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Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 6 of 18

Week 6 has been somewhat of a milestone week. Not only is it the end of the first Mesocycle of the training, and not only is it the first recovery week, or the point where it marked being exactly  one third of the way through… But we were finally able to announce that we are growing a new little runner!


We’re 12 weeks pregnant, and have had our scan. It was a truly magical experience which I’m sure every parent goes through the first time. What you don’t expect to see in the scan is the baby moving – I assumed it was still pictures – Imagine my surprise when our little one kicked out and had a ride around Jodie’s uterus! This of course means that Jodie will not be running the Manchester Marathon this year, but she is continuing to run to maintain fitness and hopefully she’ll be fine to run in the Cardiff world championships!

The recovery week in the plan has obviously been perfectly timed. My legs felt battered all week right up until Saturday so I deliberately went out to run at the slower end of all of my pace zones.

Tuesday saw me on an easy 8  miler with 8 strides. The weather was miserable and my legs were knackered. I also sufferedf romt he fact that I needed a poo. At some point I realised that everytime my runs are interrupted by a such an event, its normally a Tuesday! Without wanting to get too graphic, I suspect that as my biggest meal of the day is on Sunday, that Tuesday’s GI problems are simply that the food has finally digested! So I need to try and shift that event to happen pre-run!

Wednesday was a straightforward recovery run. Legs still feeling a bit dead, still miserable weather.

Thursday was another easy 8 miler with no strides. Heavy legged but did a reasonable amount of climbing too. Heart rate looked better though, and I knew Friday was a rest day.

Friday of course is weigh day, and it seems the hard work has paid off, I dropped 4lbs this week, most of it in fat and increased my muscle mass! So just another stone to go til my pre-race target.

weight progress

I’m a little unsure how much stock to take in the body composition analysis of these things. It said that I was 25.1% body fat, 50.3% water, and 28.3% muscle – that’s over 100% and doesn’t include bone any everything else! But I guess its designed as a guide and a way of tracking progress rather than a zero-sum game.

On parkrunday we avoided Ham Hill again to continue our tour. A group of us went to Blandford parkrun instead. I was scheduled for 4 miles recovery, but I was tempted to “have a go”. Its a fast course and could have had a pop at sub 20, but I figured if I run this hard it would affect my sessions next week. I felt quite self righteously smug at my self control! It was a good controlled effort and finished feeling refreshed.

Unfortunately, the next 18 hours consisted of bad food and several cans off Thatchers Gold. Which meant Sunday turned into a bit of a mare… Still, I figured a bit of a blowout wouldn’t hurt. Struggled through the first 6 of my 12 miler slowy, and had to make a pub stop to use the facilities, after which I felt significantly better. Managed lots of climbing too which was a plus point.

Next week is a bit of a big week (not as big as the following week though!), with 52 miles scheduled (It’ll go over that with warm up/cool down) and will be the biggest week for ages. Another tempo run is on the cards (Which I struggled with last year) and my first 20 miler of the campaign, which I’m going to part run with the group – carefully considered after my 18 miler a few weeks back caused me to want to cry!

12 weeks to go – which emans only really 9 weeks until the taper…. this time is disappearing fast!





Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 4 of 18

OK, so weeks 1, 2 and 3 didn’t get written, but it was Christmas and New year, a very busy time for everyone and I couldn’t find the time to write anything.

But with the turn of every New Year comes a newly renewed enthusiasm which I’m hoping will keep my writing.

Despite the lack of posting, there has been no lack of training! I’ve remained as consistent as I can be and have stuck to the plan all aside from an abandoned Tempo Session on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I’ll try and summarise the last three weeks training best I can!


Over the festive period we managed a brilliant 5 parkruns, in 5 different locations – 4 of which we’d never been to before. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out any of the post-parkrun cafeterias due to a lack of time, but needless to say all the people we encountered were as lovely as you would expect at any parkrun.

On Christmas Day we stayed local with the very well attended Basingstoke parkrun. I ran a little quicker than intended but the course was a bit of a mudfest… a theme that developed even further over the period…


Bracknell was our destination on Boxing Day. Tucked away in a nice forest park, this flat 3 lapper saw some tarmac, some forest trail, but mostly (what used to be and is currently mud) grass. Parking was plentiful and there was a pavilion with loos and a bit of cover to leave your (unsecured of course) stuff. The support here was brilliant, the course passed within close proximity of the start/finish twice per lap so plenty of applause! There were some very slippy places though and nearly lost my footing a few times! Took it nice and easy but felt sluggish from Christmas Day indulgence.


New years day is one of my favourite days of the year as we can do a parkrun double! We wanted to run with Jodie’s sister so we headed to Hampshire for the 9am starting Andover parkrun. Such a lovely course! A flat 2 lapper mostly on grass. It was squelchy and muddy in places but it took in some lovely fields and lakes and had a really good vibe. Their first timers briefing was very welcoming and the runners were chatty as I jogged round. Brilliant event! Loads of parking available and I think there are usually loos, but they were closed as it was New Years Day. Good PB potential!


We then headed down the A303 and A34 to Winchester. It was a bit tricky to find. The website gave sat-nav directions to a car park but wasn’t best placed really for the run, but its in the town center and I’ve found other events are similarly troubled when in town centers. It was also pay and display (though with it being NYD, it was free!) and the loos were open in the nearby leisure centre. The course was 3 windy laps of playing fields, almost entirely on grass which was slippy mud on the day. The course wasn’t particularly inspiring and tough we won’t rush back, the marshals and volunteers were brilliantly supportive.


Back on “normal” parkrunday we visited Poole parkrun. Reportedly a fast and flat course, today was not going to deliver on that! Flat, yes, but the howling wind and rain made it very tough. We ran the “B” course, which had a slightly deviated start and finish, but the main feature is 2 laps around a big lake on tarmac. There is nothing to stop you falling in the river, so caution is recommended! If the conditions weren’t so bad this is definitely a PB friendly course. Being in the town center the parking was also pay and display, but there were toilets and a pavilion to keep dry in. This is a really big parkrun, regularly attracting over 500 runners so a very different experience for us, but despite a congested start the organisation was flawless thanks in no small measure to the amazing marshals and fantastic finish funnel system.


Long Runs

4 weeks means there were four key long runs for the plan.

The first was meant to be a 12 miler,  but I shamefully avoided it due to a raging hangover. I managed about 7 with the group but they were horrid!

The second was a particularly tough 14 miler with 8 of them at Marathon Pace. I wasn’t sure I was quite fit enough for my target/anticipated MP but had a go anyway. Progressed nicely through the first 6 miles and then hit a pace actually a bit faster than I needed to (3:07 pace)- which explained why the last couple of miles were so tough. Lesson learned for next time, run at 3:12 pace and see how that feels.


Week 3 saw 16 easy miles around Basingstoke, though once again I was faster than I needed to be. I really must learn to control it,so I can save energy for the midweek session.

Week 4 was the longest run for a while, and it was seriously tough. For whatever reason I went out without any water, which was a mistake when doing that sort of distance. I tried progressing through the gears and through the pace zone, and all went well until about mile 13. Then the legs started feeling very heavy. I think I got a bit greedy on the pace. The last 2 miles were just a world of pain. I craved chocolate and fluids and wasn;t right for a good couple of hours. Not fun at all! A valuable lesson learned.


The only 2 sessions in this three 3 week period were Tempo sessions, 8 miles with 4 at Tempo. Unfortunately I managed neither.

The first was the day of our office Christmas party, so I ran the Easy portion at lunchtime, then did 4 miles at Tempo the day after, which were comfortable and controlled.

The second was Christmas Eve. I went out for the first 2 miles but I really wasn’t feeling it. If I’m honest, I hadn’t felt it when I woke up either. But I tried and after 2 miles I jacked it in. Instead, when I got to Basingstoke later that day I did a gentle 5 miler with the intention of tempo-ing a Festive parkrun to make up the effort balance. I did this at Poole.

General Aerobic Runs

I’ve been consciously trying to keep my Easy/General Aerobic runs at just under 8 minute miling. This is because its 15s per mile quicker than I trained last year. Despite maybe not QUITE being “easy” on the effort scale, I hope that as my weight drops and fitness increases it will become easier. “The only way to run faster is to run faster”. My body is pretty injury free right now so fingers crossed this little ploy pays off!


Nothing to report. I’m too afraid to get on the scales, but now its new year I’m having a clean week and will weigh in next Sunday as my new start point so I can be sub 14st by Manchester.


Running has gone well and I feel my base is building well. Now to shift the christmas (and more) weight and start getting on with the tougher business!


  1. In the upcoming 20 miler in a few weeks, take water! This means investing in some sort of hydration belt/bag – I don’t want to have to stop.
  2. Stop being a pussy and get on the scales, fatty!
  3. See point 2 and start using MyFitnessPal again once you’ve gotten a starting weight.
  4. Blog next week.




Reflections on my Manchester Training

Back in December I outlined my plan of attack for Manchester. After a good deal of research I went for the Pfitzinger and Douglas 18 week, up to 55 mile training plan from the book “Advanced Marathoning”.


How did I find the structure?

I was very pleased with the structure of the plan. The 4 mesocycles leading up to the race were really well designed and I found they made logical sense and flowed into each other nicely.

On a week by week basis, the balance was excellent. Mixing basic principles to do with hard days and easy days, and the balance of mileage was really excellent. Reading the book to understand this I feel was essential. It explained the principles behind the training, the reasons why there are a certain amount of days between sessions of different types, why threshold running is important. it really helped me to trust the plan, and would highly recommend to anyone following a schedule, to read the book alongside it.


Reading the book also helped me to understand how to restructure the plan in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as my travel arrangements, and not to worry if I had to move things around a bit. Which leads me on to my next section…

Did I stick to the plan?

I tried, by and large, to follow the plan as close to the prescribed schedule as possible, but there were some areas I couldn’t make fit.

I had to get a bit creative with Tune Up Races. Around the UK, Sunday is race day, but with P&D they want them on Saturdays, and usually prescribed 8-10km. The closest I could come to reconciling this in my training, was running parkrun on a saturday morning at a “Race Effort”. Obviously these are a bit shorter than prescribed, but I also ran the Reading Half Marathon, which in my head was a bit longer so made up for the other tune up races being short. Essentially, I ran the prescribed number of race pace mileage, just in a slightly different distribution. It’s hard to tell if this had any effect on my final 26.2 result, but I suspect not.

Credit to Aime and Neil Biss

Credit to Aime and Neil Biss

In general, my Saturday runs were probably the sessions I deviated most. This was in order to keep parkrunning (The plan is for Jodie and I to run our 50th together the week before our wedding) so i tried to fit parkruns in with them, either as part of the session or a total replacement. I DID still try and do them at the prescribed intensity though. Most of these were at General Aerobic pace with some strides though, so little “quality” and don’t think they affected the result too much either.

The other area I strayed from a bit, specifically in the early days were the long runs. I already had a high mileage tolerance, so I expedited the ramp up in mileage. This affected me quite a lot, I found the early phases of training very physically demanding, and I probably wouldn’t do the same thing again. This may have left me fresher for the remaining 3 phases of the plan which means I could have performed my sessions better and netted a better finishing time.

Speaking of long runs, there were quite a few of them that were in 2 parts, as I tried to use races as training runs at training paces. Specifically, half marathons. This often meant a break between the two sessions. My final 20 miler for example saw a 7 mile warm up, an hour and a half break, and then the Yeovil Half Marathon. I think this affected the quality of the long run, and again, could have had an impact on my final result. I still like using Half Marathons as part of training runs, as it means aid staions are provided, but in future I would do the half, jog through the funnel, direct to the car to deposit any goody bag/treats and just keep going, leaving as little “rest” as possible.


What did I like about the plan?

I liked the structure. Following a regimented plan which i understood the theory behind gave me trust and confidence to follow it in the same way I would follow advice from a coach.
I like the marathon paced long runs, they really helped build confidence that I could run at my target race pace, and I feel my legs really benefited from these too.
I liked the progressive phases concentrating on specific areas, like ramping up mileage, then threshold, then speed followed by the taper. It meant you concentrated on one straining stimulus type at a time so I wasn’t too worried about overtraining injuries.
I liked that through all the training, I remained uninjured. It means the plan is well balanced, provided you stick within their guided pace zones.
I liked being introduced to strides these were great bursts of speed which, though I wasn’t training for 5k made me feel like I wasn’t losing any short distance speed. I think ti also helped my technique as I felt my legs were stretching longer and hopefully will aid my efficiency long term.

What didn’t I like?

The structure was brilliant, but it meant missing out on a lot of social runs with the club and the training group I run with. This meant some of my runs were pretty lonely. Its hard finding someone doing the same plan, for the same race, at the same pace to run with. Next time, I’d treat the General Aerobic runs a bit more liberally. I’d try and switch some of those to run with other people swap it out for a club run now and then.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Lactate Threshold runs.I just don’t think I liked the structure of them very well. I would have preferred doing them as cruise intervals or something similar, rather than at one stage running 7 miles at threshold. It knackered me out for days and I think I could have gotten the same benefit from 3 x 15 minutes at LT pace with jog recoveries, provided I did the same volume at LT, then I’m sure I’d receive the same benefit.

Was it successful?

I’d have to say yes.
OK, so I missed my race day target of sub-3:20 by 33 seconds. But over the course of 26.2 miles that is only just over a second per mile. Its pretty darned close. And I shouldn;t forget, at the start of the training plan, my target was sub-3:25, which I actually did achieve.
So it delivered me a 39 minute Marathon PB.
But I also ran Reading Half in 1:30:08 – a 6 minute PB, and I set a 5k PB too (though that sub-20 still eludes me!)
I didn’t get anywhere near my weight loss target for the race, but I now have another year and a half to bring that down. Not to mention, that should make me even faster!

Would I follow the same plan again?

100% yes. I’ll almost certainly use exactly the same schedule. I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend it – as long as you read the book with it and don’t just follow it blindly!

Race Report: Greater Manchester Marathon

So race weekend had finally arrived. 18 weeks of training had been completed successfully and all that left was the 26.2 painful miles that lay ahead of me and the 9000 other competitors, all of whom had followed similar journeys.

Here is my Race Report – its a bit of a beast, so apologies for the mammoth essay but I didn’t want to do multiple posts!

The Night Before

I’d arrived in Manchester on Saturday, having flown in from Dubai at 7.30am (Not an ideal preparation I must admit) and checked myself into the Travelodge, a short walk from the start. I’d arranged an early check in, and after a short jog around the beautiful Salford Quays (the stunning sunny weather helped) went to the hotel lobby to hydrate and eat whilst I waited for Simon to join me. My hydration strategy pre race mainly consisted of drinking 15 free cups of tea in that lobby!

The hotel already had a bit of a marathon buzz about it, and one of the staff estimated 75% of the residents were here for the race.

Once Simon arrived we went to get some food. My night before meal was a pasta arrabiata and dough balls from Pizza Express, which was very nice. That and of course a bottle of Peroni! Can’t have a race without a beer the night before…

On the way back to the hotel we went via the race village. It was empty and locked up, but was good to take some of it in before all the hustle and bustle that lay ahead in the morning.WP_20150418_004 There was an ENORMOUS poster near the start that we’d end up running past in the race, and it was great to see the local area had gotten behind the event. We of course took the opportunity to strike a pose!


Then we headed back to the hotel for some more carb loading…


… and an early night. I was in bed by 8.30, my night flight from Dubai had left me good and tired. It was actually a blessing in disguise, as it meant I fell fast asleep and snoozed right through to morning. I was still able to do perhaps the 2 most important things in my pre-race ritual. Number one, the obligatory kit prep photo…


And number 2… a number 2! This was quite a relief, what with the majority of my long runs being plagued by runners tum.

Race Morning

I managed to wake up naturally without the alarm, which to me indicated that  I had slept enough, and most importantly, I hadn’t OVERslept! I boiled the kettle and had my pre race breakfast. 2 x Oat So Simple porridge pots and a glass of Orange Juice. All good, reliable carbs I knew my stomach could handle. Last thing I wanted to do was try anything new.

We left for the start at about 7.45 am and joined the streams of runners heading toward Old Trafford.


Speaking of Old Trafford, despite being an Arsenal fan and a Liverpool fan, we were both hugely impressed with the venue. Its a magnificent stadium and a great place to host a race.

The village was seemingly well organised, not that we did much here. All we did pre-race was make use of the baggage drops, which were seamlessly handled by a troop of army cadets. And with that, we were ready!


After a quick number 1, we headed to the start pens. Not quite as strictly regimented as other races I’ve been to, largely due to there not being a great need for it. There were “only” 9000 or so runners. We had fast access to the pen, despite only getting there 10 minutes before the start! We shook hands, wished each other luck, then we waited patiently for the gun.

The Race

The race was started by British marathon legend, Ron Hill – not that I got to see him (until after the race) and the gun caught me a bit by surprise as everyone cautiously surged (If that’s even possible…) toward the start line. Very quickly – less than a minute later – I pressed the start button on my Garmin as I crossed the mat and registered my start of the race with the live tracking service…

… which didn’t actually work for me. It didn’t register any of my splits, or even give me a finishing result. Turns out there was a glitch in the system. As I was running with a replacement number, I don’t think it was hooked into the system probably. I knew I’d get a result in the end, but all my family and friends were frantically trying to track me, and were worried that I hadn’t even started! Less than ideal, but not much I could do about it!


My strategy was to run consistent 7:30 miling, expecting to fade over the last few miles. 7:30s would have been about 3:17 and my target was 3:20, so I figured that was plenty of slack. not to mention, this was the marathon pace I was training with. I very quickly settled into my pace and cadence of around 176, and found it to be quite comfortable.

The first section was a short out and back away from Old Trafford. I was a bit shocked to see the 1 mile marker when my Garmin had only registered 0.7m! I know GPS isn’t accurate, but surely this was a bit extreme? As we turned and came back, it was obvious that the mile marker was around the wrong way as my watch beeped almost exactly as I passed it again.

I found myself a bit crowded, and I realised it was because I was quite near the 3:15 pacer. This was too fast for me, so I held back a bit to give a bit of a cushion and found some clearer space. We soon reached the start again and took a right, passed the huge poster we’d seen earlier and headed out for another out and back, this time taking us right past the Coronation Street studios! There was another misplaced mile marker here (Maybe mile 4?) that was the wrong way round, and as I was contemplating this, a guy not far in front of me ran into a cone and hit the deck, hard. He was knocked out cold. Some people attended to him and called for a marshal. I felt bad as I thought maybe I should have helped, but he received plenty of attention and in reality I probably wouldn’t have been of much benefit. I just remember thinking to myself “Steer clear of any cones you see”!


After about 4-5 miles we came back around Old Trafford before heading the long road out to Altrincham along a main road. In total we passed Old Trafford 4 times, and each time the crowd support was magnificent! This section I just remember focussing on my pace, clocking through the miles and staying focussed. There was a few inclines as we crossed bridges, but it was largely flat as described. There were messages of support scrawled on the floor, and there was some amazing support on the way out, much of it for Ealing Eagles!

The next few miles were progressing nicely, with pockets of great support, and then we reached Altrincham which was AMAZING! A great woman shouted “Welcome to Altrincham, we have great entertainment for you!” and the crowds were great! We looped around the town center with tremendous applause and cheering before veering down a slope and through the halfway mark. I was bang on track at this point, and I still had the 3.15 pacer in my sights, which i couldn’t tell if it was a good or a bad thing. As we reached 14 miles I found myself accidentally right in the 3.15 pace group and saw Zoe from Maiden Newton Runners who i said hello too. Then I realised it was definitely a bad thing, and my pace was a bit too quick, so I eased off. We ran back along the way we came toward Sale before turning left toward Carrington.

manmarStill feeling reasonably strong, I maintained my target pace. it started getting a little quieter support wise here, especially as we progressed through miles 18-20. Having taken my gel on at mile 20, things started to get a bit tougher. Nothing to do with the gels, which worked well, but my legs just started tiring. Mile markers seemed to be a bit all over the place and I couldn’t really work out what was more inaccurate, my Garmin or the mile markers. probably a bit of both. As we turned right through Urmston it was getting tougher and tougher. I passed a guy with a sign”If your Garmin says 26.1, will you do another lap?” and I actually said to him “No!” because mine was measuring short!

The drag back towards Old Trafford was hard and at around mile 22 I had to have a walk break. The wheels had fallen off. From 22 – 26 my mile splits got worse and worse as more breaks were needed. This is graphically demonstrated by Strava below.


I know with the pace I went out at, I had some slack to make my sub 3:20 goal, but I didn’t anticipate just how battered my legs would be. It wasn’t a total obliteration, but it was bad enough to need to walk for 10 meter sections at regular intervals. I was disappointed. My brain had gone to mush. Still the distances on my Garmin and the mile markers weren’t reconciling and I thought the opportunity to make target had gone. It turns out my Garmin was quite a long way short (0.2 miles) and I eventually saw the turn for the finish, and somehow I managed to pick up some speed. Conscious I’d still be able to finish in 3:20.xx, I turned the corner and I had a minute to cross the line. I mustered all I could. The look on my face tells the story.


If I had realised I had less distance to run, I might have been able to kick on earlier and still make goal.

If I had adjusted my pace by 5s per mile, I may have had enough energy to finish strong.

If I hadn’t had a late flight in Dubai…

If I had lost a bit more weight…

If, then, but… None of it really mattered. As I crossed the line, I started crying. I couldn’t really work out why. I was grateful to be finished. I was disappointed to have blown a 3 minute cushion on my goal time, but I was delighted to be a 3:20 marathoner. Not to mention, it was a 40 minute PB, whats not to be pleased about?!


And looking pragmatically back in the cold light of day, that was the most important thing of all.

I am a 3:20 marathoner. And I am VERY proud of it.

I immediately went to get my back so I could call Jodie. I had a text from her that she wanted me to call her urgently… I was worried.

Turns out that they were even more worried because of the chip issue. Jodie had been fielding messages from all over the place, people not able to see my progress. It was lovely to know that people were so interested, and I’m sorry they couldn’t track me. The organizers eventually sorted out my final result.


I have learned some lessons for the next marathon(Yep, no “Never again” here this time) and will utilise the ones I have learned at Brighton next year. I certainly won’t fade like that again, and I won’t go out as aggressively either. I’ll also have another stone in weight off and a years worth of further training – so the only way is up.

Post Race

After getting off the phone with Jodie, and being very emotional, I saw Simon. he had had a blinding race, coming in 7 minutes ahead of schedule in 3:23! We congratulated each other and he built on Jodie’s work of trying to lift the little disappointment I had. We got the obligatory selfie with our medals, which were mighty impressive!


The goody bag was pretty decent too! Chocolate oat milk shake (Which I thought was going to be minging but was actually very nice), Dairy Milk chocolate, sports drink, water, cereal bar, jointace, pain relief gel and an absolutely lovely finishers tee shirt. A good haul really!


My legs were stiff as boards, and even now, 2 days later, my quads are suffering with a major case of DOMS. But we took in some of the surroundings, including this great photo opportunity board…


… Watching the presentation of prizes, awarded by the legend that is Ron Hill…


… and then pretending we’d made it to the podium.


We then retired to the hotel for some beers.

It was nice to remain in the hotel afterwards too. Despite leaving to get some food, there were still many other finishers also staying for the extra night to recover, and it was a lovely experience chatting to runners of all speeds and abilities as to how their races went. it puts my mild disappointment into a lot of perspective.


Its easy to summarise the Greater Manchester Marathon. Brilliant, if a little flawed. If the mile markers were right and i could have trusted them I may have been able to make target. it was also disappointing for my results to have been bodged and not have my family track me.

But on the whole, the race village was excellent, the crowd were superb, the course was flat, the medal was stunning and the goody bag was full of actual goodies. I would recommend this race to anyone as an alternative to London and once I’ve finished my bucket list of marathons, its certainly on my “to return to” list.

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 18 of 18 – Race Day Tomorrow!

This week has been probably one of the more unusual weeks of my life, which just happens to have coincided with the last taper week before the race.

I was asked to attend a conference for work, in Dubai. I know I’d been training for Manchester for 18 weeks, and I really was torn about whether I should accept it or not,as I have put my heart and soul into this race. But how many times do you get to go to Dubai on expenses?

Apologies for the blurriness, taken whilst on the run!

Apologies for the blurriness, taken whilst on the run!

I saw some amazing things, stayed 5 star and had dinner at the worlds tallest building. An unforgettable trip of a lifetime! It made training a bit trickier, squeezing in runs when I could, when travel allowed it, and when it wasn’t too hot! You can see this be quite apparent when looking at my calendar.

week18Tuesday had to be cancelled as I didn’t get to the Hotel til 11pm. I vowed to get up early though and go for a run – the problem was, I didn’t know where to go yet so ended up on the dreadmill for my Marathon paced session, which probably wasn;t the best quality or most accurate in the world. Despite having the footpod on, the treadmill and my Garmin showed totally different distances!

The temperature in the gym, even at 6am was INTENSE. I was still tired from the night before and it made for a tough run. I thought as I missed the Tuesday run, I’d do a short recovery 5k (ish – dpeneding on if you believe the footpod or the treadmill!) at an easy jog to recover the legs through. This worked a treat!

After this though, I had arranged with my boss to go on the running route he’d found at the stunning Dubai marina. We did a five mile out and back and an easy jog. it was 6pm but still very warm, and humid. But wow – how the other half live!


The Marina, aside from being filled with luxury yachts, its a brand spanking new flat walkway lined with restaurants and shops. popular with tourists, it made the run a bit of an obstacle course, but an amazing experience.


Friday was a travel day, but unfortunately the travel was overnight. It was a red-eye flight taking off at midnight UK time (3am Dubai time). I’ve had a few hours sleep on the plane but it was quite broken. Less than ideal, but I’m hoping it means I’ll be able to get a god early night tonight.

Anyway, back to the running, the original plan was to get to Wythenshawe parkrun, which is closeby to Manchester airport. But the plane was delayed which meant I was an hour late and couldn’t make it. I DID however go out for a nice 4 mile recovery jog around the Salford Quays. I saw the Lowry, MediaCity, the Coronation Street Studios and Old Trafford. What a week of tourism!


Ran past the setup of the Race Village too, though it looks like they still have plenty to do by morning! I saw lots of runners in general, some running others in club hoodies all obviously in town waiting for the race. I think its going to be a great event.

So I’m sat here in the Travelodge Salford Quays drinking free tea listening to some great tunes. Its a good chill out which is what I need. The last 18 weeks have been a whirlwind, and whilst I wish this week was a LITTLE less intense, I am feeling strong and confident. Some more stretching through the day and I’ll be happy.

Challenge number 1 – make the start line is now complete. I’m injury free! Now just to get around it in a respectable time.

Good luck to everyone running Manchester tomorrow. See you on the flipside!

P.S. If you want to track me throughout the race, you can do it on this link. I’m number 11680!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 17 of 18

“Well if the taper is meant to help your legs recover, so far, so NOT good.”

That was what I said last week. This week though, finally, with 2 miles left of my last Sunday run today, this turned around to finally feel like I am approaching match fitness. 17 weeks are in the bank, and its race week next week, with nothing but a few short sharp runs standing between me and my second piece of marathon bling.

Despite being a taper week, it wasn’t without my own brand of personal anguish I like to bring on myself though. But here’s what P&D prescribed…


And this is what I actually ran. This screen and activity link below are from Strava today, as Garmin Connect was having yet another off day…


All exactly according to plan (Friday’s failure the exception, though the intent was there…), even to the detriment of my parkrun “road to 50!”. It’s been a week of “lasts” too. Many events have led me to say “Last on of those before Manchester now”. With the exception of Saturday the weather this week has been GLORIOUS, perfect running conditions.

Monday was a bank holiday and I had no walk following last weeks “tougher than it should have been” 16 miler. But Tuesday allowed me to recovery with a 7 miler including a set of strides. Happy with the strides, some of them I even took uphill thanks to some poor route planning. It was my last run in Coleshill before Manchester and I finished feeling reasonaby fresh.

Wednesday, I was back in Basingstoke for the last tough session. 8 miles including 3 x 1mi Intervals. The warm up went fine and the first 2 intervals were good too, but the third – just like when I am racing over 5k – saw me fade. I know more speedwork will help with this, and my main focus post Manchester is 5k so hopefully I can correct that.

Thursday was a rest day in favour of a recovery run with strides on Friday. And thats when the wheels fell off! Poor planning meant I had a crap breakfast (4 treat sized flakes and a creme egg) following a poor nights sleep, and had to run at lunchtime which I’m not used to either. I also had to run in my glasses, which made me feel a bit strange from the start. But to cut a long story short, the run was a struggle and after 2 miles my body just had nothing left. I cut my losses and walked back.

Its easy to look back with hindsight and attribute the problems appropriately, but at the time all that was going through my head was “I can barely run 2 miles at a recovery pace, how am I going to run 26.2??”. It’s just a hint of taper madness though. You don’t become unfit or a bad runner overnight, its just one of those things. And its better happening now than race day!

On Saturday, as I am trying to stick to the plan, I did not run at parkrun, rather I did some voluncheer tourism at Basingstoke. And what a day I picked for it! After some glorious weather this week, some how I ended up at the far corner of the curse marshalling in the miserable wind and rain, and it was freezing! Good to give back though, and was a very different experience to volunteering “back home”. It was lovely for many of the runners to say “thank you”. It’s something I do when I parkrun (And even in races sometimes, when I have the breath) and implore all runners to do the same. Without volunteers we have no parkruns or races!


Sunday saw my final long run. In the context of this training programme, 12 miles doesn’t seem that long! The first 8 miles were a real struggle. I continued to struggle with GI issues and had to stop twice. My biggest fear for next week is that I end up needing to stop to use the loo. I need to strategize to prevent that happening. Though the first 8 were a bit of a struggle, something then just clicked! The last 4 were an absolute pleasure and it had FINALLY felt like the taper had kicked in.

So there are now just 6 days to go, and 4 runs left until the Marathon. I’m off to Dubai for work on Tuesday, which means 3 of those runs will be in the warm climbs of the UAE on a dead flat beach path designed for running on. I can’t work out if this will be good preparation or not!



Manchester Marathon Training: Week 16 of 18

Well if the taper is meant to help your legs recover, so far, so NOT good. The past week has been tough, and today has seen the first hint of “taper madness” as my tired legs are telling me “You are so tired and you’re only doing 8 miles and slower than marathon pace you are never going to do the marathon”. I keep telling the taper gremlins to pipe down, and its working so far – but there is still 2 weeks to go! Lets see how the week went against the plan

pd16And it all went according to plan, except for my Saturday “tune up race” only being 5k at parkrun.


Monday saw no evening walk for me, but I did manage 3 miles at lunchtime to help stretch the legs. But the quality of Sunday’s run was a little less intense than the week before so the legs didn’t feel so bad.

On Tuesday I had 8 miles with 5 sets of 600m Intervals. Going into the run I really wasn’t expecting much from the reps, but looking back on them I can see they were pretty solid – all around the 6m/m mark. Though the run home was less spectacular!

On Wednesday, I had a 6 mile recovery paced run, which was harder than it should have been but not unexpected given Tuesday’s fast intervals.

Thursday, unusually for me, was a rest day. But this worked quite well as I was travelling back home from Birmingham for the long Easter weekend, and this meant on Friday I went for a short 4m recovery run with some strides. This provided some good strides and the legs felt much better than Tuesday and Wednesday. It was nice to run with Jodie for the first time in a while too!

On Saturday I was scheduled for a tune up race which, as already mentioned, was a parkrun. This week we visited Reading, as detailed in this post. It was at full effort, though not the PB or sub-20 I had hoped for, mainly due to the course conditions I still hope to break that 20 minute mark soon – though now it won’t be til after Manchester.


Sunday saw my first tapered long run, at a “paltry” 16 miles. My legs did NOT enjoy it. It was not helped by having to stop a couple of times due to toilet requirements. Nor did it help that this meant I diverted from route an got a bit lost. Finally, I fell over after about 5 miles and have a massive bruise on my hip! So all in all, not the biggest confidence boost!

2 weeks out, my legs are still flagging but I am going to do what I have done all along – trust in the plan. I keep looking at the sessions I have left and can’t help but feel I’m doing too much. But people much smarter than me wrote it, and its been used successfully by people around the world – so I’m going to keep trusting it, right til the end. Though I am going to take my remaining easy runs much easier.

With 2 weeks to go, perhaps the most important reflection to consider is that I am injury free! My “dodgy” knee feels much stronger and doesn’t twinge. All in all I think my legs are reasonably well conditioned, though I will reassess that at the end of this week as my mileage is around half of what I have been doing.

Time to put my head down and push through, ignore any hint of taper madness and believe in myself. I know I can do it, I just need to keep reminding myself!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 15 of 18

I entered this week of training knowing two things. One, I was bloody shattered following the Reading Half. And Two, this was the final big week of training before the taper. And now it has finished, I have to say, its a relief.

Here is what P&D had me down for…


…VS what I actually did. It was actually pretty close, except I failed my Interval session, I was still recovering from the race, my Saturday run was a bit quick, I had a bonus run for a Jantastic badge, and my 20 miler was split across 2 to take into account that I did the Yeovil Half Marathon.


Waking up on Monday was bloody agony. I woke up still absolutely creamed from the day before, and my legs really didn’t want to work. I managed a 5 mile walk to stretch them a bit which may have helped in advanced of Tuesday’s 7 mile recovery run with strides, but I wasn’t convinced. Though the strides started strong, they weren’t exactly consistent and faded near the end of the set.

On Wednesday I was down for a 10 miler with 4 x 1200m Intervals. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be a success as I still felt tired. But I gave it a go. The first rep was OK, but the 2nd rep I just had nothing left, so did an extended jog home. I’m not too concerned about it, I was asking a bit much to expect any sort of speed so soon after the race!

Thursday was a rest day, which was unusual for me as usually I’ve had to switch my Friday runs for Thursday as I was travelling. So when Friday came along, after a long stressful day at work, finishing late, the LAST thing I wanted to do was drag myself out for an 11 mile medium-long run. But I did, and it went well, I even managed a decent progression and a marathon paced last mile.

Saturday was parkrunday and I ran at “home” for the first time for ages! I was meant to run it at recovery pace but ended up a bit quicker than that. It was great catching up with everyone and chatting with people as I progressed through the field. Though everyone made fun of my (definitely not) amazing cakes!

16953002392_f016c6e301In the afternoon I needed to go to the shop, and I had this niggle that I still had one potential Jantastic badge to get. The badge award was for any run which had an average page of 6:30m/m or less. Unfortunately, on my only “legitimate” attempt, a rounding issue done me out of it! So I went for a brisk half mile effort to try and win the badge. Cheeky maybe, but hey – I’ll take it! And it’s only for a badge – I wouldn’t have classed it if I needed it to complete the challenge proper.

Sunday was the Yeovil Half Marathon which I was running as part of a 20 miler. So I got up ridiculously early and did a 7 miler to “warm up” (Though it was miserbale, cold and wet). Then prepped for the half with the Running for Time group and met Ryan who I was trying to pace round in 1:57.

Credit to Olly Ayles

Credit to Olly Ayles

Unfortunately due to injury related fatigue, we didn’t hit the pace target, but we did have a brilliant time, it was well supported and I chatted with so many friends. Despite the weather I had a really good time!

This week therefore, along with completing the “Race Preparation” mesocycle marked the end of Jantastic, with which I scored 100%! I’ll post tomorrow detailing my experiences, but I have to say I love the challenge and love what it did for my running.


Now the hard work and high mileage is over, its time to cut back in volume and maintain intensity as I navigate the pitfalls of taper madness and let my legs recover. Its brilliant getting through the bulk of the programme unscathed and I’m now itching to get to the start line!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 14 of 18

14 weeks into the 18 week journey, and I have finally reaped the rewards in the form of a spanking new half-marathon PB. This week in the plan was always intended to be a big week, but I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. After last weeks marathon paced effort, I was going into it, a relative cutback week, with Reading Half Marathon waiting for me at the other end. As such, I made a decision to alter the plan a bit in order to have a mini taper for the race. It would transpire that this would be a good move.

For what it’s worth, P&D would have had me doing this.


As I’ve said before, training races of 8-15k around here on a Saturday are a rarity, but last year (And following popular opinion online) a practice half was a great confidence booster and allowed me to assess the shape I was in, wearing race gear, in order to set a sensible goal for the marathon and build confidence. So I elected to slot Reading into my plan in place of my long run, have a recovery parkrun on Saturday, and swap out the 11m MLR in favour of a shorter, recovery run with some Strides to keep me sharp. And this is what it looked like. All according to (My modified) plan!


Monday I managed to have a nice walk as usual. My legs were understandably a bit stiff but it managed to loosen them off, and I think the stretch and bath helped afterwards too.

Tuesday saw another short Interval session, 5 x 600 meter efforts as part of an 8 miler. I didn’t think I’d do much with them to be honest, but surprised myself with a 5.57m/m average on the intervals! Though it was only 3km’s worth, would be interesting to see how I’d fare doing a full set of 8. Still it was an encouraging start to a race week.

Wednesday saw a 5 miler with some strides, and Thursday saw a 4 miler with some strides. Neither run had much to report, though Thursdays strides were more consistent and faster than Wednesdays, getting close to 5m/m.

Friday had a good solid rest day, and Saturday we wanted to get a parkrun in. We had to keep it local (Well, my away from home local) as we were busy that day so took the opportunity to go back to Basingstoke again. My tenth visit there!


I treated it as a bit of a fartlek, which was quite lucky really as I ended up having to chase down a parent who had irresponsibly left his 8 year old son eating his dust, and the 8 year old fell over and got quite upset, so I sent him back to his child. Jodie, supposedly taking it easy, managed to crack in a PB! I managed to have a chat with Steve, Event Director and he seemed like a thoroughly nice chap!

And then it came to Sunday. I have extensively covered the Reading Half Marathon in this post, so I have little to add other than to Summarize that it was a brilliantly organised event which I went round in 90:08, smashing my 92 minute Jantastic target, but agonizingly close to sub-90! But I gave it everything and didn’t have anything left, so I really can’t complain at a 5+ minute PB!


Speaking of Jantastic, as I managed to beat my “Timed Goal” this week, provided I run 5 times in the next 7 days, I’ll complete the challenge with 100%, which will be splendid! The only badges I feel I’ll miss out on that were in my reach (Sort of), are the Sub Zero badge – though the temperatures never actually dropped below zero – and the Speed Demon Badge – as I am still to nail my sub-20 5k (Though I am scheduled to have a crack at it the week after Jantastic, dammit!). Still it is clear that Jantastic has been massively beneficial when working hand in hand with my training plan.

It has delivered me a 90 minute half marathon, which as delighted as I am, puts me in a difficult position going into Manchester, in a reallygood way. It means I should be able to comfortably go for sub 3.20, which, if I’d have been offered at Christmas, I’d have taken in a heartbeat. But there is the outside possibility of a 3.15. The problem is, if I go out with that in mind I may just blow to smithereens after 20 miles.

Decisions decisions!

Either way, I’m going into week 15, the last week of the “Race Prep” mesocycle and the last week of “proper” training before tapering in high spirits, high in confidence, giving myself a high-5!

Manchester, bring it on!