The spring marathons are upon us . Greater Manchester, Brighton and of course London sees tens of thousands of people taking to the streets and roads for that classic 42 K journey. For many of these athletes it will be their first time. Even so I have no doubt that with the vast amount of information available from magazines, books, coaches and fellow athletes they will be well prepared. Many miles will have been completed, including long runs, and probably shorter distance races too.
One debut marathon runner that the nation will be following closely will be our own Mo Farah In the London Marathon. Of any first timer he will have had the most careful of preparations ever. From what I have read it has been attempted to change even his running style to suit the cadence of racing on the road for full distance. His altitude training will stand him in good stead and his diet will have been carefully monitored. His coach, the American Alberto Salazar, himself a terrific marathon runner could not bettered. Mo has experience of the London course with his running to half way last year and another couple of halves since then.
However, his task is enormous with the best marathon runners in the world up against him. I wonder whether it will come down to the balance of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles in his legs or whether that has been manipulated by special training ? He knows the job ahead and we wish all the luck on the day. All this in great contrast to my own marathon debut August 12th 1961. At that time marathon runners were a breed apart and specialists at their event. Myself on the other hand just loved to race. Cross-country, track fells and roads. The only reason I chose the Liverpool Marathon was that there was no other race on that Saturday. The furthest I had run before was the Three Peaks Fell Race, about 22 miles where I was 5th. But I had won a 3 mile track race the day before.
The Liverpool Marathon was run in the days when women were not allowed to run and the rules were that there no drinks until 10 miles no matter what the conditions were, and then at 15, 20 and 25 miles. The course ran round the boundaries of Liverpool and finished on the Anfield ground in front of a pre season friendly match with a capacity crowd.
There were 34 starters and 34 finishers. At 10 miles I was wondering why the pace was so slow. Upped the speed and only one-man came with me, John Tarrant, the “ Ghost runner.” We battled it out until at 22 miles I went ahead to finish in 2:24:22 That afternoon and the following days I said, “ Never again.” But I soon changed my mind, In 1962 I ran 2:21:59; 1962, 2:18:06; 1964, 2:14:12; 1969, 2:13:42; 1969, 2:11:54; 1970, 2:10:30; and 1970 2:09:28, my best.