Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Journey So Far.......

The decision to run another marathon was easily made. It was while running my first marathon in Dublin that I made up my mind: I was going to do this again. I remember vividly when that happened. It was when that particular marathon began to go inevitably wrong.  I had ran myself to a stop and at that point it did not look like I was going to finish the race. I did go on to finish in fits and stops and through much pain. I understand it is at this point that some runners tell themselves - never again! Surprisingly it had the opposite effect on me. I was viscerally determined to do another one and do it well.

Once the decisions was made to run another marathon the next step was to pick a particular race, set goals and have a plan.  I wanted a marathon in spring, close to home and one I could train for with minimal disruptions to the rest of my life. I finally settled for Milton Keynes Marathon billed for the 29th of April 2012. I would have loved to do London Marathon but I could not get a place.

The goals for this race are:
1. Finish in about 4hrs.
2. Run the entire marathon
3. Get the pacing right.

It was finding the right plan that was the problem. I scoured the Internet, I spoke to people who should know and I read a book or two. One of the books I read was Hal Higdon's "Ultimate Training Guide To The Marathon". I loved the book so much I picked one of Higdon's plans - the advanced training plan. At the time it seemed like an overly ambitious plan because of the mileage and there's only one rest day per week (I love my rest days). This was going to be quite a leap for me but I settled for this plan because firstly, I wanted to train hard for this marathon. Secondly, I have set myself the goal of running 2000 miles in 2012 so I needed a plan that would help me build up the miles.

To be on the safe side I picked a second plan - an easier one just in case I could not cope with the first one.

Eleven weeks have flown by and it has been a steep learning curve. There have been days when the workouts have been daunting. I have put in the miles and time and have grown to love this plan. I am committed to it now. There's no way I am going to abandon it now. I am going to see this through to the end.

Staying with the plan is one thing but has there been any positive result? In the last two weeks I have taken part in two races to see how much I have improved with all the training I have been doing. The first one was a half marathon and the second one was a ten mile race.

The half marathon was the Roding Valley half marathon held on the 26th of February 2012. This was a tough course – hilly and undulating. My goals for this race were simple – get the pacing right and finish between 1 hour fifty-two minutes and one hour fifty-five minutes. No PB chasing here. The plan was to do the first mile in about ten minutes, do the next six miles in fifty four minutes and finish the remaining six miles in about fifty minutes.

I started out slowly and did the first mile just under ten minutes. The first seven miles was completed in sixty-two minutes. The remaining six miles was done in fifty-four minutes to finish the race in one hour fifty-six minutes, twenty-seven seconds. It was tough going with all those hills. I was surprised at my pace later because it did not feel like I was going that fast.

The second race I did was the Self-Transcendence 10Mile race at Battersea Park, London held on the 3rd of March six days after the half marathon. Now this was not a planned race. The Marathon Training plan called for 10-mile run at marathon pace on that day. I did not feel like doing that run on my own which was rather surprising because I am something of a lone runner. So while browsing the Runnersworld UK website I found this race and decided to give it a go. I needed the company of other runners. And there is something about running in a group that brings out the best in you.

It turned out to be a race that I enjoyed a lot. This was a well-organized race with just two hundred and thirty-four runners on a course that was flat, scenic and well marshalled. This one had PB potential written all over it but just like with the Roding Half Marathon I just wanted to get the pacing right under pressure. I finished the race in one hour, thirty minutes, fifteen seconds. This was a good run and the pacing was very good. The first mile was done in ten minutes. I was able to keep it around nine minutes per mile for the next eight miles. I picked up the pace in the last mile to finish strong. 

I told the story of the two races to answer the question – has there been any positive result with all the training I have been doing? I am satisfied with the results from both races. There has been massive improvement in stamina and pacing. I am not starting out too fast anymore and I am getting to a point where I can hold a pace no matter what. I had a plan for both races and I stuck with it. Also, I have been doing 40-50 miles per week lately and according to the training plan will go up to just under 60 over the next four weeks. That I am able to handle that kind of load is an indication that I have grown stronger.

So far it is going according to plan. That wraps up Phase one of my marathon training. Phase Two is already under way. I will keep you posted.

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