Hackney Marshes parkrun

There’s something quite exciting about visiting a parkrun for the first time. The consistency of the parkrun model ensures that each event shares the same comforting familiarity yet it is always intriguing to discover the subtle variations that each has to offer. This could be a difference in size, terrain, route type or even simply the accents emerging from the masses. Regardless, these nuances are what give each event its identity and are precisely what makes parkrun tourism such an appealing prospect.

Last weekend I found myself visiting my brother in London and so, naturally, Vicki and I spent some time researching the local parkrun options. After much deliberation, we settled on Hackney Marshes. I had enjoyed hearing about this event on the ‘Running Commentary’ podcast (well worth a listen on a long run!) and fancied the sweeping, flat route through the woods that surround the mass of football pitches. Unfortunately, due to her injury, Vicki was unable to run this time so she contacted the event team and offered to volunteer as Timekeeper for the morning. She got a bit of a fright when she realised the size of the field but manage to keep her cool and record an accurate set of results (although she could definitely have stopped the watch a few seconds early for me!!)

The morning of the run was stunning; the sun was shining and the park was buzzing with runners, footballers, cricketers and dog walkers all taking advantage of the weather. I managed a quick warmup loop without getting lost (a bonus!) and then took my place on the start line. After a brief introduction from the Run Director we were off. The route winds gently away from the start on a long, flat path through the trees between the pitches and the River Lea and the shade was welcome as we made our way along the course. I took the lead and felt quite good as I hit the 2km point which was marked with a 180 degree turn. Heading back the way we had came, it was great to get some friendly shouts of encouragement from the runners coming the other way and the path was wide enough to accommodate traffic in both directions.

Shortly before reaching the ‘start line’ I found myself directed off on a side-path for a 250m detour before another 180 degree turn and a final push to the finish. I felt OK but the legs were definitely lacking the spring that they had enjoyed pre-marathon. Today would not be a day for PBs but certainly served as a good wake up call. I made my way through the finish funnel to the cheers of my 18 month old nephew and claimed the first finisher token in a time of 16:02. I was fairly pleased with the time as I knew I wouldn’t be in prime 5k shape having been focused on the marathon for the last 3 months, however it was a little annoying to be so close to 16minute mark and not dip under – there’s always something!

The morning was complete when I returned home to a fantastic bacon roll and mug of coffee before spending the day celebrating with family and swapping my trainers for my dancing shoes in Shoreditch that night. This was a great parkrun experience and it all comes back to the volunteers without whom these events would not be possible. Thank you!

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London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

What a crazy week it has been! As I stood nervously on the start line of the London Marathon, eyes gazing beyond the bouncing shoulders of the elites ahead of me and down the welcoming slope of Shooters Hill, I had a plan in my head of how I would like the race to pan out: I knew what pace I would be aiming to settle into once the Queen had signalled the start of the race; I knew that every fifth mile I would be squeezing a slightly warmed, but very welcome, carb gel down my throat and I knew that various groups of family and friends would be poised at a number of well thought out stations along the route, ready to yell messages of support (or friendly abuse) as required. I hadn’t, however, put much thought into what might happen after the race. I am sure that if I had, I would not have imagined that I’d be standing 24 hours later with a BBC Camera perched at the back of my classroom and with an e-mail flashing at me from my computer asking me to phone the local newspaper back ASAP. This was not necessarily going to be the race that I had planned, but it was certainly one which I will never forget.

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Training had been fantastic. Since crossing the finish line in Berlin seven months earlier, London had been the focus. I had put in the hours in training through a tough cross-country season, gruelling solo runs along the Clyde Walkway and even ploughing through snow courtesy of the ‘Beast from the East’. Smashing several of my PBs along the way, this was one of the most consistent training blocks that I have ever managed. The goal had always been to break 2:30:0 and I was feeling confident that this was definitely on the cards…

Then I thought about the weather. As my taper drew to a close and the carb-loading commenced, I began to think about possible race-day conditions. Most forecasts were indicating that this was going to be a warm one and to be honest my initial thoughts were relief that it wouldn’t be as cold as the training that I had suffered through in our typical Scottish Winter. It was when I started hearing whisperings of ‘the hottest London Marathon ever’ that I was forced to take things a little more seriously. At Berlin, on a cool, wet September morning, I had not consumed any water for the duration of the marathon. I knew however that in a hot London race, this would not be a sensible tactic.

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I lined up on the start line with a bottle filled with ice having taken on the advice I heard on Marathon Talk about ‘pre-cooling’. I had spent the previous hour sitting in the shade with the iced placed periodically across my shoulders and the back of my neck in order to lower my core temperature. I ditched the ice and found myself squashed in amongst the other excited athletes in the Championship Start. Having had difficulties with congestion in the past, I managed to make my way to the front and found myself tucked in just a few rows behind the pros. Seeing the likes of Kipchoge just ahead of me was phenomenal and it is moments like that which make running in a big city marathon that little bit special. Before I had a chance to get too star struck, the Queen appeared on the screen to press her button and start the race.

We were off!

People talk about the fast start at London but nothing quite prepares you for it. The long slope of Shooters Hill falls away before you and it can be very difficult to stick to a planned pace. I went through the first 5km in 17:16 – a little quicker than intended. I managed to hold myself back a little over the next 5km and settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain. Just before the half way mark I passed over Tower Bridge and felt a huge rush as the crowds roar filled the road – there is nothing quite like this moment and it never fails to take my breath away. I had found that my comfort levels were fluctuating through the first half – I had moments where I felt fantastic and others where I felt lethargic. This seemed to be a turning point however and the next 5 miles were great. I started to really enjoy the run and found I could work the crowd a little for an extra boost.

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Then I reached mile 18. This is where I first experienced the sensation that everyone who has run a marathon will know well. This was the moment that I realised I was slowing down. It is a strange feeling. I didn’t feel particularly ‘tired’, I simply realised that I was putting in the same amount of effort and yet not travelling at quite the same pace. This is where marathons are made or broken. It is a fine line that needs to be walked (or jogged!) when you still have 8 miles to complete of the race. A voice in your head is telling you to slow down to ensure that you reach the finish (this was accompanied by images of the incredible Callum Hawkins collapsing in the final stages of his marathon only weeks earlier) and yet a voice in your heart is whispering that you just need to grit your teeth and see how deep the well goes.

I saw the pace drop a little but reasoned I was still on target for my goal and that I could afford to be a little careful for a few miles. As I reached mile 22 however I realised that things were slowing more than I could afford and that the initial target was falling out of reach. I battled on in the heat and felt positive as I continued to pass other runners who were also struggling in the midday sun. I was forced to accept that the 2:30 target was not going to happen today but realised that a PB was still on the cards. I knuckled down, focused on the positive and fought my way onto the Mall.

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Crossing the line in 2:31:04, I felt a strange cocktail of emotions. As relief at finishing and the pride of having a medal draped over my shoulders mixed in with the tinge of disappointment at not hitting my target I felt strangely conflicted. This was a PB (my previous being 2:31:31) but it wasn’t the PB I wanted – I was still a 2:31 marathoner, no one really cares about the seconds! It was moments later however that I felt my first taste of overwhelming satisfaction (and slight incredulity!) as I glanced at my phone to see a message from a friend declaring me the 33rd finisher. Thirty-third?!? I thought this must be a mistake but soon had it confirmed and I was ecstatic – I had not even considered my position in the race as I had been too busy thinking about my time.

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I enjoyed a very quick celebration with my fellow runners, my brother, friends who had travelled down to watch and, of course, my wife Vicki before we needed to rush away for our flight back to Glasgow! A quick shower, a few slices of pizza in a plastic bag for the journey (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Laura!) and a short train journey took Vicki and I to Stanstead for the final leg of our journey. A short delay to our flight meant that we were back in our flat just after 11pm and finally my head hit the pillow for a few hours kip before work on Monday morning and I enjoyed dreams of a nice, quiet day in the classroom…

“Jack, you’re needed in the headmaster’s office now – apparently it is urgent!”

My colleague had just burst in during my second period of the day with no idea what I was wanted for – but it sounded important! I was a little scared (and more than a little confused) as I entered his office but was greeted with a handshake and invited to take a seat.

“The BBC are on the phone. They want to come in for an interview – and they want to film you teaching your S3 class”

Despite my fear that I would make a fool of myself on camera, and after a stern/desperate chat with my pupils, things actually worked out OK and the footage on Reporting Scotland didn’t make me look like a complete idiot! I was overwhelmed with the messages of congratulations that I received after this and I even got a free Greggs in the morning from the staff who had seen my interview! What a bonus!

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The week since has been fantastic. I may not have achieved the initial target but I am incredibly proud of the result. I am now left planning for the future – I know that I have more to offer in the marathon, but for now it is time to reflect and recover. In the meantime I need to thank a few people who helped in the long road to London:

  • Bellahouston Harriers – for providing a huge level of support to all of us who were running.
  • Matt – who put up with almost daily questions and who provided an unparalleled level of advice and guidance throughout the training block.
  • The Locker Room – for that extra touch of motivation when needed.

And most importantly to Vicki who put up with months of my obsession, anxiety, bragging and distraction, all the while struggling with her own injury. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Bring on the next one…

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The Road to Berlin: Week Seven

Week Seven: 21/08/17 – 27/08/17

Total Mileage: 73.3M

Monday:         Rest

Tuesday:         13M (10 Progression)

Wednesday:   7.3M Recovery

Thursday:       8x600m reps off 90sec jog recovery

Friday:             AM: 4.5 M Recovery

PM: 7.25M Easy

Saturday:        8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:           24M (20 Moderate)

 

Reflections:

This was a tough week and a bit of a mix to be honest! Things started fantastically and I felt great on the progression run. I managed to work down to a couple of reps at 5:25/mile and felt strong. This was a similar session to one which I completed before my Marathon in Amsterdam last year however this attempt ended up being significantly faster than that effort – a nice little confidence booster!

On Wednesday however I had to stop my run half a mile early due to really bad stomach cramps. I had further stomach issues on Thursday too, though thankfully I was still able to complete the session.

On Friday and Saturday I was made it through all of the runs with no further issues which was a relief and I felt great. I am really starting to feel fit just now and these runs felt fantastic.

Sunday was a big one. 24Miles with the middle 20 at 6:20/mile (approximately 30seconds ahead of Marathon Pace). I made my way round Pollok Park before heading up along the cycle route towards Paisley and along the canal before turning and heading back on myself. It was really useful to have company on the first section of this run and Darren and Stuart ran with my to the half way point. It was also a nice boost to see Cris and Craig when I was heading back as we used the same route for our similar sessions. I felt great on this run and the pace felt comfortable – again it was a huge confidence boost as I enter the final month of preparation. I did get a bit of a fright when I stopped however as I attempted to stretch my calves (which had been very tight) and I got a sharp pain up my Achilles and left calf. After a couple of minutes the pain disappeared  and things seemed to clear up. I decided to take a day off tomorrow and to focus on a stretching/icing/foam rolling strategy to get through it! Fingers crossed…

 

 

The Road to Berlin: Week Six

Week Six: 14/08/2017 – 20/08/17

Total Mileage: 82.3M

Monday:          8M Easy

Tuesday:          12M (10 Moderate)

Wednesday:    8M Easy

Thursday:        8x 1km reps

Friday:              AM:  5M Recovery

PM: 6M Easy

Saturday:          8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:             22M (13.1 Steady)

Reflections:

This has been the heaviest, in terms of volume, that I have done in a very long time (possibly ever!) and I was a little concerned coming into it about how my body would cope. I am delighted to have got through it unscathed and have actually really enjoyed the sessions.

Monday’s easy run was a gentle start to the week – which was nice as this would also be my last day off before work started up again! It was nice to get back into the ‘run commute’ habit on Tuesday with a longer Moderate run along the Clyde which felt very comfortable. It’s always reassuring to have these sessions as at the start of the program I know that this run would have felt far more laboured. Another easy run on Wednesday took me to 28 Miles and it was nice to feel like the legs were simply ticking over.

On Thursday I had to plan for an 8x1km interval session as part of my run home from work. The goal was to get a couple of miles of warmup in at a nice easy pace (which would also take me conveniently down to the Clyde Walkway) and then bust out the kilometre reps along the Walkway towards Glasgow. I needed to get two mins of jogging recovery in between each rep too which meant that the total distance covered would be significantly further than just the 8km. I hit the reps at ~10km pace and felt great. There is something very reassuring about beginning a rep and seeing that it I only 0.62miles to go when you’re used to counting down in full miles! I had to do a little doubling back on myself when I got to Glasgow Green in order to fit all of the reps in but this was not a problem and I enjoyed a nice easy few miles back up to the flat once they were done.

Friday and Saturday were reserved for more easy running. I made sure to hit my strides on Saturday as I had missed this from my session earlier in the week. For Saturday’s run I enjoyed a nice few miles down to Pollok parkrun where I ran round with Paul Houston (and had a good chat!) before knocking out a few easy miles home again.

Sunday was the big one. This was a session which has been staring out of my plan at me for a few weeks and which I have been fairly intimidated by. Not only was the idea of running 22M with 13 of them at target race pace terrifying, I was scared of the implications if it proved too big a task – if I could not manage half a marathon at my goal pace, what chance would I have over the full thing! I set off with Walshy nice and early to get the first 5M in at an Easy pace. This was great and it was really helpful to share the session with someone. We were both nervous but definitely took confidence from having the other there. As we hit 5M, Walshy and I parted ways to complete the faster section at our own target paces. My goal was to keep the mile splits in the 5:51-5:53 area for the first half and then see how I felt. As the clock ticked along I soon realised, to my absolute joy, that the pace felt comfortable! I hit the half way mark pretty much on track (except for one poor split which I am blaming on tree coverage messing with my GPS) and decided to pick things up for the next 7M. I picked up the pace to 5:45/mile and felt great. With a mile or two to go it did start to feel like a little effort to maintain the faster splits but I still felt strong and my HR suggested I wasn’t working too hard. I hit the final mile and threw in a 5:41 to see how the legs would cope. This was a bit more of an effort but I felt great and was delighted to get through this section of the run. As I hit the 13.1 mark, I reached Walshy and we exchanged a few words about the run – we had both had similar experiences with the pace and were buzzing with adrenaline. Together we climbed back towards the Southside to complete the 22Miles. My final mile felt tough – the legs were completely empty. At first I was a little concerned about this but I figure it was to be expected as we had made the decision to hit the run without gels or water. After a decent feed, I was able to look back on it as a very positive session and a real confidence boost as we come into the last 5 weeks.

This has been a pretty full-on week but it has been great. The volume and quality of the progressive sessions seems to be paying off and I am feeling very strong. I have had some tightness in my calf (left) but daily stretching and rolling seems to be working. I will monitor this closely and continue with the additional exercises I am doing.

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The Road to Berlin: Week Five

Week Five: 07/08/17 – 13/08/17

Total Mileage: 70.8

Monday:        6M Recovery

Tuesday:        12M (8 Steady)

Wednesday:  6M Recovery

Thursday:      2M Time Trial (Race)

Friday:            AM:  5M Recovery

                          PM:  6M Easy

Saturday:       AM: 8M Easy + Strides

                          PM: Conditioning Circuit (Light)

Sunday:          20M Easy

Reflections
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Delighted with the way this week has gone. This is the final week of my school holidays and it has been great to get out and get some quality sessions under my belt. 

Tuesday’s run was a great confidence boost as I ticked along the 8 Steady miles at ~ 5:51/mile pace and felt comfortable. I will look to build on this in the coming weeks as I attempt to tune into Marathon Pace.

Thursday was another huge confidence boost as I ran a PB at the Bella Harriers Time Trial with 9mins 58secs. I enjoyed a nice 2M warmup and cool down with my brother Oli who was up visiting and felt brilliant toeing the line. I made an effort to hold back a little in the first mile of the race andlooking at my Garmin data after the race revealed that I actually ran the first mile 7secs slower than when I ran my previous PB. Nevertheless, I felt really strong because of this and hit the ascent with confidence. This was the first time that I have really felt in control running up the hill on this course and it seemed to fly by. I hit the peak and wretched things out with a fast finish. I managed a slightly negative split despite the climb and this definitely contributed to the PB. I was also lucky to get a fancy photo taken after the race by award winning professional photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert who was taking portrait style photos of club members for his latest project.

Friday and Saturday were both geared towards recovering from the hard start to the week and I felt good getting through the slower miles. On Saturday I also managed a very light circuit of conditioning in the gym followed with a brief, easy swim and a sauna.  I finished the day feeling refreshed and spent a lot of time on the foam roller in front of the athletics.

Sunday was a big one and I headed out with the lads for a 20M Easy paced run over the moors. This is a very hilly route with over 1000ft of ascent, mostly in the first half. We manage to tick the miles off however and stuck to the planned pace effectively. This really is a stunning route and the views make the hills worth climbing! I tested out race strategy with gels today and had success with taking two Science in Sport gels during the run. I had one at 10M and one at 15M and had no issues with them. The run concluded with coffee and croissants courtesy of Craig before I popped home for some more foam rolling and stretching.

This was a fantastic week or me. It was my biggest week in terms of volume so far and included some nice confidence boosting short runs too. I’ve got a few more ‘big’ weeks to go before hitting my taper and am feeling very strong. I’ll be focusing on hitting the sessions as planned in the coming weeks and also ensuring my nutrition and recovery is effective to support this. 


Thanks to Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert for the photograph!  

The Road to Berlin: Week Four

Week Four: 31/07/17 – 06/08/17

Total Mileage: 53.7

Monday:         10x 1min on/1min off

Tuesday:         6M Recovery

Wednesday:  18M (10 Moderate)

Thursday:       6M Recovery

Friday:             8M Easy

Saturday:        REST

Sunday:           11M (7 Tempo) 

Reflections.

This week was spent pretty much entirely in Cyprus (I flew back to London on Saturday evening) which meant a slight shuffle of the sessions. I was worried about trying the do the Tempo run whilst away as I felt the heat would make it very difficult to hit the speed that I was aiming for. I therefore swapped this session with the long run which had been planned for the weekend. I also switched out Monday’s planned Hill Session as there were no hills available and so did a fast,flat interval session instead.

Monday was an a tough session in the morning heat and I definitely underestimated it. I got the session done but realised I would definitely need earlier starts from this point on. I also realised that I would need to ensure I had water for all of my runs. 

Tuesday was much more enjoyable as I was able to drop the pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Salt Lake.  This also gave me a chance to scout out the first section of a route for tomorrow’s longer run. Felt good and had to make a real effort to hold the pace back towards the end of the run.

Wednesday was a session which I had been dreading. It would mean being out in the heat for a long time and there was also the very real possibility of me getting lost! I decided to get up before the sunrise and head out at 5:30am.  I also decided to break the run into sections which would enable me to re-fill my water bottle. I set off for the first 5M section at an easy pace and made sure that I consumed a full bottle of Gatorade during this loop. I then re-filled my bottle with cold water during a quick pit stop and headed back out the door. I gave myself one more mile of easy running to get back into a rhythm before hitting the 10M at Moderate pace (6:30/mile). I felt great and succeeded in holding this pace for the duration as I completed a full loop of Larnaca’s Salt Lake and headed back along the seafront. This faster section was followed with a couple of easy miles to bring the total distance to 18M.

Thursday and Friday were a nice dip back down to gentler paces and I was able to soak up the sun with a little less pressure. I felt good although I had a little tightness in the left calf, leading to a slight ache in the shin, after the 8M Easy run on Friday. I’ve been slacking on the stretching/foam rolling while away so will make an effort to get back on with this!

After a rest day on Saturday and a flight back to London, I headed out for a Tempo run on Sunday. I got a lift up to Kenley  Aerodrome for the session as I figured this would be nice and flat and traffic-free. Unfortunately I didn’t consider how windy it would be and this made it very tough to hit my target splits. I missed the goal pace by a few seconds per mile but this still felt like a decent session. It was a relief to get through the run with no aches in the shin or calf.

This was a good week of training and it was nice to get everything done without it eating into the holiday too much. The change of scenery was fantastic and it was great to be running in the heat before cooling off in the sea and enjoying my ‘recovery’ wth a book on the beach.

The Road to Berlin: Week Three

Week Three: 24/07/17 – 30/07/17

Total Mileage: 62.6

Monday:          PM: 6M Recovery

Tuesday:         AM: 8M Easy + Strides

Wednesday:   PM: Kilmaurs 5k Race

Thursday:       PM: 6M Recovery

Friday:             AM: 18M (10 Steady)

Saturday:        AM: 8M Recovery

Sunday:           AM: 8M Easy + Strides
Reflections.

This felt like another solid week. There was a slight shuffle around of my original plan due to a holiday in the Cypriot sun which would make fast running very difficult! With my flight to Larnaca departing on Saturday, I was advised to bring the long steady run forward to Friday. This meant that I could at least settle in to my first day of holiday with an ‘Easy’ run and not an 18 miler! The shuffle would mean fewer days recovery between race day and my long run but sometimes things just need to get done!

Monday and Tuesday were fine and  just ticked along feeling comfortable at the designated pace. I have been making an effort to do my strides properly during this marathon attempt as this is something that I have found easy to neglect in the past. I have found a decent stretch between two sets of lampposts on Tantallon Road which serve as reasonable markers of distance and these have worked effectively.

Coming into Wednesday’s race I was feeling confident. I had not been satisfied with my 5k time at Springburn parkrun a week and a half earlier and was keen to give myself a boost with a fast time. Secretly, I was hoping to challenge the 16minute barrier but, all things considered, I was happy enough to finish in 16:09. I felt much more comfortable than I had done previously and this gave me another indicator that things are moving in the right direction.

Thursday was all about recovery so it was a nice and simple recovery run into town to pick up some clothes for holiday (nothing like leaving things to the last minute!).

The long run on Friday was hard going and completely due to poor planning on my part. I had flown down to London to see family before my Cyprus flight an had planned on doing this run while there. The idea was to get 6 Easy miles under my belt before hitting 10 sub6 miles and then finishing up with a final 2 Easy.  In my memory ‘The Woldingham Run’ is a flat, traffic free loop which I could double up to get my 10 faster miles. I discovered mid-run however that, while it is indeed traffic-free, it is definitely not flat!! I had a quick re-shuffle of my route (which for someone with my sense of direction is always dangerous!) and managed to get things sorted. The run ended up being fine and I was glad to get it done.

Saturday morning was a straightforward recovery run before my lunchtime flight to Larnaca.

Sunday was my first run in Cyprus of the holiday and was pencilled in as 8M Easy + Strides. I found a map which suggested a that a footpath would take me all the way around the Salt Lake which is not far from where I am staying and which looked to have a fair few miles to it. I had no idea how suitable this ‘footpath’ would be for running, all I knew was that it would be hot. And so it was that at 7am the alarm went and I headed out the door with a (too big) bottle of water and a sense of adventure. Vicki was a also heading out for a few miles along the seafront – which as handy as I am sure a lot of partners would be less than impressed with a 7am alarm on the first morning of a holiday! The footpath was ideal but the heat was rising and was close to 30degrees even at this time. I will need an earlier start before my long run next week! For my strides I ran along a section of the newly pedestrianised seafront which was absolutely fantastic. The sun was rising over the ocean and I could smell the strong Greek Coffee from the roadside cafes. Post-run it was straight to the beach for a dip in the sea and a few hours of reading my new book (Stephen King – Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger).

All in all this was a good week. I was pleased with my 5k performance and glad to get the long steady run done – besides, it is difficult to complain when your day consists of running in the sun, sipping Iced Coffee and eating Souvlaki. Magic.

The Road to Berlin: Week Two

Week Two: 17/07/17 – 23/07/17

Total Mileage: 64.1

Monday:      Rest

Tuesday:      AM: 14M (8M Steady)

Wednesday: AM: 7M Recovery

Thursday:     AM: 11M (6M Tempo)

Friday:           AM: 6M Recovery

Saturday:      AM: 6M Easy

Sunday:         AM: 20M (16M Moderate)
Reflections.

This was a good week and provided a nice confidence boost after the mixed experiences of last week. There were three key sessions here and I was pleased to successfully hit all of them and feel good in the process. Tuesday’s session included a nice set of 8M at 5:55/mile pace which felt comfortable  even in the heat. I ran this session solo along the Clyde Walkway, which has become a bit of a standard route for my paced efforts, and focused on feeling relaxed and loose through the miles.

Thursday’s Tempo run filled me with dread. Last week I really struggled with a 3x2M Tempo which I ran with Gregor. During that session I had failed to maintain the required pace and faded miserably towards the end. It had been a run that ended with me feeling dehydrated, frustrated and filled with self-doubt. I decided therefore to take a different approach to this week’s effort; I would treat this run as a race. I woke up early for a small breakfast before relaxing for a couple of hours in bed. I then completed a full warm up including some mobility work and foam rolling. I even dressed as if this were a race: vest, split shorts and racing flats. I decided not to take my music with me and to head out for the run solo. By limiting distractions, I would give myself the best possible chance of hitting my target splits. I managed the pace much more effectively on this run than I had on previous efforts and reaped the benefits of not going out too hard. The more conservative first mile (5:30) meant that I felt strong at the halfway mark and was even able to increase the pace slightly as I turned for home. I averaged splits of 5:28/mile across the 6 and, most importantly, felt great.

It was nice to get a couple of easy days in after the Tempo run and I spent these in Sheffield with Vicki visiting family. It was great to explore some new places at an easy pace and I even got to take in a new park run  (Graves parkrun report here!). We discovered just how hilly Sheffield really is and I was relieved to not be running tempo paced sessions here! 
After a couple of easy days it was time for the long run. This was a 20M effort with 16M at Moderate effort. The pace would vary slightly due to the  route having a steady climb for the first half and a descent for the duration of the second. I got the train out to Kilmarnock with the boys and we would run back through to Glasgow. After 3M of easy running, Cris and I increased the pace to 6:30/mile and held this for 7M. This felt good in spite of the ascent and the slight headwind and so when we hit the 10M point, we dropped the pace to 6:20/mile. Cris and I held the pace together for the next 7M before he dropped off to complete his easy section and I added in the bonus 2M that I had pencilled in at this faster pace. After 16 Moderate miles, I dropped down to easy pace to complete my run. It was a nice session and I felt comfortable at this pace. Getting a 20 Miler in the bank also felt good and definitely gave me a confidence boost as Berlin looms on the horizon. It was also the perfect precursor for the ‘all-you-can-eat buffet’ which I enjoyed with the lads afterwards.

This was a good week and I enjoyed the three sessions. It was nice to get this in before my upcoming holiday in Cyprus too as I have a feeling it is not going to feel comfortable hitting the target sessions in the heat! I’ll do what I can! 

The Road to Berlin. Week One

The Berlin Marathon has always been the ‘A’ target for 2017 and, as I begin my race-specific training, I thought I would keep a record of my training and reflections for each week online. I currently keep a handwritten training diary which enables me to keep an eye on my training and track my progress over the year however during my preparation for the Amsterdam Marathon 2016 I found it interesting to read the training diaries of other runners online and so this year I have decided to add my own contribution. My current marathon PB is 2:34 which I secured at Amsterdam last year. I would like to build on that in Berlin. This will be a fairly short marathon block as I struggled with injuries earlier in the year and decided that I would delay the marathon-specific work and focus instead on building up some speed. I also took an easy week prior to commencing this next period of hard work during which I cut my mileage drastically, had a massage and generally took things easy!
  

Week One: 10/07/17-16/07/17

Total Mileage: 68.5

Monday:            AM: Strength + Conditioning (light)

                             PM: 6M Recovery Run

Tuesday:            AM: 4.75M Easy

                             PM: 7M Easy + Strides

Wednesday:      PM: 11.5M (3X2M at Tempo)

Thursday:          AM: 6M Recovery Run

Friday:                PM: 8M Easy

Saturday:           AM: Springburn parkrun

                             PM: Strength + Conditioning (light)

Sunday:             AM: 18M Easy

 

Reflections

This was a bit of a mixed week for me. I introduced a more specific running strength and conditioning element to my training and took this at a low intensity due to it being a new addition to my training.  

Wednesday’s Tempo run was hard going and it was a very hot day. I made a couple of big mistakes which had a negative impact on the session. Firstly, I don’t think I managed my hydration through the day effectively and I really felt this during the later stages of the session. Secondly, I took the first couple of miles far too quickly which meant that I faded in the later stages and particularly struggled in the final mile to hold a tempo pace. After this session I felt horrific and had to jump into Tesco for something to drink. It was definitely a lesson in preparation and I will be certain to manage these things more effectively in future! 

Saturday was a chance to put in a fast 5k run at Springburn park run and, again, this was a disappointing experience. I had managed a PB of 9:59 at the hilly Bella Harriers 2M TT last week and hoped to build on that by pushing for a sub16 minute parkrun. It became clear in the first mile however that my legs were not going to play along and they felt heavy and tired almost immediately. On reflection I believe this could have been down to a couple of things but mainly my very short warmup due to a late arrival at the park. I think I probably still had some of Wednesday’s tempo in my legs also. I crossed the line in 16:18 which was frustrating but I am happy that this was a blip which I can overcome easily. 

Sunday was a good one! I really enjoyed the 18M Easy run which I took solo. I like the new route which took my along the Clyde Walkway for a large portion of it and I will use this again. I held an average pace of 6:43 per mile which felt comfortable and I managed to stick to this pace consistently throughout the run. It was nice to complete this run exactly as planned. 

Overall this was a mixed week. Wednesday and Saturday’s runs were disappointing but I take some comfort from knowing where I went wrong and that it is easily fixable. Sunday was a much better run and allowed me to finish the week on a positive note. I managed to get a decent number of miles in as well as a couple of strength and conditioning sessions and feel good about going into week two.