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).

Training documents

In the last week, I have become Road Running Coordinator of my running club. There are a few things I want to work on in this role, but in the meantime, I have uploaded two new running files.

The first (here) is a beginner’s training schedule – designed to take someone who doesn’t run at all to being able to run for 30 minutes over a period of up to 8 weeks.

The second (here) contains marathon splits for different target times, broken down according to miles or km.

I hope you find them useful.

Playing catch up

For one reason and another, these last few weeks have not been very conducive to good training. Following illness during half term, work has now entered the busy season in the lead-up to Christmas.

There is much that I want to write about on the subject of work, what with a probable strike on the horizon, but I don’t want this to become political or to cause any unrest so will focus on running. Although politics and running combined earlier in the week when I became Road Running Coordinator at the running club, but that’s a story for another day to save me digressing once more.

Soon after the summer holidays (sometime in the middle of September), it became apparent that, this year, I have the opportunity to achieve something that I may not be able to do again in the future; there is a chance that I may run 2500 miles in a single year. That may not seem much of a surprise given that I ran from Paris to London (~220 miles) in April, but 2500 miles marks about 600 miles more than I have ever run in a single year. For comparison, my target was to hit 2000 miles, which I passed in October.

Unfortunately, illness and work commitments have combined to mean that this will now be hard work. I will need to average between 45 and 50 miles a week for the last 7 weeks of the year. However, that’s on a par with 2500 miles for the year anyway. The only difference being that I don’t have any more time to spare; every day, and every run, from here on in, matters. To be precise I need to run 270 miles in the next 41 days in order to achieve this.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too worried about such a challenge. But if, for example, I were to suffer a setback in the next few weeks, I could overcome that by ‘doing extra’ in the following weeks. But, the problem with such a strategy is that my primary target at present is training for a successful London Marathon in April – and overtraining in December could well put paid to any hopes of that.

It is precisely this prioritisation that I must focus on. The ultimate goal must not be sacrificed for secondary goals along the way. Which brings me nicely onto another of my secondary goals – I have now entered the Trail Marathon Wales.

April will show if playing catch up in such a fashion is foolilsh.


Many friends are aware that I am ‘up to something’ but, before I reveal all, I think it is necessary to explain some background information. This is also my first blog in a while, and will hopefully go some way to explaining my absence.

I first ran because I wanted to complete the London Marathon. I hadn’t previously been a fan of running, but was drawn by the challenge. To overcome the premise that life would be boring if it were easy, I strive on setting myself such challenges.

And 2010 was proving to be a great year for me. I finally achieved an, apparently elusive, sub 3-hour marathon and had also been promoted at work. I was on a high and everything was going well.

But the second half of the year proved to be more difficult. My Mother went into hospital for treatment to prevent cancer – she ended up being in and out of hospital for six months. The stress was clear on the family – who were involved in four car accidents within the space of one month. Fortunately there were no serious injuries, but all were probably a result of trying to do too much. And with a new job to contend with, I was struggling to train, let alone continue to chair the running club and be secretary for the County road running committee. My mileage was reduced to about 10% of where it had been previously.

I had to surrender my entry into the Jungfrau Marathon, finishing at the foot of the North face of the Eiger. And I also had to let a friend down whom I had offered to run with on the Original Mountain Marathon – an overnight affair where I would have had to carry enough kit for two days on difficult terrain over a distance of almost two marathons.

Then, just as it felt like things couldn’t get any worse, on Monday 15th November, my Grandmother died. Mum already had enough to contend with but, as an only child, she now needed our support more than ever. She pained herself to deal with the ‘necessities’ and the funeral was held two days later. While grieving, a phonecall was received on the Saturday to indicate that my Grandfather had suffered a heart attack. Then, on 22nd November, almost exactly one week to the hour after Grandma’s passing, my Grandfather died. They were both 91 years old and had lived good lives; they were married for 61 of them and apart for just one week.

It felt like the world was falling apart. I had been tremendously close to my grandparents and I was at an all-time low. I needed to do something to regain my focus.

Marathon training schedule

Having run a number of marathons, I was asked earlier in the year to devise a marathon training plan based on the Ryston Runners AC training sessions for Spring 2011. It was ready in August 2010 but, for one reason and another, I have not had time to upload it. With many people now talking about their spring marathons, now seems like an appropriate time to share it.

Feel free to use it, abuse it, adapt it, question it, criticise it, advise me how it could be better or simply ignore it. Either way, I take no responsibility for anyone’s failure to perform other than my own. Enjoy.


I will, however, leave you with one rule of thumb which was given to me before my first marathon: To get to the finish, first you must get to the start. Good luck.

Two fifty nine

I began running nearly nine years ago with the sole intention of completing  a marathon. Never shying away from a challenge, my target soon became the elusive 3 hour mark. The most recent attempt was an assault on Rotterdam.

After an extended period of consistent training, I had been refining it for the preceding months and racing well. However, in the weeks leading up to the race day, my legs hurt more than previously. I was unable to sleep the night before and, on the day, I felt sick when I woke up, wasn’t hungry and had to force a bowl of cereal in. Approaching the start line, my legs went to jelly; the only positive thought I could find was the fact I was as prepared as I had ever been and this time, I had experience on my side.

I knew exactly what I had to do. I just had to deliver.

At the start, I was caught up with slower runners and didn’t see the first or second km markers, so when I went through 3km in 14mins (more than 90secs off target), I thought “Don’t panic”. Fortunately, I didn’t and quickly found my target pace (4mins 09secs per km) and maintained it.

That was until 20km. I hadn’t even reached halfway when my quads started talking to me, politely telling me they didn’t want to go the distance. I tried to blank the negative thoughts, but monitored the situation. By 30km, they were shouting at me, willing me to give up. I ignored their call; giving up wasn’t an option, so I nursed them as much as possible giving them an extra 10secs every km as well as a splash of cold water.

At 32km, my calf seized as a result of subconsciously changing my stride to accommodate my quads, so I stopped momentarily to pour a cup of cold water on them and continued; the pain subsided. I started doing the maths on the run – I had close to 45 minutes to complete the final 10km, which feels like a walk in the park when fresh but, clearly, I wasn’t – I needed to average 4:30 per km.

This meant 4:15 for 5km followed by 4:45 for the final 5km, however I was on 4:30 by 36km – it was going to be touch and go. I crossed the 40km line (4:37 for the km) with less than 10 minutes to go. Then I remembered a marathon is longer than 42km, about 1 minute longer, so I had to pick up the pace – I had no choice. The 41st km took more than 5mins so I knew I was in trouble. I felt unable to pick up the pace and my quads were now screaming at me. With 1km to go, it was down to 4 mins, but I had no strength left. With 500m to go, I first caught sight of the finish line. It was now or maybe never again. I tried to kick and I felt like I was increasing the pace – in fact I felt like I was sprinting, despite my stride length being barely that of a brisk walk.

Eventually, I crossed the line. I glanced at my watch over the line and it was close. Very close. I thought I had probably done it. I didn’t actually stop my watch until 3 hrs 11 secs, so could not be sure. I needed to find out, but the only internet cafes I found in Amsterdam had a peculiar herbal smell. This was arguably the worst bit of all – the not knowing, but fortunately I received a message the next day with confirmation. Two hours fifty nine minutes and fifty eight seconds. One whole second to spare – I have rarely been known to make life easy for myself.