It's arrived, taper time. Ok, so it's not quite a case yet of putting my feet up entirely, but relative to the past 12 weeks, it's going to feel like it. I last did a marathon 3 years ago, and it had been off the back of 6 months of injury free training and at the end of what had been a purple patch of running. The build up for this year's London Marathon hasn't been too dissimilar in terms of continuity. Aside from a 10 day break from running over New Year due to a calf issue, I've pretty much been able to run when I've liked and what I've liked. So what have been the ups, downs, things I've learned new, things I've always done and things that haven't worked?
I have found that completing at least 2 out of the 3 main sessions in a week has been crucial. The 3 sessions have been: shorter speed work (Tuesday), longer threshold (Thursday), long run (Sunday). It's been great having a group at each whether it's Phil O'dell's Battersea group doing the shorter stuff, or the 'Thursday night Battersea threshold' group on on Thursdays, there have been people to push me all along. Probably the one session that sticks out was a rather too pacey 1k 95%MP, 1.8k MP where a few of us knocked out a 69:30 half marathon on the way and it was good to see John Gilbert, Andy Maud, Jonathan Poole, Rich Phillips along with the rest of the group all training so well for a common goal.
I've raced a lot, possibly too much, but I've enjoyed most of them, targeting some whilst training through others. I felt that the main XC races (Southerns, National, Intercounties) all helped strength endurance and gave the opportunity to race against some of the best in the country, whilst Reading Half gave the chance to indicate what sort of pace I could run the marathon. For any of these big races, I would do a controlled 6*1 mile on the Tuesday/Wednesday before, and then the race would effectively replace either the Thursday threshold session or the long run.
I hit a top distance of 23 miles for my long run at the beginning of March, and largely kept them to about 20 miles. 2 of these 20 mile runs I did at 1:55 and 1:57 pace respectively, and this gave the confidence that my pace could be maintained for the full 2 hours. I didn't feel it necessary to go to the full marathon distance in training, and some may say that I should have done more longer runs (since the beginning of March I have only done the 23 miler and a 17 miler), but this has been for logistical reasons more than anything and I've raced several 10+ mile races during tat period, all with a reasonable cool down/recovery run.
My weekly mileage averaging at about 65 miles could be considered low compared to your typical runner aiming for the sort of time that I am. However, I have found in the past that repeatedly knocking out 80+ miles in a week has landed me injured. So I've included a fair amount of cross training to complement the running which has generally been one of: a 50 minute effort on the rowing machine, 50 minute swim or 2*20 minute watt bike session.
The 2 areas where I could probably have concentrated a little harder are on stretching and nutrition. I will admit that I've probably stretched a total of 10 minutes since the beginning of the year and as a result my muscles are incredibly tight and I think this is causing a bit on pain in my left knee. Over the next 2 weeks I shall concentrate on stretching and rolling now that the time spent running will be reduced. My nutrition certainly isn't textbook either. I'm a cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, meet and 3 veg for dinner type of person, and don't take any supplements or vitamins whatsoever which sounds fine, however I also find myself eating quite a lot of chocolate, crisps and cereal, and partial to have a few beers a couple of times a week. But I'd rather be relaxed when it comes to feeding myself and as long as I've got plenty of energy to train, then that's good enough for me.
So in the next 2 weeks, I'll run a bit, do a couple of light sessions, try to stretch a lot, sleep a lot and eat healthy and hopefully, come 26th April, I'll be set to have a crack at a pb.