Marathon training diary: 34 weeks to go — ten miles in the countryside
Having told you all last week that I’m running the London Marathon next year, I decided I’d start a series of posts on how my training’s going and what it involves. That should give people an idea of what you have to go through to prepare for a marathon and it might even provide some inspiration for others going through the same process.
This training has a very clear goal — getting myself in a position where I can run 26.2 miles at the end of April. As someone who hadn’t even managed to run three miles in one go six months ago, this is a bit of a daunting goal but ever since that time in March when I managed to do a Parkrun without stopping to walk, I’ve been gradually increasing the distance I’ve been able to run — and ‘gradual’ is the important word here.
Almost all the distance running training I’ve read — and I’ve read a lot online thanks to my usual compulsion to learn all I can about something — talks about the importance of the 10% Rule in training. This holds that when you’re doing a long run, you shouldn’t increase your maximum distance by more than 10% in any one time, and you shouldn’t increase the total amount you run in a week by more than 10% from your previous best. That way, you’re gradually increasing and stretching your body’s capability rather than trying to push it too far and risking injury. It also means that my long process of building up the distance I can run has been one of a slow improvements on a gentle upward curve rather than anything too daunting. At those early increments, it’s easy to go from 5 kilometres to 5-and-a-bit kilometres (and so on) because all you’re doing is adding on a run to the next corner and back at the end of what you’ve already done before.
I’ve been lucky in having Castle Park and the Wivenhoe Trail on my doorstep, and being able to run to Wivenhoe and back was always a target, but one I told myself would be a while in the future. First I had to run to East Hill and back, then do that but with an extra loop of the park, then I crossed East Hill and made it to Hythe Bridge and back, then added another loop around the Hythe, then went along the quayside to University Quays, then onto the trail by the University…and so on until I was able to not just run to Wivenhoe, but run through to the other side of Wivenhoe and back. (If you really want to see the gradual progress, or watch what I do from now on, you can follow me on Strava)
This week I did 28 miles in total, which isn’t 10% more than anything I’ve done before or even the most I’ve done in a week, but it is a marathon distance, albeit spread over four different runs. The first of those was a record and a 10% increase as I did a long Bank Holiday run down to and around Wivenhoe, before running back for a total of 11 miles. This is a great route, because as well as being long, flat and flexible for distance, you also get nice views for most of it as you follow the river all the way down, which also makes it hard to get lost if you can remember which side of you the river is meant to be on.
Despite being mostly flat, that was a tough run, as it was about pushing myself further than I’d gone before. Thursday’s run was also something I hadn’t done before but a shorter and more enjoyable as I joined a group of other runners to do the Elephant Run. This is a route Colchester runner Nick Oakley devised next year which, as you can see from the map to the left, takes you on 5km circuit around Castle Park and the riverside to draw a picture of an elephant. It’s not the easiest route to do without someone there to show you where to go — especially getting the eye and ear loops right, and knowing when to turn back on yourself to get the line of the legs right — but it’s a decent run with a nice result.
Talking of decent runs with fine results, Saturday was Colchester Castle Parkrun, where I managed to somehow knock almost another minute off my personal best, finishing it in 33.35. That’s getting on for ten minutes quicker than I was doing a year or so ago and what once seemed an impossible dream of running one in 30 minutes or less now seems like something I definitely could achieve in the coming months.
I’d planned another ten mile run for yesterday, then I heard about the Colne Engaine Fun Run which had a ten-mile option and as some friends were doing it too, decided it would be more fun to run with some other people around than just dragging myself along on my own. The only problem was that it was like the last organised run I’d done (the Nayland 10K) with lovely clear, cloudless and sunny skies. That’s normally fine for a day out in the countryside — and it looked very nice yesterday — but not the best conditions for running especially when you’re like me and have lots of natural insulation around your body to keep the heat in. I set out with the intention of trying to run twelve-minute miles and finish in around two hours, but while I was just outside that for the first lap of the course, I dropped off quite a bit in the second, finishing in two hours and fourteen minutes. The first resolution I have from that is that I really do need to buy a running vest as they’re a lot cooler, so I would like to apologise in advance to anyone who has to witness me wearing one and the second is that I have to continue losing that weight so I don’t get so overheated carrying it all around with me. However, while getting round that second lap was a struggle, I did manage to do it and even if I didn’t hit my target, it was still the fastest ten miles I’ve run.
Coming up, I’ve got an easier week as it’s the Langham 10K on Sunday, so I’m cutting down the distance during the week in the hope of doing a decent time there and breaking my 10K personal best. This week’s miles should help towards that, but they’re also showing me that I am adapting to running more. Back when I started doing Parkruns I was stiff and sore for days after, walking very gingerly as my muscles complained during the recovery. This morning I’m feeling much better than I ever did back then despite having run so far yesterday. I might still only be at 40% of the distance I need to be able to run for the Marathon, but I can see the route to getting there.