Sixth week done

23rd November 2019

It’s probably around the half way mark on my pre marathon training plan marathon training plan so that would be a good point to take stock. Six weeks in and around six weeks left in the year, have I turned into Paula Radcliffe yet? Hmm, not quite.

If I’m honest I think progress has been good. I’ve shifted some weight, reduced my drinking and got some good mileage under my belt. Realistically though, I have only turned back the clock six months so far. Most of that weight and extra drinking came on over the summer. I’m not sure what triggered this but presume the two are linked. I expect the next stage of weight loss will be harder as this is weight I have been carrying for a decade. On this topic, I have been dabbling with non-alcoholic beer this week and have to say I’m really impressed. I’ve tried an IPA from Brew Dog and a lager from Moretti and both are excellent. After a curious little aftertaste on the first mouthful both taste just like their full-fat colleagues and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Lower calorie as well, which is nice.

So, my year end goals for weight, mileage and injury avoidance are all on track. What’s missing is pace and endurance. I’m not seriously expecting to become an ‘athlete’ in this time but I would hope to be closing in on where I was a few years ago at least, I guess I just need to give it more time.

While I’m pleased with progress so far I’m also aware that I’ve only been going over known ground so far. I’m going to peg my mileage to current levels until the end of the year, to build up resilience and familiarity, but in the new year I will begin to run distances I haven’t attempted before and I worry what the physical effects of this will be. Oh well, that’s why I’m keeping this diary I suppose.

Following the half marathon distance run on Wednesday I had a quiet end to the week as my tired legs recovered; it was deep into Friday before I felt fully refreshed but at least I was ready for the weekend. It did leave me one run down for the week for the second time in a row.

Saturday followed a familiar pattern as I got the train to my son’s school where he had a rugby match and I could hit the local parkrun. Also on the train were several ladies from my running club going to the same parkrun for a bit of tourism so it was nice to see some familiar faces around the course. This is also Dame Kelly Holmes’ local parkrun and I know she has run several times but I have yet to see her. How awesome would it be to run in the same race as her? My friend has seen her a couple of times and tells me she has a habit of starting at the back before working her way through the field, encouraging everyone as she goes. I don’t think I’m back there this year but I expect I will do it many more times over the years so maybe one day. Anyway, this is my blog so how did I do? I deliberately started further up the field this week to reduce the congestion and worked through the first 1k at a higher tempo so was disappointed when I checked my Garmin to see I was still only going at 30 minute pace. I held on to come in just under the 30 minute mark so while on the one hand it was an improvement on recent weeks equally it is way off what I want to be doing. I’m really not that fussed about pace on my long runs but I’ve done nearly 250 parkruns and I know I should be quicker.

Distance covered 5km

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 0.7km)

3 Runs (total distance 31.1km)

Current weight 13” 2’

Fifth week done

17th November 2019

Well, that was an eventful week. Several positives, one big negative and if I’m honest it ended a little disappointingly. I’ll come to that and you’ll see I’m probably over reacting.

Just to catch up. Come Thursday evening and my legs still felt a little tired from the long run earlier in the week and using this more as an excuse than a reason I persuaded myself that I would be better off watching England playing on the telly with my son. I also hadn’t planned for a run on Friday so that left me one run fewer than usual for the week.

There were no lingering effects as a result of running into that branch on Tuesday. I got plenty of sympathy on Strava and some fearful stick at work but physically I didn’t notice anything adverse. I wonder if it made it easier to forego the run on Thursday, but I don’t know if that’s the case. Come Saturday the lure of parkrun blew any other reticence out of the water anyway.

Saturday morning saw me at my parkrun home from home as my son’s rugby match was at his school. I’m nearly at double figures for this parkrun so I’m getting a feel for what I should be doing here and after last week’s effort I was really looking forward to posting a good time as, in theory, it is a flatter, faster course. A year ago I ran here for the first time and got round in 29:30, not a great time but, equally, I haven’t beaten it since. It is a really nice route with some short tarmac sections but mostly on walking trails through woods and parkland. It is very flat with a pleasant mid-section around a lake but it is also quite frustrating. It is very popular and regularly attracts 500+ runners and with significant sections of the route being single file plus several pinch points where you are brought to a shuffling pace, if not an actual stop, it is easy to find yourself far behind your target pace. Those are all excuses though and you only ever run against yourself. The last time I ran this was at the start of this marathon blog when I went round with a massive hangover, this time I felt fine and had no excuses and while I beat that time by over a minute I still didn’t get under thirty. Given that this route feels quite a bit easier than last week’s I can’t help being a little disappointed with myself and a bit deflated. I just need to check now where he is playing next week to see where I will be running to get this hiccup behind me.

Distance covered 5km

Otherwise, this week has gone to plan. I enjoyed swimming and yoga sessions and despite the head bump continue injury free. I continued with the homemade salads and overall ate well. I can’t quite break the habit of a few beers through the week but I did dabble with some alcohol free versions which I think may be a good compromise. Good? Perhaps that should just be a more workable compromise. We’ll see.

Weekly Training Summary

0 Spin class

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 0.6km)

3 Runs (total distance 28.9km)

Current weight 13” 3’

Fourth Week Done

10th November 2019

Four weeks down and a whole month has gone already, it is really flying by. I guess that’s the difference between preparing for something set for a specific day and outside of your control, it will happen regardless of what you think or do. While I usually work on the basis that my preparations are for something ‘in the future’ and I’m therefore off the hook for making any actual progress, up to now this has suited me just fine. The reality is I run enough to know how bad I am at running, how short I’ve got on endurance and pace and this is why I started this process so early and so seriously. I think I can get there but I know it needs more than the standard 16 week schedule.

Good habits were aimed for but not quite hit this week. I managed to get back to the homemade salads but I still had a beer most evenings and a little fried breakfast on Friday. It therefore took some very tactical weighing to ensure I continued in the right direction on that front. Long run mileage was up and I remain injury free so generally progress is good.

Saturday morning returned to the normal routine following the distraction of the Rugby World Cup. My son had a rugby match down in Rochester and as usual we got there early so that I could drop him at the ground and head off to a local parkrun. He’s often a little grumpy to be made to hang around but luckily this time he saw some team mates there early as well so he was fine and I blithely rushed off as time was tight. Getting to the parkrun I had barely minutes to lose some layers, get a parking ticket (through one of several apps), secure the car and make the start line. In the end I had to run the last couple of hundred metres while the run briefing concluded and then started without breaking stride. Phew.

I was interested to see if the last few weeks of training would make any difference. I ran this course in May but had put on several pounds over the summer and if this had been in September I would not have been especially confident. It’s a really nice course, dumb-bell shaped with the bar section being a noticeable incline over a few hundred metres. It’s a two lapper with nice views at the top end and best of all a nice long downhill finish. The upshot was I felt good running it and bettered my earlier time by 90 seconds. That gave a time of just over 28 minutes and while this is still a way off my pb it was a marked improvement on recent months. I wouldn’t call it a hard course but it is tougher than either of my usual events so I’m taking that as a positive.

On returning to his match I realised why so many others had arrived early as well. Kick off was thirty minutes earlier than normal and the second half was well underway by the time I pitched up, oops. His team won comfortably though and it was so foggy I’m not sure he noticed if I was there or not.

Distance covered 5.3km

It was good to get back to parkrun and continue ticking off events until I get my 250 shirt. I’d like to get that by marathon day but realistically I think it will be next summer. I don’t think there is anything in the diary for next week so I should be able to get a regular week’s training in. Well done me.

Weekly Training Summary

1 Spin class

1 Yoga class

1 Swim session (total distance 0.5km)

4 Runs (total distance 32.8km)

Current weight 13” 4’

A much delayed long run

8th November 2019

As I feared, I missed out on both my club night and a long run on Tuesday. The sixth form open evening was a success insofar as we got to speak to several teachers about A Level options and my daughter met a couple of old primary school friends who are considering transferring over. The upshot was by the time we got home and I was in a position to head out it was knocking on nine thirty which is a bit late to be planning a long run. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Hold that thought, come Wednesday evening I realised that Tottenham would be live on telly in the Champions League so I wouldn’t have time for that long run then either. However, to avoid a complete washout I managed a quick, tempo run early in the evening so that I didn’t feel like a complete failure. Around a familiar local 5k loop I managed to hit a good pace and stretch my legs a little, I felt good during and after so maybe there is some benefit to this training after all. Plus Spurs won comfortably, so a positive evening all round. I’ll do that long run tomorrow.

Distance covered 5km

The stars aligned on Thursday. I worked from home so was able to get everything completed and be ready quite early in the evening and had been building myself up for the long run all afternoon. With no club run in the middle I plotted out an extension of my normal loop in the knowledge I would have to do it all myself. These extensions are all based on a neat 10k loop I’ve done many times and I think I can continue to extend these incrementally for a few more weeks but once I get to around 20-22k I might need to try something different. The trouble is I live right on the outskirts of London and it doesn’t take long, if I go in one direction, before I’m in countryside with no street lights and no pavements. Given I usually run late in the evening this isn’t the safest environment to run in. This leaves me with one direction to build a long run around and I worry that repetition may become a factor. For now though it’s quite fun to build up the loop and this route was nice to follow with some longer stretches, some hills and enough variety to stay interesting. I also managed to hit my first milestone, a ten miler. Thinking about it, last week’s 15k should probably have been a milestone as well so maybe I need to get my head around this so I don’t miss any others.

Proposed milestones:

15k – DONE

10 Mile – DONE

10 Mile Race – Target 2019

20k – Target 2019

13.1 Mile – Target 2019

13.1 Mile Race – Target 2020

25k – Target 2020

3 Hour Run – Target 2020

30k – Target 2020

20 Mile – Target 2020

20 Mile Race – Target 2020

4 Hour Run – Target 2020

26.2 Mile – Target 2020

Have I missed any? As you can see, I am desperate for any motivation and approbation even if it comes from within. Writing down those big numbers has given me a slight turn but in for a penny, in for a pound.

The run itself went well; even running solo I was able to maintain a good pace. While somewhat short of what I’d hope to be running come race day it was satisfyingly up on recent weeks and fairly consistent throughout. I admit I walked a few sections and I also had a few niggles here there in my foot and calf but all evened out and by the end I felt as if I could have gone on further. Once home I did a twenty minute stretch and roller routine and while my legs felt drained overnight and this morning by lunchtime they were back to normal.

Distance covered 16.3km (10.12 miles, oh yes!)

I’m going to give my legs a rest tonight but I’ll be back to parkrun tomorrow morning after three missed weeks. This should be event number 222 for me and it is a course I have done once before a couple of months back so it will be interesting to see any impact from the recent training.

Third week done

2nd November 2019

Three weeks down and while I’m making progress I still can’t imagine being able to run a whole marathon. It is just so much further than I’ve run before, maybe this realism will stand me in good stead but at the moment it all seems so daunting.

Good habits slipped a bit this week. Shop bought salads instead of homemade and a beer most evenings meant my Goal 1 weight targets were missed but at least I added to my Goal 2 weekly mileage and again ran (largely) injury free.

As with last week I fitted in a quick parkrun substitute before the rugby final on Saturday, this time with my wife and son. Weather was lovely and we ran in bright autumn sunshine through local parks and woods, very lucky as it happens as an hour later the rain was brutal with winds to match. The final was disappointing from an English point of view, we were in such a good position going into the match but South Africa just outplayed us completely and were deserved winners.

Distance covered 5.3km

Next Saturday should be back to normal, son will be back playing rugby so I will fit in a parkrun while he’s warming up and be back in time for the start. That’s the beauty of parkrun, whether he is playing at home or away there is usually one nearby I can go to. I could go on about parkrun, and maybe I will one day, but suffice to say I think it’s awesome. Everything I do with running probably traces back to my first parkrun back in 2011.

Weekly training summary

1 Spin class

0 Yoga classes

0 Swim sessions

4 Runs (total distance 29.3km)

Current weight 13” 5’

Yoga free week

31st October 2019

Woke up on Tuesday still with the sore foot. Strange sensation though, and not particularly similar to plantar fasciitis which feels to me like very sore bruising towards the heel. This was more of a throb in the middle of my arch that would intermittently give the sensation of swelling up and then receding throughout the day. This continued into the evening but I decided to run through it with the option to back out at any time. Running didn’t seem to make it worse and I was able to complete the club run plus a little there and back without further discomfort. In fact the following day, there was no trace of it. I wonder what it was.

So, the run. I’m approaching these Tuesday night runs as my weekly long run and I’m in the process of building them up week on week and here in week three I’ve managed to add an additional 1k as planned. I’m now pretty close to the magic 10 mile mark. Not sure if it is magic, but it feels like a milestone. I ran several when I was training for the half marathon but that was in 2016 and I haven’t come close again until I started this journey. Managed a good pace throughout, the group run was a little down on pace as there were a couple of unscheduled pauses as the group regathered, but overall the pace was OK. No particular physical issues although legs were unsurprisingly tired and a little achy overnight but by the following lunchtime I felt mostly recovered. That was a nice feeling.

Distance covered 15.3km

Wednesday was a parent’s evening at my daughter’s school and we heard lots of encouraging things. It’s GCSE year so lots of pressure but she’s worked really hard over the years and I hope she gets what she deserves next summer. The upshot was I had no time for the usual yoga session which is a shame as that means a blank for the week. I ran through a 15 minute stretching / yoga session at home, probably not very effective but I felt better in myself for having a go.

Thursday evening is an opportunity to try something different. My daughter has a tap class in a local school so I’m getting into the habit of running around the playing fields onsite. The clocks have gone back since the last time I was able to run here and it was very dark so it was a little nerve-wracking in case I found a hole and turned an ankle or worse but the field was in very good condition. The grass was cut for rugby and pretty soon my feet were soaking wet but after a leisurely warm up lap I used the well prepared football pitch for some speed work. Sprint goal mouth to goal mouth and walk back. Repeat until bored. I enjoy this work and hope it is effective but I like putting some power through my legs for a change rather than just worrying about endurance so even for its own sake it is a nice change of … no, I won’t say it. In any case it’s certainly nicer than hill work which I know I will need to include at some point.

Distance covered 3.7km

No run Friday as might be fitting in a fireworks display or at home bonfire, subject to weather.

Saturday is the Rugby World Cup final, England v South Africa, so no parkrun for the third week running. If you’re from a part of the world not familiar with rugby this is a VERY BIG DEAL. My son’s school has cancelled all sporting fixtures (mainly rugby matches to be fair) for the day so the boys and staff can watch. Plan is to get up early and fit in a parkrun equivalent again before settling in to watch the match over a hearty breakfast.

C’mon England!

First Week Done

19th October 2019

The first week of marathon training is over, how have I done? OK, I think. I ran a little further, ate a little better and drank a little bit less. And I’m not bored yet.

I was able to fit in a second yoga class on Wednesday, less intense than my other class it involves a lot more stretching and prolonged holding of poses. It felt good but some of the poses were beyond my middle-aged frame and an element of frustration seeped in. I like the instructor though and I hope to include this on a regular basis as it will break up my running nicely.

I intended to do some more speed work on Thursday but the biblical rain put me off. I know I should be weather agnostic but there is a reason. I hadn’t seen my son all week and we were going to run together while my daughter had her dance lesson but with the playing fields getting wetter and wetter we decided to cosy up and watch Tuesday’s Bake Off instead. Sometimes quality of life must come first.

To make up for this I decided to run on Friday evening which I don’t normally do. A day working from home meant I could get in a run at five and still spend the evening with the family. I chose an unpleasant hilly route for no good reason and set off. I hit two snags on the way round, firstly I’d forgotten that I’d changed my Garmin’s default from kilometres to miles the other day so couldn’t get my head around the slow progress. Secondly my Bluetooth headphones ran out of juice about two thirds of the way round, right in the middle of a really good podcast. Switched back to kilometres, distance covered 7.7km.

No parkrun today. Rugby World Cup quarter-final this morning so we were watching England v Australia. Took a trip up to London this afternoon and clocked up over 15,000 steps. Is that training? It may not make it to Strava but it was a lot of walking.

Weekly Training summary:

2 Spin classes

2 Yoga classes

2 Runs (total distance 20.8km)

Current weight 13” 9’