Final long run (Brighton marathon training, week 13)


Week 13 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

From the snippet of my training plan above it is clear that my first run of the week should have been 50 minutes easy on Tuesday. However, I somehow managed to miss this and instead ran the interval session scheduled for the following day. The next day, still unaware of my mistake, I ran the next session – close to an hour of marathon pace. It was only shortly after this second consecutive day of relatively hard running, prompted by feeling absolutely knackered, that I reviewed my plan carefully enough to realise my error. At this point, the only compromise available to me was to run the easy day that I’d missed on Friday. At least, I thought, I might be fractionally more rested for Sunday’s final long run as a result …

week 13 – ending Sunday 19 March

day training
Tues 15 mins easy (warm up)
5 x
5 mins tempo
2 mins jog
7 mins easy (warm down)
(5:00/km average)
over all sets:
(4:06/km average)
(5:10/km average)
(5:17/km average)
Wed 8 mins easy (warm up)
56 mins steady
4 mins easy (warm down)
(4:55/km average)
(4:28/km average)
(5:05/km average)
Fri 58 mins easy (4:54/km average)
Sun 170 mins easy (5:10/km average)
total 5 hrs 18 mins (+13 mins versus training plan)

I employed the same nutrition and hydration strategy in advance of, and during, my long run as described in last week’s blogpost. As I concluded that post, my plan for this week’s long run was 2 hours at around 5:12/km followed by a final 10k/45 minutes at 4:30/km, my marathon goal pace. Taking into account how tired I was feeling during the week, by the time I started out on Sunday morning I had modified my plan to something slightly less aggressive. I had it in mind that I would run seven progressively faster 5k’s paced at 5:15, 5:10, 5:05, 5:00, 4:55, 4:50 and 4:45/km … In terms of duration, these two variants produced total run times of around 165 and 175 minutes respectively. (As I described in my last post, I had decided that running for 205 minutes, as prescribed in my training plan, would inevitably lead to me running too far.)

However, even within the first 5k, I felt that the planned increases in pace later in the run would be too much for my tired legs. I modified by 5k split pacing to “run each 5k at least as fast as the previous one, or a second or so (per kilometre) faster”. Following my, more exuberant than planned, first 5k which averaged 5:08/km, I completed the subsequent splits at average paces of 5:03, 5:03 and 5:04/km. Running the same route as in previous weeks – from home in Beckenham to the Cutty Sark, along the Thames, past the Dome and, this time, to within a kilometre of the Thames Barrier – I reached this 20k point shortly after re-passing the Dome on my return.

My overall average pace of 5:10/km, in the summary above, looks quite respectable but disguises that, beyond 20k, my run deteriorated. My final 5k splits were 5:09, 5:11 and 5:44/km (and this last one not a full 5k as planned, but 3k). Looking at my individual kilometre splits after the 20k point they immediately dipped (5:11, 5:06, 5:07) and then faded significantly (5:23, 5:20, 5:17) as I struggled with fatigue. During the next kilometre, out of nowhere, my fatigue suddenly lifted and I was able to return to goal pace (5:01). Still feeling good I caught up with a group of four runners which helped psychologically and I recorded another good kilometre (4:56). They stopped in Ladywell and shortly afterwards, running alone again, my fatigue returned with a vengeance (5:13, 5:20, 5:28). I forced myself to jog further, deciding I should at least equal last week’s long run duration of 2 hours and 50 minutes, before stopping (5:57 and 5:48).

As a first time marathoner, I wish I knew if it is supposed to be this hard?

Another brick? (Brighton marathon training, week 12)


Week 12 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

Week twelve began, mentally, immediately after I completed my long run at the end of week eleven. Frustrated, disappointed and unsure what had bought my run to such an ignominious end, I messaged running friends and relations and scoured the internet to find an answer. I soon reached the conclusion that it was the infamous ‘wall’ that had brought me to a stop and reflected on the nutrition and hydration strategy I had used. ‘Strategy’ is something of an overstatement; I had simply eaten 4 ShotBloks over the course of the run and hadn’t modified, or even considered, my pre-run nutrition. With particular reference to a Runner’s World article, which could have been written for me, I had a detailed nutrition and hydration strategy for this week’s long run in place by the next morning.

My training plan prescribed an easier workload this week and I found myself willing the long run to come around so that I could test my newly formed strategy. The intervening runs went well and I was particularly aware on Friday that the easier week had revitalised me as I comfortably ran the easy run 10 to 15 seconds per kilometre faster than I have done for a few weeks.

And so, my long run came around. I implemented my nutrition and hydration strategy as described below. Contrasted with last week for effect 🙂

this week last week
pre-run nutrition carb loading (day before run)
porridge, half banana, milk (3 hrs before run)
normal cereal (3hrs before run)
pre-run hydration 1 litre water after breakfast, continue sipping until 1 hour before run
in run nutrition 15 ShotBloks (every 10 minutes) 4 ShotBloks (at intervals of approximately 25, 26, 27 and 35 minutes)
in run hydration CamelBak loaded with 1.5 litres water, sipping at will – 800ml drunk  300ml water drunk at 16k

As I set out I felt light on my feet and settled in to a pace around 5:00/km. I decided that this week, I would attempt marathon pace for the final 10k of my run. Once again I ran from home to the Cutty Sark and beyond. This time, requiring 2 hours 50 minutes in total, I continued past the Dome to a point just beyond the cable car crossing to Silvertown. As I turned around I felt comfortable both on my feet and internally; eating a ShotBlok every ten minutes hadn’t proved in any way difficult as I had anticipated it might when I first calculated how many to consume. At the same geographical point on my return journey as last week, I again took stock and found myself doubting that raising my pace to 4:30/km goal marathon pace would even be possible. Nonetheless, I resolved that I would try to do so simply to find out what would happen. I allowed myself to back off by 5 or 10 seconds per kilometre over the next two kilometres and, as my watched chimed the completion of the second of these, pushed forward. The next time I looked at my watch I was pleased to see that I was averaging 4:25/km and felt a surge of relief and renewed belief. I held a pace inside my goal pace for a couple of kilometres before subsequent kilometres slipped first into the low, and then high, 4:30’s. I told myself I could complete 8k at, or at least near, my target pace. It was good to run through the same locations where, last week, I had broken down. I recorded another kilometre at goal pace. However, during the eighth kilometre striving for marathon pace, I had to concede defeat. Even as I slowed a little, intentionally, my legs began to stiffen up and I slowed considerably more with no further decision. I averaged 4:33/km over the seven complete kilometres before recording 4:54 and 6:03 for the final two full kilometres of my run. I jogged for a few more seconds to complete the prescribed 2 hours and 50 minutes.

It is difficult to confidently interpret what is happening with my training and to know how to respond to it. Last week’s breakdown definitely felt more physically overwhelming than the slowdown at the end of this week’s and yet there is still something distinctly wrong with a kilometre of over 6 minutes. I am pretty sure that last week’s breakdown was the ‘wall’, but I’m not completely sure that this week’s still quite uncontrolled slowdown wasn’t …

Perhaps running 5 minute kilometres before attempting 10k at marathon pace was too aggressive for my level of experience; this being my first marathon training cycle and this sequence of long runs all generating new longest-run-ever milestones as I complete them. Yet I am still nagged by thoughts along the lines of, “If I can’t run 10k at marathon pace after 25k of easy running, how can I expect to run 10k at marathon pace after 32.2k at marathon pace?” To which my own, optimistic, answer is, “Because that is what training is for – to develop your ability such that you can run an entire marathon at goal pace. You can’t do it yet because you haven’t finished your training yet!”

I have contemplated revising my goal time from 3:10 to 3:15 in light of my experience of the last two weekends … And yet, I think 3:10 is fairly conservative. Running 1:27:58 for a half marathon, as I did two weeks ago – in Brighton, in windy conditions – projects to a marathon performance of 3:03:18 using age grading, 3:05:08 using the calculator at McMillan and 3:03:24 entering only the minimum information required in the Runner’s World race time predictor. Now, I know that caveats about being appropriately trained apply, but I am after all following a marathon training plan fairly rigorously. Also, I accept that no runner is equally able at all distances, I consider myself a middle distance runner and this, in part, informed my selection of a goal time. [Initially I didn’t commit to a specific time, but had settled on 3:10 by December 2014.]

Next week is the final, pre-taper, week of training. It ends in a final long run – the longest – scheduled for 3 hours and 25 minutes. I’m not sure that running for that long will benefit me. Even slowing down to say 5:24/km I would cover almost 38km which must be too far. My current thinking is that I will repeat this week’s run, but with the easy section significantly slower at 5:12/km before again attempting the final 10k at goal pace.

week 12 – ending Sunday 12 March

day training
Tue 53 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Wed 9 mins easy (warm up)
41 mins steady
8 mins easy (warm down)
(5:06/km average)
(4:29/km average)
(5:18/km average)
Fri 37 mins easy (4:46/km average)
Sun 126 mins easy
32 mins steady
12 mins easy / jog
(5:02/km average)
(4:33/km average)
(5:28/km average)
total 5 hrs 18 mins (+13 mins versus training plan)

The wall (Brighton marathon training, week 11)


Week 11 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

I began week eleven still, understandably, feeling stiff and somewhat tired following Brighton Half at the end of the previous week. Nonetheless, I dismissed my thoughts of softening the week and committed to the hard interval session on Wednesday; comprising marathon pace (target 4:24-4:30/km), tempo running (target 4:08/km) and recovery jogs. Apart from omitting the final jog recovery, because I was so keen to stop my watch and … stop, I did pretty well.

The additional runs on Thursday, relative to my plan, were simply transport to and from a sports massage aimed at alleviating my Brighton aches and generally keeping me in condition for the three upcoming long Sunday runs.

I did the first of these on Sunday. I planned to repeat my route from home to the Cutty Sark, which I did a few weeks ago, and extend it to make up the 2 hours 40 minutes required. As I set out I contemplated including some marathon pace at the end of the run, but decided that – not least because this would be my longest run ever – I would be satisfied to run the second half faster than the first. I occupied my mind considering what combination of pace and distance would return me home in the required time. I settled on running out 16k at around 5:10/km and returning at a little under 5:00/km. I left home wearing a waterproof jacket anticipating the forecast showers, but didn’t need it and soon removed it and left it tied it above my hips for the remainder of the run. Recalling and navigating my route caused no problems and I really enjoyed my easy paced run. Meeting the Thames at the Cutty Sark I ran East along the riverfront until forced, by existing development and ongoing riverfront improvements, to lose sight of the river for a couple of kilometres. As I returned to the riverfront I realised I was likely to reach the O2, or Millenium Dome as I still tend to think of it. As it happened my 16k turnaround point occurred just as I arrived alongside the dome.

My Garmin Connect activity shows that I averaged 5:11/km on my outward run. Turning around I drank the 300ml of water I had with me and increased my pace as planned. I felt comfortable. I had eaten three ShotBloks on my outward run – at 5k, 10k and 15k -and had planned to continue this frequency, but didn’t feel actively hungry or in need of energy as I ran towards home. I remember beginning to feel tired as I approached 22k and thinking that to run both longer and significantly faster on race day was going to be very hard. Very, if not impossibly, hard. I certainly didn’t feel that, even if I chose to, I could raise my current pace to my 4:30/km goal marathon pace. Perhaps prompted by this I ate my belated fourth ShotBlok.

I was glad to return to the completely traffic free environment of Ladywell Fields at 25k; not because my run had been blighted by traffic to this point, but because this signified I was ‘nearly’ home. I maintained my sub 5:00/km pace past Catford station and on towards Lower Sydenham station. I remember crossing a busy road just after 28k and choosing to accelerate briefly rather than stop for the traffic. Just 400 metres or so later, just as I reached Lower Sydenham station, I suddenly found myself contemplating walking. And then walking. And then running, very, very slowly. And then walking. And then agreeing with myself that I would stop my watch at 2 hours and 35 minutes.

Reviewing my activity now I can see that I averaged 4:57/km from my turnaround at the Millennium Dome to the completion of 28k. Following that my final two kilometre splits before stopping my watch were 5:23 and 6:32! By the end my very, very slow running would certainy be better described as shuffling.

As soon as I stopped my watch and started walking, I suddenly had an appetite and quickly ate the 3 or 4 ShotBloks that I was still carrying. After a short, but slow, 2k walk home I felt much, much better and ate everything I could find.

week 11 – ending Sunday 5 March

day training
Tue 60 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Wed 11 mins easy (warm up)
6 x
2 mins marathon pace
2 mins tempo
2 mins jog
10 mins easy (warm down)
(4:57/km average)
over all sets:
(4:27/km average)
(4:09/km average)
(5:11/km average)
(5:05/km average)
Thu 29 mins easy, 2 separate runs (5:13/km average)
Fri 11 mins easy (warm up)
33 mins marathon pace
11 mins easy (warm down)
(4:51/km average)
(4:26/km average)
(5:02/km average)
Sun 155 mins easy (5:09/km average)
total 5 hrs 54 mins (+28 mins versus training plan)

Doris days (Brighton marathon training, week 10)

Generally, I do my long runs on a Thursday as this is the best fit around my family and work life. However, I had long planned week ten in my marathon training as the point at which I would transition my long runs from Thursdays to Sundays so that I could accustom myself to the routine of running at 9:15 on a Sunday morning as I shall on race day. I chose week ten because moving my long run back three days created the opportunity for a mini taper before Brighton Half Marathon which I raced on Sunday 26 February. (Actually replacing the scheduled long run this week).

So, with the flexibility of a 10 day ‘week’, I decided to mix things up a little whilst still retaining the core of my ongoing marathon training plan.

Racing a parkrun for the first time this year, I returned to my home parkrun (Dulwich) for the 41st time. I set out with an approximate target of 19:30 in mind. Anticipating my run, I wasn’t sure whether I would be struggling to hold on for a sub 20 finish or if I might run something closer to 19:15. Off the start line I was pulled along with the typical exuberance of the front of a parkrun field such that at 500 metres I was I was at sub 19:15 pace. Knowing, and feeling, that this was unsustainable I checked my pace slightly and completed 4k averaging 19:45 pace. Dulwich parkrun is not quite flat, it is run over 3 laps of an oval loop which has a difference of 12 metres in elevation from one end to the other. One of the quirks of running 5k over these 3 laps is that kilometre four is always the slowest, being the most cumulatively uphill, and kilometre five is always the fastest, it being the most cumulatively downhill plus, of course, this is where you deploy your sprint finish! So, as I completed 4k and saw I was on track for 19:45, I knew I would record something significantly faster than that. This positive thought spurred me on and I was feeling good physically too. Pushing throughout the final kilometre and sprinting the final 250 metres, I finished in 19:28. Yay!

The first thing I did when I got home was plug this time into the race prediction calculator at Running For Fitness to gain an indication of what I might reasonably expect to run in Brighton. This produced an age graded prediction of 1:28:26. The second thing I did, for the next couple of days at least, was feel like I had been in a race! This was after all my first hard race effort of the year so far.

Doris …
Some easy running and a swim over the next few days helped me recover and I decided to do the tempo run specified in my marathon training plan as my last significant run before Brighton Half. This happened to fall on the day that Storm Doris passed over the UK which meant that my kilometre splits were all over the place starting, as I did, almost directly into the wind. With a target pace of 4:08/km, I opened with a 4:22 and a 4:26, including jumping over several, mercifully small, fallen branches. Blissfully I then turned and put the wind on my back for the remaining three kilometres which I completed in 4:13, 4:04 and 4:00. 4:13/km overall average and certainly tempo effort if not quite tempo pace!

I finished my pre-race build up the day before Brighton with a carb load stimulus session that I first used, in more approximate form, before Brighton Half, in 2014. I deliberately chose the direction of my mile pace and sprint efforts to avoid fighting Doris’s continuing high spirits and to harness the psychological boost of running quickly relatively effortlessly.

week 10 – ending Sunday 26 February

day training
Sat 55 mins including 19:28 5k parkrun (4:31/km average)
Sun 50 mins easy (5:01/km average)
Mon (swim 1.2k, 32 mins)
Tue 40 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Thu 15 mins easy (warm up)
21 mins tempo
5 mins easy (warm down)
(5:06/km average)
(4:13/km average)
(4:58/km average)
Sat 14 mins easy (warm up)
2 mins 30 secs mile pace
30 secs sprint
9 mins easy (warm down)
(4:49/km average)
(3:20/km average)
(<3:00/km average)
(5:05/km average)
Sun Brighton Half Marathon

[update March 2017, since my original post the race organiser has issued a statement confirming that the 2017, 2016 and 2015 races were all 146 metres short. The following race report remains as originally written before the statement was issued.]

Brighton Half
My regular long run partner Simon and I entered Brighton Half back in April 2016 so keen were we to make up for the disappointment of not running that year’s race. Brighton Half is fast, almost flat and with good weather, as I experienced in both 2014 and 2015, it is certainly a PB course. By the turn of the year running friends Ed and John had also signed up and we were in good spirits driving down to Brighton notwithstanding the weather.

Storm Doris was still venting her issues as we arrived in Brighton and this confirmed my reflections over the preceding few days. I modified my plan to combatting the conditions, seeking shelter in groups and primarily ensuring that I finished inside ninety minutes as a matter of pride! My secondary goal, to be considered during the race once the effect of the conditions became clear, was to run sub 88 minutes without going all out; to avoid the potential of compromising my marathon training.

One of the benefits of travelling with friends was that I inherited their good organisation and so I found my start pen – 1:20 to 1:29 – in good time. I positioned myself towards the rear and, as the start approached, decided I would hang back a little until the 1:30 pacer appeared. I stood aside as the gun went and then jogged up to the line so that the pacer caught me up as I crossed the line. I was probably being over cautious and certainly, I got a little bogged down in the first kilometre or two in the crowds. No matter, at least I was getting plenty of shelter from the wind.

Having run the race twice before I knew what to expect as we turned into the town, subsequently returned to the sea front and then headed East to the first turn around point. As I pivoted around the cone there, at approaching 7k race distance, Doris made her presence known. The South Westerly wind was significant and immediately I settled into my plan seeking strong runners and shelter wherever I could, whilst still pressing forward. Several times I began to press only to sense the increased wind effect, reconsider and resume a position of shelter. Running the core straight stretch of the route, 9k West, into the wind I soon felt confident that I would be able to finish within 90 minutes, probably within 89 and tried to carve out another whole minute. As the second turnaround approached the wind really began to take its toll and, frustratingly, I lost contact with a group I had been running with for most of the second half of the stretch. Running without cover the final two kilometres before the turnaround were significantly slower. Nonetheless, I contemplated the possibility that I might run a fast final 5k, with the wind, and lift my time back the right side of 89 minutes.

Frustratingly, having the wind on my back did not initially seem to have much effect. I completed the next kilometre in TBC. However, I then rallied for two or three kilometres before again hitting a difficult patch. I recall this as being caused by fatigue rather than the wind, but my perception may be flawed. Even so, I rallied once more and dug out a sub 4 minute final kilometre.

By the time I had had a post race massage and regrouped with my friends, for well-earned bacon sandwiches and coffee, we had all received our results by text and hence looked pretty pleased with ourselves in our post race photo 🙂


John, Chris, Ed, me and Simon looking pretty pleased with ourselves.

race data summary

official finish time chip 87:58
target 88:00 – 0:02 inside
splits pace
TBC (final full km), TBC (final 97.5 metres)
approx HR
138, 148, 152, 153, 154,
153, 154, 155, 151, 153,
154, 155, 154, 155, 153,
151, 154, 155, 156, 156,
158 (final full km), 162 (final 97.5 metres)
biometric summary average HR – 153
max HR – 163  (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 180
approx start weight – 71.0kg
positions by chip time
(gun time)
overall – 290 (318) out of 8049
gender – 273 (298) out of 4283
category VM50-59 – 21 (28) out of 581

Week 10 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]