Around about six weeks ago I was in desperate need of a training plan to follow for my Berlin preparations. I looked around at several places for training plans (Hal Higdon, Pete Pfitzinger, runners world smart coach) and not one really looked a good match for me. I fall somewhere between the beginner and intermediate levels and there is no way with work and life that I can be cramming 50+ mile weeks every week. Other things had very long runs on the week nights, which are no good with late finishes and a whole family of pets to look after. Then by chance I was listening to episode 17 of the Marathon Talk Podcast (iTunes link here) which had a huge feature on personalising marathon training and how to map out a schedule of running.
I know a little about running training and made it most of the way through my girlfriends marathon training with her as moral support, even getting up to 18 mile long runs. So in what may turn out to be genius, mediocrity or naivety I set out to construct my own marathon training schedule. Realistically with life, work and my heavy body I reckon that around 5 runs per week would be the most I could realistically manage. So with a little help from the podcast I set out to make my own schedule.
The prime piece of guidance was to set out your three key sessions and plan the rest of the week around them to make sure you get the most out of them. The most important run for marathon training has to be the long run, as it is by far the most specific to the race being run. I was in shape to start around 8 miles in distance and gradually make it up to 20 miles, which I would do once. From past experience it seemed that having every fourth week as a "light" week with shorter runs really helped with my recovery. So these were mapped into the calendar and formed the backbone of my training schedule every Saturday.
The next big workout was an interval session on the track, and by random chance and good luck a brand new shiny running track had just been opened at the local leisure centre. However what intervals to do seemed to be a much more complicated matter, Tom from marathon talk gave the example of 7x2min hard effort with 2 min rest which led to a massive PB for him. Other places recommend wildly different schedules like yasso 800's or mile repeats, working on holding speed for longer. I think my major problem though is an inability to get up to any descent speed, not just a problem with speed endurance. So I went for 7x400m (which takes me around 2min+) with 400m recovery and I will think about going onto yasso 800s as the weeks pass by. To space this out for recovery time I run this on Tuesday nights.
The third hard workout was the tempo run, and I was a little confused about this, lots of different people seem to have different ideas about what a tempo run comprises. To me they all seem to be a very long interval with minimal rests. Some recommend a pyramid of speed, other two long faster intervals and others just a steady state maintainable fast speed for the duration. To ease my confusion I went for a single long effort with a mile warm up and a mile warm down, moving from one mile hard to 8-10 miles towards the end. Again for spacing this was planned for a thursday night, which is god as it follows a particularly long day at work, there is nothing like fast running to ease a little stress!
That left 2 runs to fill in the gaps, a very easy recovery run on Sunday after the long run and another easy run Wednesday between the two faster workouts. The recovery run is mapped out to be half the distance of the long run, to try and train my muscles to recover fast. The Wednesday easy run will probably stick around the length of my tow local routes (4.5-6 miles).
I will have a three week taper before the event, gradually reducing distance.
So my week looks like:
Monday - Rest Day
Tuesday - 7 x 400m with 400 easy running (may change to 4-10 x 800m later in programme)
Wednesday - 4.5-6 mile easy run (possibly rising to 8 miles later in programme)
Thursday - 1 mile warm up, 1-8 miles tempo, 1 mile warm down
Friday - Rest Day
Saturday - Long Run (8-20 miles)
Sunday - Recovery run (half of long run distance)
If anybody has any ideas to help me out or correct any problems, it would me much appreciated if you would leave a comment or drop me an email (seanstansfieldatgmaildotcom).
As far as my running goes, I'm sure there is a lot of room for improvement in my time, in fact if I got down to my ideal weight of 80.7kg I would have lost nearly 25% of my entire body weight. I reckon that there could be some dramatic improvements in my speed and my ability to tolerate more training over the next year.
In the back of my mind, I am not really too sure how this is going to impact on my training for the Berlin marathon. It could really help me out by making the running and cardiovascular effort lower, or on the other hand weaken me so much that I struggle to keep up the runs. Only time will tell, and I will keep you updated over the next few months as to my progress.
To drag myself into losing a lot of weight, there is a two pronged strategy, exercising more (the marathon training should help out here) and eating less. Now this is certainly not as easy to do as it is to write, but I have drafted in my fascination with numerical goals, log keeping and being a bit of a geek to help out. I love keeping an eye on my progress, be it weekly mileage, pace, or pretty little GPS maps of my runs, and I have found calorie counting to be very very useful. I grabbed the Tap & Track app (unsponsored itunes link here) off the iTunes store and got to work with it a few weeks ago. I will try to post a review sometime soon, but in short it allows you to track your calorie intake via a database of food or personally added items and accounts fr your exercise to produce a daily calorie allowance. You can set you ideal weight loss rate, I've gone for 1kg/week, and plug in all the data as you go. The database is all stored on the iPhone, so you don't need wireless or mobile signal for it to work, and I always have the phone with me.
I Haven't been sponsored in any way and I paid the full price on the UK app store, so I will give an unbiased review sometime over the next few weeks. But for the moment I have already lost 3Kg (now down to 104Kg) in the last month and I'm feeling pretty good!
May 2010 saw my first race of the year in Manchester and it was certainly going to be a challenge, in fact I had only run 4 times since the Reading Half. To add to this dirth of training the continued theme of old friends resurfaced and by complete chance we met 7 of my old university friends in the restaurant we picked for lunch. A quick bite to eat evolved into a long chat and a trip out to the sticks for dinner and chat till the small hours.
The race was brilliantly organised and given I was in on of the sloooow waves I grabbed the chance to watch Haile Gebrselassie Cruise across the line looking unflustered at 28:02, absolutely phenomenal. It was a quick wander up towards the start zone for our mass warm up. Maybe its my English reservations about "performing" in public, but I'm not really a fan of pre-race mass aerobics. With that impasse traversed all that was left to do was race.
Things started out pretty slow after the usual 9min/mile rush off the line, struggling to hang around the 11 min/mile pace for the first couple of miles. I think I only have myself to blame though as I made my classic race mistake of being to proud and stupid to take my walk breaks every 10 minutes. Since the beginning I have been doing 9min run/1min walk and have done nearly every training since. So like the fool that I am it was nearly 23 minutes until I took my first walk and the pace had been fading.
My salvation was probably the mental impact of a single workout the week before the race, my first ever real tempo run. Most of my training before the half marathons had been steady state "easy" runs, but with my newly constructed marathon plan there were a few faster workouts. After a gentle mile warm up, I pushed for a mile a hard as I could and discovered something of great significance. I can hold on at a pace that causes serious effort and pain, despite my lungs burning I had run a 8:29 mile and managed to carry on into the cool down afterwards. If this taught me anything it was that I could go a lot faster and tolerate the pain for quite a distance.
I made it to the 5K mark in 33:32, on pace for my worst ever 10K performance, but the walk break really started to kick in. I was managing to push along at well below 10min/mile pace without slowing down and the race was back on. In fact I managed a big negative split to come in at 1:01:56 (2nd 5K 28:24), my 2nd 5K was actually my PB for that distance. All of which makes me think that there could have been a much better time if I had pushed from the start and been brave enough to walk.
This was in fact my best ever 10K time despite an almost complete absence of training, I was mostly trading on the aerobic base I had built up helping Helen with her marathon training. It still left a bitter taste in my mouth though, I'm more convinced than ever that I can break the hour, and I finished 4 seconds behinds Helen's brother in his first ever 10K. Next time ..................
Back in March, I was very happy to recieve a message from an old university friend, who I hadn't seen for years. He'd spotted the running I had done posted up on facebook and thought I might be up for a bit of a challenge. In his own words he had signed up for the Berlin Marathon and wonderd if I might be interested in doing the same.
I'm not sure if it was the seeming last chance to hold to a little bit of my youth or the seemingly long time to train, but I jumped at the chance and booked up for the big trip to berlin. Nearly three months down the line, the challenge seems an awful lot more real and the training is starting to ramp up ............