London Marathon – 22nd April 2018

On Sunday 22nd April 2018 I completed my first marathon. It happened to be the hottest London marathon on record and so it was set to be a challenge for me in more ways than one. Here, I write about my preparation in the week leading up to the race, raceday itself and how I recovered in the two weeks following the marathon.

Week leading up to the marathon:
Monday – led RTW runners group in the evening
Tuesday – final session with Tonbridge AC before marathon. Session of 6 x 1km off of 3min recoveries.
Wednesday & Thursday – complete rest
Friday – half day at work. Travelled up to London in afternoon to visit the London Marathon Expo at the ExCeL in order to collect race pack.
Saturday – volunteer at parkrun in the morning, rest in the afternoon & evening.
Sunday (race day) – Up at 5.30am, finished off packing race bag; 6.20am – porridge with raisins, pumpkin seeds, honey & topped with banana. Left house at 6.40am in order to catch 7:13am train.

Arrived at London Bridge soon after 8am – very busy and decided to use the toilets there. Caught very busy train to Blackheath station soon after 8.30am and arrived at Greenwich Park with over an hour before race start.

I found some shade where I applied suntan lotion and took on my last bit of hydration before dropping my bag at 9.15am. I then performed some dynamic stretches before entering the start pen at around 9.30am – unfortunately in direct sunlight until just after a 10am start.

I set off at a comfortable pace, with the plan to run at 7:30 per mile (approx. 15-20 seconds slower than the mile pace that I had run at the Lydd 20 mile race in March).

Race nutrition – organic dried apricots dipped in sea salt and honey. I managed to pin a bag to the inside of my short pocket and all 10 apricots fit in – just! My plan was to hydrate every 3 miles and take on fuel at mile 8 and every 4 miles thereafter.

The support around the course was amazing and really kept me going. I managed to stick to my goal pace for 15 miles, though dropped off this pace for the next 4 miles, before taking a short walking break at mile 20 to compose myself and rehydrate. I found the final 6 miles a real challenge, both mentally and physically but knew that I was on target for around a 3:30 finish.

The race highlights for me were running across Tower Bridge – the level and noise of support was immense. Soon after turning off of Tower Bridge I was lucky enough to see the leaders of the elite men’s race go past along with Mo Farah. Another excellent support point on the course was where the “Run dem crew” were stationed – they had uplifting dance music playing, an MC and had marked the road with fluorescent messages. Though the best feeling of all came once I crossed the finish line, knowing that I had completed my first marathon!

The bag collection process was seamless and within just a couple of minutes of finishing I had my bag and was drinking the chocolate milk that I had prepared that morning. My legs felt like jelly and although I didn’t feel like eating straight away, I decided to consume the tuna pasta that I had prepared. Afterwards I wandered around London for the best part of an hour – first to London Victoria station and then back to a small café where I picked up a small vanilla ice cream (something which my body was craving for some reason). I then made my way to Embankment before taking a train home where I had a 20 minute walk home.

Recovery that evening involved a warm bath with magnesium flakes followed by a meal at Pizza Express.

Post marathon – a warm bath the following morning before a half day at work (1.30-5.30pm) and then leading my running group at 7pm that evening. Tuesday was an early start so I had an early night to bed before travelling to Canterbury for work. Wednesday/Thursday in the office and then off for a week’s holiday on Friday morning.

Holiday activities – went for my first (post-marathon) run on Saturday morning, an easy pace in beautiful surroundings – just shy of 6 miles; Sunday 3.5 miles easy pace; Monday 6 miles, including 3 miles at tempo pace; Tuesday 3 miles easy. Wednesday 24 miles cycling along the Camel trail; Thursday 9 miles coastal, hilly run at a comfortable pace; Friday, drive home.

I wasn’t at all sure how I would feel, both mentally & physically following the marathon and my initial plan was to do plenty of walking on holiday (which I also did), but it was to my surprise that I was to run a total of 28 miles over the course of the 6 days.

Having now completed my first marathon I have learnt a lot and I look forward to tackling another. I would like to enter just one marathon per year as it takes a lot out of you and not just the race itself, but also the training, preparationg and recovery. There are things that I would change and I am very grateful to my club for having been given the chance to participate in such an amazing race!

My next race is on Sunday 20th May in Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City Half Marathon. This is a race that I have participated in once before and for which I wrote a blog post in the Spring of 2017, so if you haven’t already, please check that out. My next blog post will therefore concentrate on my experience of this race and what plans I have for the rest of 2018. So until then, keep on running.

Training & racing update – 15th April 2018

It has been over two months since my last update and as I enter the final week in the lead up to my marathon debut in London, I thought it was about time to write a blog post to sum up the past couple of months of training and racing!

National Cross Country, Parliament Hill (London) – 24th February 2018
In my last post I wrote about my final race in the Kent Cross Country League. Two weeks on from this race and it was time for the National Cross Country race at Parliament Hill. The weather on the day was dry & bright and with the senior men’s race not until the afternoon, I had already been out volunteering at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun.

I travelled up to the venue by train, departing High Brooms station soon after midday and arriving in good time at Parliament Hill for a warm-up and recce of the course. As expected and due to the very wet winter that we have experienced, the course was exceptionally wet & muddy and, given that the senior men’s race is the final of 8 races on the day, the course was in an even more churned-up state!

I had invested in some new running spikes following the last Kent Cross Country league race and gave these a run-out at Lullingstone parkrun the week before. The spikes are made by Saucony and were much more suitable for the conditions than my old Brooks spikes.

This was the third year in a row that I had participated in the National Cross Country, but the first time when it had been staged in the South of England (the venue alternates each year between North, Midlands and South) and so I was looking forward to performing on “home territory”. In addition, having already run at the venue twice before (Jan’16 and Jan’17) but over 15km, I was confident of putting in a good performance as the National race is over a distance of 12km.

The race starts off by going uphill for approximately 500m and with well over 2,000 men in the race the field soon bunched up as the course narrows near the top. As the race progressed I really started to feel quite tired and unfortunately, could feel that my new spikes were slightly too big as I could feel them wanting to come off as I trudged through the mud. I finished the 3 lap race with a time of 53:55 and in position 982 of 2,328 finishers.

I was a little disappointed with my performance, having run a time of 51:10 the year before, although I would say that the course this year was more challenging.

I made my way home soon after the finish as the club had arranged their post-National, annual awards dinner at Salomon’s, Southborough that evening. By the time I arrived home there was just about time for a quick shower, before changing and making the 1 mile journey from my house to the dinner. Unfortunately, I could feel a cold developing and expect that this was caused by the fact that I had spent a great deal of the day out in the elements.

The club were celebrating a convincing victory in the senior men’s race, retaining the title that they had won for the first time last year and the ceremony was a very enjoyable and inspirational event. The meal itself was very tasty – I went for salmon, vegetarian risotto and brownie for dessert.

Lydd 20 mile – 11th March 2018
Three weeks on from the National Cross Country and it was time for me to make my debut over the 20 mile distance. I had entered this race as preparation for the marathon at the end of April and felt that this would provide a good opportunity to try out my fueling, pacing and to see how my body responded to racing over such a long distance.

Unfortunately, I had experienced a bad night’s sleep on the Friday evening leading up to the race and again, managed to develop a slight cold having been exposed to the cold at parkrun on the Saturday morning. I woke on the Sunday morning feeling better, but still not 100%. I was glad to be receiving a lift to the race with a couple of runners from my group and we arrived at the venue in good time to make use of the facilities and check-in my bag.

The weather overnight and early morning was very wet but this cleared in time for the race and we were even greeted with some sunshine halfway through the race. I was very pleased with my pacing and managed to maintain a comfortable rhythm for the first half – the course being an out and back route. I had prepared my race fuel in advance (dried apricots on a wooden skewer, stored in a plastic pot and kept in my rear shorts pocket) and decided to start re-fueling at 8 miles and then every 4 miles thereafter. I did have to slow down and walk in order to take the pot out and carefully bite off the apricots from the skewer, but this didn’t take more than about 10 seconds each time and I had not problems digesting them and getting back into my stride.

I was still feeling good as I went through 16 miles, but once I reached 17 miles my legs didn’t want to know – I had hit the dreaded wall! I managed to carry on running and was having to distract myself by encouraging the runners who were finishing the last few miles of their half marathon (the half started at the same time as the 20 mile but took a different out and back route after about 3 miles) as I passed them. The last couple of miles for me were a real challenge and I was very glad to finish.

Despite the struggle that I had for the final 3 miles, I was delighted to have finished with a time of 2:23.05. A very encouraging time and one which bodes well for my marathon in April. As I was waiting at the finish for my friends I was approached by a club mate who informed me that our club had won the male team prize and I was the 3rd scorer and so I was presented with a small plaque – what a nice bonus!

Mad March Hare 5km, Woldingham – 25th March 2018
The two weeks between completing the Lydd 20 and this race had not been at all good for me. The 20 miler had had a significant effect on me and it was clear that my body was not happy with me having run the race with a cold. I developed a nasty cough and did not manage to get any running in at all during the fortnight, with the exception of leading my group runs. My total mileage between the two races was a terrible 8 miles!

Despite this, I was looking forward to this race – one which I have run twice before and had an impressive record at, finishing in 2nd place the first time around and first place two years ago. It is a lovely, low-key event which is organised in aid of a charity. The event consists of a 5km and a 10km race, the 10km being two laps of the 5km course, with all participants set off at once.

I set off at a good pace and found myself out toward the front of the field. It was clear after the first kilometre that I was going to maintain 4th position as I was unable to gain any ground on the three guys ahead of me. However, I was uncertain as to which race they were competing in. As I headed back toward the finish I noticed all three of them heading back past me, meaning that I would be finishing in first place for the 5km – a nice surprise indeed.

Training leading up to the marathon
As you can tell from the above summary of my races, my training leading up to the marathon has not been perfect although I have managed to get in the long runs that I had wanted to – including a 22 mile long run. I can summarise my weekly mileage from the turn of the year (and the 16 weeks prior to the marathon) as follows:

w/c 1st Jan – 19.6
w/c 8th Jan – 33.5
w/c 15th Jan – 14
w/c 22nd Jan – 40.25
w/c 29th Jan – 33
w/c 5th Feb – 38
w/c 12th Feb – 35.5
w/c 19th Feb – 24.2
w/c 26th Feb – 22
w/c 5th Mar – 44.75
w/c 12th Mar – 2
w/c 19th Mar – 9.5
w/c 26th Mar – 33
w/c 2nd Apr – 26
w/c 9th Apr – 18.5
w/c 16th Apr – expected to be 12 (exluding the marathon itself)

If you have made it to this part of the blog then a big thank you for your patience and I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my recent training. I also hope that my experience will allow you to plan your training accordingly and prevent you from making some of the mistakes that I have made.

My next blog post will of course be written post-London and I look forward to writing about my debut experiece over the marathon distance.

Thanks for reading and keep on running!

RTW runners vests available to order

Further to the announcement made at the session on Monday, we are pleased to share with you the final design for our group running vest! The vests will be mostly blue in colour (like that of the RunTogether logo), with the RTW runners logo in white across the chest. Finally, two vertical white stripes go down from the armpit on each side to the bottom of the vest.

Click here to view a pdf file of the vest design.

The vests themselves will be of a technical fabric material and manufactured by Ronhill, so are sure to be of excellent quality.

We would like to place our first order for the vests and have been assured of a lead time of 2-3 weeks, which would mean that if we were to place an order now that they should arrive by the first week of May.

See the below chart for sizing:

If you would like to order your vest, please e-mail Joe at rtwrunners@zoho.com with the size and quantity that you would like. The vests are for sale at £20 each.

Thanks go to RTW runner, Kerry for designing the logo for our vests! #RunTogether #RunTW

Plogging

Have you heard of the term, “Plogging”?!

Plogging is a new pastime hailing from Sweden that sees people going for a jog whilst at the same time picking up litter. It is a new fitness craze and is expected to take off in 2018. It’s simple, you pick and you jog – hence the term “Plog”.

The appeal of Plogging is its simplicity (all you need is running gear, gloves and a bin bag) and the feeling of getting fit, whilst adding an environmentally driven element. By adding regular squats (to pick up litter) and carrying weight, the health benefits are increased as is your wellbeing. It’s also a great way to get to know your local area and make friends.

There couldn’t be a more on-trend way of keeping fit than Plogging!

For more information on Plogging, check out this article on the BBC three website.

We plan to bring Plogging to Tunbridge Wells:

We are looking to build teams of walkers, joggers and runners in and around Tunbridge Wells to participate in the Great British Spring Clean, which takes place over the weekend of 2nd – 4th March 2018. The campaign is being rolled out by the award-winning environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy and we want to show our support for this great cause. If you would like to join one of our teams, then please contact us in one of the following ways:
Facebook

Twitter

e-mail: rtwrunners@zoho.com

If you decide to participate in this event, then please be sure to use the following hashtags on your social media posts to help spread the word: #GBSpringClean #PloggingTunbridgeWells #LitterHeroes

Kent Cross Country League – Saturday 10th February 2018

The fourth and final fixture (for Senior Men) took place at Sparrow’s Den, West Wickham on a challenging 3 and a half lap course. The day had started off very cold and icy, so icy in fact that the Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun event had been cancelled that morning due to the amount of sheet ice on the paths around the lake in Dunorlan Park. However, with the Cross Country race start at 12.30pm, the cold weather had passed and some rather drizzly and dank weather had moved in!

I arrived at the venue in good time and went for a 1 mile warm-up around the playing fields before changing into my spikes and vest. The course consisted of a lap of an undulating field before moving into a challenging and hilly wooded section, this was repeated a further two times, before finishing with one final lap of the field and a swift return toward the start/finish line. I chose to go with 15mm spikes as there were quite a few sections of mud on the course and I also found these helped when making my way up the climbs in the woods.

I started off my race at a steady pace and gradually built up as the race went on. I worked hard on the inclines with a short recovery on the flats before making a quick decent throught the woods – there were some sections of stone and some tree routes to navigate, but having run on this course numerous times before (the course is also used for a 4km relay in the Autumn), I was very familiar and knew what to expect and this worked to my advantage.

I felt strong towards the end of the race and managed to pick up a few places in the last mile, finishing in 54th position and 10th scorer for our club in the 12 to score team. This was also my highest finishing position across the four races, having previously finished in 84th, 65th and 66th and this led to my final points tally of 267 and position 22 in the final league standings.

Looking at the final standings in the table, there were a total of 439 runners who competed in at least 1 of the 4 fixtures, with just 72 people managing to finish all 4. My finishing position of 22 this year was 4 places lower when compared to last season, however, my points tally this year was 16 better than last year and so I was able to come away with a positive in that sense.

Following on from this race, I decided to invest in a new pair of running spikes as a couple of the spikes on my existing pair had bent and started to come up through the sole of the shoe, causing me some discomfort. I visited Running Hub in Southborough (which is about a 2 minute walk from my house) and Alan Cheek convinced me to try on a pair of Saucony Kilkenny XC spikes and I found them to be very comfortable, so was sold straight away. Now, this is a departure from my usual loyalty to Brooks and I shall see how I get along with these when I take them for a spin at Lullingstone parkrun tomorrow. I wanted to wear them in ahead of my final cross country race of the season (the National XC at Parliament Hill) on Saturday 24th February and feel that this will be a good test for both the shoes and myself!

As always, thank you for reading and please check back for my next blog post which will focus on the National Cross Country race and the Club’s (Tonbridge AC) awards dinner which take place on the evening of 24th February 2018.