MCR Marathon Blog W14/20: the perils of overconfidence

I have to admit it: I’m beginning to feel really confident. I’ve finished 5th and gone sub 1h20m at a hilly half marathon, (winning £20 in vouchers and a small trophy as first in my age category), finished 4th and gone sub 37m at a hilly 10K (winning £65 for 4th and 3rd team), I’ve felt strong on my long runs, and fast on my speedwork, and not overly fatigued by my mileage.

Well, I lie a bit. I’ve had a little grumble in my left ankle, a bit of tightness in my right calf, and a bit of a sore throat necessitating working from home at the end of the week…

All of that said though I am confident. Friends from running club have commented on my races and runs, starting to say that I should be aiming for sub 2h50m at Manchester (six weeks today at the time of posting). So why is this a bad thing? At the start of this training block I was aiming to go under three hours for the first time. I have, with varying degrees of realism, been trying to do this for three years. This will however only be the second time I’ve seriously tried to go for it.

At Milton Keynes overconfidence was a big issue, for different reasons. My training hadn’t gone as well as I hoped. My schedule, looking back, was too heavy on mileage and with too many early starts. I picked up a relatively serious niggle and ran through it, but I was overconfident about my ability to perform, stuck to an incredibly aggressive plan to negitive split, and finished up over seven minutes outside the three hour mark.

It is about this time in the training schedule, for marathons around April, that many people might be starting to rethink their targets. If training has gone very well – a strong, gradual build up in mileage and speedwork, you could have got to a higher peak of form than you have acheived previously. A more ambitious time for you could be more realistic. For me I am going to be very cautious. I would have bitten your hand off to go even one second under three hours at Manchester when I started back in December. I’m going to stick to that, even if it means I arrive at the end fresh and knowing I could *possibly* have pushed harder. For me, that would be better than getting to the end slightly overcooked, knowing I could have gone faster by not pushing as hard as early.


Whether you respond to confidence in form by altering targets is ultimately a matter of personal preference. When your goal time is a set integer or one that you have an attachment to, like mine is, it is easy to not want too much more. Over the marathon as well, a race that requires more build up and strategy than a shorter race, even a half, and one that takes more time to recover from, there is a greater chance that it can blow up in your face. There are more disbenefits than benefits that come from being overconfident, compared to not being confident enough in your own form. Whether you adjust your marathon targets or stick to your original target, I hope it all goes well for you on the day!

This week: 72.2 miles running
76.1 miles cycling

Happy running, Goose

MCR Marathon Blog W10/20: the unbearable lightness of PBing

Last week I wrote all about how I felt like I thought I might be coming into form. Well this week I know that I have, and I’m writing all about what it is like to acheive a personal best.

A personal best can be many things. It is the first time you get out for a run, the first time you run for a certain distance without taking a walk break, the furthest distance you’ve run, the first race you complete. For most people however when we refer to a PB we mean the fastest time that we have done in our running career so far.PB

Starting off as a runner, particularly if it is the first thing you are doing to get fit, it is very easy to record a series of faster and faster times very quickly. Equally, if you are running and getting older, say you are 18-21, you will be developing physically and times will come without having to feel as though you are putting in much work.

But as you get older, run more races, it becomes harder and harder to do so. Painstaking hours of planning must be put into training plans, deciding how much or how little to run, what speedwork is neccesary, how to ‘execute’ a race. Then the hard slog must be put it in, hours on the road, pain in the lungs through repeated efforts, agony in the legs after hill, after hill.

Sometimes personal bests can surprise you. Running this weeks Parkrun I wasn’t thinking that it was going to be a good day – the legs felt very heavy. The bonus of a 5K run is that it is easier to surprise yourself than on a longer run where a personal best has to be planned. On the first lap I was dragged around trying to bridge across to the front three in the lead, and although I never caught them they were always close enough to make me want to keep pushing.

Personal bests are significant whatever time they are. I remember when I was starting off running and I went under 20 minutes for the first time – I was ecstatic. Since then ambitions have changed, but the sense of acheivement is the same.

After the second lap on Saturday I realised I was running hard, and on track for a personal best. But the time you want never feels in reach right up until the end. With the finish line in sight and less than a minute to go you realise that it is there – that feeling as a runner is absolutely brilliant, a feeling of elation which must be as thrilling for Dennis Kimetto breaking the marathon world record or for the thousands of Parkrunners PBing every weekend.


So now I have gone under 18 minutes for the first time. I was thrilled, and I was glad I remembered to thank the runners in the front group whose presence allowed me to chase down that time. With the Liversedge Half Marathon next week and now being half way through the training block, I feel confident about what I’m doing in training ahead of Manchester.

This week:
57.2 miles running
174.6 miles cycling

Happy running,

MCR Marathon Blog W8/20: we need to talk about…

Another week down, another full week of commuting surviving through the cold and the snow, another week of getting through the work and the miles. Not too much to report – the miles were done and in general I felt a bit weary, but did feel like I am improving when fresh – the Friday commute home I felt good and lit it up on Strava with PBs on all the segments. But this week we need to talk about…

Speedwork is one of the essential things to making you a better runner. It’s pretty simple – it helps you to train different muscles than you normally do, trains your cardiovascular system harder and gets you used to sustaining higher heart rates than you normally work at, and gets your body used to running hard recovering and then going again – essential when you’re pushing on when you’re tired at the end of a race.

I generally do a few different speedwork sessions. I mainly do hills with the club I run with, but apart from that my main sessions are mile on mile off sessions, and Yasso test runs – 800m hard with 400m recovery. As I generally target half marathon and marathon distances these work for me, but for runners aiming at 5K and 10K or crosss country, it may be that shorter, more intense intervals, and more of them work better.

This week I my speedwork session was 7 miles with 8 Yasso 800s. The Yasso 800 (so named because they were invented by legendary Bart Yasso) are supposed to be an indicator for marathon potential, the idea being that the average you do ten 800s in in minutes and seconds should be what you are capable of in hours and minutes. As I’m still running down the main road in the dark evenings I have too many roads to cross to make that possible, but they are still a good work out.

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The traditional pace wibbles of speedwork.

It’s fair to say that although speedwork is key to making you a fast runner – and being a fast runner is fun – speedwork is not fun. Being generally worn down and tired I wasn’t super fresh for this run, and I was genuinely in a lot of pain for a lot of the efforts, not quite weeping but squeezing my eyes and gritting my teeth, and cursing. Out of the eight efforts the worst ones are probably the third, the sixth and the seventh – the one where it seems like it’s never going to end, and the two where your body is really starting to complain but it’s too far from home and you need to keep on pushing the pace so as not to feel like a fraud. It is a speedwork session after all!

If you’ve never done speedwork as a runner, do it. It’s fun honestly, when you’ve finished.

Things I’m looking forward to after the marathon
Marathon training, overall, isn’t the most fun in the history of the world. There’s the ocassional high, the feeling after the odd run that feels great, a brilliant acheivement in a training race, but in general it’s hard tiring work. With that in mind, there’s many things I’m looking forward to after the end of the marathon.

  • Lie ins
  • Cooked breakfasts
  • Getting on the bike and going for a cafe ride to the Cav Pav
  • Being a sub three hour marathoner

Gutted for Dowsett
So unfortunately Alex Dowsett’s collarbone break means the Hour Record (which I had tickets to go and see) has been postponed. The Hour Record is a very simple(ish) to understand cycling record, you have to try and go as far as you can around a track on a bike in an hour. The record was made famous by Eddy Merckx, and then Boardman and Obree battling it out more recently. The complicated stuff comes with the regulations about what type of bike you can use, but essentially they’ve been simplified meaning the big hitters, Wiggins, Martin and Cancellara are all now interested.

I’m gutted for Dowsett – it’s tough working for a big goal and then simply have it snatched away from you. This is a guy who spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Mallorca training to lay off the turkey, and after his surgery got straight back on the turbo trainer to see if the February attempt was still on. I hope Dowsett can heal up, get back in action and take the hour record before an unassailable mark is set (hopefully by Wiggins).

Anyway, the trip to London to see the hour record is now a trip to see the Matilda musical.

Running – an extraordinary superpower
All round good bloke and blogger David Haines argued this week that running is a very ordinary superpower.

I don’t want to knock him, but I think he’s underestimated things. Running (and cycling) are actually blooming amazing superpowers that are open to everyone. Being able to run, walk or cycle any distance is blooming amazing because:

  • You are actually making yourself live longer
  • If you run, walk or cycle a journey rather than taking the car you are saving the planet
  • If you run, walk or cycle a journey rather than taking the car or public transport you are making money appear in your bank at the end of the month that you previously didn’t have
  • It makes you magically more ripped like a frikkin steak
  • It makes you less susceptible to colds and illness

Any running superpowers I’ve missed?

This week:
51.1 miles running
154.5 miles cycling

Happy running,