Training Week -29 (previously known as Week -6) Done

14th March 2020

**I wrote most of this post before I heard the news on Friday about the London Marathon being cancelled. The training stands and I will finish the update for this week and then have a think about what this news means for me and my preparation plans**

In the scheme of things this has been a deliberately quieter week and this has come from a couple of directions. From the very beginning of my marathon journey I knew I would have to take a cautious approach to my training. The progression from 10k running to a 26 mile marathon would be a big ask for my body and I measured out my efforts so that I didn’t try to do too much, too quickly. According to the training plan I am now on the cusp of being race ready, with my long run a whisker short of the longest 20 miler required, and so with just a few weeks remaining I am spacing out these longest runs as well. I intend to get in a couple more 20 mile runs in the remaining weeks but don’t want to overload my body so will space these out with a week’s relative rest sandwiched between them. I am also living in expectation that the event will be cancelled, or at best postponed, and this is inevitably tempering my expectations. If I lose my place entirely I will be absolutely gutted, if it is postponed until the autumn or next year then I can live with that. For now I will prepare for a race at the end of April.

Week 11 of the VLM plan looks like this:

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – The next four weeks are about getting to know your race pace.Have a target time in minutes and work out your pace per mile.60 Minute Spin Class
Monday45 MINUTES EASY RUNYoga
TuesdayREST DAYSTEADY RUN 30 Minutes (5km), TEMPO RUN 55 Minutes (8.5km) STEADY RUN 25 Minutes (3.5km)
WednesdayRUN 60 MINUTES – 10-minute easy run, (5-minute tempo run, 3-minute easy run/walk recovery) x 5, 10 minute easy runREST DAY
ThursdayREST DAYINTERVAL RUN 40 Minutes (6km)
FridayREST DAYREST DAY
SaturdayRUN 2HRS 30 MINUTES – (28-minute easy run, 2-minute walk) x 5, or distancegoal of 14 to 16 miles. Include a few miles at target marathon paceparkrun 32 Minutes (5km)

On Sunday I got up early to fit in an 8:00am spin class, this gave me enough time to get my son to his last hockey match of the season. It was a good session although coronavirus fears meant it was half empty and extra effort was spent cleaning the equipment before and after the class, still I put the effort in and burnt the calories. The hockey match was a little disappointing as they were beaten by a better team. They ended the season with more wins than losses, though, and I think he enjoyed his first year in a new sport and will hopefully be keen to return in September.

On Monday evening I returned to my yoga class at the gym, very odd to see people spraying down the mats and blocks but that’s where we are now I guess. Can’t say I fancy the gym floor at the moment, or the steam room, so will look to replicate more of the exercises at home. The yoga was as good as ever and while not as focussed on the legs as much as I would like, there was enough flexibility work around the hips to feel very beneficial.

I went back to my running club on Tuesday after breaking my recent attendance streak last week and used this to fill in the weekly long run. As before, I met my friend on the way but this time I left home a little early to allow me to fit in some extra distance. Once we met up we headed for the park, he is recovering from a slight injury but still on course to run the marathon, and still capable of a faster pace than me, so I was pushed along at an agreeably quicker rate than if I was on my own. Once there I joined a group going at a Steady Run pace, although the group leader had dropped down from a faster group so I had my suspicions it was going to be a little tougher than normal. We followed a route I seem to have done every week since re-engaging with the club, but it is a really good route with the challenging Summer Hill about two thirds in followed by a long, flat run to the finish. As I suspected, the leader took us through at a slightly quicker pace but as the route was familiar I didn’t mind. Once back at the park I met up with my friend and we headed home, again at a pace quicker than I would have managed on my own. Given that the journey home is mostly uphill there is every chance I would have given in to walking if I’d been on my own so the companionship was appreciated. Maybe there is something to be said for having a training partner after all. The distance was obviously down on last week’s effort but I’m taking it as a positive that I can put in this mileage and still call it a rest week.

Distance covered 17km

I took a complete rest on Wednesday so on Thursday I had another go at interval training while my daughter had her dance lesson. Following a triangular route I jogged up the first side for about 600m before heading down the second at as fast a pace as I could hold for another 650m, faster than my best parkrun pace but short of sprinting, before splitting the final side into two sections; one at a very easy pace the second back up to full pace. I repeated this three times and it was pretty tough going on the final fast section. At the end I took in another, shorter, loop where I did my best impression of lamppost fartlek training. Sprint from one lamppost to the next, jog/walk to the next and repeat until you run out of lampposts. Apart from looking like an idiot this was actually quite good fun and it was very enjoyable to try running at full pace for a change. Not something I do very often having given up competitive sports many years ago. Not quite in the training plan but I enjoyed it more than last week’s attempt at interval training.

Distance covered 6km

On Friday I had no training planned anyway and the news I received on the way home of the postponement only meant that I allowed myself a glass or two of wine with my dinner.

On Saturday morning I could feel the effect of the wine and limited myself to just running a parkrun with no additional there and backs thrown in. It was a return to another local favourite, much smaller in turnout than my main one it is a more robust running challenge. Almost entirely on grass it has many energy sapping inclines and was very heavy underfoot and boggy in places. A tough run, and a time I wouldn’t like to highlight, but it was good to be back there.

Distance covered 5km

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

1 Yoga class

0 Swim session

3 Runs (total distance 28km)

Current weight 12”13’

I’m not sure where this postponement leaves me. Since the beginning I have been more focussed on my journey rather than the endgame and I think this will stand me in good stead. I’m going to give it a little thought over the weekend and come up with a new plan of attack.

Commiserations  to all impacted by the raft of race postponements, especially those who have gone to much more logistical effort than I had to. I guess there are more important things to worry about at the moment.

Training week -8 done

29th February 2020

Another week ticked off and while things continue in the right direction it was a quiet week and my mileage was somewhat down on previous weeks and not where I’d want to be. I think I can cope with a fallow week, though, and I hope to get the mileage back up soon. It wasn’t through any injuries just a combination of events that limited my ability to run for longer.

Let’s have a look at the week’s training plan, and I can see that things are getting serious and any slack I had in my training is being eroded quickly and for the first time I have come up short of the plan.

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – The next few weeks are all about the long run, building your capacity to run the marathon. Do not worry about covering the race distance before the event, just trust the training. Practise your hydration and fuel strategies on your long runREST DAY
Walk (5km)
Monday40 MINUTES EASY RUNYoga
TuesdayREST DAYTEMPO RUN 60 Minutes (10km)
WednesdayRUN 30 MINUTES – 10-minute easy run, (4-minute tempo run, 3-minute easy jog/walk recovery) x 4, 10-minute easy runREST DAY
Core Conditioning
ThursdayREST DAYHILL TRAINING 60 Minutes (6km)
FridayREST DAYREST DAY
SaturdayRUN 2 HOURS – (28-minute run, 2-minute walk) x 4, or distance goal of 10 to 12 miles 30 Minute parkrun (5km)

Following my half marathon distance run last Saturday my legs were too sore to try another run or spin class on Sunday. While my son played hockey I took the opportunity to take a brisk walk around a section of the route I’d usually run. It was just a leg stretcher and I wouldn’t count it in my training miles but it got rid of some of the tiredness.

Monday was a regular yoga class but I’m aware I haven’t swum for a few weeks now and I will have to find a way to get that back into the routine. Tuesday is club night and yet again I was able to make it there. Unfortunately due to a delay getting home from the office and a late breaking pancake emergency (no Nutella!) I didn’t have time to run to the meeting point. This meant I had to drive which cost me several kilometres out of my weekly total. The group run was good, though, and we covered the best part of 10km at a pace just shy of my regular 10k race pace. I made up the difference getting back to the car but given this should have been one of my longer runs it was a shame.

Distance covered 10km

Wednesday was another rest day with just some extended stretching and work with the gym ball to keep things moving before taking on hill training again on Thursday. I’m feeling a bit of an energy lull this week and found the climb up Summer Hill harder than usual. I seem to spend all my time running this hill recently. I’m doing repeats of it most Thursdays and I’m sure all of my recent club runs, bar one, have taken it in as well. You’d think I’d get better at it but I’m not sure that is the case. ‘Easy’ is not the word that comes to mind as I scale it but according to Strava I am getting quicker at it so that is progression I guess.

Distance covered 6km

Friday evening was a social night as I went for beer and curry with some of the rugby dad’s from my son’s old club. It was a great evening but not great for the training regime as several pints and a heavy meal took their toll the next morning. Saturday 29th February was a special parkrun day as it will be the last time you can run on that date until 2048 so while I really didn’t feel in a fit state for running I forced myself to the start line. I couldn’t face running there and back and the weather was appalling so I was restricted to just the 5km, again well short of previous weeks. I am having a good relationship with parkrun this week and have several targets for this year. Firstly I am now within 15 runs of getting my 250 shirt and will hopefully get that by late summer. I am also closing in on 200 runs at my home event and having managed to get the New Year’s Day double in I’m looking to run 40 events in 2020 for the first time. Add in a few new locations to add to my tourist total and it could be a successful parkrun year. That does leave me a little guilty about not volunteering as much but I will repay that debt later.

Distance covered 5km

I wish I could say that a relatively light week meant that my legs had time to recover but I am feeling some discomfort in my right knee and a general tightening in my legs each morning. I am going to spend more time on stretching and building up my legs but equally I know I will have to target longer distances as the training plan is pretty unforgiving throughout March. Now’s the time I need all that complementary training to come good for me.

Weekly Training Summary

0 Spin class

1 Yoga class

0 Swim session

3 Runs (total distance 21km)

Current weight 12”12’

Training week -9 done

22nd February 2020

A variable week that ended well but didn’t cover as much training as I would’ve liked. I’m back to the doubts I had from the start and while I’m happy with the distances I’m running and how I’m coping with them I can’t help seeing how much further I need to go and how fast the time is ticking by. I’ve also started working at a new location with a new client which has been a little disruptive. It’s still in a busy part of London but far from the marathon route or quieter Docklands roads so I will have to investigate the area to see if there are any workable lunchtime routes I can run. It’s also a couple of miles further from home and I’m planning to use this in the next week or so to extend my long(est) run to somewhere between 25-30km.

Week 8 of the VLM plan looks like this, hard to comprehend that I’m now at the halfway point of the actual training plan.

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – This week, feel your heart pounding and your breathing quicken with the tempo runningSpin Class 60 Minutes
Monday40 MINUTES EASY RUNSTEADY/EASY RUN 65 MINUTES (2 x 5km) Yoga
TuesdayREST DAYSTEADY RUN 40 Minutes (2 x 3km) TEMPO RUN 55 Minutes (9KM)
WednesdayRUN 50 MINUTES – 10-minute easy jog, (60 sec tempo running, 2 minute walk/jog) x 10, 10-minute easy jogSTEADY HIKE 120 Minutes (10km)
ThursdayREST DAYREST DAY
FridayREST DAYREST DAY
SaturdayRUN 1HR 40 MINUTES – (25-minute jog, 5-minute brisk walk) x 4, or distance goal of 8 to 10 milesSTEADY RUN 45 Minutes (6.5km) TEMPO RUN 29 Minutes (5km parkrun) STEADY RUN 70 Minutes (10km)

Sunday was a strange day. I started with a 60-minute spin class, a substitute instructor replacing my regular one. She had a different approach and focused more on working with much higher resistances. I liked the variety but I missed my instructor’s clear guidance and class management. Soon after midday my son had a hockey match on the other side of London so it wasn’t long after getting back from the gym that I headed out again. With Storm Dennis battering away it had been touch and go whether the fixture would take place but everyone was keen and we were assured the pitch was playable. I didn’t do any more training myself but the drive round the M25 through the fierce wind and rain certainly got my heart pounding. By the time of the match the weather had improved but sadly they lost a close match by the odd goal. The drive home was calmer as the weather had improved but there were plenty of sections under water that proved tricky to navigate.

On Monday we tried something different. At my wife’s suggestion we ran to the gym and then took our yoga class before running home. I have avoided this in the past as I don’t think they complement each other when that close together but you don’t know until you try. The intention was to run at a gentle pace there to arrive calm and relaxed but, unfortunately, a misjudged leaving time meant we had to really pick up the pace in the last kilometre to make it in time. As it was we rocked up with a minute to spare and squeezed into a couple of half-spaces around the edge. Breathing heavily in an otherwise peaceful room plus being incredibly hot for the first quarter of an hour made me feel quite self-conscious but once we got into the pace of things it was as enjoyable as usual. Straight after the session we headed home on the harder, uphill, leg of the trip and this proved quite a challenge. This run represented a significant step up in distance for my wife and I don’t think we’ll be trying this approach again. Sandwiching a relaxing yoga session between two runs diminished both and any advantage of combining into a single evening is wasted.

Distance covered 10km

Tuesday night, and I’m beginning to bore myself, but yet again I managed to attend a club night. I’ve lost count of how many on the trot this is now but at this rate some of the members might even begin to recognise me. I managed to include running there and back again as well as sticking with the faster group. They went at a very good pace, probably quicker than my 10k pace for many sections, which made for a very good session. I headed home just before the finish and took a direct route so distance was a little down on previous weeks but even so I thought it had been a good session.

Distance covered 15km

On Wednesday I went on a lovely muddy hike in the Kent countryside with my wife and son, mainly so that we could have lunch in this pub that serves wonderful, homemade pies. It was a steady walk over a couple of hours and while not exactly training, the VLM plan does still include some minor references to walking so I’ll throw it in for good measure. On Thursday I started on a new client site so that, combined with half term cancelling evening dance classes meant I did nothing else until the end of the week.

Saturday is parkrun day and this marathon training has really got a hold of me as my running to and from the park has become an order of magnitude bigger than the event itself. This time I got out of the house early enough to take a longer, looping run there and while it ended up being a little shorter than I had hoped worked out quite well as I arrived in good time. The event was as crowded as ever but once I was able to get into my stride I held a good pace until the end. My overall pace would have seen me through in around 28 minutes but the congested start probably added a minute to that. For a quicker section within a longer run I was happy with that. For the run back I followed a similar looping route along quiet rural roads as last week, with a small detour at the end to take the mileage over the half marathon distance. The route was quite hilly in places and I took a couple opportunities to walk but overall the pace was good and, taking into account some lulls either side of the parkrun, was close to my target marathon pace. The route map on Strava was very encouraging as well as the parkrun section was forced into a tiny corner by the rambling route I took there and back.

Distance covered 21.2km

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

1 Yoga class

0 Swim session

4 Runs (total distance 46.2km)

Current weight 12”13’

Training week -10 done

15th February 2020

One more week ticked off. I can sense a twitchiness building as I feel the race day closing in on me. Having not really given it much mind recently it is beginning to re-enter my thoughts and plans and rather than just turning the handle of training I’m now approaching each session with the thought ‘does this get me closer to the start line’. I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself.

Let’s revisit the training plan:

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – A solid week in the bank allowing training to settle and routine to continue Spin Class 60 Minutes
Monday40 MINUTES EASY RUN Swimming 1km
TuesdayREST DAYTempo Run 60 Minutes (9km) plus Steady Run 45 minutes (6.5km)
WednesdayRUN 40 MINUTES – 10-minute easy run, (45 sec tempo running, 1 minute 45 sec walk/run) x 8, 10-minute easy run REST DAY Core Conditioning
ThursdayREST DAY 7 minutes Easy Run, 30 minutes interval running, 7 minutes easy run (6km)
FridayREST DAY REST DAY
SaturdayRUN 1HR 45 MINUTES – (30-minute jog, 5-minute brisk walk) x 3, or distance goal of 8 miles 25 minute steady run (4km), 30 minute parkrun (5km), 45 minute steady run (7km)

Wednesday was a run free day with just a 30-minute core session with the gym ball. On Thursday I plumped for an interval running session. I did laps of a local private housing estate, the million-pound homes and wide, quiet roads make it a very safe and peaceful place to run. At the heart of the development is a block about 1.5km around and I used this to measure out my interval runs. Tempo Run along one side, Easy Run along the next and so on. Three laps in total plus another couple of Kilometres there and back and that was the session complete. I’m not sure this workout achieved much but it is good to introduce some variety and I will try and alternate with hill work over the next month or so.

Distance covered 6km

With the start of half term I was able to persuade both my children to join me at parkrun to make it a family affair and while they made their own way there I took the chance to add some extra miles to the day. I had hoped to run a longer way around to get there, but I was slow getting out of the door and didn’t have time so plumped for my regular route which is quite short and pleasantly downhill. I met up with them a few minutes before the start and while it was chilly the conditions were undeniably good. My son headed closer to the front while I held back with my daughter, deep in the pack. While this was an honest approach it did put us at a disadvantage. With several hundred runners trying to head off down a narrow path it’s a good hundred metres before you cross the start line and then probably a few hundred more before you can get fully into your stride. All this combines to make it difficult to get close to your best time, but we made it round without a pause in just over 30 minutes and that was good going as we only get to run a couple of these together each year. I headed home on a nice looping route that took in some pleasant, almost rural, roads to bring me within touching distance of 10 miles.

Distance covered 16km

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

0 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 1km)

4 Runs (total distance 37.5km)

Current weight 12”13’

Training week -12 done

1st February 2020

I’m struggling to keep up this training diary and I know I’m not jotting down my thoughts as much as before Christmas. I feel I made a lot of progress in the first few weeks and I’ve rather stagnated recently. I’m still doing the training and putting in the miles but I haven’t been progressing at the rate I was before. In some ways that may be a good thing as a lot of people warned me against ‘too much, too soon’ so settling into a calmer routine may be a good thing. I do worry that while before I was ahead of the training plan pretty soon it will come back and overtake me. It certainly isn’t dominating my thoughts as much as before and, again, maybe that’s a good thing.

Let’s look at this week’s VLM training plan for week 5:

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – A lighter week to allow for adaptation to the training loadsRest Day
Monday20 MINUTES EASY RUN

Pool Swim (1km) Yoga
TuesdayREST DAYTempo Run 60 minutes (9km) plus Steady Run 70 minutes (9.5km)
Wednesday30 MINUTES EASY RUNRest Day – Core conditioning
ThursdayREST DAYHill work 45 minutes (6km)
FridayREST DAYRest Day
SaturdayRUN 52 MINUTES – 25-minute easy run, 2-minute walk, 25-minute easy runRace Pace parkrun (5km) 29 minutes plus 2x1km warm up & cool down 15 minutes

There was no training on Sunday. My son had a hockey match in Brighton and that meant being up and out by 8:30am to drop my wife at the gym and find the ground by 10:00. It was a good match and while two early goals put our boys on the back foot, they held their nerve and got back into the game. They had more possession, but their opponents were more direct and for the next two quarters it was evenly matched. Deep into the final quarter they managed a quick break and two passes out of defence found our striker and with a smart finish they were back in the game. They hammered away for the last few minutes but to no avail and it finished 2-1. Being that far south it seemed rude not to hit the coast and get a bag of chips so that’s what we did. It was pretty cold and blustery but chips always taste better when you can see the sea. We got home late afternoon and that is a long-winded way of saying I did nothing worth noting.

Monday is my active rest day and I got back to the pool after a little break. We were down to two lanes again due to an Aqua Fit class and it was all a bit messy. This is clearly the wrong time to be trying to go. If I was a better writer I could probably get a sitcom out of this but in the meantime I will just try to describe the scene and the players. You might remember my early forays back in the pool where I had to share a lane with Aquaman, well now there are two of them with their swim caps, flippers and barrel turns. There was also a normal swimmer doing regular lengths like me and finally there were three children under the watchful gaze of their non-swimming parents. Don’t get me wrong, they were good swimmers but they also had a habit of stopping a couple of metres short on each length to get some affirmation from mum or dad. It was a very disjointed session but we managed to keep out each other’s way enough to get my required lengths in. After a quick trip to the steam room I finished the day with a very good yoga session.

Distance covered 1km

As I said at the top the marathon is not dominating my thoughts as much as before but I am getting some good training in. Tuesday is club night and I used this to get my long run in. I trotted to the meeting point at a nice steady pace, a bit quicker than previous weeks when I probably took this bit too easy. For the group run I went at a comfortable 10k pace and acted as sweeper for the group. This means I would run at the back of the 20-odd runners to make sure no one gets into trouble or is left behind. Like pacing at parkrun this adds a different element to a run and while it isn’t particularly taxing it does give you something to think about. After the group run and a quick stretch I headed on a long loop home, again at a good steady pace and while it isn’t the distances I was doing before Christmas it was a good one to get under my belt.

Distance covered 18.5km

The week is turning into a repeat of last week and on Thursday my daughter’s dance class gave me the chance to do some more hill work. The hill I run is actually just one half as once you’ve gone down to the train station at the bottom the road rises up on the other side to make a matching pair. Usually I would run to the station and back up four times but this week I ran the full length and back twice. The opposite side is a little shorter but correspondingly a little steeper, so it was a good challenge. I don’t particularly like hills and find them hard work, but I guess that’s the point and it was another good session to put in the bank. There’s a few more weeks of this dance training so I’m hoping to get more hill sessions in through February.

Distance covered 6km

Saturday is the last rugby match of the season for my son and we had to travel all the way to Essex but it did allow me to add to my parkrun tourism and Valentines parkrun in Ilford gave me a valuable ‘V’ in the alphabet challenge (parkrun obsessives will know what I’m talking about). I used to live close to here and often went to this park to watch county cricket matches, but I’d forgotten just how lovely a park it was. The course was nice and flat but I was disappointed to feel so heavy legged and my time reflected that. Still, it’s nice to run at race effort levels even if results aren’t what you’d want. There was no opportunity to extend the run but I did manage a short lap of the park before and after to warm up / cool down. Annoyingly, the rugby kicked off fifteen minutes earlier than listed and by the time I got there our boys where seven tries up. It was a one-sided affair but they played up and played well and it was a good end to the season. This team have come a long way this year, they’ve really gelled into a good unit and it’s been great to watch them do so well. Next year moves to full fifteen-a-side with addition of flankers and introduces some new set-pieces so it will be interesting to see how they adapt. A couple of weeks off and then it will be the cricket season.

Distance covered 7km

Weekly Training Summary

0 Spin classes

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (1km)

3 Runs (total distance 31.5km)

Current weight 13”2’

Training week -15 done

11th January 2020

I’m afraid I missed a midweek update this week, I’m struggling to return to routine following the holidays and my training feels a little disorganised accordingly. I think I’m getting the same effort in but I’m just not hitting the same routine.

For Wednesday I didn’t manage a run but I did go for a nice hike, not as strenuous as last week it was still a good stretch. I wouldn’t previously have included these walks but the training plan highlights walking as part of the training suite so I might as well cover them here. Even going through familiar areas when you walk you see things you would otherwise miss and it is a very different way to experience the environment.

Distance covered 7km

On Thursday I took in a 45-minute spin class with my regular instructor, who continues to ignore my favourite tracks and insists on following a very forgettable playlist. It was a good session though and I got my heart rate up and put in a real effort. I spent some time on the gym floor doing resistance work before running home. I had very heavy legs after the spin session, but I don’t mind that. I am inured to running being hard work so these post gym session runs are becoming more and more familiar.

Distance covered 5km

Saturday was a return to school rugby and another away match afforded me the opportunity to try a new parkrun. My son’s commute to school is quite quick on the train but is actually a dozen miles or so from our home on the outskirts of London. This means that many of his away matches are actually closer to our house than his school and this was one of those occasions. There were no dramas this time and an early kick-off meant the 8:30 drop off in the school carpark wasn’t as unwelcome as usual. I got to the parkrun location in good time, which was good as there was a 1km walk to the start line from the car park. Reading the course description I packed my trail shows and even though we’d had a few dry days these were a good choice. I’m probably going to get a bit repetitive when I talk about parkrun but again the new route made such a refreshing change. This was very much a cross country route with the first couple of km across rough fields where great care had to be taken when planting your feet and the soft ground was energy sapping, the middle 2km was along hilly trails before returning to the meadow for the finish. Very different to other parkruns I’ve done it was a really enjoyable challenge, adding the trot between the start/finish and the car park along a muddy bridleway it made for an excellent training run. I was late to the match inevitably which meant I missed my son’s opening try but I saw most of the game and they won comfortably which, I think, leaves them unbeaten for the season with just two fixtures left

Distance covered 7km

DayVLM Training PlanWhat I did
SundayREST DAY – The first few weeks are important. Find the time to fit in your workouts Rest day with Spin Class
MondayRUN/WALK 40 MINUTES – (10 minute walk, 10 minute run) x 2 Run 120 minutes (18km) incl 20 minutes walking.
Yoga
TuesdayREST DAY Rest day with swimming
WednesdayRUN/WALK 50 MINUTES – 10-minute brisk walk, 30-minute easy run, 10-minute brisk walk 90 minute walk
ThursdayREST DAY Spin class and 30 minute run
FridayREST DAY Rest day
SaturdayRUN/WALK 65 MINUTES – 10-minute walk, 20-minute easy run, 10-minute walk, 15-minute easy run, 10-minute walk 30 minute run at pace, 2 x 7 minute easy run

Weekly Training Summary

2 Spin classes

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 1.0km)

3 Runs (total distance 30km)

Current weight 13”0’

Training Week -16

4 January 2020

I hope I’ve counted right. I think I need to kick-off my formal marathon training this week and start the 16-week countdown, that doesn’t sound very long but it is half as long again as I’ve been training so far so maybe there is enough time to get ready. My eye is firmly on the prize now and I’m ready to get some real work under my belt.

It is also New Year’s week so I don’t suppose I will be that consistent with my training but I will see how that goes. I will nominally be following the VLM’s own beginner training plan for want of anything better. Week 1 looks like this:

MondayREST DAY – Increase time on your feet and build a strong foundation and routine 
TuesdayWALK 30 MINUTES 
WednesdayREST DAY 
ThursdayRUN/WALK 40 MINUTES – 10-minute brisk walk, 20-minute easy run, 10-minute brisk walk 
FridayREST DAY 
SaturdayREST DAY 
SundayRUN/WALK 50 MINUTES – 10-minute walk, 30-minute easy run, 10-minute walk 

There’s already a problem, I’ve set myself up to start the week on a Sunday so I’m going to switch that from the get-go. Also, as I’ve noticed before this starts off very sedately so for the first few weeks I’m going to be training above and beyond that required. I expect our paths will cross at some point and as long as I feel comfortable, I will continue as I’ve been going. I will also continue to use the rest days for my yoga and swimming sessions.

I ran a lot on Friday and Saturday so on Sunday I returned to my regular 60-minute spin class without running there or back. The class was as good as ever, although the music was blandly unmemorable.

On Monday I went for a long run early in the morning. It was bright with clear skies all around and a beautiful time to be out. It was, however, much colder than I expected and I was poorly dressed for the conditions. For the first half I was uncomfortably cold and frustrated with myself as I have perfectly adequate kit to wear but hadn’t put it on. I followed the route I’d been on when I bashed my face in week five and it was a lot easier in the daytime. At one point the map indicated a footpath and bridge over a busy junction so I took this only to find myself on the back nine of a local golf course. The grass was very wet and I soon had soaking feet not to mention it was quite heavy underfoot which took a toll on my pace and comfort levels. I had initially planned to run 18-20k but I actually wanted to save my legs for New Year’s Day so cut it back a little. It’s a good route with plenty of long sections to really get into a rhythm although some parts get quite hilly. I will definitely be using this one for my longer runs when I start getting to the 20-mile mark.

Distance covered 15km 

On New Year’s Eve I went to the gym early to get a swim in and although it was slightly busier than usual we all soon found a rhythm and kept out of each other’s way. Not for the first time I’ve started a training session somewhat down on energy. I don’t think it’s a motivation thing at this stage but I am giving some thought as what it might be and if I can do anything to avoid it. I kept to the same distance as before and tried to push a little harder on some of the sections. I also experimented with the floats to isolate my legs or arms and this made for some more challenging lengths. And that’s that for 2019.

Distance covered 1km

New Year’s Day is special for parkrunners as it’s the only day you are allowed to run in two events on the same day. I’ve never managed to actually achieve this but I made my plans early this time around and with a little willpower I was confident I could get it done. Following a 7:00am alarm call I was in good time for the 8:30 start at Maidstone parkrun. This is a lovely course running along a very pretty section of the River Medway and a great way to shake off any residual tiredness from the night before. Being pretty flat for most of the way around this would probably be quite a quick course but sections do get narrow which concertinaed the group a few times. Following this I had plenty of time to head across Kent to the Shorne Woods Country Park for their event at 10:30. This was another lovely course, gently undulating through woods but the large numbers didn’t agree with the narrow trails and congestion meant long sections had to be walked. A great start to the year though. One of the great things about parkrun is that while every event is different, and running in different locations is rewarding and invigorating, much of the experience is reassuringly familiar. Your barcode works everywhere in the world, every run briefing covers the same instructions and the enthusiasm of all the volunteers and runners is never dimmed. It is just a great thing to be part of.

Distance covered 10km (2 x 5km)

Thursday saw me back at the gym for a 45-minute spin class with my regular instructor. Maybe it was due to another early start but I didn’t feel I got as much out of the class as usual. That afternoon we went for a walk near Hever Castle, I don’t normally include these here as they are, more often than not, leisurely strolls but this one was a little further than normal and we had to maintain a brisk pace throughout to beat the approaching dusk. It was also incredibly muddy in places which combined to make it quite a workout.

Distance covered 10km

Friday was scheduled to be a rest day but my wife fancied a run so we headed out for a quick trot around a local loop. I can feel it getting colder than it was in December and this morning was particularly fresh but clear skies made it very pleasant.

Distance covered 5.4km

On Saturday I returned to my local parkrun with my son and we took advantage of the good conditions to put in a good effort. The numbers were up again over the 800 mark and this really does put a strain on the winter route as all the runners try to fit onto a two-metre wide footpath at the start. You eventually find some space and can run at your own pace but it is crowded all the way to the finish. It is also over 2 ¾ laps so there is a lot of lapping taking place with runners of very different speeds trying to cover the same ground and this can cause some friction when etiquette isn’t observed. I was able to come home in a shade over 27 minutes which is just quick enough not to be lapped and one I should be happy with. Obviously I’m not though, I felt I had to push myself quite hard just to achieve that and I was disappointed not to have got 26-something at least. There’s always next week, though, and a return to my parkrun home-from-home as the school rugby season reconvenes.

Distance covered 5km

Weekly Training Summary

2 Spin classes

0 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 1.0km)

5 Runs (total distance 35.4km)

Current weight 13”1’

Sadly, no yoga for two weeks now so will have to make a point of returning to that sooner rather than later. Running distance is good given the time of year and inevitably my weight slipped back a little over the holiday. Next week should see me return in earnest to training and all-round good habits. Roll on week -15.

Christmas training

28th December 2019

As we entered Christmas week my training expectations were low but I will try and get some runs in and maybe some time at the pool as well.

Now that the whole family has broken up for Christmas we headed off for a couple of days to the New Forest to enjoy some peace before a hectic couple of days. If it was summer we would’ve taken our bikes with us but for now we settled for a gentle hike near Lyndhurst and some nice food at the hotel. On the way home we called in at the Mary Rose exhibition and this was fascinating. I remember being at school as this was being raised in the early 1980’s when it filled the news and a few years back we went to visit when restoration was well underway. Now this work is complete it really is a good place to go and it provides an engaging window into Tudor life. The scientific and engineering achievements involved in completing this restoration are incredible and it’s really worth a visit.

On Christmas Eve I took myself out on a run with my son. The conditions were excellent; a little brisk but sunny and this made it really enjoyable running through the woods. I saw several groups from my running club out and about and we had a good work out. My son was generous and slowed to my pace for the first half but even so he pulled me along quicker than I would have gone on my own. 

Distance covered 8.6km

On Christmas morning we were well organised and had the dinner well underway by 9:00 so took the opportunity to take in a Christmas parkrun. With no gym open my wife decided to join me as well. I thought it would be a quiet affair with just a few families and dedicated club runners but there were over 800 in all, as many as on the best summer Saturdays. The course is all on tarmac for the winter but even so there were stretches under a couple of inches of water which made the start a very stodgy affair. I ran with my wife for the first three kilometres and once I was happy that she would see it through I pushed on at my own pace. My overall time wasn’t great but the last two kilometres were done in 25-minute pace, so I was really pleased with that.

Distance covered 5km

Christmas running related gift summary: Marathon socks / Gel Sachets / Hooded base layer / Jelly Babies

The rest of Christmas day was pleasantly relaxed with no food related dramas or inappropriate presents and with distended bellies we spent the afternoon and evening vegging out on the sofa. Boxing day is traditionally spent with my extended family and as with my dad’s big band gig earlier in the month several generations were represented. There were more than twenty of us and it is always like the busy Christmas’s of my childhood with ‘help yourself’ food and plenty of little ones to play with. My brother and two sisters are spread out over nearly twenty years in age (I’m the youngest) so for the last thirty odd years there have always been babies and toddlers to keep things fun. Now that mine are teenagers the oldest nieces are bringing theirs and the generations move on.

I had contemplated trying to build a long run into the day but the 25-mile journey across south London to my sister’s felt a bridge too far so I took a day off. I’m of the age where my earliest running memories are of the Coe v Ovett rivalry and how they dominated the sporting news and coverage. I remember an interview with Coe where he talked of training on Christmas morning and then rather than relaxing spent the day worrying that Ovett had gone out for a second training session in the afternoon. I do sometimes find myself in the position where if I’m feeling fit and well and haven’t done something for a day I begin to feel a bit antsy, I really need to bottle this enthusiasm for when I don’t have a marathon to aim for. Anyway, obviously I was an Ovett man; he always looked more relaxed and I loved his wave to the crowd on the home straight while Coe always looked so serious. Having said that I ran a fun 1500m race with Coe back in 1981 (I was racing even if nobody else was and I did him on the line) and he couldn’t have been nicer, chatting with everyone and signing everything thrust his way. So, I guess I liked them both.

On Friday the gym reopened and I signed myself up for a 45 minute spin session. This was a different instructor to my normal class and she had a different approach. My normal class has a high level of intensity and variation and really works up the heart rate. This one was much more focussed on resistance and we were constantly encouraged to increase the levels and slow the pace. A very enjoyable class and nice variation. I also took the opportunity to run there and back along a very familiar route just to keep things ticking over.

Distance covered 10km (2 x 5km)

To make up for the missed opportunity before Christmas my son and I volunteered at our local parkrun on Saturday. This is a very busy event and this morning saw 650 or so coming through, strangely that’s 200 down from Christmas day. We were funnel managers and it was a busy role managing the flow of runners through the channels to ensure no congestion built up and everyone was processed in the right order. It did give me the opportunity to run there and back, although my son got the bus home, so I could continue to keep things moving in the right direction. 

Distance covered 9km (2 x 4.5km)

I haven’t managed a long run this week and I’m looking at our planned day trips over the rest of the holiday to see if I can use one to run home from but nothing stands out so far.

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

0 Yoga class

0 Swim session

4 Runs (total distance 32.6km)

Current weight NA

Eighth week done

7th December 2019

A busier end to the week than usual but I find myself in a better position than at the start when a pain in my ankle was so acute that I had to give up mid-run. I wonder if I’m too sensitive to injury fears and while I feel I am right to listen to my body and stop an exercise if pain dictates I should also be more confident in my powers of recovery. A dab of Deep Heat goes a long way.

Wednesday was a rest day and a chance to see Amazon Prime’s coverage of the Premier League. Have to say first impressions weren’t great as Spurs lost but, really, coverage across all channels is so boilerplate it makes no difference where you watch it. Remove the logos and they would be indistinguishable.

Thursday saw me working from home and I thought I would try something different so I headed off at 7:00am with a 15km loop in mind. This is a favourite route of mine with a good selection of hills and a couple of nice long, flat sections where you can cover some decent mileage without being distracted by junctions and thoughts of navigation. It was the basis of my half marathon distance run the other week but I ruined it by adding too many detours with the result that I completely failed to find a rhythm. It was pretty cold and quite frosty underfoot as I set off which meant I wasn’t especially quick although I managed to maintain a solid target marathon pace throughout. I made a point of running all the hills this time but did take a couple of opportunities to walk after a couple of particularly difficult sections. It was at the halfway point, when I was furthest from home when I was struck by an issue that must affect long distance runners regularly. I really needed the loo, and not a Number 1 but a full-on ‘Paula Radcliffe’. What is the etiquette and approach here? Bearing in mind this was in a suburban setting and by now in the middle of the school run any natural solutions would be entirely inappropriate. I didn’t feel any choice but to continue, in increasing discomfort. At one point I passed close by my gym and considered detouring there but I was holding to an even pace in a homeward direction so thought to push on. By the end I had been in a state of clench for quite a while and my pace had suffered accordingly. All in all it was probably my fault for running so early in the morning but realistically how much of a factor is this when running regularly between 3-5 hours. Are there toilets on the course and what state will they be in by the time I roll round? This isn’t something that had occurred to me before, is it something else I need to worry about or will adrenaline see me through. Anyway, upon reflection the run was quite satisfying in that a month or so back this distance was a stretch and this week it felt almost routine. I’m going to take that as a big positive.

Distance covered 15km

I feel bad for missing out on my yoga session on Monday so on Friday evening I made a point of spending 30 minutes running through a series of stretches and poses at home. I missed the structure my instructor brings to her classes but I enjoyed trying. Inevitably I leant heavily on the poses I feel most comfortable with and avoided anything too challenging but I would like to spend more time at home doing these sessions so will begin looking for inspiration online.

Saturday morning was back to parkrun and with no school rugby my son was able to join me for a change. We were back to our home run this week and since I was last here they’ve switched to their winter course to avoid damaging the grass too much. In theory this all tarmac route should be quicker but fitting 700 odd runners onto a narrow pavement makes for a very stop-start experience. It’s been a few months since I was here last so it was nice to be back. The run itself went well and I managed a good pace throughout, even managing to set a year’s best of just over 27 minutes. After a short rest to get my barcode scanned I walked my son to the bus stop and ran home (at a more gentle pace).

Distance covered 10km

Weekly Training Summary

0 Spin class

0 Yoga class

0 Swim session

5 Runs (total distance 45km)

Current weight 13” 2’

Strange to see my weight hasn’t changed for a couple of weeks now, that may be something to do with my Beer52 advent calendar but it is frustrating to stall so close to my year-end target. I’m heartened to see that my total mileage increased but I’m aware that this is at the expense of some variety in my training. I will look at getting some balance back in future weeks.

Seventh week done

30th November 2019

Week seven complete and I have to admit things are getting a little scruffy. I’ve fallen out of routine a little and my intention to make this something of a rest and reset week leaves me feeling like I’ve lost some momentum. To let you glimpse behind the curtain a little I must also admit I’m writing this update on a Monday and something happened on Sunday’s run that has given me a wrinkle of concern. Nothing major and I will talk through it on my next update but it does play into my main fear in the marathon prep. More of that later, for now let’s return to the week just gone.

Friday was very much a night off from training as I was planning an evening out with some dads from my son’s school. Although we all work across central London we often meet in Sevenoaks as it is more relaxed and still easy for us to get home from. However the events on London Bridge that afternoon meant all stations near us were closed and we decided to stay in town instead. I work hard by Tower Bridge so this attack was very much on my doorstep and I know the area where it happened very well. As always, I am awestruck by the bravery of those who tackled the man and the swift and decisive actions of the police to bring the situation to a close. I’ve worked in London all my life and I remember when I started back in the late eighties it was IRA bombs causing disruption and through the years I have found myself there or thereabouts for other incidents where people seek to make their statements through violence and fear and it is consistently affirming to witness how people on the scene come together in their stoicism and their unwillingness to be cowed or distracted from their quotidian life.

Anyway, no politics here and I need to talk about my training. The evening was enjoyable and I had several beers followed by a hearty Italian meal accompanied by a couple of bottles of wine. What the hell, I’m not training for the Olympics here.

Saturday’s plan had me running at a new parkrun close by where my son was playing rugby but what a clustermuddle that turned out to be. On Friday I had checked out the ‘parkruns near me’ site and saw there were five suitable events close by the school he would be playing at. Three of these I had done before so I plumped for the nearest new one. Come the morning we arrived at the frosty car park at 8:30 and I prepared to leave him grumpy and moaning with 45 minutes to kill while I jogged the mile and a half to the 9:00 start. It was then that the plaintive cry came out ‘did you pack my boots?’  ‘No’ I replied, ‘didn’t you pack your boots?’ I already knew the answer. It was a twenty minute journey home and another thirty back (traffic getting worse) but while I resigned myself to missing the parkrun I figured I would have 40 odd minutes to get my own run in while he warmed up with the team. In the end we made it back just before 9:30 only to be told we should’ve been at a different set of playing fields a couple of miles away by someone helping out at the school. He then gave me a long string of directions; second left then right then right again then first left then second right he didn’t say because he clearly didn’t appreciate the three instruction rule and I’d forgotten what he’d said even as I thanked him and rolled up my window. ‘Did you get that?’ I asked my son, he replied ‘yes’ and got us there first time. I guess that’s why he made it into a grammar school and I didn’t. Anyway, the upshot was we only made the right place ten minutes before kick-off and I had no time to run. And that isn’t even the worst of it. By the by, the match was a lot of fun as he had several primary school friends on the other team so beating them comprehensively was very satisfying.

No, the real kicker came later when I checked my Strava feed and saw several of my running club colleagues had gone to that very same parkrun as part of a club event I hadn’t been paying attention to. And they were all posting photos of themselves standing next to Dame Kelly Holmes! Of all people, can you believe it? I tried not to make too big a deal out of it to my son, but, arghhh!

So, that’s the final running diary entry for the week with no running to report on. Great.

Weekly Training Summary

0 Spin class

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 0.8km)

3 Runs (total distance 26km)

Current weight 13” 2’