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).

Velvet snow

NFK_8106Weather forecasters cannot accurately predict the weather as far away as three months so, on the assumption that this cold spell will pass, it must be assumed that the London marathon (in April) will go ahead as planned. Now this presents me with a choice: to train in the snow, or to not train in the snow.

  • Training in the snow is hard work, and is not particularly conducive to good running form. However, it provides good resistance training, and the cold weather can be a good source of psychological training.
  • Not training in the snow is unlikely to have major implications for the marathon itself (unless the snow remains for a few weeks). It is also ‘easier’ and warmer.

However, the biggest factor in making up my mind is that this opportunity does not come around very often and it can be heaps of fun. So off I went with my camera…


This image shows a comparison of my mile splits from my two quickest 15 mile races. They are both run over the same course and the notes from my training diary for each are as follows:

Very undulating, ideal conditions, exposed. 3 large hills, twice.
Very undulating, very strong headwind up and down first hill, exposed. 3 large hills, twice.

The image will allow me to pick apart each mile, analysing where I could improve or what adjustments I need to make to my training. However, it also suggests that it is probably just as well that I don’t own a Garmin*

*other GPS devices exist

Paul Evans marathon Q&A

Tonight’s training run at the running club was taken by Paul Evans (former Chicago marathon winner) and Brendon Byrne (a UKA level 4 coach). It ended with a Q&A session, to which PE and BB made some interesting references. I have documented them here, as much for my own memory as for anything else.

Long run alone.

This was said in reference to the marathon being a mental challenge – and running the long run alone would help in this regard. I think there is much to be gained from running the long run alone, however, I am not sure this is necessary for every long run.

Tempo training = very good

The suggestion was that, after the long run, this was the best session of the week. I have always considered the tempo run to be important, but think it needs to be run alongside a more traditional interval session. The interval session would be used to increase speed, while the tempo run would be used to help maintain that speed over a longer distance (i.e. to develop speed endurance). The particular session he made reference to was 3*2 miles or 6*1 mile at about 10k or 5k pace, respectively.

Strength and conditioning is beneficial

The suggestion was that this is the one session PE would add to his schedule were he to write it again. But it wouldn’t take precedence over the long run, or the two other speed sessions.

Pasta party = bad

While the ‘loading’ of carbohydrates in the immediate days before the marathon is essential, there are many healthier sources of pasta than that which has been cooking for hours at marathon expos. However, make sure to book a restaurant for the night before the race, so as not to risk being left to wait hours for a table – 35 000 runners and their families is a lot for any city to accommodate.


At this point, I struggled to understand PE’s argument; having never trained or raced with gels, he claimed that they were essential for good marathon running. I would have liked to have pointed out that Steve Jones never took any gels, and no Brit has ever run quicker. Fortunately, somebody else raised a similar point, but the session was closed during the response.

Maybe I’ll go to the next session.

When the levee breaks

Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion
– Muhammed Ali, born 17/01/1941 – happy birthday

I like to think that I have a reasonably high pain threshold. Others may disagree, but I consider it one of the reasons that I have run many marathons. I often push myself to my apparent limits, and possibly cause myself injury and illness as a result. I do pay close attention to any pain, and try to detect whether or not I can continue to run, or if I must take time off. However, I have not had a day off work sick since I became a fully qualified teacher (5 years ago)*, and have not taken paracetamol or similar pain relieving medication since I went to secondary school.

I am not sure how this ‘tolerance’ developed, but I did go to a boarding school (although I didn’t board) where bullying was rife. We were exposed to some rather extreme acts and grew used to them. Alongside this, runners know that visits to the Doctor will often result in recommendations to stop running, so many avoid making the appointment in the first place. Some make the appointment, but choose not to follow any advice that includes ‘not running’. Others make the appointment, but don’t tell their Doctor they run and just hope for the best.

I tend to be in the first category, and usually avoid making the appointment with the Doctor. To date, I have recovered from any illness and injury myself; some would argue that I haven’t really been that ill. Others may suggest this is why I frequently seem to pick up colds – combined with the fact that I don’t give myself the opportunity to recover fully. Maybe I am just lucky.

Chris Finill, who has run every single London Marathon (ever) in under three hours and has sub three hour marathons in five different decades, was recently interviewed on MarahtonTalk (here). Despite all of this, the achievement he is most proud of is his recent Run Across America from San Francisco to New York (see here for the website).

There was one sequence in particular he refers to that really caught my attention. When describing his highs and lows, he describes his low as having to take a rest day. The pain he was in at the time meant that he couldn’t continue covering 40 miles every day so, naturally, he forced himself to take a day off. However, it is the events leading up to this that amazed me.

A physio had diagnosed his pain as a stress fracture, but Chris goes on to describe the following:

Physio: it’s a stress fracture, stop [the Run Across America]
CF: look I’ve been planning this trip for three years; you cannot tell me I’ve got to stop running
Physio: but it’s a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): I persuaded him it wasn’t a stress fracture
Physio: well, if you can walk on it without pain, maybe it isn’t a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): So I walked on it for 160 miles, and it then stopped hurting, so I started running on it again and within a week it was perfectly ok.

The only reason they didn’t xray it was because there wasn’t enough time.

So next time you think it hurts, think really carefully if it hurts and, if it does, does it hurt enough? Or at least walk on it for one hundred and sixty miles before deciding you’re going to quit.

*the benefits, or otherwise, of this may have to wait for another post.