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My London Marathon 2015 Training Block

Monday, April 6th, 2015

David Sawyer Virgin London Marathon 2015 Giffnock North

My Strava took a battering yesterday.

It’s showing a 1.9M warm up, 10M race, 4.2M warm down, and then a 2.1M run an hour later. 18.2M all told.

That last run’s a bit mad. Following the warm down, I drove two clubmates back to Netherlee on Glasgow’s south side. One of them lives just up the road from me.

After the half hour car journey, I left my motor at his house (500 yards from mine). Car parked, I did two cheeky miles (my fourth run of the day) purely so I could say I’d hit my 60-mile target for the week. I then hopped back in the car and arrived home in time for lunch.

That’s what marathon training does to you.

I do have a friend who was at the same race, training for the same marathon, who got back to the house and seemingly realised she too had fallen short of her weekly target. So she donned kit and ran the 160 metres (yes, .1M) to hit that arbitrary number.

No matter how obsessive you are, there’s always someone in your running circle who’s prepared to go that extra mile, so to speak.

A Look Back at my London Marathon 2015 Training Block

It’s 20 days until the Virgin London Marathon 2015 and I’ve done all the hard work. No more 20-milers, the hardest stuff I’ll do is some Tempos and speedwork.

Oh, and the fat-loading, that’s pretty hard. And the seven-day caffeine fast; don’t like that. And the maranoia, and the niggles that’ll come out of nowhere, and the inevitable injury that’ll see me out for a few days. And the next instalment of Dave vs Dog. Such. Fun!

But at least I’ll not be running 60-mile weeks with lengthy distances at marathon pace.

I digress.

I’ve Found this Training Block Difficult, with Mixed Results

It’s been a cold, wet and windy winter in Scotland. While this hasn’t put me off lacing my running shoes, even once, it has diminished the enjoyment levels somewhat.

But that’s not the real reason it’s been hard. The primary factor is I haven’t seen any real improvement in my running over the last nine weeks.

This might seem a bit glass half empty BUT allow me to explain.

I Love Marathoning and all my Running Builds to Marathons

I’ve run five. This year’s London will be my sixth. Since Edinburgh 2013 I’ve brought my time down just under 20 minutes to 2:43:48.

Happy with that.

But this year I want to go one step further. I want to break 2:40.

I have two opportunities to do this: London in 20 days and Berlin at the end of September.

The best way to put this in context is instead of running 26.2 miles at an average pace of six minutes 15 seconds per mile, I have to run the whole thing at 6s.

It may not sound much, but that’s a big ask. I know many good marathoners stuck in that no man’s land between 2:45 and 2:40. London Championship Place in the bag, it’s so difficult to motivate yourself to push on and break the 2:40 barrier.

So, back in January of this year I decided if I was going to achieve my goal I’d need to mix up my training a little.

What was missing, so I thought, was leg speed. And I’d need that if I was going to shave off those crucial three minutes 49 seconds. Thanks to Nick Reid from Bellahouston Road Runners and Coach Bernie for pointing this out to me, then helping me put it into practice.

Armed with this new information, I dropped my midweek long run on a Wednesday and instead inserted a track session on a Tuesday.

Unfortunately because track bags you a maximum five miles, while my MLRs were between 12 and 15 miles, I had to insert an extra run each week to keep the maintain the mileage. So, running six days a week rather than five.

Another difference: I’d scheduled more races than usual to try and sharpen me up a bit.

The 12-week Block Started Well

A good run in the Renfrewshire 5-mile club race, managing 5:37 pace.

And this after a week-long lay-off in mid-January due to a soleus (calf pull). Things were looking good I thought.

All that Marcothon work had set me up with a good base. I was entering the block in the best shape of my life. This was going to be, if not easy, achievable.

What Happened?

But for seven weeks it never happened for me.

59:11 at Devilla (15k), 47:50 at The National, got lost and missed the start of Down By The Water (block low point:O), then 1:20:33 at the Alloa Half.

This last one was significant because I expected a lot better.

The time was almost three minutes off my previous year’s performance at the same race. The only difference was perfect conditions versus gale force winds in 2014. So, even worse.

So, it’s mid-March, I’d knocked my pan in to no avail and my VLM target time was receding into the distance. My new-found love of Strava wasn’t helping either: all these 13-mile MP sessions at 6s going on the length and breadth of Britain (Nigel Rogerson!).

Aside from the Alloa Half I’d managed one mile at MP in this training block, and that was a struggle!

It’s Monday 16 March

Forty-one days’ ’til the London. What to do? After a day’s thought, I decided on the following:

  • Up the mileage a little.
  • More conditioning work.
  • Insert a Tempo into my weekly programme if I wasn’t getting my Marathon Pace from a race.
  • And keep the faith. Or, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it (cheers, Graeme).

Sorry if you’re reading this thinking what’s this guy moaning about…I’d give my right arm for these times.

Well, as the man with the coolest name in Glasgow running said to me the other day: “It’s all relative.” Thanks, Henry Merriweather (so good, they named a font after him).

Has it worked? Yes.

  • The Sunday after Alloa (five weeks to go) I nailed the best training run of my life. I’ve written about the route and point of the run in previous years. It’s a hilly 25-miler. Last year five weeks out from Berlin I completed it in 3:05. This year I ran it in 2:53:18. A three-hour marathon on a hilly course…in training (with a last mile split of 5:51). Unbelievable support along the way. What being in a club is all about.
Test piece Giffnock North marathon training run.

The Bernie Run.

  • Last Sunday (four weeks to go) I PB’d the Liverpool Half Marathon in 1:17:41 (5:55 pace). I felt strong from seven miles onwards and came 18th.

David Sawyer Giffnock North Liverpool Half Marathon 2015 results.

  • Then yesterday I ran my first 10-miler in 58:42 (again 5:55 pace). Would have been happier breaking 58 but had to resort to a marathon shuffle 8.5 miles on after two sustained bouts of retching saw me seeing stars, almost stop, and lose any semblance of a strong last mile.
David Sawyer Giffnock North Tom Scott Memorial Run 2015.

There were other (less flattering) pictures to choose from.

All three confidence runs. All three showing me I’m on the right track. But, Bernie Run aside, none showing me I’ve made the performance gains I need to break 2:40. So why do I believe I’ve got a chance.

  • The Bernie Run: I beasted it.
  • I save my best for marathons.
  • This is my second London: I know what to expect.
  • I trust in my bizarre taper.
  • You’ve got to believe. Otherwise, what’s the point. Why put in all the effort. Why ask so much from family and friends?

Penultimately, a few facts about my training, for anyone who fancies giving this a go. I’ve had to be flexible this block as I have six and four-year-old, and a busy job, so it hasn’t panned out like this every week:

  • Monday Speed Endurance (Bella RRs), Tuesday Track (GNAAC), Wednesday once or twice round the tolls (4.3M hilly), Thursday Speed Endurance (GNAAC), Friday Dave vs Dog (5.6M hill loops), Saturday (usually Rest), Sunday Long Run.
  • I’ve done three 20-mile+ers (plus two others in January).
  • I’ve only used gels/isotonic drinks once. Glad I did (Bernie Run).
  • For the past month, pretty much nightly, I’ve done 20-30 minutes’ core conditioning work. If anyone wants my programme, email me. It’s worked well. I’ve never been so fit.
  • I’ve averaged (since Monday 26 January) 51 miles a week. If I don’t break 2:40, I’ll know why:O).
  • I’ve done two peak weeks of 61 miles.
  • I’ve had amazing support, particularly from my family, and, of course my “running friends.”

And Finally

As all competitive runners know, sometimes running is difficult. You’re doing everything right, consistently, but not seeing the improvement. The thing is – unless you’ve written a blog about it – no-one remembers these things.

No-one remembers the setbacks. They don’t remember how you did in this or that training session, or that time off with a hamstring pull. They remember, you remember, how you did in the races that count. The races you’re really training for. Even if your training/races don’t indicate you’ll hit your target, you still might.

You’ve just got to believe (my mate PacePusher’s written an excellent post on this subject, and Charlie Spedding wrote a whole book on it).

I Could Crush a Grape

So I’m looking forward to Sunday 26 April. No, scratch that, I’m so excited I could crush a grape. London is THE best running race in the world and I’ll be lining up a few rows back from Mo and the gang.

I’ve given myself a chance. No-one said it was going to be easy.