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What's it like to train for London (part 3)

My name is Rob, I've never run a marathon before, and this year I'm running London in support of The Avenues Youth Project.

This is the penultimate part of my story...

(And if you want to start from the beginning, part 1 is here, part 2 is here)

Rob, in his hoops, running parkrun with a stupid look on his face as a volunteer gazes on
Shouldn't enjoy running this much...

8th March - T minus 44 days

This week is a down week - not in terms of mental health, but in terms of miles.

The idea is that last week I reached new heights, after a few weeks of continually pushing the boundaries, ending with a 30km / 3 hour day - the maximum I’m planning on running on any day in the training.

So, this week I turn it down, and then slowly ramp up again over the next few weeks until 2 weeks before the big day.

If that’s the case, why is it that I’ve run 46km in the last 5 days? Oops.

I guess I just fancied it.

None of it has been that fast - in fact I tried to go out for a faster run on Monday, just to see how it would go really, and it didn’t go well.  Nothing traumatic, it was just pretty clear that there was nothing in the legs.

Well, anyway, the weekend is a more relaxed one than I’ve had for a while - there’s going to be a maximum of 15km on Saturday.  I mean, that’s not exactly a short distance, but it’s a lot lower than 30!

I’m really looking forward to having loads of energy next week…  that’s how it works, right…? Right?

16th March - T minus 36 days

First up, it's been great this week having so many people talk to me about the fact that they also find so much running overwhelming.  It really is a good to be reminded regularly that we all go through similar things, and experience similar ups and downs.  That’s a great part of being in a club - you’re not alone.

Things had been going pretty well after my down week, was looking forward to starting to ramp things up again and get myself down to Gladstone for my 99th Parkrun, and the mob match against the Ealing Eagles.

But, last night’s 10km got cut short because of a lack of energy, and today I’m feeling pretty ropey.  I’m going to miss track.

But worse than that - it's the dawn of Mara-noia season…

Only 5 weeks to go - not a lot of training to do - can’t miss a session.

(obviously, I can, I have to, I’m not capable of running today).

But is it just a cold?  Or is it Covid?  Am I going to be out for a couple of days, or is this 2 weeks gone?

And that little niggle in my right knee - is it just a bit of an annoyance?  Or is it a sign of something bigger coming.

It hasn’t picked up too much yet - but I just know it will…

At times like this, it’s a good idea to go into Garmin Connect and give myself a boost.  Try it…

Graph of number of kms average weekly distance against percentage of runners.  Top bar is highlighted with the statement "You run farther than 99% of other users"

I’ll just leave that there.

23rd March - T minus 29 days

Here I am, sitting on my own, having breakfast, with less than a month to go before the marathon.

I’m on my own because I’m having breakfast earlier than everyone else.  I’m going running.

I was going to write something on the 21st when it was actually 1 month to go - but I didn’t have time.  I was running.

I thought I might write something this afternoon, when I’ll have some time on my own, but then I remembered… I’m going running.

OK, that might sound overly dramatic, but we only get so much free time every day and it’s no exaggeration to say that the running’s completely taken over!

Wouldn’t change it though.

I’ve reached that point now where it’s really starting to make a difference.  I’d read quite a few times how lots of zone 2 running (keeping your heart rate low) can have a big impact on your pace and I’d tried it a few times.  It never seemed to really make that much difference.

The last couple of months I’ve been doing quite a bit of running though, and it really feels like it has.

I felt really strong at track on Thursday - it was ‘big session week’, which meant 27 minutes of effort instead of the usual 20 to 23 minutes.  These days I go for a 30 minute warm-up before the session starts, something I would never previously have considered.The splits tell the story - improvement through the session, and a really decent 1km.  I can’t remember the last time I ran that fast at track.

Graph of an intervals training session showing an increase in pace through the session, finishing at around 3:45 / km (which is a GPS lie, obviously)

And, today’s a milestone.  Parkrun number 100.

The plan is to go out for a half hour warm up, then see if I can get sub 25, and a new season’s best.

Might even wear my hoops.

23rd March - later that day…

Rob, in his hoops after finishing his 100th parkrun.  Doing a pale imitation of Usain Bolt's pose.  No trademark infringement to see here.

24:43 Gladstone parkrun as part of a 75 km week.


44 seconds faster than last week and only 17 seconds to shave off to reach my PB from 2013…

5th April - T minus 16 days


Well, at least I managed my 30km run before the cold hit.Did I say “cold”?  Sorry, I meant “I Can’t Believe it’s not Covid”.

The 30km run on Saturday went well - I kept it at marathon heart-rate, and managed it in about 3 hours 6 minutes - so well under the pace I was targeting.  Felt pretty spent by the end, and can’t really imagine running another 12km afterwards, but that’s what everyone said would happen so I’m not too worried.

Sunday, all was good.  I had a nice day out at Richmond Park with the family.  I meant to take it easy, but we ended up walking about 10km.  Probably more than I should have done, but the body felt good and I was eating constantly.

Then Monday was a relaxing day around the house, as I started to feel ill…

Fast forward 5 days and I’ve not even considered going for a run since.  My head is still foggy, sinuses are still full, and the throat is still croaky, but (thankfully) Covid tests are still coming back negative.

The Mara-noia is properly kicking in though.  Only 2 weeks to go, and right now I couldn’t imagine running for the bus, never mind for more than 4 hours.  Will the cold disappear in time?

So much for a new PB at Redcar parkrun followed by a nice run down the sea-front to Marske.

I’m basically mainlining oranges and multi-vitamins, eating everything I can get my hands on and drinking, drinking, drinking (no, not alcohol).

Still, at least I can say the tapering is going well…

14th April - T minus 7 days

A week to go?  How did that happen?

Looking back over this diary, the first entry was 117 days ago!  How has it come round so fast?

Things are starting to look up again - I managed to run yesterday, for an hour.  The heart rate was a bit high, but I could do it and didn’t destroy myself.  The recovery is happening and the taper feels like it can now have an effect.

It feels a bit like the cold has now moved on to hay fever - so maybe it’s time to add Clarityn to the list of daily intakes.

Mind you, After 12 days without running, it was a weight lifted.

I’ll go out another couple of times to check what the heart rate’s doing so I can set my realistic expectations for the day. So, have I been doing nothing on those days off?  Absolutely not.  Now’s the time to start thinking about logistics.  What time am I going to hit which areas - how can I make sure that my family are there when I run past their chosen spots?  You know what that means… spreadsheet time!

And it seems there’s more to running London than I thought - I had no idea I had to go to The ExCel Centre to get my number - that I have an allocated bag truck and standard bag - that it’s a 1km walk to get out of the finish area - that London Bridge station is a nightmare on the morning and I should avoid changing there to get to Blackheath. So much to think about that I never considered.

Looking forward to getting my number on Thursday (I’ve taken the day off to soak it up), deciding what flavour gels to take and doing a kit-lay.

In the rest of the club it’s clear that marathon season has kicked in, and there’s so many stories flying around of successes, near misses and people pulling out.  It’s a real reminder that running a marathon is not to be under-estimated.  We’re in a self-selecting group of runners - it seems normal to be able to run a half marathon, and 33 runners are registered to run London.  That’s nearly 15% of the whole club!.

But still, even in this group there’s people who need to pull out in the lead up, others who start and don’t make it to the end, and then yet more who get round but behind where they hoped they’d be.

It reminds you - a marathon truly IS a big deal.  Getting round is a massive achievement.

Hats off to everyone and anyone who’s even attempted it.

Today though, I’ll take the first Sunday in ages where I’m not exhausted (and it’s not raining), and do a bit of gardening.  That feels like a massive achievement too.


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