The Final Bulletin: 6th May
A blow by blow account from Andy of his great London Marathon run! So race day has arrived and 18 weeks of training with 724 miles run are done and dusted. Just one more run to go and you can have a break. But first you’ve got to get through those 26.2 miles! Starting out at the London Marathon sees a lot of waiting around, and complaining about the cold, shuffling forwards and then suddenly you cross the start line and instantly the crowds are in full force, cheering you on and wishing you luck for what’s to come. The first mile seemed to pass in a few minutes, however checking my watch I was pleased to see I was running slightly, but not too far, above target pace. My plan was to run a steady eight minute mile for the first 18 miles, and then take a view on how fresh I was feeling and, if possible speed up a little from that point. That would see me come in comfortably in three hours twenty something. And if I wasn’t feeling too fresh at the 18 mile point I’d just try to hold onto the eight min/mile pace and come in on my target time of 3:30. Plans are all well and good but executing them is another thing! I needed the loo within the first two miles so dived into a portaloo when I had the chance. This didn’t cost me too much time and it’s better to go earlier in the race when there’s still time to make up the lost seconds slowly over several miles than go toward the end and find you only have two miles in which to make up any lost time. However, it did mean I lost the friendly chap I had been chatting to at the start and on and off for the first mile or so who was aiming for a similar time to me. Feeling relieved I continued on my way. Sticking to my target pace was proving suprisingly easy but you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re fresh, rested and have a long way to go so don’t get too carried away. The first 5 miles or so are a bit of an excercise in restraint. You just need to settle into a rhythm without letting the adrenaline, cheering crowds and other runners get you carried away running an unsustainable pace. Thankfully I’ve had a bit of practice at this from running a few ultras so am happy to let other runners do their thing whilst I concentrate on mine. The miles were ticking off quite nicely, my legs were feeling good and I was soaking up the atmosphere and sights: views of London, the Cutty Sark, high-fiving kids, crowd noise… Amazing to be part of such a huge event! Just after passing the Cutty Sark someone was playing up to the crowd a little too much and tripped the runner in front of them and they both went down to a loud “OOOH” from the crowd. It would be so easy to have your race ruined by someone else, keep your wits about you and try to find the space! Crossing Tower Bridge is really great. The whole road is yours so you can go right in the middle and see up into the bridge above you, look along the banks of the river and see the London Skyline, and the cheering crowds that haven’t let up since the start line are still there in full force! Turning off the bridge gives us mere mortals a chance to really feel like we’re running in the same race as the elites. The course follows the same road in two directions for a mile or so meaning you can see the elite runners and top amateurs coming back the other way – about 5 miles ahead already! Sadly the front runners had already passed through this point so I didn’t get a chance to see Sir Mo or Kipchoge but I did shout some encouragement at someone who had clearly hit the wall very hard. He looked like he was really struggling and was going very slow. A lesson there for all of us: Even the top runners have bad days! You soon enter the Isle of Dogs and this, for me, is the hardest section of the course. Physically it demands the same as the miles that come before and after but mentally you just want to get back to that section where you have runners in both directions as you know that until you get there you’re still just making your way around the same area and it feels like progress is slowing – even though my pace was still consistent. My watch had been slightly over-reading the distance from the start of the race and by this point it was reading about half a mile of extra distance. If I couldn’t trust the distance then that also meant I couldn’t trust the current pace reading either. Thankfully my watch does show elapsed time (and the primary function of a watch is to keep track of the time, right) and that was fine because there are mile markers for every mile except mile 26, and kilometre markers every 5k meaning I could do a bit of mental arithmetic every mile to make sure I was still on track and running the correct pace. You just need to know your eight times table up to twenty-six! After about 15 miles my legs were starting to feel tired. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of race I’m doing or what pace I’m running byt 15 miles seems to be some sort of physical barrier for me. My legs always start to feel tired at this point but my ultra experience has taught me what I can ignore and keep running through. Sometimes the aches even go away but not this time, they just slowly became worse. Running on tarmac is quite hard on the muscles – the relentless pounding even if you try to run lightly on your feet, every footfall landing the same on flat ground means there is very little rest for any muscles. With my untrustworthy watch I was more than a little frustrated to find that there were some mile markers that either I just missed (entirely possible to be honest) or were missing. I remember waiting for the 19 mile marker for a long time only to come across the 20 mile one instead! So with my watch reading almost 19 miles (actual distance probably much closer to 18 miles) I decided it was time to give running a little faster a go. My legs were tired and I knew about the extra effort as soon as I started up but my training has incorporated a lot of long tempo runs which get you used to running fast on tired legs – just what I needed to do now! Although I was tired I felt I could go faster and maintain it for at least a couple of miles. The race had other ideas. There are so many people that maintaining a higher pace was very hard. I had to keep slowing down to wait for a gap to open up, go through the gap and acceperate, all the while looking for the next gap, checking over my shoulder, making sure I wasn’t too close to the person in front… I did not want to be that guy who tripped someone else up! I’d been drifting constantly through the crowd of runners the whole way but increasing the pace meant that I needed to take my concentration up a notch as I needed to focus on keeping my legs turning over as well as looking for a way through the never-ending crowd of runners ahead. Because I was feeling tired the mental drain of the additional concentration was starting to take its toll. I suddenly did not enjoy having the crowds lining the course. Despite everything and everyone being positive their noise had become abrasive rather than encouraging. I tried to block them out as best I could and continue focus on maintaining a good pace and getting myself safely through the throng of runners but I was desperate to hit the Embankment where I knew the road widened and I’d have space to power through the last few miles. I’d started the race with the 3:30 pacer a few hundred metres in front of me but lost sight of them earlier in the race despite running a 3:30 pace – looking at my official times shows I did the first half-marathon in an 8 min mile pace but I’d lost sight of the pacer well before then. I had thought that finishing in front of this pacer would be sure to see me hit sub-3:30 but now I was starting to doubt myself. Maybe I’d passed them already and hadn’t noticed? Maybe I was slower than I thought? Don’t think about it. Just keep running your own race! I could tell I was getting properly tired now as the negative thoughts had started to creep in. Again, experience from longer races means I know to expect this and ignore the Voice of Doom. Just focus on the facts. You’ve been hitting your target pace for the past however many miles and there are only a couple more to go. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll hit your goal. Another indication of being tired is suddenly getting very emotional. I haven’t experienced this very often however last time it happened was during a 12 hour race, feeling (all things considered) physically ok, but suddenly a wave of emotion almost stops me in my tracks. For no reason I suddenly feel like I’m about to cry. Again, shut up brain I’ve got a race to run! but this time it was persistent and kept knocking at the door. Ok, maybe I’m at my limit now? No, just keep going. You’re close. Finally at about 24 miles we hit some wider road and I could find my space and my pace without constantly slowing down and speeding back up, and there a few hundred metres ahead – do my eyes deceive me? The 3:30 pacer! Well I’m not getting this far and not overtaking them now! Catching them felt a lot harder than it should but I passed them strongly and continued on. We’d passed the 25 mile marker which felt like the finish line as the job was basically done but there are markers every 200m from 1000m to go and those 200m seemed to be much longer than normal! I was determined to finish strong and keep the pace up, keep pushing legs you’re almost there. Finally you turn onto the Mall, with Buckingham Palace behind you and the finish line is in sight. There’s still LOADS of people in the way so I picked the very edge of the road to finish where I could see it was a bit quieter and found something for a sprint finish! I joined a queue for my medal, or so I thought, only to be greeted by Richard Branson saying well done and shaking hands! Thank you Richard, I’ll take it. I managed to get my medal before another emotional wave hit me and I shed a few tears. I think I was just releived it was over but I do understand why you see so many top level athletes crying like babies after big performances – it’s emotionally ehxausting to concentrate for that long! My official time was 3:29:14 – A PB by just over half an hour. Not bad legs, not bad at all! For the rest of the day I felt like a bit of a zombie and couldn’t really enjoy my achievement but this week it’s sunk in and now I’m starting to think maybe I could go faster? However, I’ve not entered the ballot for next year’s race. The crowds and number of people on the course make the event really great but at the same time they also make it harder. I think I’d like to do a quieter marathon toward the end of the year but first I need a rest! I’m feeling physically fine after a couple of days but an easy run on Friday left me feeling very lethargic for the rest of the day so I will take it easy and keep eating and drinking plenty for a little longer and then easy myself back into training. As always feel free to quiz me on a Tuesday evening about anything to do with running a long way and the training I’ve been doing – I’m more than happy to talk about it! Cheers, Andy
Bulletin 8: 16th April
This week’s update is a two-for-one as I was pretty busy last weekend and didn’t get a chance to write anything up, so here goes… Training was going almost 100% to plan up until last weekend. I made it through the hardest interal sessions and got the ten mile tempo under my belt (hard but not impossible after all)! I’ve missed probably only one or two of “Something of Substance” runs* when a very busy weekend meant I wasn’t going to have time for the all-important long run… Oh no! In the end I didn’t manage to run at all over weekend the weekend (oh no again) which was quite frustrating but I hoped it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact seeing as I’ve done a fair few long ones already, and rest is training too! Monday rolled around and I was ready and well recovered – or so I thought. At work I started to feel unwell so didn’t want to risk heading out for a run at lunch time and making things worse so I took a very lazy lunch. Just as well I think because I only felt worse as the day went on. A bath and an early night saw me feeling much better on Tuesday but still feeling a little under the weather. A gentle run at this point may have been ok but I didn’t want to risk going back to square one and having to take more time to recover so I opted to rest on Tuesday (therefore missing the Hares hill session – boo!) and did a gentle run on Weds which felt fine, even if my HR was still a bit higher than normal, a sign of a body not 100% recovered but thankfully I’d beaten the worst of it and suffered no ill effects! The glorious weather when I got home on Thursday meant I just had to get up onto Coombe Gibbet for on my tempo run (13 miles with 10 at tempo pace). Amazing views to feast the eyes upon couldn’t quite distract me from the lactic burn of running up “the slab”. I was pleased to run up a path I normally opt to walk but boy did I know about it the next day! Probably overcooked it a little if I’m honest as my legs were not feeling very fresh at all on Friday morning but once I got going on my easy run everything loosened off a bit and I felt a lot better.
This weekend I’ve been away on a stag do and I rather optimistically packed my running kit and looked up where the parkrun was … Two miles from where we were staying! If I could make it there, blast around and jog back then that would keep me more or less on track training wise but as someone who drinks fairly rarely I wasn’t very optimistic about making it there for 9am. But make it I did, and inspired by the sight of 600(!) other runners I thought maybe I should put all this training to the test. You might be thinking what are you doing “racing” a 5k when you’re aiming for a marathon? Well I’ve been doing all these intervals and tempo runs and have been seeing my times improve so I figured why not? Why not indeed! A new 5k PB and going sub 20 for the first time were my reward. Very pleased with that and a great confidence boost for the marathon in a couple of weeks. And that just left me with a long run to do this afternoon after travelling back home. Not feeling especially full of energy I set off on a 19 mile loop over Walbury Hill and Coombe (again). To be honest I didn’t really enjoy it which is unusual for me because I normally love being out on a long run – so good for the mind to just let it wander and give yourself time and space to mull things over. A nap first might have served me better but then I wouldn’t have seen the great views down over the rolling hills of Hampshire, or the panorama that opens out as you come back over into Berkshire, or the red kites circling on the wind as it comes up off the hill, or the lambs in the fields… Ok, maybe I did enjoy some of it!
And that is pretty much all the hard work done! 16 weeks of quite hard training, appear to be leaving their mark on my pace, and my body (more on this next week). The taper starts tomorrow and everything gets a chance to relax a little bit more and recover. As I sit here with the seemingly almost constant tired ache in my legs I am very much looking forward to it. *These are runs that fall into either intervals, tempo or long run categories Cheers, Andy
Bulletin 7: 1st AprilWith the bulk of the training under my belt and improvements in fitness and speed coming on in leaps and bounds I thought I had this training lark sorted but this week has been tough! The total distance was less than last week and maybe I’m partially to blame for coming along to the interval session on Tuesday when I should have been sat on the sofa with my feet up given I’d already done an interval set of 2×3 miles earlier in the day… But then it’s not supposed to be easy is it?I had to mix this week up a little as I couldn’t run on Monday. So I moved Monday’s easy run to Wednesday which meant I didn’t have the normal day of rest between the intervals and Tuesday’s tempo run (9 miles at tempo pace) which really felt hard from a few miles in and took a fair bit of concentration to keep pushing and stop the pace from dropping off. All good preparation for the last few miles of the big day though!Finishing that session a minute faster than I had run it the prevous week was a good confidence boost, even though it took a lot out of me and Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s easy paced runs all still felt like I was carrying a fair bit of fatigue in the legs.Both Saturday and Sunday’s runs were slightly shorter than the training plan called for. However, I’m not going to worry about the odd mile here or there, plus overall I’m up on the weekly mileage thank’s to Geoff’s interval session on Tuesday night!
The next two weeks are the final push in terms of training and I have to admit that double-figures at tempo pace on Thursday is slightly daunting. Plus another 3×2 mile interval session on Tuesday means I won’t be attempting to break any records during Tuesday evening’s Town Run! I may get a slight rest next weekend as it’s looking pretty busy and probable that I won’t have time for a long run. Disaster! These next two weeks are what the entire training plan builds up to, before tapering off (and I sure am looking forward to that taper!). They both include about 60 miles of running which is starting to make me look like some sort of serious runner but fear not, I shan’t be giving Sir Mo a run for his money any time soon! Cheers, Andy
Bulletin 6: 25th March
Here is the latest update on marathon training:This week’s training started hard and send to have got easier as the week had progressed. Probably because Tuesday’s interval session was 3x2miles which definable felt harder than any of the other interval sets I’ve done, and that was followed by the Hares Froxfield run which took me close to 20 miles for the day!As there are only 5 weeks to go until London Marathon I treated myself to a new pair of shoes. Billy will be pleased you can no longer see my toes where there should be shoe! I duly set off on Thursday’s tempo run with added spring in my step and found my pace faster than usual. The new shoes are red which everyone knows makes them faster so it’s to be expected but I was pleasantly surprised! However Tuesday’s efforts soon caught up and the pace started to feel pretty tough. I did manage to hold it for the 9 miles but it took some concentration. Maybe speed doesn’t come for free after all!Things started to get easier toward the end of the week with all the runs at easier pace, and the sun even came out on Sunday which always makes it easier to get out and about.I’ve run about 65 miles this week which is a figure I haven’t hit often before, but feel pretty good all things considered. Tired but not too tired to start anew on Monday.CheersAndy
Bulletin 5: 18th March
Another week, another update… After last Sunday’s run where I felt very low on energy I had thought it was just one of those days but on Monday I was feeling fairly under the weather so skipped Monday and Tuesday’s runs to make sure I got some proper rest was able to fully recover.A Piece of advice I read a while ago was that if you miss a run on a training plan then it’s missed. Don’t try to make it back up, just accept you missed it and move forward with the training plan. If you try to “catch up” by slotting in more runs then you’ll just end up getting over tired and probably do more harm than good. So I was happy to let the interval session I missed on Tuesday go but didn’t really want to leap straight into Thursday’s tempo session in case I was still not completely recovered. Therefore I added a short, gentle run into the schedule on Wednesday, just to make sure that the activity wasn’t going to knock me back to feeling rough again.Thankfully I felt fine during and after the run, so did Thursday’s 9 miles at tempo effort as planned. These tempo runs are starting to feel like proper training now. Keeping the effort going, running alone, often in the dark requires a lot mentally as well as physically. The good news is they really do pay dividends in terms of fitness! And I saw a barn owl 🙂
The rest of the week went without hitch with runs of 6, 10 and 10 miles planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was glad of the company of several Hares on Sunday’s run, although we did end up going a little further than planned it was nice to be running in the sun again!
Next week offers a real gem of an interval session – 3x2miles… Having done long intervals like that in the past I can’t say I’m necessarily looking forward to them, but I’ll be glad when they’er over. Don’t expect me to be haring (geddit?) off the front of the pack on Tuesday’s Froxfield run! Cheers, Andy
Bulletin 4: 10th March
There are only 7 weeks to go until London Marathon, here is the update on how things are going… This week’s training was going to be a bit of an unknown quantity, what with running the Imber Ultra (33 miles around Salisbury plain in incredibly windy conditions) with Moshe on Sunday I knew I’d be in need of a little rest. Normally after a run of that distance I’d take it very easy for the week following, with very little, if any running in the first few days. I took Monday off as I was feeling very stiff. However the training plan called for intervals on Tuesday and a tempo session on Thursday…Still feeling stiff on Tuesday I set off to attempt the intervals (6x1mile) but had told myself I’d just see how it felt and call it a day if I was too tired. Well, I started my first interval and held back a little on the pace but felt fine once I got going, so continued through the set feeling pretty strong and ended up feeling loads better that afternoon than I had been in the morning. Very reassuring to see the body adapt to the training!Thursday’s tempo run was a loop that Simon, Moshe and I had run back in January so I was (again) pleasantly suprised to see how my fitness has improved. There is one climb I got up a full 2 minutes faster than the first time around (both run in the dark in wintery conditions).Just when you think everything’s going swimmingly you go and have a run like today when I just felt like I was running on fumes. The crazy wind (two weekends in a row now) didn’t help, but I felt hungry after a few miles despite having eaten a good breakfast which is always a sure sign for me that something’s up. Thankfully I had good running company in Cat and Moshe to keep me going. I still cut 3 miles off the target for the day but I felt 13 miles in wind and rain was enough for today. Thankfully runs like this don’t happen too often, and I normally bounce back after a decent meal and making sure to stay well hydrated (something we should all be doing anyway).Overall this week has been a mixed bag. I’ve seen the benefits of the training and the negative impact trying to do too much too soon. But I’ve never before run a 45 mile week following an ultra on the Sunday! I’m definately seeing more of the good stuff than the bad, and I’m feeling more confident that this year’s running goals are in reach.
Bulletin 3: 3rd March
Another update on from the road to Marathon greatness: This week I took a slight detour from the training plan by following Monday to Thursday as normal then attempting a mini-taper before running the Imber Ultra with Moshe on Sunday. However, I ended up moving rocks most of the day on Saturday to build a new pond. Not the best prep for a 33 miler the following day!
I have been feeling pretty tired so tried to take this week little easier whilst still getting some good training sessions in my Something of Substance workouts. However after the tempo session on Thursday my legs were aching like mad and I was getting worried that Sunday’s run might finish me off.Thankfully I felt fresh on Sunday morning and was pleased to find I still had plenty left in the tank over the last 5 or so miles when I started to pass more and more people, and the last couple of miles were my fastest. Very reassuring to see the legs were still happy after so many miles and hours of running.This coming week my training changes slightly. Tuesday’s speed work becomes strength work – longer intervals at a slower (but still faster than marathon goal) pace. The first session is six(!) intervals of 1 mile, with a quarter mile recovery. If I make it out on Tuesday evening after that then don’t expect me to be leading the way! Cheers, Andy
Bulletin 2: 25th February
Another scintillating update from me below… This week started with an easy eight miles which felt pretty horrible for the first six! There must be something about Mondays that makes running so much harder… Somehow I ended up with a slight niggle in my knee – a sure sign I’ve been over reaching – so I’ve been trying to take it slightly easier, especially for the interval and tempo sessions which, if I’m honest, I’ve been running a bit too hard anyway. It’s gotten a little better but still there making itself known. Need to keep on taking it a little easier for next week I think!The speed and tempo work I’ve been doing are definitely making a difference, having run several sub-20 minute 5k’s within the interval sessions over the past several weeks (so no new PBs as there are gaps for recovery between the fast bits – I’ll explain on a Tuesday if anyone is confused). But its encouraging to see that a pace that is normally too fast for my legs is starting to feel manageable. Tempo runs are also getting easier to hold paces that I’ve never really run at before.I skipped Saturday’s easy 8 miler, and “replaced” it with a 17 mile cycle today… after the 15 mile long run. Needless to say stairs are hard work this evening.I’ve run 55.5 miles this week, a rather pleasing number I’m sure you’ll agree! and so far this year I’m up to 320 miles run, pretty much all of them coming from my marathon training plan! Cheers Andy
Bulletin 1: 18th February
There’s 10 weeks to go until London Marathon, which is not a lot of quality training time left! So far training has been going mostly to plan, however I am remembering what it’s like to have aching legs all the time – the downside to running five or six days a week is very little R&R time.
My running week generally looks like:
Monday – easy 6-8 miles (not always so easy after the long run on the weekend)
Tuesday – Intervals (plus, of course the Hares session)Wednesday – Rest day (and well needed by this point)Thursday – Tempo runFriday – easy 6-8 miles (not always so easy)Saturday – easy 6-10 milesSunday – Long run (though often not quite as long as you might think)Often the weekend runs are switched around, merged, extended, or the easy run gets dropped due to having a family and other things that get in the way of running, but I’ve stuck to the plan pretty well so far I think.If anyone’s interested I’m following the Hanson’s Marathon Method which I’m happy to talk about if you grab me on a Tuesday evening.