Paris Marathon 2016 – Recap for those about to run it!

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As Paris is a week away thought it would be worth recap of my experiences from last year to help any runners.  

I’d fancied a go at Paris for a number of years and having never visited the city itself it seemed an ideal excuse to immerse the kids in some culture, and then a few days at Disneyland Paris to erase any essence of culture.  Having not managed to get in to London for 2016 this became THE spring marathon for me.

Having had some great results in the winter from higher mileage I took the decision to target around 50 miles per week, with goal of 200 miles per month.  Keen to avoid ‘junk’ miles I aimed to never run slower than planned ‘fall back’ marathon pace of 8min/miles with exception of some long runs.  This is against the typical “long runs should be at marathon pace +1 min” approach but I’ve never been one to follow instructions.

Medical Cert – 

For anyone that’s not run in France, they don’t use the UK “promise I won’t sue if I die” medical waiver but instead insist on a doctors note declaring there is “no known reason” why you can’t run.  This isn’t too arduous if you have regular interaction with the doctor.  For the typical “if it’s not fallen off it’ll fix itself” runner, you may not even be registered to a GP or if you are, then handing in your registration form 7 years ago is likely the only time you’ve stepped foot in the surgery.

Having read up online I downloaded the pro-forma example letter from the Paris Marathon website and dropped off to the doctors as instructed by the receptionist.   Then followed weeks of chasing as I was told it was progressing.  Arduously it moved from ‘received’, through ‘allocated to practice manager’ and finally the week before we were due to fly out I was invited in for a check up.  By this point panic had taken over and I had an expertly forged letter as a fall back plan signed by a fictitious MD.  The bemused actual doctor asked how many marathons I’d run before (72 by this point), laughed, said he might as well check pulse and blood pressure for the look of it and signed it off for a £15 fee.  Doctor said he didn’t want to see me again unless I won so pressure was on.

The original plan for Paris had been sub 3:20.  Given I’d managed a 3:15 in the previous month I felt the pressure was off a little having beaten my spring target.  If it all went wrong I’d decided to let the 3:15 pacer go, drop back to a more leisurely 3:30 target and enjoy the event.

We arrived in Paris on the Friday and after the usual delay due to French air traffic control and nightmare queue to buy train tickets to get into Paris, dropped stuff at hotel and went off to explore.  The wife and I had signed up for the accompanying ‘Breakfast Run’ on Saturday morning, a non-timed 5k fun run through the streets of Paris taking in the sights and ending with coffee and croissants in a local square.  Cynically it’s an overpriced parkrun (and the same time as the Paris parkrun only a few miles away) but is a great start to the weekend and more like a running carnival as everyone waved their national flags and wound through the streets.

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Awesome I get to queue up for hours to basically enter a market stall!  I love Expos.


Expo –

The downside of the breakfast run is I had to make it to the expo before it closed on Friday to get race numbers for the marathon and the breakfast run.  True to form this was on the outskirts of the city in a pretty uninspiring industrial and conference park and not that conveniently located for public transport, especially when the metro line was closed due to an impossible to translate issue.  Fellow passengers sat on the stationary train, most headed to the expo and aware that time was ticking before it closed.  If you were only interested in the marathon then you could simply return tomorrow and fight the crowds.  Those like me needing the breakfast run race packs took a random variety of alternative tube routes and a long walk to get there just before closing.  Nothing says welcome to the city like spending hours travelling on graffiti ridden, piss smelling public transport to pick up a small piece of paper before repeating the journey back.  It’s confirmed my belief that expos are unnecessary and a money making opportunity to sell floor space to suppliers eager to fleece a captive audience of runners.

Fortunately arriving late cut down on the crowds and I rocked up to the first of registration tables.  Expecting a deep and thorough checking of my medical note I was disappointed to find my £15 letter having little more than a cursory glance to confirm name and thrown in a box for filing.  In hindsight I’m pretty sure Mickey Mouse himself could have signed the letter off.  A point to bear in mind for future.

After grabbing the marathon bib, a rather fetching rucksack for the drop bag and the breakfast numbers I fled the expo before being talked into wasting Euros on stuff I didn’t need and went to meet the family for dinner wondering how many more beggars and unsavoury individuals I’d encounter on the way back.

Race Day –

I woke up on race day after a slightly interrupted sleep.  Figuring I’d not drunk enough whilst sighseeing I’d overdone the fluids before bed once again and spent too much of the night weeing.  Making the best I could of the hotel continental breakfast I took the metro to the start, feeling relaxed and ready for the race.  This feeling lasted until I walked out of the station onto the Champs-Elysées into a seething mass of people all coming the other way.   My lack of preparation had seen me arrive at George V station, ideally located for the start pens.  Not ideally located for the bag drop in Avenue Foch.  I had no idea how far the bag drop was but it was already 8:30 and my pen was due to leave at 8:50 after closing at 8:40.

After ruling out dumping my bag by the side of the road I decided I’d just have to run for it, pushing my way through oncoming hoards as politely as possible and hurdling Parisians and their dogs out for a Sunday stroll.  Whilst in the queue to drop my bag the large display screens showed the elite start going off at 8:45.  The erupting cheers as one plucky club runner managed to briefly lead the elite cheered me up a little and took the edge off what a total mess up I was making of my Spring marathon.  The day was already looking like being one of the hottest of the year which wasn’t helping my panicked and sweaty demeanour.  One further warm up sprint (this time going with the flow) and I made it to my pen in time to see the back of the final runner setting off and the next pen about to be released.  Fortunately, a marshal took pity on me, squeezed me through the barrier and I was able to set off chasing them down the iconic street.  I’d run nearly 10 metres of the marathon and I was already a sweaty tired mess.  The casual observer would struggle to believe this was my 73rd attempt.

Based on the training marathons I held the pace back with a halfway goal of 1:37, something I’d reached multiple times over the past dozen or so races.  The 3:15 pacer was only just ahead and I tried to force the doubts from my mind and sweat from my eyes and settle in, trying not to notice how hot it already was.

At around 5 miles the course breaks out of the picturesque streets and enters the Bois De Vincennes park.  It’s beautiful and largely flat but I was starting to notice the inclines.  The doubting voice in my head reminded me I’d probably covered a decent paced parkrun in the process of getting to the start pen and kept reminding me how tired my legs must be feeling already.  At times it also declared how bright the sun was and inquired if I could feel it beating down on me.  Yes I could.  Each water stop I grabbed a bottle to drink and one for my head.  Until the later stages they provided only water so I had some sports tablets ready to drop in.  As the race progressed my bottle turned all the colours of the rainbow as I dropped various tablets in.

Halfway came just after re-entering the city and I’d kept sight of the 3:15 pacer.  My splits were on target although not feeling as comfortable as I would have hoped. All I needed to do was maintain the pace.  25k marker came and went and I’d dropped a little.  I would have murdered someone for a Red Bull or a Coke at that point.  In desperation I tried one of the weird French energy tubes from the aid stations.  They looked like travel sized toothpaste and tasted like the bizarre offspring of cake icing and Haribo.   The locals seems to like them, but didn’t sit well with me and I started to slow, losing the pacer and had a ‘why do I bother’ spell.  Through one of the underpasses, away from the crowds and spectators I slowed to a walk.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one struggling and despite a massive drop in pace I was still passing people.  Taking comfort from their misery (I felt awful but not as bad as they looked) I resolved to salvage what I could.  Some rough sums told me if I could hold the final 10 miles at under 9 minute pace I would come in just over 3:30.  Every mile under that would pull it back.

My efforts to progress were hampered by seemingly every aid station having someone decide to stop dead in front of me and peruse the selection on offer like he was in his local supermarché.  My French isn’t good enough to convey my thoughts (“For fucks sake it’s the same bloody stuff as the last 10 stations, if you’ve not decided in the intervening 3 miles what you want then you don’t deserve anything.”) so I stuck to the particularly British approach of tutting loudly every time someone brought me to a stop whilst they did their weekly food shop at the aid table.

Checking back on my watch at every distance marker I was just about holding it together.  The shortest route on the course was marked with a green line and I doggedly stuck to it, bearing down on runners in front and largely intimidating them to one side.  For the final 5 or so miles the course again left the bustling Paris streets and wound through Bois De Boulogne, home of the Paris parkrun.  It was a beautiful area but largely devoid of supporters.  The few people we did pass were other runners out for a leisurely Sunday run in the dappled shade of the trees.  Normally when I’m on a training run and happen upon runners in a race I get terrible envy watching them storm past onwards to glory and a medal whilst I’m running for no rewards.  Right then I would have happily swapped places and had a relaxed social run along the shaded soft trails rather than pounding tired legs over the concrete.

I was brought back from my daydreaming by sirens.  Lots of them.  Subconsciously I probably registered there were a lot of ambulances and rapid response bikes on the course.   This was the first time I really noticed how many fellow runners were struggling with the heat or the pace and being tended to at the side of the road or lifted into emergency vehicles.   One runner up ahead succumbed to the heat and as he fell was caught by passing runners and gently laid down on the road as he clearly was in no fit state to look after himself.  It was heart-warming to see strangers jeopardise their race to help someone else, but also hilarious to watch the fallen runner slowly raise his arm over his chest, bring them together as if to pray to his chosen deity for recovery, but actually to pause his Garmin before laying back down for a little rest.  You can imagine his tale to his mates “Look at my awesome splits for 22 miles, I was on way to a massive PB right up until I woke up in the First Aid tent.”

Whilst doing my best not to join the stricken runners I continued dumping water on my head whenever able, and focused on the green line.  I was keeping under the 9min pace and with each passing mile was getting further under the 3:30.  As the crowds started to build again in the final miles I started to relax and try to enjoy the atmosphere.   The crowds were chanting  “Alle, alle” for us to go.   In that curious mental fog you get at the end of the race I wondered who this runner called Ali was and whether it was an Alison or an Alistair, hoping that I’d manage to keep ahead of him or her if possible.

Finally exiting the park the finish line was in sight, I crossed the line in 3:27:52.  The final stages had been a painful grind but had got me under the 3:30.  I felt I’d ‘done’ Paris so wouldn’t need to return.

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I tried to unwrap it hoping it was a chocolate inside.

After collecting my (disappointing plastic looking) medal, I did a quick change in the portaloo, consumed my body weight in orange segments and made my way to the Metro and the hotel to meet up with family for our transfer to Disneyland.  After all nothing is better marathon recovery than meeting Mickey and his mates.  In total I covered 37 miles that day including the afternoon at the theme park.  No wonder my legs were complaining as I squeezed into bed.

 

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MK Marathon – Week 12 Training – Fun in the Sun

Week 12 of 17
This week has been odd as I’ve been accompanied on most of my runs by a big burning ball of gas in the sky.  I’m told it’s the ‘sun’ but it seems so long since we last saw I’m not so sure.  

Start of the week marked 3 weeks until I tackle the South Downs Way 50 so need to get two weeks of fairly high miles in before stepping it back a little prior to the event.  That being said given the SDW50 is a practice for the South Downs Way 100 in June I should probably approach it a little tired to try and simulate the big day when I’ll have 50 miles in my legs before I even reach the start.

After the 100 the proposed plan is to rest, recover, get a massage and get reading for a PB attempt at the MK Marathon.  It’s not the most conventional or training plans.

Monday – Recovery Run – 2.3 miles – Legs felt pretty good day after the marathon so my recovery run normally done at 9-10 min miles, was closer to 8:30 pace. 

Tuesday – 6:40 session. 6:49 pace for 4 miles Sixth attempt at this club session, and quickest yet. Still hanging off the back of the pack but getting quicker.  

Wednesday – 10k at 7:40 pace with the dog – Unfortunately the wife was away with work so I couldn’t join my usual bunch of idiots to run up a hill in the dark at 5am so had to wait for later in the day to do a lap of the lake with the dog.  A PB for her but she took it all in her stride and didn’t even feel the need to brag on social media.

Thursday – Relaxed morning run – 3.5 miles at 8:44 pace  – Making up for shortage of miles from earlier in week an early morning jaunt with doggie again.  Annoyingly there were a lot of unsocial dogs straining on leads so had to spend most of run with her on harness just to keep her safe.

Evening run – 8x5min with 3min recovery – 10.5miles at 7:58 – Struggled with enthusiasm on this one so was glad of clubmates pushing each other along.  If you’re not a member of a club I’d throughly recommend it.  One of the best places to look is the website of your local parkrun as it has links to all the local clubs.  

Overall this was one of those sessions you know you need to do and will be thankful of come race day but really don’t fancy it at the time.

Friday – 10k at 8:37 pace with the dog – A nice relaxed loop of Caldecotte lake with plenty of wildlife spotting and dog paddling.  Bella now up to nearly 16 miles for the week.

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Saturday – 15miles at 8:02 pace – The boy had football practice at 9 so had to be done early.  6am runs on Saturday are not ideal but sometimes you just need to get the job done.  Running takes up a lot of time and I appreciate the leeway made by my better half so have to make the best of fitting it around work, family and life.  Fortunately found two other loons with time constraints so wasn’t on my own and weather was awesome.  


Sunday – Rest Day & Mother’s Day – Normally I do my long run on a Sunday which seldom ties in with the club who run on a Saturday.  This week they moved it to Sunday, hooray!  This week it’s also Mother’s Day so running would not go down well.  Instead spent the morning helping kids prepare breakfast in bed for a very deserving wife.

Weekly total mileage – 47.72 miles

Amazing Customer Service – On Cloud Trainers

Have to commend a running shoe company with some amazing customer service.

I purchased some On Cloud shoes in July last year.  I’d been looking at them since the London Marathon Expo way back in 2012 but never quite got around to buying them.  They seemed a bit gimmicky but years later are going strong and they’re launching new models regularly.  A few others in the running club got some last year and raved about them, so I took the plunge.

First impression was amazing.  Super light, only circa 200g.  Their first marathon outing was also the first time I won a marathon outright –

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Their unique selling point is the small, hollow ‘clouds’ on the base that add cushioning but avoid weight.

I was really sold on them but they started to suffer from stitching fail with the outer sections coming away from the main sock/liner.  This was more aesthetic than a functional issue.

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Mostly I ignored this and continued to use them but then later found the ‘clouds’ at the rear started to collapse and cause lack of stability.  I’m a chunky monkey and especially when tired have a tendency to heel strike so they’d probably been tested to destruction.  I put them away in the cupboard and ignored them, promptly forgetting I even had them.  I’m not a fastidious as some on keeping track of mileage but perception is they’d lasted maybe 250-300 miles when I normally get at 500+ from other brands.

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Recently I made a comment about the quality issues in response to a query from a runner on social media.  “On” tracked me down, asked for some photos and description of the issues and promised a new pair would be sent out.  I hadn’t contacted them, they’d been pro-actively checking out mentions on twitter and the like, keen to keep customers happy.

True to their word, about a week after making contact, today I came home to find these waiting for me.  Have to commend On for customer service second to none they even apologised that the original colour was out of production so offered me a choice of the new colours (I plucked for the black).  The only problem is they seem too clean and shiny to take out.

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MK Marathon – Week 11 Training – Marathon 93

Week 11 of 17
This week was about snagging another marathon on the way to 100 and getting some decent pace work in.  

Monday – Rest 

Tuesday – 6 mile loop with Bella at 7:57 average – felt very relaxed for a relatively quick pace.  A brief pause at by the marina section at Caldecotte to scare the dog away from a dead rat on the path and after deliberation a swift kick into the lake to avoid kids or other dogs investigating it.  Fortunately it was fresh enough it didn’t explode in a ball of putrid flesh.

6:40 session. 6:56 pace for 4 miles Fifth attempt at this club session, got slower!  Maybe second run of the day not the best time for speedwork.

Wednesday – 9mile Tempo at 8:01 average Felt good for the start then the speed work make it’s presence felt and slowed for the last few miles.

Thursday – Relaxed 8 miles  – Started with 4x5min with 3 min recovery, getting quicker on each interval.  Subsequent plan to extend it to 10 mile loop fell apart when bulk of club decided they’d rather trot back and chat and just do 8 miles.  Was nice to have a social chat.

Friday – Rest day

Saturday – Rest day had a lovely 2hr nap on the sofa.

Sunday – Enigma Week at the Knees Marathon – Day 7 – Anyone local to MK may have seen runners lapping the lakes this week.  Starting at Willen, then Furzton, finishing at Caldecotte.  Heroes did all 7.  I’m a one day wonder and turned up for day 7 only.  


Unlike previous event when I turned up late I made the mistake of not reading the start time and turned up a whole 35 minutes early.  That’s a loss of beauty sleep I need.

Started out at the front and spent 26 miles expecting to get passed.  It never happened and I finished in first for my third marathon win.

Time of 3:27:27 could have been quicker but wind, and laziness didn’t help.

This was marathon 94 and unlike the last week event I went out at a steady pace and largely held it rather than go out like a bat out of hell and suffer.

Weekly total mileage – 54.7 miles

MK Marathon – Week 10 Training – I’m still an idiot

Week 10 of 17
This week was about snagging another marathon on the way to 100 and getting some decent pace work in.  Looking back it also shows I never follow my own advice…..

Monday – Rest (well actually drive to Glastonbury, stand in the rain for a day for work and driving back).

Tuesday – 6:40 session. 6:51 pace for 4 miles Fourth attempt at this club session. Should be one mile at 7min pace and three at 6:40min pace. For less effort it was only a second per mile slower than previous attempt.  Training is working.

Wednesday – Rest – As much as the 5am Tempo run up a hill in the dark has been a key part of training for the last 18 months it’s great to lie in bed (especially on your Birthday) and have a guilt free week off as the next day is a marathon.

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Thursday – Eton Dorney Marathon – Marathon 93 – Organised by a relatively new running event organiser, Running Miles,  it’s a 6 hour timed event doing 2.62 mile out-and-back laps along the Olympic Rowing lake.  Do 1 lap, get a medal.  Do 10 laps and get a marathon.  As it’s laps you see other runners regularly and can support and encourage each other.  Plus the other advantage of never being far from aid station or toilets and no getting lost.

Having run the course last October and getting an accidental second quickest marathon only 4 days after running Bournemouth marathon I had high hopes for a decent time.  It’s a flat and quick course.  A month since doing the Quadzilla (4 marathons in 4 days) I hoped to be recovered and ready to do a decent time.

This is where my years of experience of running marathons kicked in.

Perfect race day preparation, as covered in the previous blog post.

  • Rest well the day before.  Get to bed early once all final checks have been made.
  • Get your kit on and make sure to protect nipples etc.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to the event in a calm manner.
  • Drop off bag, final toilet stop and get ready to race.
  • Run the event at your chosen and proven pace (averaged 7:42 min/mile last time so target was a smidgen faster and try and pick up pace after 20 miles).
  • Finish strong and collect medal.

So naturally I –

  • Went out on a leaving do for a colleague the night before.  Hydrated with beer and fuelled with pizza, stumbled into bed at 12.
  • Didn’t leave enough time to get to the race.  Pulled onto the lake to see the runners setting off into the distance.
  • Sprinted from car, grabbed race number, and attempted the fastest portaloo break in history of athletics (I got a PB I’m sure).
  • Dropped food and drink bag by tent.
  • Ran to start line about 5 minutes after everyone else had set off.
  • Set off like an angry, startled hare and tried to chase the pack down.
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Here’s what it looks like when I actually get to the start line in time…

Starting from the back does give you an incentive to push and I gradually reeled people in. Setting off at a suicidal pace that felt effortless I wondered if I’d suddenly become Mo Farah.  Then at the halfway point turned around for the return section and was hit by a horrendous headwind.  Sadly I hadn’t woken up with Olympic quality legs, just been running with the wind at my back and blown most of the way there.

By end of first lap I was close to top 10.  Somewhere through second lap I passed 5km in a near-PB.  Probably not ideal.

On third lap I’d pulled a bit further and was just outside 10k PB.  Passing a pack of runners I slipped into the no-mans lands between the 6th place runner at around 3:15-3:20 pace and the pack at around 3:30.  Logic said I should have hung with the 3:30 pack but I pushed on hoping to reel some people in.  It didn’t work.  The beautiful spring weather felt like an oven compared to the sub-zero months we’d endured in the UK and I was wondering if I should have put some sun screen on.

By HM distance I was already regretting the early pace and as I gradually slowed over the rest of the race I lost a few places.

The final few laps I struggled to keep under 8min/mile pace and was bleeding profusely from my nips.  Bloody amateur.

Comedy value was provided on  the final lap when I deftly flicked my headphones out with a dodgy wrist slap, they fell to the floor and tangled around ankles bringing me to a complete stop like a lassoed steer.

Finally crossed the line to complete 10 laps and marathon distance in 3:27:43 (unofficially).  My 16th time under 3:30, but my 11th quickest was not the fast time I’d hoped for.  Official finish time was 3:31:00 which satisfied my OCD for round numbers.

All that was left was to collect my shiny medal and get to work (luckily we have showers in the office).

Two weeks until marathon 94.  Lets see if I can turn up on time for this one.

Friday – Recovery Run – 6 miles at 8:35 pace – Don’t normally do more than a few miles on a recovery normally but legs felt OK and dog face wanted more.

Saturday – Rest Day

Sunday – 14.6 miles at 7:53 – Joined some club mates doing an unofficial marathon by lapping Caldecotte Lake.  The thought of getting up to join them at 6am in the rain was just too hard to resist and I duly stumbled out of bed and ran four laps before heading back for breakfast and Sunday morning cuddles on sofa with the kids.  Pleased to hold a decent pace so soon after a marathon and on no breakfast.

Weekly total mileage – 51.15 miles – back to the right side of 50 after a few weeks of recovery and being lazy.

MK Marathon – Week 9 Training – Slippery when wet

Week 9 of 17
Goal for the week was get some decent miles in but not so much I jeopardise Marathon No.93 next week.

Monday – 5m loop of Caldecotte Lake at 9:00 average pace – Legs felt wrecked after unaccustomed weekend of hard labour.    This attempt was just to get them working.

Tuesday – 20x1min with 1 min recovery in awful rain (7:51 average for 8.5 miles)– It was horrible and I so nearly quit and went home early but stuck it out and managed to hit 200 miles for February, 14th consecutive 200+ month.  Only three hardy/foolish club members braved the weather to get the work in.

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Wednesday – 9mile Tempo at 7:57 average – Slower than last week but previous night session was still in legs.

Thursday – 11 miles with 50min tempo session in the middle (7:46 average) – Good session and felt stronger at the end than beginning as I warmed up.

Friday – Rest Day 

Saturday – Parkrun with Bella -3.1 miles at 7:01 pace – A whole 10secs a mile quicker than last week even with a toilet and paddle stop.  First dog home again!

Sunday – 10k with Bella at gentle 8:21 pace – Feeling jealous of everyone running the MK Festival of Running but not of the weather (having spent the morning at MK Junior parkrun I’d had my fill of getting wet) so waited  for the rain to ease up and got a gentle run in with the insatiable dog.

Weekly total mileage – 42.75 miles. About what I’d like from a normal week before tapering for the Marathon on Thursday.  Hoping the weather is less biblical by then.

 

Is your first Half Marathon looming?

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If you’re training for a Spring marathon (like the amazing MK Marathon, have I mentioned I’m an ambassador, a 5 time finishing legend etc etc?!) then around now is when you’re likely to be trying a half marathon in preparation.  If this is you first big event it can be a daunting experience.

Most training plans will incorporate several races in the run up, often a half marathon and then a 20 mile race.  These are a good measure of your progress but also provide experience of the whole process of big scale races.  You can turn up to parkrun moments before the start, throw your hoodie in a bush for later and set off.  For big events the process of storing kit, collecting numbers and toilet queues, getting into start pens etc can take hours and be daunting to first timers.  For this reasons it makes sense to pick a large scale half marathon in the lead up.  Silverstone and Reading half in the spring are popular for those in the South of the UK.  Neither is particularly a scenic or enjoyable event but give the appropriate size and feel of a big marathon event.

If you’re training for MK Marathon then the MK Festival of Running in early March offers HM and 20 mile options.  Where possible try and pick a half marathon with a similar course and elevation gain (how much uphill you go) as your marathon.  If you live in Norfolk and do all runs on the broads having never run up or down a hill, you’re going to struggle on race day if it’s a hilly course.

Preventing Piss Poor Performance – NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!

The key part of the HM is to not just to measure fitness but also test everything for the big day.  You debut marathon should be ‘merely’ a matter of running a little further than you have before, hopefully at a slightly faster pace.  Your morning routine, pre-race preparation, running kit and fuelling should all be proven and known before the day to avoid any surprises.  Your first HM is the ideal time to prove to yourself you’ve got everything covered.  Finishing your first marathon in agony from chaffing clothes and sporting bleeding nips is probably not what you envisaged when you stated this journey.

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92 marathons later I still sometimes sport the sniper wounds of nipple pain…

The early bird catches the worn.  And avoids pooping in a bush.

Morning routines is the polite reference to making sure your body has woken up and done the necessary emptying before you hit the start.  During training you’ll have learnt what it takes from waking up and how long before your digestion gets going.  A good strong cup of coffee helps most get things moving then move onto breakfast to fill the void created.   Ideally you’ll have tried a few different breakfasts to see what works for you, with a view to what’s going to be available on the big day.  If you’re staying in a budget hotel you’re unlikely to manage a free range egg white omelette with pine nuts and fresh avocado and will have to make do with Weetabix and suspicious sausages.  Typical preferences are bananas, porridge and cereal.  Personally a cooked breakfast works well as good blend of fat, protein, carbs and stodge.

To avoid any last minute issues lay out your kit the night before.  Pin the race number bib on your top, attach timing chip to shoes and visually check you have everything you need.  That way if you wake up late you won’t be panicking and wondering where your left shoe is.

If everything has run smoothly on the morning you’re about to leave home/hotel wearing everything you need for the race with an extra layer on top for warmth, and carrying your drop bag with change of clothes for after.  Your stomach is comfortably full, and you’ve emptied your guts.  All that’s left is to turn up and run.

Fuelling (because eating and drinking is not a fancy term)

As you long runs have increased in distance you’ve likely needed to start taking on fuel to get you around the run.  It’s worth checking what will be available on your marathon and hopefully find a HM with similar availability or bring along the same brand for your HM.  You don’t want to find out at mile 18 of your debut event that the provided gels cause your breakfast to make a violent and noisy break for it from either (or both) ends.  Gels in particular are very marmite.  Some can down gel after gel, others get on well with only certain brands, some won’t be able to stomach in any form.  Sports drinks tend to be less of an issue but still worth checking if able.

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But why does my training programme stop at only 20 miles?  A marathon is waaaaaayyyyyyy longer?

It’s common for programmes to build the long run distance gradually, then step back down for a week to allow legs to recover before stepping back up again.  If it’s your first event you may only hit 20 miles once in training, or it may be limited to a time goal with no distance goal.  The reason behind this is the further miles or time on feet would take a toll on your legs requiring recovery that would detract from further training and offer no real benefit.

Mentally this can be hard, knowing that the ‘little bit extra’ you’ll need to run on race day was considered an impressive run on fresh legs several months ago or possibly a distance you’d get the car out for.  Trust the programme and trust the thousands of people who have followed the same path you’re on.

So you’re all set for your HM, go run it and remember to wipe the sweat/blood/snot/puke off your face for the finish line photo (who said running wasn’t glamorous?).

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