Sunday, 20 May 2018

Getting to the London Marathon Startline

In 2003, I completed my first London Marathon, crossing the line in 2:45:08, feeling well and truly broken. In fact, my training that year had been so haphazard through injury and lack of direction for what to do, I’d even told my parents not to come to watch as I felt I was unlikely to finish. 15 years on and another 10 marathons later, and I feel as though I have finally figured out a build up which works for me. Granted, I’m not a 20 year old anymore and, as a result, my training has had to change as recovery takes longer and my lifestyle has changed, but that hasn’t stopped me from still putting in the necessary sessions whilst remaining in one piece.

With Strava now allowing everyone to see everyone else’s training, I thought I’d summarise my build up, and what I found worked for me. If my preparation comes over as easy, that is by no means the case, and I give everything I have in training. However, for me, I don’t let the London Marathon take over everything from January to April.

Training:

This is split in to sessions and knocking out miles. The only real change in my typical weekly training is focusing on the long run, however this year I have reduced the number of hard sessions in the week.

In previous build ups, I have followed the pattern of:
  • Tuesday - quick shorter rep session (5-6 miles)
  • Thursday - MP longer rep session (12-14 miles)
  • Saturday (maybe race/parkrun)
  • Sunday (hard long run 20 miles)
If I can hold this together, then fantastic, however I have only once managed to reach the marathon start line in one piece following this schedule. It is incredibly draining, both energy and timewise, and so I decided to switch to 2-sessions per week, dropping the Thursday threshold:
  • Tuesday - quick shorter rep session (5-6 miles)
  • Saturday- Long Run (20 miles, undulating off-road. 5:50-6min miling, winding it up at the end to 5:20-5:40)
Plenty of sessions around Battersea Park with these guys

Having 3 days between each session meant I was sufficiently rested to push these hard every time. The Tuesday sessions gave top end speed, whilst the Saturday sessions gave speed endurance. My longest run was 24 miles (I don’t feel it necessary to go over distance), and I did 5 long runs averaging 20 miles (the last of which was March 11th, which was probably a little earlier than normal, but I was ill in late March so had to skip the last long run).
In between these, I was just steady running to/from work or at lunchtimes (6:15-30 miling, quicker than most may do, but it’s the easiest way to fit in the distance when time pushed).
Total distance wise, I had a few weeks at 90+ miles, but most were 65-75 miles on average per week.

Racing:
Sprinting for 23rd place at National Cross
I like to race, and essentially it’s what drives me to train, however I’ve now realised that you can do to much of it. I took the decision this year to compete infrequently, but to race hard and target a big event for each month in the build up. I chose Southern XC (January. 15km cross country, big strength test), National XC (February. 12km cross country, another strength test and high quality field), Valencia Half Marathon (March. World Champs race, very good depth, indicator for where I was long-run wise), National 12-stage (week before, sharpener).


In preparation for each of these, I did a shorter/quicker session on the Tuesday before (something like 4*1 mile), then no long run that week and an easier/no session the Tuesday after. I was therefore well rested going into each, and gave myself enough time to recover afterwards. In fact, after Valencia, I had 2 weeks of easy running given I felt so tired/slightly ill. However I was not phased at all as I felt that missing a long run/session here and there was going to make no difference to the end goal.

Other things:

I feel that putting in the miles and hard sessions makes up for almost 100% of the work required. My opinions on nutrition, lifestyle and sleep may not be shared by all and potentially some may say that there are marginal gains to be had there, but equally I don’t like to let running rule everything.

Nutrition:
In terms of diet, mine is by no means textbook: cereal for breakfast, sandwiches/crisps for lunch, meat/veg/pasta/potatoes for dinner. I’ll snack on cereal bars/chocolate/fruit and love jam sandwiches. Whilst I don’t booze too much, I’m still happy to have a couple of glasses of wine in the week and beers at the weekends. But my opinion is that as long as energy in equals energy out and I’m relatively healthy, that’s fine.
Pre-race breakfast. Simple

Sleep:
I try to get 8 hours sleep a night, but realistically it’s more like 7.

Strength training: 
I’ll admit, as much as I would like to, I do no strength work. This is quite contrary to what I have been doing for years where I would routinely do sit-ups/press-ups/lunges etc. 3 times a week, but with no motivation to do that at home nor finding a reasonably priced and convenient gym, that is one thing that has slipped this year. I may have been fortunate with avoiding injury this year, but I do think a couple of 30 minutes strength sessions a week is worth it.

Footwear:
I managed to get myself a pair of Nike Vaporflys for the London Marathon which are quite frankly amazing. They are very different from anything I’ve ever worn before and are by far the most expensive piece of running apparel I have, but feel so soft, bouncy and quick that they are totally worth it. The hype certainly got me. A week on from the marathon and my legs feel the best they ever have, and potentially the shoes contributed to that.

Next to follow is a post about the London Marathon day itself, but hopefully this provides an insight into how I built up to the race.

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