The toys and the pram

I don’t usually describe my training runs in this much detail, but tonight’s went something like this:

I started off wanting to throw all of my toys out of the pram. I was lining them up, and they were teetering on the edge, but none had been projected at this stage.

I began discussing the reasons why, while JN listened carefully and reminded me that if I threw my toys out of the pram, I would only have to go and pick them up myself. Not wanting to do that, he helped me move them to a much safer position where there was a much smaller chance of them falling.

As the run progressed, one of the toys seemed to stand out from the crowd. It was somehow better than the rest; I probably wouldn’t mind picking it up.

So we spent the remainder of the session discussing the best strategies for throwing it. How far should I throw it? Where? When?

I knew the answer once the run was complete*.

So, if you want free fish and chips for lunch tomorrow (Saturday) and/or Chinese takeaway for dinner, let me know asap**. Seriously, I don’t like to see food go to waste.


*Thanks JN
**I’m only paying for one (it’s the rules), so am operating on a strictly first-come, first-served basis.

Sitting over here on Parchmann Farm

It was a typical Saturday morning, with a 6.30am rise for the scheduled long run. For the last six years*, the significant majority of the long runs have been completed in an area that is labelled as Thetford Forest on some maps, but is actually much closer to Swaffham. There are many different routes that can be run here, and it is possible to go for well over three hours without covering the same ground twice while being on the (tarmac) road for less than five minutes. Perfect marathon training.

Today’s run was the same as it had been for the last couple of weeks; a straightforward 90 minute route that forms the core part of the longer runs when the duration approaches 3 hours.

I had run off ahead of the group with CP and emerged from a wooded area to join a section of gravelled track. The track ‘dog-legs’ left but, as we joined it, I noticed a Land Rover parked up facing directly towards us. We turned left about 100m ahead of the vehicle and noticed that it had begun to move in our direction. Fortunately myself and CP are not the slowest of runners but, despite unfavourable driving conditions, we are both unable to outrun a vehicle.

Its path changed as we turned the corner and there was now no question that it was heading for us. Our heart-rates increased together with the speed of the accelerating driver. It felt like a cross between Duel** and a game of ‘chicken’. Realising that aiming for us was naïve (just ask Zeno), it made a beeline for our path and tried to intercept our run.

The vehicle stopped sharply a couple of metres from us. A young farmer wound down the window and started shouting “You’re not allowed to run here. It’s private. The signs say ‘keep out’. I saw you here the last few weeks. And there were some others too.”

I figured we weren’t going to win this argument at this moment and we couldn’t realistically continue, so I played dumb.

“Oh, sorry” I said “where should we have gone?”

A brief dialogue soon established where he wanted us to go; as far away from his game shoot as possible.

A quick retrace of our steps to inform the rest of the party that continuing along that route was unwise (for today) and that we should find an alternative. But not before I carefully examined his signage hypothesis.

There was not one sign from the direction we had run. All along the route he had described, there were no signs. Paths leading back to the track had no signs. The devil in me proceeded to investigate the far side of the track, where there was a single hand-made sign that read “private road”. There was not a single other reference elsewhere. And nothing implied the “keep out” that the farmer had suggested.

I look forward to running there again soon to see if the signs have changed. I suspect I will be disappointed, but at least I will have more ammunition for a future argument.

*more than 150 runs since summer 2007
**Steven Spielberg’s early film is highly recommended

2012 annual report

These images represent my year of running in 2012.

Distance Speed


Following my graphical analysis for the last two years (see 2010 and 2011), I have repeated the procedure for 2012.

Some key features that are not apparent from the graphics:

  • I recorded 19 days ill or injured (19 days were also recorded in 2011)
  • Each running day* averaged just over 10 miles (10m in 2011) at an average of 7 minutes 42 seconds per mile (8mins in 2011)

The year was relatively quiet, but I was particularly pleased with a two month period (22ndApril until 23rd June) when I raced three marathons and completed a 50 mile run – the furthest distance I have ever run in one go.

The data suggests that I achieved all of the targets I set myself last year (see targets), which basically focused on an overall increase of speed.

One aspect I would change would be to start marathon training at a later stage. I trained hard through the summer (July and August), but seemed to lose motivation through September. I therefore plan on starting training for my next marathon closer to the race date.

I have already entered four marathons for 2013 and am thinking about entering more, particularly mountain marathons. These are therefore my targets for the year ahead:

  • Increase the amount of hill training that I do (including races on the hills)
  • Try to make one session of each regular training week (excluding the long run) mountain or marathon related – e.g. hills, tempo, long intervals or similar
  • Make recovery a more focused part of my training – i.e. make a concerted effort to improve my eating and sleeping habits [I expect this to be harder than it sounds and am not yet sure how I quantify improved eating – all suggestions are appreciated]

Here goes…

*I ran twice a day on seven occasions

Endurance workshop

I recently attended a marathon training seminar held by Nick Anderson (NA), a level 4 UKA coach and nutritionist. He has worked with a number of elite athletes from 800m through to marathon distances. Here are some of his comments that caught my attention.

Training triangle

Training triangle

A successful training regime requires patience, planning and progression. However, consideration must also be given to rest and nutrition.

Food should be eaten regularly, before becoming hungry and, where necessary, by snacking. Becoming hungry and thirsty (signs of dehydration) can have a negative impact on training for the subsequent two days.

Between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night were recommended, but certainly more than 6. Professional athletes may sleep for more than 12 hours in any given day.

If rest or nutrition are inadequate, improving these will have a greater benefit on performance than changing a training regime. These can also be significant causes of illness, which will have an even greater impact on training – through an inability to do so.


The usefulness of training diaries was emphasised. My own training diary has evolved over time, and documents approximate distance, time, effort, trainers and ‘notes’. I don’t record all variables, such as weather, unless they had a particular impact on that run (e.g. blizzard conditions). I have kept this in Microsoft Excel for almost 10 years and it has been hosted online since 2011. Download it (from if you are interested and adapt it as you require*.

Heart rate

Regularly monitoring heart rate can help detect the imminent onset of illness so that adjustments can be made to my training. A slight increase (a couple of beats per minute, bpm) might be evidence of a hard training session, but a few bpm is more significant and a rest day would be advised. Adding this to my training diary is on my to-do list.

Wearing a heart rate monitor (HRM) would allow this to be monitored while training. I choose to compare my training to the large bank of similar previous runs, but a HRM would certainly make detecting performance changes more responsive (and provide me with more data).


In any marathon training schedule, the really crucial time period is between 9 and 4 weeks before the race. It takes about 10 days for a training session to have any impact**, but longer (4-6 weeks) for a sustained program to have a noticeable impact. These six weeks are where the training counts and must be marathon specific. I have been thinking about this fact for the last couple of years, after showing signs of fatigue (mental and physical), by trying to train ‘ahead of the curve’. Consequently I have been planning to adjust my training accordingly – by starting to focus from early February, rather than mid December.

Training should be done before breakfast where possible. If NA’s nutritional advice has been followed, enough food should have been eaten the day before, so a 90 minute run should be achievable. This has the benefit of training the body to burn fat, the reserves which the body has to use during a marathon, as opposed to glycogen, which is in short supply during endurance events.

I wonder if a variety of training times are preferable – before breakfast, after breakfast, or at other times. I wouldn’t dream of running a race without breakfast, so wouldn’t want running after breakfast to surprise my body.

Reference was made to Moses Kiptanui (past 3k, steeplechase and 5k World Record holder) who always trained to be in personal best (pb) shape for a 10 mile race. This would approximately replicate threshold pace, and an intention to be able to run well at around lactic threshold.

More specific training advice was in line with previous beliefs. This includes having three key marathon orientated training sessions per week. Sacrifice the club run if it’s not specific enough – adapt it to make it more suitable, or be selfish and avoid it altogether. Have an easy week every three or four weeks; a tapering week before a race counts as an easy week. Run a few strides at the end of a session to focus on maintaining form and technique when tired.

Cross train if injury prone. Work on core stability. Good basic exercises include 1-leg squats, press-ups and seated row.


Reference was made to current technique advice resulting in a reduced difference between heel and toe heights in trainers (towards barefoot technology). Lean forwards, so weight is on the middle of the foot (rather than the heel). This should result the foot landing underneath the body and not in front.


NA suggested that carbo-loading was unnecessary if his nutrition was adhered to… but he does have a product to sell.

*All suggestions and improvements are appreciated
**Nothing can be done to improve marathon performance in the last 10 days before a race

Thanks to HM for saving me from taking notes

Buying what I’m told

It is difficult for me to write about my next challenge at present.

The short story is I have been denied permission to take part. The long story is that obstacles are there to be overcome.

The somewhat longer story is that the details behind the significantly abridged versions make discussing the nature of the obstacle and the challenge itself rather difficult – some might suggest a challenge of its own.

Furthermore, I know that I will regret any excuse that I make in order to not take part. To this end, I have my first run specifically with the event in mind. It will give me opportunity to run in the hills, carrying kit and navigating.

Thanks in advance go to CV who will be supporting me on this.

Running up that hill

Those of you who followed my run from Paris to London from its conception until its completion will be aware that I used it as a focus during a difficult period. Ever since, I have been thinking about how I could find a new challenge, selecting something that would be sufficiently extraordinary to motivate me to a similar level.

Well, that selection has now been made…

In the meantime, if anyone is looking to join me on a mountain marathon as preparation, please let me know. Jungfrau, OMM and Saunders are possible additions to those I have already entered. All options will be considered.

Real Relay

On 7th July, I will be bringing the EnduranceLife Real Relay into Norfolk on its leg from Long Sutton to Clenchwarton.

Show your support, see the Real Relay baton, or join me for some of the run, as it follows the entire route of the Olympic Torch around the British Isles. All help and support is hugely appreciated.

The official Olympic Torch passes through during work hours when people will be at work or school; this is your chance to experience the relay. Stage 487 is approximately 10.5 miles, and is currently due to depart Long Sutton at 21.25*.

For further information visit

*precise times are to be confirmed as the relay is ‘in progress’

Zero point

Today, I completed my 2013 marathon race entry.

At the end of the process, I was offered the chance to purchase the product indicated, below [take a moment to read as much, or as little, of the detail as you would like].
I understand why people who run may be interested in using products which are marketed as burning fat. I also understand why people who run may be interested using products with a small number of calories (i.e. zero).

However, during marathon running, the body burns the fat in order to fuel itself. This, in turn, is topped up by any calories it can find. Therefore, taking a product which “burns more fat during exercise” and has “zero calorie intake” would reduce the fat available to the body and give it no energy.

It is arguable that this product could be of use during training – in order to help the body acclimatise, but I would suggest there are better methods of doing this.

This product does appear to also provide a source of magnesium. Endurance athletes can suffer from a lack of magnesium which is lost through sweating (or otherwise), but is widely available in green veg and whole grains among other foods. Furthermore consuming too much magnesium can also have negative effects*.

So, can anyone suggest any reason why a marathon runner ought to consider this product?

*we all know what happens if we eat too much green veg/whole grains… (and if you don’t, I am sure you can look it up on google)

Spring 2012 marathon training

Comparison Training breakdown

Training recently has, quite frankly, not been great. Four illnesses since the start of the year have taken their toll with the last two weeks finally allowing me to find some consistency, arguably too late.

Looking back at previous years’ training, it has certainly been worse, but not by much.
I initially wanted to pb and marathon significantly quicker than 3 hours. However, feelings in training mirror evidence of previous years and would suggest I will do well to marathon in under 3 hours 10 minutes.

This expectation has encouraged me to be more experimental with the taper – a part of training, which I think needs some work. This has included 4 speedwork sessions, of varying length and intensity, in one week. If all goes well, and with the benefit of experience, I suspect that 3 hours 10 minutes could be achievable, but I must be patient.

There, I have said it. Twice. Now to see what happens.
My evidence is indicated in the charts*, above.
Maybe the Marathon Prayer will help…

*For comparison, similar charts can be seen here (2010) and here (2011).

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