Tag Archives: training

Target 3hrs 10

There’s good, and there’s Good. I absolutely will not take anything away from anyone who runs a marathon (and that includes run-walk-run), but to be blunt there are times that are exceptional, times that are good, average and below average. Marathons are now very popular yet still you’re in less than 1% of the population if you’ve completed one. So, by that token, even an average effort is rather impressive.

It’s against this framework that most efforts are judged. Because friends and family are likely to be non-runners without the context and knowledge of age-gradings and suchlike, they base their judgements on what they might have heard other recreational runners achieve. Good news if all your friends have known is a 50 yr old retired fireman running a 5hr 30 effort for charity. Not so good news if you’re friends are also friends with top-end club runners and chaps like David Cartwright of Poole Runners (02:54:36 at age 63). Fortunately there are things like age gradings to help you understand whether these achievements stand relative to your age. There are also handicap systems like the runbritain rankings. So, whilst friends, family and colleagues happily applaud my 3:29:58 and I’m personally delighted with dropping my PB by nearly 30 minutes this year, I’m pretty aware that the (male) qualifying time for Boston is 3hrs 10 (18-34) or 3hrs 15 (35-39) and that London‘s ‘Good for Age‘ entry is reserved for 3.10 runners (under 40). What made me settle on this was seeing Nell McAndrew cross the line at London (just in front of Mr. Cartwright) in under 3hrs. A time that placed her in the top 40 women in the UK. She started with a 3hr 22 eight years ago at the age of 31.

> To see how my time compares to everyone else in the race, the ugly but v. interesting RunPix has the data

Whilst my two marathons were a year apart, I can’t honestly say I trained solidly in that year to get my time down. After 2011 I sat out most of the summer, a few short runs here and there and gradually built up to running distances around 12-13km. When I took on the Run Kingston (16mile) race in October I was under-trained and had a miserable final 6 miles to scrape in well over 2hrs. I then did a bit more to keep a base going and eventually started a 16 week plan following Jeff Gaudette’s Runkeeper 3hr 30 schedule for London 2012. With a few sessions missed thanks to injury, a ski holiday and the odd work-life-unbalance it wasn’t a perfect build up but as close to perfect as I’m likely to get. I might not have had ideal nutrition or done much in the way of stretching and strength (quite  contrast to last year when I religiously did both) but some of my splits in my training intervals were really surprising me. I was able to run pretty fast, comfortably. When I went out and did Asics Fleet pre-London Half Marathon in March I ran conservatively and intelligently and ducked comfortably under 1hr 40.

I have told too many people that I’m going to run a marathon every year until I’m 40 (and who’s to say I won’t carry on beyond) so I feel like I really should keep that up. Having said that, I suggested ‘never again’ to the reception party in Horse Guards’ Parade last sunday but a bit of time and perspective helps! Since watching Berlin from a hotel room in September last year and knowing how my friends have talked about it as a race (and a city) I think I’d really like to do that. It’s too late to enter for 2012 and, in any case I’ve got something else planned for this September anyway. So, 2013 it is which means 17-18 months of training to get that 3.10.

There’s precedent here though. My good friend Darren is a little older than me, very similar build, been running a little longer and has a (much) busier life –  but he has had some great success in recent years (using Jeff’s plan) to drop his marathon from the 3.30s-3.13.43 (Royal Shakespeare) to a PB of 3.07.05 in windy conditions in Rotterdam this year and is aiming to go sub 3 at some point soon.

To do this I want to draw a straight line between today’s PB and September 2013. I have some milestones to reach along the way and I need to methodically tick these off to achieve that goal. Milestones like gaining strength in the legs and my core, in improving my cadence (footfalls per minute) and general form (transitioning to a more mid-foot strike). With those ticked off I can continue to work on my aerobic capacity and my psychological strategies to ensure I can dig in for longer at faster paces.

With that in mind I have two races coming up. Sadly they’re not really compatible but I want to PB in both of them. The first is the LGN Inter-Advertising 5km race in Regent’s Park. This is a flat and easy course and it’s important to me to put in a good showing there in front of colleagues and peers. I can definitely shave a slice of my previous best of 22-ish minutes. The second however is the Great North Run. A race I’ve been bag-holder for twice and always been jealous of, it’s got a fantastic atmosphere, a reasonably straightforward (though not super-fast) course. It is only three days after the LGN 5km though so it probably means that it will have to take precedence and mean that my 5k PB could happen sooner in the year, at a parkrun for example.

I need to work out what the Great North should be run in. I think it should be a 90 minute race, based largely on the fact that the  McMillan pace calculator suggests a 3hr 10 marathoner should be capable of a 1hr 30.07 half (and a 19.29 5k). So, that’s the short term target. With the long summer evenings, warm weekends in the parks and towpaths and maybe a bit of trail running in the Surrey hills, it should be a good time to put the miles in. Added to the big goals of strength and speed, I want to run with others a bit more
Dare Run helps with this particularly as some of the lads have good 5k speed. I’m keen to hook up with some old rowing chums (James & Owen) too, both of whom have much better PBs than me.

And that’s it, for a little while. I’ll just quietly get on with it. If you want to follow my progress (!) then the usual Runkeeper, Endomondo and Garmin links are out there, as well as Twitter of course.

Just as I was wrapping this post up, Laurian (Dare and fellow VLM sub 4hr runner) posted a link to an article in a paper I detest, which  did draw attention to the fact that amongst certain middle-class aspirational circles that posting PBs and talking about your endurance feats is the new rat-race. It is actually alarmingly accurate and brings this post of mine wonderfully back down to earth. So thank-you, horrible paper, for making me realise that this might actually be pretty gauche to many of you. For that, I apologise!

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Marathon Lessons From The Past 16 Weeks

Opening Titles for the BBC Sport Coverage

I started my 16-week training journey on Boxing Day (26 December) and it culminates on race day on Sunday. Over that time I’ve run, read and eaten all I could to prepare myself for the day. I’ve done that whilst sporting a chronic tendonopathy in my knee, holding down a full-time job, commuting and coping with a bathroom renovation in a one-bathroom house. I’m not saying that this is amazing by any stretch – thousands run marathons each year and many do so with far more obstacles in their life – but frankly it is because my life is so ordinary, so middle-class, so typical that I thought I could share a few tips. It’s not arrogant to think that at some point friends and colleagues might attempt the same and might come to me for some help (as I did with others) so this is pre-emptive:

Start with a running base. I started a 16 week plan that already required the first Sunday run was about 30-40 minutes and even with slow progression in volume it built to an hour+ quite quickly. If you can’t yet run non-stop for 40 minutes or run for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week then that’s your first port of call before you start marathon training. So, if you’re doing London in 2012 then perhaps building your running base through November and December would be wise.

Budget-for and find a good sports rehab specialist. Plenty of places offer ‘physio’ and plenty offer ‘massage’. Look for a local person that understands your work obligations and – importantly – understands running. I’ve had 4 or so sessions of deep-tissue massage both preventative and curative at a cost of about £50 each time. Consider it a monthly cost for an otherwise stupidly cheap activity. Even if you don’t feel sore then have one anyway.

Listen to Marathon Talk. Honestly, as much as I read Sam’s book cover-to-cover, the weekly delivery of fresh news, genuine trials and tribulations of fellow runners and the sense of community that they build is inspiring. It reminds you on a run why you run. It’s a podcast but that doesn’t mean you need to own an iPod, see the Marathon Talk site for full details.

Run your long runs s..l..o..w..l..y, or at least easily. This was something I really struggled with. A siginificant reason for this was my obsession with logging each run on Nike+ & Runkeeper. By sharing the data on Facebook/Twitter it meant that I was reluctant to show slow times. This was stupid. Running 2-3 hours at close to marathon pace each week puts a lot of strain on your body for little gain. I got plenty of niggles in my calves, achilles and knees – so much so that I regularly missed my Monday runs in the middle parts of my training. Psychologically the feeling of extreme fatigue after those runs makes you fear them more too. If I’d treated them as easy sessions and run them at the 5’30″+ pace I should have done I’d have covered less miles on those sessions but more miles overall and progressively I would have seen more than the 400 metre improvement between my 11-week and 13-week 3hr runs. I ran my long runs alone or ahead of my wife but next time I would run with friends and talk along the way to keep the pace easy.

Sam’s training for beginners urges you to run to time in your long runs. That is, run for 3 hours rather than shoot for 21 miles. This was fine for me up until the final few weeks when I started to realise that three hours was not getting me (even at the faster pace) close to the 22 miles I really believe I should have covered on my longest of long runs. Her ‘experienced’ training programs do cover miles, I guess it’s fair to say that after 13 weeks I just didn’t feel like a beginner any more (and to some extent I never was).

It could be that post-event I find even more things that I’d like to talk about but I’m not going to promise an update, I’ll just leave this here nicely archived to link-to when someone asks me about it in future.

So, as the build-up continues, how about those of us running get all excited by the BBC’s wonderful opening title film to this year’s event.

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