned date for London.
So, I measured the 1.23km loop - with the realisation that this was the closest I would ever get to the Nike Breaking 2 Project by choosing the course, date and start time!
'Race’ Day - the nerves and adrenaline were just like the real thing
First light was 6am and I started soon after. After a poor sleep, I was up at 5.15am and felt a mixture of nerves and adrenaline - a good sign - it felt like a normal race day, helped by laying out my kit the night before and having come off a two-week taper.
I followed my usual pre-race routine and took two CurraNZ capsules and then a gel 30 mins before the start.
I warmed up for around 1.5km and then got going. I started well and felt good, running the first few kilometres at 3 mins 36 secs per km, 3:37, 3:37, 3:36, 3.40, 3:38. I grabbed a gel, held it for half a lap then ate it 100m before the table and grabbed a water bottle on the next lap. Did this after roughly 6km, 13, 20, 27, 34 and 39km.
I ran my seventh kilometre in 3:41, followed by 3:45, 3:42, 3:33. The pace was pretty consistent and varied a bit due to a slight uphill and downhill section, but the surface was good. 3:37, 3:41, 3:37, 3:42.
14km in and I was feeling good, saying hi to the walkers and dog walkers. 3:40, 3:37, 3:40, 3:44, 3:41. 3:43 and 3:35 – and made halfway in 77:10 ish.
Then my wife and the kids came out to watch and it gave me a great lift to see them.
Then at this point my right knee started feeling a little sore and I wondered if it was the right hand turns so U-turned and ran a lap in reverse. My next splits were slow due to the turn and loss of momentum 3:48 and 3:56 and had decided to turn again and go back to my favoured direction.
Time to dig in a bit and keep it going. 24km 3:41, 3:43, 3:41, 3:42, 3:43, 3:40, 3:44.
Up to 30km, my legs are okay, breathing steady and feeling strong, I felt like pushing but held back a bit. There’s still a long way to go, so I hold this to 35km and re-assess.
3:39, 3:38, 3:40, 3:42, 3:46.
Another gel and water en route and my PB is on!
By now a few locals were watching from their front lawns and I was buzzing. 3:41, 3:44, 3:40. I’d never held pace so well and so deep into a marathon and was close enough to the end to think about pushing on harder. 39th km - 3:43, 40th km - 3:41 then decided to rip, 41st km - 3:27, 42nd km - 3:31 with the hill, into the home straight to break the toilet paper finish tape held by the kids!
After my race I took another CurraNZ capsule and a protein drink to aid recovery.
As I write this the following day my legs feel good, once again, very little soreness thanks to the DOMS-reducing effects of the magic berries.2:35:09 for probably longer than the exact required distance.
Training paid off, controlled throughout the run. It just shows you don’t need a huge field and a big offshore race, just the right training and enough desire.