Marathon Madness Begins

Marathon Madness Begins

Catch Up

It’s that time of year again. Marathon training. My blog has been a little quiet of late, which is a shame because I have been training hard and have been involved in some great events. I have decided to blog every week now leading up to the London Marathon. You can all keep an eye on what I am doing and how my preparation is coming along. The style of my blog may change somewhat in this marathon block, as I get a bit more technical and delve in to the finer parts of my training plan but hopefully you all have a little running geek inside who is interested in mile splits and lactate threshold. If not, I’ll try and post some more ‘cool kid’-friendly posts reviewing some of the lead-up races I compete in, the kit I use, the people I meet, and the madness that goes through my head.

After my peroneal tendonitis (ankle niggle as I like to call it) I shied away from the track and hard intervals and decided to rack up my mileage instead. Lots of easy miles was the order of the day. I am self-coached and coming from a scientific background I like to dig deep in to research to understand how to train and why. I’ve been told I run too far and too slow. The difference between my easy miles and my race pace is too vast. What’s the point in running all of these junk miles? Well I’ll tell you. My easy runs are used to improve my general aerobic endurance. Geek alert. One of the main benefits of running at an easy or steady pace is the aerobic adaptations which improve capillarization, mitochondria, aerobic enzymes and cardiorespiratory adaptations1. I didn’t say it was interesting.

As my easy miles got easier, I added in tempo sessions. Some were shorter tempos but my favourite is the 10 mile tempo. Running at a difficult, but not all out pace for 10 miles has always brought me great gains. It helps improve my lactate threshold and gives me confidence.

Not forgetting the long run. I always include a long run in my week. It is the most important session of any runner’s week, and even more so if you regard yourself as a marathoner.

In December I set myself a 400 mile challenge, and publicly announced this on social media (IG:@thewelshrunner). The support was overwhelming and really spurred me on as I plugged away each day, marking off the miles on my office white board as I progressed. As the month grew to a close I had racked up 410 miles including 4 races. I ran each race on tired legs, and removed all the pressure I normally place on myself. Times don’t matter in December I decided, and just went in to each race to work hard and enjoy the competitive element of racing. Despite this relaxed approach I picked up a Bronze medal in the Welsh Inter-Regional Cross Country Championships; a runner’s up place the following day in the hellish sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr; a 5 mile PB of 25:34 on Boxing Day whilst still stuffed with turkey; and a 5K PB of 15:26 in the New Year’s Eve extravaganza which is the Nos Galan 5K.

 

Marathon Goal

January arrived not in the hazy hungover state that I usually greet the New Year with; but with motivation, goals and ambitions. Oh, and as it was a Sunday it meant it was also long run day. I spent my long run plodding out the miles slowly considering the year ahead. ‘Tomorrow marathon training starts, and this time I’m ready’.

In 2016, I faced my first ever marathon training block with apprehension. I had a bad December, and was performing poorly in races. I knew what I wanted to achieve though. I ignored all of the conventional marathon plans and decided to self-coach myself. Picking bits and pieces from things I had read and inspirational runners such as Steve Way. Strava was hugely important to me as I tried to ensure that I was including all of the ingredients to add up to a blinding debut. My biggest fear was rocking up to London under-prepared.

This year I go in to my 16 week marathon block excited. I have a sub 2:30 marathon under my belt, but more than that I have learnt so much in the last year. I start this block fitter and wiser. I know my body better, and I know all of the key aspects of training that I want to utilise to ensure I reach that start line in London strong and confident.

People have been asking me for a while what my Marathon target is for 2017. I always respond with the usual vague line about it being too early to tell and that come late March I will have a better idea of what shape I’m in and what pace I will run. That is true but that doesn’t mean I haven’t set myself an early target to aim for. So here it is; 2 hours 24 minutes and some seconds. I want to improve on my top 100 finish and place in the top 50. That requires me to take 5 minutes of last year and run 26.2 miles at a 5:30 min/mile pace. Easy eh?

So for the next 16 weeks I will prepare the only way I know how, my way. I will run more long runs than seems necessary. I will be a tempo tart. Tempo-ing here there and everywhere. Some speed work will also be thrown in, and I won’t forget those lovely easy miles either. So follow my journey as I attempt the possible.

 

 


1. Steve Magness. 2014. The Science of Running.

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13 Comments

  1. Abe sosa
    11th January 2017 / 4:00 am

    This is great! I recently started following you on IG (@run.ham.run) and I am very accious to read and learn more about your training and what you do, I am a runner amateur but I have set my goal on the Hartford marathon in October of this year and I am really looking for anything that would help. Please keep them coming and if you have any specific advice feel free to share!

    • thewelshrunner1
      11th January 2017 / 1:45 pm

      Thanks Abe. I will be posting everything I do on here plus you can follow me on Strava. I’m always available to give you any hints or tips. Dm me on IG. Thanks for following along. Stay consistent in your training and you will do great in the Hartford Marathon.

  2. Antonio
    11th January 2017 / 9:23 am

    Good luck! Looking forward to seeing your progress!

    • thewelshrunner1
      11th January 2017 / 1:47 pm

      Thanks Antonio. I appreciate the support. Follow along and let’s see if I can do this. You training for anything?

  3. Antony Phillips
    12th January 2017 / 10:05 am

    Hi Matt, great read and I wish you all the success for your Marathon goal. I have followed you on twitter and strava and look forward to the updates. I have also got a place in VLM this year and I also had tendinopathy in my ankle which was the worst injury I’ve had since taking up running 2010. I find if I push myself too hard in the interval sessions it leads to injury down the road so I aim to hold back a little in these sessions. Can I just ask what would be your easy pace for your long runs compared to your 5:30 marathon race pace? my target is 3:30 which is 8m/m and I find it hard to run at 9m/m for my long runs (feels too slow) but I am determined to slow down for these as it shouldn’t tire me out so much for the rest of the week.

    Tony (Bridgend ac)

    • thewelshrunner1
      14th January 2017 / 6:37 am

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the feedback, and cheers for following my training. I will keep you updated all the way through to London, with my my first training week post going live today.

      Ankle tendinopathy is horrible, and can be really frustrating. I totally agree that the harder interval sessions aren’t great for it. Luckily VO2max sessions are less important for Marathon training. The most important thing is running economy, lactate threshold, and basically can you get through the distance physically and mentally.

      I have different long runs and each has their own purpose. So my bread and butter long run is the ‘time on my feet’ long run. This run I just don’t look at my watch for pace. I relax and cover a set time or distance. The aim of this run is to help with endurance and to get my body used to running for a long time. I do these before anything to eat so that I become more efficient burning fat for fuel.

      The other extreme is my tempo long run. After a warm up I will run at close to MP for a long run and then warm down a little. This can be 10 or 20 seconds slower than your goal MP and obviously not as far.

      And then there is everything in between. I do hilly long runs; long runs with some miles at MP thrown in; Progression long runs where I finish strong; long runs with certain efforts planned in to the run. When you are trying to peak for a marathon the long run needs to be utilised as more than just an easy run. That doesn’t mean make it tough every week but some weeks add some spice to it.

      The Marathon in essence is a long run so you need to be comfortable with it. I see my training in 2 ways. Firstly I want to be comfortable with long runs and running for a long time. Second I want to be comfortable running at MP. I then try and bridge the gap. As the two converge, I know I am ready to take on the marathon.

      So, for you if you are finding it too slow, then maybe it is. Remember it is ok to be running on tired legs throughout the week in Marathon training. This simulates how it will feel on the day. Your legs will be tired after 20 miles so keep going mate.

      Hope that helps? I will try and write a post discussing some of this stuff soon, because I think it would be helpful for lots of people.

      Cheers,

      Matt

      p.s. get on Instagram and follow me @thewelshrunner I post loads of stuff there which might help and motivate you.

      • Antony Phillips
        14th January 2017 / 12:34 pm

        Thanks for the reply Matt, some great pointers for me and I look forward putting them in practice.
        I have learnt a lot over the past 6 yrs but still feel like a novice runner.

  4. 13th January 2017 / 7:51 am

    Great read again, thanks.

    I hadn’t realised you clocked a PB at Nos Galan, Matt. Congratulations, especially on heavy legs!

    Spotted you on the front at West Cross on bank holiday Tuesday. I’d just finished a social run with the randoms — Newton, Caswell, Langland — and you were running at tempo in fine style.

    Does a HM fit in your preparations?

    I’m looking forward to watching the London Marathon. I have a feeling Callum Hawkins will do something very special.

    • thewelshrunner1
      14th January 2017 / 6:52 am

      Thanks mate. I always appreciate feedback. Yeah it was a PB but not as quick as I thought I could go, but heavy legs probably accounts for some time, especially on that hill.

      Yeah I did see you. I was thinking how great it was to see a big group out running together on bank holiday when I clocked your face amongst the crowd.

      Yes I have a couple of HM’s lined up. Reading be the main one because they get such a good field there. Aiming to break 70.

      I absolutely love watching Callum run. I think his growth is amazing for the sport. It’s attitude and guts in both Rio and last week’s XC were very admirable. Unfortunately he is not running the London Marathon this year. He has already been picked for the London World Champs in the Summer, so is gearing up for that instead. That will be a great race though. 2:08 perhaps?

      What’s next for you? Got any A-races lined up this year?

      • 14th January 2017 / 8:27 am

        A PB is a PB, Matt, and all the better if you have the capacity to break it again.

        I haven’t lined up any races for 2017. My kids would like me to run a marathon, which I’m reluctant to commit to since it would get in the way of the races I enjoy most — the local multi-terrain and XC events. Certainly, I’m looking forward to the Welsh XC champs in Singleton.

        I don’t think I’ll see a better race this year than Callum’s recent run at Edinburgh. He reminds me of Steve Jones: tough and fearless.

  5. Sian Spencer
    13th January 2017 / 8:52 pm

    I have just started following you on Insta…I’ve become a running addict, started back up with my running last Spring and completed 2 half marathons last year in Swansea & Cardiff and now I’m setting my sights on a Full Marathon…I’ve signed up for Snowdonia in October but can you recommend any I can do in the meantime?
    Thanks

    • thewelshrunner1
      14th January 2017 / 7:04 am

      Hey Sian,

      That’s great that you are so enthusiastic about running. I was the same when I started, and wanted to do a Marathon as soon as I could.There’s loads of Marathons before Snowdonia. It all depends how far you want to travel? And when you want to start your marathon training? You have Manchester Marathon in April which I believe is still taking entries, if you’re super keen and want to start getting your long runs in now. There’s Edinburgh in May which gives you a little more time, but is even further to go if you are in Wales? I know that there was the Great Welsh Marathon in April but I am not sure if it will be running this year as the company has been taken over.

      It really depends what you are looking for? Some are bigger events with more atmosphere. Some fast and flat. You can even do a trail marathon if that’s a surface you like (but it will be tough). Here is a link to a list of marathons (http://www.apex-sports.co.uk/document/item-64-2016-17-uk-marathon-listing). If you find one and want me to let you know what I think of it, just message me.

      Thanks and good luck with all your training,

      Matt

      • Sian Spencer
        15th January 2017 / 6:27 pm

        Thanks Matt, Edinburgh is one of the ones on my list 🙂 I live in Llandysul, West Wales, so to be honest anywhere is far from here! Signed up for Ras Cors Caron in Tregaron in February to keep me going for the time being 🙂
        Thanks for your advice

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