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What's it like to train for London (part 1)

As many members will know, the club gets the opportunity to send runners to the London Marathon each year.


Those places are given out to people who have volunteered for the club at least once in the previous 12 months.


This year I was one of the 'lucky' winners.


My name is Rob, I've never run a marathon before, and this year I'm running London.


This is my story...


Rob, in full snowboard kit, looking pensively into the distance at the daunting task ahead


19th December: T minus 124 days


It’s less than a week before Christmas, and less than a week since the club drew my name from the hat to run the London Marathon.


I don’t think the enormity of either have quite sunk in yet.


For the last 6 years I’ve applied for a London Marathon place in the ballot.  And this year I finally get to run it.


I still don’t quite know how I feel about that.


Last Wednesday, my name was pulled out of the hat at the club Christmas party.

I was supposed to be in the throng to witness it, but I couldn’t make it because of a recurring stinking cold - probably caused by repetitive overtraining.


Sat on my sofa I can remember turning to my partner and saying “Ooooh, they’ll be drawing the names for the marathon places about now”.  About 10 minutes later I got a single word message from Gavin… “Yes!!!”.


I turned to Jen again.


“Oh shit!”.


For the last few years, I’d come to terms with the fact that I was probably going to run a marathon at some point.  It’s the nature of being amongst so many marathon runners all the time.  It’s a textbook definition of peer pressure.


I guess I just didn’t think it would be in 16 weeks time!


In the 6 days since my name was pulled, I’ve had many offers of help with training plans, had a lengthy conversation with the legend of long distance running, coaching and effervescence that’s known as Gildas, and contemplated the existence of Energy Gell Christmas Selection boxes.  And, of course, I’ve put together a spreadsheet that tells me how many miles I need to cover each week to hit my target.


Oh, and I did go for a run - 10km easy.


Hopefully the cold’s cleared, and I can ease myself into some distance over the next couple of months.


3rd January: T minus 109 days


Christmas and New Year are done, and I feel like I’ve started to get my head around what I’m doing.


It’s been amazing how supportive the whole club has been - so many chats with so many people mean that I feel much more relaxed about running a marathon.  It’s hard to put into words just how much easier the whole process feels knowing that I have the club behind me.  I know loads of other members feel the same and it shouldn’t be understated.


So I now have a plan - not a strict training plan - not Hansons (fair play to those who do!).


The plan is to:

  1. Make sure I get round

  2. Try to enjoy it


The way I see it, this is my first marathon, and it may be the only time I ever get to run London.  I want to actually experience running the London Marathon.  I don’t want it to be a day of pure pain and disappointment! Or, to put it another way - whatever I run, it’ll be a PB!


So, despite the little voice in my head saying “train well and you can probably get sub 4:00, I’ve set myself the following targets:


  • Bronze: Finish

  • Silver: Sub 5:00

  • Gold: Sub 4:30


And, if I’m honest, the only reason I have any times, is (as Gildas’s pointed out) - if I don't, then how do I know that I've set out too fast?


In terms of training plan - each week will be a core of:


An interval session at the track:
  • I only live 600m from the track gate, so I never get that much of a warm-up, so I’m going to take a round-about route to try to get in 3 to 5km before the start - see how that feels and maybe increase it as I go through the training.


A long slow run - in zone 2:

  • I was already at half marathon distance, but kept getting a massive cold whenever I went straight back to two hours of running in a 40 to 50km week, so I’m going to ease in more gently.

  • I’ve started at around 10 to 12km of running, and will increase that by about 20% every 2 weeks in order to get up to distance.

  • The plan is to avoid running for more than 3 hours at any time.


A shorter / faster run - running for around an hour, doing one of the following:

  • 10km pace for intervals of between 1 and 3kms at a time, with easy pace recoveries.

  • Steady marathon pace for the whole duration.


Then, going on feel, I’ll fit in recovery runs (5 to 10km at a really easy pace) and some leg strength training.


Part of the leg strength work will include using a balance board at a standing desk while I’m working.  Let’s see how that goes.


That’s the plan - nothing could possibly get in the way of it.


Oh, except I’m going snowboarding in about a week and a half…


27th January: T minus 85 days


I survived the trip.  Despite trying my best to do myself damage, I managed to make it back with neither COVID nor any broken bones.


Having taken a full week off without running, I thought that maybe I'd be back with loads of energy and bounce.


Nope.


It's been a tough week.  Partly trying not to run too much, or too fast - partly the slow increase in miles.


I know from all the advice I've been given that getting back after a break you need to lead in gently - Glidas described it is a “reverse taper” - so this week has been a slow build up.


Today though, was a fairly big one, even though it's been slow. Gladstone Parkrun in the morning, then 15km of zone 2 running in the afternoon - a total of 20km for the day and 50km for the week.


It wasn't too hard, but the legs are a bit tired, and I still admit that the idea of 42.2km is still really daunting. But there's still nearly 3 months of training between now and then. I've just got to trust in the training.


Next week it's Watford Half. As my PB course, it'll be strange running it at a much slower pace - but this is where the discipline is really important. It's a training run. Pace is key. So, 6 minute KMs is the target...


Rob's running the London Marathon, raising money for 'The Avenues Youth Project'.


It's an amazing charity, local to the club, that supports kids and young adults with a vibrant centre for learning, play and support.




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