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Virgin London Marathon training: Week 3

January 22, 2012
A frosty sunrise in Finsbury Park on my way to work

Colder than the tube, but a whole lot more attractive

I’ve still not fixed the puncture on my bike. Call it laziness, an unwillingness to deal with the horrors of Tottenham Hale Halfords, or perhaps pessimism around the longevity of my inner tubes if you will. However, waking up bright and early on Monday morning it quickly became evident that the recent spell of mild weather had broken.

Both Monday and Tuesday were frosty and ended up being double-run days. With daylight saving time still firmly in place in the UK, I generally have to leave the house around sunrise if I’m going to run into work, have a shower and be at my desk in reasonable time. Cutting through the hilly Finsbury Park gives me a great view of the city in the morning light. I packed my camera on Tuesday to make the most of the early morning frost (although in truth the conditions were prettier on Monday).

In all honesty, I’ve not been doing so well at sticking to the runs I’ve had planned. Monday was due to be a rest day, but ended up clocking in at slightly over 12 miles. Wednesday was meant to be a club run, but became a rest day as it was an ideal opportunity to celebrate the successful start of my girlfriend’s freelance enterprise. Thursday became a speedwork/run home rather than a commuter run. Saturday became a steady 6.5-mile run rather than a 13-mile steady run since a lazy morning and preparatory cooking for a dinner party colluded to mean I set out later than I’d originally planned.

However, I don’t see this as a problem. I’m incorporating the key types of run that I’d planned for, and actually running more than I had originally anticipated at this stage in my plan. I clocked up a total of 72 miles this week, which is a good 15–20 miles more than I’ve run previously during my most intense weeks of marathon training. Having built my base over the winter, I’m able to manage this volume without wearing myself down.

Speed is again the thing that I’m thinking about most. Once the cold snap had passed, the end of the week became increasingly windy. My regular threshold run of two loops round Regent’s Park on a Friday was around the same speed as last week (albeit with one mile ducking just under the 6-minute mark). However, with the strength of headwind (and although you might hope for an equally strong tail wind, the wind was only to my back for a small section of each loop) it felt tough and I was fairly pleased with the run.

I feel like I can probably make better progress if I tweak my speedwork run slightly. First off, speedwork should be on a Tuesday so my legs have a chance to recover for the tempo run on Friday. Secondly, I’ve been using a set of three minutes hard one minute easy repeats, which is good for lactate threshold but not necessarily changing gears. The two options I’m thinking about are:

  • Taking a pyramid approach, with one minute moderate, one minute hard, one minute moderate, one minute recovery. A shorter hard section means I can run faster, but the moderate minutes mean that I improve my recovery at speed as moderate should be around marathon pace.
  • Sprint repeats. Because my speedwork sessions typically take place along Embankment, I will have to use lampposts to measure the distance of the sprint and jog recovery.

In practice, I have plenty of time to find what works and gets the best results. However, where I’d originally thought to have one speedwork session every two weeks, I now think one session every week will help me get the progress that I want.

All in all, though, I’m feeling good. I managed a 2 hour 50 minute long slow hilly run with no carb gels, and although it was hard work I didn’t feel the energy crash I’ve sometimes felt on long runs before. We’ll see whether I can maintain the energy levels over next week’s 20-mile steady run.

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