Marathon Training

On a knife edge, balancing, levelling; a process that can be difficult, demanding and unpredictable. That’s usually the case for me, or at least it felt like it. But this time around, the plan was something different. I’ve dissected it, analysed it, and I’ve gone on a quest to see how I can improve further. So here is what was and what is the plan going forwards?

For the spring marathons I decided to look at my training in previous years and look at where I had success and where I may have struggled. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t really know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been.’ Anyway, I looked back on my 2018 training and 2017 training. 2018 being a year where I ran 2:36 for the marathon at Manchester and 2017 being a year where I ran 2:41 at Manchester followed by a 2:40 and managed to win Milton Keynes. In my opinion, I was fitter, stronger and faster in 2017. I was running high mileage, a lot higher than now. But with the higher mileage, came more injuries, niggles and irritating unpredictable outcomes. In my opinion I was in sub 2:30 shape for the spring marathons in 2017; in 2018, honestly, I was not. I was running on a knife edge, flickering between health and illness, chest infections, colds and sickness. My 2018 training is shown below, on reflection I noted too many weeks where the mileage had dropped. Where the mileage wasn’t quite right and the pace wasn’t quick enough for the times I wanted to be targeting this time around. 

WeekDateWeekly MilesWeekly TimeAverage Pace

With the 2018 training highlighting a few errors, also highlighting my lack of recovery after Manchester marathon towards the beginning of April. Meaning that when Milton Keynes marathon came around, I probably wasn’t recovered at all. Recovery is a massive part of my training philosophy, believe it or not. Searching for the optimum point of recovery, to still be able to go out and perform. Consistently. Time after time. Back to back long runs, efforts after effort. Still standing up and saying, go on then, we’ll go again. With that in mind, also noting that I didn’t taper or recover enough when it came to Manchester Marathon, with my week of 108.3 being the 2nd highest in my marathon block and that was marathon week! Not given my body chance to adapt and overcome. Looking back on it, I feel a little bit disappointed in myself, honestly! Thinking to myself, I didn’t even do enough, knowing that this time around, I definitely had to. Then I looked at my 2017 training, get ready for this! Cause then, it was bonkers!

WeekDateWeekly MilesWeekly TimeAverage Pace

2017, like I said in my opinion, the fittest and sharpest I’d ever been. Albeit, I was running knackered 100% of the time. But in my build up and particularly in my base, mileage was extremely high. I’d run a marathon every day, for fun. Yes, fun. I wasn’t running fast, but running plenty. However I was on a knife edge again, running with a weakened immune system, probably not eating right, just eating loads! I picked up an illness around week 8, but recovered and got the mileage up again quick. Then approaching the Manchester Marathon on April 2nd, I picked up a niggle/injury in training. An overuse injury, swollen ankles and lower legs, struggling and icing. That is all I could do, I’d run too much and had an enforced taper, with my confidence dashed. The night before the marathon had my feet in ice! I’d neglected my recovery and worked too hard, probably way too motivated. Even though I believe I was in shape to run quicker, I still PB’ed but I knew I had quicker in me, if I was smarter. A month later, I went to Milton Keynes, managed to PB again but didn’t break the 2:40 barrier, so it made the win at Milton Keynes seem bitter sweet. I was over the moon with what I had done, but knew I still could go quicker. Bucked up my ideas and the autumn marathon training for that year looked a whole world different.

Think I’d retired my blue shirt after that.

I was confident in being able to finish the marathon in 2017, confident that I’d get round in one piece. I knew I would, I’d ran plenty in training. But I was probably a little too reserved, not wanting to risk anything and ‘roll the dice’ to push harder and faster than I’d ever done before. My 2:40:06 was probably a conservative PB, conserving it for some other time. Reflecting now, but really, why? What other time is there? Other than, now. I backed off training as high again, ran the boundary in the summer. Trained for York and got a 2:37:49. When 2018 came around, I’d been battling with myself, struggling with colds, flus and illnesses; like I’ve said. Motivation probably wasn’t as high, I probably wasn’t as driven and in truth. Probably didn’t want it enough.

So with all that in mind, 2019….

Here is what I did, what I did differently and how I might have changed it with the opportunity again. Did it work, you can probably judge that for yourself?

It had to be something special. From looking at and learning from everything I had done before, I knew, I had to be smart, work with what my body knows and adapt it to suit me. I had to run faster, I had to recover and I had to be prepared. I had to be motivated, driven and remain consistent. I had to eat right, eat smart and did I mention run faster. I always look at running as a simple sport and it is. You wanna get fast, run fast. I knew deep down, in some way, I had to emulate the shape I was in way back in 2017. The shape of my life, I knew how to get there and what I needed to do; because I’ve done it before.

To start I needed to keep my motivation high, there was a few simple ways I knew I could change that. Having been extremely motivated and a lot more driven towards my goals in 2017. One of those being a bit of ‘old school’ imagery I was choosing times where I may have felt like absolute crap, choosing moments of ‘failure,’ outcomes which I believed just wasn’t quite good enough. Reflecting on them, from time to time. Importantly remembering the feeling of defeat. Likewise I was also choosing moments of relative success, and judging them, what I did, how can I replicate it. Which outcome do I really want the most? I was creating a motivational environment, little quotes at the bottom of my calendar have always been there and present. Reflecting on pace charts, paces I want to run at, paces I know I can run at. I put my York Marathon PB in the bottom of my shoe, to remind myself on race day, what a PB feels like. I made my training motivational in its self, targeting paces, efforts and times on particular runs. Then I came up with my statistical table, the tables I’ve shown and the table I’m about to go through below. My own weekly check in, with myself, my own weekly judgement and reflecting what time it would chuck out in the marathon for me.

As an individual I love to work with statistics, looking at simple outcomes of training. Mileage, Pace and Time. These simple variables are something I understand and are easy to swap and change, should I wish. I knew, in order to get faster over the marathon distance, I simply had to run faster. Sticking with what I knew best high mileage would also be the key. Wouldn’t be me otherwise. I got my pre marathon races penciled in from January to April. Looking to target each one, increasing the distance raced, building confidence through the targeting and hopefully all being well, PB’ing. I came up with a simple table that analysed my training pace and mileage completed, looking for positive curves and consistency. Consistency with regards to the mileage, no massive peaks or troughs. The same consistency applying as well to my average pace, no inexplicably fast weeks or slow weeks. During the winter and off of the back of my Yorkshire Marathon 2:29:35, I built a lot of confidence. I was hitting a purple patch of form and running extremely well. I’d built a decent enough base, to hit the mileage and pace fairly well straight from the beginning. Didn’t take a recovery week after Yorkshire, just went and ran Snowdonia a few weeks later. Didn’t take a recovery week after that either! Autumn running straight into Spring.

WeekDateWeekly MilesWeekly TimeAverage PaceRace?

Before I knew it, my first 6 weeks of training was looking well, average pace a lot quicker than in previous years. A lot more consistent and the mileage floating around the 120 marker. With all of that, the time on foot floats above 13 hours. Almost like a part time job this running lark! Making it full time, as soon as you factor in recovery and strength work. I was being smart, trying to not to race too much too soon, especially longer races. Although I’d PB’ed over the 10k and Half Marathon, also winning at Meltham with a course PB and also ran pretty sharp, for me, over 5k on the track. I was running comfortable but didn’t want that to be my peak, although it felt like it! I knew in order to conquer the spring marathon goal, I’d have to increase the mileage, emulating something like 2017, but have I mentioned smarter? I’d have to be more consistent than 2018, a lot more. I’d have to avoid illness the best I could and just keep focused on the task at hand. I wanted to maintain the pace, the best I could, but knowing it would take some adaptations before it would steady out again. In an ideal world, I’d be averaging 5:30 minute miles every week, but I’m not quite there yet. Maybe one day. I knew that I can almost race myself fit, using races as long training runs. Sandwiching between a warm up and cool down. Efforts at the only pace I really know and that is marathon pace. That way, my average pace would be much higher week on week. I’d get a decent session in and I’d get out and about running, recovering from races and getting up saying, lets go again then.

WeekDateWeekly MilesWeekly TimeAverage PaceRace?

My next phase of marathon training, I wanted to nail the average pace down, whilst increasing the mileage. The effort ideally, needed to remain the same. Keeping an eye ever so slightly on my heart rate, but not letting it be the focus. Pace needed to drop down to something closer to my end goal. The end goal of hitting this, was on par with achieving a Marathon PB in the process. Myself, knowing, deep down that if I hit that end goal. I’d have had the most consistent weeks in the whole of my running life.

‘6:35 average, in the weeks building up to the marathon. Thats my end goal. A 6:35 average minute per mile over 125 mile weeks.’

That would be for the full block of training, some would argue that only the 8, 10 or 12 weeks approaching the marathon is the most important. It probably is, but I’m taking it for the full block for the first 4 month of the year. In actual fact my training for this has probably been going on since 2013! But lets move off of that rant, before I start it. I knew my end goal from research, from practice on myself and from what various race predictors have been coughing up. I’ve come up with my own pacing chart for it, from looking at and studying things. I really looked into it and really went into detail.

I haven’t copyrighted it yet, and I’ve a proper plan using this, so can’t share it all, just yet.

With my statistical brain switched on, and treating running a marathon as the outcome. I knew what I had to do, my target was always going to be low 2:20 for the marathon. In the hope that if I didn’t get there, on the day. I’d at least PB, aiming for the stars, landing on the moon theory. I knew from my historical marathon progress, a 9 minute PB probably wasn’t realistic, but if I trained like it was. Eventually, I’ll end up with those good habits getting me to where I want to be, did I say, eventually? So from the outset, my trusty statistical chart, motivated me and drove me. That is what I want and this is how I’m going to get there. Mileage increased in my second phase of training, I got sharper and nailed my average pace, down and down. Then came the business end, my third and final phase of training. Of this Spring Marathon period anyway, we go again when it is all over! No rest for the wicked and all that.

WeekDateWeekly MilesWeekly TimeAverage PaceRace?

Then came the dreaded taper, the business end, races needed to calm down. Pace need to remain focused on getting that average. It needed to stick, not improve, it is too late for any improvement. I can’t lose motivation and I can’t get injured, hold my body out just enough to remain fit and in the peak. Definitely not fall off the tracks! Manchester was my ideal target if everything fell right on the day, London was my back up. Ideally I’d have run London as my target, just because of the vast amount of people to run with. But I didn’t want to put my eggs all in one basket, I can’t do that. If I ran a PB and just a PB, albeit how small or large the margin. Then London would be a case of run a PB or collapse trying, switching from pace to lets just get round if needs be. My accidental taper in the autumn marathons of 2018, taught me the importance. So this would be my first proper taper. I tell you now, they feel shocking! I ached, I doubted and wanted to give it up. I probably still didn’t taper enough. You can tell me that for free.

Manchester Marathon 2019

Crossing the line.
The start of something else.

Then I ran Manchester, the race of my life, so far. My Personal Best, so far. 2:26:48, a time I once believed was so far out of my reach once before. Now, it is within it. Beating The Yorkshire Marathon’s personal best of 2:29:35. Although still not where I want to be, I want to and I know I can go quicker. I’m motivated and I’m driven, to go quicker. So that leads me onto the next thing, how will I get there? Where was my downfalls? How can I improve?

Average Weekly MilesAverage Weekly TimeAverage Weekly Pce

I’d hit my target, 125 miles; 6:35 pace. The most consistent I’d ever been, I’d run it. 18 weeks of training, taking me from the beginning of the year. The crossing the line at the London Marathon, London became unimportant for time in the end, I’d faded massively and was tired from walking around too much the day before. Dehydrated and aching, a simple change for a road to improvement at that particular marathon. I’m glad I didn’t stick my eggs in my London Basket!

Also time around at Manchester. I faded in the last few miles (just not as much as I did at London) so that tells me I need to run more, at ‘Marathon Pace’ simulating fatigue and running again. On the other hand, I could taper more, and risk being grouchy and doing something out of the ordinary. That seems simple, in theory. The next time around, I feel, I need to do more marathon style sessions, more speedwork marathon based sessions. 1 mile reps, 2 mile reps and so on. Some long interval style workouts, where I can push the marathon pace above and beyond what I think or know is possible. I need to train with a group, a group to motivate each other and work off of each other. To drive each other forwards, helping each other reach their goals. Thats the plan, I’ve thrown something together and we’ll see how that goes. I know naturally, I’m not fast, I have to work for that. Although once I’m at my top speed, I can hold it, a little bit anyway. I’ve learnt that now. Going off of the trusty statistical pacing chart, I can either choose to run more at the same pace or I can try and run faster for the same amount of distance. We’ll see what I decide, if the pace comes easy, I’ll go for it. I could nail my diet down some more, taking away all unnecessary foods and only eating clean. I could wear a pair of 4% or even the Next%, apparently. I could switch my training style and do something completely out the ordinary. But I’m going to keep it simple and keep it real to me, I’ll run more like I said, but if you want to get faster….. you need to run faster. So next time, it might look like this.

Average Weekly MilesAverage Weekly TimeAverage Weekly Pace

Just Keep Running….

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