It started with building a simple woodshed, well a log store really. I was just lowering the roof onto the walls when I felt my back go. It’s like breaking a mirror; when it happens, it happens and there’s no going back. I hobbled around at a ninety degree angle for two days, then it was just stiff and sore and then by the following weekend I was running again. I even ran a 10k road race, a bit ouchy and a good two minutes or more off a PB but OK.
However, in the days that followed, my right knee didn’t feel quite right, and progressively got worse, a pain either side of the kneecap. I followed normal runners’ protocol, ie ignore it. On Bonfire Night I was running with my local club on an evening run and chatting to a fellow runner while limping heavily (it can be done). My gait was by now so unnatural that several fellow runners urged me to stop and with reluctance I did, and hobbled home.
My foolproof method of evaluating my injury was to continue to run at weekly parkruns, where I could just amble round and see how my knee felt. Progressively worse was the answer. Then I went on the first of several development days for Run Leaders in Bristol. There was a super all-weather pitch with a firm and grippy surface where we tried out new exercise routines. And of course it wasn’t supposed to be competitive but during one of the team relay sessions, I was putting more and more effort into the super-grippy surface, ideal for fast intervals. And also ideal for putting maximum pressure on a knee strain. Suddenly my knee was on fire and I limped out, swearing under my breath and then not under my breath. “Flippity, flip, flip, flip” I exclaimed. I think that quote may have auto-corrected itself. I’m not after sympathy but I returned to the classroom feeling sick with pain.
This time I took three weeks out. And then returned to my frankly-idiotic practice of testing my knee at parkruns. Each week my knee twinged if I put any pressure on it, so I continued to run lopsided. So I did what I should have done earlier and went to see a physio. He twisted and prodded my knee in all directions and finally announced: “Your knee’s fine”. “Then why does it hurt??” I said. “Because that’s where your injury hurts” he said. “Your problem is your ridiculously tight hamstrings”. (They’ve always been bad, but I do stretch. Well, a bit. Well, sometimes).
So he gave me some exercises to do, and I did do them daily, sometimes twice daily, and on both sides / both legs, which is a bit boring. But not as boring as not running. And I started to improve almost immediately. I had fortnightly checkup sessions with the physio, including a memorable one where he declared that my hip flexors were also tight and needed loosening. “I’m afraid this is going to hurt a little” he said. It b****y did, until I learned that the best response is to relax into the treatment and not fight it by tensing the muscles.
The other things I did was some cross-training. I bought an exercise bike and cycled a few days a week, listening to podcasts. I also started swimming (hate swimming) and have really noticed my swimming fitness improve.
I think it’s been pretty much four months off injured, all told. Now I have to get my fitness back. People, including myself, usually say breezily: “Oh you’ll get your fitness back again in no time”. But going from 80-100 miles a month to a weekly 5k amble is bound to make a difference, and at the moment I think I’d struggle with a 10k. The nice bit is that I’m beginning to ramp up the mileage slowly and seeing my pace improve. And the woodshed looks good too.
First name out of the hat last night was Hilary Murgatroyd, followed by Rich Parry as reserve.
I had a read through some of my previous blogs on my marathon preparation and was conscious that I had so many great training runs and routes planned which all fell by the wayside mainly due to the weather.
So now that time is very much of the essence and with my longer runs restricted to the weekends it’s time to take real action – rain, hail or shine.
And these were exactly the conditions I ran in on Sunday. Starting from Hungerford at around 8.30am I ran through to Great Bedwyn, back towards town via Little Bedwyn and North Standen Farm, then round the marshes before a final loop round Charnham Park. All in I covered 18 miles. It was slow and muddy and I tripped and fell over on the marshes. Fortunately I landed on soft ground on my hip so no injuries to report.
Although my pace was slow I was keen to ensure I covered the 18 miles and still be back in time for a hot bath and an all-important appointment in front of the TV to watch Scotland take on France in the Six Nations. Splendid performance from the Scots!
However, I digress…. It had been several months since I had run 18 miles but when regular Hares training came round again on Tuesday, I felt absolutely fine and am clearly a bit fitter. I’m always at the back of the pack on the hills but I felt better able to keep up on the straights and downhill and my recorded pace was a lot better than it has been lately.
All in all I’m feeling a lot more confident and optimistic about the race and my plan is to spend the next couple of weeks getting up to the 24-mile mark then taper.
There’s still no word from the organisers about whether the race will still go ahead amid public health concerns around large gatherings due to Coronavirus. It was announced last week that the Paris Marathon, scheduled for 5th April has been postponed and there’s really no indication either way at the moment that London will follow suit.
If it goes ahead then great! If not then hopefully it will be a postponement rather than a full cancellation. Whatever happens I do understand that public health protection has to come first.
In the meantime. My next run will be a 20 miler on Sunday and I’ll let you know how it went next week.
Less than two months to go now so I’m now entering my peak training period. In my last update I was planning to hit the South West Coastal path in Devon but high winds made this unsafe. I did manage some shorter hillier runs which were good for building some core strength but not the greater distance run which I was really hoping for.
I was back out with the Hares on Tuesday on one of my favourite routes (Anvilles) and re-ran much of the route adding some extra distance in on Sunday. It made such a difference running in sunshine for what seems to have been the first time in months. I stuck to the roads, as all my usual long training routes along the canal are either flooded or too muddy just now. It was good to have built in more elevation on the roads but my distances are still below where I want them to be at this stage so I’m looking at other routes as I really need to start increasing my mileage.
There’s inevitably also some anxiety that this year’s London Marathon may not go ahead due to concerns over the spread of Coronavirus. The Paris Half-Marathon was cancelled this weekend and the Tokyo Marathon was restricted to elite runners only. The organisers of London say they are monitoring the situation and unlikely to make a decision until closer to the date of the event which is April 26th. In the meantime, all eyes will be on what will happen with the Paris Marathon which is due to take place on 5th April.
However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual. The decision over whether London will go ahead is out of my hands and the only thing I can do is prepare as best I can in the hope that the spread of the virus will recede allowing public events such as this to go ahead. However, I would completely understand should the decision be to cancel. Public health ultimately has to come first.
I’ll be back next week hopefully with an update on extended mileage and better weather!
Storms Ciara, Dennis, work commitments and a foot injury have conspired to keep my training mileage down this week but I’ve still been busy.
On 9th February, myself and a couple of hundred hardy souls descended on Newbury Racecourse for the half marathon, 10K and 5K races. Our chief opponent, Storm Ciara, certainly made her presence felt and I spent most of my sixth half-marathon race crouched into the wind with what felt like gravel being thrown into my face. What the race lacked in clement weather though was well and truly made up for in competitor camaraderie. A special shout out is due to my work colleague Jonathan Westlake who hailed a cheery and heart-felt “well done Hilary” – as he lapped me and went on the win the race in an incredible 1 hour 20 mins! For the record, I was 197th. Before learning the storm was on the way, I had been hoping for a PB as the course is nice and flat. I ended up staggering to the finishing line in my second worst time and (look away if you are squeamish) minus a toenail.
I also incurred a further injury to the same foot on the day (a bashed bunion) and given the London Marathon is inching closer I wasn’t keen to aggravate it so I have spent the week trying to rest it but otherwise keeping fit either swimming or through yoga. I’m back out with the club this week for our Kintbury run and our new intervals session on Thursdays which are proving popular. I’m also off to Devon at the weekend where I’m roughing it in a bothy without electricity. Weather permitting, I hope to get out and about on my beloved south west coastal path or I might retreat inland if it’s too windy.
In the meantime, I’m back to my regular routine of yoga on a Monday, Hares on a Tuesday, rest day Wednesday, Hares intervals on Thursdays, swimming on Fridays, rest day on Saturdays and long run on Sundays.
I’ll be back next week hopefully with some running tales from Devon. I’m still trying to figure out how to recharge my Garmin in a bothy. Answers on a postcard please?
A shot at running in the London Marathon should be a no-brainer for most runners but, for me it posed a conundrum!
Just two weeks before the draw for the club place, I had completed my first marathon in Bournemouth and was unsure if I could summon up the time and energy the training would require again so soon. I decided in the end to keep my name in the hat and let the decision be made for me. After all, the chances of me being picked were slim…….
Well, I was picked, and here we are, just under 11 weeks before race day. The calendar has moved into February and I have long since recovered from the initial shock of my against-the-odds selection.
Since the beginning of they year, I’ve been focussing on shorter, hillier routes as well as building up strength in my hips and thighs through targeted exercise and swimming. My legs have a tendency to stiffen up over longer distances so I’m hoping that earlier strengthening work will pay off as I get deeper into my training.
I’ve now started to build up my mileage adding two per week, starting last Sunday at 11 miles. This is the furthest I have run since last October and there are noticeable and obvious differences in marathon training during different seasons. The first being mud, lots of mud which turned Sunday’s run into, at times, a laborious, frustrating trudge. However, the cooler weather means I’m generally more comfortable and I’m not yet lugging around my Camelbak. The bulk of my training for the Bournemouth Marathon took place in the summer months and by the time I was up to 22 miles I was running later in the evening and into the night.
This weekend, I’m doing the first Newbury Racecourse Half Marathon and hoping to break the, to date, elusive two hour barrier. It’s my first race of the year and I’ll be back next week to let you know how it went.
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
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
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
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!
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
Bulletin2: 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.
of all, a huge bunch of thank yous! Thanks to the club for having the
ballot which allocated my entry to the Marathon after having my original
entry rejected. Thanks to various people for dragging me out, or
joining me for runs over the winter months to help me get trained for it
(you know who you are!) Thanks to all the people who’ve offered kind
words of support. And probably biggest thanks to everyone I’ve come
into contact over the last 4 months for not getting too annoyed when I
whinged about it all!
for the London Marathon was a lot more hit-and-miss than I’d envisaged,
trying to fit it around work, weather and other family commitments at
the other end of the country. At one stage, I was getting up at 5am on
dark January mornings to squeeze in training runs. (Anyone who knows me
well knows that I’m not an early morning person – 5am is a very alien
place to me!) The weather dealt a few blows to my training, with
snowfall leading to the cancellation of the Reading Half which was
supposed to be a stepping stone to longer distances. Minor injuries
played their part too, with minor calf strains coming and going –
usually appearing at the least convenient moment! However, a long list
of people did make the effort to go out on cold Sunday mornings or dark
weeknights in the lead up to the Marathon, helping me get the miles in
with good company. The only two lengthy runs I managed before the
Marathon were the Coombe to Overton 16 miler (cross-country through snow
and mud) and a 21 miler at 5am in the morning, (after an evening of
beer and curry!), around my home town of Hartlepool. That latter one
gave me a false sense of security, finishing it comfortably, feeling
strong and uninjured. 26 miles should be a doddle, surely…
the time came, the Marathon itself was a great experience. I was not
alone in doing it: Thomas, Simon and Billy’s other half were all entered
for the Marathon too and it was great to meet up with them either in
training, or in collecting my registration the Friday before the race,
or at the race itself. Race day involved another early start, zipping
down to Basingstoke to join Thomas and a platform full of excited
runners on the train to London. I was grateful for Thomas being there
as I had no idea where I was going but to be fair, just following the
crowds would probably have got me to the right place – the whole world
seemed to be going in the same direction! At Blackheath, we bumped into
Billy and Charlotte but there was barely time for a quick hello,
application of Esther’s suncream, trip to the lovely portaloos and then
before you knew it, it was time to get into the starting pens to begin
was in a different starting zone to me, so was on my own when the race
began. Barely after crossing the start line, I bumped into Simon and,
aiming for around the same sort of finish time (just under 4 hours),
decided to run together. We were sticking to the 4 hour pacemaker but
because of the sheer number of people, that was no easy feat. The
pacemaker seemed to cut through walls of slower runners like a hot knife
through butter but I found myself slowed a lot, then picking up the
pace to get by, then going slow, fast, slow, fast… Whenever I seemed to
get close to the pacemaker, a wall of people would appear in front of
me and in the blink of an eye, he’d be a hundred yards ahead.
what felt like the 7 or 8 mile mark, I lost sight of Simon who’d been
ahead of me before that and the pacemaker was getting beyond my reach. I
assumed he’d gone on ahead, while I was struggling to keep up. At mile
10, I was feeling overly tired and starting to realise a sub 4 hour
finish wasn’t on the cards. I managed to keep on 4 hour pace till about
mile 13 then, reluctantly, let the pacemaker out of my sights. By this
point it was very hot and I was breaking with my usual habits by
stopping at water stations and taking on water. I usually do without
but if anything, I was going too far the other direction, guzzling water
or energy drinks every few miles.
17 came and I was slowing dangerously to the point where I wasn’t sure I
could actually lift my knees enough to keep running and my arms were
too heavy to hold up. I was just about to grind to a halt when I saw
Billy in the crowd calling me and about to take a photo. So I decided
against giving in just there! However, barely a mile or so further, hit
a wall where I just couldn’t raise my knees anymore and rather
unceremoniously dropped back to alternating between walking and
running. My family, who’d been following me online with updates every
5K thought I’d dropped off a cliff when I didn’t pass the next
checkpoint and soon the phone in my pocket started bing’ing with
concerned messages, replied to with blurry selfies of a tired looking
lost Simon earlier, I caught up with Thomas near mile 20 and we both
had a similar problem – just unable to run. For the final 6 miles the
strategy changed to walk half a mile, run half a mile – sometimes less
of one and more of the other. In the final mile, turning your back on
the Thames and heading for the Mall, you get the sense of excitement at
being nearly there and I got a bit of a second wind. But while Thomas
had probably being taking it easy to keep with me for the previous 5
miles, it was his turn to struggle. It was telling that we’d had a few
other runners slow down to ask us if we were okay – think my wandering
diagonally back and forth across the road, staring glassy-eyed at some
invisible point on the horizon didn’t help!
then with a few hundred yards to go, it was the final race for the
line, crowds cheering (as they had been the whole way), medal, bag of
goodies, bag collection and a desperate desire for a lie down which we
duly did on the first available patch of grass! In the end, I think
Simon, Thomas and I all targeted a 4 hour finish but all struggled and
were the wrong side of 5 hours.
you haven’t done it before (as I hadn’t) it’s a big event. Unlike
other 5K, 10K, or even half marathons, the lead up and aftermath is a
big part of it. Hours after crossing the line, eating icecreams, Thomas
and I were still being congratulated by strangers on the streets of
London, still tirelessly clapping runners on and the whole route was
lined with well-wishing watchers. Even on the trains back home, kind
people offered to give up their seats for us on packed carriages and
miles from the event, you could feel it’s’ influence.
would I do it again?! At the time I crossed the line, I said
“never!”. 4 weeks on though, it niggles me that I never got it done
under 4 hours, so who knows… Possibly. Maybe. Definitely!
somehow through luck or through expert coaching (probably luck given
those options), I made it through the marathon!! And it felt like the
longest 4 hours of my life. Weirdly the first half felt quite good and
fairly comfortable which I didn’t really expect, but it started to get a
little more stressful at around 16 miles when my ankle decided it
wanted to make the experience even harder than it had to be, this
brought about the question of whether I’ll get under 4 hours or not. But
down to good support a very big crowd and dad talking all the way
round, we made it to 26 miles and the last .2 felt as good and as easy
as anything (the medal was a nice touch too). After we’d found Kev and
our support crew we headed straight for food and a pint (and then a few
more pints). I’d say it was (just about) worth the 5 months of getting
up early every weekend to run in the cold for 2-3 hours but not doing
another one any time soon!!
Marathon Training Week 14
Another full rest week was not what I had
planned but after seeing the physio on Monday he said it was the best
thing to do. Luckily there seems to be no permanent damage to the knee
(as it stands) but it does now mean I’ll have to go into the marathon
without the training I or Dad wanted to have behind me. Not a good
couple of weeks but hopefully will improve before the race
Marathon Training Week 13
Urm, this week didn’t go to plan this week
Saturday was bigged up to be the final ‘long’ run before the marathon, a
22mile route from Newbury to Hungerford (with a little loop in the
middle) and then back. However unfortunately as we got into Hungerford
(about 10 miles in) I felt something tightening and pulling in my knee I
spoke to Dad and after running on it for a mile and it starting to hurt
a lot worse I stopped and walked to Kev’s to get picked up. Dad’s going
to arrange a physio appointment for next week.
Marathon Training Week 12
As my birthday was the Monday of this week
and I had a family party on the Saturday I took an executive decision to
make this a rest week and not really run much at all (only to make sure
I’m well rested for next week of course). So unfortunately not much to
report on this week, other than convincing Dad and Kev to do a round of
Marathon Training Week 11
Finally Hares!!! Picked the wrong week with it being hills good to see people and have a sociable run. Then after last week I decided it’d be best not to do parkrun, so instead opted to cycle round while Kev and Dad run for 15 miles as a warm-up for Reading Half. As you could probably guess, I’m now going to talk about the half; I took 4 minutes off my PB and 10 minutes off last years Reading half, so very happy with that!! Hopefully see you lot on Tuesday. Marathon Training Week 10
No Hares again this week as Dad’s car decided to not work (technical term). So had to wait till Saturday for another attempt at parkrun, this time coming in at 20:17 (sounds good but I went on to regret that). As Dad was doing Bath half this week Kev decided he’d be urm? Nice? And take me out on the 16 miler from hell. Apparently using all your energy the day before a long run isn’t a good plan!
Marathon Training Week 9
Not much really happened in the week (with regard to running) this week so apparently had to make up for it at the weekend. Meaning
when I got home from work at half past 10 I got told I’m running up to
and back from parkrun the next morning on the plus side I did do a
Newbury course PB at 20:48! Then on to a very painful 10ish miles with Dad on the Sunday.
Marathon Training Week 8
This week started off with a cheeky 6 mile out and about run with hares, then I was told we’re properly pushing the mileage with a stupidly mountainous 20 miler around Welford, Kintbury and finished off down the canal towards Newbury (bloody stupid idea)
Marathon Training Week 7
I was away with my girlfriend this week I was very much hoping I could
get away without having to do a run; I was wrong. I was ‘strongly
encouraged’ by dad to do at least 13 miles in the week. My girlfriend
(knowing this) said she’d cycle alongside me as I ran, this was slightly
cute and fun sounding however involved us looking like muppets running
around Loughborough uni (did it in 1:48 so I suppose it was worth it in
the end (thank you Hannah)).
Marathon Training Week 5 & 6
week was very similar to last week’s efforts except this week we were
(finally) able to make it to hares on Tuesday for intervals, put way too
much effort in trying to race Lee after the 16 miles on Sunday and
ended up not being able to walk properly for the few days following
because of this I didn’t run again until the next Sunday when Dad, Kev
and I went for another 16 (slightly hillier) mile run which arguable
went even better as we did it a minute quicker.
In week 6 we couldn’t make it to hares so me and dad went for a run in Newbury and then didn’t run again until the week after.
Marathon Training Week 4
there were only two runs to talk about this week, and relatively slow
5k Tuesday night (as we couldn’t make it to hares again , then we were
supposed to up my 11 mile effort from the week before up to 14; this
didn’t quite go to plan as Kev brought some incredibly effective drugs
(torq gels ) and our mentality switched from “why are we here?” to “why
stop at 14??” Almost instantly and so pushed on for a 16 mile run in a
little over 2 hours, which can never be sniffed at onto intervals on
Marathon Training Week 3
week was a much greater improvement on last week’s efforts, on Tuesday
as dad had an ‘injured’ foot couldn’t make it to the club so did an easy
10k by myself, then on Thursday I was told to go for another 6-8mile
run by which was much faster and probably worth it in the end. Finally
after a 12 hour working day I was told to go to bed as I had an 11 mile
run on the following morning; the only positive to this being me getting
photographic evidence of Dad (and Kev) out for a run. I only signed up
for one run in April, not this “training” I’ve been told to do. On to
next week I suppose
Marathon Training Week 2
London now 14 weeks away (getting less and less excited, and much more
nervous) I was told I had to do three runs, obviously a great run with
you guys on Tuesday, college work prevented the second run and had to go
solo for an 8 miler on Saturday as Dad wimped out. My watch died on me
at 5.23km so to be perfectly honest I’ve got no idea whether or not it
was in fact 8 miles; but I know it was fairly close so hopefully that’ll
be good enough. I’m sure it’ll be another good run on Tuesday and a
horrible long run next weekend (as well as one or two ‘recovery’ runs).
Will try to get some photo evidence of Dad in ‘action’ to make it just a
little more worth it.
Marathon Training Week 1
15 weeks’ time I’ll be half way through my first marathon, and
hopefully all will be well and I won’t regret the lack of running in
this first week! Apparently “rest” has always been an important part of
my dad’s training plans, and I can see the benefit in that, however we
need to make sure we don’t take it to the extreme (for instance, Dad
needs to lose half a stone at least 🙂 ). Unfortunately we missed the
Hares run on Tuesday, so we forced ourselves to at least do 3 miles on
Wednesday. Very much a case of just getting out on the feet, as it was
the first run since the Hares Christmas run. (Note previous comment
about plenty of rest!). Kev and Dad did their stupid “lets run up Coombe
for a laugh” run on Saturday, fortunately I was working. Some good
news on the mileage front tho. Dad and I finished the week this morning
with a steady, but hilly, 7 miler in 59 mins. It hurt more than it
should, and I can safely say my training has properly started. Hopefully see you all Tuesday 🙂
I did it… it was much harder than I thought it would be, but the last
mile of my first Marathon was overwhelming as I ran through St Marks
Square and over 8 ramped bridges alongside the Grand Canal in Venice in
front of thousands of cheering spectators. The finish was very
emotional, full of elation and tears.
was very apprehensive as I travelled from Venice on the free bus to the
start at Stra, a small town 18 miles inland from the Italian coast. The
Marathon Village had a carnival atmosphere and an international flavour
with music and announcements in several languages. I met several
English competitors who put me at ease, but it was pretty obvious to me
that although the Venice Marathon had a charity billing, the vast
majority of the competitors were serious runners, looking to make PBs on
a flat open course that follows the Brenta Canal. This was confirmed
when I realised that I was in the 5th and last starting corral despite
predicting a time of just over 4 hrs to complete the course.
the 30th Venice Marathon, the organisation of the event was slick, the
bag collection was painless, toilet facilities plentiful and drinks
easily acquired. The hour before the run went quickly, with good luck
messages and following a raucous rendition of the Italian national
anthem we were all poised to start. The Italians clearly like good old
fashioned classical Rock as we passed the start with ACDC “highway to
hell” booming from the PA.
had become accustomed to an 18 degree high in Venice with a cool wind
ensuring we kept our jumpers on, but it soon became clear that inland,
with no wind and the sun beating down on wide tarmac roads that it felt
5 or 6 degrees warmer than 15/16 degree real temperature.
course follows the SR11 (A class road) to Venice meandering alongside
the Canal, so although 7,000 runners were unleashed in less than 10
minutes, finding space to run your own pace was never an issue. The
course passed through picturesque country side with the canal ever
present on the right and punctuated by ribbon towns like Dolo, Mira and
Oriago. The towns were lined with cheering supporters and kids reaching
out to touch your hand. Local bands boomed out classics like Motorheads
“Ace of Spades”, Deep Purples “Smoke on the Water” and softer rock
classics like Cyndi Laupers “time after time”.
I felt good, I tried to run a steady pace and regularly took on energy
foods and was carried easily by the amassed runners. Every 5km there
were drinking stations and water buckets. Deceived by the sun and heat,
at about the 8 mile point I was conscious I was getting hot, and for the
first time in my running career I used the supplied sponge in my bib
bag to douse myself with cold water from the buckets.
hit the mid way point, feeling good and on target at around 1hr 57mins,
as the countryside gave way to the Mestre urban area, part of the
Venice mainland. I then ran into my first difficult spell at miles 14 to
16 as the midday heat and high humidity took its toll. My pace slowed
dramatically and I stopped briefly to take on and shower myself in
mile 18 we passed into the San Giuliano Park where the official
Marathon Village was sited, with bands playing and spectators lining the
2 mile circular route around the park paths. My family were there as I
entered the park to cheer me and served to spur me on, out of the park
and onto the 2.5 mile long straight Via della Libertà (Freedom) bridge,
which is the only road bridge connecting the mainland to historic
steady climb brought on my second bad spell, where I succumbed to
walking as my legs tired, I recall an Italian girl competitor clapping
and encouraging me on and thanked her as I began running again. I pushed
hard, it hurt, there were no crowds or supporters, just me alone. In
the middle of the bridge an ambulance was attending to a runner who had
clearly collapsed. I was conscious of a cooling wind and the Venice
islands outlined ahead. I pushed on uplifted, knowing the end was in
sight and suddenly I had reached the historic city.
hit my third and worst wall at 22 miles, disappointed as we passed
through the ferry port and industrial areas to find no supporters. The
heat of the mainland was now replaced by a cooling wind and several
runners were falling by the way as cramp set in.
by short walking periods I pressed on and reached the edge of the Grand
Canal. The wind was strong now. The bridges between the islands had
been ramped to avoid climbing the steps. Even so the climb combined with
cooling legs were contributing to onset of cramp, runners were dropping
like flies, so I slowed my climbs to avoid the pain.
at 24 miles, just when I was seriously doubting if I could finish, I
saw the San Marco Campinale, a distinctive tower rising high above St
Marks square. Crowds were now alongside the canal side and cheering us
on. “go go John”, they shouted as if they knew me. The organisers know
the power of putting your name on you bib.
the Grand Canal as St Marks Square approaches is a 150m pontoon bridge,
specially erected just for the Marathon. As you come off the bridge the
crowds swell and become a sea as you run through St Marks Square
itself. The historic buildings surrounding the square almost smile at
you and suddenly you know the end is near.
St Marks Square and the finish is just over a kilometre of barriered
running lane, punctuated with 8 historic bridges, creating spectator
pinch points. As you climb each ramp, crowds press to the edge,
screaming encouragement, cameras and go pros pushed towards your face.
just kept going wondering whether the next will be the last before the
finish, then suddenly I climb a bridge and at the summit I see the
finish arch 300 yards ahead. I knew I was going to make it and could
feel emotions of elation and pride suddenly welling up inside me.
Embarrassingly I was shouting out loud “I ve done it”, Ive done it” and
threw my arms in the air as I ran the last 200 yards, the pain suddenly
suppressed. I saw the time above the arch 4 hrs 23 mins as I crossed the
organisers ushered me to one side and then after a few seconds of
reflection at what I had achieved, I felt the emotions well again and
tears run freely and I wept. After 4 months of training and lots of
support I had achieved something I had dreamed about for 5 years. It was
harder than I expected and a proud moment that I will always savour and
to all my family for their support, to Ronald my faithful canine
running mate and to my daughter who proudly posted on facebook “he only
bloody did it…” my first Marathon was the Venice Marathon – chip time
4hrs 17mins and 43 seconds.