(This covers the period between 24 December, 2018, and 20 January, 2019)

(Wow, this is a bit of a late one. It’s February now! Sorry for the delay posting this, typical non-running stuff getting in the way)

Over on social media I professed on New Year’s Day that 2019 was ‘the year of #Breaking3’. This, of course, to mean breaking the long held sub 3 hour marathon mark that my improvements since 2017 have led me to believe I can achieve. The tagline I went for on NYD doesn’t signify overconfidence. Oh no. I’m well aware that even a flat marathon beside the coast will be no picnic. The distance is always to be respected. So will the weather conditions, which can be known to be wild, even in late April. I’ve never forgotten the slap from the incoming headwind I received when turning around at 5km in the Blackpool Beach 10K in 2014. One of my club mates, who ran the marathon in 2018, has told how much he had to battle the elements. It likely won’t be anywhere near as hot as London, but it remains a possibility it will be unpleasant in a different way.

Later in the year I will be running the Halifax Half Marathon, on a different course to the one I experienced back in 2014 when the event was revived. It is a hilly road half marathon (the main event is a two lap course), but given how well I fare at Liversedge, another undulating half marathon course (which I’ve also entered, again) , I’d like to think I will be competitive at this event at the very least. And that’s where I want to test myself. Against bigger, more competitive fields. While I’m not the fastest out there, I’ve got race victories under my belt, and on my day, under the right conditions, with the right performance, I’ve got the capability to not just run a great time, but to try and get a great result as well.

I’m as yet undecided what I want to do in the second half of the year, and much of that may depend on how satisfied I am with what goes on in the first half of the year, whether I end up entering another marathon or generally entering a few different races similar to last year. I just feel like I need to keep myself motivated and not to end up like I did in the last two months of the year, without a firm plan or idea of what I want to do.

Right now, marathon training has started brilliantly. For the first time truthfully since, well, Germany, I feel like I’m running with drive and purpose again. That statement belies the fact that after Germany I won two races and came first in two parkruns. What I mean is, I’m back on a training plan, based on the Advanced Marathon 2 plan from Hal Higdon’s Training Peaks. I’m not specifically endorsing it, but it’s one I have belief in. It’s boasted as the toughest of his regimes, prescribing 6 days out of 7 of running, two of those based on speedwork, and plenty of ‘marathon pace’ efforts. I’m at a level where I’m perfectly comfortable with the plan. I can’t generally commit to Mondays and Wednesdays at the moment so I will mostly run four days a week – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I last used it for the London Marathon last year, and despite the terrible winter weather, my training remained unhindered and went absolutely, supremely well, until the final week, where the weather went up about 20-25 degrees and pretty much ruined my race. So I’m willing to base my training on this plan again as the temperature in Blackpool will hopefully be kinder in terms of temperature, and hopefully, calm weather. Of course, it’s not just about the plan, but how I execute it, and between then and now, I’ll have to get reacquainted with sports nutrition for the longer runs to see what agrees with my gut and what will serve me best in hopefully help me to hit that sub-3 hour target I’m going after.

At the end of my long run commute, 24/12/2018

Rather unusually, I started with a run commute to work on Christmas Eve, which for myself is 12 miles minimum, the majority along a long, straight, undulating ‘A’ road. I did this purely because a) I could, and b) I was motivated to get to the 1,000 miles for the year target, of which this run proved particularly crucial, along with one or two errand jobs, taking me to 1014.7 for the year, after a slump in the latter part of the year. Its the third time I’ve done it, and I still confuse a lot of my colleagues who can’t comprehend why I’d do such a thing! But from there, my training has gone mostly swimmingly. I’ve managed at least four runs per week, got back into training with my club, and it’s good to have some purpose behind it. The weather has been relatively kind so far, though I am hoping I get a few more nights with wet and windy weather to acclimatise for the marathon. Or rather, to build up the mental fortitude for when it gets a bit grim, and eliminate the chimp that tells me during the first mile or two of driving rain to turn back, get home and sit down with a brew. No chance!

I’m four weeks in now. I had a bit of a blip in my plan when I had to miss club training for family, though I did at least have an easier run late in that evening. I then had a properly hard tempo session on the treadmill at my local gym, which reached its peak at 18.6 km/h pace (or 5:11 mile pace) for the final minute. I then had 6 miles at marathon pace prescribed this past Saturday, but I felt the ruminations of something just below my right ankle after the treadmill session, which led me to have second thoughts. In the end, I spent some time that morning doing ankle flexion exercises. That seemed to do the trick. The following night, I ran my usual variation on the Liversedge Half Marathon route, and came through absolutely fine. And so the first four weeks of training were in the bank. Awesome!

There’s plenty to be positive about as my training now moves up a notch, with the Liversedge Half Marathon on February 17th coming up on the horizon. But given how much I feel the Beast from the East (and subsequent heatwave) ruined my race at London last year, I’m rather hoping the picture below is as bad as it gets. I can handle a bit of ice on the roads, but not weeks and weeks of snow which ended up proving a false dawn as far as my training success went last year. I’ll have better reason to feel confident with a little more consistency.

All in all, things are looking good right now. Let’s keep it that way!