Category Archives: Rotterdam

Rotterdam Marathon: short review of training, injury, highs and lows – what I learnt in the process

I am a purely recreational runner – and not a particularly good one. I have no great expertise or knowledge so this is certainly not a ‘how to ..’ post – at best it might be a ‘how I ..’ review.

I ran the Rotterdam Marathon on 7th April 2019, aged 63. I’d run two previous marathons (London) in 1998 and 1999, just breaking 4 hours both times. After that I did relatively little in the way of sport until I started road cycling about 10 years ago so, if I’ve been anything it’s been a cyclist and very occasional runner to keep my wife company.

Our younger son ran the Brighton Marathon in 2017 – 4h 06m on a blistering hot day and he decided he wanted to run another to break the 4 hour barrier. He chose the Rotterdam Marathon because it was easy to get a place and it is said to be both a flat and fast course. Foolishly I decided to run it with him.

Training plan

I chose a 20 week plan because of my age, its simplicity and because of the fact that it had two rest days a week. I didn’t want to train more than 5 days a week. Also I knew I’d be unlikely to stick to it over Christmas – and I had nearly three weeks booked for skiing in January. I guessed that, on a longer plan, I’d be better able to cope with the occasional lapse or problem.

It required one long slow run, two normal runs, a session of speed work and a cross-training session per week. I stuck to it better than I’d expected (subject to the issues covered later) – but 20 weeks is a long time and I was certainly pretty weary of it all by the end. I think it was the right choice – but I’d have been attracted by something shorter if I’d been younger.

I ran what seemed to me to be a lot of miles (450 of them – 725km) in training. That was many more than I did for either the 1998 or 1999 marathons. Partly I was able to, being retired, but mainly it was fear that the day itself would be very painful if I didn’t train properly. I did 14 runs over 10 miles (16km) this time (I did only 4 when preparing for each of the previous marathons). My longest training run was 22 miles (35.5km) but I did two others of over 20 miles.

If I ran an average of 10 mins per mile, with the race itself, that’s about 80 hours of running on top of more than 50 hours of cross-training and time on the turbo trainer. You need to be committed to the project and a supportive partner/family will come in handy too.

Injuries and illness

I was very lucky not to be ill during the training and I didn’t get very injured either. The exception was Achilles tendon issues – they had begun to hurt every morning, even before I got to the start of the training. I guess that was just age related but I did aggravate the problem by doing calf raises with too much weight in the gym early on in the training.

Speed and endurance

I kept to the training plan quite well – except for the speed/hill work which I was sure would finish off my Achilles Tendons. Accordingly the endurance was OK but I was always off the pace for speed. The hope at the start had been to run sub 4 hours but it became clear that was not going to happen as I failed to run any significant distance at the required pace for that (5.41min per km or 9.09 per mile).

No doubt the lack of interval and speed sessions didn’t help – but I’m sure that was also down to age which shortens the stride, and a general lack of athletic ability.

Weight

I’m 5 feet 10 (just under 178cm) and when I’ve done silly cycling challenges in the past I’ve not found it too hard to get under 65kg (143 lbs). This time, my weight was more resistant and stuck around the 68-69kg for much of the training. eventually I got it down to nearer 66.5kg (147 lbs). I don’t know if that was due to putting on some muscle (unlikely as it’s hard to put on muscle as you get older) or me being less disciplined with the food intake. Happily, running is a less sensitive to extra weight than cycling up mountains.

General preparation

Marathon wisdom is that everything you do on the run itself should have been well tried and tested in advance. I tried to do that as far as possible but with a run abroad there is a limit – I did not know what breakfast would be available in the hotel and discovered that the energy drink served on the course was not available in the UK (so I stuck to water on the run). I took some breakfast oat bars, energy bars and gels with me to Rotterdam and stuck with them.

The weather throughout the training was pretty poor so I hadn’t tested warm weather running gear as well as I’d have liked. Right at the last minute, it turned on its head and we got a very warm day for the race itself, such that I got tan lines in just a few hours. I’d only worn the lycra shorts once in training – they were fine on the day but proper running shorts would have been a good idea if I’d been able to test them in advance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Rotterdam and the experience of running a marathon abroad but the travel does make things a little more complicated – not a reason to avoid a run abroad but certainly something to think about.

The run itself

I went out with the 4 hour pacers and kept with them beyond half way before dropping off the pace and finishing in 4h 11m. More importantly, our son beat his 4 hour target. We didn’t try to run together which was a good decision – it could have ruined both our runs.

It is important to remember to enjoy the day itself. If you train, and choose your marathon well, it should be a great experience and the crowds can make a big difference. You may be lucky (or gifted) and sail around without any problem but I guess that would put you in a small minority. Despite the training, I found a few miles around the 22-25 mile marks (35-40km) to be pretty tough. At this point a lot of it is in the head – it would be easy to give up but sheer bloody-mindedness is a useful attribute.

The future

I remember the ‘never again’ feeling at the toughest point in the run but now, a few days later, I haven’t ruled out another. Our older son would have run this time but for being a passenger in a motor accident last summer – if he decides to give a marathon a go, how could I resist the chance to run with him?

It would be great (ridiculous?) to see if I could go under 4 hours at 65 – perhaps there is an appropriate race late in 2020? The main factor will be the state of the Achilles’ – after 6 months of soreness every morning, I need to find a way to keep them happier.

So, I’ll carry on running which will be a good addition to getting back to cycling – and who knows, if the shoulder I hurt skiing gets back to 100%, perhaps I can improve my swimming enough to have a go at something more than a sprint triathlon?

This week

I went to the gym on Thursday – light weights and a 2km run (just over a mile). Strangely, I didn’t feel the need to do the other 40kms (25miles).

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Rotterdam Marathon 7 April 2019: denouemont

Rotterdam Marathon. Been there, done that, got the T shirt

Small Spoiler Alert: we survived the Rotterdam Marathon, despite the surprising heat.

After I completed the training, my wife and I drove to London on Thursday to make the trip to the channel tunnel shorter on Friday.

Alex, our younger son, came to the flat and we left at about 8.30am – the drive out of London to the M25 was a bit of an unknown but worked well. Even the M25 behaved reasonably (for those who don’t know it, the M25 is, allegedly, a motorway encircling London – sadly, with road works, accidents and volume of traffic it often makes a passible impersonation of an orbital car park).

Having made good time to the tunnel we were put on an earlier crossing and then appear to have been sneaked on to the train before that. It was helpful as the drive to Rotterdam involved a few slow bits but we still arrived late afternoon (their time). We unpacked and went to the marathon Expo where we registered and collected our bibs.

The textbooks say stay off your feet on the day before a marathon but none of us had ever been to Rotterdam before so we spent much of Saturday wandering round a really lovely city. It doesn’t have the quaint old buildings of Amsterdam (the city was largely flattened in WWII) but has a really nice relaxed feel to it and it seems to be full of hospitable and charming people. There were also a number of runs for children and a ‘city run’ in the centre of the city – they were great to watch and contributed to the ‘running festival’ feel of the whole weekend.

I have to disagree with the second part of Michael Caine’s (excellent) line in Goldmember when he said “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch”.

The Dutch are very nice people (my only complaint is that the indigenous Dutch are a bit too tall – reportedly the world’s tallest nation).

The weather had been forecast to be fairly cool – about 9℃ at the start and 13℃ at the finish (48 and 57℉) and that was how the weather was right up to Saturday. However, on Friday we’d started to receive messages from the organisers warning about very warm weather for the marathon itself on Sunday. Suddenly the temperature range had shifted to around 15℃ at the start and 20℃ at the finish (59 and 68℉). Not stupidly hot but way beyond anything we’d trained in.

After pasta for lunch and supper on Saturday we had a reasonably early night – I didn’t sleep particularly well (typical for the night before a marathon) but I was at least well rested by 7am when the alarm rang for breakfast, followed by another 45 minutes snooze before having to get up. The Marathon starts at a civilised 10am so we walked in to the city centre and found our starting pen very easily.

It was clear that the warm weather warnings were right and so we were pleased that we’d adjusted our clothing choices – I ran in lycra shorts and a fairly lightweight long sleeved running shirt (sleeves pushed up within a few miles).

Our wave was away by about 10.14 and I tucked in behind the 4 hour pacers (Alex went on ahead). The course is pretty flat – the ‘hills’ were really only the Erasmus Bridge (twice) and two underpasses – and I hit a fairly comfortable rhythm as the pacers did a great job taking us through the half way mark in exactly 2 hours.

The whole event was very well supported with good crowds all the way around and the usual array of bands and music. The whole event had a very good feel to it.

By just after half way I began to feel the pace a bit as that was a good 5 minutes faster than any half marathon distance I’d run throughout my training. The predictors available on the internet suggest that a 2:05 half marathon indicates a marathon of over 4:30 and although I hung on for another few kms I knew that I wasn’t going to run the second half in two hours in the increasing heat.

At around 28km (18 miles) the route went close to the finish area but then veered off for a loop towards the north east – that’s always a bit disheartening but I saw my wife just before that point which was really good and she was able to confirm that Alex was still running strongly about a kilometre ahead of me.

I never hit anything like ‘the wall’ – I had kept reasonably hydrated, had used the three gels I’d taken with me and and had made the most of the cooling sponges that were available – but it got harder from there. By 35km (c. 22 miles) I most certainly had a bit of the ‘running in treacle’ syndrome when the breathing is fine, none of the muscles hurts particularly but the legs simply don’t take you as fast as they did previously.

I resisted the temptation to walk (a surprising number were walking by now) and eventually everything improved and I felt reasonably good coming into the finish (but no, I did not manage anything resembling a sprint to the line). What I did manage in just a few hours was tan lines on my legs and arms – it was much warmer than expected.

So, I hit my C goal of a safe marathon, running all the way. I hit my B goal of going under 4:30 and managed a time of 4hours 11minutes which was inside my A goal of 4:15. In the male 60+ category I came 98th out of 326. I was inside the top half of finishers too.

More significantly, our son Alex ran sub 4 hours (a finely judged 3:58) – which was the most important goal of the whole weekend.

Apart from the usual transient twinges while running, I had relatively few problems (other than the distance and the heat) but the Achilles tendons were very unhappy as soon as I stopped running.

We met up and walked back to the hotel (as a cool down) and found a lovely little restaurant in a (happily nearby) back street alongside a canal where we sat outside for supper.

The knees were a little sore that night but by Monday morning both Alex and I were surprisingly mobile – and my Achilles’ were probably better than most mornings over the last 5 months, which is quite beyond me. I drove us back to London by mid afternoon, in cool weather (both in the UK and Holland) that would have been very suitable for running a marathon!

So, a really excellent experience and a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend. I’d certainly recommend the Rotterdam Marathon to anyone.

I’m sure I’ll reflect on it all over the next few days – in the meantime, remind me what I used to do before marathon training …

Marathon training week 19.5/20: Run, run, run – training complete. Apparently, I now have to run a marathon.

Next stop Rotterdam

That’s it for the training. Three runs this week: Monday, Tuesday (with gloves, hat and stinging hailstones) and Wednesday (wait for the hailstones to finish, go out and get caught in more of them).

In all, only 10 miles (16km) but getting faster – Tuesday’s was a p.b. at 5.23 per km (8.37 per mile). Wednesday’s was faster still at 5.13 per km (8.24 per mile).

I seem to have managed not to twist an ankle, break a leg, pull a muscle or tear a cartilage in these last few days so it’s off to Rotterdam to see what awaits on the run itself.

It feels like I’ve done a lot of training over the 20 weeks – exactly 450 miles of running (a pleasingly round number) with – I think – 14 runs over 10 miles, including 3 over 20 miles. I have missed out on what would have been really helpful interval and hill sessions because I’m pretty sure my Achilles tendons would not have been able to withstand the extra stresses those would have caused. If I’d have done them I might now be more hopeful of a decent time – but I’d have risked not being able to run at all.

I’ve been a little tempted to go out for one more longer run – but I appreciate that is likely to be counter-productive so I’ll resist. Instead I’ll just go through the normal process of worrying if I’ve done enough training. Happily there are plenty of other things to agonise over too – what do I wear, what do I eat the night before, what do I have for breakfast, what do I eat on the run, do I try to go with the 4 hour pacemaker? It’s an angst-fest.

The rest of the preparation hasn’t been too difficult so far – I don’t drink alcohol Monday to Thursday (and will go very easy on Friday and Saturday this week, if I have any at all) and eat a lot of fruit and vegetables anyway. I’ve cut down on the coffee a little in favour of water and green tea and always sleep more than 8 hours so I’ve not had to change too much.

Without trying to diet, my weight is down to 66.5kg (a fraction under 147 pounds, 10.5 stone) but I won’t track that from here – it’s more important to eat the right stuff in the last few days than think about weight.

The weather forecasts started to to converge and are now diverging again. On average, Sunday in Rotterdam looks likely to be dry, not too windy and reasonably cool – perhaps around 9℃ (48℉) at the start, warming to about 13℃ (55℉) by a likely finish time. I’ll settle for that.

Although I’m now running faster, it’s over short distances and I don’t see any reason to assume I can now run under 4 hours (I think 4 hours would be my qualifying time for this year’s Chicago Marathon so it’s not surprising that it’s tough). Conventional wisdom says a sub 4 hour marathoner should post a 1h 50 half in the training – my best has been 2h 05.

For me, the most important outcome from the marathon is for my son, Alex, to break 4 hours.

After that, in ascending order of ambition, my targets are to get around:

  • safely, running all the way
  • sub 4h 30min
  • sub 4h 15min.
Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
18 (New York) 20m (31km)   4:00
19 19m (30km)   1:00
19.5 10m (16km)    
‘Running’ totals 450m  (724km)   290m (466km)   56:00

Marathon training 19/20: Run, walk, run, run, run. Well into the taper and neurosis sets in.

The Thames, not looking its best on a cool and dull Sunday morning, from the Thames Path near Craven Cottage (the home of Fulham Football Club). Hammersmith Bridge in the background. By the light blue bibs they were wearing, I’m wondering if the rowing 8 were one of the Cambridge ladies’ crews practising for next week’s boat race.

My marathon entry confirmation has arrived and will get me my bib. Eerily, I entered from here in Oxfordshire, my son signed up from London – and our start numbers are within 5 of each other.

On Monday I did the long slow run from week 18 that I couldn’t get myself motivated for the previous day. I did 13.22m (21.3km). That’s the last training run over 10 miles. It was OK and felt quicker but it wasn’t much faster and was still too slow to suggest that I can go sub-4 hours.

The week 19 runs ware 3×3 miles and an 8 miler. It all seemed quite appealing and easy but I woke on Tuesday with painful Achilles tendons and some tightness in the calf muscles (I wonder if that’s a cause of the Achilles issue or a result of it?).

Does that mean I should stop now to avoid making it worse for the marathon itself? Based on previous experience I don’t need to do that but I’ll keep it up my sleeve as a last resort if they don’t get better. Yet more stretching needed, I guess.

I spent the morning hobbling around at a local infant school helping to run a ‘balanceability’ session. That’s starting to ride on bikes with no pedals, which is the new method of learning to ride properly – steady wheels are very outdated, apparently. The children were 3 year-olds, and it was good fun as they enjoyed it so much and put such effort into it. My wife and I walked for an hour in the afternoon in very pleasant early spring sunshine.

I did the final long run on Wednesday afternoon – my normal 8 miler. To my surprise, I managed my best time (just one sec/km inside sub 4hour pace) which is encouraging – but I had to push pretty hard to do it and it was just less than one third marathon distance.

I read that a key difference in running as you get older is a shortening stride length – I guess that’s down to the strength and spring in pushing off the ground. Any spring I might have ever had has certainly sprung.

Thursday I did 3.3miles (5.3km) at a very similar pace – wearing lycra shorts and no compression top beneath the running shirt … for the first time in the whole of the training! I did the same run on Friday, 11 sec/km faster (although the Garmin recorded it as being further so that might account for some of the apparent speed).

The main problem now is neurosis about even the slightest twinge while running. I’m sure that I’m not alone in having a broad range of pains (knees, feet, ankles, quads, thighs, calves, hips, etc) that come and go whenever I run. Normally I ignore them but now I find myself wondering which of them will develop into something serious that stops me running in the marathon.

Time to get a grip.

We went up to London on Friday afternoon for three social meals over the weekend. I ran along the Thames Path Sunday morning which was delightful – 6.7km (4 miles) @5.27 per km. It had turned cool again after a warmer end to the week but I ran with a short sleeved top for the first time in all the marathon training over the last 6 months.

A bit more food discipline this week and I managed to get down from a post New York high of 68.5kg. Weight isn’t the most important factor now but every little helps. The week ended with me around 67kg (about 148 pounds).

I’ve rejigged the mileage chart from the previous post to put Monday’s run into week 18, where it should have been – it’s only one day’s difference but looks more sensible in relation to the taper.

At the start of the week I (foolishly) looked at weather forecasts for Rotterdam for the marathon. It did not look very good: fairly cold and quite possibly wet, with a stiff breeze. One forecast even mentioned snow. By the end of the week the consensus was for slightly milder weather and a reduced possibility of rain. Oh well, plenty of time for that to change again (for better or worse).

Looking on the bright side, at least my lack of warm weather training isn’t going to be an issue.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
18 (New York) 20m (31.2km)   4:00
19 19m (30km)   1:00
‘Running’ totals 440m (707km)   290m (466km)   56:00

Marathon training 17/20: run, run, turbo, run. Blown away (sadly, by the wind and not the quality of the running).

Some signs of spring but it’s still fairly chilly and very windy

Week 17 of the 20 week training plan started cool and windy – a bit of a theme developing here over the last week or so.

Happily, I’m into the taper after last week’s 21 mile run, the longest long run of the training plan. The three runs this week (excluding the speed work session) are 15, and 2×5. Based on an almost complete lack of knowledge, it feels a bit too early to taper quite so much so I’ll do more than that this week and taper afterwards. The upshot was that, on Monday, I went for the required 15 miler.

The recent training theme has been that my endurance is not too bad (for an old bloke) but the speed is a problem. I started this process thinking that a sensible paced run/jog would get me round in 4 hours and the training would be all about maintaining that speed – but my sensible run/jog speed is nowhere near as fast as it was 20 years ago when I ran my only two marathons.

The result is that I plan to dedicate the last four weeks of training to trying to get faster. That means I tried to push on for Monday’s run – even though it was a ‘long slow run’ I hoped not to make it quite as slow as most i’ve done in the programme to date. It felt very hard but turned out to be 16.3 miles at just over 6 min/km which is faster than recent long runs (but still not fast enough!).

Being a wimp, I’m still running in a long sleeved top over a compression top and running tights. As yet, no tried and tested plan for kit to wear if it’s hot for the marathon itself – and long runs to test it out on are now in short supply.

On Tuesday I drove down to Bournemouth to re-erect a fence panel that had blown down in the weekend’s gales. More of a bodge than a repair as I discovered two rotted fence posts that will need some concrete breaking up to be replaced. Oh the joys of property ownership!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Wednesday was cool and very windy. I forced myself out for another in the recent string of ‘I don’t really want to do this’ runs. I managed the normal 8 miler a little slower than recently but I’m hoping that the real benefit was getting the running shoes on and getting out of the door.

After a hard 15.4km (9.5miles) in 30 minutes on the turbo on Thursday it was back out for the 8 miler on Friday.

It was another reluctant run, owing more to obligation than enthusiasm in the now regular high wind but with a bit of drizzle to liven things up. Much to my surprise, I did my best recorded pace for the route – just 4 seconds per km outside 4 hour marathon pace – even though I’ve once done the identical run slightly faster when the Garmin recorded it as being 0.1 mile shorter.

That leaves me generally confused – the auspices were not good today and I’ve done slower runs that felt faster. I’ll just accept it for what it is – 33 miles (53km) in the week against a plan requirement of 25. I’ve also clicked through the 400 mile mark since the start of the plan back in November.

It’s going in the right direction but there’s a very long way to go for me to have any hope of a 4 hour run in Rotterdam. I’ve read that a good taper can take 5-10 minutes off the run itself – I fear that I need four or five good tapers.

That’s it for the week except for a long walk tomorrow.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
‘Running’ totals 402m  (646km)   290m (466km)   50:00

Daring to look beyond the end of the training?

A small selection of the running kit

As the marathon gets closer, I’ve started to think about more than just training and wondering what to do on the day itself (apart from the obvious: run, sweat, gasp, agonise, hurt, etc).

Established wisdom says that the key to marathon day is to do nothing that you haven’t tried and tested in the lead up to it – no new routines, shoes, clothing, nutrition, warm-up etc.

That’s not entirely easy when the run is in another country and you will be staying in a hotel. I have no idea what breakfast will be available and I understand that the energy drink available at feed stations is not sold in the UK. We won’t be the only ones facing these issues so it will simply be a case of controlling what can be controlled and not worrying too much about the rest.

I’ve tried different approaches to the pre-run breakfast (none, porridge, toast, oat bars, fruit) and in-run nutrition (none, water, electrolyte, isotonic gels, jelly babies, oat bars, energy gels, cereal bars, dextrose tablets etc).

I’ve run in a variety of kit so I’ll have a tried and tested range of options on the day itself. So far I’ve tried out:

  • four pairs of running shoes
  • four long sleeved running shirts
  • a gilet
  • two pairs of running tights and three shorts for underneath
  • a wide range of socks (running socks, warm woolly socks, long compression socks, sports socks, double layer marathon socks)
  • many compression and thermal tops, long and short sleeved
  • a headband and several different hats and gloves
  • a running belt and an arm pouch.

Almost everything has performed well (apart from one pair of shoes that come up higher in the heel and rub my Achilles tendons), but almost all combinations used so far are more suitable for cold or cool weather. I need to try out short sleeves and a running vest (I still have the one I used in 1998 and 1999), lycra shorts without the tights and ‘normal’ running shorts – if only it would get warm enough for a wimp like me to bare some skin.

Learning so far:

  • Zips on the running shirts are good when zipped up but the neck flaps annoyingly when the zip is lowered
  • I hate carrying water, even in my running belt’s bottle holder
  • Whatever I eat when running, some of it goes down my airways
  • If I start out at a slow plod, that’s the way it carries on
  • The first mile is always horrid until my breathing stabilises
  • Every run from home starts off up a small hill – I hate that hill
  • I hate running into the wind
  • If it’s cool, I don’t need to worry about drink up to about 15 miles
  • I don’t need to worry about food up to about 15 miles
  • I’ve had no blisters but the compression socks rubbed once
  • I like running – but marathon training requires rather a lot of it
  • I love a compression top as a base layer – if it’s warm, could I run in one, without a running shirt, or is a looser fit better in the heat?

A big unknown is the time I should aim for. When I ran my two marathons in the 1990’s, each time I did only four runs over 10 miles in training – 1x20miles, 1×16, 2×13. I’ve done many more runs over 10 miles this time – 1×22 (yesterday!), 2×20, 1×17, 1×15, 1×14, 1×13, 1×12, 1×11 (and two more still to come) – but I’m 20 years older, and 20 years slower.

I suppose I’ll know more in 4 weeks time at the end of the training, but I fear that I will kid myself that I can break 4 hours, go out too fast and blow up spectacularly.

I read that losing one pound of weight means running 2 seconds per mile faster. If I could get down to 84 pounds (6 stone – 38kg) I’d be OK ……

Marathon training week 15/20: run, turbo, run, run, run. Endurance OK. Speed a bit of a j(OK)e?

Not sure if this ’11’ is impressive or a bit sad and inadequate. Either way, this is not from the soles of my trainers (and I’m pleased they are not my tyres)

The week’s long run was supposed to be a half marathon race, with a target time of 1 hour 50. I couldn’t find a convenient race to enter and was sure I couldn’t run it that fast, even if I had.

I decided to do the run on Monday and drove out to a nearby back road that gives a fairly flat 5km. The aim was to do it out and back twice, plus a bit, leaving it to Strava to work out my best half marathon time.

As it was, I ran a little over the half marathon distance at 9m 40 sec/mile (6 min per km). I ran a slight negative split and had a best half marathon time of 2h 06m. I ran consistently, but consistently not fast enough. I didn’t do a single km at 4 hour marathon pace.

So, here is the question – is it just that I cannot judge speed, is it that I cannot motivate myself to push the pace when running alone – or am I simply unable to run fast enough? Would I have been able to go faster if I’d been following someone with a ‘4 hour pacer’ sign on their back? Hmmm …

I’ve missed out on speed training to protect the dodgy Achilles tendons – is it too late to introduce some (carefully) into the last 5 weeks of the programme?

I used the turbo for 45 minutes on Tuesday (13.9m – 22.31km) before we went to London and saw friends in the evening. I had a really enjoyable run on Wednesday morning, through Kensington Gardens, into Hyde Park and around the Serpentine lake, trying hard to run faster.

I did 11.85km (7.4m) at a whole 3 seconds per km faster than 4 hour marathon pace – quite pleasing, given the number of junctions and pedestrians to navigate on the way to and from the Parks.

After that, we took a trip to St Paul’s Cathedral to (successfully) track down the memorial to one of my wife’s ancestors (a personal physician to King George III). We also climbed the 528 steps to the highest publicly accessible part of the Cathedral – that must be worth something for the marathon training.

I ran with a friend on Friday morning and did a route of his. There is a danger that I end up running the same routes so the variety was welcome but this was along some slightly muddy and hilly tracks – 8.14miles (13.1km) at just over 6 min/km.

Alex came back for the weekend and we ran together on Saturday morning – by his phone app we did 17km at just under 6 minutes/km. Sadly, my Garmin recorded it as 16.25km (10.1miles). How can the two systems be different by nearly 5%? At least we agreed that it we ran a negative split.

Four runs in the week and nothing hurts too much. That’s it for the week – three quarters of the way through the training, gulp.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 13.9m (22.31km)  
‘Running’ totals 327m (526km)   271m (435km)   49:00