Ed. – For those not aware, the following was written having successfully ran 2:29:20 at the 2015 London Marathon
So – way back in 2009 I ran 2:36 at the New York Marathon. It was a PB and I decided at that point that I was happy with that and was going to do an Ironman, and subsequently spent the next year and a bit learning to (sort of) ride a bike and (very sort of) swim. 20 months and 10hrs 35 mins later I was done with Ironman and after another couple of years or so dicking about with bikes and duathlons I was ready to see if I could in fact run any faster over 26.2, so decided to get back on it for real in the summer of 2013.
During my “time away” Dan Allinson had joined, outgrown and left Hinckley running club and was now with Leicester Columbians. Dan calmly told me that I was “massively underachieving” and should be looking for a sub 2:30 marathon. Despite my inital scepticism, his words rattled around in my head for a while until a 2:30 quest was born.
Here then, in 10 bleedingly obvious points (as a break from pretty much improvised prose) is how the quest went.
1.) Be a Power of 10 Geek
I basically looked up everyone who had run 2:28-2:30 in 2013 and compared their 10k and HM times. Little did I know that elite project new-boy Matt Adcock was also conducting similar research. At the time, well known to many of you, Mr Siggers had 2:29, 1:12 and 33:– to his name, and instantly became my role model, until I discovered that he’s actually a cyborg from the future and never gets tired. Other examples suggested that a low 1:11 half and low 32 10K would be a more likely target. (Erm – so much for bullet points. Looks like rambling is my only means of communication)
2.) Go off-piste
No not go get pissed… Following the plans from “Advanced Marathoning” I had run 2:37, 2:39, 2:36, 2:38, 2:38. Doing what I felt worked best for me after casting my nets around more widely gave me 2:32 and then 2:29. Your body is not a machine (Siggers excepted) and therefore it will respond differently to the training that may or may not have worked for someone else.
3.) Build from the bottom up
Having made the move to Leicester Christadelphians I decided to base my long term plan on being able to run shorter distances faster. If I wanted to run a faster marathon, I needed to run a faster half. If I wanted a faster half my 10k time had to come down. That in turn meant a better 5k pace, and therefore ultimately faster reps on a Tuesday night. Obviously this was in conjunction with weekly tempos, long runs, and easy runs, but the ability to actually run faster is something that can get overlooked.
4.) Find people faster than you
When I used to train on my own I would do 12 x400s in 72s each off 90s. When I started training in Leicester people like Mark Powell and Nigel Stirk were doing 68s off a minute. I would try and hang on, breathing out of my arse, for as many reps as possible and I can now do 68s on my own. Again this seems obvious but watching other groups train I do see a lot of people just doing their own pace.
5.) Be patient
If you are training well and running the same routes faster but the results aren’t happening there could be lots of reasons for that. Lots and lots of reasons.
Here is what happened to me. A typical week was 80-90 miles. Sunday long run with some at marathon pace. Easy 1hr-1hr15 Monday . Easy hr plus track session Tuesday. 15 miles Wednesday. 5 easy 5 HMP Thursday. 10 with strides Friday. Easy ½ hr Saturday. A lot of week days were split to fit annoying things in like work.
I noticed the tempo runs got faster when I was going well. Otherwise it was just a careful balance of fatigue and effort. Autumn 2013 I was still a little below my pre-sabbatical fitness level.
|Autumn 2013||Spring 2014||Autumn 2014||Spring 2015|
So I guess the be patient bit for me was after London 2014!
6.) Love the sessions you hate!
Because the sessions you hate the most are probably the best for you. For me the hated session (which I do once per cycle) is 3x2M @ 10k pace, 400 slow jog recovery. I rarely manage it at actual PB 10k pace (5:11) but it’s a great indicator of the shape I’m in.
7.) Find someone with the same goal
For obvious reasons. Then stalk them on strava and copy what you think would work for you and ignore what you don’t like!
8.) Learn your goal paces
I did at least 3 runs of 9-13 miles at marathon pace in my last cycle. Then, run at goal pace in the race- this may involve “calming down” a bit. Not 10-20 seconds per mile quicker. This doesn’t work.
9.) Accept that your job is no longer important, and is just somewhere you go to recover.
10.) Expert nutritional advice
…Don’t eat yellow snow. Seriously I don’t know much “up to date” stuff about nutrition but I guess I eat a balanced healthy diet, and certainly the odd beer or slab of cake here or there doesn’t seem to do too much harm.
And coming up next week….fire juggling in three easy steps.