A quarter of the way there

So, I’m four weeks into the 16 week marathon training plan. The long Sunday runs still aren’t all that long, but the weekly mileage is consistently above what it typically is, and my legs are hopefully getting more used to running when tired without too much objection.

Week two: three midweek runs from home, a gentle parkrun at Ellenbrook Fields with Alex, and then 13km in the King’s Forest. The long run was ideal conditions, sunny and dry underfoot, cool but not cold, and no wind, and though the terrain was very familar to me, I really enjoyed it. As a long(ish) run, once again was really easy – at the end I felt I could have gone on for much longer, and it was nice to be on (easy) trails for a change.

Week three: three midweek runs, the first from home and then two around the NEC site. It’s not easy or particularly interesting doing a 10km in the dark around the car parks of the NEC, though there was some mild interest from passing one group of runners eight times as we each made our way round a similar 1.9km-loop multiple times in opposite directions. The weekend saw me run my fastest 5km since March, during a visit to Morecambe Prom parkrun. And on Sunday my slow run was almost 15km initially along the River Lune and then mostly along the towpath of the Lancaster Canal to Carnforth. Not quite such an easy long run, but a much harder parkrun the day before, with other walking being done during my Lake District mini-holiday.

Week four: I started with intervals along the old railway line from Broughton-in-Furness, then returned to Suffolk where my other two pre-work runs reached 11km, requiring an early alarm clock and some out-and-backs along the short bits of pavement available to me before it got close enough to sunrise to venture onto the country lanes around home.

Saturday saw Lucy and me at Kingsbury Water parkrun south of Tamworth (prior to a visit to the National Running Show at the NEC) – it was a very crowded start and I lost a good deal of time trying to overtake people, in addition to which the lovely course is quite twisty and has a variety of surfaces, so it wasn’t as fast as Morecambe’s easy running, but still very satisfactory.

Sunday was a change from the typical pattern as the plan called for a 10k race. I decided to forego that and just run 10k about as quick as I could on my own, and headed for Felixstowe prom. After a warm-up mile, I turned up the pace for the 10k and was pleased to manage a time of 53:46, despite having to weave in and around a lot of inattentive wanderers on the prom on what was a delightfully sunny but cold and very windy morning. It’s still some way off my best, but my fastest for a good while.

All in all, I’m happy with how things are going. I still worry a bit about how my knees will cope as the distances increase, but for now all’s well. Hopefully doing a greater proportion of my distance at a slow pace, as widely recommended, will also have the advantage of putting less strain on my knees.

If you put the 53:46 into a race predictor to give a marathon time estimate, then the app on my phone says 4:19:58, Runner’s World says 4:21:24, McMillan Running says 4:12:16, Good Run Guide says 4:22:11, and OmniCalculator says 4:07:06. They’re all inside my goal of 4:29:59, which is encouraging, particularly as (subject to IAAF decisions to come) I should be in faster shoes on the day, hope to have lost some more weight, and will have done 12 more weeks of training. The shoes could knock 10 minutes off if all about them is true, as could losing 5kg in the next 10 weeks.

However, I’m still inclined to think the calculated estimates are too confident, and underestimate the extent to which my performance wilts over longer distances (somewhat more than the average runner), but perhaps this time round I’ll have got the training right and will cope better.

Marathon training plan one week in

The first week of 16 in the marathon training plan is complete. As I said in my previous post, this was an odd week, with the original plan mauled about a good deal. Let’s see how the remaining 15 weeks stand up to encounters with real life: this week’s deviations were planned from the start, but I’ve managed to fit the remainder of the plan around my current non-running intentions.

Monday was supposed to be short, a gentle introduction. Why do most training plans seem to have us starting almost from scratch? It can’t be at all unusual for someone aiming at a marathon to have run a half-marathon the previous week, as I did.

I had the additional objective for Monday 30 December (Tuesday being devoted to bell ringing) of running far enough to make my 2019 distance further than 2018. In the end, I needed less than 6km for that little objective, but rounded up to a nice slow 11km along the River Cam – the route was amended on the fly when I found a path from Stourbridge Common onto Ditton Meadows closed due to construction of a new bridge as part of the Chisholm Trail cycle route – which will in due course open new opportunities for some nice runs around here.

River Cam looking NE from Green Dragon Bridge

Wednesday, being New Year’s Day, was centred around the parkrun New Year’s Day Double, the once-a-year opportunity to claim two parkruns in a day. We went to Grovelands in Enfield and Oak Hill in Barnet. These were my 109th and 110th different parkrun venues, and Lucy’s 41st and 42nd in her quest for membership of the Hoffman Club.

Grovelands in the fog

Grovelands was very busy (it turned out to be a record attendance both here and at Oak Hill) with a congested start leading to slow jogging interrupted by walking at the start. But once we thinned out a bit it was a pleasant run, despite being in fog. The route was 2¾ laps, each with a modest hill, but all on tarmac (part of the benefit of coming here after such a very wet month). After I’d finished, I saw Lucy just disappearing as she went past the finish funnel, and I waited for her to complete her 1¾ laps ready to run with her for the final lap. Lucy had forgotten to bring her Garmin watch with her, so I’d set the Strava app on her phone recording, but it wasn’t behaving as well as it should so she was guessing pace and intervals.

After Lucy had finished, we walked back to the start where she’d left her fleece, and I then started the next phase of my running day: the run to parkrun number 2. The two events being close together, quite a few people had undoubtedly done this, but I was probably the last to do so, not setting off until almost ten o’clock, from the wrong end of the park, but I knew I had time. Part-way, I was offered a lift by some kindly parkrunners, but I assured them I was fine. After some slight confusion about where I was meeting Lucy, I found her just as the busy new-runners’ briefing was getting underway.

For Oak Hill, I ran round with Lucy, trying to get the pace and intervals right for her. Although she’d had a bit of a break, her longest run in a day is 6km, so to go to 10km was a big increase. The first km was sensibly slow, but after that Lucy seemed to gain energy and coped well, particularly on the flat sections. The route was again 2¾ laps – as we came through the finish area at 1¾ laps there was a good deal of congestion, with a queue building up for the finish funnel, but also a lot of people standing around on the course, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the slower runners were still coming through. Lucy finished strongly – great to see.

Thursday was the first day to stick to the original plan, with a 3½km “steady” run, a pace which is variously described as “comfortable, but purposeful, pace” or marathon pace, or (suitably vaguely) as 10 seconds faster to 20 seconds slower than marathon pace. For the moment, I’ve adopted about 6:20/km as my “steady” pace, and today it was a familiar jaunt across Woolpit to the far end of the Old Stowmarket Road and back.

Saturday is, with a couple of exceptions, going to be parkrun-day in my marathon Plan. Today was a visit to Barking in east London for my 111th different event, and Lucy’s 43rd. We met up with Claire who is returning to parkrun after a bit of a break. A very pleasant urban park, almost flat, all on tarmac and with a nice lake. Brindley and I managed a respectable 25:31, after which I jogged round with Claire who we haven’t seen for a little while, catching up which continued at the café afterwards.

Brindley and us at Barking – woof woof.
The lake in Barking Park.

Most weeks Sunday is the long slow run, though coming up in the plan I have a fast 10km and two half-marathon races thrown in for variety. Although I tested myself with the 21km on the busway a fortnight ago, the Plan has me starting with 11km, and I stuck with that today, accompanied by Lucy on her bike – it’s very slow for cycling but it was really nice to have her company on a longer run. I’ve tentatively pencilled her in for another such in a few weeks though she doesn’t really want to go much further than today so it may need some adjustment in a few weeks.

When I did my slow 21km two weeks ago, it was surprisingly easy. Today, with just 11km it was a fair bit harder – but I must recognise that it was at the end of a 50km week, which while necessary as I aim for my marathon, is a step up on my normal and so to an extent I’m training my body to cope running on somewhat tired legs. “Slow” in this context is again subject to a lot of variation in definitions and guidance: I’m currently aiming at about 6:59/km (for psychological reasons) for the shorter ones, a bit slower as they become very long. I’ve never before aimed at running quite so slowly, nor at spending such a high proportion of my week running either slowly or fairly slowly, but I can understand the wisdom of getting miles in my legs without always pushing myself too hard – let’s see what happens.

One week down, 15 to go.

2019 including infographics and statistics

So, how did the year go?

Races

  • Vienna Half-Marathon, 2:15:11 – enjoyable as a run and a holiday, the race went as well as could be expected given injury-induced lack of training.
  • Milton Keynes Marathon, 5:01:07 – with far too few long distance runs in my legs, and suffering from knee pain, I tried to jeff my way around. It almost worked but I ran out of steam and slumped to slower than London 2018, which had been my target to beat. With hindsight, I wish I’d then tried harder to beat 5 hours which would have been still something to note. A great race with fantastic support – I may return in 2021.
  • Clacton 10k, 56:19. A rather frustrating race, with no attempt at starting people in order of speed, and the start being too broad compared to what followed, the inevitable result being a fair bit of queuing to make progress; on the lower prom, there were sections with deep sand.
  • Great East Run (half-marathon), 2:10:09. Very satisfied with this, as it was four minutes faster than I planned, and I achieved some really good pace control throughout, getting the pace appropriate for the ups and the downs.
  • A14 Great Ouse Challenge (7km), 49:04. I ran this at a deliberately gentle pace – it was a unique opportunity to run along the new Huntingdon southern bypass before the road opened in December, but was for me it inconveniently timed the afternoon before the Great Eastern Run, so I wanted to take it very easy.
  • Great Eastern Run. Cancelled on the day, after spending a lot of time standing in cold rain. A man acting suspiciously on the course had been reported, and resulted in an armed police response in fear of a suicide bomber. Fortunately it proved to be a false alarm, but not without causing enough delay to make holding the race on closed roads no longer possible.
A decent year’s running – a smidgen further than 2018, but slower – too much weight being carried, and too little good training ahead of the spring races due to persistent injuries in late 2018 and early 2019. Here are previous years for comparison…
The Veloviewer wheel for 2019 shows a slightly different distance run as it doesn’t include my few treadmill runs. Mostly UK, naturally, but with four runs in Norway (three in the Arctic) and a couple in Vienna.
Fairly consistent monthly distances.
This shows how many tiles (an area of the Openstreetmap maps) I’ve visited – fairly consistent across the months, and showing ongoing good outcomes of my vow to keep my running interesting and fresh by keeping finding new places to run, or at least places I haven’t been to for some time, rather than re-running the same routes again and again.
My Voronoi diagram of UK parkruns visited shows a slowly growing expanse of green – two new ones in Cambridgeshire to visit in weeks to come to fill that little gap, but quite a few more apparently in the pipeline in Norfolk. A few other scattered ones will be added in the next few months too.