MK Marathon–The Final Push

The 20 miler. Its a long run by anyones standards, and I always find the number really quite daunting. No matter which way you split (4×5 miles, 3×6 and a bit) it never seems any shorter or more manageable. However, perhaps the most surprising thing about this past weekends 20 miler was that the plan only asked for 17!!

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As the final really big weeks come along ahead of MK Marathon (40-something days to go), to save having the long run hanging over my head throughout the weekend, I’ve managed to strike a deal to get it done and dusted on a Saturday morning.

I’ve also had a great idea to try and incorporate Stevenage ParkRun as well. Using all my local knowledge from a misspent youth growing up in Stevenage and the surrounding areas I searched for the shortest route between home and Stevenage ParkRun, heading down various alleyways and footpaths, but could only muster a shortest route of about 8.5 miles. Just a tad too far for the planned 17 miles. Getting Google to plot the route though, stick completely to main roads and 6.95 miles is the distance. So much for that local knowledge!

Setting off from home, it was a beautiful sunny morning, I noticed the daffodils, but my legs felt quite heavy and I thought I was in for a long day. Coasting through the outskirts of Stevenage though, time was going pretty much to plan – passing an Uncle but not having time to stop, so a quick wave, but it would the start of the ‘bumping’ into people for this run.

I was all set for arriving just before the 9am start (with perhaps a minute or 2 to spare). Then my local knowledge really kicked in, and I took a wrong turn! This ultimately meant I got to ParkRun a couple of minutes after the start. In the distance I could just see the tail-runners by the top of the lake. I plodded on regardless and at the 1KM marker I finally caught up with the tail runners, before then awkwardly making my way through the field for the next 2 laps. I think I also raised some eye brows when I took a gel at the start of the 2nd lap (is this a 1st for ParkRun?). I think strange looks were only diminished by the fact I had another 2 gels in my race belt and a bottle of Lucozade (which have strangely become a bit of a comfort blanket for me in recent runs!?!). It was also on this 2nd lap that I bumped into a lad that I used to play football with.

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Finishing ParkRun I had a quick scan of the crowds to try and see the only person I thought I’d actually meet today, but to no avail. I just assumed he wasn’t taking part today and so tried to pluck up the motivation to start the run home.

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Through Stevenage Old Town I bumped into my boss. I could tell I was feeling quite good as I commented I ‘only’ had 3 miles to go, and felt very much on the home straight. A little further up the road, I bumped into the same Uncle from earlier on, and stopped for a quick chat. I was then faced with a choice to take a scenic but slightly longer route or continue on the main road. I was feeling fairly good, so headed out onto Letchworth Greenway when I was overtaken by a work colleague on a bike who also stopped for a quick chat!

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Getting closer to home, I had a quandary. Finish on about 18 miles, or plump for the 20. Feeling good, I headed off on another loop. A few minutes later I wasn’t feeling quite as good though, started to regret that decision, but somehow managed to press on regardless!

20 miles done. Boom!

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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Bath Half 2017

What a difference a week makes. From a bad day out at Cambridge Half last week (with thoughts of giving up this running lark, mainly from Miles 2 to 8!) through to an magnificent day at Bath, and trying to hold off entering more events!

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The Early Miles

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With Cambridge having not gone to plan, I decided that I’d head out at about 8:40 minutes per mile pace, my confidence for trying to hit sub 1hr 50m well and truly shot to pieces. I’d then try to step up the pace towards the end of the race and just try and see an improvement on my time from last week and see some progress if nothing else.

The Bath course sees you run about 2.5 miles out onto 2 laps of an approximate 4 mile loop. The opening mile appeared to be downhill, and suddenly I was running 8 min miles. Still, go with the flow I thought, good to bag some time and I’ll slow down when the course levels off. Mile 2 seemed to start downhill too. Someone who was more switched on than me questioned whether we’d be running back up all of this on the way back (PS. This is all sounding quite dramatic, but it was almost flat, just slightly downhill overall – the reverse of an ‘upflat’ if you will).

A Downhill Half Marathon?

Mile 3 saw a short sharp climb before it then appeared to go downhill again. At this point my mind wondered if they’d somehow managed to create an overall downhill half marathon! My pace kept around the 8 min / mile mark and by mile 4 I decided that I’d just keep this pace going until half-way and then rethink what shape I was in.

The crowds were fantastic, particularly in and around the city centre – where the supporters were at least a couple deep in places. It had a real feel of a big city event, so hats off to the organisers and the people of Bath for coming out and supporting.

The Tougher 2nd Lap

The pace stayed on, but suddenly on the 2nd lap the short, sharp climbs on lap 1 were turning into slightly longer, slightly sharper climbs and the downhill sections seemed much flatter than before. At Mile 9 the legs really emptied and I struggled to keep them going (Mile 10 was my slowest mile of the day). Despite trying more and more, I just couldn’t speed up for the last couple of miles, and the finish line was hidden around a corner – I think I managed a sprint for about 50 meters, before then giving up and just coasting over the finish line – crossing the line in 1hr 47m 16s, some 7.5 minutes faster than last week (and my fastest half marathon for over 4 years).

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So What Changed This Week

Hmmm. I didn’t get cold before race which probably counted for a lot. I also ran 3 times in the week before the race, something that always helps.

I also wore my new trainers, so maybe there is something in that. It was also my 1st race in my Willen Hospice top – this could quickly turn into my favourite running top!!

In Summary

An outstanding event, that ran like clockwork. No queues for the baggage (indeed, there was literally no queue at all, either to drop off or pick up), plenty of toilets and the ‘Runners Village’ just reminded me of a festival. The course itself was great, either as a PB hunting ground, or for excellent support.

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The smallest gripe, and nothing to do with the race, was the parking situation. Getting parked was fine, but all the car parks seemed to restricted to 4 hours. Mind boggling really when you think about the number of people who’d happily be drinking coffees and having lunch post-race. Instead, once I’d finished, I jumped straight in the car and headed out-of-town for lunch and some coffee – can’t help but think Bath are missing out on something there.

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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Cambridge Half Marathon 2017

There is no such thing as a bad race, especially if you can learn something from it. Safe to say, Cambridge didn’t really go to plan and I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so reflecting on why.

Arriving at the Park + Ride in pure sunshine I dug out my sunglasses from my bag, and made the 1st mistake of day – leaving my gloves on the passenger seat of the car (Schoolboy error 1), convincing myself that the sun was coming out and the world would be a happy, sunny place. Once on the double decker bus, the sun disappeared and I took off my sunglasses.

Arriving at Midsummer Common I bumped into some FreedomTri club mates (and a work colleague who was also running) and started to regret leaving those gloves behind (note everyone the picture below with gloves, hats, warm clothes!). The wind had picked up, it was cold and the queue for the coffee stall was getting longer and longer. Leaving it as late as possible I stripped down to my running kit, and stood for the next half hour in shorts and t-shirt, bemoaning not bringing anything to wear before the start (Schoolboy error 2)

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The race got going and I felt pretty good. The first couple of miles were pretty busy and it took a while for the runners to thin out. But I was running a reasonable pace (I had no idea what shape I was in, and was hoping (ambitiously!) for a sub 1:45. I was working for a 1:48 and was hitting about these numbers for the 1st couple of miles). At Mile 3 I had a quick stop for a toilet break. Miles 4 to 8 though resulted in both my calves feeling really tight and my right foot suffering from pins and needles. These miles were really hard going, and the thought of giving up did cross my mind on a few occasions. It was during this period that my times tailed off quite badly and I made the mental decision to ease off, be disappointed in myself and just effectively turn this run into a training run.

By Mile 8 though the pins and needles suddenly disappeared, my calves felt better and I got talking to a couple of other runners and we managed to talk each other into pressing on (helped further by a nice tailwind for a couple of miles). These were an enjoyable few miles (well, except Mile 11 which seemed to drag on forever!). In the final mile another club mate overtook me, and so I jumped behind them and used them to pull me through the field (and ran the fasted mile of the day!- thanks John!!).

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Reflecting

So some silly mistakes:

  • These mistakes started in the week running up to the race. I only managed a single run and I know I run much better when running ‘regularly’.
  • Being cold before the start, complete lack of warm-up – very silly mistakes and a timely reminder to be better prepared – I wonder how much that contributed to the pins and needles and calves.
  • With lack of running, there was also a lack of stretching in the week of the race – another contribution to the calves?

The good bits – well, Mile 8 onwards saw me post 5 of my 6 fastest miles of the day, so I’ve evidently got some kind of fitness (although perhaps not 1:48 fitness! And what idiot was thinking of 1:45!!!). The medal is excellent and I had a great day chatting away to other runners, even if the race itself wasn’t quite what I had planned.

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I do feel a little like a Premiership football manager though, I’ve got the opportunity to bounce right back with Bath Half Marathon next week. I’m going back to basics and will be pacing for anything better than 1:54 and start to see improvements (hopefully!).

Oh, and I’ve got some new, go faster shoes for MK Marathon Smile

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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MK Marathon Week 6

This week ends on a cracker.

In all my marathons, this weeks long run is always a key training run – mentally, as much as physically, providing some proof that I’ll be capable of running the 26.2 miles come the big day. (Or, being able walk / crawl the last 10 miles if needs be).

This evening I’ve just completed a 16 mile run. Once I’ve got 16 miles under my belt in training, psychologically I feel capable of completing the marathon distance. I mentally work on the notion that I should now be able to run 18 to 20 miles in the worse case scenario and be able to walk/run the rest. I’m obviously hoping it doesn’t come to that – but this always marks a turning point in the training.

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The other reason this is a key session is because 10 miles are done at ‘marathon pace’. Getting in tonight and looking at the numbers this looks to have been about 9:20 minute miles pace. With some speed work and another 10 weeks of training, it looks like I might be getting close to a sub 4 hour marathon (indeed the last time I did this session with a sub 4 hour marathon, my splits were about 9:15 min / miles).

With all this good news though, I’m not going to lie – I wasn’t able to run another step once the 16 miles clocked over and ended up walking the last 0.5 mile home!!!

You also know marathon training is getting into serious distances when you have to leave a stash of nutrition on the drive. Which reminds me, I’ve left a gel out there…

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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MK Marathon–Weeks 4 and 5

Week 4

Regular readers might have noticed a lack of a blog post last week. Week 4 can be summed up as:

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Not entirely true though – I managed to get out for my 1st (and only to this point!) midweek medium long run – 8.5 miles on Wednesday night, and then the lurgy struck. I managed to force myself back out on Sunday evening for a 13.1 mile run.

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Week 5

A slight improvement this week.

The Work ‘beginners’ Run Club asked to be moved to Tuesday because of some other commitments on the Wednesday, so we headed out for 30 mins – which for me worked out to be about 2 miles, and I stopped to grab photos of some of the runners (sorry to those I didn’t catch!).

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Work commitments saw other lunch runs go by the way side. On Friday an overrunning morning meeting gave an opportunity to side step the run, but I forced myself out for a lovely 4 mile run in light snow (which doesn’t really show up in the photo).

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With the lack of midweek runs I suddenly turned into a weekend warrior. Last night saw me do a 6.5 mile run – and it was one of those runs that I hadn’t had for a very long time – everything felt great and I was actually quite disappointed for it to end.

And then this afternoon gave a rare opportunity to head out in the afternoon for my long run (as opposed to doing it at night). This meant I could go exploring the lovely Greenway that runs round the outskirts of the town I live in.

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With it being a trail, some parts were particularly muddy. But an enjoyable 15 miles, even if my legs started to feel yesterdays miles from around Mile 11.

Hopefully next week sees a little normality return to work, and some more spaced out and regular runs!

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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MK Training–Week 3–When Life Get in the Way

A pretty poor training week this week – life and work really got in the way and as such I only managed to get runs in at the weekend – hopefully next week sees some normality return!

Tonights long run was excellent though – 12.25 miles on a fairly undulating course, sticking close to heart rate zones and averaging 10 min / miles – continuing the significant progress mentioned last week. On the other hand, it was raining when I started, didn’t stop raining throughout, and I got back feeling like a drowned rat.

So with a lack of running, I thought I’d post of couple of things that help me get out the door to run – see if they inspire others.

FetchPoint (by FetchEveryone)

Running at night, and in a fairly rural town, means that my routes become quite limited due to a lack of street lighting on the roads connecting it to other towns. Something that helps overcome the boredom of running the same 2 or 3 routes over and over and over is… Fetch Point.

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In a nut-shell, you get docked points for bugs in your circle, and gain points for collecting the other items on the map. Its an excellent way to avoid route boredom, and also really confuse club-mates with random run routes being posted to Strava.

Running Heroes

This is a website that connects to your Strava / Garmin Connect site and tracks your running – and then gives you rewards / discount in return.

However on a weekly basis they also run a number of competitions to enter, normally with a mileage target to complete your entry (for example, run 3×3 miles in a week). Prizes range from clothing to race entries.

Anyway, this week I was lucky enough to win a place in the Vitality Bath Half Marathon!!

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

When the training starts to come good (or MK Marathon Week 2)

This is going to be a bit of a geeky, number based blog post. If your kind of thing, well grab a cuppa. If its not your kind of thing, well disappear and grab a cuppa.

Train Slow, Go Faster

I’m a firm believer in the train slow to go faster school of thinking when it comes to running and training. People who can write much better than me have explain the thinking (Lazy Girl Running, IronHolgs, Matt Fitzgerald, amongst lots of others). I first found out about it when reading, and then subsequently following the plans in, Advanced Marathoning.

I’m not a sports scientist and as such I can only give my own simple take on the theory. By doing lots of slow miles towards the start of training for an event, it makes your body more efficient, and as such by the end of this ‘base’ period, you’ll be running much more efficiently ahead of doing some fine tuning work. Also, by doing the slow session slowly, your body is also much more ready to do the hard sessions, well, really hard. (Rather than over-doing the easy stuff, and under-doing the ‘hard’ sessions).

Why Bring This Up Now?

So, I’ve been broadly building my base mileage up since the start of December, coupled with starting a new goal plan on TrainAsOne. Anyone who has done this will know how difficult this period is. People who are walking overtake you, runners you know go speeding past, and everyone on Strava / Twitter / Instagram are posting fantastic times. Anyway, yesterday afternoon some early signs of the training taking shape started to show.

If I compare 3 runs, over the same route, at roughly the same time of day in the past month, a really encouraging pattern is starting to emerge:

Date Avg Heart Rate Mins / Mile
22 Dec 153 11:07
5 Jan 154 10:21
20 Jan 151 9:46

So in just about 4-5 weeks, my speed at ~151 bpm has come down nearly 90 seconds. (FWIW, these runs are meant to be targeting 148 bpm). So a big hat tip to TrainAsOne for this.

Training This Past Week

Well, its gone pretty well but I’m afraid a lack of pictures – I will endeavour to improve!

Tuesday was the 2×8 min session at Tempo pace. This time round it felt much better, both intervals feeling good.
Wednesday saw some meeting scupper my attendance at the works run club session.
Thursday saw us bang out 10x30s intervals. The first 4 were fantastic, the next 4 were hardwork, and the last 2 were painful!
Friday was a lovely easy social run, with a big smile on my face as the numbers above started to show.

This evening saw a 10 mile run, which went very well. Although I’m still trying to get feeling back in my fingers and toes from the cold. Time for a hot chocolate…

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(Running late at night means options for photos are limited – here’s the only interesting thing I spotted on this evenings run!).

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

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