London Marathon Training – Week 12 Merthyr Half Marathon

Mileage for Week Twelve
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 0 miles
Wed – 0 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 1.1 miles
Sun – 13.1 miles Instagram Instagram 2
Total – 14.2 miles

Another resting week!

I had a cold and was giving myself time to get over it. I thought that if I carried on running it would only prolong the cold. It’s still hanging around but not as bad as it could have been.

The 1.1 miles on Saturday was a 3 to 4 mile run that I cut short as my calf was playing up again. I had woken up at around 6.30am and got up, dressed in running stuff and went straight out, no food, no water, nothing. It was a very cold morning and I must have shocked my body into running. Thankfully I went around the local loop and I was back at the top of our street when the calf began to twinge, so I called it a day. Especially as I would be running 13.1 the very next day.

The Merthyr Half is a local run so it’s a good one to do being only half an hours drive away.

This is the 3rd running of the new Merthyr Half, my knowledge is a bit poor but I think there used to be a run in the 1980s. Anyway this is my second run here. The course is different to 2015 due to road closures. This time it was an out and back course along the Taff Trail.

The run would also be the first Half for my Brother-in-Law Kevin. He had only run 10 mile previously and was mostly prepared for the distance.

I had decided that I would run with him from start to finish, in order to encourage him to keep going!

My splits were as follows:

1 – 9:34
2 – 9:39
3 – 9:49
4 – 9:47
5 – 10:05
6 – 10:40
7 – 10:43
8 – 11:22
9 – 10:27
10 – 11:26
11 – 11:46
12 – 12:00
13 – 11:56

This being an out and back whatever we face in the first 6.5 ish miles we would see again!

The hills began at around 5 miles which is noticeable in the split times (remember I was running with Kevin, so our splits are similar). The hill between 5 & 6 was of a higher elevation that the hill at 6.5 miles but it seems that that particular hill was the cause of slowdown, not just for Kevin but for most of our running friends group.

Kevin’s lack of training in the last month was noticeable here and he began to slow and feel every mile!

It was a fab run and Kevin finished in 2:20:47 which is a respectable time. Even more so as I had predicted a 2:30 finish just before the gun started the race!

In 2015, I struggled with the other route but enjoyed this out and back, I may even drive to Merthyr and run it for fun!! If I am still training this time next year (normally I don’t tend to run much December to March), I’ll think about having another crack at the run.




London Marathon Training – Week 10 – ADIDAS Silverstone Half Marathon

Mileage for Week Ten
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 5 miles
Wed – 0.2 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 13.4 miles Instagram1 Instagram2 Instagram3 Instagram4
Total – 21.7 miles

A mixed week that began with an injury and ended with a Half Marathon personal best!

Stick with this one folks, it’s a long one.

On Saturday of Week 9 I pushed out 22 miles, my next run was on Tuesday and I broke myself.

I went out to run 6 miles at a quicker pace as a tester for the Silverstone Half Marathon. The pace I put on was fantastic by my standards. Recently I broke my own PB at parkrun and I think that has been at the back of my mind, especially as I’m running ‘slower’ than normal during this process. I still don’t think my mind has got it that I need to be sticking to the ‘slower’ pace, I like to see how fast I can run!

About 4.5 miles into the run, my right calf felt a little tight but that’s not too unusual recently, not too long after there was a sharper pain at my lower right calf, I carried on for about 30 seconds but it wasn’t going away, I felt like it was going to snap.

Just for fun these were the splits:
1 – 7:08
2 – 7:53
3 – 6:56
4 – 7:08
5 – 7:14

Had I carried on to reach 10k I would have unofficially taken nearly 2 minutes off my PB.

That’s irrelevant of course but amazing, even with a fraction of the route being downhill.

I walked the mile I had left to home, trying to get there in as quick a time as possible with minimal pain caused. I did try a little jog just before home but managed only a few steps.

Sarah was due to run on Wednesday, I did a practice run up and down our street but it was too uncomfortable for me to do more than that. I walked to town with her to meet Andrew and Ania. It was very odd watching them all run off.

I was more diligent than usual with the injury as I had the half on the weekend. I iced it in the morning and evenings, rubbed Arnica gel into the area, took Ibuprofen, increased my protein intake by way of protein shakes and most importantly, I rested.

The calf began to feel better each day and on Saturday I joined Sarah for the start of her 10k. I ran tentatively, I was still unsure how the calf would react. Sticking with Sarah has helped me lots over our shared runs, it has made me run slower, I never do actual recovery runs like proper runners, so use those runs with Sarah as my recovery.

I stayed with Sarah for around 2.3 miles and She carried on her route and I headed for home at a quicker pace to see what would happen.

The run home wasn’t quite a mile but looking on Strava my pace was around 8:30 min per mile and the calf held with only a little discomfort.

Sunday was the ADIDAS Silverstone Half Marathon!

Three laps around the track and inner roads of the historic circuit and former airfield.

I looked at this race last year and was put off by a few things; it was early in the year and I wouldn’t have prepared enough, the distance to get to the location and a review I had read that said that it was a very quiet race as there are few spectators around the course.

I personally didn’t have an issue with the spectating, I thought that there were enough people around cheering. Yes in a few spots there aren’t any spectators but you are not alone. I always had other runners around me and due to the nature of the course you can see other runners who are either ahead or behind you at nearly all times. There are also a couple of DJs blasting out music and encouragement.

Such a long day but worth it in the end. I was up by five am to have breakfast and a protein shake. By Google Maps the route we took from Brecon to Silverstone was 148 miles each way. We wouldn’t be back home until 7pm!

Andrew arrived just before half six and we were off. Sarah was spending the day with her Parents, spectating at these events isn’t always the most exciting of things to do.

We arrived just after half nine, the car park was almost empty. The organisers had asked for people to arrive before half ten, so we had arrived in good time. There is a short walk from the car park to the form up area, which gives an opportunity to take in the scope of the site, which is large!

Andrew and I discussed this briefly, it is unusual when at a race to ‘see’ where you have to run. You know you are running 5k, 10k, a half or marathon and beyond but you don’t usually get to take in the course just by looking around. We were walking through the middle of it!

In the form up area were the baggage garages, an ADIDAS shop selling the latest London Marathon branded gear, the Silverstone shop, a cafe, various food sellers and changing areas.

As it was drizzling when we arrived, we headed for the indoor bits. Thankfully I had left my wallet locked in the car so was unable to buy any of the LM merchandise, although I’m sure there will be another opportunity at Marathon Expo in April. Once we had looked around we headed for the changing area, which was in one of the pit lane garages.

We stayed in there for a while. It was dry but cold, it being an empty garage. There was a toilet which was a bonus. Once changed we headed out as the drizzle was easing. It was then that we had the runners dilemma of when do we go for the last loo stop and hand in our bag.

That decision was helped by the announcer informing the assembled runners that the gates to the start were opening at 11:15, five minutes later. We trundled off to join the short toilet queue as there were plenty about, and then handed our bags in.

The short journey to the start area was handled well and simply. If you were expecting to run over two hours you went one way, if under two hours you went the other way. Once on the track there were further markers to break down the estimated time. Andrew and I stood near the 1:55 – 2:00 hour sign. As the start time approached the mass of runners was shuffled forward to bunch up the start.

Before I was injured my plan was to go for a Personal Best, however the injury/pain I had in my calf actually had me feeling nervous on the start line. I don’t remember being nervous before, I just run and if it goes well that’s good, if it goes bad then that’s okay too, especially if in the end it’s a good outcome. Read on to understand what I mean.

A slight tangent; a bad run that was actually good happened to be the Cardiff Half Marathon last October. I had trained as well as I could and was in the best running shape I had ever been. I had my race plan sorted and I was hitting the mile markers exactly as I wanted to. It was the second time I had run the Half, the first in 2014 I finished in 02:03:06 as my hips went at around 6 miles, I was uncomfortable for the entire second half of the race. A disappointment as I had run 01:59:33 at my first ever Half Marathon at Llanelli earlier in the year. Fast forward two years and I was back. The 6 mile issue couldn’t strike again could it? You’ve guessed it dear reader! Once again the hips went at 6 miles and I was uncomfortable and struggling a bit. This has only happened at Cardiff, I’ve put it down to the camber in the road but I don’t really know. As I was a bit fitter I was able to keep the legs going albeit at a slower pace, although that hill not too far from the end nearly finished me off. I crossed the line in 01:55:51 taking 59 seconds off the PB time I had achieved at the Severn Bridge Half that August. I had crossed the line over 7 minutes quicker than the last attempt but I was in so much pain I could barely walk and I wobbled back to our meeting point so happy to have finished and forgetting it was a PB when I was asked my time. Even recently I forgot it was a PB, the memory of the pain has overridden the achievement.

Anyway back to the start. We were stood on the track for around 45 minutes in the cold and drizzle. Several prepared folks were covered with a mixture of refuse bags, ponchos and those silver foil blankets in an effort to keep warm.

Andrew and I discussed a brief plan of the race, I would stick with him for 9 miles and if my calf was okay then I would push on and see if it held.

As happens as these type of events, when the gun goes off everyone starts to run towards the start and then stops as everyone at the line slows down to do the ‘start watch and step on the timing mat’ dance. We walked to the start, letting others run on and then stop!

We got going and got into our stride trying to hit Andrews preferred pace of 9:00 min per mile, a little bit of a fudge as he runs in KMs and I’m in miles but we got it sorted.

Something that surprised me was how much water was on the track surface. It’s been a while since I watched F1 but I thought the surface would have not held as much water as we were splashing through.

It being a race track there are lots of turns to negotiate, not a huge problem normally but here they are so frequent that everybody is trying to get the ‘racing line’ all at once.

A few times over the distance I was nearly tripped up by someone trying to get as close to the corners as they could. No doubt I was doing the same. Dodging traffic cones becomes a skill the more it’s practised.

I’m certainly not the best pacer and I didn’t hit the pace target for Andrew, we were consistently a little bit too fast over each mile. Maybe not a bad thing as Andrew was going for under 2 hours.

My calf was giving me no issues whatsoever and I was feeling really good and enjoying the run and the route. It was going so well that I revised my plan and asked Andrew if he would be okay if I went on at 8 miles instead of 9. He agreed and as we hit 8 miles the Runners World 1:58 pacer appeared at his shoulder. I left him and sped off.

My first act as I started to weave through the runners in front of me was to apologise as I splashed through a puddle! I spotted a gap between two runners but as they parted the puddle was revealed leaving me nowhere to go other than through it. I tried to jump it and upon landing a bit awkwardly I realised how silly that was with a potentially dodgy calf.

I kept up a decent pace, pushing out negative splits for the 3 miles. I knew the route wasn’t flat, even though it’s a former airfield, and was pleasantly challenged by some of the inclines. The run to the finish line along Hangar Straight is up a slight and long incline. I’m grateful that I live among and run up and down hills. My splits slowed a little over the last 2 miles but I was still pushing as much as I could. I tried a sprint finish but the back of my left knee gave me a slight warning, so I sped up a little just bit more to give me a finish of 01:51:22 and a massive personal best.

I’d managed to take 4 minutes 29 seconds of my previous PB!

The process once finishing is very slick. The timing chips for this race are fixed to your shoe via two twist ties. Once through the finish, a short walk away are several ramps and volunteers armed with tools to clip through the ties and take away the chip. I was a bit tired and stopped at the first volunteer instead of continuing along the ramp. Something for me to remember for the London Marathon.

Next up was the goody bag. I trundled along to the medium section and took the bag I was offered and very nearly dropped it. It was much heavier than I’d expected. The contents included: cotton t-shirt, medal, water, lucozade, crisps, various carb snacks, sun lotion and the obligatory future race leaflets. A very good bag! I was a little disappointed at first with the t-shirt as I won’t be running in it but in hindsight do I really need another running top? No not really. It’s a lovely t-shirt that I’m looking forward to wearing,

So chip removed, goody bag received, next it was getting my bag back.

This can sometimes be an issue. Lots of “that one there” “by your foot” “no not that one, the red one” “yes, no, to your left” “THE RED ONE!”

All of that is a distant memory at Silverstone and I would expect at the London Marathon. In the race pack is a large clear plastic drawstring bag upon which each runner affixes a sticker bearing their race number. The bag is handed in to the relevant bag drop garage and when said runner appears dazed and tired back at the garage, a very observant person shouts out the number emblazoned on their front and they are directed to another person who by the time you get there has your bag ready.

I was very impressed to have my bag back in mere seconds after walking into the garage. A very efficient process.

Overall I was impressed with the organisation of the race. The emails and website were informative, as was the race pack. As we got there early the car parking was quick. Getting out was less quick though. Although that was down to several lanes of cars trying to filter through one gate and many drivers being very blinkered and not letting other cars in. We had some non-verbal communication with one driver who thought he would just push his way in even though we had been waiting patiently for nearly 10 minutes. I believe a few marshals placed within the car park to aid the filtering would have helped.

Whilst running the route I found that it was easy to get a bit disorientated. There is a fair bit of repeating bits you’ve done but usually in the reverse direction. That isn’t a complaint but I remember seeing some quicker runners towards the end of the race (11 miles maybe) on an adjacent section of track/road and wondering how and when I would get to that section.

The total distance by my Garmin watch was 13.4 miles. I’d noticed that my watch and those of other runners were beeping before each mile marker. This is likely due to the GPS accuracy of the watches and that there are lots of corners and bends. It’s hard to follow the exact racing line especially on a route like Silverstone. I’m happy that I ran a measured course of 13.1 miles that my time is for that distance.

The distance from Brecon is always a challenge for most events. The London Marathon will be a long weekend away and this event was very nearly a 13 hour day for a 2 hour run. Some other running friends would like to test themselves at Silverstone so I may be back next year, however I shall be booking a hotel for the Sunday evening and the day off work on Monday!

Next up for me are a couple of shorter runs to begin Week Eleven. I’m giving myself an extra day off running so instead of Tuesday, I’ll run on Wednesday. I may run again on Friday and then a 10+ mile run on Saturday.

Final Results:

Gary – 01:51:22
Andrew – 02:05:47

Pacing Andrew for eight miles we averaged 8:52 min /mile. For the final five miles (less the 0.4) I averaged 7:31 min /mile.

1 – 8:56
2 – 8:54
3 – 8:50
4 – 8:52
5 – 8:52
6 – 8:52
7 – 8:56
8 – 8:48
9 – 7:52
10 – 7:29
11 – 7:12
12 – 7:22
13 – 7:39
0.4 – 7:03

London Marathon – Week Seven

Mileage for Week Seven
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 6.5 miles with Kevin
Wed – 16 miles + 0.7 miles Instagram 1 Instragram 2
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles Instagram
Sun – 0 miles
Total – 26.3 miles

A truncated running week. Sarah and I were in Chester this passed weekend to celebrate our first wedding Anniversary.

To accommodate the weekend and not have to do a long run in Chester, I brought it forward to Wednesday.

I took the afternoon off work and got to it. The 0.7 miles is me running through town to the starting point I had chosen.

Not too far away will be the longest of the long training runs and I need to find a route or routes to cover the distance, which will be at least 20 miles, maybe more as I want to push myself and if I can get the 26.2 covered before the big day on a hilly route, at least I’ll know what to expect and have the nice knowledge that London is almost flat.

Anyway back to the run. I put together three routes I have run before several times. Ideally on the long run day, I want to have our car parked somewhere that I can run passed without going out of my way. That way I can get extra water and sustenance should it be required. Thankfully in town there is a carpark that is in a great location, and I can run passed it at the end of the routes.

So I have combined the allotments loop that is just over a mile long. The Cradoc loop which is roughly 5 miles and the Groesffordd/Maggie’s Lane/Struet loop which comes in close to 6.7 miles.

Today I completed two allotment loops and a loop each of the other two. This got me to just over 14 miles. I wanted to get over 15 miles as that was my long standing distance record which I achieved in February 2014.

The run started off feeling really good and I was on target pace or thereabouts for the first 4 miles. Then the climb up to Cradoc began and I don’t know why this happens but I usually get quicker here. It’s not an easy hill to run up but I get myself into a rhythm and the pace comes with it. Once at the top I had a little breather before the nice run down the hill which is around a mile or so before the road becomes undulating again.

Of course at this point I’m only on the first loop and I have a longer one to come. The pace is feeling good and although I’m telling myself that I’m likely to pay for this soon, I keep the pace going and going and going.

At 11 miles I hit the wall, which coincided with a hill! I managed to keep pushing and actually increased the pace. As I hit 13.1 miles and a PB time for the distance, I felt great, it helped that the last few hundred metres were downhill, however once on the flat my legs went and at 14 miles I could have quite easily stopped but I didn’t.

I added a bit onto the route at the end to make sure I got to 16 miles, I went back around the allotment loop as far as home and then passed our usual stopping point to reach the magical 16.

It was at this point that I knew I couldn’t keep that pace going for another 10 miles. However I was elated that I had been able to run so far at that pace.

There are many more runs and miles to do but I believe that if I run the first half of the marathon at my 9 minute mile pace, then the second can be faster and at this pace, which will hopefully bring me home under 4 hours.

Split Times

1 – 9:34
2 – 9:12
3 – 9:20
4 – 9:13
5 – 8:45
6 – 8:11
7 – 7:51
8 – 8:59
9 – 8:13
10 – 8:28
11 – 8:30
12 – 8:26
13 – 8:00
14 – 7:57
15 – 8:32
16 – 9:15

As we were going to Chester, Sarah mentioned going to parkrun. I was up for it, its nice to run in other places. It was a chilly morning on Saturday. We walked from our hotel to the Countess of Chester Country Park which is the location for the most challenging parkrun we have done so far.

It has tight turns, a couple of short sharp inclines and a two loop section which includes running over grass for about half a loop. We very rarely run on grass, so that was new to both of us as adults! It was fun though.

I’d said to Sarah as we waited that I might try and go a bit faster than normal but wasn’t sure how I would do. So as the start of the run got closer we split up and I went to join the speedy runners at the front. I kept with them for a bit, looking at my watch it told me I was running at 6:30 min per mile pace, which is too fast for me but I tried to hold on! They left me behind and I settled into my good pace of 7:00 min per mile.

Amazingly I held onto this pace, despite not challenging myself like this for some time. The two loops, including the grass, were really fun. The grass field was undulating and leg sapping but I managed to go quicker over the second loop.

Then it was the final push to the finish, I was running alongside one chap but he put a spurt on and left me, I then caught up with a younger chap and expected him to do the same but I went passed him with ease (I was surprised!) and even managed a sprint finish.

My final time was 22:17. Which is 7 seconds off my Personal Best at Bryn Bach. I was 3rd in my age category too!

The splits from my watch were:

1 – 7:02
2 – 7:19
3 – 6:57
0.1 – 6:16

It was really nice having time off running this week. Running the long run on Wednesday meant that my legs were given more time off than usual. Excluding the 22 minutes at parkrun, I’ve had five days off as I type this on Tuesday morning. However Week 8 could be a heavy mileage week as I try and push Kevin to more miles in prep for the Merthyr Half.


London Marathon – Training Weeks Five & Six

I’ve already got slack and fallen behind in the updating of the blog!

As I type, it’s Wednesday of Week Seven and I’ve come back from a long run. I will get ahead of myself and start a draft that once this once is posted.

Mileage for Week Five
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.2 miles with Sarah
Wed – 4.4 miles Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 2.5 miles
Sat – 6.2 miles with Sarah
Sun – 9.2 miles Instagram
Total – 25.8 miles

Week five on the plan was a quieter week, which I was doing well at until I joined Sarah for a 6.2 mile run on what should have been a rest day for me!

On Wednesday I ran almost flat out to The Bin, a distance of 2 miles if taken straight through the town. Pace averaged around 7:15 which was spectacular considering I haven’t run that fast for a while. On the way back I tried some fartlek between the lamp posts and to be honest that combined with the speedy start, took the juice right out of my legs.

The long run on Sunday was good but oh so cold. It was cold to begin with and it just got colder. I made the error of not taking my gloves, by the time I got home my hands would barely work! I got home and got straight into bed to warm up.


Mileage for Week Five
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 4.5 miles
Wed – 4.8 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 5.2 miles with Kevin
Sat – 13.2 miles Instagram
Sun – 0 miles
Total – 27.9 miles

The first run this week was a slog. I remember looking at my watch and feeling like I had already run 5 miles but the readout was only 1.8! I plodded around the route and got the run done. A run is better than no run.

I’ve noted on Strava that the heel pain that I’ve had was becoming annoying. It’s still there and still bothering me but not as much. I have tried to stretch my calves a bit more but I still need to work on them.

I moved the long run from Sunday to Saturday in order to give my heel a bit more rest. On the plan the run was ‘Run 10 miles’ but I knew my legs were capable of more, so went out with the aim to run the half marathon distance.

To do this and not lose too much of our Saturday, I woke up at 4am to eat and then went to run at 6am. This meant that I was back around 8am and the day wasn’t wasted!

Once again my idea was to run 9 minute miles which I did mostly for nine miles; dipping under for three of nine. Once it became clear that I could probably go under two hours, I started to race the clock and made it home in 1:58:04.

On Strava I have written “I won’t be able to do that in the longer runs coming up but it’s nice to know there is something in the legs to push the pace if I need to.”

Well I can say now that I can and I can’t do that on the longer runs. Today in week 7, I ran 16 miles at a quicker average pace than that run… So I know I can do it but there’s no way I could add on another 10 miles to it! It’s good to know that if I pace the first half of the marathon correctly, I can then go for it for the second half.

See you soon 🙂


The Social Media

As I’m updating this blog a bit more frequently than before, and I’m getting a couple of more views and follows than in a long time, I thought I would spread the word about my Social Media presence.

These are in no particular order:

Instagram – I post pictures about my running, what I’m reading, the films I’m watching and other stuff!

Strava – I use Strava to log my runs, I also use…

Smashrun – Does the same job as Strava but puts the data into nice graphs and such like.

Last.FM – I’ve been Scrobbling, as it used to be called, the music I listen to since 2003. I primarily listen to digital music via Spotify these days. Back when it started I was an iTunes user.

Snapchat – Not a link but if you are a SC user as the Kids call it, find me by searching for – gary_bartram – I use it but don’t expect anything Earth shattering on my story etc

Twitter – I used to be a prolific Twitterer when I was annoying various people within the online film community but I stopped all that when I met Sarah. I occasionally go on a rant but it’s rare these days! Stop by and say hi!

Letterboxd – This is where I log my film watching and see what the remaining members of the film community I like are watching.

So that’s me on Social Media!

London Marathon – Training Week Three

Three weeks completed already! I didn’t think it would go this fast.

Mileage for Week Three
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.2 miles – with Sarah
Wed – 6.4 miles Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4 miles Instagram
Sat – 0 miles
Sun – 8.5 miles
Total – 22.1 miles

A few miles down on last week but I had done some extra running that wasn’t in the plan last week.

After a double run on the Sunday my legs did need the rest day on Monday and they were still feeling a little heavy for my Tuesday run. I ran with Sarah on her run, which was what the legs needed and I was able to ease myself around a 5k.

Having had that nice gentle run, along came Wednesday and a 50 minute run. I perhaps should have run around 5 or 5.5 miles, but I just felt like running and not worrying about the pace.

This meant that I finished with an average pace 8:05 /mile, somewhat faster than my planned marathon pace of 9:30 /mile. I kept up a decent pace for 4 miles and could have kept going but was aware I still had 2 more runs this week. It was good to just run though!

For my Sunday long run, I planned to explore a road not far from the house, a road that one of my running group runs. Having not run the road before I kept a nice steady pace and it was good that I did, as the route climbs nearly all the way for 2.5 miles. There is one particular hill that certainly tested my legs and lungs, I kept pushing through it but was glad when it was done. I’m no too keen to revisit it, but will keep it in mind if I need a short sharp 4 miler.

The route would bring me back to more familiar streets, and I carried on the run, making my way to 8.5 miles in the allotted 80 minutes I was too run.

Next week the long run moves up to 90 minutes and a rough guide of 22 miles run over the week.