Monday, 17 December 2012

Of runs, faraway and local...

Following up from the previous post, where I said I had planned two time trials to see if I had improved my short distance pace at all (up to 10k) before introducing more endurance work after the Xmas holidays.

I wanted them to be reasonably representative of race conditions, so I headed down to Braunstone Park for the parkrun on the 8th December and - first and foremost - had a really great time! It's a lovely way to start your weekend, the competition is strong and with runners of all abilities there you can be sure to be racing someone (assuming that's your thing!) regardless of how slow or how fast you are! The whole event is organised and conducted in a very relaxed, inclusive (runners with dogs and buggies welcome) and friendly atmosphere which is hard to fault. Results are issued (by email and text if you want) on the day, so they must be doing something right from an organisational point of view as well!

I am ashamed to say that it was only my second parkrun, but that is only because I find it very hard getting out of bed early on a weekend. Will try to do better in 2013 though!

(Hmmm... New Year's resolution list is becoming dangerously long again...)

For those who don't know parkruns, they are run by volunteers and exist in a number of cities around the world. It hasn't spread to Greece yet, despite the great uptake of running in that country in the past few years ... To be fair, Greek cities aren't famous for their parks, but (despite the doom and gloom we all read about), progress is been made in that area as well, and I can't help but think that there might be an opportunity there... So if any of my Greek friends are reading this and they feel they could make a difference, head over to Parkrun's website and have a look!

These thoughts, and a little excursion we are trying to plan in the Greek countryside for when we are there over the Christmas period, got me thinking again about the geography of the country, but as a runner this time (I only took up running after moving to Britain)... My Greek runner friends often tell me how lucky I am to live where I do, with all the country lanes to go running in, parks everywhere, and the amazing landscapes of the Peaks, the Lakes and other corners of Britain I've been lucky to run in. And while I do love the place I live in and appreciate all it has to offer runners, I think their comments are written from an Athenian rather than a Greek perspective... Thinking of the great variety of the Greek landscape and of how close everything is to each other, I would love to go on a little road trip in Greece, built around, say, 5-6 10k runs... From the austere cycladic landscape, to gorges with plane-trees and streams running through them, or among the olive groves of the Peloponnese.. through pine forests in the mountains...

Photo by Christos Theodorou from Panoramio

(Gosh, could what was that all about? Nostalgia? Lack of sunlight, causing me to fantasise about running in sunny places?)

Anyway, I've digressed enough! I managed to complete the 5km course in a respectable (for my standards) 21' 19'', which is a new PB and indicates that a marathon goal of 3h 30' is not unreasonable (I know, there are many caveats to that statement, but lets not get into this discussion now - I was only after a rough indication of how my sub-10k pace had improved, after all).

Similarly with the 10k run, which unfortunately did not manage to do as a road run and had to resort to the treadmill: I did that in 40' 10'', which sounds impressive, but then again I always find I run faster on a treadmill: I don't think it has anything to do with any calibration issues (I measured the distance with my calibrated Garmin footpod and didn't rely on the treadmill readings), it's probably more to do with the lack of hills, and the fact that when you begin to tire it's easier (mentally? physically?) to keep up with a moving treadmill than it is to keep your own pace consistently fast... Be that as it may, and making all sorts of allowances for the circumstances, I consider that another tick in the box so I am becoming more confident about my 3:30 goal. I'd just like to put a long run in this week though, just to give myself the peace of mind that this pace did not come at the expense of endurance...

The only other thing on my mind has been how to plan my training in 2013 after Rome... I aim to do two more 'main' or 'A' races in the year (the Bosworth half marathon in May and the Athens marathon in November) plus a number of smaller runs with the Harriers and then some "fun" stuff over summer, like the Adidas Thunder Run etc. I'm sure there must be a more intelligent way of training that approaching each marathon as a separate event, so I put the question to the Harriers at large and got some good input - even an offer of help from one of the most experienced (and fastest) among us!

I also found an interesting article about devising an annual training plan, so I'm hoping to have a go at that over Christmas holidays and see what pops out the other end!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Progress so far and DRXC Sinai

Well, here we are in December, the first snowflakes have just made their appearance, the days are about as short as they are likely to get and some Christmas trees have even been put up.... it is also the time of year when I had hoped to have completed the first part of my training for the Rome marathon which was all about building my speed over a 10k distance: You may recall that the rationale behind going about it that way was that last year’s objectives (primarily the Lakeland marathon) meant that I had concentrated more on endurance and hill work and had neglected things like lactate threshold training, tempo runs etc. As a consequence I found that not only did my 10k pace hardly improve from the beginning of 2012, but my ability to improve my half and full marathon pace was also impacted.

So how have I done? I certainly feel considerably faster than I was in September, I believe my form has improved as well and I feel that my tempo runs have become not only faster, but stronger as well: No longer does my body shout “pleeeeease make it stop!” between wheezes, it actually moves forward with a greater sense of purpose and determination, even to the end of the tempo run!

I also had a moment of inspiration on one of the Harrier training sessions a couple of weeks ago (we were doing fartleks I think), when I noticed one other runner in particular making much larger strides than me – larger than would be justified by the difference in our respective heights. As an experiment (or even an act of desperation) I tried lifting my knees a bit more during the next interval and I immediately felt that make a difference in my speed at the expense of no perceptible additional effort: I did all remaining intervals like that, making sure I did not overextend (and spoil the midfoot strike I’m so happy with) and the result was the same. Looking at my Garmin data afterwards I was pleased to see that it didn’t really impact my cadence either... so that’s what I’m concentrating on technique-wise. Not so much on slippery (muddy / icy) terrain yet (I still want to have my feet very close to the ground in such circumstances), but certainly something to work on.

But that’s hardly an objective review of progress so far, is it? It isn’t, so I’ve planned two time trials this weekend (5k on Saturday and 10k on Monday) to see where I am... I seriously doubt I will achieve the arbitrary goal of 10k in under 40’ I set myself in September, but I’m not too hang up on that to be honest... I just wanted something that would really stretch me but that sounded almost achievable (I find it hard to put your maximum effort in a goal you know you stand no chance of achieving).

Once done I can then look at my marathon goal finishing time (currently 3h 30’) and see if I need to re-assess it, before beginning the second part of my training in January, focusing on distance. In the mean time I will take a bit of a break from formal training and spend the Xmas holidays running for fun: I might take Dash for a comfortable run in Bradgate Park, do some hill-reps (because I need them - read on!) and generally add some variety and not worry about training structure. 


This Sunday past, we had the second in the series of the Derby Runner Cross Country races, at Sinai park. It wasn't as  muddy as the first one (although there was some ice), but the queues to get over stiles and through gates were still there: the worst one was at the end of a long downhill and before a steep hill on the other side... instead of being able to let momentum carry us downhill and up the other side, we had to stop half-way down, shuffle, stop, wait, shuffle some more then over the stile and only then tackle the hill... A bit frustrating, but I suppose it was the same for all participants, so can’t shout too loudly.

But the main feature of the race were the hills! To begin with the start was straight uphill and I thought that was just there to intimidate us... wrong, it was lulling us into a false sense of security! “Come along” it was saying, “look at what a scary hill I am, there can’t possibly be anything worse anywhere on the course can there?” But there were... two of them in particular!

Let’s just say I should make a habit of heading over to Croft hill every time I work from home and get some more hill reps in!

But for a second time, I followed the race with a yoga session at the gym... legs a bit painful, but between that and a warm bath afterwards it’s probably the best stretching and relaxation routine I could come up with! Add to that a juicy steak for dinner and the Monday off and you are laughing!


I guess that’s enough for now... I’ll be back next week with the results of my time trials and some other bits and pieces that have been on my mind for some time now...  

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why we run...

As some of you might have noticed, I have missed a few entries – in fact I had to take about a week and a half out of my training to avoid injury: my hip started giving me some trouble and as it was suspiciously like a pain that caused me to have to give up running altogether for 3 months last year, so I thought I’d take it easy for a while, rest and go for the odd swim instead.

The problem I have when I take a break from my exercise is that all the energy I normally put into it turns into a vague and all-encompassing feeling of frustration, pointless dwelling on unrelated events, concern over the number of runs I will end up missing and the consequences of that on my fitness and so long... which as you can imagine doesn’t make me the best person to be around! It was to Demi’s great relief then that I declared myself fit to run again last Thursday and she wasted no time in suggesting that I went for a run that very evening!

A couple of sessions later I was back up to pace, all the frustration had evaporated and I was back to being the adorable runner you all know and love! :-)

Moral of the story? Keep running or you'll die alone, unloved and unfit!


On the 18 November was the first race of the Derby Runner Cross Country League in Markfield. It comprises of 6 short cross country races (each between 5 and 6 miles long) and I had only taken part in the two last ones last year... I spotted it in the Harrier’s calendar just in time this time round and realised that I would be available for all 6, so I have put all the dates in my calendar and will make a conscious effort to turn up... I enjoy cross country / trail running; apart from the scenery, I like the more 'technical' challenge and   the variability of even the same course in different weather conditions...

But I also want to start running in more races with the Harriers and I thought that taking one league (6-7 races) at a time, I stood more of a chance than making a grand resolution and then fail miserably...

Markfield itself was a strange race, the course was very, very muddy throughout (ankle deep in some stretches), many sections were over narrow paths where you overtook at your own peril by running through nettles and thorns and there were long queues to cross two stiles in particular (according to my Garmin I spent a total 4’ 27’’ standing still and queuing!). Add to that fallen trees in the wooded sections and a first aid service that picked the day to not turn up and you have great grumbling potential... To the contrary however most people I spoke to seemed to have enjoyed themselves: it was a lovely sunny day (I ran with my sunglasses on), the scenery was breathtaking (the bit by the reservoir especially picturesque) even if we were too busy to admire it as much as it deserved, trying not to slip ... Racing down a slippery hill to a gate with the sun in your eyes was almost as fun as trying to power up the other side only to find your feet slipping in the mud but that’s what cross country running is all about after all! Can’t wait till the next one on 2nd Dec!

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos on the day, but here is one of me coming up to the finishing line courtesy of the official Huncote Harrier photographer – the full set can be found on the Harrier Flickr page:

(c) Huncote Harriers
In terms of performance there is no point comparing time and pace with other races, given the conditions, but I felt I did reasonably well considering it was my first race since July: I was slightly slower than runners who usually finish ahead of me and slightly faster than runners I finish ahead of... about half way down the overall classification - lets see if I can improve in subsequent races.

The team - (c) Huncote Harriers

Friday, 26 October 2012

Rome here we come!

So the pieces of the plan are slowly falling into place!!!

We have booked our tickets to Rome (an easyjet job I’m afraid, but hey-ho!), followed a friend’s recommendation and found a quiet hotel with easy access to the centre and even bought a guide book to start planning the details of our trip! And in a rare manifestation of sibling co-ordination, my sister and her boyfriend (let’s call him Niko, that’s his name after all) ALSO booked their tickets, for roughly the same period and even staying in the same hotel! Wow, we may actually manage to meet up during the week sometime!

And as if to add to the excitement, Maratona di Roma revealed the Race Packet and to my surprise they will also give us a proper backpack to use on the day (and keep afterwards of course). I don’t know how common this is in marathons (in Athens we were given one of those corded plastic bags, the kind you get when you shop at Gap) but I thought it was a nice touch! Needless to say it will become my new official gym bag! J

There are also two T-shirts: The standard cotton one all finishers will receive and a ‘proper’ tech tee, available for €10 extra! Only 4,000 of those will be available and you need to pay when you book your place, so I’m pleased to have booked my place nice and early!

It's not all been plain sailing though... Just as Niko had returned to running after an injury and was happily ramping up the miles, he discovered his knee is slowly coming apart and may need surgery before he can take on a marathon (and the many, many miles that he would have to run before he could even stand at the start line). Full diagnosis etc still to follow, but he is no longer certain he will run in Rome this year... Not the end of the world, there is Athens in November '13 and a number of other marathons in between and we will still all have a nice holiday in Rome whether he (or I for that matter) run or not... but he is understandably frustrated...

But whatever the outcome, I suppose this acts as a reminder that deciding to run a marathon (be it one's first or not) is a longish term undertaking (at least for us non-professional athletes) and there are no guarantees that one will start the race, let alone finish it... Which is the point of this blog in a way, to document all the build-up and eventual conclusion. Let's hope there will be a happy ending for everyone involved in this story!

Next week I'd like to talk a bit about shoes (my trusty Kinvaras are fast turning into slicks) and no doubt I'll have something to say about the changing of the clocks... But in the mean time I've opened all comments (sorry guys, I hadn't realised you had to sign in to comment) 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

When in doubt... go for a run!

It was a tiring week at work this week, but one of those that drain you and fill you with useless tension rather than a productive-tiring one, if you know what I mean... It all culminated in a very irritating email exchange just around the 5pm mark on Friday afternoon... Fortunately I was working from home, so rather than responding on the heat of the moment I decided to go for my run instead and deal with it when I came back. It was a fast finish run, and during the steady section I was still thinking of all the work-related bullshit (are you allowed to say ‘bullshit’ online? I’m sure Blogger will tell me if not...) You know the thoughts, the whys, the wherefores, how to respond etc... And then I hit the fast 20’ and none of that was important any more...

There is an Asics ad about running releasing more than just sweat and I definitely take their point, even if I don’t run in their shoes any more:

I don’t remember what – if anything – I was thinking of during that fast section, but it certainly had nothing to do with work! I remember taking in the countryside (I reversed the long version of the ‘fisheries’ run, Harriers will know what I’m talking about) but without formulating any thoughts about what I was running through... just a silent appreciation for the beauty of the late light; I remember also making a passing note on the large number of pheasants scattering through the fields as I was running towards them... Other than that nothing, I was just trying to keep my pace up to the target while observing my breathing gradually turning into panting!

Then home, a quick shake while my Garmin sent the data to my laptop and then 5’ just standing under a hot shower, rinsing the remains of the working week well off me, before settling back with a drink to watch Greece play Bosnia for the World Cup qualifiers.

Needless to say I didn't bother going back to the irritating emails after that, the matter hardly even crossed my mind all weekend: And come Monday, a clear head meant I could ignore that particular discussion and instead do some more digging and get to where I wanted to be all along. I was so pleased with myself I could go for a little run then and there!


Harrier memberships are up for renewal this month and it looks like there will be two from our household! Demi had her first taste of a run with the group last week (will she make it two in a row?) and saw it through a very hard long intervals session – that girl has taken her running very seriously these past few months and the progress really shows! And as she has also increased the distances she runs, we can now come up with more picturesque routes and make running even more interesting!

Unfortunately, the way the week unfolded, we didn't get the opportunity to do too much running together, so I missed out on the slightly gentler runs I like to mix my intervals with... And with a lot of work travel this week as well - and the nights drawing in a bit more - I doubt we'll manage to run together much this week either... 

But it's a long way to Rome and many runs await -  alone, with Demi and with the Harriers.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The dictator, the cake model and the geek

Hello there!

Apologies that I am a few days late with this week’s post, the amazing thing is that some of you actually noticed! Could it be that there are real readers out there??? Google says there are some of you around the globe – from Russia to the US no less – but can that actually be true?

One of the most distinguished members of the readership is El Presidente himself! No, not Hugo, the newly re-elected president of Venezuela, but the president of the Huncote Harriers, who rules his club with an iron fist reminiscent of the good old fashioned South American dictators!

El Presidente even deigned to offer some constructive feedback to my blog “it’s boring!” he proclaimed gruffly. “It should have more mentions of the Harriers. And videos. And pictures of naked women!” (As I said – an old fashioned dictator interested mostly in propaganda and totty!)

Wanting to be on good terms with authority, I immediately set about conducting my research of, erm..., potential internet sources of shapely female runners, until my girlfriend kindly explained to me that it would be quite impossible for me to run a marathon in Rome with two broken legs and a punctured lung, and that the single easiest way to avoid these particular injuries would be to desist looking at naked girls on the internet... And as I said, it always pays to be on good terms with Authority!

So sorry Harriers, but the only leg you are going to see on this blog is this (and more's the pity!):

Sticking with the Harriers theme for a bit longer though, we held our 30-year anniversary dance at the end of the week (and no, the festivities had nothing to do with my lateness in composing a new post!) and apart from the obvious good time had by all (it was funny seeing so many legs trained for years for repetitive, steady forward motion to try to add flourishes in their dance!) the two most noteworthy things were the delicious cake prepared by Harrier Donna Berry (photos below) and the interest in the Athens marathon!

Starting with the cake, I had read many enthusiastic comments about Donna's baking, but this was the first time I tasted it for myself... And believe me, it tasted even better than it looked!

Cake: Donna Berry; photo: Paul Nealon
Cake & model: Donna Berry; photo: Paul Nealon.

As for Athens, while not strictly speaking the subject of this blog, it is a marathon obviously very close to my heart as I have many fond memories of Marathon and, let's face it, it was my first!

Emma is attempting it this year with a group of friends (so to all my Greek friends: remember to cheer any fluorescent yellow running tops you see!) and Trudi and Chris, flush from their success in the Loch Ness marathon suggested they would like to do Athens sometime in the next few years... But we need to get Rome out of the way first... 

So, how is that going? If you remember I've split my programme in two, working on pace over 10-12 km from now till Xmas (what I've identified as my weakest point), then focusing primarily on increasing the distance after that... Well, I'm in that strange point that exists in the implementation of any plan, where on the one hand I feel I'm struggling, I'm hopeless and I will never make it, but a more careful analysis of the numbers (yes, I am a geek, get over it) can even be interpreted as stating otherwise... I won't bore you with all the details, but essentially comparing my pace in 2011 / 2012 (over a range of distances) and looking at what I can do now (when e.g. a workout says "run this interval at your 1km race pace" or "this tempo should be run at your 10k pace"), I am roughly 40% of the way to bridge the gap between my 2011 / 2012 actual and my 2012 / 2013 target... This in itself doesn't say much, so I thought I'd try to introduce some 'benchmark' runs in my programme... say the same mile or 5k once a month, just to see if there is any real progress...

So we thought we'd start going to the Braunstone Parkrun again with Demi - it was good fun when she did it (once you get over the early morning) and as they are on every Saturday, there is no reason why we couldn't make one every month...

The only other noteworthy point of the last week really was that the pace of the workouts was beginning to take its toll on my legs... I was feeling them much stiffer than when I was running longer distances (but slower) and more prone to develop little pains and aches... I tried stretching a bit better before and after each workout, but in itself it didn't really make a difference. So I decided to also cram a yoga session in my weekly programme, a good, deep, whole-body stretch after Sunday's run (which is my hardest day). It seemed to do the trick this week, I certainly feel better allover, the stiffness seems to have gone and it was another way to engage my core rather than just gym-work...

So there you go! And all that while keeping up with all my running, starting on a new account (or three!) at work and dealing with all the other little distractions daily life brings us... The one casualty of this week was the gym though, so I need to make sure I go in the week that dawns...

As ever,

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

It was a quiet week this week, getting on with my training and finding that the programme I've come up with is pushing me hard, especially with regards to the pace on the tempo runs and the 5' intervals... I'm just off the pace I should be... It's still the beginning thought (three weeks in now), so I'll keep up with it and hope for a gradual improvement over the next month or so...

But the main news of the week, as far as the Rome Marathon goes, is that I've now booked a place, so I'm formally committed! And as if it was my entry they were expecting, the organising committee have now unveiled the design of the finishers' medals for 2013:

We now have a few months to sort flights and hotels out and plan our trip - we would like to stay for as long as a week, giving us time to do some decent sight-seeing after the race (assuming I will still be able to walk, that is!) without worrying about precise nutrition and hydration (and what's wrong with a small barrel of Barbera as pre-race hydration, I hear you ask?)

Other than that a quiet week as I said before, the highlight being running between the tree-covered banks of the disused railway at Narborough - it was a sunny crisp evening, the overhanging branches were playing havoc with our GPS, but the fallen leaves had began to cover the path, the fields were bright green between the trees and the 1' sprints really got the pulse racing... An image to hold on to, when the icy sideways rain begins to cut through the darkness...

Next time I'll remember to snap a quick photo during recoveries... sorry guys!

Monday, 24 September 2012


This could have so easily been one of those weeks to regret, one of those in which every day I almost went for a run, but for one reason or another (bad night’s sleep, long travel with work - pick your excuse) I never actually did. Cue Demi, the heroine of the week! Through gentle prompting and careful sidestepping of my excuses she made sure I got out there, turning missed runs in useful miles and intervals.

Not only that, but she completed her own runs with such great focus and determination, taking her first sprint work and speed interval exercises literally in her stride, that I was too ashamed to skip my own...

It only goes to show that living with someone doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing one’s exercise, but can help in making best use of one’s time (it was the kind of week where the ‘almost runs’ would mean playing computer games instead, and how does that help complete a marathon?)
I also started my strength training this week. I use a site called Jefit to compile my exercise routines, which then syncs with the app on my Android (iOS version available as well) and lets me follow the routine at the gym. What’s more, for all the exercises already in its Exercise Database it contains handy animations and descriptions on how they should be performed. You can of course add your own custom exercises to your routine (which can be split over as many days as you need, to focus e.g. on different body parts on different days) and it remembers both the weights / resistance at which you performed each exercise last time, but also your all time best.

The routine I’ve come up with is built around two sessions per week, Day 1 one working the core, arms & legs and Day 2 the shoulders, chest, back & core. They last about 1h each, plus warm-up. I’ve also come up with a sequence (lasting no more than 15’) of 5-6 other core exercises that I can do at home to make sure I’m working my core the target 3 times per week.
So all went well this week, at least until Saturday came and left... On Saturday day was still longer than night, the sun was shining (by and large), running was pleasant (evenings still bright, but nice and cool) and then that stupid Earth had to stand square to the Sun on Saturday afternoon and then tilt back, past the point of equinox and into winter...  and winter certainly obliged!

But duelling on the Equinox a bit longer, I am informed that in pagan celebration the autumnal equinox marks the start of winter preparations... “It is time to respect the impending dark while giving thanks to the sunlight”. I suppose that for runners that means high-viz vests and waterproofs, careful planning of running routes and times and taking advantage of any opportunities to enjoy running in the natural light. Weekends are an obvious candidate for this of course, but I’ll also try running during lunchtimes at work (my programme includes a number of sub-50minute runs) and will report on how this goes next week.

But while I don’t necessarily mind running in the dark or the rain, there will be times when it is just easier to use a treadmill instead... While I certainly don’t prefer it, it does at least make it easier to keep the speed up during the intervals and I’ve found an unexpected way to combat the boredom... audiobooks! Not exactly in keeping with the image of the sweaty runner thumping away to the beat of “running compilations”, but I enjoy the irony of settling down to listen to a nice read while at 80% of HRmax... it also helps the mind wander and act as a distraction in place of an undulating route or beautiful scenery... Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll always remain an outdoor runner, but a treadmill is better than not running at all.

And a sobering thought to leave you with... the weather and darkness will only get worse, and days are not due to become larger than nights again until three days after Rome! So I better get used to it...

Monday, 17 September 2012

And we are off!

So, week one done, and how did we do? Not bad for the first week, I had four short sessions this week (i.e. <10k), but this included some tempo work and some sort of speed or hill interval. On the minus side, a 'owe' yesterday's (Sunday) session which I will do today (essentially swapping rest days around) and I haven't made it to the gym yet, but I hope to do better this week.

Demi (my girlfriend) also started her own 10k programme this week - it will be fun training concurrently for the same distance!

I also had the first post-summer (dare I call it autumn?) training session with the Harriers: A fast-paced 9k run which also happened to work very well as the first session of my new 10k programme from micoach.

The Harriers (or more accurately, the Huncote Harriers AC) had their 2012 AGM after the run and listening to the captains give the reports, I again felt I should be participating in more league / championship races with them... It's all about managing time though and the many demands on it... and time at weekends is the most valuable of it all...

I also started a triathlon class at my local gym – it’s basically a weekly session looking in turn at running, cycling, swimming and transitions and aiming to get us to compete in a sprint triathlon in spring (with a lot of additional training between sessions, of course). I’m not sure I will compete in one necessarily, but I’m using this class as a bit of extra (cross-) training and to help motivate me keep my swimming up. The trainer taking it is also a useful point of reference for nutrition, strength training etc. etc. We started with running this week (outdoors thankfully, not sweating on a treadmill!), and it was a straight 6k run followed by 2 sets of hill reps. A reasonable session for starters (and as a supplement to my more structured programme), but I really felt those hills!

That’s where you need someone to train with though (be it a trainer or just a training partner): to keep you honest and pushing as hard as you possibly can on the way up (especially when you have got unaccustomed with high intensity work outs). Exactly the kind of exercise I need right now then, fast intervals or hills just to get my lungs working again!!! In fact I remember motivating myself to squeeze every last little bit of effort out of myself by thinking that the fastest I ran up, the more fractions of seconds I would be shaving off my eventual marathon time, six months away – seconds, I told myself, that could make the difference between coming in under or over 3:30! You’d be right to call it complete nonsense (looking at each session in isolation) or a valid principle (if maintained consistently over the coming six months), but the point is that I felt it put a spring in my step and that’s what I needed.

Finally, I've being playing around with the Nike+ app on my Android... It took a lot of calibration (the initial stats would have you believe I was setting world records), but I think it's there now... 

So there you have it... A good first week, but I need to ramp it up a bit more!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

1. Back to School!

The holidays are over and they have left me happier, tanner, but also less fit than they found me... What little swimming and much less running I did was no match for all the eating, drinking and general lazing about, so September’s first 'exploratory' run last week hurt more than it would have in July... nothing surprising there, but now holidays are over I better come up with a plan to get fit again!

Having enjoyed the travel experience to Athens and the Lakes, I’ve decided to aim for one marathon ‘in an interesting place’ each year and make a bit of a holiday of it with my girlfriend (after all, she deserves a reward for tolerating all my disappearing after long days at work to run up hills or hide in the gym!)

For 2013 especially we thought we’d try Rome – a city on our ‘to go’ list anyway and within easy reach for us in the UK and my sister and her boyfriend in Athens – so with any luck and barring accidents he intends to run it as well!

With the decision of the location made, it’s time for the boring stuff I’m afraid… goals and plans! I ran my first marathon last year in 3:51 and as the second one was on a hilly trail, this (3:51) is my current PB. I have done a lot of running since though and - considering I have just over 5 months to prepare - I believe I can set myself a goal of 3:30. This will not be set down in stone at this point you understand, just something to base my training around. As the plan progresses I can always go back and revise this if necessary.

Now I have a goal, for a plan: There is a multitude of marathon training plans out there, as well as web-based applications that create a customised plan for you and track your progress as you follow it. Adidas' Micoach is my favourite: I used it to train for Athens and I was very pleased with the results. Having said that, as I have been training for longer, slower races recently (my last training plan was for a the hilly marathon in July), I feel there is a misalignment in my training in that I have neglected speed over the 5 - 15 km range for the sake of endurance over longer distances. While I'm no professional trainer, I know enough to know that that's not good and will work against me in the long run, so I intend to use the time I have to do something about it: What I propose is to concentrate on my 10k speed for the first three months of my training (till just before Xmas) and then work on increasing the distances of my long runs in preparation for the event itself.

That's easy then, I'll start with a programme that will get me to finish 10k in 40' (my current PB being 46') by December, based on 3 runs a week plus strength training and cross training (thus bringing my swimming in my plan rather than give it up to make room for more runs). If I'm honest, the 40' target is a bit of a guesstimate... On the face of it, it certainly looks challenging enough and a race pace calculator will tell you that it is the equivalent of a marathon time well under 3:30. Is it too challenging? Perhaps, but again, it will at least give me the chance to see what I can achieve by December and amend my marathon plans accordingly.

So there we go! Let week 1 of the run to Rome commence and I will come back with an update early next week!