Marathon training – Week One: Alive and in one piece

Hi all and welcome to my latest blog series, which this time is going to focus on the build up to my very first marathon, the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon, which takes place in less than 15 weeks time on Sunday April 19th. Here I will be discussing every aspect of my training, which will mainly focus on my training program, as well as other factors to contribute to my overall performance, which will hopefully include eating healthier and the continuation of my battle to get enough sleep, as well as other training sessions I might go through.

When I got my London Marathon rejection magazine, I debated whether to throw it out. In the end I didn’t – despite counting at least 26 mentions of the words ‘sorry’ or ‘join us’ or ‘Its not too late!’, I decided the exercise advice and Martin Yelling’s 16-Week training guides were going to be valuable tools. So I counted back from the 19th April and arrived on Monday 29th December as the day I would start my training. I opted for the Advanced training guide – I coped well enough on Runner’s World’s sub 1:30 and sub 1:25 half marathon plans so I saw no reason why the rigours of hard intervals and large mileage should deter me. So it was decided upon, and I cobbled together a Word-based chart to monitor my progress whether on my phone or at work, to look back and look forwards.

The first four days of Christmas passed and I began on an undoubtedly cold evening on Monday December 29th, 2014. It was extremely icy, with travel reports advising only to venture out if necessary. Whether this run was necessary is open to interpretation – indeed not from a safety standpoint, but given how bull-headed I can be towards running, I decided I was at least going to give it a shot. I’d be counting down to this day for a long time and I wasn’t going to let the ice stop me. I had a walk down to Huddersfield town centre along my run route and at the time it seemed the ice was clearing. Come 5:00pm it was forming again and it was treacherous. I set off but everything felt stop start. My first mile went in 9:12 – far slower than what I’m used to – and I had to remain so focused. My jacket and watch were causing some sort of weird jolting sensation in my wrist. I took my eyes off what I was doing just once to try and sort it out, when I slipped and very nearly went down. I stayed upright, narrowly avoiding twisting my back, and at that point I decided enough was enough. I actually managed to find a section of road in a layby that allowed me to continue running at a reasonable speed but at 16 minutes and only 1.74 miles in, I stopped at a bus stop and boarded a few minutes later. The amount of ice on the uphill section of the run was enough to convince me I’d made the right decision, if I hadn’t already done so.

I was pleased to have attempted this run, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t come a cropper. And hence this record over on Garmin Connect is entitled ‘Alive and in one piece’.

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View from Hare Park Lane, Hightown, 31/12/14

The next run was scheduled for Tuesday but I moved it over to Wednesday – New Year’s Eve – as Wednesday was my day off. It was my key run of the week, an interval session with 12 minutes easy to start and to finish, with 5 blocks of 5 minutes steady, 60 seconds tempo. The decision to switch days paid dividends. As I ran up Clifton Common to arrive to ascend to the trail section of my run, the ice didn’t seem as bad as on Monday and in most places it actually seemed thicker. I was into the trail section when the intervals started, and at first it was slightly interrupted due to the occasional crackling of frozen puddles of mud, of which I narrowly avoided plunging my foot into. Once I was out of the trail and into Hartshead, I was able to find a rhythm. I continued on to Hightown and turned right at Hare Park Lane to head back towards Clifton. The sun was rising by now and the scenery looked beautiful. I got in sub-7:00 mile territory as I neared Clifton and I was able to complete the journey back into Brighouse as planned. I went up to 55 minutes – owing to some jiggery pokery between the watch and the phone app timing my intervals – and arrived back near enough my usual finishing spot. I was very happy now – my interval route was perfectly measured, my times more than satisfactory, and I was almost in a Zen-like state – it was an amazing session and it was a brilliant way to end 2014.

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Interval Session data from 31/12/14

A run was scheduled on New Year’s Day – whether I would attempt this depended on how late my night was going to be on New Year’s Eve. In the end it was a quiet night in and my wife and kids were all asleep when midnight arrived. I had spent most of the night on Twitter and finishing my Resolutions post when I decided to go downstairs and tidy up the table from mealtime. I marked New Year with a herbal tea. I was in bed by 12:45am and up again at 7:10am – though not before one of the twins could be heard asking where I was, prompting an extra hour in bed just in case she stirred herself awake. In the end I got up and out for 8:15am and I did 30 minutes steady, lapping the local park and hitting a negative split in 4.13 miles. Another good morning’s work and marathon training really was in full swing now!

After the rest day on Friday, things ended with a bit of a low ebb over the weekend. I had a 40 minute run on the Saturday, of which the middle 20 minutes were to be steady. I planned to do this in the morning to ensure I hit the steady middle near the top of a large hill. However, circumstances conspired that meant I couldn’t run to work that morning, so instead I ran home, which resulted in trying to maintain a steady pace uphill. I didn’t tire but I almost ended up with a positive split! The Sunday run was again slow progress, but deliberately so. I had a 6 mile run pencilled in and so made it a lap up through Thornhills and around Clifton, towards Hartshead and back into Brighouse via Bailiff Bridge. It took me 47:16 – a few minutes down on my standard – but it was billed as an easy run and I was very happy in this regard. It was very icy again and I had to be careful. I maintained my discipline well and resisted the temptation to thunder down Birkby Lane into Bailiff Bridge.

Overall this was a positive first week after a shaky start, and pretty much meat and potatoes to me. It will get much harder than this as the weeks progress, particularly as I try to fit runs around shifts at work and around family plans, but to get up to five runs per week successfully appears to show I have maintained my overall fitness over the autumn and I look forward even more to the rigours of marathon training.

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This training program marks the first time I’ve used my new Brooks Pureflow shoes that I got late in the summer. To date I’ve had issues making sure they’re tight around my feet, but after doing three runs this week in them (the New Year’s runs were in my Saucony trail shoes), it seems they’re comfy and hopefully by the end of the month they’ll begin to feel lived in. I’ve also used money given to me over Christmas to boost my running wardrobe with shorts, tights and soon, compression socks.

I’m not doing too bad with getting the right food down before, after and between running, although there is still an excess of biscuits left over from Christmas that my grandmother gave to us. I used to be a right biscuit fiend as a kid and even now I have an excessively sweet tooth. I can’t wait to be rid of them because I really want to kick them out of my diet to a large degree – it’s not enjoyable to constantly have to face them and I had controlled this habit quite well before Christmas! Let’s hope for the sake of my teeth, if nothing else, that they’re gone soon. I’m lucky to have a great metabolism, which means I still don’t put on a great deal of weight even if I fill up with junk. This is all against the backdrop of currently having no working oven or cooker at home – it conked in October and were trying to pick one up in the sale, in the hope of getting it on finance, installed, hardwired, everything, for as reasonably little as possible. So for quite a while now, I’ve been without pasta or boiled rice for carbs, though stuff like jacket potatoes and couscous are providing nice and healthy alternatives. Once it’s back up to speed I may explore making my own oaty flapjacks or something, a reasonably nutritious snack created from home rather than the shops – though time will tell whether I get onto that.

Week 2 begins tomorrow alongside Jantastic, with an 8-mile run scheduled on Sunday and with the midweek intervals moving up to tempo pace. Until then, happy running everyone, and let’s hope the ice goes away!

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