THREE IN A ROW AT LONDON MARATHON
by Michelle Carnegie
09 May 2019
It’s three in a row for South African private banker Nicholas Bester, who crossed the finish line of the Virgin Money London Marathon in a massive PB of 2:30.01, taking the title of first South African home three years in a row. Not bad for someone who was still on honeymoon two weeks before the marathon.
Nick, who works as an investment banker for Investec and currently lives in London with his wife, Taryn, is elated with his run. But he admits to one thing that would have made it even better. “Everything about the day was just about perfect - apart from the two seconds that I just couldn’t find,” says Nick. Running two seconds faster would have placed Nick in what many see as an elusive sub 2:30 hour marathon group. Despite this, the 29-year-old Nick still beat his previous best time of 2:35 by a massive 5 minutes.
Race day build-up
Nick, who has a 6:28 Comrades Marathon PB, says London Marathon day is probably his favorite day of the year. “The city starts buzzing from Monday all the way through to race day. The support for this race is incredible with almost half a million supporters screaming and encouraging runners. It’s a world class and well-organized event.”
Nick’s training went well leading up to the marathon, but he describes it as slightly inconsistent as he only returned back from honeymoon shortly before race day. “I definitely did not let the marathon take away from the enjoyment of our all-inclusive honeymoon in Mauritius. Indulging in delicious food and sipping away on drinks probably wasn’t doing much good for my running. But, looking back, maybe I got the balance just about right.”
Weather conditions were ideal for marathon running, and on the day, Nick was as ready as could be, though he did make one small mistake. “I actually made a mistake with my entry and started in the ‘Good for Age’ category instead of the ‘Championship’ category. London Marathon has three different start zones, all starting at different locations and joining up later in the race. My start was in a completely different area to the elite start. The route only joins up with them just before the 5km mark. This turned out to be a great mistake as I led the race from this start for the first 5kms. Many of the supporters on route didn’t realise that this was a different start to the elites and the cheering and support was simply incredible. It was 17 minutes of my life that I’ll never forget. I felt like I was leading the marathon especially when kids starting shouting ‘Wow, here’s the leader’ and ‘where’s Kipchoge and Farah’. I knew it wouldn’t last long so I enjoyed it while it did. It’s a mistake I may just make again next year.”
Nick went through the 5km mark in 16.49 and the 10km mark in 33.35. “This was a lot quicker than I had planned but it felt so comfortable. I managed to get into a good group, so I just went with it hoping that I would be able to sustain this pace for as long as possible. When I went through halfway in 71.59, still feeling good I thought that a PB was on the cards and even potentially a sub 2:30 marathon. However, with 14kms to go, the reality of slightly inconsistent training kicked in and my mood switched from dishing out high fives to pure survival. I was constantly doing the maths of the pace I would need to run in order to break the elusive 2:30, but at that stage of the race my brain really wasn’t working well.”
Nick needed to run his last kilometer in 3.34 to finish in a sub 2:30 time. He eventually ran it in 3.36. With 1km to go, he was meant to collect the South African flag from friends supporting on route. “I knew I was on the verge of breaking 2:30 and couldn’t waste a second so I decided against the flag this year. My mind was telling me to push as hard as I could, but physically my body was depleted and was begging me to slow down and jog it home. I decided to give it my best shot. My running form was gone, legs on the verge of cramping but I pumped my arms as best I could to get the spectacular sprint finish going. I could see the clock with 200 meters to go, gave it 110% effort and 2.30.01 was the best I could have possible done.”
As he finished, he pulled to the side and put his head in his arms.“I then went and sat under a tree and felt the realization of missing my goal by two seconds. I quickly built a bridge, got over it, and celebrated the five-minute PB. I celebrated with my buddies as if I had won the marathon.”
The crowds lifted his spirit when he went through bad patches. “I don’t think there is any race in the world where the crowds carry you quite as much as they do at London Marathon. People scream and shout from start to finish, almost so loud that you don’t even recognize your own friends that have come along to support you. The only break you get from the crowds is when you run through a tunnel and all you can hear are the footsteps of the runners.”
The way forward
He has made peace with the fact that he missed a sub 2:30 time in London.“When I think back to the race, I gave it everything I had. On this day my best was a 2:30.01 and that’s OK!”
His next goal is to break 70 minutes for a half marathon and then he is off to the Berlin Marathon in September, where he is hoping to go under 2:30. “I definitely feel I can get faster. I’m not too sure where my limitations are but the Berlin Marathon in September will be the true test.”
He is extremely proud of finishing first South African home three years in a row, but even prouder of his wife Taryn who also ran. “The person who I think had the run of the day was definitely my wife Taryn Bester (previously Retief). Having not had the ideal build up to the marathon (having to plan a wedding and all) she set a target time of 3:40. She ended up having a cracking run and finished in 3:32, knocking off 22 minutes from her time last year. It was her first race running as a Bester and she did it in style!”
After the race Nick, Taryn and their buddies went straight to a pub to celebrate. “By the time I had put my bag down, I had five beers waiting for me to celebrate the five-minute PB. The supporters are what make this race so special and I am lucky enough to have my own group of supporters who come out every year to cheer me on. Some of them prefer Rum rather than a run but seeing them on the side always gives me an extra spring in my stride. We ended the evening off with Mac Donald’s plus a few extra well-deserved cheese burgers.”
Nick plans to return to the London Marathon next year. “It’s a race that I will do, as long as I have the ability to. I aim to do two marathons a year. Last year I did Paris and London, this year is London and Berlin. Next year, perhaps London and Chicago.”
“Looking back at my race day and the initial disappointment I felt by not breaking 2:30 has made me realize that at the end of the day, it is not about those two seconds. It was an incredible day that I will remember for years to come. Yes, it is good to have a goal, but it is just as important to make sure you find the enjoyment in running and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Hard work and determination are key to achieving your goals, but I believe that being happy and having fun plays a role too. Finishing a marathon, regardless of the time is an achievement and it was awesome to see so many people take part in this great event, especially those raising money for charity. Congratulations to all the finishers. London Marathon – see you next year!”
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