This is my training blog for running the Virgin London Marathon 2018 for BCRT. I have always wanted to run for BCRT – it’s one of my hometown charities. I know every charity has a history and reasons behind what they do but the BCRT really hit home with me when you look at the adults and particularly children that the charity helps and supports. To add to this, I lost my father to cancer a few years ago, so when I was offered the chance to run the greatest marathon available on the planet, running for BCRT seemed the obvious choice to me.
I have spent many years running from the age of 16 until my mid twenty’s when I served in the forces and without doubt running has been key to keeping me fit and healthy and something I have continued to do in to my middle age. Now I’ve done many physical challenges in my life from Tough Mudder’s to mountain orienteering marathons, but none of them really compare to what is essentially a nonstop endurance event for 26 miles. I also like the fact all training programmes for marathons don't take you past 20 miles for fear of injury, so the challenge on the day becomes evident in the last 6 miles, assuming you can complete the training in the first place.
Even though my base fitness was pretty good thanks to my running partner and better half, my marathon training plan didn’t actually start until January 1st 2018. There are many training programmes to follow of course but the tried and tested are the best and as I am being coached my plan was to increased my runs up to 20 miles in gradual increments of 2 miles, with one to two mid-week smaller runs to build the mileage in my legs. The key milestones being, I must achieve 2-3 long 20 mile runs by the end of March ready for a 3 week taper down and recovery before April 22nd Marathon day.
If you ever want to become an expert at planning routes via Google maps, then I suggest running a marathon where you will spend hours poring over new and interesting routes from your house and back again, desperately trying not to run the same bit of road twice for fear of mental boredom and factoring in potential loo stops. Not to mention the fact that every 100 metres will count on the long distances and nothing will be added if it doesn’t have to be. All the while, staying away from wildlife, farmers’ fields and private roads that aren’t obvious until you see the sign. Let’s not forget the fact that the further you go, the more likely you are to be running in some random lane hoping that oncoming traffic will see you, in which case adopt the “I’ll dive into the bushes to survive” strategy comes into play.
So, January consisted of getting my warn running gear on and starting the basics, the miles soon built up, adding 3 miles to each of my weekend runs, which allowed me to tick over nicely at 10-12 miles by the end of the month. As I already had a base level of approx. 6 miles, I was already ahead of the programme and something I was keen on in case I got injured or ill during the next 12 weeks before the big runs came along. So, January was complete with a few foot and knee injuries, but the good news is I am on target with my plan. Never a great fan of stretching but I quickly found this had to be my new best friend or I will resemble John Wayne dismounting from his horse on a daily basis.
February has been a challenging month, the weather was particularly cold and windy, and as I’ve pushed my mileage up to the high teens, it has proved ever more challenging. So, from a starting point of 10-12 miles, my runs reached a steady peak of 18 miles for February. Notable runs included 14 miles in to what I felt like a head wind equivalent to a tornado and 18 miles which psychologically felt great to complete in about 3.5 hours and a mid-week run in the snow where I seemed to spend most of the time slipping over and landing on my arse.
As I write this, bringing Feb to a close, I am beginning to really feel the aches in my feet and knees, but a never ending supply of Ibuprofen, sports massages and physio are now required weekly, as is the addition of a cold bath to help my leg muscles recover faster, not exactly the best thing to look forward to after a long run; but it seems to be keeping me upright.
Looking ahead in to March, I must face the prospect of at least two 20-mile training runs where the mental challenge is as hard as the physical one and I am very grateful for the offers of help in the form of running buddies during those distances.
Refuelling and trainers
I have been told many times and the general consensus is try nothing new on marathon day, so I have bought the exact refuelling gels that are given on the event, my plan being to consume about 5 of them on the event itself but having taken 3 on a long training run (every 5 miles or so), number 3 didn’t seem to agree with me, so may need to rethink this. My new trainers have arrived and after much deliberation and advice, I have bought one size bigger than normal which has been great and allows for your feet to swell which they do on long runs, who knew!
Friday 9th March a milestone achieved my first 20-mile training run complete, the last few miles were very hard going but completed none the less, the rest of March has a somewhat downhill feel with two small 15 milers to complete before my last big 20 mile training run on Friday 30th.