Marathon Fatigue

In the 8 weeks since I completed the Reykjavik Marathon I’ve run 5 times. Rewind through the years and it’s a familiar story; after completing the London Marathon (4 times), in the months after Glencoe, the autumn after Orkney. Seven times now I’ve started and finished a marathon yet after each marathon I’ve hit the wall with my own training in the immediate months that follow.

 

As running has become more important in my life I’ve ensured that I maintain contact with the community by coaching, spectating or volunteering in the months following a marathon but it’s taken a long time to return to a regular routine with my own training. So what’s going on?

 

Before I get going on to the main thrust of this blog it’s worth pointing out I’ve loved every one of the marathons I’ve done. The distance made me a runner, it introduced me to running clubs and therefore lots of my current friends. 26.2 miles gives me a sense of personal achievement which completing other distances can’t come close to. I enjoy the adulation from non-runners which only seems to be afforded to marathon runners. I love the history of the distance. I love training consistently, motivated by a looming goal. I enjoy listening to podcasts on long runs, something I rarely make time for otherwise. I enjoy having an easy go-to topic of conversation with other runners. I’ve loved the intimacy of events like Orkney and Glencoe, the unique atmosphere of London and running through phenomenal backdrops such as Reykjavik. I wouldn’t change those memories for anything.

 

Some of you will already be thinking; ‘It’s ok’, ‘ You should take a break’. It’s true, a break is well earned and necessary post-Marathon to allow the body to recover. Depending on the rule you go by this usually involves somewhere around 3 to 4 weeks of inactivity. One day per mile raced seemed to be to be the most fashionable recovery mantra around the time of my first marathon (although does this apply to all distances? If so why does nobody stick to it?). Why though do I fall out of good habits so easily and for so long after a marathon? This is not an anti-marathon blog. However after each one completed I’ve totally fallen off the rails running wise and it’s taken a marathon effort to get back into the routine of running regularly.

 

I’ve spent a long time pondering this and still can’t quite put my finger on it;

 

Being brutally honest I just couldn’t really be bothered running over the past 8 weeks. This can go on for several months (6 after my first marathon). I know I have gotten frustrated that my times over other distances have tailed off and it can seem like a long road back (the irony being the road back gets longer with each passing week).  As a result I get more and more frustrated with myself as well as losing the positive wellbeing and mental health benefits of running.

 

Is it the frustration of not quite hitting a target in an event where you invest so much time but only get one chance to perform? Unlike other distances where you can pencil in another effort in a matter of days whilst allowing your body a good amount of recovery. Certainly in my last two marathons this isn’t the case as I’ve dropped my time significantly.

 

Is it physical fatigue? I’m not so sure on this one as I see people running ultras and long runs on a much more regular basis than I do with no ill effects. I’ve run decent times soon after a marathon where I’ve signed up to races and gone along just to see how I feel.

 

Is it sour grapes that I haven’t quite reached a level of performance which I have in other distances? My 5k, 10k, 10 Mile and Half Marathon times should put me on course for a time just outside the 3 hour mark but I’ve never even come close.

 

I’m not sure what the answer is. I do know running is great for me in so many ways though and I don’t like it when I am not in that regular routine. Hard to break, difficult to pick up.

 

What do others think? For every amateur runner churning out brilliant personal bests over the marathon distance, for every runner ticking the distance off their bucket list…… there’s a more silent minority steering well clear of the distance. Not everyone reckons you should complete a marathon to be classed a runner despite what you might think. There are several vocal proponents of complete abstinence. There are coaches who tell you not to bother. Yet the lure of the distance, the kudos lavished on marathon completers by non-runners, the prestige of participating in the majors keeps drawing us in. This is despite the marathon often being an anti-climax for those, like myself, who become time obsessed.

 

It’s a split decision amongst amateur runners.

 

In summary this blog is not so much about what is the right recovery but about the growing feeling that marathon running might be having a negative impact on my running performance. It’s hopefully something that will spark some thought and debate. It’s aimed at anyone thinking about or who has recently completed a marathon. Seven marathons in I find myself contemplating retirement from the big distance – the perceived holy grail of running. At least for the time being.

 

With so much pressure (from myself) to perform it’s quite literally all your eggs in one basket hoping everything (weather, course, guts, fuelling and health) aligns perfectly on one day of the year. The reality is everything is not going to align unless you spread the risk and enter a lot of events. The trade off is not worth it for me – you’re going to be training a lot more on your own and your performance in more club friendly and social events is likely going to suffer. That’s not to say I’ve not hit great 5k and 10k times during my training blocks but these have tended to come around the middle third of a training block when runs of around 12-14 miles are common.

 

So one week back in to training what’s next? Well I’d like to replicate the same consistency and commitment I’ve proven I can over several marathon training blocks to other distances for the 2019 season. I hope to get back close to my 5k and 10k pb times in the near future and work hard over the x-country season. I have the endurance in my legs from a marathon training block that will undoubtedly help. I have arranged some middle distance runs with a group of guys from the Harriers on a Sunday as this is a type of training I’ve only really focused on when completing a marathon block.

 

Could it be that the marathon just isn’t my distance? Maybe I should focus on the 5k through Half Marathon range where I am happy with my performance level. Perhaps as runners we don’t often think about what discipline is our strongest and work on that. We simply see running as running when some of us are built for speed and others for endurance.

 

As I develop my coaching skill set and look in from the outside I guess I am looking at year on year progress as I move from one training block to the next. This was sacrificed in the second half of 2018 as I concentrated my efforts on the marathon which was never part of my grand plan and this is perhaps behind my current frustrations.

 

Non-runners might not be as impressed if I drop below 18 minutes for the 5k or get closer to 1 hour 20 for the half but I know these will be greater achievements than running another marathon. That can wait for now. I’m just glad to be back running.

 

Hopefully this doesn’t put anyone off the marathon. Just take your time though and consider if it is right for you – do you want to get faster over shorter distances first? If you go for it remember completing it really is the goal and the achievement. Times are for seasoned marathon runners. Tell people that when they ask how it went / or if you have a goal time in mind. (Remember our previous blog on First Time Marathon Running). Look after yourself. Increase incrementally and build in easier weeks to allow your body to adapt and recover.

 

On a side note. I actually fatigued during training prior to Reykjavik. I only did about 60% of my planned long runs and dropped out of regular hard sessions in the crucial 12 weeks leading up to race day. Despite this I ran well (11 seconds inside my pb although the course was later measured as 200 metres short). Maybe something for a future blog but I actually think I could run the same time tomorrow as I think it’s much more a mental test than a physical one.

 

 

 

 

Great Scottish Run – Kirstin

Regular Runbetweener Kirstin has written us a fantastic guest review of last week’s Great Scottish Run…

Having joined the Runbetweeners over two years ago, and strangely turned into someone who can run and enjoys running, the GSR Half seemed like the ideal challenge to take myself to the next level. I’d completed one half marathon before – on holiday in Amsterdam in Oct 2017 with no training behind me other than the GSR 10k – and after months struggling to train for an eventually cancelled Alloa Half, I decided I was finally going to conquer this distance. The timing of this race was perfect, as I could take advantage of the lovely summer weather and long daylight hours to actually put in the significant training that had always been lacking from my race efforts.

My training officially started with the Run the Blades 10k– from then on I added a mile a week to my long runs. I knew there were some issues with my general fitness, so I also joined a 10 week strength and conditioning class, and I know this has had a huge impact on my stamina. The training was tough at points, but I knew it was necessary, and on the morning of the run, I knew I was able to run the distance, and run it well.

Race day arrived. The train journey in to the city centre was very busy with runners, and it was great to be able to see the 10k runners along the Clyde as we approached Central Station. I had downloaded the app on my phone, so I knew my fellow Runbetweeners including Kirsty Cunningham and Susan Redpath were well into their 10k efforts and I vainly tried to spot them. A short jog later, and I was at the start. I had a target time in my head, based on my Kyles 10 Miles effort, and on the week of the race slowly started vocalising this, slipping out to people that “I’m really keeping it a secret, but I want sub 2:15”. However, something funny happens to me when I’m on the start line of any run though – I get competitive. And as soon as I found myself in the green wave – front and centre – I knew I wanted 2:10. I couldn’t see anyone I knew around me that I could run with to help me secure this target, or even a pacer (short people problems), but I decided I should push myself and before I could question things further it was time for a cheesy choreographed mass warm-up and then we were off!

The run starts by following the same route as the 10k, with an incline up St Vincent street, a quick jog round trendy Finnieston, and then the highlight of running over the Kingston Bridge! My pace was fairly fast for the first three miles – I decided I needed to make this time at the start to give me a shot at 2:10, but then I steadied myself out and settled in for the long haul. I didn’t know the next part of the route too well, but I soon found myself on familiar territory as many of my training runs had been around Pollokshields, leading into Pollok Park. Knowing where I was going really helped, as I could set myself clear targets. There was also great support from Runbetweeners spectators Donna Gillon, Jenny Brown and Blythe Lindsay.

Running through the park was lovely as always, but when we came out and made our way to Bellahouston we found ourselves in a very cold, heavy shower and running into a headwind. This mile wasn’t pleasant. Soon though we were out of Bellahouston and on to the home straight. I really couldn’t believe how quickly the race was passing and how strong I felt. I checked my watch at every mile and my pacing was really steady. I knew I could make 2:10, and unbelievably I saw I could get home sooner than that! From miles nine to twelve, my mantra became “maintain”. I was so scared of running out of steam, and this part of the race was hard work – but I wasn’t giving up! Running over the Squinty Bridge I got another boost, with great encouragement from Ian McBain of GFR. From then on, it was straight alongside the river to the finish. This is such a fantastic part of the course – everyone has given their all, and it really putting in their best efforts. Unbelievably, as I hit about 12 and a half miles I spotted June MacLeod ahead of me. This is how I knew I had just run the race of my life, as June is a much faster runner than me. In June’s defence, she was on her twentieth mile of the day, as part of her Bamburgh Marathon training. I chased June to the finish and was absolutely delighted to finish in 2:08:28.

This race really is a special one. The huge number of participants across the 10k and Half Marathon events, and the family mile and races for young people the day before gives Glasgow a huge buzz. A huge number of Runbetweeners not yet mentioned in this report participated including Gillian Glass, Karen Rosling, Anne Williamson, Jill Mair, Paul Burningham, and Jacqueline Glass. (Jack and Kenny ran too of course). The event is wholly inclusive, but also provides the ideal challenge and I can’t wait to return next year.

The Great Scottish Run 2018

We asked members of The Runbetweeners to reflect on the Great Scottish Run. All in we had 20 members across the two distances. It’s all there – PBs, injuries, camaraderie, family, friendship, struggles but most of all enjoyment. Without doubt the top highlight amongst The Runbetweeners seems to be Rock Choir 🙂 Quite apt given the coaches guilty pleasure for musical theatre.

 

So here it is – The Runbetweeners take on the Great Scottish Run. Thanks to all our contributors.

 

The 10k

 

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Clare and Dame Kelly Holmes

 

Clare T.

This year’s 10k at great Scottish run was my 9th such event and contrasts with last year’s, my second. It wasn’t just the more benevolent weather – who could forget the 2017 non stop rain – but an improvement in my running due to joining two different groups: The Runbetweeners and slimming world. One increased my fitness and the other meant there was 16% less of me to cart around Clydeside. Both contributing to a 12 minute drop in time to 1:00:28. There was one constant: the event is real fun – from that dread inducing view of the St Vincent St. start to the thrill of running on the Kingston bridge and all the time the great support from the public and other runners. Last year I was exhilarated but knackered and cleared off quickly at the end. This year we wandered round the tents, met Kelly Holmes and waited for the half. It was really exciting to see the half coming in before the cold wind forced us to find a pub.

 

 

Jennifer L.

This was the first time in a few years I had taken part in the GSR. I opted for the 10k route so I could be back in plenty time to watch my sister take part in the half marathon (her first). The weather was cool and clear – ideal run conditions but cold for hanging about at start (fortunately my friend Kirsty let us use her office facilities in George Square so we were nice and toasty!). I had no expectations of a PB (previous 10k PB 54.01, course PB 55.40) and decided just to enjoy the atmosphere of this great running event in my home town. Ever the professional I ran the whole course without looking at my running watch once () and was therefore shocked/delighted to smash my PB with a time of 51.20. A good running day!!!

 

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Jennifer and Kirsty

 

Kenny

Opting for the 10k after a short running hiatus I arrived at the start line of the Great Scottish Run not expecting much yet knowing I would be disappointed if I didn’t run hard and close to my season’s best of just outside 38 minutes. Thankfully (given I’d been off work for a week with a virus) I had a rare moment of sanity on the start line and decided to run Ian who was pacing the 40 minute pack. Racing up the hill I immediately felt off and allowed a short gap which never grew or closed for the remainder of the race. Ticking of sites, seeing friends out on the course and enjoying the brilliant weather I had a ball. I love seeing the streets being turned over to runners for the day and I enjoyed finishing in time to see friends and family over the line in both the 10k and Half. Not an easy course so I wasn’t too disheartened to finish just outside the 40 minute mark (note: everyone else has mentioned the perfect conditions – they must have been running in my draft as I felt like I spent the whole race running head on into a wind tunnel).

 

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Rock Choir – Photo Courtesy of Tony Coyne

 

Kirsty C

5 reasons why I love the Great Scottish Run!

  1. You get to run round the streets of your home city without watching for cars and erratic pedestrians. You run over the Kingston Bridge and the drivers toot their horns at you. You get to run up St Vincent Street!!
  2. Which is quite a big hill but the amazing Rock Choir will encourage you up to the top. It may also make you cry.
  3. The personalised vests and T-shirts of your fellow runners raising money for charity may also make you cry (but in a good way).
  4. The cheer buses for those charity runners will make you smile and they’ll cheer you even if you’re not running for them.
  5. Lots of my pals run, spectate and pace so it’s a very sociable run. It’s the biggest running event in Glasgow and it’s just really nice to be a part of it.

 

Paul B.

The time had come, all the hard training under my belt and preparation complete. The Great Scottish Run was here at last and i was gunning for my 10k PB. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Glasgow and the competitors and spectators were out in force. After a brief warm up i was ready. Lining up near the front of the white wave with my running friends from the Runbetweeners and Harriers and I was off. I kept a good steady pace up until 8k then i started to feel the pain. I wasn’t going to falter now. I pressed on through the pain and got my PB in a time of 39:44. I was so thrilled with my time and am really looking forward to next years Great Scottish Run.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Neil Nairn

 

Half

 

Gillian

 

The GSR Half Marathon was amazing and is one of my favourite runs every year. The support throughout the course is brilliant, as is the opportunity to run across the Kingston Bridge. The buzz of excitement at the start wave makes you forget any nerves you may have (I was trying to distract a nervous Karen Rosling and put her at ease). We were soon off and running up St Vincent Street, we were quickly at the top where we heard the uplifting voices of The Rock Choir. This is always one of my highlights. I was still with Karen as we headed to the Kingston Bridge but she was soon heading off into the distance. 4 miles in and I was on target for my finish time and felt good. Then it went wrong as I went through Pollok Park. My stomach was churning after taking a gel. The support through the park was great though and on exiting the park I was greeted to amazing cheers from my Bellahouston Harriers Club mates.

By this point I knew I would not get my target time but I was enjoying myself and savouring the atmosphere. I was also making a concentrated effort not to talk to anyone as everyone says I chat too much ! I had so much support throughout the route that a few runners commented…”does everyone know you Gillian?” 😂. I just said yes!! Running along the Broomielaw is always tough as it seems to go on forever but the crowds lift you and you always see a familiar face. As I approached the finish to many cheers, I also heard someone cheer on one of the Bellahouston Road runners, our friendly rival club. This was just what I needed for my sprint finish to ensure she didn’t pass me! I crossed the finish in a time of 2.04, just a bit faster than last year but 9 mins off my target. I will be back to do better next time and reassess my fuelling too.

 

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Jack

I felt fit as I stood tentatively in the start pen, however recent results did not indicate that I was quite as fit as I had been in for my last effort over the half-marathon distance earlier in the year. The goal was simple – head out for a PB and try to hang on. The plan however soon disappeared out the window. As the gun went, I exploded out of the start and found myself striding up St Vincent Street. I could see several faces ahead of me who I was confident I should be beating and so I kicked on – a little too hard. After three miles of sitting in behind the female leaders (and the BBC cameras – apparently they weren’t there for me!) I realised I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew. I let them disappear and tried to get a grip on my pace. Fortunately, my club mate Gregor appeared at this point and was having similar thoughts. We had a quick assessment of things and decided to work together for as long as we could and we would try to stick to a pace that we were happy with. This strategy seemed to work and by the time we had left Pollok Park I was starting to regain my confidence. It was nice to be moving through the field at this stage and we claimed a few scalps over the middle section of the race. As we powered down Paisley Road West, Matt Brown appeared out of nowhere to yell that we were just a few seconds down on PB pace. I couldn’t believe it – I had all but accepted that a decent time had vanished in the first 5k! This was the spur that we needed and we both picked things up and headed for home. I couldn’t quite keep with Gregor in the final mile but was chuffed to cross the line in 70:40. It was not quite the time that I had planned for at the start of the training block, but a PB is a PB and I was just grateful to have salvaged something from a race that could have gone horribly wrong. The support was great, but it was definitely having a teammate (and friendly rival!) alongside that helped me to keep going when things were not feeling fantastic. I had not done this race since 2014 and it was awesome to see the same levels of enthusiastic support spread around the city as I remembered. Definitely one I would do again!

 

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Jacqueline

This was my 4th half marathon this year and my 1st at this event. It didn’t beat Run Mhor in the scenery stakes but the electric atmosphere, entertainment and support of the crowds all along the route was superb! Its my favourite so far! Starting from George Square to the strains of the Proclaimers 500 miles I followed the bunny bobtail of the 2.20 pacer up the dreaded St Vincent Street hill where we were serenaded by the wonderful Rock Choir.  We crossed the Clyde on the Kingston Bridge and headed out to Pollok Country Park & Bellahouston Park where bagpipers and supporters aplenty cheered us on.  Onwards to Festival Park, across the Clyde again on the Squinty Bridge and then at mile 12 on the Broomielaw I got a second wind and ran my fastest mile of the route to the finish at Glasgow Green resulting in a PB! Iconic landmarks, live music, bagpipes and amazing Weegie supporters – I cant wait to do it all over again in 2019!

 

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Jill

The great Scottish half is my favourite race! It holds a special place in my heart as it was the first half I ever did. The route is brilliant and the support is amazing. Running down St Andrews Drive towards Pollock Park the noise of the crowd is immense. My family tend to stand there each year and It makes me so excited to see everyone. Special mention to fellow Runbetweener Claire Lamont running about with her bell screaming ‘Go Jill!’ It made me chuckle as I ran past. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone thinking of giving it a go. This was my fourth attempt and I managed to knock a minute off last years time, so a new PB. Yay!

 

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June

This was my first attempt at this event and I had been looking forward to it for ages, hoping the weather would be kind to us. As it turned out the weather was perfect, apart from one tiny blip, which I will mention later. The morning started with a chill in the air and I was suitably attired in my best bin bag in an attempt to keep warm. Meeting up with the other Runbetweeners, there was unmistakable excitement, chat, laughter and the need to retie my shoes. After our visit to the bag drop we all started heading to our starting areas with a final hug and good luck wishes, I found myself on my own, a strange feeling when in amongst thousands of people all with a common purpose. I made my way through the throng hoping to find anyone I knew, but soon gave up to join in the warm up. It was at this point I was found by one of The Runbetweeners. The obligatory selfie got taken and we were off. Not wanting to make things easy for participants, the run starts with an uphill section. I had already instructed myself to take this part at a steady pace, and not fall into the trap of keeping up with others around my. There were a few bobbers and weavers, but I stuck with my plan. I felt good running through the centre of Glasgow being part of the sea of people running up St Vincent Street. The support was magnificent, cheers, a choir, majorettes, bagpipes, spectators calling my name. I felt special being part of it. Fast forward to Bellahouston Park and mile 8. Now the experience had changed, it started with the clouds, then rain, wind, sleet and perhaps even a bit of snow. It was all there, designed to distract me from my pleasant experience and remind me of the following, my neck was sore, my hip ached, my knee had a niggle, but worst of all my toes were squashed. I should have retied the laces one last time before I set off! Going along Paisley Rd West I was giving myself a firm talking to, it was less than 4 miles to go, about 40 – 45 minutes of running, just a parkrun to go. Well I did keep going, the sun came back out, the crowd thickened, everyone seemed to know my name, then I remembered, it was on my bib. One final push and I was heading for the Big G within Glasgow Green and the finish was in sight. A great feeling of relief, then meeting another Runbetweener who finished beside me I was very happy. Unlike my toes who reminded me, they were still feeling squashed. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

 

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Jenny Brown – Runbetweener of the Month

This month’s featured runner is Jenny Brown. Too modest to mention her prize winning exploits Jenny is a regular podium topper at parkrun and has picked up multiple prizes at prestigious 10k events over the last 12 months. Not content with pushing herself during reps Jenny also runs to and from our sessions and includes regular training on her own during the week alongside football training.

This is a great read with an unexpected and incredible revelation. We’ll say no more…. enjoy and we look forward to seeing further progress from Jenny in the months ahead.

 

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THE WARM UP WHEN THIS SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

ABOUT YOU

Name: Jenny Brown
Age: 41
Town of Birth: Edinburgh
Running Club(s): The Runbetweeners
Something interesting we don’t know about you: When I was a teenager I ran for Scotland at cross country and on the track.
THE LONG HARD MILES WHEN YOU WONDER WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS

RUNNING (write as much as you want)

How and when did you start running? I joined my local athletics club when I was 8 years old, and ran regularly up until the age of 20 when I kind of fell out of love with the sport.

 

I started running again last year when I joined the Runbetweeners.

Why did you start running? I started running again mainly to improve my fitness and joined the Runbetweeners after some persistent encouragement from my friend Jennifer! I am also very competitive and was keen to see how fast I could run.
What is your favourite route to run? Why? Anywhere except the treadmill.
What is your favourite race? Why? Moira’s run.

 

It’s a local race that supports Moira’s Fund – a very worthwhile cause. The course itself is challenging but I really enjoyed it. Last year I found the atmosphere very friendly and with a good turnout from the Runbetweeners, it was a great social occasion. The post-run hospitality and bacon rolls were also fab!

Proudest running achievement? Why? Winning the British Universities 2000m steeplechase title – 21 years ago! We had to jump over the 3-foot barriers used in the men’s race.
What are your current running goals / ambitions? To have fun, stay fit and healthy, and to try and keep improving.
One bit of advice you would give a new runner? Join a jogscotland running group.
What does your better half / family think about your running? I think they are impressed that I now get up early every Saturday morning for parkrun (as I used to always have a long lie).
THAT BIT WHEN THE SMILE RETURNS TO YOUR FACE

SPRINT FINISH (answer in less than 5 words)

What is your favourite Runbetweeners session? The time trial
If you could run anywhere in the world? Scotland is fine for me – I struggle to run when the temperature is above 18oC.
Pollok parkrun personal best and seasons best? 20.41 set on the new course a few weeks ago.
Favourite parkrun? Springburn – as that is where I set my overall PB.
With 6 months injury free training how fast could you run Pollok parkrun in? Would love to go sub-20 for 5k, but unlikely on the Pollok course.
Favourite distance? 5km
Who is your running hero? Paula Radcliffe
Your best running habit? I always give 100%.
Your worst running habit? I sometimes start too fast.
One for the guys – tights or shights? n/a
Kenny or Jack? Good question….

 

COOL DOWN

WELL EARNED CAKES

Describe The Runbetweeners in your own words. A very friendly, welcoming jogscotland group that has helped me enjoy running again. Kenny and Jack make the training sessions challenging, whilst suitable for all abilities and most of all fun. There is also the added bonus of the occasional post-run cake.