First marathon, first steps

I’ve finally decided to run my first marathon. I’m tempted to write that I’ve finally succumbed to the pressure to run one, but I know it’s my own decision and one that I’m fully committed to. There are external influences though; my sister started running after I did, ran her first half marathon in the same race as I did and has gone on to run marathons and ultra marathons. Also I’m aware that for many non runners only a marathon performance has cultural weight; many non runners are aware of the ‘sub 4 hour’ marathon barrier, but have no equivalent feeling for what makes a good 10k or 5k time. I doubt whether my best marathon time will be as good as my performances over 10k and shorter, but I am keen to record a performance that will register with my non running friends and, in particular, family.

All the same, my main reasons for running a marathon are my own; it’s the one event where completion is a real challenge, my longest run to date is no more than a mile over the half marathon distance and despite being an established runner I do feel some trepidation, not to run a particular time, but rather the mental challenge of running for so long. My most difficult races mentally have been half marathons.

I have, of course, spent some time considering my target time. My half marathon PB currently stands at 88:16 which suggests a time close to 3:05 is possible. (The two guides I have come across to estimate marathon time from half marathon time are ‘multiply by 2 and add 10 minutes’ and ‘multiply by 2.1’ which produce 3:06:32 and 3:05:22 respectively.) Having said that my feeling at this stage is that my main target will be sub 3:20 (not coincidentally also the Virgin London Marathon good for age time for my projected age) with anything below 3:15 being cause for celebration. If I ran something close to the projected 3:05 I would be ecstatic and, on the other hand, would consider anything slower than 3:29:59 a disappointment.

So, my first marathon is on the horizon. You may have to squint a little to make it out though; having made the decision to run I’ve decided on Brighton 2016 2017* for my debut. Most significantly this is because in the preceding Autumn my youngest daughter will start school giving me the time and energy to commit to the training that winter. Also I’ll be 50 in that same season and it seems like a good milestone at which to run my first marathon. I’m also planning to have earned my parkrun 50 t-shirt during 2015 and intend to use that on race day if the material is light enough. If I had to pick a religion numerology would seem to be as good as any. 😉

* [Deferred one year due to an injury affected 2015 and early 2016, read my post “Zero” – the total mileage I ran in November and December 2015 – and subsequent posts if you want to wallow with me retrospectively.]

Running again

I am finally running again. My ankle appears to be responding well to resuming and it seems that I have judged the time to move from resting recovery to active recovery reasonably well though of course further time will tell.

I set out for my first run in 43 days on the last day of April and completed a slow 2km as planned. Returning home, despite some soreness in my ankle, I felt relieved that my performance seemed to confirm I had chosen the right time to return.

Since then I’ve run a few times though no more than 6km so far. It’s strange, though not surprising on reflection, to find how much my fitness has dropped over the last six weeks of inactivity. I’ve found that my runs are significantly harder work as reflected in my heart rate being approximately 10 to 15 bpm higher than has become typical for my easy runs. Also I feel tired post run in a way that I have not done for a few years. I’ve included a parkrun, my fastest outing to date, but even then ran in the middle of my normal easy range at around 5:00 per km / 8:00 per mile.

I am wondering whether to reframe my targets for this year from the planned focus on distances of 5k and shorter to longer distances because, at the moment at least, it would seem that I’m going to need to rebuild strength and general fitness before adding speed. I’m also a little nervous about returning to the track since I sprained my ankle the second time.

The last 12 months mileage showing sprained right ankle on 10 December and again on 18 March.

The last 12 months’ mileage showing the impact of spraining my right ankle on 10 December and again on 18 March.

Weighting too long … [5:2 diet, chapter 3]

One problem with keeping a post in draft too long, aside from thoughtlessly keeping my adoring public waiting, is that the whole tone of the piece may need to change as circumstances unfold. This post for example was set to be an entirely positive update at the end of my fifth week using the Fast Diet (5:2 diet). A further week in draft and I have another binge eating episode to record. I’m not going to detail the crime scene as I did in my last post, but several gingerbread men, assorted nuts and raisins and two small golden rabbits were involved. Oh well.

Weighing in last week at 69.3kg I had achieved my short term goal by reaching 70kg / 11 stone by the end of April. Even with this week’s lapse I remain inside that threshold at 69.9kg. When first calculating my goal running weight I rationalised that whilst 66kg was potentially the optimum for running performance I wanted to stay at or under 70kg at all times. Having now achieved that for the first time I want to maintain it.

The 5:2 pattern, fasting for 2 days and eating normally for the other 5, has become part of the rhythm of life and I find myself genuinely looking forward to my fast days every Tuesday and Friday. I notice the taste of my food and savour it more, particularly the food eaten on fast days and breakfast the following morning, but also at other times. It seems that the fast days continually re-calibrate my appetite both in terms of restraining my physical appetite and increasing my conscious consideration of food. My habit of binge eating is quite separate and I’ve gained awareness and some control just by blogging about it.

I now think that retaining the 5:2 pattern permanently, beyond my immediate desire to lose further weight to achieve my goal running weight, is not such a strange proposition after all. This is what is proposed in the Fast Diet book since there is evidence that intermittent fasting produces health benefits aside from its effectiveness in weight management. For the last few weeks my typical fast day nutrition has been as described below. I changed from the porridge and poached egg that I had typically eaten for the first two weeks since it included no fruit or vegetables and, given that I’ve not been running either, was leaving me feeling distinctly lethargic. Yes, that’s a euphemism.

typical fast day nutrition
cereal: 30g bran flakes, 15g all bran, 35g porridge oats, 165g semi skimmed milk
energy: 110 + 50 + 133 + 81 = 374 calories

tuna salad: 139g tuna, 10g olive oil, chinese leaf, spinach, cherry tomatoes
energy: 138 + 88 = 226 calories (+ salad)

one white coffee: 1g instant coffee, 20ml semi-skimmed milk, 5g brown sugar
energy: 2 + 10 + 19 = 31 calories

TOTAL: 621 calories (+ salad)

Fast Diet, chapter 3, weight graph

Weight change from 25 March 2014 to date achieved using Fast Diet approach as modified by two episodes of binge eating.

Here’s to maintaining my sub 70kg weight.