Having not raced on the roads since March 2020 at the Lydd 20 mile and with the Cork City Marathon (what would have been my third attempt at the marathon distance) and various other races being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19, I decided to focus all of my training efforts on just one race.
I started training in earnest for the Budapest 2021 marathon on the 12th October 2020, one year ahead of the scheduled race date (10th October 2021) with my training focused on achieving a sub 2:50 marathon.
I have been consistent with my mileage following a couple of months of limited running in the Summer of 2020 – July (40 miles) & August (20 miles), clocking over 100 miles per month – September (103), October (103), November (117) & December (122) 2020; January (122), February (101), March (195) & 1st – 18th April (106) 2021.
I have completed a long run in excess of 2 hours for 24 out of the 26 weeks so far, of which 5 have been in excess of 3 hours, with the only 2 weeks missed due to a house move. Most of these have been conversational paced, run at a comfortable effort, although I have done a couple of interval sessions within the long run on a couple of occasions – a 25.55 mile “yo-yo” Fartlek run (1 mile easy, 1 mile hard) in 3 hours 22 minutes and an 18.79 mile Pyramid run (2 mile warm-up followed by 2 miles @ 7:30, 2 @ 7:00, 2 @ 6:30, 1 @ 6:00, 2 @ 6:30, 2 @ 7:00, 2 @ 7:30 and 3.79 miles to finish) in 2 hours 19 minutes.
In addition to my weekly long run, I have been completing an interval session on my own, the purpose of which is to improve my running technique, economy (foot turnover, or cadence), speed and endurance. During the Autumn and Winter months whilst I was still living in Forest Row, I completed these sessions on football playing fields whilst wearing cross-country spikes (unless of course the session involved hills).
Since returning to Tunbridge Wells, I have again been completing the sessions on playing fields but have more recently been able to start wearing spikeless cross-country shoes as the ground has begun to dry.
The interval sessions have evolved in terms of the volume increasing from say, 10 x 400m in October 2020 to 24 x 400m in April 2021. The sessions themselves vary week on week, with intervals ranging from 200m up to the mile as well as some fartlek sessions, pyramids, ladders and of course, hills!
Weekly30 / (not) parkrun
I have completed a number of Weekly30 Run Challenges and (not) parkruns over the past 6 months, usually at the weekends, as I complete my long run and interval session during the week. On the 21st March 2021, I achieved my furthest Weekly30 by covering 4.8 miles in 30 minutes and on 9th April 2021 I ran my fastest (not) parkrun 5km effort since June of last year, of 19:46 on the undulating Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun course.
Whilst the cross country season was all but cancelled, there was one Covid-secure test event which did go ahead in Lloyd Park, Croydon for which I represented Lingfield Running Club, in my one and only non-virtual race! The conditions were typical of an English cross country race, with wind, drizzle and mud to test us all.
With this being a Covid-secure event, runners were set off in waves of 10 with social distancing at the start line and a few minutes gap between waves of runners.
I was pleased with my finishing time of 21 minutes, especially as the course was in fact 3.18 miles (rather than 3.11 miles for 5km) and my training diary note was as follows, “I started off strong and in control, finding myself in 2nd position but I struggled with strength in the second half of the race, losing 2 places. I should also have gone with longer spikes – 9 or 12mm (rather than the 6mm spikes that I wore). Tough conditions”.
Having completed a number of different virtual challenges over the Spring and Summer of 2020, I completed a few more in the Autumn. The first was with Lingfield RC where teams of 3 were asked to complete a solo 40 minute run, to see how close each team could get to achieving a sub-2 hour marathon! Needless to say, we didn’t get close – I covered 6.07 miles for my run. Later that month my running group, RTW runners, provided another virtual challenge, the “6.66km Halloween Run”, which I completed in a time of 27:48.
In November I signed up to the virtual New York marathon in order raise funds for the Blue Cross animal charity in memory of my rabbit, Austin who sadly passed earlier that month. The challenge involved running 3.275 miles on 8 consecutive days and I was very pleased to manage a finish time of 2:54.27 and 3rd overall.
Another RTW runners virtual challenge in December followed, the “Christmas Cracker 10km”, which I completed in a time of 42:37. January saw me represent Lingfield RC in the England Athletics virtual road relay, which was over a distance of 5 miles and which I completed in a time of 32:09.
Next up was the BMAF (British Masters Athletic Federation) virtual mile which I ran on the 5th March in a time of 5:55. The final virtual challenge came on 14th March, which was to be my final outing with Lingfield RC and this was a 10km run. I completed my run using the Tunbridge Wells Hospice in the Weald 10km route, which, if you know it, is undulating to say the least! Therefore, I was very pleased to post a 41 minute time for this run.
With an earlier than expected move away from Forest Row coming at the end of January 2021 and a return to Tunbridge Wells, I joined a long waiting list to re-join my first club (Tonbridge AC), with the expectation that I may not be invited to transfer until the end of 2021 and perhaps after my marathon. However, to my surprise I received an e-mail invitation to attend a trial with the club at the beginning of April! I have now completed my transfer back to TAC and I have attended two group sessions, the first of which was a 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1200m, 800m, 400m pyramid session and last week’s involved a 40 minute Fartlek of 2 minutes easy, 2 minutes hard, in which I covered 6 miles.
Goal setting update
In my last blog post, “2021 preview”, I set myself a number of goals for the year and I’m pleased to say that I am well on track to achieve a couple of them already.
Coaching – I have completed the England Athletics “Endurance: Event Group” online course content during my week off at the end of March / beginning of April and I will be attending the online integration day next weekend (it is split up into two 4 hour slots over the Saturdy and Sunday). The online material was very in-depth, with plenty of reading materials, videos and tutorials and in total took me in excess of 30 hours to complete.
This will provide me with a level 3 qualification and adds to my existing Leadership in Running Fitness qualification (level 1) which I achieved in 2016 and my Coach in Running Fitness qualification (level 2) from 2017.
Reading – I set myself a goal to read at least 1 new book each month, having only read 3 books last year. I’m pleased to say that I have already read 8 books and have recently started the next, which is Roger Bannister’s autobigraphy, “Twin Tracks”.
I have another 50 books available to read in my library on the subject of running, coaching and training (pictured below), so plenty to keep me out of trouble for the next couple of years I’m sure!
The next 6 months
So far, I have completed two 12-week, general preparation training blocks and I am currently 3 weeks into my latest 12-week block which is equally divided between general preparation in the first 6 weeks and specific preparation in the second 6 weeks.
The idea behind the general preparation phase is to complete higher mileage at slower speeds in order to build aerobic capacity and improve efficiency – it is in effect the building blocks of my training plan. The specific preparation phase will see me reduce my mileage and complete more runs at goal marathon pace (6:30 per mile). I will be completing more tempo runs, looking to sustain faster running speeds for longer in order to get my body and mind used to marathon paced running.
In the final 3 weeks before the marathonI shall enter the competitive phase of my plan which will see running volume dramtically reduced to ensure that my body is fully recovered for the marathon. Any hard running that I will do during this phase will be at race pace or faster.
In addition to my running, I have recently begun a structured strength training routine, which sees me complete a 1-hour (mostly upper-body) weights session every other day. At present, I am working on improving my maximum strength by lifting heavy weights over a small number of repititions. As I move into the specific preparation phase of my plan then I shall start to make the strength exercises more specific to the activity of running.
Finally, I have just added a new piece of equipment to my setup – an indoor rowing machine, which I was finally able to order on 7th April 2021 having joined a waiting list at the start of January! This activity will add another dimension to my training, a full-body workout and will help to maintain my cardiovascular fitness.
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you are planning to enter any races in the future and would like assistance with your training then please get in touch and I will be happy to help. You can contact me by phone on 07743 073788 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org