The London Marathon 2017

Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 3.7 miles
Tue – 0 miles
Wed – 2 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 26.2 miles
Total – 35 miles

Get comfy, this is a long read.

The week leading into the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 was a quiet one. In reality the training had ended a few weeks back and it was all about resting and not overdoing it.

Following a couple of runs in the early part of the week I rested until we got to London. We travelled from Wales by train on Friday, arriving in London late morning.

London Marathon Expo

Once we had lunch it was off to the Marathon Expo to collect my number. The process was simple. Take in your form and ID and the race pack is handed over. The Expo itself is very big. IG – Me and my number

I’m glad we went on the Friday, as we were tired from the journey and then adding in all the walking around the Expo. If that had been the Saturday, then it would have affected my legs for the race.

Once you have your number you walk around the corner into the Expo proper and straight into the ADIDAS branded shopping area. There is a lot of stuff on display and I bought myself a blue London Marathon t-shirt which was £30. I saw it at Silverstone Half where it was a bit cheaper but I’d left my cash in the car! IG – Blue London Marathon t-shirt

I liked the look of the marathon jacket but that was £55 and I thought better of it. I’ll check the shop website in a few weeks to see if they are any cheaper… I’m guessing not but I’ll look anyway.

The Expo is filled with exhibitors selling their running related wares, there are also many races represented, from short runs to long ones and even the virtual races that you may have seen on Facebook and other social media sites.

Personally, I ignored the majority, the only medals that took my eye were the Disney ones. They look great and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon has been on my list since it began a few years ago.

Southwark parkrun

Sarah and I had planned some months ago that we would run a parkrun somewhere near the hotel. The easiest for us to get to was Southwark parkrun, which was 4 tube stops away on the Jubilee line.

The park itself is lovely. A large green space, trees, somewhere for kids to play safely and even a pond with various ducks and other bird life. There are also some very friendly squirrels who are clearly used to being fed by humans.

The course was three laps, which included a couple of tight-ish turns but nothing to major. The attendance on the day was a record of 475. Sarah and I ran around together in 32:23. A nice leg stretch for me. The day was heavily populated by parkrun tourists. I saw runners from all over the country and there were even a few international visitors.

We followed the run with a lovely sausage and bacon sandwich in the little café in the park.

This is of course Millwall FC territory, there was a Millwall FC mirror in the café and Danny Baker lived his early years a stones throw from the southern end of the park. Having visited London many times but only sticking to the tourist bits, you don’t get to hear a proper London accent. Well we did in the café.

IG – Sarah’s pics from parkrun

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017

I have wanted to run the London Marathon since I was a kid. I remember watching during the 1980’s and seeing Ingrid Kristiansen’s domination of the race all while wearing gloves. That’s an image that has stuck with me.

I first applied for the 2016 race but was unsuccessful in the ballot, undeterred I tried again and was accepted for this years race.

I’ve run plenty of Half Marathon’s and say that at the completion of those I wondered how on earth I would run double that distance. From my one experience I can confidently say that it is all down to the training. You can’t take any short cuts to marathon running. If you put in the time you will get the rewards.

I was in the Blue start and had to make my way to Blackheath station. Our hotel was close to Waterloo East station where the train would go through on the way to Blackheath. That meant I only had a few minutes walk before I was on the platform. The train arrived quickly and I think within 20 minutes I was at Blackheath with a lot of other runners full of nervous energy!

The train travel is free for all runners, which this part of the journey so much easier and stress free.

Once out of the station we were guided by volunteers (big thumbs up to every volunteer!!) around to the left and up the hill towards the park and passed the magnificent looking All Saints’ Church.

I had to show my number to get into the start area proper, easier said than done. I was wearing my running top with number, a long sleeved running top, another long sleeve that I might wear in the pen and a jumper! I lifted all the long sleeves to show that I was allowed in. Walking through there was a photographer who took a photo as I repeated my pulling up of jumpers. Not very flattering.

As I made my way forward there was another photographer (there were many walking around) as he got into position to take the photo, I put my hand up and asked him to wait. I then took every top off bar my running top to at least get one photo that proves I was there.

It was a chilly day, so all the jumpers went straight back on. What I hadn’t taken to London were trousers, big mistake. There was at least 90 minutes before the race would start and I was getting cold. Plus I didn’t want to walk around for too long. I sat on the grass and removed a long sleeve and draped that over my legs.

During this time the big screen was showing various bits of marathon related news, and before long the wheelchairs, para-athletes and the elite women were setting off at their allotted times.

I’d used the urinals once and was now wandering around to get my legs moving. I found a spot where I could still see the big screen and was in amongst a small group where it was warmer than sitting alone on the grass. I spotted a woman called Sophie who I thought I recognised from Instagram but I had weak signal and couldn’t check my feed. Later I was able to confirm that Sophie was indeed on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/runningonfullblog) and has since written about her day here (http://runningonfullblog.com/).

After another trip to the urinals (nervous and cold is not a good combination) I wandered down the length of the start area to see what was around. There was a changing room tent, somewhere to get a hot drink and at the bottom was the championship area where the fast runners were.

To my delight there were more urinals! One last stop before deciding when to put my bag on the truck. As it was chilly I was going to keep one long sleeve on and then ditch it once I got going. As I stood in front of the trucks there were only a few runners covered up, so I decided to go for it and only wear my t-shirt. A good decision as the sun broke through the clouds minutes after, it was forecast to be a chilly day but the weather gods had other ideas.

Bag handed in, sunglasses on and I was stood in Blue start Zone 9. The last zone!

My watch was playing up, it would keep restarting itself, not something I needed on this day of all days! Instead of having the time showing, I put the watch into run mode. The downside to that is I didn’t know what the time was and I didn’t want to keep getting my ‘phone out.

Maybe it was sentient? I had planned a while back that my watch, which I have been using since just after I started running, would be replaced with a newer model after the marathon. Sarah said that I should have bought the new watch before the marathon but even though I’m rarely sentimental, I wanted to stick with the watch that has seen me go from jogging down the canal towpath, to parkruns, to 10ks, to half marathons, to training for and completing a marathon.

We started to drift forward little by little. I thought we were just being bunched up ready for the start. I quickly checked the time and it was already 10:06, the leaders would have already run over a mile.

As always happens when I’m at an organised event, I needed a wee! I knew there were toilets about 600m after the start and then periodically along the course. However as we all moved forward there was a gap in the barriers and lots of men and women were dashing for the nearest urinal or loo. I dashed off too, better to go before the clock starts running.

IG – Blue start

Something I didn’t like as we all moved forward was the throwing of bin bags or tops or whatever a person was wearing to stay warm. I was in the middle of the throng so was safe, but if you were left or right you were in danger of being hit in the head. I saw too many selfish people throwing stuff and hitting people. It’s not rocket science. Move over and dispose of it safely or ask the person next to you to pass it on.

Wow 1600 words and I haven’t crossed the start line yet. As I sit here and type, I don’t think the next bit (the marathon) will take that long as it was just running, so keep with me.

I approached the start line and actually got a bit emotional. A lump in my throat if you will. I was starting the London Marathon! I quickly put those thoughts out of my mind and concentrated on what was to come. I crossed the line at 10:15.

The three Royals who started the race were apparently waving at the runners, I know this because I saw it on TV, on the day I didn’t even see them. As I went over the start line, they would have been standing on my left, in fact I could have probably reached out and touched them, but I was looking to the right and the stand where all the noise was coming from. That’s where I thought they would be.

At this time Sarah and Lesley were just about in position in Bermondsey somewhere between 11 and 12 miles.

Sarah text me at 10:16 “At post. Your Left. Where the crowd thins out.”

I replied “Ok, just started, 4 mins run!”

I knew that by the time I got to them, where the crowd thins out would be full of people! Sarah had made a sign for me and they also had balloons for me to look out for but that was nearly 2 hours ahead.

Mile Splits
1 – 10:10
2 – 9:58
3 – 9:20
4 – 9:12
5 – 9:34
6 – 9:19
7 – 9:27

When I run I don’t really take particular notice of what’s going on around me. I notice the other runners and if they are about to get in my way but not the stuff that’s around me. What I’m getting at, is that this bit is going to be pretty bland!

Going into the race I knew there were landmarks: Cutty Sark at 6 and a bit, Tower Bridge at about halfway, Canary Warf at 18, Big Ben with a mile to go. Other than that I wasn’t really looking out for anything, I was just running!

Early on I passed a lady runner wearing a helicopter, later I would see a chap also wearing a helicopter.

I was prepared for the early miles to be slower than my target pace of 9:00 min/mile, what I wasn’t prepared for was for all the miles to be slower than my target pace! Not once did I get up to speed.

This was due to the amount of people running. I would speed up and the be confronted by a wall of runners and nowhere to go.

One of the highlights of this run for me is the Cutty Sark. I’ve seen it so many times over the years and have visited it as a tourist but this was clearly the first time I’ve run around it. To commemorate that I took a little bit of very shaky runner cam footage as I went around.

From there I kept going knowing that I would see Sarah in about an hours time.

Mile Splits
8 – 9:15
9 – 9:37
10 – 9:22
11 – 9:26
12 – 9:34
13 – 9:19
14 – 9:20

As you can see the splits remained pretty much constant. Again it was due to the volume of people running and there being no space. The miles were falling away though, I was feeling good despite the pace annoyance. It was getting much warmer and I was taking on my Cliff Bloks and water as scheduled. We had planned in advance that Sarah and Lesley would have a full bottle ready for me. I always carry a water belt with me, I like having a drink and knowing I can have one, not wait for a water station.

I just about finished my drink as I ran into Bermondsey. I’d looked on YouTube and Google Streetview to see what the area looked like, to make sure I would recognise it. I must say here that even though I’ve watched the marathon for years, it all looks different when you are running.

I passed the tube station and started scanning the crowds on my left. It seemed here, as in other sections of the course, that there were no barriers and the crowds had spilled onto the road, leaving a much more constricted space for runners. Crowds are great but stay on the paths please.

I couldn’t see Sarah or Lesley but kept on looking when I heard a shout of “Gary” I don’t know who it was but I looked and saw them both. I just about dived across to them, nearly taking out a runner in the process.

Sarah got some quick photos, I said my goal of 4 hours was probably not going to happen and Lesley said it didn’t matter, finishing was the goal. Which is quite correct. Even though we had planned to swap bottles, I was about to run off without it, despite Lesley saying several times to swap the bottle! A runners daze is what I’m putting it down to. Bottle finally swapped, a quick good bye and I was off again.

The next landmark was of course Tower Bridge. Which I forgot all about. I was still trying to find gaps in order to make up some time when we turned left. I remember thinking “what’s next” and there was Tower Bridge.

I’ve walked over the bridge previously and done tour where you can go up and across the thing at the top (forgotten it’s name) but running over it was great fun. The crowds had been loud so far but they were outdone the crowds here. Both sides were shouting and encouraging every runner.

There was a TV camera at the end which I waved at but having watched all the live coverage, I didn’t see myself.

Halfway and we were all headed to the Isle of Dogs. There is a section between Tower Bridge and Isle of Dogs where you can see the runners coming back from Canary Wharf on the other side of the road.

We are at 14 or so miles, they are around 22 miles. Some of them were flying passed. I saw James Cracknell (finish time 2:43:12) here and knew it would be some time before I too was on that side of the road.

Mile Splits
15 – 9:03
16 – 10:05
17 – 9:17
18 – 9:17
19 – 9:47
20 – 9:24
21 – 9:37

I distinctly remember looking at my watch and it being 15.5 miles and thinking that this was okay. I wasn’t in any trouble. The legs were great, the chest was great and I was just running. It didn’t feel hard. That’s the training.

I remember somewhere here (it was in the 16th mile, I just checked Google maps) that we could see the river Thames. Yes I know we’ve run alongside it and gone over it but I think this was the first time I’d seen it. Usually there were people or buildings in the way.

We went through some tunnels around here too. I think two? Maybe three, I can’t remember. I know why watch lost GPS and the Strava map is bit squiggly in this area.

I don’t know why mile 16 is slower than the others, I’ve looked at the route and can’t remember anything specific.

I still was feeling good. I was warm and getting tired but overall I was okay. Had there been an opportunity to speed up on any other day I would have taken it at this point. On this day though I was content to stay at the pace I was running and not risk hurting myself.

There were many people along the route being cared for by volunteers, officials and St John’s Ambulance. Some looked in a bad way, thankfully there have been no reports of fatalities.

I certainly didn’t want to join them, the pace I was doing was frustrating but I would run the marathon.

Mile Splits
22 – 9:41
23 – 9:52
24 – 10:02
25 – 9:50
26 – 9:49
0.5 – 9:29 – My watch was ahead all the way along.

The last 5 and a bit miles were tough. A battle of mind over legs!

As I went through mile 22 and 23, where I had seen James Cracknell earlier, there were still runners, walkers and rhino’s still coming through on the other side of the road. I must admit feeling a little sorry for them, as I was in the last section and they had nearly a half marathon still to do.

It was somewhere between 23 and 24 mile that I walked for about 30 seconds. I was feeling the distance a little by that stage, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be under 4 hours and I just wanted to compose my self. I think it might have been at the top of a slight incline? I can’t really remember. I finished off my water bottle, got my head sorted and a volunteer at the side looked me dead in the eye and said “c’mon Gary, you’ve got this, you’re nearly finished” that gave me that little shove I needed to push on.

Several times during Friday and Saturday, Sarah, Lesley and I had crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which looks down onto the Embankment and the 25 mile marker.

That turned out to be a mental disadvantage. Going through 24 miles to that marker seemed to take an age! I could see the bridge coming but it never seemed to get any closer. The split time tells us that it took me 9:50 to get there, if it had said 15:00 I couldn’t have disagreed.

Once passed that marker, and boy was I glad to get passed it, I could see Big Ben, oh ok, the Elizabeth Tower and the clock face said it was 14:20 and I knew I had about a mile to go.

By this time I was very salty on my face. I get that on really long runs, the white salt streaks. I grabbed a water bottle, took a sip and then poured some on my face and tried to rub off all the salt. Yes, at this point I was thinking of looking presentable for the finish line picture!! As Sarah can confirm, I didn’t do a very good job of cleaning myself up and was still all streaky at the end.

Turning right at Big Ben and it was a final plod down Birdcage Walk before that now iconic double right hander onto the Mall. It was pretty cool rounding that last bend and seeing the finish in front of me.

I saw there were photographers on the sides getting pictures, so I made sure to go left and leave a gap between me and the runner in front, in order to get a photo on the Mall. Which I did, there are a few with Buckingham Palace in the background.

As I rounded the final bend the big screen was showing the Royals handing out medals, the announcer said he wasn’t going to say which part of the finish they were standing at. If you aren’t aware, London has a finish gantry spanning the road, with three points you can run through. I headed for the middle one.

As I went through and did my double fist pump, I could see the Royals on my left. Their queue was massive. I wasn’t in any mood for hanging about, I wanted the medal and some water.

IG – Video of me crossing the line

So I kept moving and was given my medal and congratulated by a volunteer (I’m saying volunteer all the time, I expect they all are). From that it was the souvenir photo. I look very dazed in mine.

The process just keeps you moving along. Next up was the heavy goody bag, I checked my t-shirt was the size and as I shuffled onwards there was a results board which I grabbed a photo of as a reminder. More shuffling and a chap quite obviously used to dealing with tired runners said to me “Gary, go to your right for you bag” and I just replied “okay” and kept up my shuffle towards my bag.

The bag retrieval process is much like the Silverstone Half which I have written about before. As I shuffled along the path, a spotter called out my number and without breaking stride the bag was placed in my hand. Awesome.

Still shuffling! I made my way to Horseguards, eating what I could find in the bag and drinking water.

We had prearranged to meet at the letter G on Horseguards so I headed towards it, thankfully it was on the left of the parade square so I didn’t have to walk too far.

Sarah spotted me and came bounding over to give me a hug, I think my first word were “don’t squeeze to hard”. I look absolutely shattered in the photos.

Some of the other words out of my mouth immediately upon finishing were “I’m never doing that again” “I’ve done it now, I don’t need to do it again” “I was going to do an ultra, but I’m not”

We three made our way to the hotel, on the way Lesley bought me a McDonalds. Not something I eat very often, in fact it’s only when I’m at running events with Andrew that I eat McDonalds. I just needed something easy to eat and that fit the bill.

We once again got to the Golden Jubilee bridge and saw runners still making their way towards the last mile and a bit. I took some photos and a video, as I’ve run there now.

Back in the hotel room and after a delightful refreshing shower, I checked the progress made by those I was tracking on the London Marathon app and saw that most had finished in times they were expecting, so that’s really good.

IG – T-shirt and medal  IG – Showing off my medal the following day

Positives

I’m typing this on the 28th, so I’ve had many days to reflect on the run.

This was the largest attended run and the longest distance run I’ve been part of.

The organisation is excellent right from the beginning with updates, social media, emails, the magazine when you get in is very useful, the information provided is clear and concise. The Expo was brilliant, the train travel, the guides to the starting area, the baggage trucks and all the volunteers were wonderful.

Along the route there were very few places without spectators. They did a brilliant job of encouraging everyone along the route. Stick your name on your front and you are guaranteed to hear it a lot!! I’m at a loss as to why some runners were wearing headphones, you don’t need headphones at these large events, the crowd are great at motivating you to keep moving.

There was one point, I don’t know where it was but we went under a flyover and there were drummers on the right hand side and screaming spectators on the left. The cacophony of noise and bass from the drums couldn’t fail to inspire you to do your best.

The medal is fantastic, the best medal I’ve had so far. The t-shirt puzzled me initially, as it looks like an ice-cream until It was pointed out that the ice-cream part is actually 26.2 with the river Thames being the sauce and runner shaped sprinkles.

Everyone I’ve shown the medal too has been impressed by it.

Negatives

Personally I think the race is too big. If like me you think you can run it under 4 hours, you might struggle depending on which zone you are placed in. It was clear from the outset that I wasn’t getting under 4 and I eventually accepted that.

I’m not sure what London can do though. Staggered starts is an option but unlikely due to the times that are run in London. The cut off is 18:15, so maybe those expecting times of 6-8 hours could be set off later. 11am perhaps?  Thereby making it possible to waves to be sent off every 10 minutes perhaps? That would spread the runners out across the course. Boston does waves but would it work in London?

What next?

Despite that negativity, I ran the London Marathon. I’m extremely pleased to have crossed the famous finish line. I’m not putting myself in the ballot again for next year. I may in the future as I’ll go into it with the experience of being there before.

You remember I said “I’m never doing that again”? Well that was my thought until I woke up on Tuesday morning and thought to myself, I know I can go under 4 hours, I’m confident of that. I was researching marathons later that morning and found the Chester Marathon, held in October with around 10,000 runners, a lot less than the 40,000 at London. I’ve not committed myself just yet though.

Before that I have the following lined up:

May & June  – Brecon Athletic Club – Llanfrynach 3-4-5 mile series
June 25th – Swansea Half
August 6th – Brecon 10
August 27th – Severn Bridge Half
September 24th – Swansea 10K

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.

Splits
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 – 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 🙂

 

London Marathon – Training Week Four

Mileage for Week Four
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 2.1 miles
Wed – 0 miles
Thu – 6.6 miles Instagram
Fri – 3.6 miles
Sat – 0 miles
Sun – 10.3 miles Instagram
Total – 22.6 miles

Another decent weeks running. I started off the week attempting hill sprints, which was good and bad!

I ran a 1.3 mile warm up to the particular hill and gave it my all in three sprints. I managed to my surprise, to get the course record! It’s a 13 second sprint so not all that long, even though it feels very long when running it.

Once I’d finished the third sprint, my world went a bit wobbly and my legs went to jelly. I decided to try and ‘run it off’ but that wasn’t happening and I had to cut the run short and just jogged home instead.

I wasn’t able to run on Wednesday as planned due to finishing work a little later than normal, so ran Thursday instead. It was a 60 minute run but I only managed 57 as my pacing was a little quicker than I had planned.

As my long runs are about to get much longer than I’ve ever run before, I want to make sure that I am able to stay hydrated. Dehydration has affected me a few times before and I don’t want to fall into that trap during training. I’d looked at Camelbak’s but they were to pricey for me, as are running vests that Ultra runners use. So I bought a small backpack that will hold my phone, keys, two spare water bottles and some energy sweets.

The 57 minute run was the first time I have run with a rucksack and it felt much better than I could have expected. Although I wasn’t refuelling on this run; I don’t expect to do that until I’m over 13 miles, it was useful to know that I will be comfortable.

I was up early on Sunday to complete my long run. My Sister and her family were visiting later in the day, so there was a time pressure to complete it, get home, showered, changed and get to my Dad’s house.

The alarm went off at 5am and I got myself some breakfast. I like to eat at least two hours before running. This time around I changed my usual porridge and peanut butter which has given me acid reflux recently on runs, to three Weetabix. Not wanting to go to bed, I watched a film ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)’ which I thought was very good. I gave it 4 stars out of 5 – I used to mention movies here once upon a time, I may do it again.

Whether it was the Weetabix or the two Clif Blox I ate on the run, but the run felt fantastic. I held an average pace of 8:38 /mile over the 10 miles. The fastest split coming at mile nine with a 7:51 /mile.

The Clif Blox are new for me too. I’ve tried gels but never felt they did anything for me and anyway they are really sticky as you squeeze it into your mouth! Mrs B bought me some Blox for Christmas as I had mentioned them. The recommended ‘dosage’ is massive, as in eat a whole packet before running.

I didn’t do that. I took two out with me and had one at around four miles in, and the second at around seven miles. As I said I felt great on the run, was it the Blox? I don’t know but I’ll experiment on my other long runs with them.

The rucksack performed amazingly as well. It was comfortable all the way around and having it on my back may have improved my ‘tired’ running posture as I felt like I was way more upright than normal.

 

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.

London Marathon – Training Week Two

This week has been a good week of running for me. The mileage has picked up without any huge problems (as yet!). My right foot / ankle / achilles area gives me a little ache now and again, as it did on my first run today. It may be that I haven’t got my shoes done up tight enough, I shall experiment next week.

Mileage for Week Two
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.7 miles – with Kevin
Wed – 4.1 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.4 miles
Sat – 0 miles
Sun – 8 Miles solo / 6.3 miles with Sarah
Total – 26.7 miles

My Brother-in-Law Kevin is in training for his first Half Marathon which will be in Merthyr on 26th March. That half has a few hills and Kevin has only trained on the flat so far, in order to prepare him I showed him a few streets around Brecon that go up nicely and which will test his lungs and legs but that which will also aid his recovery. I like hills, hills are fab.

Today I had my long run and decided that I needed to push myself a bit, so ran around Cradoc. It’s a local route out of Brecon to the village of Cradoc. The only way to get there is up a hilly road. It’s a circuitous route so what goes up must come down. The climb up on one side, the way I went up, climbs nicely for a few miles before levelling out.

I kept a nice steady pace on the way up and was able to stretch my legs and speed up the pace once at the top. Two quicker miles were what I needed but brought the pace back down for the last three, as it’s time running I need rather than pace.

My aim for the marathon is to get around in 4 hours and 20 minutes, as it stands I can get around in just over 4 hours but let’s not forget I haven’t ever run further than 15 miles, so the next few months of running and training are going to be a fun journey. Plus I really, really want to be able to walk once I cross the finish line.

Split times for today’s Long Run:
Mile 1 – 10:06 /mi
Mile 2 – 10:05
Mile 3 – 09:38
Mile 4 – 07:49
Mile 5 – 07:39
Mile 6 – 09:47
Mile 7 – 09:01
Mile 8 – 08:46

I had about an hour to recover, get some water and a protein shake, change t-shirt, socks and shoes, start writing this post and then I was off out running again! As I joined Sarah on her weekly Sunday Long Run for a 6.3mile run.

My legs were tired but I managed to get around, luckily Sarah was setting a nice steady pace.

For the year to date I have run 54 miles, which when compared to 2016 is where I was in March, not 15 days into the new year. Clearly I am going to be running more this year than ever before but at this stage I don’t know how long my body will let me carry on at this rate.

I hope to stay healthy and running steadily after the marathon in April. I have events lined up that I would like to attend.

When I looked at the plan, I put it on a spreadsheet (not news to anyone who knows me well!) so I was aware that I would be running 2016’s mileage in total before I even got to the start line of the marathon. There are many runners who attempt to run either 1000 kilometres or 1000 miles in a year. I’m not sure I can achieve that but I’ll give a good go.

Failing that, I’ll have my first marathon medal and that will be good enough for me.

Onward to week three!