Training week -15 begins

7th January 2020

OK, holiday season is over and there can be no more excuses. Serious training begins here. Honestly though, I think I’ve been training pretty seriously so far so I’ll probably just continue on this trajectory.

Let’s look at week two of the VLM beginners training plan:

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 
ThursdayREST DAY 
SaturdayRUN/WALK 65 MINUTES – 10-minute walk, 20-minute easy run, 10-minute walk, 15-minute easy run, 10-minute walk 

I’m going to work on the assumption that Rest Day means a rest from the rigours of running and allow my low impact complementary training sessions to take place on those days. I will also try and include one day of complete rest each week.

On Sunday morning I dropped my son at his hockey club and headed to the gym for my regular 60-minute spin class. The instructor’s jokes are as bad as ever but I’m afraid he’s dropped most of my favourite tracks so I feel I’m losing 10% of my effort.

I had a lot planned for Monday and kicked off with an early long run. I followed the same route as last week but gently extended it further into the countryside while still managing to have pavements for the whole route. Just like last week it felt very cold again once I was underway and while I was better prepared it was still uncomfortable. I think it must be because this route is much more open than my usual suburban routes and passing open farmland leaves me exposed to the elements in a way I’m not really used to. Unfortunately, the second half of this route will return to the built-up areas nearer home so if I dress for one I’ll be uncomfortable in the other. It is a challenging route with several noticeable climbs so probably good for training, but I had to walk more sections than I intended to. Overall my pace was a little short of what I wanted but I was very pleased with my recovery and by late afternoon I didn’t feel any residual tiredness in my legs. I went to my yoga class later than evening and a substitute instructor brought a different energy to the class. She moved us through our poses much quicker than I’m used to, it reminded me a little of martial arts training drills from my youth, and while I don’t think I’d like this each time it did make a refreshing change.

Distance covered 18km

On Tuesday I substituted a pool swim for my club night. It was a good time to use the pool as there were no classes running and all lanes were available so I had the medium pace lane to myself once more. I tried more lengths with floats to isolate arms or legs and again tried to up the pace on the crawl lengths so that a level of variety is introduced. I won’t lie, even when going for just 30 odd minutes the repetitive nature of lane swimming has quickly become rather boring. I love how I feel after a good swim session, I just need to get the mindset right.

Distance covered 1km

I need to set some more goals, probably targeting the end of February as that’s about halfway to race day. I’ll try and get something down for next week.

Week ten begins

16th December 2019

Week 10 has arrived and realistically this is the last full week of training for me before I begin a proper marathon training plan after Christmas, this is on the assumption that training next week will be very hit and miss.

Given that the marathon is on 26 April (I’ve checked) my 16 week training plan needs to start on 30 December. That can’t be right can it? It’s a good thing I’m old and won’t be having too much fun on New Year’s Eve, a bottle of wine and Jools Holland should cover it, allowing me to hit a double parkrun on 1 January to start the year in style. My ‘First Marathon’ training plan does seem to expect quite a lot of improvement over the 16 weeks given the low expectations at the start. Looking at weekly effort I appear to be on around week 10 and I certainly don’t feel like I’m within six weeks of being ready. I’ll also want to revisit the year end goals I set at the end of week 2 a bit early; I certainly won’t be weighing myself for at least a fortnight after Christmas.

No training on Sunday. My daughter had a work experience event in London and I spent time dropping her off and then picking her up in the evening. My legs were still a little achy from Friday’s long run home so I was happy to take advantage of another rest day.

On Monday I brought my running gear into the office with the intention of ticking off another chunk of the marathon course. Now that I’ve downloaded a copy of the route (probably 2019’s but close enough) I can see that it can be split into four parts. You have the first section from the start in Blackheath to Cutty Sark covering 10k. I know this area pretty well, it’s at the top of a hill and the roads will be unpleasantly busy to run during the week so I’m going to leave this for race day. The start looks quite chaotic on TV and the profile shows much of this section as being downhill so I think the biggest challenge will be to hold on to the adrenalin and not go off too quick. The second section runs 10km from Cutty Sark to the north side of Tower Bridge, the third section goes 16km around the docklands and back to Tower Bridge and the final section runs 6km along the Embankment to the finish on The Mall. Having had a crack at the long Isle of Dogs loop last week this time I jogged to the nearest station and got the DLR to Greenwich to head off from Cutty Sark. As usual it was quite busy around the centre of Greenwich but once onto the road towards Deptford things eased and it was quite nice to run. There were many junctions and roadworks to negotiate and despite running with headphones I was stopped twice to be asked directions. I’m so painfully polite I paused to help both times, despite not knowing the area that well. To be fair, because I didn’t know the area I was running with my phone in my hand and Google Maps open so I was actually well placed to help.

 I think I detected a slight incline around Rotherhithe but really this is another flat section with only the approach to Tower Bridge affording a couple of hundred metres gently uphill. With roads closed and no worries about getting lost I think this will be a nice, if rather less than scenic, section of the race. I haven’t mentioned pace and in all honesty I wasn’t pulling up any trees but given the many disruptions and still feeling the effects from Friday it wasn’t so bad. It was faster than my expected marathon pace but slower than normal 10k pace and that’s probably about right.

Distance covered 11km

With the lunchtime run and leftover kit from Friday I had too much to carry to be able to go straight to the gym from work so for this week I skipped the pool session. A shame really as I was due to hit the 1k mark this time but hopefully I’ll get that session in soon. I did make the yoga class and this worked out well as once again the focus was on hips and hamstrings and my legs felt much better afterwards.

Tomorrow is club night but given the way I’ve scheduled my runs this week I will be switching this for a spin class.

Week nine begins

9th December 2019

Last week was very run focused and while my total mileage was significantly up, albeit with only a modest long run, it was lacking in all complementary training and I’m keen to redress this in week 9.

On Sunday morning I took advantage of no hockey training to return to my regular spin class. It was a good session but I felt a little off and I think my effort levels were slightly down. My legs were tired from the week’s running so I skipped the opportunity to run home, I might regret that though as looking through the week I can only see two opportunities to run before the weekend. I will look at the possibilities of a midday run once I’ve checked the facilities at the site where I’m currently based.

Sunday afternoon was an extended family affair as my dad’s big band (yes, the dad who’s in his nineties) were putting on their Christmas gig and it was an opportunity for many of us to meet up. There were several generations represented, literally from ages 1 to 92, and it was really good fun. In attendance was the niece who’s performance in the 2019 marathon lulled me into entering the ballot and I found out that her husband also has a place for 2020, as does another niece although she will be deferring her place as she will be undergoing fire-fighter training for the first half of next year. My two brother’s-in-law were also there and they’ve both run the London Marathon, one of them actually ran the first ever one back in 1981. All of this was quite reassuring and normalising but perhaps made me feel a little less special.

On Monday evening I was able to return to my ‘active rest’ schedule and spend time at the gym. It’s a tricky little journey from work to the gym and I have to change trains but I managed to get my act together this week and made it there a fair bit earlier than usual allowing me to spend time on the gym floor on the resistance machines between pool and yoga. My swimming has come on a lot since I started going regularly and the discipline of increasing the distance each time has paid off. In the past I’ve never been able to go over half a dozen lengths without a decent breather. Last night I got through 18 lengths of crawl before alternating crawl/breast stroke for the next 18, all with the briefest of pauses after each length to set myself and take a big breath. This was markedly different to before and I felt I could comfortably continue. At this rate I might even start thinking about a triathlon.

Distance covered 900m

The yoga session was hard but really good for my run-worn legs with lots of work around the pigeon poses to really warm up the hamstrings and glutes and I can still feel the stretch on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday evening should be club night but the office Christmas party is planned instead so I’ve brought my running gear to the office and will try and get something in at lunchtime. I work near the Thames so there should be plenty of easy to follow routes I can use.

All in all a good start to the week with all complementary training boxes ticked already.

Week seven begins

26th November 2019

Seven weeks! That’s gone in a blink of an eye. I’ve made good progress though and I think I’ll spend the next couple of weeks consolidating where I’ve got to and trying to get comfortable with the distances I have been reaching for. After hitting the half marathon mark last week I’m going roll that back to week 2/3 distances and then build back up over the month.

Sunday morning would normally be a tough spin class followed by a jog home. This week family travels made it more attractive to drop my son at his hockey club and from there go for a medium length run rather than try and head back to the gym. I know the area where he trains quite well but have never run there so it was a refreshing change and I only needed to confer with Google maps once or twice. It was relatively flat but my legs still felt tired from the parkrun efforts on Saturday so pace was a little off. Nice to cover the distance and I got to watch the last 30 minutes of his training session.

Distance covered 8km

That afternoon my son wanted to go to the park for some rugby/football kickabout fun so with boots on we headed out. For the rugby he mainly wanted to practice his catching under the high ball and his own kicking from hand while the football ended up with a crossbar challenge. The upshot was I spent most of the time booting the ball as far as I could with the result that on Monday my legs were very achy. Maybe it was the running, maybe it was the kicking but I really welcomed the rest from running that day.

Monday evening saw me at the gym for some recuperative swimming and yoga. I’m creeping back towards the 1k mark in the pool and this week worked through 32 lengths. My Garmin is supposed to be waterproof but I don’t want to risk it so I’m tracking these manually. The pool was quite busy this evening and several of us had to share each lane, including Aquaman and his tumble turns. We all muddled through though and more or less kept out of each other’s way but it wasn’t ideal. I’m stuck with this time slot so will just go with the flow each week and, to be fair, my tired legs felt significantly better for the effort.

Distance covered 800m

This was followed by my weekly yoga session, I really needed a good leg session this time but the instructor had other plans. For most of the evening we were in either dolphin or dolphin plank; awkward poses where you support yourself on your forearms and it turned into quite a workout. She also has a habit of leaving you in tough poses for extended periods while she works her way round the group correcting postures here and there before belatedly allowing you to collapse into a restful child pose. Good session though, if not the leg work I was hoping for.

Tuesday is club night and I had intended to return after a couple of weeks chasing longer distances however when my wife came home from work and asked to run with me I could hardly say no. Although she has rarely shown any affection for running in the past, since I started this training she has come out with me several times. Previously we had run in the morning so were able to go through local woodland but this time the darker evening meant staying on the roads. I’ve gently extended the distance we’ve run each time and this time I picked a route that covered around 6.5km, probably the furthest she has run. The conditions were challenging as we set off all buttoned up against some very heavy rain but within ten minutes it had dried up and become almost muggy and we began to feel too hot in our waterproofs. She took to the run well though and we managed a good pace over a fairly up and down course, something not far off my current long distance pace. I might even be able to persuade her to join my running club at this rate; with her gym fitness I think she’d be pretty good in no time at all. After dropping her back to our house I tacked on a local 5k loop and worked to speed up towards my 10k pace. All in all a satisfactory run and I was back in time to watch the unfolding soap opera that is Spurs under Jose Mourinho.

Distance covered 12km

Wednesday is nominally a rest day and this week it is also my daughter’s 16th birthday so there will be pizzas and presents and no exercise at all. Hopefully I will be back in the saddle on Thursday. After a month of GCSE mocks we will be returning to dance classes and I plan to fit in a short run while I wait. Not sure if time will allow but there is a particularly unpleasant hill nearby which I may well try and run up a couple of times. We’ll see.

Week six begins

19th November 2019

A new week starts and I feel I am closing in on the first round of my marathon prep. I’m hoping to extend my long run to beyond 20k this week and hopefully hit the half marathon distance, if only for the psychological bonus that would bring. I then propose to drop the long run distance back down, maybe take in a 10k race, before building up again through the month. I would then repeat that the following month before spending the last couple of months deeply embedded in a formal training plan. I’ve also got my hands on some gels, so I might give them a try this week to see if they have any effect.

Sunday morning saw me at my usual 60 minute RPM class, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as other weeks. This is a very popular class and my gym has an online booking system that usually fills within minutes of opening. You are then either in the class or on a waiting list. Through the week there are inevitably several cancellations and the waiting list gets promoted. Come Sunday morning and hangovers take their toll so by 9:00am most people can get in. There are occasions though, when there are more people than bikes and this week was one of them. Arriving with my wife a few minutes before the class was due to start we found all bikes taken, despite both being ‘in the class’. We dutifully stood at the front while the instructor asked anyone still on the waiting list to relinquish their seats. Inevitably no one moved so he produced a class list whereupon several people started looking earnestly at their phones and shuffled away. By the time we got onto a bike and had it set up the class was five minutes late starting and I never really got any momentum so didn’t feel I got the most out of the hour. Sorry, that was a really long winded way of telling a very low stakes story but these things are the difference between a good session and a bad one. Anyway, following the class and a brief trip to the gym floor I managed to fit in a run home which was cold but nice to get under my belt.

Distance covered 5km

Monday evening saw me back at the gym for what is a cherished non-rest rest day. First up was a good session in the pool. There was an aqua fit class running at the same time leaving us one lane down so I had to share mine with AquaMan from last week. All swim cap and flippers he was ploughing up and down at a prodigious rate and I had to fit my 28 lengths around that. It wasn’t really a problem and we found a good rhythm so it all worked out in the end. After that I had my yoga class, a high point in my training week. This one was another tough class with lots of time spent in plank and side plank but I always feel in a good place afterwards.

Distance covered 700m

Tomorrow night is club night and I’m tempted back to group runs after last week’s collision but equally my local non-league team are live on telly in the FA Cup so that might be fun to watch. If I don’t make it out Tuesday I will definitely be out Wednesday.

Week five begins

12th November 2019

Into my second month of marathon training, or preparation for marathon training if I’m being honest, and overall I have to say I’m quite pleased at how training has gone so far and I feel I’m on track. It won’t be long before I enter unknown territory as I go beyond the training I did when I entered the half marathon in 2016 and start working on longer and longer distances but I am strangely looking forward to that. The flip side is that at that time I was probably at my best in running terms and was setting PBs at both 5 & 10k. Sadly I am a long way from that at the moment but I hope this window of training will address that.

On Sunday morning family commitments meant I wasn’t able to make my usual RPM class. To make up for this, and take advantage of a lovely morning, my wife and I went for a short run early on. A marathon inspired running bug seems to have struck her too. A daily gym botherer, she is way fitter than me but detests running. I’ve only managed to persuade her to join me for a handful of parkruns, usually on holiday, but for the third week on the trot she has foregone a gym class to insist on running with me. Some beautiful autumnal mornings haven’t hurt and we again toured local parks and woodland. Not sure if this habit will continue but I hope we can do more together over the winter.

Distance covered 5.4km

I was able to continue good habits on Monday with a nice session in the pool followed by another enjoyable yoga session. The pool was quiet and I had the medium pace lane to myself so I was able to plod my way through my 24 lengths at my own pace. In the fast lane there was a chap in swim cap, mitts and flippers who barrel-turned his way through god only knows how many lengths at the same time. At a guess he was probably doing at least two lengths to each of mine and he was still going when I hit the hot tub, I imagine we’re training for different events. This week’s yoga class focused on shoulder strength and flexibility and there was a fair amount of protesting clicking from my joints but by the end they were comfortably warm and it was another enjoyable session.

Distance covered 600m

Tomorrow night is club night but I am in two minds about attending. I’ve got a taste for the longer runs and I’ve mapped out a nice extension on a new route which I’m very tempted to try instead. I’m familiar with the roads in a car but I’m not 100% sure there are footpaths where some of the sections are verging on rural so I may come unstuck. If it is workable it would open up some nice longer routes that could take me up to the 30k mark so it is worth trying. I’ll pack my running lights and have some Ready Brek to make sure I’m properly visible.

Week Four Begins

5th November 2019

I think I’ll stick with this naming convention up to Christmas, and then I’ll start the countdown to race day. It reinforces the sense of progression and encourages me to jot down updates a couple of times each week.

Sunday morning saw me back to my usual 60 minute spin class, and it was absolutely brutal as usual. As I said the other week this instructor has a knack of getting the best out of you and really drives you to exhaustion. I followed this with twenty minutes on the gym floor doing some upper body resistance work. This isn’t really enough to achieve anything but it gets those chest and arm muscles warmed up and gave my legs some recovery time before running home.

I chose a different route this time, a bit longer than my normal route but I cut a couple of corners to leave room to grow over future weeks. While my normal route has one sharp hill towards the end this alternative route is more undulating and is made up of longer, slower burn inclines and minimal downhill bits. The net effect is that it feels mildly uphill all the way. My legs were pretty tired from the spin class and it was a struggle to keep running towards the end but my strategy is based on expecting to be running 90% of the marathon with tired legs so I should get used to it. This feels like a good idea and bad practice at the same time but I’m going to stick with it for now.

Distance covered 6.2km

Monday evening has come around again and praise be I finally got a swim session in. I haven’t swum for a long time now and was never much cop at the best of times but a few years ago I managed to go regularly while the kids were in swim club and built up to where I could knock out a 1k swim and hit the sauna before they’d finished. It would be nice to build up to that kind of distance and duration over the next few months. This was a gentle reintroduction and a mix of crawl and breast stroke got me through twenty lengths.

Distance covered 500m

This was followed by my regular yoga class and tonight’s was very enjoyable and, hopefully, beneficial. There was lots of work around the pigeon pose which is one of my favourite post run stretches and ended with several poses working on the hamstrings which is definitely an area where I feel tightness.

Tomorrow night is club night but I have another sixth form open evening to attend so I will miss this. I will try and fit in a run after but I probably won’t be underway until around nine, and given this should be my long run I could be out until nearly eleven. I don’t mind running late as the roads are nice and quiet but this is bordering on the impractical.

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!

Week Two Begins

21st October 2019

Second week of training began on Sunday with a good 60 minute spin class followed by a short trot home. I really enjoy this spin class; the instructor is incredibly motivating and takes you through the peaks and recoveries to get the maximum from the workout. Really gets the heart rate up and brings on a cracking sweat, I’m usually done for the day after this session but I wanted to run on tired legs as I expect I will have to for 25 of the 26 miles come race day.  This doesn’t feel very scientific and probably not good practice but I actually enjoyed it. I took a fifteen minute break after the class to do some upper body resistance work (a variety of presses) to give my legs a breather and then headed off.

It’s a pretty flat route home with one sharp 500m hill and I ran a comfortable 6’30/km pace which is probably somewhere close to my target marathon pace. I felt good at the end but was incredibly tired during the afternoon. I wonder if this tiredness will become a feature of my week as training distances increase.

Distance covered 5k

I had planned to bring in a pool swimming session on Mondays but I had to help with my son’s schoolwork this evening so will aim to start that next week. Finished the day with my regular yoga class, this one is focused on strength and core work with plenty of planks and down-dogs as well as a changing rota of more challenging poses and balances. Club night tomorrow and I need to get back into the habit of attending each week, if I run there and back it should be quite a long distance. I’m not sure it will still count as a long run with the breaks in between, I’ll see how I feel after and decide then. NO EXCUSES THIS WEEK. I MUST ATTEND