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My First Few Weeks of Marathon Training

Week one of the marathon block. This was where the sessions I was introduced to were quite a bit longer than my usual sessions. Usually my 10k sessions would last anywhere from 5-7miles of intensity not including warm up and cool down. Now my marathon work will last from 13 miles to 2hours of intensity not including the warn up and cool down. So consequently this was quite a big jump in volume, however, because the intensity wasn’t as high I actually coped with the programme quite well… for the first two weeks… then the volume started to slowly chip away at me, slowly I started to feel the aching legs, back, feet and muscles try and talk me out of doing sessions because they were so tired, I would try and justify it to myself too.

“There’s no point in doing a session if you can hardly run that well in the warm up! Don’t run the session, it won’t be fast enough. Do it tomorrow.”

There’s days when your body tells you the truth for your own good but there is days where your body will lie to you just to try and not put itself through another gruelling workout. I think the top athletes really know where that line is but for others looking to try and break into that top level sometimes we don’t know and allow our emotional state to cloud our logic.

The reason I’m writing this blog is to help people who are looking to do a marathon, wanting new ideas for training, or wanting to see the good, the bad, the ugly of a human being putting themselves through their first marathon block and the emotional rollercoaster that goes with it.

You see, from the outside eye people are their biggest PR’s and portraying their “best life” but that sort of shit doesn’t register in my head because I’m a very honest, too honest at times, person. My mouth gets me into trouble sometimes because I have this “I call bullshit!” Mentality. People only give you the good side or their best side, the same with athlete’s… they want to show you the best sessions, fastest runs… never the sessions where they had to dig deep just to run average times. Well I’m here to suffocate that bullshit and really let you in on what it was like day by day facing the marathon training. Here goes!

Phase one –

So my first marathon session was 2hrs total running with a warm up and cool down – 60mins steady/30mins quicker/15mins quicker/15mins quicker

Avg pace for each was 6min mile/5.50min mile/5.40min mile/5.30min mile.

It was tough being out there on my feet for that long having to elevate the pace each phase. It felt good to be able to hit the targets even though before the workout started I was a little nervous. But I got myself into a good rhythm and kept it rolling.

Next workout was 12x1km only a few days after the 2hr progression run. This was tough, my legs were aching from start to finish. I couldn’t hit the times and I was only to run 3m10s for the 1ks i was well off the pace running 3m15s-3m18s. I felt like chucking the session after only 4 reps in. I was feeling sorry for myself and was having a little pity party in my head…

“Fuck this… this is shit… I could run these times backwards before stepping up to this marathon shit. Now I’m getting heavy and slow. I’m moving back to the…”

And as this wee strop was going on in my head a funeral car passed by on the road with a long row of cars trailing and I felt like shit. I’m here having a little self entitled pitty party about my legs being tired and someone in that casket would give anything right now to feel the pain I was in and here’s me entitled and taking what I have for granted. I feel things happen for a reason and that was a sign sent to me to regain perspective and get the job done.

After a few days easy running, I was out on the canal doing 5x3miles at marathon goal pace, 5.20min mile, that was a big session. I stayed extremely patient with this one as this was the greatest amount of tempo work I’ve ever done and wanted to make sure I was good for the last two reps. I’m guessing patience is the key for the marathon so I made sure I stuck to the goal pace and no faster and with the warm up and cool down that was a total of 21 miles for the day.

After the adrenaline wore off by god I was tired and hobbling around the flat like an old man it was like I was 28 going on 80. It’s unbelievable that someone chasing all that fitness actually looks in real bad health at certain points in training. If you had seen me after marathon session days you would have been like, “Oh god that doesn’t seem good for you if you’re hobbling around like that!”

However, it’s amazing how you quickly forget about the pain and suffering after a good nights sleep and resume to do it all over again.

Phase one of the marathon block complete, now I’ve gotta rest recover and repeat… Onto phase two!

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Marathon Madness – The New Journey

“That’s 23 miles Geoff! You kidding me on!? The longest session I’ve done is only like 10 miles!”
This was mines and Geoff’s conversation as he sent through my first marathon training block. Looking back and thinking how am I going to get this done fills me with a bit of blind innocence and nostalgia as I didn’t know what the human physiology was truly capable of. I feel Eluid Kipchoge was right when he said the limits are only in the mind. My mind was limited towards thinking training for the 10k to the marathon wouldn’t be that much different, how wrong was I.

I was already hitting 100+ miles per week so people were telling me my mileage wouldn’t change that much and they were right! However, I interpreted that as I’ll be doing just the same intensity and volume based sessions as I’ve been doing. I was sadly slapped back to reality when my mileage didn’t differ too much but what happened was the volume of the sessions went up and the volume of my easy mileage to recovery between these mammoth sessions came down by 3 miles.

So this meant I was running more miles at marathon pace in comparison to when I was doing 10km work. How can I make this make sense, here goes….

So a typical week of 10k training I would train hard Tuesday, Friday and Sunday (uptempo in the long run)… so say we add up the intensity mileage I was running at over these 3 days added upto 20 miles of intensity and I was doing 100 miles per week 20% of my training was done in and around race pace. Now with the marathon training 35-40% of my mileage was at race pace out of the 100 mile week. Yes yes yes I know what you’re all thinking, yes the marathon pace is of lower intensity and yes that’s why I could do more of it but it was still bloody hard running 5min mile pace for 35-40% of your total mileage. On the flip side because my legs were so tired from the training I would run around 7.30min mole pace on recovery days, some days slower some days a little faster but on average 7.30 mile pace.

The reason I stepped up to the marathon is for a couple of reasons first one in all honesty was because I’ve not ran a personal best over the 1500m/5000m/10,000m in over 4 years now and I feel I may need a little change in stimulus and stop banging my head against the wall chasing times because it was making me extremely miserable and affected my emotional state and when I even think about it now it sometimes makes me feel quite worthless. However, the second reason was because Scottish Athletics my national governing body set up a system for athletes looking to one day venture into the marathon a platform to perform and be looked after in their vision to help a select group of Scottish athletes achieve the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games standard for the marathon.

I feel very grateful to be selected in that group and felt this would be a great opportunity to be apart of.

Third reason, I love running lots and training like a man possessed so I thought why not. People around me and my coach thought that I would one day become a great marathon runner and love the training for it because I like running lots of miles. Well I’m here to tell you training for the marathon is grim! There have days, weeks and months where I’ve been so tired I don’t want to get out of bed and run but know I have to; feet, muscles and lower back aching before during and after a massive session; doing training sessions on tired legs and feeling like you are in really shit shape followed by a run later that night that you just can’t wait to be done with or question why should I even go out at all.

The crazy thing is though, you get through it. It’s a bloody rollercoaster of a ride but you get through it. I’ve always taken myself back to why and basically the answer is because I love to run, I love to see myself get fitter and stronger each week, I love seeing what my body is capable of doing, I love the satisfaction of working so hard and going through so much suffering that one day my competition are going to feel the wrath, I love being different, I love challenging my demons in my head and beating their asses. People think this is easy but believe you me it’s not! Everyone has there own life’s battles and struggles. Too many are quick to judge and fire out comments here and there before knowing the full picture or story behind why someone is doing something. That’s the world we live in now but I say fuck it, let people talk.

The marathon training is now slowly starting to reduce in intensity and volume now as I head into the taper phase before the Valencia marathon on December 1st. It will be my first ever marathon. I’m totally focused, excited, scared, nervous, ready, anxious and every other emotion. But I know as soon as that gun goes it will all disappear and we let the chips fall where they may, let’s hope I’m quids in!

The next blog I do I will talk about my marathon training sessions to give you an insight to the training demands of training for the marathon. This may be good for anyone who is looking to run better in their next marathon or just some tips on how to mix up your training programme if you’re looking for some guidance.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, if you have any questions regarding my marathon training and want me to cover it in my next blog please comment below and I will do my best to answer the questions in the next blog.