The Penultimate Long Run

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 21.25.09With only five weeks left until the Brighton Marathon, I figured that I’ve just about got enough time for two more long runs before the big day.

While most marathon training programs suggest a maximum of 20 miles in the final long run before the marathon, I’m not convinced. For me, being able to run an extra 6 miles (10K) for the first time on race day seems optimistic at best – if there’s a wall at 20 miles then it makes sense to me that that’s where I’d hit it if I’d never gone beyond it before. After all, with my pace, we are talking about more than an hour on top of that to finish a marathon.

So, my plan for today’s run was to run something between 35 and 37K, or four and a half hours, depending on how it went.

To be honest, I wash’t really feeling up for it this morning. Despite getting up early, my stomach wasn’t quite ready for running until after 8:00 am, which meant that I would finish later than I had planned. Still, as it is Saturday, I had the whole day so it didn’t really matter that much.

I didn’t plan a route and thought it better to just play it by ear in case I decided to cut it short. My stomach still wasn’t great when I headed out so I wasn’t going to take any chances by heading off towards Saltdean too early. Instead, I ran along some of the main roads in Hove for the first 10K, until nature called me down to the public toilets on the seafront.

Once all of that was sorted, I took my first gel and decided that I would be fine to head to Saltdean on the undercliff path.

The first half of the run went really well. I took a gel every hour, stuck to my ratio, hydrated at every walk break and was on pace to hit my target of 37K in 4:30. But then at around 23K things started to slow down.

I know that you can’t run that kind of distance without some discomfort, and I can usually handle the aches in my calves and the backs of my thighs, but not today. Today just after 23 kilometres, I had to stop, just for a few minutes, to stretch out my legs before I could go on.

The stretching seemed to do the trick and the pain went for long enough to get me through the marina and back onto the promenade. But by then I faced another problem. People!

While I love seeing runners and walkers and cyclists out on the promenade, by late morning the place was crammed with people with dogs and scooter powered children, strolling along, taking their time and generally making things too crowded to run. Frustrating as this was, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to drop my ratio to negotiate the crowds and, once I got back to Hove Lawns, I made my escape to the main road.

By this point I had covered over 30 kilometres and, while my legs were pretty much shot, I still felt confident that I could get to 37K within 4:30. The only problem though, was that the pain in my legs was getting a lot worse and I was having to stop more and more frequently to stretch, so I decided to make a deal with myself. I would run for 4:30 and then finish whichever kilometre I was on before calling it day.

So that’s what I did. 36K in 4:31:19 – just one kilometre short of my goal and just over six short of a marathon. Not bad going all things considered.

In terms of running 42.2K before marathon day, I can’t see that happening, but if I can add another few kilometres to my final long run in two weeks time, I’ll be happy with that.

How’s your training going? How far do you run for your final long run before a marathon? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Painfully Slow

2015-01-17_SummaryThis morning’s run was to be all about upping the distance for my marathon training. So far, my longest run was 24K; so today I wanted to improve on that. The plan was to run for three and a half hours and try to get somewhere in the region of 28K, although I’d be happy with 27.

Weather wise, it didn’t look too bad. The wind had died down and there was a bit of sunshine for a change, although the temperature was still pretty low. Still, anything can happen in three and a half hours, so I decided to wear my waterproof jacket. It’s more for hiking than for running, but it’s still fairly lightweight, windproof and breatheable, so it would do the job.

As I was going to be out for a while, I decided to take my CamelBak and use the bladder for water and a separate bottle for my electrolyte drink. This made it much easier to carry other things, like my phone, keys, PowerGels and my jacket if I decided it was warm enough to take it off.

Funnily enough, I did just that. It was lovely and sunny down on the seafront and I warmed up fairly quickly, so after a couple of kilometres I ditched the jacket and carried it in the back pack. This was so much nicer than having it tied around my waist!

I ran East along the seafront towards Saltdean, taking in the hill on the marathon and half-marathon route. Unlike the road that is used for the races, however, the path along the side of the road undulates along the line of the cliffs. While this probably made the uphills a bit steeper, it did offer a welcome reprieve on the downhills, so I guess it balances out.

I took my first gel after an hour and turned round at Rottingdean to head back to Brighton with a moderate headwind to keep things interesting. Although it was hard running against the wind (I was basically on top of a cliff after all!), it wasn’t as bad as last weekend. For one thing, the wind didn’t feel too cold, and for another, it wasn’t raining… yet!

The rain did come though. Just as I was nearing the end of Marine Drive, the wind picked up and the rain started. I didn’t want to stop running to get my jacket out, so I put up with it until my running segment was finished. And in the nick of time too!

Just as I’d got the jacket on, the wind picked up some more, driving the heavy rain straight at me. Luckily I was about to head down to sea level at that point, which I hoped would mean the wind wouldn’t be quite as bad. As it turned out, the rain didn’t last for very long, but the sky was looking pretty stormy over Shoreham so I decided to keep my jacket on just in case.

I took another PowerGel just after the two hour mark. I was feeling ok, but the old legs were starting to get a bit tired. The pace had slowed down quite a bit, what with the wind and rain and everything, and I knew that I would have to pick things up a bit if I was going to hit 28K.

I passed my starting point at about 17.5K and did some quick maths to figure out how far I would need to run before turning back. I figured that I would have to use the full stretch of the road along the industrial estate towards Shoreham Harbour to get the distance; or just run for 40 minutes out and then 40 minutes back to get the three and a half hours in.

This particular stretch of Industrial Estate is also part of the race routes so it’s not unusual to see other runners out there. It is also affectionately know as ‘The Road To Hell’, which lived up to it’s name after only a kilometre or so when I ran straight into ice cold horizontal winds and rain.

Needless to say, I promptly turned on my heel and ran, or rather shuffled, as fast as I could to escape it. This, of course, meant that I would return to my starting point too early and, as my legs were pretty much ready to fall off by this point, I was worried that I might be tempted to call it a day once I got there.

Luckily I still had a couple of kilometres to sort my head out and, once the rain stopped driving into my back, I realised that it wasn’t going to be a problem. If I slowed down, relaxed and just shuffled along, I could still get 27 kilometres done in the time. I just had to ignore the pain, focus on the ratios and get the job done.

So that’s what I did. I passed the starting point, did a little loop, passed the starting point again and started following the path home until I’d completed 27K.

I was pleased that I’d managed it in just under three and a half hours and, even though my legs were starting to seize up, the old IT band had managed to hold out.

After today’s run, I’m doubtful as to whether or not I’ll have time to run 42K before the Brighton Marathon in April, but time will tell. For now, I’m just glad I got the job done.

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Mixing Things Up A Bit

Running the same old route can be useful in terms of motivation and progress as you run past points that you struggled with in the past, but it can also become a little bit tedious after a while. That thought, along with the fact that the Brooks Brighton 10K was taking place on the seafront this morning, prompted me to try something a little bit different.

My goal for today was to do a 13K Run-Walk-Run, using a 3:1 Run:Walk ratio, but instead of running along the promenade and out towards Shoreham Power Station, I decided to mix things up a little bit and get some much needed trail and hill running in.

Knowing that this was going to be a tough run, what with the hills and the muddy trail that I planned on taking, I decided to start off with three laps of Hove Rec. The nice thing about this part of the route is that each lap is about 1 kilometre and has some nice gentle inclines, which would be a great warm up for the rest of the run. I kept the pace nice and slow, enjoying the cool breeze and drizzle, before heading down to Hove Park.

The park was pretty quiet as I jogged along the eastern side of the parkrun loop, sticking to my ratio as I took in the steep incline before descending and heading into the wooded area and the first major challenge of today’s run.

The first part of the trail wasn’t too muddy, but before long I found that the incline was a bit more than I could handle. Still, determined not to give up, I altered my ratio to 30 seconds walking, followed by 30 seconds running. This worked for a while, but proved to be pretty hard going, especially as the trail started to become a bit muddier.

The hardest part, however, was yet to come. Once I emerged from the trees, I was faced with a lovely grassy slope which, although not particularly muddy or slippery under my trail shoes, proved to be difficult to run on. The problem was that as well as running up the slope, I was also running across it, with one foot always slightly more ‘uphill’ than the other. I knew right away that any attempt to run in this way wasn’t going to do my dodgy ankle any good, so I did the sensible thing and walked until I got to the top.

After that though, the rest of the run was great. I crossed the road and ran on some nice open grassy trails, made friends with some dogs and got back into my stride. I stuck to the 3:1 ratio as much as possible, stopping only for mud, dogs and gates, before crossing back over the road and returning to reap my rewards on the run down the hill.

Funnily enough, the run back down was a breeze and didn’t feel half as muddy as on the way up. I still took it fairly slowly though as the rain on my glasses meant that I couldn’t see as well as I would have liked, but I emerged unscathed and feeling very happy having completed 9.5 kilometres of the 13 that I’d planned.

Of course, I wasn’t going to give up there, so I headed back to the park to complete a lap and two thirds before heading for the pavements and a nice jog along the roadside to bring my distance up to 13K.


In the end, it was a very slow run, what with all the extra walk breaks and having to stop to cross some roads, but it was good to do something different for a change. And, with 13K in the bag, I’m feeling pretty good about getting myself ready for my first half-marathon and marathon next year.

How’s your training going? What do you do to mix things up a bit? Have you tried something new to help pull yourself out of a slump? Please share your thoughts in the comments.