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Virgin London Marathon training: Week 1

January 8, 2012
Edinburgh seen from Edinburgh Castle

Destination Edinburgh, the venue of my second marathon of 2012

January is the start of many things – a new year, resolutions, and many a marathon training plan. Consequently, I spent the final couple of days of 2011 thinking about my training plan for this year’s marathon campaign. Yes, I’m running the Virgin London Marathon on 22 April 2012, but I’m also running the Edinburgh Marathon on 27 May 2011.

With two marathons to train for – the first pretty much pancake flat and the second undulating for the first six miles or so before becoming flat – I decided to try something a bit different with my marathon training plan. You can read about the rationale for its structure in this post.

With the training plan meticulously drawn up, it only seems inevitable and in the fevered spirit of January that I failed to keep to it.

My first run fell on a bank holiday, so I had decided that this would be the first of my paced long runs. I had set myself an average pace of 7:00 minutes per mile for 17.5 miles (the first and last mile and a quarter of the route are along busy roads with crossings, so maintaining pace the whole time is difficult if not dangerous). In the event, it turned out to be a perfect day for running and I managed an average pace of 6:52. the exact pace needed for a 3-hour marathon.

Tuesday was meant to be a rest day, but since I’d not quite got round to fixing my bike (a repeated flat tyre had blighted the end of 2011) I caught the tube to work and ran home using the Innov8 running backpack my girlfriend got me for Christmas. Despite carrying a full day’s clothing and negotiating rush hour traffic, I managed a few decent splits.

By Wednesday I still hadn’t got round to fixing my bike, so I decided to run into and home from work. I considered including the scheduled workout (a 7.2-mile tempo run with Serpentine) in my plans, but common sense made me think twice about clocking up 19 miles mid-week.

Thursday was a rest day. Or, more accurately, Thursday was a rest day on my training schedule. Instead I tubed in and ran home.

My mile splits from the tempo run around Regent's Park

My mile splits from the tempo run around Regent's Park

Now, Friday was scheduled to be a commuter run. However, having skipped the tempo run on Wednesday, I knew that I needed to include some faster running if I was to get the best out of my week’s training. So, at lunchtime, I ran down to Regent’s Park, did two laps of the park and then ran back to the office. The whole run is around 8.5 miles.

When I take this route, I time myself round one lap (which is around 2.75 miles) and then try to match or beat that time on the second lap. I tried not to focus on my mile splits, but couldn’t help notice they were faster than I had expected (and kept reminding myself that despite this I was feeling fine).

Last year, my final training run before the London Marathon had been a 10k tempo which I’d finished in 39:45. I had taken the sub-40 in training as a good sign of being marathon-ready. On Friday I crossed the 10k mark (despite the first mile of my run including the crossing of – the very busy – Marylebone Road) at around 39 minutes dead and kept the average pace at sub-40 10k speed for the full 8.5 miles. I took this as a good sign.

Despite my schedule calling for a 13-mile paced run on Saturday, I was sensible and took a rest day. (Recovery is as important a part of a schedule as the running.) This meant that I was fresh for the following day’s timed hilly run.

In previous years, I’ve used a paced long run each weekend to build my distance. However, this has often meant that I’ve stuck to the same routes and so built mental blocks around certain landmarks (for example, reaching Hyde Park I’d always inadvertently reinforce the feeling that things were going to get tough because I wasn’t yet headed back home). So, alternating between paced and timed long runs should help me get past this. Similarly, a change of surface and incorporation of hills should help me build strength and endurance and reduce the risk of a foot injury.

So, on Sunday I headed up to Highgate and Hampstead Heath for some off-road hilly running, aiming to be on my feet for around two and a half hours. I spent most of the run exploring the woods on the Heath – alongside loads of other runners. At one point, I was running slightly in front of a guy going about the same pace as me, and seeing a crossing of paths ahead took the one that seemed most interesting. Sadly it was quickly apparent that it was a dead end, and the other runner had followed me! We joked briefly about this before setting back off on our different routes. Maybe it’s a New Year thing, or the solidarity of winter marathon training, but people seemed much more friendly out this week.

Anyway, due to heading back up the immense hill to Highgate a little early, I was only on my feet for 2:22, during which time I clocked off 19 miles and 441 metres of elevation gain. On returning home, before I did anything else, I cooked up the mushroom and Stilton omelette I’d been craving for the last six or seven miles of the run. It tasted every bit the recovery food of champions.

So, despite going off-piste, I still managed 70.25 miles of running – pretty much bang on my target mileage for the week. But more importantly, I’m feeling strong and fast this early into the training plan. 2012 is already beginning to feel like a good year.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 5:58 pm

    Great work! I will be following your progress.


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