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London Marathon 2020 – A Runner’s Diary!

First name out of the hat last night was Hilary Murgatroyd, followed by Rich Parry as reserve.

03/Feb-2020

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.


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Andy’s Diary – London Marathon 2019

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.

Andy

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. 

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Craig – London Marathon 2018

First 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! 

Training 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…

When 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 the race.

Thomas 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.

Around 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.

Mile 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 face!

Having 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!

And 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.

If 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.

So 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!

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Josh Parry – London Marathon 2017

The Final Blog

Well 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 Jäger-bombs!!

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

As 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

This 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

So 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 Tuesday.

Marathon Training Week 3

This 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

With 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

In 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 🙂

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Venice Marathon 2015

Well 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.   I 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.    Being 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.   I 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.    The 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”.   Mentally 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.   

  I 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 water.    At 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 Venice.    The 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.    I 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. Punctuated 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.    Then 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. Spanning 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. Between 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.  I 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 line.    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 never forget.   Thanks 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.   John