Marathon training: this time it’s hard

Marathon training is hard. I already knew this, because I did it last year. But last year it was hard because I was injured and frequently not running. So far this year I’ve remained uninjured. This is good news! But it also means there is no excuse to miss any runs. I’ve been running. A lot. And it’s hard.

I’m tired! I’m also cold. This time a year ago, when it was 19C and sunny, I ran my first 20 mile run. It’s currently freezing and very windy. I’m still running in a fleece! This can’t be right.

I’m into week 10 of Edinburgh Marathon training. There’s not much to say, except that I get up at 6am three times a week to go running, then get up slightly later to do a couple more runs at the weekend. I do hills, intervals, tempo runs, steady runs, long runs and easy runs (oh, how I love the easy runs…) I stretch and foam roll, although probably not as much as I should. I go to bed at 9pm and I sleep like a baby. I ache at work and I eat a lot of carbs. I write incoherent blog posts about marathon training being hard work…

When it’s 6:30am and I’m cold and tired, heading out for a run, I think about how glorious it will be this time next year when I’m not training for a marathon. I’ve enlisted people to forcibly restrain me if I try to enter the London Marathon ballot in April. I can’t possibly run another one next year, I have a wedding to organise!

But there have been some great bits… like that 16 miler where I averaged 9:00 minute miles and felt like I was flying. Or the feeling I get when I finally pull up at home after 10x hill repeats.

This Sunday I’ll be running the Reading half marathon with my friends Nic and Rach. Not for a PB, but for a bit of fun and as part of a stepback week in training. It’ll be nice to get a medal to remind myself why I’m doing this!

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Edinburgh Marathon training week 4

“Oh you’re a runner? That’s cool! I did a half-marathon once… I didn’t really train, but I did it in 1 hour 40… that’s good right?”

Over the last few years I’ve heard variations on the above more times that I’d care to remember. “Oh wow. Yeah that’s really good… much faster than me…” *quietly sobs into glass of wine*

I think that’s why I like training for a marathon. When running comes up in conversation, which it inevitably does if I have anything to do with it, and I mention I have run/am training for a marathon I never hear “Oh I did a marathon once. Just turned up on the day, I’d only ever run once before, when I was 11. Did it in 3 hours 10… that’s pretty good right?”

Unless you’re Jedward, or some kind of superhuman nutcase, you have to train for a marathon. The marathon accepts no excuses. You put in the work, you get the results – there are no other ways around it.

My aim for the Edinburgh Marathon is to get though the training and around the course without any injuries. This time exactly last year I was on crutches with Achilles Tendinopathy. My body wasn’t prepared for the rigours of marathon training, and I paid for it. I got round of course, but the training (or lack thereof) wasn’t a pleasant experience.

I know I can beat my current marathon PB of 4:44. If you were to push me for a target time… I’d say sub-4:15. How much sub remains to be seen over the next 16 weeks.

I’m following a Runner’s World sub-4:30 plan at the moment, running 4 or 5 times a week, a couple of speedier sessions mixed with some easy runs. This weekend called for a long run of around 9 miles, with a 10k in the middle in less than 53 minutes, so around 8:30 pace. This is something I knew I definitely could do, but it had been a while since I’d upped the pace, so I was feeling a bit apprehensive. It turned out that my worrying was all for nothing. I got round the 10k section in 52:21 and it felt perfectly manageable – with plenty left in the tank and my legs telling me they could even go a bit faster if I fancied it.

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 13.57.45.pngAs it happens, that 52:21 10k is about 3 minutes faster than anything I’ve ever done in a race. Note to self: must rectify that.

From next week the mileage is going up and I’ll be hitting the double digits for my long runs. Got to admit I’m excited… hopefully that will last for the next few months…

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I have my fingers crossed and I’m touching wood… but I feel like I can now whisper it… marathon training has started! After a dubious start to training I am finally back in my stride, and the past two weeks have gone pretty well. I’ve managed five runs a week and I’ve stuck to my schedule, even through the UK’s snowpocalypse.

I didn't let the snow stop me...

I didn’t let the snow stop me…

To be honest, running has felt really hard and I’ve been feeling pretty slow and unfit. This is only to be expected after the over-indulgence of Christmas, and I’m used to feeling crappy going into a training plan. But I know that in a few weeks the tempo session that killed me last week won’t feel quite so bad anymore. It takes around 2 or 3 weeks for my body to adapt to the toughness of specific sessions, so I’m getting there!

Of course, at any time injury is only around the corner. I’ve learnt from last year’s mistakes – I’m doing strength training at least once a week, and stretching like a woman possessed.

All in all the last few weeks have been pretty uneventful on the running front. Which is exactly what I want!

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Edinburgh Marathon training week one: A non-starter

One week into my Edinburgh Marathon training… 2 miles have been run. Illness has thwarted my efforts to get out there and start as I mean to go on. Ah well, it could be worse. It’s much better to have a cold now than to be struck down during peak mileage time. If I’ve learnt anything from last year it’s that you shouldn’t sweat the miles that you miss – rather make the miles that you can do count.

So, rather than sulking about being stuck in the flat, I thought I’d reflect on my running exploits during 2012. What a year! Thanks to Fetcheveryone I know that I ran 896 miles last year, including one marathon, two half-marathons, one 10k and a five-mile race with my Dad.


My marathon build-up didn’t exactly go to plan, what with getting injured and taking about two weeks out. My training plan wasn’t well thought out, I wasn’t strong or flexible going in to it, and I thought I knew it all. A recipe for disaster! Safe to say, I’ve been considerably humbled by my experience. I did the marathon in a time I’m proud of, and I enjoyed the day so much. I learnt a lot, and I took that knowledge into my half-marathon campaign, which was significantly more successful than my marathon build-up.

I’m proud of the PB I earned at the Ealing Half, then subsequently smashed at the Preston Half. I worked really hard for them. I did 12 weeks of tough, specific, hardcore training. I didn’t miss a single session, I was fast, fit and light. I wanted to take that motivation and fitness into my 2013 marathon training, but instead I’m sitting on my sofa in my dressing gown, still pudgy from Christmas, coughing up a lung and thoroughly unmotivated.

Oh well. Once the illness has gone I’ll be back on the streets, and then the motivation will come. That’s the plan, anyway.

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A moany start to 2013

It’s January, so like much of the rest of the country, I’m making an extra special effort to be “healthy”. I’m not drinking alcohol, I’m eating well, lots of fruit and vegetables, no more chocolate or mince pies…

Except that I’m not actually healthy at all. I’m ill. After avoiding the dreaded lurgy for so long (the last time I had a cold I was training for VLM 2012!) I have been taken down.

Edinburgh Marathon training started on Monday. I managed to get out for my 2 slow miles (this time I’m following the Runner’s World sub-4:30 marathon schedule). But since then my cold has developed, and I doubt I’ll be out for my 2 steady miles tomorrow.

Life is so unfair!

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Hibernation mode

On Tuesday morning I was rudely awoken at 5:55am by my phone alarm. Not that I remember it. I switched it off in my sleep, finally waking up at the more sociable hour of 7…

On Wednesday morning my alarm started beeping at 6am. I hit snooze. 6:09… beep beep… beep beep… I pressed all the buttons until it stopped.

Thursday morning… This time I was really going to do it. I’d gone to bed early the previous night. Not a drop of wine had passed my lips. I’d prepared myself for it.

No dice.

So I haven’t managed to get up early at all this week, and I therefore haven’t run. Who can blame me? It’s freezing cold, usually wet, very dark, so unappealing. I’m not training for anything at the moment. I’m supposed to be taking it easy before starting training for the Edinburgh Marathon in January.

“Taking it easy” never meant “not running”. It meant three 3-5 mile runs each week. Sounds so easy. From August to November I was out running 4 or 5 times a week, usually before 7am. I did intervals, hill repeats, tempo runs, long runs… and it paid off. I ran the Ealing and Preston Half Marathons much quicker than I had ever imagined I could. I felt fit, I felt lean, I felt fast. Most surprisingly, my legs felt great. No injuries! Not like my injury-ridden marathon training at the start of the year. I was a slave to my foam roller, stretching was my hobby.

After the Preston half I’d promised myself that I’d take it easy. I wanted to concentrate on real life for a while. I took a week off running and I ate everything in sight. It was delicious after 3 months of restriction and sensible decisions. Life has been good in November. I got engaged to my soul mate, I’ve had long overdue catch ups with friends, work has been taking over, in a good way…

But I can’t shake this nagging guilt. I haven’t been running. I’m a runner… but I’ve been slacking. Does this mean I can’t call myself a runner anymore? My legs feel sore and stiff. I haven’t stretched in ages. I’m puffing and panting minutes into my 3 mile cycle to work. I feel unfit, chubby, fatigued… not like my super fit, svelte self of a few months ago.

Of course I’ll get back into it. Come January I’ll have the Edinburgh Marathon to focus on. I’m just worried about all the fitness I might lose between now and then, if I carry on not running. All I feel like doing at the moment is hibernating. I’ll run again. But when I feel like it. I miss it, but I don’t miss it enough to wake up at 6am and freeze on my doorstep while my Garmin locates satellites.

So I won’t be setting an early alarm for tomorrow morning. I’ll still be a runner if I don’t run for a week. I’ll still be a runner if I don’t run for a month. My next run is just around the corner… when I feel like it.

Posted in Resting, Running, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Preston Guild Half Marathon 2012 Race Report

Preston Guild Half Marathon – Sunday 28th October 2012

Ah, Preston. My hometown. It’s not the prettiest city, nor is it the most exciting, but it is home for me. So when I found out that there was to be a marathon held in celebration of the 2012 Preston Guild how could I say no?!

In case you’re wondering, the Preston Guild dates back to 1179 and is the only Guild still celebrated in the UK. During the last Preston Guild, in 1992, a little 6 year old version of myself dressed up in a belly dancer outfit (I still don’t know why I was in a belly dancer outfit) that my nana had made me and proudly marched the streets in one of the Guild processions. My little brother dressed up as an orange. His best friend dressed as a bunch of grapes. They ran around holding hands looking absolutely adorable. What a time to be alive!

I don’t remember too much of the 1992 Preston Guild, since I was so little, but I do remember that it rained. It also rained on Sunday when I took to the streets to take part in the Preston Guild Half Marathon.

As you may know, I had originally signed up to run the full marathon, but a mixture of training fatigue and sore legs caused me to downgrade to the half marathon instead. When I saw the rain on Sunday morning I was quite pleased with this decision.

My training for the half had gone really well. I’d had 12 weeks of near-perfect training, incorporating a lot of speedwork and hills, some good quality long runs, and a decent amount of strength and flexibility work. I’d managed to PB at the Ealing Half Marathon in 1:55:28, so that was the time to beat.

Due to the miserable rainy conditions on Sunday I did most of my “warming up” in Cassandra’s Cafe in the Guild Hall shopping centre with my parents and boyfriend. I ventured out to the starting line at the last possible minute, and as a result I ended up right at the back of the pack. I could see the “over 2 hours” pen far ahead in the distance – not off to a good start! We got underway precisely at 10am, a relief as I was losing the feeling in my fingers and toes due to the chilly and wet conditions.

The first mile of the race was predominantly downhill, and I spent most of it weaving around people trying to move through the pack. Luckily, as there were only around 2000 people running the half, this wasn’t too difficult, and by mile two I was in a good position.

The plan was to run steadily at 8:30 minute/miles. I knew this might be difficult. 8:30 pace is right on the edge of my comfort zone right now. There was a chance I could detonate around the 10 mile mark, but I had to have a go if I stood a chance of getting close to my 1:50 target.

During this half marathon I did something that I never, ever, ever do in a race. I listened to music. Being plugged in to my iPod resulted in a completely different race experience to any I’ve had before – and I’m not sure I liked it. I felt totally cut off from all the other runners, as well as the spectators. It certainly didn’t help that the lashing rain made it difficult to look around, but I think I’ll stay unplugged in future races.

Two out-and-backs

The race route comprised two out-and-backs, and unfortunately the route was pretty unscenic. For the most part I felt like I was just running along a dual carriageway. There are a lot of very pretty parks in Preston, and it was a shame not to take them in along the route.

I went to some dark places during this race. At mile 4 I got a side stitch so bad that I thought I was going to have to start walking. And at mile 8 I started having horrible stabbing pains in my shoulder. There were other moments when I felt great, but they were brief. This race was a bit of a battle. In the end, I just got my head down and ploughed onwards.

By the end of the race my legs felt similar to how they felt at the end of the London Marathon! I just wanted to have a good sit down. But I managed to push on right until the end, and ended with a sprint finish. I crossed the line in 1:54:18 (official).


At around mile 9 it was clear that the mile markers were out of sync with what my Garmin was telling me by about quarter of a mile, and sure enough the half marathon was over distance by my watch. I’ve since looked online, and it appears that an error with the positioning of an out-and-back turn means that the race was about 0.3 miles longer than it should have been. Annoying, but these things happen.

Not feeling (or looking) my best!

I’m really pleased with my PB, but would have loved to have been a bit closer to 1:50. This race has just made me more determined to get there though – I know I can! But not anytime soon – for now I’m going to scale back the training a little bit and recover properly before getting stuck in to training for the Edinburgh Marathon in January.

Posted in Preston Half Marathon, Racing, Running | 3 Comments