Spring Marathon Training – unconventional approach

Typical spring marathon training is to build the miles slowly, gradually increase the long run to 20-22 miles and have a fast HM somewhere in the leadup before a nice taper (dropping back mileage and intensity) before smashing out a PB, and spending rest of the summer getting fat and eating.

Given I’ve got a couple of Ultras in May I need to do long runs in April.  Having failed to get into London means I need a condensed section of training before a March marathon, with an aim of a sub 3:15 to get a GFA for London marathon in 2020 (when I turn 41) assuming they don’t change the criteria in the meantime.

True to form training has been a little unconventional.  I started the year with a 13 mile run with two New Years Day parkruns, ran a marathon the first weekend of January and then stepped down the mileage for speedwork.

Highlights so far have been:

A shed load of parkruns, some with dogface and some without.

Particularly proud of this photo of Bella and I briefly leading the Milton Keynes parkrun.

The January marathon was intended as a general test of form and set a baseline, especially as it was around Caldecotte lake which I’ve run regularly since 2012 so there’s no hiding or blaming performance on course, getting lost etc.

Having not done a run over 9 miles for the whole of December (my December marathon and HM were cancelled due to weather) I wasn’t very optimistic about the outcome.  Managed to pair up with local runner Paul after a couple of laps and we took turns leading the other around the lake for a lap each holding around 7:45/8:00 pace.

If you’ve never run in convoy or with a fellow runner like this it really makes a difference.  The lap you lead is hard work – maintaining pace, looking ahead for pedestrians, dogs and other obstacles and planning the route.  You finish the lap feeling tired and wonder how you’ll keep on but just trust the runner in front, switch off, ignore watch and keep up.  The difference in effort is staggering.  Despite running even pace it feels closer to interval training as the laps you ride passenger feel like a rest period.  We stuck together and finished 3rd and 4th with 3:24, a great time for such little training.  Now to fun an extra 9 minutes.

Rest of the month I’ve been sticking to the new rules for 2018:

  • I’ve not rounded up runs, no extra junk miles.
  • No extra junk runs so I’ve focused on saving myself for the key runs.
  • I’ve run the rest/steady runs at very low effort.  Managed to break the mindset that any run over 8min mile pace is a failure.

Typical week is:

Monday – recovery run from Sundays efforts – 3-6 miles at whatever pace the dog fancies

Tuesday – 4 or 5 mile loop with the Redway Runners 6:40 paced group (1 mile warmup then 3 or 4 at as close to 6:40 as I can manage)

Wednesday – 9 mile tempo loop of Bow Brickhill.  Gradually getting quicker from only doing one speed work session on a Tuesday.

Thursday – 5 mile loop at 7:00 pace (or as close to that as the storms on one Thursday would allow)

Friday – rest day

Saturday – until the boys footie games resume a warmup then a hard parkrun, managed a 20:29 parkrun PB but still need to do some work to go sub20 again.

Sunday – long run.   So far done a steady 13m at 8:00 pace and a 15m at 7:30 pace.

More by chance than any plan the race schedule is:

Fast Section

7th January – test marathon – 3:24 finish

10th February – Cross Country – my first proper XC race, will see how it goes

15th February – Cattle Creep 10k Night Race – 10k race in the dark with a head torch for fun but also a hard effort race

18th February – MK Winter Half – re-arranged from December, goal will be to properly push for a sub 90min finish (gulp)

13th March – Enigma Willen Lake Marathon – unusual choice for a Spring ‘A’ race but only event that fits in.  Goal is to go sub 3:15 (double gulp)

18th March – Reading Half Marathon – Having had some pretty negative experience here previously I’ve been given an entry this year to see how much they’ve improved.  Likely aiming for a sh*t or bust approach to get a sub 90min depending on previous two races.

Slow and Steady Section

Then it’s a case of training like a demon and bagging some very long back to back runs in preparation for the ultras.

5th May – Thames Path 100 – 100 miles along the Thames.

7th May – MK Marathon – ‘fresh’ from the TP100 it’s a recovery run/extra distance run to keep my streak going (completed MK marathon every year so far) and get some miles in on tired legs.

26th May – Grand Union Canal 145 – 145 miles along the canal.  This will probably hurt.

2017 – A year of running long!


2017 done and dusted so like every other runner on social media, time to reflect on a year of moving one foot in front of the other and repeating, all to burn enough calories to eat some dinner.

Previously, in 2016 I kept a deliberate 200 miles per month target and finished on 2507 miles, and managed to PB at every distance as well.  More miles seemed to work.

For 2017 I wasn’t planning to keep the streak going but with training for my first 100 miler it sort of happened to run on and once I got to June I wanted to keep going.  With a highest month of 305 I kept the streak going and finished 24 consecutive 200 mile months and an annual total of 2652 miles.  December was tricky having the MK Winter Half cancelled to knock a few miles off, and snow made running distances tricky.


High miles shouldn’t be undertaken with no prep.  Despite being an uncoordinated, awkward looking runner I’ve managed these miles by increasing SLOWLY.

Total Weekly
2011 628 12.1
2012 1525 29.3
2013 1562 30.0
2014 1732 33.3
2015 2021 38.9
2016 2508 48.2
2017 2653 51.0

I was worried the ultra training would kill my speed this year so started running with a 6:40min/mile paced session from Redway Runners to keep my speed up.  It worked but was tricky on the mind going from 6 min miles to 16 min miles over the course of a few weeks.

The speed work seemed to work and I managed a 5k at the MK Rocket only 1 second slower than my PB the previous year, a sub 40min 10k in Paris and a HM PB at 1:32.  Didn’t manage to beat my 2016 marathon PB of 3h15 but did manage two at 3:17 in October so heading the right way.

Main achievements this year were running my 100th marathon and getting the coveted 100 Marathon Club vest:


Along with my second 50 miler at the SDW50 in preparation for the 100:


Which went well:


Then a misguided attempt to do a further 100 at the Autumn 100:


To finish the year I managed a parkrun PB just before Christmas and 8th place finish.  All in wraps off a successful year.


Next year due to combination of bad planning and bad luck I have an odd schedule:

  • London marathon ballot?   FAIL
  • Berlin marathon ballot?  FAIL
  • Grand Union Canal Race (145 miles) ballot?  WIN (the ballot where winning makes you wince and jump for joy simultaneously).
  • Ride 100 ballot – TBC (yep to honour my Dad’s passing and his keen cycling racing as a lad I’ve entered a ballot to ride for a 100 miles on a bike I don’t yet possess and relying on some mucking about at the BMX track with the boy.  What could go wrong?).

The other races I ‘have’ to do are:

  • Thames Path 100 – The third of the Centurion events.  It’s in May and flat.  I’m aiming for a sub21 or maybe sub20 if I can train properly.
  • Milton Keynes Marathon – I’ve done every year.  I have to go.  It’s in May.  It’s the bank holiday Monday following the TP100.  With luck I will have 24hrs rest before hobbling around the course trying to avoid the sweeper bikes.

It’s fair to say May will be challenging.  Did I mention the GUCR is also in May?  Yep I have 3 races booked next year, combined distance of 270 miles, all in May.

Main goal for 2018 is to enjoy the running.  Less marathons, more fun stupid stuff.  1st January was the parkrun New Years double at Linford Wood and Milton Keynes, with faithful doggie training partner:


Best of luck to everyone next year, and smash those running goals!