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 15

Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.7 miles
Wed – 0 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.2 + 4.6 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 1.9 miles (at the track, mostly walking)
Total – 17.5 miles

The taper week in full flow, for the most part.

I skipped one run, Wednesday, as I got home a little later than expected and my enthusiasm for running quickly vanished.

That aside this was a good week, the mileage dropped easily and the legs are responding to the rest. Yes, the calf issue is still there but it is manageable.

I began the week running at marathon pace over the run. My legs were tiring towards the end and I put that down to sitting all day at work and then running.

Friday was Good Friday and the beginning of a long weekend off from work. I woke around the normal time, had some food and then got myself out of the house. Once again I managed to average my marathon pace of 9:00 min /mile across the run. It seems like I’ve finally got my legs to understand where I want them 🙂

I got back from the run and Sarah was preparing to go for her run, after a brief rest, I put my shoes back on and went out for another run, making 8.8 miles for the day.

Saturday was parkrun day! My 20th parkrun too. I started right at the back, this was intended to be a gentle run. I plodded around the first mile in 9:23 min /mile and was comfortable. I was just running and the next time my watch beeped I had run the second mile in 8:33. I didn’t consciously speed up nor did I feel like I had sped up. The third mile was quicker again! 08:12 min /mile. There was a sprint at the end which I shouldn’t have done but a chap ran passed me on the final corner and I wasn’t having that, so put my foot down and sped passed him for a final time of 27:12

We went into Sunday, expecting not to run that much at all. Sarah and I took her brother and his son aged 8 up to the local running track.

Leo hadn’t been to the track before and certainly hasn’t done much consistent running. We started by running a lap of the 400m track. Leo did really well and managed to run/walk the lap. We played some games and ran around. Leo must have done three laps in total, his best was 2:40 which we all think is brilliant. As I remarked, it was great to see him out of breath and breathing heavily!

We will get him and his Dad up to the track lots more as the weather improves and keep an eye on his times but with no pressure on him at all. I have a hope that we can get him to a junior parkrun in the future.

I’m typing this with six days to go to the marathon and I’m looking forward to getting there now. Three more days in work and we’re off to London 🙂

Mileage for Week Fourteen
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 4.2 miles
Wed – 3.7 miles Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 5.9 miles Instagram
Sat – 3.1 miles Instagram
Sun – 6.3 miles Instagram
Total – 23.2 miles

A week of tapering and I feel good!

As I went out for my run on Tuesday, Sarah reminded me that I was supposed to be slowing down. Sarah was of course alluding to my propensity to ignore the plan and go a bit too fast on my shorter runs and then injure myself.

I’m still having an issue with my right calf, which I did to my self trying to smash out a fast 10k just days after a 22 mile run.

For this run I did what I was told and kept well over my planned marathon pace. Averaging 9:37 min /mil was different for me, and I enjoyed even though every incline felt so much steeper than they were due to Sunday’s very long run.

My injured calf currently warms up at around 4 miles. I’ve never been one to warm up and consider the walk from the car to the start to be enough. Now though I’m having to either take care in the early miles or think about jogging to warm the muscles up.

If you click on the Instagram link for Wednesdays run with Sarah, then you will see us both wearing support for our respective injuries! My calf and Sarah’s ankle. We both ran on Sunday, I ran my last long run of 20 miles and Sarah competed at the Cardiff Bay Run 10k. Both feeling a bit tired and our respective injuries, we took this run nice and steady so as not to aggravate anything.

By Friday I was well and truly in the taper and not running mode! My original intention was to change at work and drop the car off with Sarah but I didn’t. We went home and Sarah decided that it being one of the nicest days of the year She would walk from the house to the roundabout, a distance of about 4 miles there and back.  Sarah also decided that I was going too and could run up and down the towpath to get my miles in!

Duly dressed and ready we went out into the fantastic sunshine and I walked with Sarah for just under a mile before heading off to run a bit. My running didn’t last too long! and once Sarah had reached the roundabout, we walked back together enjoying the sun and the walk.

It’s not often we get to parkrun. I went to my first parkrun just about 2 years ago and I have only completed 19 runs. There are large gaps where I haven’t been. Our friend Andrew goes every other week and we have joined him for a few runs recently. There will be a new parkrun a bit closer than our current ‘home’ of Bryn Bach, when the Merthyr parkrun opens on 22nd April. We won’t get to that one until the following week as we will be in London preparing for the big day!!

Back to Saturday. Sarah was hoping for a PB and it being a lovely day at the park unlike the usual cold, wet and windy conditions that normally greet parkrunners, it seemed like ideal conditions to get one.

I was going to stick with Sarah for the run and we started from the middle of the pack. I knew Sarah was on for the PB when we went through the first mile in 10:21. Sarah recently has been running at around 11:00 min /mile so this was a cracking start.

The next two miles were quicker still: 10:11 min /mile and 09:58 min /mile.

As we crossed the line Sarah was pushing her hardest having put in a sprint to the line.

Sarah achieved a Personal Best time of 31:55!

I was feeling the run after lunch and took myself off to bed to sleep! So much for being a marathon runner, 5k finished me off!

As we travelled home with Andrew in the car, we discussed today’s run and where we would go. Last week we briefly talked about running around Usk Reservoir. I hadn’t been before but Andrew had cycled around the tracks there.

It was decided that we would run there and we would meet at 9am and then go for a couple of laps of the reservoir.

The couple of laps quickly turned into, let’s see how one lap goes! The track was good and the views were excellent, however there were a few hills that seemed to go on for a while and with a few wrong turns due to no signage, the lap was just under 6 miles. We both decided that one lap was enough but we will come back with those willing from our running group to run it again.

As we ran around Andrew asked me if I was nervous about the Marathon yet. It’s a question I’ve had a few times in recent weeks as the day draws ever closer and the answer each time, and not at all with a big head, is no.

I’m not nervous about the day or the run, the only thing concerning me is my right calf, which I’m sure will be fine as I have a race and pace plan which I will stick to. I’ve proven to myself in half marathons that I can stick to my plan from the beginning and not shoot off like some runners do at those events. That ‘sticking to the plan’ will help me and my dodgy calf get through the longest run I’ve ever attempted.

The ideal plan for me today would have been 10 miles, I decided that 6 hard miles must equal 10 flat ones and that was good enough for me!

Next week the mileage comes down again to around 16 miles for the week. I’m hoping that my legs will get the rest they need in order to be fully fit on the big day.

 

 

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 11

Mileage for Week Eleven
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 0 miles
Wed – 4.4 miles Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.5 miles
Sat – 0 miles
Sun – 13.5 miles Instagram
Total – 22.4 miles

A resting week!

After my injury worry the week before and the Half Marathon PB at Silverstone, I decided to give my legs a rest.

I ran with Sarah on Wednesday and Friday so that I kept rested and wasn’t tempted to push the legs further than they need to be.

The Friday run was in atrocious weather though, it was cold and windy and raining and just awful!

Sarah was determined to run so run we did, even if I was complaining. Our intention was to run a 10k but we were just too cold and wet so stopped at 4.5 miles.

On Sunday I ran with Alex and Andrew for 7 miles before continuing on my own. It was a really nice relaxed run as we discussed running and other runs we have planned. I’m trying to convince Andrew that he can run a marathon, he knows he can I think!

We took in the canal tow-path which is still a bit wet in places, I tend to avoid it at this time of year. Before continuing on towards Groesffordd, Maggies Lane and the running track.

Once at the track I jogged a lap with Andrew before trying a ‘fast’ 400m. I’ve had a cold this week and ran out of air at around 300m but even fully fit, I’m definitely not a sprinter!

My 400m time was somewhere around 1:29 with the 200m at 0:42 – those very not scientific times are from the Strava segments. I may go up again after the marathon to do some stopwatch times just to see what I can do.

Once we had parted ways I went back down Maggies Lane to run up a few hills towards Llandew. That was certainly a test, the ‘fast’ lap really tested my legs so it was a little while before I got my legs back!

Getting back onto the B road was a relief and I headed back towards Brecon, my legs were getting tight through tiredness and my knees were aching! The wind which hadn’t been a feature on the first 7 miles was now an almost constant presence. Some of the back lanes were like wind tunnels and I was heading into the wind.

I was very glad to get back home and stretch off a bit (something I don’t do enough).

As I type it’s Monday in Week 12, in five weeks it’ll be the day after the Big Day!

I still have my cold and my sinuses are giving me pain, therefore I’ve decided not to run until at least Saturday. I have the Merthyr Half with Kevin and our running group on Sunday so I’m going to give my body enough time to recover.

Ahead of that, my long runs are looking like this:

26/03/2017 Sun Merthry Half 13.1
02/04/2017 Sun Llanfaes loops x 2 & Llanfrynach 5 mile route 13.1
09/04/2017 Sun Llanfrynach 5 mile route 10
16/04/2017 Sun Lock and back 6
23/04/2017 Sun Marathon 26.2

On the 2nd April Sarah is running with Laurie in Cardiff, I might go out for a longer run than the one I’ve scheduled. On the training plan I should be aiming for 20 or 22 miles but I’ve already done that. I may push for 16 or 17, I’ll see how my body is feeling in the days before it.

Here’s to 5 days rest and recuperation!!

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 – Week Eight

Mileage for Week Eight
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 4.4 miles with Sarah Instagram
Wed – 10.1 miles with Kevin Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 5.4 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 20.1 miles Instagram
Total – 43.1 miles

Well what a running week that was! My longest ever run both in time and distance and the largest total mileage run in a week.

I had two goals going into the week: firstly to run 20 miles on Sunday and if I could manage it, go for a Personal Best (PB) at parkrun. I happy to say that I achieved both.

After our weekend in Chester Sarah and I were both feeling good. We had both had good runs at parkrun, I came close to a PB and Sarah had her best run in a while. The Running Gods had other ideas though. We ran for 4.4 miles and we both struggled, each mile was a chore. There are always days like that even for the most accomplished runners.

Wednesdays run was supposed to be 50 minutes but Kevin wanted to run 10 miles in preparation for Merthyr Half. He’s doing well although this run was a little slower that the last time he ran the distance. He’ll be fine for the half, which will be his first.

Parkrun on Saturday was a blast. The weather at Parc Bryn Bach is always interesting. The winter months are cold, wet and windy. The summer months are wet and windy. It is a fantastic place to run though.

As I had come close to my PB at the more challenging Chester parkrun I thought it possible to get close to my best time of 22:10 at the flatter course in Bryn Bach.

Despite the conditions I positioned myself close to the front and waited for the start. I stuck with the front pack and was within the top 10 all the way around. I finished in 8th place, my highest ever finish at parkrun. Which was helped by some more prominent runners being away for races and it being a rugby weekend.

My time was 21:19, taking 51 seconds off my PB. I was amazed that I was able to keep my pace going, it must be all the miles I’ve put in, even if they haven’t been at that pace, it must count for something.

The splits by my Garmin were:

1 – 6:50
2 – 6:47
3 – 6:45
0.1 – 5:56 (I put in a little sprint to the line!)

I felt really good all the way around and it was only the last half lap that I could feel the pace getting to my legs. It’s not in my plans up to the marathon to attempt a quicker time at the 5k distance but I may look at training after April to reduce my PB further.

And so to Sunday. My long runs are all done early in the morning, be that Saturday or Sunday. This is so that I have the rest of the day to recover and that running doesn’t take over the day. I do intend to run my longest long run at the same time I’ll be running the marathon.

The alarm went off at 0330; I stick to the ‘eat 2 hours before’ running instruction. I had my now usual weetabix and a pint of water. I followed that up with a banana and some chocolate snack-a-jacks.

I then watched a film before getting myself ready to run. Once I was ready I headed out. It being 0530 I went out with a long top over a t-shirt but that was removed after a mile, as I was too hot.

The first few miles eased me into the run, I’d run the route of the first nine or so miles during my 16 miles a few weeks back, so knew what was coming but I still went ahead of my target pace, once again getting quicker up towards Cradoc.

There is nothing new in the complete route I ran and that familiarity is useful. Next week my long run takes me from Glangrwyney to Brecon on roads I haven’t seen for over 20 years! It’s only once I’m about 7 miles from home that I hit familiar surroundings.

So knowing what’s coming doesn’t help my pace as I know the route and know I can push the pace up!

I was almost always under my target pace of 9:00 minute miles. This helps mentally as the routes here are much hillier than anything I will meet in London.

During my 16 miler I hit ‘The Wall’ at 11 miles, this time I was fine and got to that part of the route at 17 miles with no walls in sight. I even picked up the pace.

Strava tells me that I ran a total of 20.1 miles in a time of 2:58 at an average pace of 8:52 min per mile.

On the day that would bring me under 4 hours and I would be very happy. I think I can go faster in the second half of the run. I have long runs planned where I can test this.

Coming up for me are the following Long Runs:

5 Mar – Glangrwyney to Brecon – 20 miles (I’ll add miles to the route along the way)
12 Mar – Silverstone Half Marathon – 13.1 miles
19 Mar – Brecon to Llangynidr to Brecon – approx. 22 miles
26 Mar – Merthyr Half Marathon with Kevin – 13.1 miles
2 Apr – Brecon to Glanusk to Brecon – approx. 26.2 miles
9 Apr – 10 miles in Brecon area (taper)
16 Apr – 6 miles in Brecon area (taper)
23 Apr – The London Marathon!!

I’ve decided to move away from my regular route of Cradoc, the hills are fun but I think although I can maintain pace up there, I need to go less hilly. The test will be on Sunday where I run from Glangrwyney to Brecon. I used to live close to the village and was amazed when some of my Dad’s workmates used to run home from Brecon. I’ll be running on the B road which if successful will be used for my 22 and 26.2 mile attempts.

Not long to go but there are still a lot of miles to cover!