Ooh, there’s less than a month to go now til the London Marathon. Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Any (or indeed all) of those three are acceptable and quite understandable. I ran London for the first time last year. It was my ninth marathon and, although never terrified, I did alternate between excited and nervous in the run-up. After several unsuccessful ballot applications I’d worked really hard to get my Good For Age place, and I think I was worried I wouldn’t do it justice on the day. I really wanted to get another sub 4, but in the end I didn’t quite make it; you can read how it went here. I thought I’d only do London once, but when I realised my Good For Age was still valid for 2018 I couldn’t resist coming back on unfinished business!
To be honest, running the actual marathon was the least of my concerns as the big day approached last year. I was more worried about transport and logistics. Being a simple northern lass I am unused to the ways of the Big Smoke, so had to plan everything to the nth degree. I find I feel less nervous if I’m well organised. So here are my top tips for the VLM if you’re running it for the first time, and especially if you aren’t a local.
If you need to book transport and accommodation and haven’t done it yet, DO IT NOW! Otherwise there probably won’t be any hotel rooms left. And be prepared to pay upward of £150 for a Travelodge/Premier Inn room that would normally cost about a third of that. That’s just how it is I’m afraid. I must say, when I ran Paris and Berlin accommodation wasn’t the massive rip-off at marathon time that it seems to be in London. If you’re wondering whether to stay near the start or the finish, there’s no perfect solution. My advice would be to stay near a tube or railway station that makes your journey to the start as stress-free as possible. Last year I stayed at a Premier Inn near Cannon Street station, which was perfect. This year I’m going straight back up north afterwards, so I’m staying near Kings Cross, then I can pick up my bags and make a swift getaway when I’ve finished. And, of course, train tickets cost more the closer to travel time you buy them.
You might also want to consider booking somewhere to eat on Saturday evening in advance. Obviously there are no end of restaurants in London, but if you want Italian (for carb loading purposes) near your hotel at a particular time, I say you might as well find one and book it. One less thing to worry about.
You’ll need to pick up your bib number at the race expo at ExCeL before Sunday. This may sound obvious, but someone I know who’s running London for the first time this year recently asked me “When do they post out the numbers?”. They then had to change their train ticket to allow time to get to the expo before it closes on Saturday! So I’m just putting it out there to be on the safe side, because under no circumstances will you be able to pick it up on the day. The earlier in the week you visit, the less busy it will be. And while we’re on the subject of the expo, think very carefully about whether you really need to spend loads of time there looking at stuff, especially if you’re visiting on Saturday. It’s a fair schlep out there to start with, and you really need to be resting your legs as much as possible the day before. It’s great to browse all the lovely, shiny running kit, but think about why you’re there. Same with sightseeing; it’s tempting to do loads of walking around town, especially if you’re there with non-running family/friends, but you really shouldn’t if you want to be at your best on Sunday. Something to consider.
Make sure you know which start area you’re on and plan your journey there before the day itself. Trains and the Tube are free for runners, so it’s the obvious (and quickest) way to travel. And allow plenty of time to get there, as trains can get very crowded and it’s a bit of a walk from the stations to the start areas. When you get there, if you’re dropping a bag do that before you get in the toilet queue. I encountered several people last year who were in the loo queue with their bags when the final baggage call came; it’s quite a while before the start time. They then had to abandon the queue to drop their bags, then get back in it again! Bring an old fleece or jumper that you don’t mind throwing away to keep you warm before the start, then you can drop your bag straight away.
Don’t set off too fast! The whole atmosphere is really exciting, including seeing the elite start on the big screen, so the temptation to go for it like a greyhound is huge. Follow a pacer to keep you on track if it helps. If you don’t rein it in, you’ll really regret it later on. You should get to at least halfway feeling comfortable with your pace.
Don’t drink too much. It’s tempting to keep sipping at a drink when you’re hanging around in the start area just for something to do. From mile three there is a water point at every mile along the course, so there’s no need to overdo it before you set off. Unless it’s a really warm day you might not even need to drink at every station. Otherwise you’ll be slowed down by toilet stops!
People often say at races that ‘the crowd will get you round’. Nowhere is this more true than London! The crowds are huge, noisy and amazing, so there’s a wall of noise all along the course. Some people actually find this a bit oppressive, but I loved it. For this reason, don’t assume you’ll be able to see or hear your supporters en route. Last year my husband said I just ran straight past him at two separate points, even though he was shouting my name, simply because I couldn’t make him out amidst all the stuff going on! But at least there’s plenty to look at when you start to flag.
No matter how tired you are, enjoy that final stretch when you turn right at Buckingham Palace and run towards the finish line along the Mall. I deliberately slowed down last year to try and take it all in. Also: I was knackered! The crowds, the music, the commentary, the flags… it’s a unique experience that you might only have once in a lifetime. Don’t rush it, you’ve earned that big finish!
If you’re meeting people at the end, arrange a specific point to do that. There will be thousands of people milling about in the finish area, so it could take a while to find each other if you’re just randomly seeking each other out. You can’t totally rely on phone contact, as the network often gets overloaded with calls. There is an official meeting point, so make sure in advance you know where you’re going to be. Otherwise you might be like me and the OH the first time I did the Great North Run – wandering round for an hour and a half before you finally find each other!
Do you have any top tips for London? I’d love to hear them. Whatever you do, have a brilliant day!
I’m now halfway through my training plan for the London Marathon, so this seems a good time to take stock of where I am with my running at the moment.
After being injured for most of the second half of last year, I’ve only been back to what I’d term ‘proper’ running since I started marathon training on New Year’s Day (appropriately!). I usually follow an Asics Sub 4 plan, which has served me well in the past, and resulted in a sub 4 time twice; but coming back from injury I felt I should be a bit cautious and follow my beginner’s training plan, which is from Women’s Running magazine. However, I have been mixing things up a bit between the two. Possibly not the most scientific way to train, but it gives me options depending on how I’m feeling. I think it’s important to listen to your body when you’ve been injured to avoid a relapse, and bar the odd twinge I seem to be OK so far – fingers firmly crossed!
Despite turbo training, I definitely lost some cardio fitness and put on a few pounds while I was injured, so I’m trying to fix that in the run-up to London. I’ve done a few great events in January and February, which I think have definitely helped me to get a bit fitter and stronger; the Temple Newsam Ten, the Hardmoors Saltburn Half (a killer!) and the Harewood House Half – all hilly courses that I hope are building leg strength as well as fitness. I’m also paying a bit more attention to my diet, cutting out snacks and wine – well mostly anyway!
To help prevent my ankle injury returning as my mileage increases, I’ve invested in some super-cushiony road shoes – Hoka Claytons. They’re very different to my usual Brooks Pure Cadence in that they’re really bouncy, but they have a similarly small drop so have been easy to adapt to. I’ve always been put off maximal shoes in the past as I thought they’d make me look like an ageing Spice Girl(!), but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised at how light and comfy they feel. Hopefully they’ll serve me well though marathon training and London.
I don’t have any more events on the cards until the end of March, when I’m doing the Daffodil Dash, organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. This is a great event held at Temple Newsam, where you can choose to do up to four laps of the course, with four laps being marathon distance. I’ve taken the 20 mile (three lap) option, as my training plan has a three hour run on it that weekend anyway, so it seemed a great way to do that run off-road in beautiful surroundings with support en route. And last year there was a fab goody bag too!
If you’re training for a spring marathon I hope it’s going well. I’d like to have a crack sub 4 (Good For Age) again at London, especially as I didn’t quite manage it last year, finishing in 4:05; but as I’m not at my best it currently seems a bit optimistic. I guess I’ll just have to see how I feel in a few weeks’ time. Never say never!
Here are just some of the thoughts that passed through my mind during my 20 mile run on Sunday.
Do any of them sound familiar?
20 miles. I haven’t run that far since the York Marathon five months ago. Eek. But it’s meant to be slow today though. Ten minute miles. Three hours and twenty minutes. Eek!
They said it might rain. It doesn’t look like rain. Of course it won’t rain because I’ve brought my hat in case it rains.
Yeah, my legs feel OK today. Well maybe my calves are a bit tight. But that normally goes off after a couple of miles. I should probably have rolled them before I set off.
Right, so I’ll eat a bit of flapjack after about an hour and a half, then every half hour after that. Got to practice eating on the hoof for Race to the Stones. No gel because I’m only running slowly today.
My calves are still tight. There’s a bench over there. I’ll stop there and squeeze them a bit. Yeah, that’s better.
Oh, thanks for coming out when you weren’t supposed to, sun. When I’ve left my sunnies at home. Because it was supposed to be raining. Now I’ll be squinting for the next two and a half hours! I suppose I could put my rain hat on, but then I’d probably sweat to death.
Bloody hell, it’s really warm. I don’t remember the weatherman saying it was going to be this warm. He only mentioned the rain that isn’t actually happening. I’m so overdressed. Why is everyone wearing coats? Are they aliens or something?
Six miles in exactly an hour. That’s good. Only another two hours and twenty minutes to go. That’s hilarious!
Look at all these people walking to the shops. On a sunny day like this. They need to get a life.
Jesus, what makes some dog owners think I’d love it if their mutt jumps up at me. Yank the bloody thing in! It’s always the little yappy ones. Big dogs are so much more chilled.
Five miles, that’s a quarter.
Must slow down a bit. Train body to use fat as fuel. I always speed up in the middle bit, after I’ve warmed up and before I start to get tired.
It’s better now I’m out of town. Nice by the river. Blossom out, that’s pretty. Springtime.
Oh, there’s Neil on his bike. Haven’t seen him for ages. I’ll stop for a quick chat.
I’m boiling now. Sweating like a beast. But at least nothing’s chafing. Nice one, Shock Absorber.
What fraction of this run have I done now? Over half anyway. Soon be two thirds.
Fed up of flapjack. Should have brought something salty. What though? Peanuts? They were giving out peanuts at that race. Yeah, I might bring some peanuts next time.
How much drink have I got left? Hard to tell in the Camelbak. Feels quite light though.
There is virtually no wind today. Typical. I want a breeze!
Should I enter the Boston ballot for next year? I bet it would cost a fortune to go to Boston. Am I that bothered? What if I entered, booked flights and that and then got injured? Remember that time you spent the night before Manchester in the hotel loo and couldn’t run? Hmm.
Why is that woman running in a jacket? Is she training for the Marathon des Sables? Or just insane?!
I want a wee. I’ve clearly drunk too much. There’s some bushes. Just stop the Garmin for a mo…
What shall I have for lunch when I get back? Fish finger sarnie? No, you had that yesterday. What about eggs? Yeah, scrambled eggs. Eggs are good. On toast. Protein and carbs.
Feeling a bit tired now. Oh yeah? Well suck it up, because if this was Race to the Stones you wouldn’t even be a third of the way through it. Jesus! Yeah, but I’d be running slower and with walking breaks. But still. God, how will I ever cover 100K! How? It isn’t remotely possible! WHY THE HELL DID I ENTER THAT?
Why is the Garmin bleeping? Powering down? FFS, I must have forgotten to restart it after I stopped for that wee! How far back was that? Brilliant, that’s totally buggered up my route. Well I’m not stopping til the Garmin says 20. I’ll have to do a bit extra. Bollocks.
I’m knackered now. I wish I’d brought a gel. Why didn’t you bring an emergency gel? Idiot!
Why am I doing this? I’m 53 years old. I should be in a garden centre buying a Cath Kidston trowel or something. Or shopping. Or sitting outside a pub. This is the last time I’m ever training for a marathon. Probably.
How did I ever run 26.2 miles faster than this? Actually I did it twice. Hard to believe now. But it’s on the internet so it must be true. Unless it’s Fake News – haha!
I’d really rather be walking now. Shall I have a little walk? I could walk in an ultra. Yeah, but only up the hills. This isn’t a hill. And anyway, this is London training. For the road. No stopping. Yay, these traffic lights are against me! A few seconds rest. There is a God!
Nearly home. This bit’s downhill. Flying I am. Yeah, right!
Aren’t chairs great? I need milk. Cold chocolate milk… drink of champions.
Just a few of my long run thoughts. I love it really!
What do you think during a long run?
Ooh, it’s been a while since I blogged about running. What have I been up to recently? Well, I took it easy for a while after the Leeds Abbey Dash in November and also did some cross training during November and December – mostly turbo training on the bike, plus a bit more yoga than usual. I think it’s good to do this a couple of times a year to give the legs and feet a bit of a break from pounding out the miles. I also find it helps my running mojo to keep working; when I’ve had a break from ‘proper’ running I find I can’t wait to get back on it!
I’m now four weeks into my training schedule for the London Marathon. I’m following the Asics Sub 4 plan again, which has worked well for me both times I’ve used it in the past – for the Manchester Marathon in 2015 and York last year. I know some people think you should try different plans, but as I enjoy this one my view is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. I’m not massively bothered about running a PB at London, because having finally got in via Good For Age I really want to savour and enjoy the whole experience and not beat myself up if I find the pace slacking a bit from sub 4. Just as well really, as I came down with a stinking cold this last weekend and didn’t do any running at all! I was so excited to hear last week that Jo Pavey is doing London this year too. She’s such a hero and inspiration of mine that it really gave me a boost to know we’d be running in the same race – even though we’ll be miles apart!
A couple of weeks ago I ran the York Brass Monkey Half Marathon, which has become a bit of an annual tradition now. I’m never at my best form so early in the season, straight after the Christmas holidays (who is?!) but it’s a fab event that I love to take part in – and you always get a really useful long-sleeved technical top at the end. I was a few minutes off my PB at 1:53, but if nothing else the Monkey is always a good wake-up call! I’ve also entered the North Lincs Half in May, which I did last year and really enjoyed – not least because I ran sub 1:50 for the first time thanks to the brilliant pacers! Coming two weeks after London I hope the fact that I’ll have trained for a marathon and then recovered for two weeks will mean I have another shot at a PB. Oh, and they give you cake at the end!
My main goal for this year is going to be my biggest challenge yet – the Race to the Stones 100K in July. I’ve watched this event with interest over the past couple of years, not daring to enter. But then I thought to myself “Hell girl, you’re not getting any younger – if not now, then when?” and finally took the plunge! My training strategy for this (based on nothing more scientific than instinct!) will be to follow my marathon schedule until London and then (all being well) switch to the ultra training plan that’s on the Race to the Stones website. I’m also aiming to do more core work than usual to build strength, plus run up and down as many hills as possible. This can be a challenge living in York! I’m trying to enter one hilly event a month to help with training, the first being the Harewood House Half on 26th February. I did this two years ago and it was great fun.
I’ve been running a couple of times recently in the grounds of Temple Newsam House near Leeds and am planning to use the nearby Cleveland Way and Yorkshire Wolds Way for some training routes. I’ve also started walking the two miles to work and back instead of cycling, as I figure the more time I spend on my feet the better! And in June I’ve entered my first ever Hardmoors event, the Wainstones Marathon. I thought this would be a good dress rehearsal for RTTS – I hope it won’t put me off as it’s allegedly very hilly!
I’m really excited but also a bit scared about the prospect of running 100K – I just hope my poor old legs will hold out! What are your running plans for 2017? I’d love to hear about them.
Running your first marathon at York this Sunday? Starting to feel a bit nervous? Imagining you’re coming down with all sorts of ailments, aches and pains? Wishing you’d trained more and eaten less cake over the last few months? Don’t worry – this is all perfectly normal! It’s sometimes known as ‘maranoia’ or ‘tapermania’ and we all get it – even those of us who’ve been through this a few times. When I stood on the start line of my first marathon in 2013 I had no idea whether I’d make it to the finish; but I did, and you probably will too. Running your first marathon is a huge learning curve, and there are lots of things I know now that I wish I’d known then. It would have made things a bit easier, although running marathons never gets easy! So although I’d never claim to be an expert, I have a few tips that might help if you’re a first-timer. I’ve learned some of them the hard way, so maybe you won’t have to!
Hopefully your training has gone well, – but if you’re behind for any reason, don’t try to make up for it this week; it’s too late to reap any fitness gains now. The best thing you can do is just have a couple of short, gentle runs to keep your legs turning so you’re as fresh as possible on the day. If you have to readjust your time goal due to missed training, so be it – there will always be other marathons.
Eat a healthy diet this week to fuel your efforts. Personally I like to eat more protein, fruit and veg at the start of the week, then more carbs and less fibre in the last two or three days. I find if I eat too much fibrous stuff it can have (ahem) digestive repercussions, so I stick to very simple foods in the last couple of days, with no fruit other than bananas. I’ve only ever had the runner’s trots once, in Berlin, but I never want to go there again! But that’s just me – obviously everyone’s body is different. On a similar theme, keep off the booze if you want to perform at your best. The effects of alcohol can still be felt by your body a few days after drinking, so even if you don’t feel hungover it can still be making running harder than it needs to be. You can celebrate when you’ve crossed that finish line!
Get plenty of sleep. Most of us with busy lives never really get enough, but catching a few early nights this week will help your body to prepare for the effort ahead. You might not sleep well the night before the race if you’re nervous, so it’s good to get a few extra hours’ kip in the bank.
Sort out your race day logistics well in advance. The last thing you want on marathon morning is to be stressed by having to organise things at the very last minute. Make your transport arrangements, and if you’re planning to meet up with people at the race finish (which may be a bit chaotic) settle on an actual meeting point. Also, lay out all your kit the night before so you aren’t running around looking for things in the morning. Make a list if it helps. And don’t forget to fill in the back of your race number!
Carb loading the day before the marathon is important, but you don’t need to go crazy with it. It’s more about changing the composition of your meals than eating loads more than usual. Eating steadily throughout the day is better than having a massive pile of pasta for your evening meal. Here’s how I would normally prepare for a marathon food-wise.
Day before: toast or bagel for breakfast with peanut butter and Nutella; banana for elevenses; fish finger sandwich on white bread for lunch (nice, light protein); cake for afternoon snack, pasta with tomato sauce and just a bit of chicken for dinner and maybe a small pudding. This is certainly not a day when you want to be feeling hungry. If I feel I need an extra snack I like pretzels, as they are carby and salty, but not fatty. In general, just aim to eat plenty of carb-rich foods, but not to the point where you feel stuffed. I’ll also have an electrolyte drink at some point, especially if the weather forecast is warm, in order to try and prevent cramp, which I suffered from once in a marathon.
Marathon day: as soon as I get up I have a pint of electrolyte drink to get me well hydrated. My breakfast is always porridge with maple syrup, because I find porridge much easier to digest that wheat-based things. If I’m away from home I take instant porridge pots. I have breakfast at least two hours before the start, preferably a bit more, as I like to make sure I have plenty of time to visit the loo in a number two fashion(!) before I leave the house. If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ll appreciate how important this is! I also have a coffee. After my breakfast I don’t drink anything else until about ten minutes before the start of the race. I’ve found this is the best way to avoid having to stop for a wee en route. I think if you’re constantly sipping on drinks in the hour or so before the start you’ll need to stop and go to the loo at some point; but if you have a drink just before you set off you’ll sweat it out instead of storing it in your bladder. There’s always plenty of water on the course anyway. About an hour before the start I might have a very small snack like a tiny banana, depending on how I feel.
Having a fuelling strategy during the race is important if you’re going to avoid hitting the dreaded wall. Obviously everyone has their own favourite energy products, and you will hopefully have been practising with them in training. Your muscles can store enough fuel to keep them going for about an hour and a half, so you’re going to need to take on more energy before you run out. I like to start about an hour into the marathon. My favourite fuel is Clif Shot Bloks, mainly because I find them easier to carry and deal with on the run than gels. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to take on a gram of carb for every kilo of your body weight per hour. So, for example, if you weigh 65kg you’ll need to take on 65g of carb per hour. This sound boring, but it’s very effective. The first time I ever bothered to actually work out how much fuel I should be taking on during a marathon I took about ten minutes off my PB, so it’s definitely worth doing the maths! All energy products will tell you how much carb they contain on the pack. An important point to note is that taking extra gels etc is not a subsitute for lack of training. If you take on more stuff than your stomach can process you’ll just end up feeling sick.
Lastly, stick to your race plan. At the beginning of a marathon you should be both trained and rested, so you’ll feel great. It’s tempting to set off like a greyhound, but if you do you’ll pay for it later – as I did in the first York Marathon, when I ended up with a stitch at mile 18 that wouldn’t go away, meaning I had to jog/walk the last six miles. If you feel really good at about mile 24 – which, to be honest, is doubtful – feel free to go for it in the last couple of miles.
Please remember all of this isn’t gospel – it’s all just what works for me. What works for you may be different, but the above advice might be worth a go if you don’t have a clue – as I didn’t the first time I ran a marathon! I hope some of it has been helpful to first-timers anyway. Feel free to add your own top tips below. Best of luck if you’re running at York this Sunday – do come and say hi if you see me!
Yesterday I ran a sub 4 hour marathon for the first time. I say this not to show off, but because I surprised myself by doing it. Sure, I’ve been chasing this for a couple of years, but I really didn’t expect to do it this time at Manchester – not least because I’d had a cold last week! But somehow, yesterday was The Day It Finally All Went Right.
Regular readers will know that each time I’ve tried to do this before, something went wrong.
1. Manchester 2013 – going well, then got calf cramp at mile 23.
2. York 2013 – got a stitch at mile 18 that just wouldn’t go away.
3. Manchester 2014 – DNS, due to getting a tummy bug the day before.
4. Milton Keynes 2014 – just seemed to run out of steam on a very warm day.
5. Berlin 2014 – severe attack of runner’s trots, resulting in three loo stops!
6. York 2014 – only two weeks after Berlin, this was never meant to be a sub 4 attempt.
So it’s not for want of trying!
In the middle of last week I was wondering whether I should run at all. I came down with the cold on Tuesday and felt rubbish on Wednesday and Thursday. However, I took all the echinacea and vitamin C I felt I could handle and managed to get the worst of it over quite quickly. By Friday I was still pretty snotty, but feeling OK. Echinacea is wonderful stuff! On Saturday I ran for a slow couple of miles and decided to go for it – invoking the above/below the neck rule – but thinking I probably wouldn’t perform at my best.
Conditions on Sunday were perfect for marathon running – cold and dry with barely any wind. I decided to set off with the 3:58 pacer and see how things went. I reckoned if I started to feel bad I could just slow down and treat it as an ultra training run with some goodies at the end! Off we set, and after a few miles I was surprised at how well I was feeling. The course at Manchester is fantastic, nice and flat, and the crowd support is amazing almost all the way round, which really helps. There’s a bit of an incline up to Altrincham at halfway, but as that’s an out and back section you get the benefit of it going downhill on the other side. I always like to take advantage of a bit of downhill, so sped up a bit there and overtook the pacer. I reasoned that if I started to tire later on I’d have a few bonus seconds in reserve. But that was the last I saw of the pacer! I ploughed steadily on through the second half and have never enjoyed a marathon more. I actually found myself smiling to myself at times! But I still couldn’t allow myself to think sub 4 was achievable until I’d passed the point where I got cramp two years ago. Then I really started to enjoy myself, even when a strong head wind seemed to appear from nowhere for the last mile. I eventually finished in 3:55:39 and was stunned – that’s 11 minutes off my previous PB. All through my training I thought I’d be more than happy with 3:59:59, so this was a real bonus!
After I’d crossed the finish line a man touched me on the shoulder and said “Thanks for pacing me home over the last mile or so. I was following you because you looked really strong”. Me? Strong? I suddenly realised I had felt strong, much stronger than in any other marathon I’d ever done. Why was that? What had made the difference this time? I believe it was these things.
That’s all I can put it down to I think – although the perfect weather was certainly a bonus. Or maybe the running gods were just smiling on me yesterday. Either way I’m very happy, and am now officially Good For Age!
Manchester is a great event and a perfect course for a PB. There’s also fantastic crowd support along the route and a pretty good haul of swag at the end – they even do an extra small t-shirt that actually fits!
Highlights of the day:
In short, a pretty perfect day and one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. I think it goes to show you should never give up on your dreams and goals, but try to keep finding new ways of working towards them. Good luck with your running aims this year, whatever they are – I’d love to know.
Thank you Manchester, you were great!
It may seem a bit late for a post about running plans for the year when we’re already almost a month into it (Eek! Where did that go?) but it’s taken me until now to make my mind up about a couple of events.
My first event of 2015, the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York, has already been and gone, and I was quite pleased to get a PB there despite some tricky conditions; you can read my report on that here. I’ve now moved onto my training plan for the Manchester Marathon in April. Last year my training for Manchester went really well, then I got ill the night before, which was so frustrating; hopefully that won’t happen again! You may remember that just before Christmas I was selected to take part in the Runner’s World Asics Target 26.2 bootcamp for a chance to win a trip to the Paris Marathon; more on that here. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but I have decided to follow the Asics sub 4 hour marathon plan this time to see if it can finally get me there. Time will tell!
Along the way I’ve also entered a couple of other events just for fun. The first is the Harewood House Half on 8th February, a trail half marathon that will be the first off-road event I’ve ever done – should be interesting! I’ve been wanting to do some trail stuff for a while now, so this is the first step. Then later in February I’m doing my first ever ten mile event, the Snake Lane 10, which is a road race at Pocklington near York. I’m not really sure how to pace this – somewhere between 10K and half marathon speed I suppose! It’s a really popular event, so I’m looking forward to it.
Later in the year I’ve entered the For All Events York 10K in August, just because it’s in my home town and I’ve always done it, and also couldn’t resist the Yorkshire Marathon again in October. But the most exciting thing for me is that I’ve finally taken the plunge and entered my first ultra – the Calderdale Way Ultra in June. It’s just the short version (to ease myself in) but it does apparently have some big hills in it! I’ve been wanting to have a crack at an ultra for a while now, so can’t wait to see how it will go. Frankly I’m more worried about the navigation than the distance, but I guess that’s all part of the ultra experience isn’t it? I have no expectations here other than finishing within the time limit and having fun.
So those are my plans for the year so far. I’d love to hear about yours.
Did you enter this competition? I did. Did you expect to get any further? I didn’t. So when I got a call last week to say I’d been selected as one of the 50 runners to attend Asics 26.2 Bootcamp I nearly fell off my chair! Especially as I’d entered twice before and got nowhere. For those not familiar with Asics Target 26.2, it’s a competition in Runner’s World magazine with a prize that money just can’t buy – a VIP trip to the Paris Marathon with elite-style treatment along the way including top-level coaching, advice on physio, nutrition and psychology, lots of fab Asics kit and much more. The week between that phone call and Bootcamp Day seemed like the longest ever. I was filled with nervous excitement, not really knowing what to expect. What would the other runners in my group (sub 4) be like? Would they all be fitter and faster than me? All I knew was that there would be running on a track. A track! I hadn’t run on a track since I was about twelve – and that was a very long time ago!
I arrived at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, home of the famous Birchfield Harriers, to join the queue of runners waiting to register and was somewhat relieved that many of them looked as ‘normal’ as me and weren’t in fact all lithe, cheetah-like beings! We were all issued with a number and a special bootcamp Asics running top – a great souvenir. As number 26 I was momentarily tempted to tag .2 onto the end with a marker pen, but thought better of it!
Bootcamp began with the screening of a video showing the journey of this year’s 26.2 team, which was quite emotional and only served to make us all want the top prize even more than we already did! You can view the video here if you want to be inspired. We were also told that there had been a record 3,500 entries to the competition this year, and that we should feel proud just to have got this far.
We then split into our time category groups for the rest of the day. Everyone in our group seemed lovely and friendly, and in fact one of the best things about the day was that we could all talk about running as much as we liked without boring anyone! After gait analysis we had a session on strength work, stretching and injury prevention with top sports physio Sarah Connors, which was really useful and tested our balance quite a bit! Unfortunately our group’s track session was immediately after lunch, so we couldn’t really eat much. I usually like to leave a couple of hours between eating and running, so just nibbled on a sandwich, hoping they would still be there afterwards!
Meeting coaches Steve Smythe and Sam Murphy in the flesh after reading their pearls of wisdom in Runners World for years was great. And running on the track was brilliant – it felt much bouncier than Tarmac! After a warm-up the main part of our session was a 5K time trial, run as an interval session. Being an old bird, speed is not really my forte, so I was pleased to get a PB, as Steve predicted most of us would. Sadly I don’t have a record of it as we were running without watches, but it’s given me a new target to aim for at Parkrun. And luckily we were still able to snaffle a few leftover sarnies at the end!
The final part of the day was a Q&A session with elite Asics-sponsored ultra runner Holly Rush. Not only is Holly an amazing athlete, but she apparently loves pie and beer – top girl! It was a rare opportunity to put any questions we liked to a proper athlete in a friendly and informal setting. Holly was lovely and happy to discuss anything at all, so topics ranged from pork pie to poo and everything in between! After an amazing day it was then time to collect our fantastic goody bags and leave.
The next stage of the competition will see five runners from each time category put to the public vote later this week – eek! Although the final decision is apparently not based entirely on voting numbers. I’m not sure that any of us really know what the judges are looking for, we’ll just have to wait and hope! But whatever happens I’m sure we all feel grateful to have been involved in bootcamp. From a personal point of view I’d love to complete a sub 4 marathon mainly because it would be a Good For Age time for me, so I’d really feel I’d achieved something. I think with a bit of expert help I could make it! And Paris would be such a beautiful place to do it, as I have such happy memories of working there years ago. Thank you Runners World and Asics, bootcamp was a brilliant experience. I just wish we could all go to Paris!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Great North Run. I must do, I’ve run it four times! I love the big occasion, the running with top athletes even though I’m miles behind them, the Red Arrows, the Tyne Bridge, the amazing crowd support and the fantastic final mile along the sea front. What I don’t love is the super early start, the being penned up for ages before the gun and the long journey home. So this year, with the trip to Berlin only three weeks away, I decided to take the stress-free, low-key option of the inaugural Vale of York Half Marathon, being held at Sherburn Aero Club on the same day.
I’ve been very lucky with my Berlin Marathon training so far (touches wood). It’s pretty much gone to plan, apart from having a bit of a cold last weekend. I didn’t feel great, but as it was all ‘above the neck’ I went out and still managed to grind out 20 slow miles on Sunday 31st August. I blasted the cold with a three pronged attack of echinacea, vitamin C and green tea, so fortunately it didn’t last very long and it was pretty much business as usual. I didn’t taper for the Vale of York Half. I did consider it, but thought “Which is more important to you – a sub 4 at Berlin or a PB at the Vale of York?” and Berlin won hands down, so it was just a case of suck it and see how it goes yesterday.
Getting to the Vale of York couldn’t have been easier really – Sherburn-in-Elmet is less than half an hour’s drive from York and there was plenty of well-organised parking at the Aero Club. I’d allowed plenty of time because we had to pick up race numbers on the day and I wasn’t sure whether there would be queues, but it was all very fast and efficient. There could have been a few more portaloos, but isn’t that always the case?! The weather was perfect, fine and sunny but not too warm. With around 1,100 runners in the field there were enough people to make it feel like an event, but not so many that things got crowded. After a warm-up jog along the runway we were off just a few minutes after 9.30. There was even an impressive aerobatics display just after the gun went off – who needs those fancy Red Arrows?!
The course itself is fantastic for a serious PB attempt, pretty much flat all the way round except for going over a railway bridge on the way out and again on the way back. Almost all the roads were closed, which was great, and there were three water stations on the route. Being a very rural course there wasn’t much in the way of crowd support or atmosphere, but it was a beautiful day to just take in the countryside and get into the zone. I finished in 1:54, about a minute outside my PB, but wasn’t too disappointed as this event wasn’t a major target for me, more of a 13.1 mile threshold training run!
In our goody bags at the end were both a medal and a really nice technical t-shirt (and for once the small size wasn’t just a man’s small!) as well as a High 5 energy gel. I thought this was a really well-run event, especially as it was the first time it had been held, so well done to Race Best for their smooth organisation. The date of next year’s event has already been provisionally set as 6th September (GNR day again) and I for one will definitely be back.
It’s only three weeks until Berlin now (eek!) so I’m now beginning my taper. Time to run less, eat well, sleep lots and give up wine and cake! I’m kind of nervous and excited at the same time. I hope the weather will be as perfect as it was yesterday, but Children with Cancer have sent me a very fetching plastic rain poncho just in case! I hope everyone else’s autumn marathon training is going well.
If anyone would like to donate to my Children with Cancer charity page you can do so here.
It seems like ages since I’ve blogged – probably because it is! A combination of work and various domestic commitments has meant I haven’t had much free time recently, but I just want to post a few words about how my Berlin Marathon training is going.
I decided I needed a new training plan this time around. I’ve previously used the Women’s Running beginner plan for my first marathon (Manchester 2013), then their intermediate one for York (October 2013) and Milton Keynes (May 2014). I felt that if I pushed myself a bit more in training I might come closer to achieving my dream goal of four hours, which would be a Good For Age time. My current PB is 4:07, so I keep telling myself it must be possible! After considering several schedules I eventually settled on the Garmin intermediate plan and have been really enjoying it. Sunday runs start to get longer sooner than on previous schedules, and there is also more speed work. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up to it, but at just over the halfway point it seems to be going OK so far – fingers crossed, I never get complacent as I know that injury could strike at any time! Post-Milton Keynes I had a little niggle on the top of my left foot that a sports therapist diagnosed as a strained joint. After couple of weeks with just a few short recovery runs it went away and hasn’t reared its head again since, so I hope it stays that way! I’ve been going to Pilates for my core work as there is a class near me on a Monday, which is when my schedule says I should do core stuff. I must admit I do miss my previous Tuesday flow yoga class, but the Garmin plan usually has me doing speed work on a Tuesday and I don’t think my poor old legs could cope with both on the same day as the flow class is quite intense! I have an actual piece of the Berlin Wall on my desk to keep me motivated. My parents lived in Berlin in the 80s and snagged some bits of the wall when it came down.
Having said training is going OK, last Sunday I did the Run For All York 10K instead of a long run. I’ve done this event ever since it started in 2009 – my first ever race – and like to support it because it’s on my doorstep and the Jane Tomlinson Appeal is a great cause. I jogged the couple of miles to and from the start/finish to increase my mileage a bit, but it still wasn’t as much as I should have done. I guess it was a six mile threshold session though! I didn’t think I’d perform very well as I’d already done three speed sessions that week on the marathon schedule. It’s not a great course for a PB anyway, as it has lots of turns and is always pretty crowded, but it is a really scenic route, through the city and along the river. Anyway, I decided to go for it and see what happened, and surprised myself by coming in at 52:30, which isn’t a million miles away from my PB of 51:17, set at the Leeds Abbey Dash in 2012. I’m better at long and steady than short and fast!
The goody bag was great this year – not only was there a technical t-shirt and a medal, but also some Muscle Milk Protein (as yet unconsumed, so I cannot vouch for its undoubted power) and a Cadbury’s Double Decker. Don’t think I’ve had one of those since about 1980!
The marathon schedule has featured a welcome recovery week this week before things ramp up again next week for the start of Monster Month. Berlin is only seven weeks away on Sunday, a thought that fills me with excitement and nerves at the same time! Oh, and I almost forgot… a few weeks ago in a moment of madness I entered a Facebook competition run by York Sport to win a place in the Yorkshire Marathon. I never expected to win it, but did – and it’s only a fortnight after Berlin! What was I thinking? Now that one definitely won’t be an attempt on four hours, more like an attempt at staying upright!