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Virgin London Marathon training: Week 16

April 15, 2012

Once you get into the taper, there’s very little you can do to improve your levels of fitness for race day, but there’s an awful lot you can do to ruin your race.

There’s a difficult balance to be struck between hitting the right level of intensity of training – so your miles count for something – and avoiding over-exertion or injury. With my recent hip pain, this has been an opportunity to run as I feel like running depending on the day.

April showers have hit the UK. The summer-like warmth of the past week weeks has been replaced by intermittent sunshine, claps of thunder and sudden, fierce, cold showers. (Of course, we’re still in drought and a hose-pipe ban is in force in areas, but with some parts of the country on flood alert. Go figure.) So, on looking out the office window on Tuesday to see the apocalypse bearing down at the end of the day, I decided to wait until the rain had passed and cut my run short. I knocked out a bit under four miles along Embankment before cycling home in the chilly sunshine.

The next day I opted for a commuter run, determined to run comfortably rather than push any particular pace. After a couple of miles warming up, I felt good and hit my stride on the way into work. On the way home I adopted a similar style, always careful not to over-stretch my stride. In the relatively crossing- and pedestrian-free sections I was knocking out a few sub-7 splits, which marks a big improvement from when I started running with my rucksack.

On Friday I didn’t feel like running. I was a bit tired, and we’d had a guest over to stay the previous night and there had been some nice red wine… One of those days when when the excuses just pile up… However, it was sunny and I forced myself out for at least a few miles to make up for Tuesday’s run. After a mile I was feeling really good and the usual 8.5 miles around Regents Park was a pleasure, and the speed felt comfortable and consistent. I knew it was a good run when, on my way back to the office, a cyclist passed me and shouted some comment about having caught me. He then got stuck at some traffic lights and I never saw him again…

Since fixing my bike, I’ve been cycling about 12 miles most days (except when I’m commuter-running), so I’ve been supplementing my running with cross training. Since Marco, my brother, was spending some quality time in Victoria Station while he waited for his connecting coach between Paris and Shrewsbury I cycled a 20-mile round journey on Saturday to meet him for lunch.

Finally, on Sunday, having put up a flat-pack desk so my girlfriend has a basecamp for Lizzycorp, I set out for my last pre-marathon long run. It was sunny but windy, and my main objective was running comfortably for 13 miles. Now, last year I felt that I was marathon-ready when I managed a sub-40 10k in training. This was a pace that I’ve been hitting consistently each Friday for 8.5 miles, so I was already feeling well-prepared on that front. However, settling into the half-marathon training run I was hitting a decent pace and feeling comfortable and relaxed. At around mile 10 I noticed something a little surprising… Before I ran the Royal Parks Half-marathon last year, I’d had a long-standing PB of 1:24:17 from the Bath Half-marathon. I’d noticed that if I kept my pace, I’d be likely to hit around that time in training. I pushed on – making sure to add a miniature loop to add the all-important 0.1 to the distance – and covered 13.2 miles in 1:24:11. (That’s sub-40 10k pace for 21k.)

This week clocked in at 40 miles. Although those miles will mostly have maintained my levels of fitness, they’ve been psychologically important. I’ve run faster than marathon pace feeling consistently comfortable and strong. All I need now is to make it through the next seven days taking it easy, drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of tasty carbs. I’m ready for race day, and properly looking forward to it too.

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