Monday, 8 April 2013

Time to start keeping it short!

Went on another long run yesterday – all 23.2mi of it!
I set off looking to replicate my previous 23.2mi route, in the name of comparability. I’d run the distance in 3h22’ on March 26, shortly before the bug bit back. However, upon heading out yesterday I soon decided to mix things up a little – for two reasons:
1. To spend longer on the flat. To see how fast I could pace myself if I didn’t tackle the delights of Nore Road twice on one run!
2. Because experience tells me that not knowing where I’m heading can slow me down… all of a sudden the brain doesn’t know what’s around the corner and turns up the caution level. That’s a natural human reaction: it has nothing to do with running. Considering every step of the Manchester Marathon will be into the unknown, it seemed to make sense!

Yesterday’s run therefore ended up taking me to the outskirts of Avonmouth, a location which is unlikely to feature in many tourist guides but which is flat and, of a weekend, when all cranes and containers are resting, tranquil – perfect! By the time I’d got home 3h13’24” later, I’d shaved 9’07” off my previous 23.2mi time, not least by cutting down the elevation from 1,174ft to 618ft. Quite, I took it easy. But then I’m training for “the flattest marathon in the UK”, with only 55ft of gain over the 26.2mi course – so why shouldn’t I?!
What mattered to me was that this equated to an increase in pace from 8’43”/mi to 8’20”/mi. I still harbour hopes of hitting the 8’/mi mark throughout the marathon and I can now psychologically make the leap from 8’20” to 8’00”, see myself shaving off 20”/mi in a race situation as part of a pacing team. Of course, in three weeks’ (“less than”, now!) time I will have to run an extra three miles: and they will be tough. The toughest. But, as I’ve said before, much as it’s impossible to replicate those conditions over a shorter distance, climbing 324ft over the course of 2.5mi (average gradient 2.4%, but generally steeper in shorter bursts and reaching 7.2% in places) seventeen miles into a run has to bear some resemblance… I hope!

So – what next?
Well Ladies and Gentlemen, yesterday’s was my seventh 20-miler ahead of Manchester. Go pick up a standard training plan (e.g. Runner’s World’s) and you will actually find most recommend around four. As you know I’ve not followed any strict plan: I’ve looked and asked around and compiled my own plan, working on the basis that my body would tell me if I was overdoing it. Now, however, I’m not going to wait on my body to drop any hints…

…and I’m going to start tapering!

‘Tapering’ is a fancy running term for “taking it a little easier”. Both this week and the next I will include an 18-miler in my plans, this week even a 10-miler (tomorrow!*). Thereafter, in the nine days building up to Manchester, the furthest I’ll run will be 6.6mi, gradually winding down up until the big day.

Will I struggle to cut down on my weekly mileage? I don’t think I will. A few weeks back I might have given you a different answer, but I’m now confident I’ll be comfortable doing what the bigger picture requires. I know it’s the right thing to do: I learnt that in the build-up to the Bath Half, and I’m at a level of fitness now where I can see a huge gap between a half and a full marathon. Not wanting to sound obnoxious, pretentious or presumptuous, I’m at a stage now where I could go out and run a half on a day’s notice. My pace wouldn’t be optimal, but I’d get round. A proper, full marathon… I cannot speak from experience on this one, but I’m pretty sure I need to bat smarter to get round 26.2mi. And that’s what I intend to do.

Time to start keeping it short(er), then. In keeping with that theme… guess I’d better sign off!

* 09/04 addendum: this morning I ran that 10-miler in 1h18
37, which translates into a 752/mi pace nice and flat, back and forth along a nearby 0.7mi flat section of road nevertheless, given how I felt when I awoke (before the alarm) at 5:25, after what hadn't been the best nights sleep, wondering whether ten miles just two days after Sundays 23 was really wise, that was a highly encouraging session! Now if only, cometh The Day, I could maintain something similar to todays pace over last Sunday's distance (and then some) if only if only


  1. oddly enough the last 3 miles won't all be the toughest, its an in exact science and my times might not actually bear this out but that last mile with the finish 'in sight' always gives me a burst of energy (mentally if not necessarily physically) and is one of the easiest in many ways of the entire run.

    The 2 before that final one? Now they're just horrible!

  2. Makes sense. So far, I've always capable of finishing a run (training or race) with a sprint. It's getting to that final mile... well, half mile! sometimes quarter!