It’s been six months since I last blogged…
While that might sound more like an introduction at a Bloggers Anonymous gathering, it’s true that I’ve neglected the blog since I ran the Paris Marathon back in April… mainly as I’ve been preoccupied with summer, work and a building project on my flat. But now that autumn’s here, and I’m settled back home, I thought I’d reflect on how my running has progressed since April.
For two months after the marathon, I cut-back on my running, to give my body a well-earnt rest. I joined a local gym and signed up to an 8-week ‘Body-Blast’ programme. I reduced my running from 5 times (40 miles) a week to 2 times (15 miles) a week, and replaced the pounding of pavements with pumping of iron. And, it seemed to pay off…
On 20th July, I started a 12-week running programme ahead of the Royal Parks Half Marathon, which I took part in last Sunday. My aim was to try and complete the 13.1 miles in 1:45 – previously my PB was 1:49 from March this year – so I was looking to shave a whole 4 minutes off my time.
Straight away I seemed to be faster… and over the weeks I got stronger and faster still. 12 weeks, 380 miles, and 55 runs later I achieved my goal and more, by slipping under the 1:45 target with a 1:44:46 finish time and a new PB!
All this goes to prove to me how valuable it is to give your body a rest every now and again, and also how important it is to build strength training into your running regime – to not only avoid injury, but to carve seconds off your race pace.
A week has now passed since the Paris Marathon, and I’ve spent the last 7 days reflecting on the experience and what I (and 40,171 other people) have achieved.
Paris is one of my favourite cities having lived there about 20 years ago – so I was looking forward to a weekend in this special city. Of course it was no ordinary weekend – it included a 26.2 mile (or 42.19km) run taking in some of the world’s most iconic sights. And the weather was stunning too – albeit a bit hot for such a run.
After the lower back injury that I sustained 3 weeks before, I had been “signed off” by Jess, my osteopath and fellow BeaRCat runner, who said I was ready to go and attempt my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon. I was excited and nervous, but thankful that the week before was busy with work and various other things, giving me little time to worry or think about the impending challenge.
Nicky and I flew across on the Saturday morning and headed straight to the runners’ expo where we picked up our bibs, took in the pre-race atmosphere and had a typical French brasserie lunch, before checking into our hotel. A carb-loading feast ensued and we were tucked up in bed by 10.30pm ready for a good 8 hours sleep.
We woke to bright blue skies and sunshine streaming into the room and after an eventful breakfast (where I got stuck in the hotel lift for a tense 10 minutes) we headed onto the Metro towards the start-line at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and the Arc de Triomphe.
There was a bit of hanging around at the start before our wave was sent on our way – and at about 9.40 we were off! It was quite something to run down the Champs-Elysées and around Place Concorde. The atmosphere was incredible. The crowds were out in force with motivational bands playing along the route. I made every effort to absorb all of the sights and sounds and enjoy the experience of running the marathon after all the weeks of training. I was aware of my back though-out, nervous that at any point it could go, but I am amazed to say that it held out.
The first 16 miles went well. I was following my pace band – with a 3 hour 55 target in my sights. And then it all started to unravel. The 17th mile was TOUGH. I was a whole minute slower and my legs were starting to tire. I picked it up again between 18 and 20 miles – but only by 30 seconds a mile – so still slower than the pace I needed to get that sub 4 hour goal. Mile by mile, I saw this goal slip from my grasp… At this point, it was about getting around, and in as fast a pace as I could. I regularly tucked into the water at each water station – the conditions were hot! And I consumed all 6 of my gels by the 23rd mile. The last 6 miles/10k were gruelling. It took every ounce of motivation to keep plodding on.
I finally crossed the line in 4:05:26 – a whole 11 minutes faster than my last London Marathon in 2010. So, despite not achieving the sub 4 hour goal – I’m mightily pleased with my achievement. And yes, it’s just a matter of when and where, but I will definitely do another!
The marathon would not have been possible if it hadn’t have been for a number of people, so my huge thanks must go to:
1. Jess from The Maris Practice – Jess performed her magic on my lower back, and alignment over a number of sessions in the 3 weeks running up to the big day. And what’s even more incredible is that there have been no issues post-marathon – it seems to have healed completely. It was also a bonus that Jess – a runner as well – had loads of great advice as well as her healing hands!
2. The BeaRCat Running Club – my thanks and congratulations to fellow BeaRCats who ran the Paris Marathon also – Nicky, Alison, John, Lee, Geoff and Chris. And of course to our leader Caitlin – who was running the Brighton Marathon at the same time along with a number of other BeaRCats. They are an incredible bunch of people first, and runners second, and I am proud to wear the BeaRCat vest.
3. Sporting Feet in Richmond – Thanks to Dominic and the gang at Sporting Feet in Richmond who helped me with the most important foundation of running – that of my trainers, along with fabulous advice and support when choosing my Garmin and other running paraphernalia. They are great supporters of local running in the community through their sponsorship of local races, as well as being a friendly bunch of people if you want to pop into the shop and have a natter.
4. Local Races and Parkruns – a huge thank you to all the volunteers who selflessly give up their time to help organise these races which are such an important part of our training regimes. Particular mention and thanks goes to the Richmond Half Marathon, Thames Riverside Half Marathon, the Thameside 20 and Old Deer Park Parkrun organisers and volunteers.
5. Hot Yoga in Richmond – throughout my training I attended a weekly Bikram Method Hatha Yoga class with Jonny and his team of great teachers at Hot Yoga in Richmond. I ramped up my yoga while I was injured through the last 3 weeks ahead of the marathon, and I think this helped maintain my fitness, while ensuring I was giving my body the stretching and loosening that it needed, not to mention the benefits of mindfulness.
My final thanks goes out to all family and friends who sponsored me and Nicky. We have raised over £1,000 (including gift aid) for two extremely important charities – Alzheimer’s Society and Mind. Both Nicky and I both have personal reasons for raising funds for these charities – and we’re so very grateful for everyone’s kind donations.
So, as I sign-off on my final instalment of The 4Ps series, my final take-away is that while things in life might not go perfectly to plan, it’s what we learn and experience along the way that’s important, which all adds to the great adventure that is life!
Thank you for reading and happy running!
9 weeks down, 7 to go!
It’s a great feeling to be past the halfway point in my training for the Paris Marathon… and so to test my progress and see whether I’m on track for my goal (sub 4 hours), today I took part in my first race of the year… The Old Deer Park Richmond Half Marathon organised by Energized Sports.
After a good night’s sleep and a guilt-free carb-heavy dinner, I woke to a frosty but beautifully sunny morning… I had my usual breakfast of porridge, blueberries and banana, followed by a pint of water mixed with a High5 Sports Zero Active Hydration tablet (packed full of essential electrolytes).
Nicky picked me up and we headed the short distance to Old Deer Park in Richmond, joining fellow BeaRCat Runners Sarah and Kerry for a pre-race selfie… And then we were off!
The course is made up of a little over 2 loops, starting in Old Deer Park, and heading around Kew Gardens down the Kew Road, and back along the Thames towpath. From there it goes up into Richmond, around the green, and back down to the towpath, up the steps to Twickenham Bridge and back into and through Old Deer Park… And then repeat. The course had been adjusted slightly as there was considerable water in Old Deer Park from the high tides over the last few days.
It was a beautiful morning for a run and despite the wet and muddy towpath and grassy areas of Old Deer Park, the course was flat and enabled me to get my fastest half marathon to date of 1:49:33 – crucially sneaking under the 1:50 mark!
Now this is significant for me – as I aim for a sub-4 hour Paris Marathon… In order to give yourself the best chance of completing the marathon in under 4 hours, apparently you should be running sub 1:50 halfs… so at just over the halfway point in my training, it’s a good feeling to get this result. There’s still loads to do, and many risks to combat, but for today, I’m going to relish the moment!
Week 1 of 16 done! This week was considered a “Warm-Up” week, aimed at getting me back into the swing of training six times a week after some time off post Norwich Half Marathon in November.
It was a tough week all-in-all – I felt quite stiff and achy at the beginning – and it’s been hard work juggling the runs with all the festivities. The week’s training included a mixture of running, cross-training (Bikram-Method Yoga) and rest, as follows: I was staying at my brother’s down in Rowland’s Castle for Christmas, and it was a welcome change to run some new routes – they just happened to be my fastest of the week too 🙂 Here are a couple of photos from this week’s runs – the first on Christmas Day as it was such a beautiful day and the second was taken on Saturday’s long run (my last long run of 2014), which ended under a stunning sunset!
If you’re familiar with marketing, you’ll recognise the 4 Ps as the Marketing Mix of product, price, place and promotion.
Just as a marketer would plan the perfect launch of a shiny new product, I’ve applied this thinking to my campaign to successfully realise a Personal Best (PB) at the Paris Marathon on Sunday 12 April 2015.
- Product – in this case, I’m trying to develop/realise the perfectly formed PB. How do I turn my running into a sub 4 hour reality?
- Price – how much is this going to cost me, both physically and mentally (not to mention financially), and how do I find the optimum combination of the two so I don’t burn out too early, by getting injured or all-consumed, to the detriment of day-to-day life?
- Place – on the big day the PB will be attempted/realised in Paris, but the training will take place around London over the next 16 weeks, with a few ski resorts thrown in too!
- Promotion – and we all know that you’re more likely to achieve a goal if you visualise it, and commit it to writing – better still publicly – through a plan, which is where this blog comes in…
I’ve been reading many different programmes, taking advice from some seasoned runners and fellow BeaRCats, as well as reflecting on my own previous experiences of running the London Marathon twice… And the overriding consensus is that there’s no one-size fits all plan. As Dominic from Sporting Feet, Richmond said “It’s about intelligent running” and Caitlin, founder of The BeaRCat Running Club added “Think quality if you are looking for a time…”
We all lead busy lives, and therefore need to be flexible in our approach to training for a big challenge such as this, otherwise we are only setting ourselves up for failure. It does however need to start with a plan, and yes expect to deviate from the plan, but you still need to have a starting point from which to focus and somewhere to return to, when you do go off-piste.
My programme begins tomorrow – Christmas week – a prime example of having to juggle busy lives with running…
My plan is a combination of a Hal Higdon programme, Nike Plus coach, and various other contributors, including Caitlin of the BeaRCats. If you’re interested in reading it, you can view it here: Paris Training Programme.
You can also follow my progress to Paris right here with my weekly review, tips and tricks. And of course, if you’ve got any words of wisdom, I’d love to hear from you.
Happy Christmas and happy running!
Richmond and Running – Two things that I love…
And these two things came together on Sunday in the form of the Richmond Half Marathon, culminating in me achieving my first goal of 2014 – that elusive Personal Best (PB)!
Sunday’s half marathon was my second half of 2014, with the first being the inaugural Hampton Court Half Marathon on Sunday 23rd February. Sadly the Hampton Court half had a marshalling error which resulted in the course being 0.4 miles shorter than the requisite 13.1 miles, so my official race finishing time of 1:50:34, while a PB by a long shot, was not an official PB in terms of the distance… 😦
So, come Sunday, the pressure was on to post an official PB. And, it feels great that all my training (and hibernating) since January has finally paid off with a time of 1:52:21!
It is only right as a runner first, and a blogger second to summarise my key take-outs from yesterday’s run… which now holds a very special place in my heart for the following five reasons:
- As a BeaRCat Runner – I joined the BeaRCats at the end of last year, and as I’ve mentioned before, they are a really lovely community of like-minded individuals, who all happen to enjoy running. I’ve run for years but have never pushed myself, and in the short space of time that I’ve been running with the BeaRCats, I’ve seen my pace improve week on week, month on month. It might be an individual sport, but running with the BeaRCats is running as part of a team. This is typified by the fact that the mile 11 water station was manned by Caitlin and fellow BCs (such a welcome sight!) and the first person I saw immediately at the end of both the Hampton Court half and the Richmond half was John Reece (a fellow blogger) cheering us all in!
- As a TRObot – I not only ran as part of the BeaRCat team yesterday, but I was also proud to be one of the TRObots, a team of 7 TROers. We work locally, in Old Isleworth, looking out over the tow-path that we ran along yesterday, and as a team we ran for local charity SPEAR – a charity helping homeless people in South West London rebuild their lives. The team all did amazingly well, from posting a top-20 finish dressed as a banana, to achieving PBs. And Nicky who was sadly unable to run, due to injury, was an absolute TROjan on the water station at mile 11. What’s next for the TRObots?
- As a Local – I’ve lived in the area (St Margarets) for a little over 3 years now, and before that was on the other side of Richmond, in East Sheen for 5 years. Richmond is such a special place and I feel so lucky to live here. With its parks, the river running through, its history, and its town centre, it’s the most beautiful of London boroughs. The run (thankfully) took in the flattest part of Richmond, mostly along the Thames tow-path. It was difficult terrain however, and congested at times along the path, but a beautiful route nonetheless.
- As a Goal-Setter – I’ve been following a 9 week training plan on my Nike+ app since January, and while I haven’t religiously stuck to it, I’ve been pretty dedicated. This app has 100% helped me achieve my PB this year – I thoroughly recommend it. The only downside is it’s hard to keep track of your speed when it’s tucked in your pocket and it’s noisy (traffic).
- As a Runner – I’ve now run 6 half marathons – from the West Coast of Scotland (MOKRUN) to the South of England (Brighton) and I’m developing quite a taste for this distance. All have been very different, but all of them hold special memories for me. My first was the Great North Run in 1999, and my previous PB was recorded at Silverstone in 2010. But given my love of Richmond, my new running pals in the form of the BeaRCats and TRObots, and my new PB, the Richmond half now has my heart!