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Paris Marathon training: Week 6

December 15, 2009

Week 6 of the training plan was the second week of juggling distance with preparation for a 10k race. The challenge of this was that I had a sub-40 10k in my sights, I’d been planning for it for a while, and had come tantalisingly close, and although the Andy Reading 10k would be my penultimate race over this distance this year, the chances of running a memorable time on Boxing Day are rather limited.

The week started very positively. My Sunday long run was a repeat of the distance covered two weeks ago, where I had fallen substantially short of my target time. Instead of running the same route round Oxford, I mapped out a nice long run around Abgingdon, down to Sutton Courtney, back up through Abingdon to Dalton and then back home. The sun was shining, and it was such a perfect morning for a long run that it was a real pleasure. Only in the final 2km did I start feeling some burn in my quads from the distance, and I completed the 26.3km (just over 16 miles) in under 2 hours.

This run made me wonder about what makes a good run. And I mean good in the sense of enjoyable rather than a drudging chore. Runs tend to fall into three categories:

  • Loops (may include laps) – are generally a neat circuit, which may involve some criss-crossing, a small amount of duplication, but with different scenery throughout. Most races are loops.
  • Out-and-backs – are often a case of running a certain distance in one direction before doing a neat turnaround and running the same course in the other direction. Around here, the Waddesdon 5k and the Andy Reading 10k are both examples.
  • Point-to-points – are where you run a course and start at A and end at B, and then have to work out how to get back to A, since that’s probably where you’ve parked your car. The Great North Run is probably the best-known point-to-point race.

I know a lot of people dislike laps (largely because you have the same scenery), but I quite like them. My 20.5km run around Abingdon consists of two (scenically lacking) laps around the town’s ringroad, which is good for monitoring progress as you can see how long you take to reach certain points on each lap. (I hesitate to use the word ‘milestone’ because half the problem is that it’s not a distance-marked route.)

Personally, I find out-and-back runs rather depressing. You cover a good distance only to turn around and do it again, with the same scenery, elevation, etc. I think it’s the lack of a break in the repetition – at least with a loop it’ll take you a while to get round to the same piece of scenery. An out-and-back at the mid-point feels a little like a Tom & Jerry cartoon chase scene with the same doors and tables flashing past. (However, I quite enjoyed the Waddesdon Manor race, but that might have been because it was over such a short distance that the repetition didn’t seem too bad.)

Sunday: 26.3km @ 4:24 per km

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 12.9km @ 4:17 per km

Wednesday: 11.5km @ 4:00 per km

Thursday: Reps on the track – 2 x 200m, 2 x 300m, 3 x 400m, 2 x 300m, 2 x 200m

Friday: 5.9km @ 4:20 per km

Saturday: Rest

This brought the weekly distance in at 56.6km, which felt comfortable. The speed session on Thursday was tough – especially with the track freezing over before we’d even started – and the slightly stunted run on the Friday was designed to stretch out my legs and take out any lactic acid. All this in preparation for the big race on Sunday, with a clearly defined goal: to run 10km in under 40 minutes before the end of the year…

Finally, if you’ve not already done so, please go to www.justgiving.com/lewis-birchon and sponsor me. I’m running the Paris Marathon (and the Bath Half Marathon, and innumerable other shorter races) to raise money for The Stroke Association. Anything you can give would be greatly appreciated, and up until I hit the £500 mark, matched pound for pound by my employer.

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