Recapping 16 weeks of training for the 2018 London Marathon…
So at the end of week sixteen of this training block, I’m now only four weeks away from race day. I usually aim to blog each week of the block to track the highs and the lows, but with one thing and another I haven’t done this, so this week I’m going to recap all of my training over the past few months, and where I feel I am going into the final run in.
The training job is basically done now. My next training week is scheduled to be 66 miles, and then the taper starts properly over the final three weeks running up to race day.
A twenty week training block always seems like a long old slog, starting at the beginning of December clocking up the mileage in days that are dark before leaving work, coping with sub-zero temperatures and slippy paths, keeping your routine up during the busy festive period, and then keeping the work going during the deep white freeze across the country.
That said, I’ve never really struggled to get the work in when I’ve had a goal to work towards. I laced up my shoes and got on with it; I put my head torch on and ticked off dark canal miles, I got up early on holiday in January and put in the pre-dawn miles, and I just ignored the lack of form on workouts where I was putting in some proper effort for the first seven or so weeks of the training.
I’d come in to the training block at the very beginning of December not in the greatest shape – I had been injured and out of training in the run up to the Abbey Dash, and then ran a really poor race. At the start of the training block I was back running without discomfort or aggravation, but I was starting from a really low base of form.
So it was an important race when I came to the Dewsbury 10K at the end of week nine. That run really put me back on track – I essentially produced a near identical performance to 2017 (which looking back at it was a cracking run), a few weeks earlier in the training block than the year before. Following this up with another strong run at the Liversedge Half two weeks later, I was at a stage where I’d done all the hard work in the dark months where no-one, not even yourself, is or should really be worried about the quality of your form, and now I was ready to jump out of my cocoon as some kind of road-running supremo butterfly.
Although I was somewhere back to where I wanted to be, the hard work of proper heavy mileage weeks was only just about to begin. At the end of the Liversedge Half week I hit a seventy mile week exactly, but there was still a big block of four or five weeks at 70 miles plus a week from week twelve to week seventeen. These weeks however started to coincide with ‘The Beast from the East’. Now I don’t want to whinge too much because I know there were far worse things that happened as a result of that weather, but I just had to push through those big mileage weeks with slow plodding around snowy fields, and tentative slow miles on the canal crunching my trail shoes solidly into the ice before pushing off rather than bouncing lightly along on the surface.
I felt that my major block to build the aerobic capacity up to maximum was being sabotaged a bit, but also those key sessions that I wanted to see some sort of result from – my ‘Yasso’ 800m efforts sessions, my long runs – were being frustrated a bit by the weather. I ran one 23 mile long run early on a Thursday morning that I had off work, setting off hoping to run a good 6:50s pace per mile and then run flat out for the final three miles. It started raining half of the way out and then – well, if you’re squeamish skip to the next paragraph – my wet rain jacket stuck to my top, forming one soggy layer bouncing up and down as I run, and started tearing my nipples to shreds. I eventually ended up, ten miles from home, huddled under a bridge with my jacket and top off, wriggling my head and arms through a buff to try and use it as a sort of sports bra to protect myself – with some runners going past while I was doing this wondering what was going on. Eventually I got both arms through, my other layers back on, and managed to get back home with everything in tact. It doesn’t really need to be said though that I didn’t have a great session in terms of results to look back on.
So we fast forward to this week, the end of week sixteen, with 78.2 miles down in the diary this week and 78, 73.8, and 77.1 for the weeks before. The mileage has been done, but most importantly I now know that the form is where I want it to be.
At the start of the week I felt rubbish and very heavy legged, so moved the weeks key session back from Wednesday to Thursday. So on Thursday I ran a full Yasso session. Named after Bart Yasso who noticed a correlation between average times of 800m reps over a session and marathon times (ie. minutes and seconds over the 800 equals hours and minutes over the marathon), the full session is twelve 800s with 400m recoveries. I ran the full session and averaged under 2:45, and it also just felt really good – I felt strong and really on it. Then this morning on the Sunday of week sixteen, with four weeks till race day, I ran a full twenty-two mile long run how I wanted – ticking along at 6:50s and then smashing the final three miles. The best confidence booster from a session isn’t necessarily the times but the sensations – for most of that long run I felt like I was on rails, like I was just sat on a train and it would get in on time and I didn’t have to do anything apart from stay sat there. I was just cruising along, and if anything I was having to focus mentally to hold myself back and keep the pace in check.
So I’m going into race day in fairly good spirits. Probably not in the form to have an amazing run and take my 2:44:04 PB down to sub 2:40, but good enough to have a PB run. One of the reasons though why I’ve felt that my form has been a bit patchy comes down to the quality of the club mates that I’ve been running with on Tuesday – when people you’re used to running near or ahead of are suddenly up the road from you, it suddenly makes you feel much slower. In particular at club, Tom Thomas is going at the Manchester Marathon two weeks before I will at London. It’s his first marathon, but I’m still a bit worried that he’ll be able to take down my PB and the club record, and in part I’ve only got myself to blame. As it’s his first marathon he was originally aiming for under 2:55, which I told him would be super-easy – I’m not sure if that’s the main reason, but now he’s after the record.
If he gets it – and there’s no reason why he can’t if everything goes right – at least I’ll know what I’m aiming for.