Dear friends (two days to go)

As I approach my run in the London Marathon this Sunday, I wanted to thank you for your support, through your words of encouragement and morale-boosting.

I am feeling excited but also a little nervous in advance of my first marathon, but I think that’s normal. It is said that running is a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going. The support from you all, in various ways and at various times, has helped that second part of my brain, to motivate me to keep going through training, and will help me as the streets of London stretch out in front of me on Sunday.

I am also very grateful for the generosity of sponsorship from so many of you. Some of the sponsorship online has been anonymous, which is understandable, but leaves me unable to thank those people directly, but thank you all – you are awesome!

As I write, I am 94% of the way towards my sponsorship target, raising money for Guide Dogs for the Blind. If any who haven’t sponsored me feel able to help this important cause, and help me to help them make a difference, and reach and surpass that target, then sponsorship at virginmoneygiving.com/StephenD would be really appreciated – or money via other routes is fine too (including after the race).

A number of people have said they would like to follow me on the day: if you would too, my race number is 40244. The London Marathon app (download from www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/event-info/spectator-info/  or the app stores) should enable you to keep track of your “favourite” runners on phone or tablet – I’m not expecting Daniel Wanjiru (race number 1) or Mo Farah (race number 13) to be overtaking me, but if it happens, you could see it on the live map. (Note that though the main race starts at 10.00am, I don’t expect to cross the start line until between 10.22 and 10.28am according to the official timetable.)

Also, while I’m not a big Twitter user, my Garmin GPS watch will tweet a link to a live map of where I am – you don’t need a Twitter account, just go to twitter.com/StephenRDawson after say 10.30am on Sunday and follow the link which should be there by then.

Training has gone well, with no injuries other than a few blisters on my toes. I reached a long run of 22 miles at Easter, albeit deliberately slower than planned for the big day, since when I’ve been gradually reducing the mileage to let my body rest and recover. Some of the winter training has been very cold and with some floods to splash or wade through, but most has been enjoyable, and it’s been fun to challenge myself and execute the plan successfully. Just one run to go now!

Thank you again.

Picking a pace

A pleasant run 24km this morning, mostly on lanes towards Diss but including about a mile on a rather muddy byway. There were a few spits and spots of rain, but not enough to wet the ground, and getting distinctly warm towards the end. I found myself racing the postman in his van for several miles – it was a pretty evenly matched contest as he needed to stop so many times.

With two weeks to go till London, I still remain in a dither of doubt about what my target marathon pace should be. In an attempt to address that, this morning’s run was deliberately intended to be at 3:59-marathon pace. My logic beforehand was that as I ran an easier 22 miles last weekend fairly easily with energy left at the end, and if I could run at 3:59-marathon pace for 15 miles today on not well-rested legs without the boost from the occasion, the crowd, the fellow runners, etc, then it wouldn’t be a totally unreasonable target pace on the big day.

I kept nice even splits throughout, and finished a few seconds ahead of schedule, but finished in as much doubt as when I started. There’s a long way from 15 to 26 miles, and the last two today weren’t easy. Maybe I should adopt 4:05 or 4:10 as my target and take the pressure off myself.

The VDOT app on my phone says the half-marathon time a fortnight ago is equivalent to a 3:59:01 marathon time, which is encouraging.

The Running Calculator app on my phone says the half-marathon time a fortnight ago is equivalent to a 4:13:10 marathon time, which is less so.

The dither continues…

But on a more positive note, today is the 10th anniversary of my first outdoor run – I’ve come a long way from the boy/man who couldn’t run.

Peak District 35km – longest yet

I ran 35km this morning on the High Peak and Tissington Trails in the Peak District, starting from Middleton Top. (The photo shows a wagon at the top of Sheep Pasture Incline and the engine house which used to pull the wagons up the 1:8 incline). This was my longest run yet, done in 3h38. Despite overcast weather it was a glorious run in beautiful scenery. There were a few spots of rain but nothing that amounted even to a shower; there was some lying snow remaining from drifts in one cutting, but otherwise I saw none all day.

Lucy and I and the dogs have been spending the Easter weekend in a cottage in Wirksworth, and Lucy drove along the route, stopping from time to time to cheer me on, walk the dogs several times, and provide me with supplies – great fun (for me, anyway)!

The benefits of large-scale crowd support are well known, but even a solitary cheerer is still both uplifting and distracting.

I had the route almost to myself for the first half: indeed I saw 1 walker, 2 runners and 7 cyclists in the first 10km. But by the time I got to 30km, I stopped counting – at that point I had 92 walkers, 24 dogs, 6 runners and 100 cyclists, and the total would rapidly have increased after that – the last couple of kilometres were on the verge of getting tedious with people walking four abreast on the path and oblivious to other users (me!).

I was very pleased with how it went, and if it hadn’t been increasingly busy I might have considered doing a little more since although I was tired I definitely had more in the tank, but this was plenty as a training run and to give me further confidence for the full 42.2km.

Within the constraints of access to the route and what I could ask of Lucy, nutrition was very close to marathon day. I took my Camelbak with some water, but didn’t use much of it, so in comparison to the big day, I was carrying a little more weight than I will be.

I aimed at 6:15/km and overall managed 6:13/km, which was great, with the last mile being the second-fastest. It must be noted that the last 10km were slightly downhill, which definitely takes the edge off the effort, so this isn’t directly comparable with a flat race. It leaves me full of confidence at the prospect of the full distance, but still very unsure how fast I should aim at running. I am going to attempt a marathon-pace 15-miler next weekend, to see how I get on: if I can do that on still moderately tired legs, without complete nutrition, with a bit of up and down, without crowd support and the uplift of the day, then I can do that pace for 26 miles a fortnight later.

I was tired afterwards, but not unreasonably so, and went out again in the afternoon to do some walking and exploring.

Now the taper starts for London in three weeks.