Marathon Training, Week 4

The miles are piling up, but slowly, too slowly. I canned Tuesday’s run because I couldn’t fit it in during the day. That was 11 miles gone from the plan. I had a very lovely 14 miles on Christmas day, out to Coton Country Park via Grantchester and Barton and then home through the city centre. It was calm and peaceful. People were emerging from the churches in Trumpington and Grantchester and milling around Great St Mary’s in the city. Mass on Christmas Day was always one of my favourite occasions. Even if I’d been to Midnight Mass, I would get up and head out to church again in the morning. Sometimes, I’d have to because I was serving on the altar but there were times I didn’t have to be there and went anyway.

I pegged a quickish 4 miles in the C&C Boxing Day fun run. My 28:18 was just under a minute quicker than my time in the same run last year. I didn’t go off too quickly for once. In fact, my legs were heavy and I didn’t really get going until the halfway mark. I pulled in a man pushing a buggy in the first 800m back from Trumpington. I saw Margaret Phillips and Chris Hurcomb ahead and thought they would be too far ahead. I pushed a bit harder on the gentle downslope and reeled them both in. I caught Mags with a mile to go and Chris a bit after that. I pushed on again after that because Kris Semple was another few metres ahead and passed him just before we crossed the narrow bridge over the stream on Lammas Land. There was a man pushing a bike onto the bridge just as we passed. I think he held Kris up. I didn’t look back. If you look back you slow down and it gives then man behind hope. I had about 400m to go at that point. Julian Hardyman was ahead and I set off after him but couldn’t close the gap. Each time I kicked, he kicked harder and he beat me home by 4 seconds in the end, accelerating away from me all the while. It took a good 10 minutes to stop feeling ill so I must have given it some in the second half of the race.

I had 9 miles on the plan for Friday. I thought I’d do 5 instead. What with one thing and another, I didn’t really eat all day. Breakfast was late and fried and then I got distracted writing a couple of blog posts and then it was dark and I was grumpy and my blood sugar was through the floor so I didn’t run. Again.

I did my 5 mile recovery run on Saturday in spite of not really having anything from which I badly needed to recover. I had just enough in the tank to take a Strava segment in slippery conditions. I find pushing hard on my own quite difficult and I didn’t want to check my watch while I was running because it might slow me down too much. I just hit a pace which felt quick but sustainable in the conditions and kept going from one end of the segment to the other. There is more to come along there because I wasn’t running anywhere close to flat out and it was very slippery. I think on a spring evening I could take another 20 or 30 seconds off my time along there, especially if I have someone to chase. I could get some clubmates out on a Thursday night and have a good, square go at it.

Today’s run was lovely. The conditions were perfect for a nice, long, steady run. I had 18 on the plan and very good intentions. I ran 13 in the end and it was a real struggle towards the end. The climb up the hill out of Stapleford towards Gog Magog Downs was horrible. I’d wanted to run to the Gogs to meet the others, run a loop with them then run home. Snuggling up next to Anne and the cat seemed like a better thing to do than getting up in time to have breakfast and then heading out the door when it was only just light. Had I done that, I would have done the 18 miles easily because basically I was being a wuss.

I also think that I run better on my own sometimes. I finished my solo Christmas Day run on a high and today’s run in a funk. I don’t always go out unless I have company but then I don’t complete my session if nobody else is doing the same sort of distance. It’s a bit of a sod. I’m sure I’ll be able to come to some sort of compromise where I meet people to start the run but do more of it on my own. I don’t want to sound graceless because I did enjoy everyone’s company today. I need to fix my motivation to the sticking place and complete the sessions the way I need to. It was just too easy to stop when everybody else did today.

Week 5 starts tomorrow with a rest day. The weather is supposed to be foul anyway. It’s nice to have a proper excuse for once.

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Running Tech Sucks Donkey Dong. Official.

I love my running toys but they have drawbacks. The chest strap for my Garmin leaves a welt across my chest if I forget to smear Vaseline across it. When I take my top off I look like the victim of an unusually precise sadist. Sexy. That’s when I can find the strap in the first place. I’ve wasted hours over the last couple of years searching for it. Then there’s all the time standing around waiting for the watch to get a signal from passing satellites. I’d be as well waiting for pigeons to evolve vocal skills and have them read a map to me.

It’s not just high-tech that causes problems. Compression gear is supposed to reduce injuries and improve recovery. You’ll find all sorts of advice about that all over the web. What nobody ever tells you is that you look like you’re dressing yourself for the very first time every time you pull it on. There are photos on the Skins and 2XU websites of toned athletes running and posing with their musculature barely contained by straining supportive and elastic technical fabrics. There are no film clips of them flailing their arms like willow branches on a windy day when they’re trying to pull on their compression tops. It takes me fully five minutes to pull on a pair of compression socks. I know I’m weak and physically unco-ordinated but that’s just silly.

Then there’s taking the bloody things off again. You’ve worked quite hard so you’re knackered. In these circumstances getting off a normal t-shirt can be a challenge. It’s stuck to your skin for a start and your arms don’t bend well enough and you’re tired and your brain doesn’t work and you’d like a drink and maybe you’ll just lie on this bench for a while and… And then you’re shaken awake by the cleaner in the gym because he wants to go home and you only have one arm out of your tee. It’s worse in compression gear because it welds itself chemically to sweaty skin and you need to be even more bendy to take it off afterwards. Ordinary socks are easy to take off as long as you can still bend over. Compression socks require special tools and the help of a blacksmith or other sturdy chap.

There’s a lot to be said for naked running. Not running around with your bits flapping in the breeze. That’s probably an arrestable offence in most places. I mean running without the distractions of GPS watches, iPods or any other bits and bobs. It means you avoid some of the issues I’ve already mentioned. See the The Naked Runners website for more information and inspiration.

You could even try barefoot running. If you’re not up to that, pull on a pair of Vibram Five Fingers to protect the soles of your feet. You should manage to get each toe into its little pocket in the shoe on the thirteenth or fourteenth try at the very outside. You might not swear violently and throw them across the room when they fail to go on easily. Even if you do hurl them away from you they should do little damage because they’re quite light.

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Marathon Training, Weeks Two and Three

Oh God. Man was born to suffer. It’s true. I’ve been in hiding in my Happy Place, a rictus grin fixed on my face in an attempt to fool my brain into thinking it’s all fine. It so very, very isn’t. I’m logging miles like a Morris Minor driven by a woman with hairy ears and a floral hat. S-l-o-w-l-y.

My long runs have been a little short but nothing too dreadful. I raced 5 miles and went out later to do another 10 later in the day one week and then did 25km the following Sunday. Both distances are a little less than were on the plan but I felt okay running them. I bonked* last week after 23k and ran out of gels so I stopped when I got back to the car instead of going past it for another mile and then running back which had been my plan.

(*Note for non-runners, bonking is a lot less fun than you’d think.)

Weekdays have been stressful and horrible and filled with what can only really be described as My Job. My Job has dragged me round the country quite a lot or had me damaging my fertility under a hot laptop or sitting in a meeting room in a hotel for so long my legs were like jelly. That’s a funny expression, isn’t it? I used to really love jelly. Jelly came in colours but not in flavours. Red jelly was always my favourite and green jelly would always be left until there was no alternative. Anyway, as much as I love jelly, I don’t really like the feeling of wibbly-wobbliness my legs have after an entire day spent in a meeting room.

Nothing quite saps motivation quite like long, long drives. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been to Manchester and Newcastle and back on consecutive days because I needed to get back to Cambridge to coach at the club. It’s not the same as other ways of draining energy. You need to stay alert to all the other bastards out there intent on killing you on the road. That’s a special form of anxiety and it really nibbles at your ability to function as an athlete or a coach at the end of the trip.

I wanted to run early in the mornings for an hour or so but I didn’t have the energy for that. I ran on Tuesday evening for five and a half miles and Wednesday for about eleven and a bit. Wednesday’s run was the first one that felt good: Ealing to Kew then up the river to Richmond Lock and back to Ealing via Brentford. I was bumping along, ticking off each kilometer in five and a half minutes whenever I didn’t have to cross a road. It felt easy mostly because it was. I’m definitely an evening runner though. You morning people are all weird.

I’m parkrunning tomorrow then maybe doing a few more miles on my own. My long run on Sunday is only 15 miles but I might do more depending on how I feel. Plans are like drunken promises, after all – made only to be broken.

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Jingle Mile II: The Christmas Wreath of Khan

Yesterday’s Jingle Mile meeting at Cambridge University’s athletics track was an enjoyable affair. It was for me, anyway. I wasn’t running in any of the events. I’m always too nervous about things going well to run when I’m involved with organizing one of these events. It’s the second running of what seems to have become an annual excuse to eat mince pies and cake while people hang around in the cold waiting for me to decide what to do next.

The gold ribbon at all Fetch Mile events, of which the Jingle Mile is but one, is of course the Mile itself. There were four rounds of the mile with the quickest runners in the first round, then the slowest in the second with each successive round getting quicker from there on. There were some storming performances here including Paul Makowski’s fastest time of the day to take Round 1 in a time of 5:05. Our fastest lady was Susie Tautz who ran 6:02 in Round 4. There were PBs for Paul Makowski, Paul Beastall (6:47, Round 4) and Martyn Brearley (5:57, Round 4) amongst others. I very much enjoyed Cameron Smith’s relentless progress round the track for his 8:10 in Round 2 and his sister’s 9:34 in the same round. Youngest runner of the day – not counting Evie Makowski in the 100m for obvious reasons when we get there – was Alexander Wood who logged a very impressive 9:14 for 1,200m.

The next event was the 4 x 100m Mince Pie Relay. The rules were simple; get your mince pie round intact as quickly as you possibly can. The winner team of Wood, Whittle, Pretlove and Makowski did better than the British men at this year’s World Championships in Moscow and got the baton mince pie round without getting disqualified along the way. Lucy Johnson gave us a glimpse of her sprint talent running a terrifyingly quick third leg.

That class became glaringly obvious when she stormed her round of the Hurtbox of Crackers 400m. She slipped right at the start but in spite of that had completely unwound the stagger by 250m and just kept accelerating, only fading in the final 100m. She managed to keep ahead of a fast-finishing Chris Hurcomb. The first round of the 400m was won by a completely exultant Lee Pretlove who charged across the line in 0:59 just ahead of that man again, Paul Makowski.

Makka also won the Where’s Grep? 200m Delusion in an impressive 0:27. He was followed over the line a few seconds back by a tightly-packed gaggle of determined runners none of whom were called Greg. Neil Tween took the tape in the Tinsel Insole Insanity 100m Take 2 just ahead of Evie Makowski in her buggy, pushed by her dad. Isobel Moir put in an impressive performance for a girl sprinting a 100m in walking boots.

The full results are laid out below. I’m sorry not to have mentioned everyone in this report. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all of your run. You were inspirational, awesome. Thank you for coming.

Full Results

Jingle Mile

Round 1

1 Paul Makowski 5:05
2 Iain Wood 5:10
3 Chris Gay 5:14
4 Wei-Ho 5:20
5 Lee Pretlove 5:22
6 Andrew Whittle 5:34
7 Neil Tween 5:43
8 Rob Moir 5:44


Round 2

1 John Wilderspin 7:33
2 Erminia Carillo 7:44
3 Vicky Judd 7:45
4 Chris Hurcomb (Pacer) 7:55
5 Cameron Smith 8:10
6 Louise Pryor 8:28
7 Claire Mitchell 8:29
8 Brian Judd 8:36
9 Pauline Blake 8:37
10 Linda Crook 8:54
11 Katrina Mitchell 9:09
12 Amie Smith 9:34
13 Alexander Wood 9:14* (1200m)


1 Kevin Stigwood 6:56
2 Dave Mail 7:00
3 Jen Richardson 7:06
4 Chris Gay (Pacer) 7:06
5 Andy O’Dowd 7:13
6 Jason Mundin 7:16
7 Katie Tween 7:18
8 Sarah Hall 7:20
9 Gianluca Savini 7:24
10 Gill Mundin 7:24
11 Jane O’Callaghan 7:26
12 Abigail Boswell 7:26
13 Diane Bunch 7:27
14 Rob Moir 7:28
15 Anne Adkins 8:09
16 Cheryl Boswell 8:16


Round 4

1 Chris Tautz 5:55
2 Ben Chamberlain 5:55
3 Martyn Brearley 5:57
4 Susie Tautz 6:02
5 Neil Coates 6:04
6 Cliff Weatherup 6:11
7 Julian Hardyman 6:12
8 Bernard Shannon 6:14
9 Chris Poole 6:17
10 Paul Jones 6:17
11 Neville Hawkins 6:18
12 Chris Hurcomb 6:28
13 Iain Rogers 6:29
14 Sam Johnson 6:28
15 Paul Beastall 6:47
16 Paula Kessler 6:58
17 Lynn Roberts 6:59
18 Alex Geoghegan 7:00
19 Julia DeCesare


4 x 100m Mince Pie Relay

1 Iain Wood/Andrew Whittle/Lee Pretlove/Paul Makowski 0:58
2 Neville Hawkins/Paul Jones/Chris Tautz/Susie Tautz 1:05
3 Iain Rogers/Cliff Weatherup/Kevin Stigwood/Jane O’Callaghan 1:06
4 Laura Coates/Sam Johnson/Lucy JohnsonNeil Coates 1:06
5 Rob Moir/Katie Tween/Sarah Hall/Neil Tween 1:09
6 Andrew O’Dowd/Gill Mundin/Jason Mundin/Julia DeCesare 1:09
7 Alex Geoghegan/Erminia Carillo/Gianluca Savini/Ben Chamberlain 1:13


Hurtbox of Crackers 400m

Round 1

1 Lee Pretlove 0:59
2 Paul Makowski 1:00
3 Iain Wood 1:01
4 Andrew Whittle 1:03
5 Neil Tween 1:11
6 Chris Tautz 1:14
7 Ben Chamberlain 1:15
8 Susie Tautz 1:17


Round 2

1 Lucy Johnson 1:13
2 Chris Hurcomb 1:14
3 Paul Jones 1:15
4 Martyn Brearley 1:18
5 Neil Coates 1:23
6 Alex Geoghegan 1:23
7 Andy O’Dowd 1:24
8 Gianluca Savini 1:34


Round 3

1 Jason Mundin 1:24
2 Gill Mundin 1:27
3 Laura Coates 1:33
4 Sarah Hall 1:36
5 Cameron Smith 1:42
6 Bobby Makowski 1:50
7 Alexander Wood 2:42


Where’s Grep? 200m Delusion

1 Paul Makowski 0:27
2 Chris Tautz 0:32
3 Chris Hurcomb 0:33
4 Cliff Weatherup 0:33
5 Paul Jones 0:34
6 Lucy Johnson 0:34
7 Susie Tautz 0:35
8 Ben Chamberlain 0:36
910 Erminia CarilloAnne Adkins 0:450:47


The Tinsel Insole Insanity 100m Take 2

(No times recorded for this race.)

1 Neil Tween
2 Evie Makowski (powered by her Dad)
3 Kevin Stigwood
4 Paul Jones
5 Cliff Weatherup
6 Lucy Johnson
7 Ben Chamberlain
8 Sarah Hall
9 Anne Adkins
10 Isobel Moir
11 Amie Smith
12 Rob Moir


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Marathon Training, Weak One

Did you see what I did there? Did you? Did you? It was quite rubbish, wasn’t it? Oh well, the only way is up. The first week of my marathon training has not gone well. I’ve been doing a good impression of the bastard offspring of Coffin Henry and Bob Fleming. My cough has developed a personality of its own. It’s a solid, traditional character; John Bullshit, maybe. It has however given me an excellent excuse to eat Pantagruellian quantities of ice cream in an effort to stave off the sore throat. Given the choice between a couple sad, wee, wee-flavoured Strepsils (other wee-flavoured lozenges are available) and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig bowl of Green & Black’s vanilla or chocolate, what would you do?

The cough has kept me awake at night all week. Bastard thing. I’ve had about four hours of sleep each night. I’ve also made return day trips to Manchester and Newcastle on consecutive days. I’d be knackered in the normal course of events this week with my normal training load and even though I haven’t kicked up to 55 miles immediately, I have done three hard sessions, a race and a long run in the past seven days and my legs are mashed as a result.

I’m following the P&D 55-70 miles plan. The plan says 50 miles next week but that would not be sensible at this stage for me. I need to add miles again next week so I am closer to 40 miles than the nadge over 30 I did this week. I also need a rest day or two. I’ll drop a couple of miles off each session next week and swap things around so I can train with Alan tomorrow.

Anyway, let’s hope for a better Week Two because Weak One was horrible.

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Marathon training starts tomorrow and I don’t mind telling you that I’m bricking it. I don’t have a happy marathon history. I’ve only completed two of them, Moray in 2011 and London in 2012. I started Edinburgh in 2012 but DNFed and didn’t even reach the start line of Amsterdam in 2012 due to injury and idiocy. (I continued to run long after I knew I was too broken to run. Idiocy, as I said.) I’m running the Greater Manchester Marathon on 6 April next year as the first step towards qualifying so I can run the Boston Marathon as a 50th birthday present for myself. It’s an odd thing to want to do but there are worse mid-life crises to have.

26 miles, 385 yards is a sod of a long way to run and training for it takes a lot of time. I’ll rack up the best part of 900 miles in the next 18 weeks if I follow the plan fully. I’ll wear out a pair of road shoes just training for the race, or I will if I do all my training on the road. I’ll probably do at least half my long runs off road, round Wimpole or on the Roman Road, Fleam Dyke and the Devil’s Dyke. I should probably get myself a new pair of road shoes and possibly a pair of race shoes. I go very well in my inov-8 Bare-X. I did 5 miles in them last night and it felt easy and light. my 12 miles today were off-road round Wimpole estate for the most part and hard work. I was very tired by the end.

I could be quite pessimistic about my prospects of hitting my targets on the basis of today’s run but that would be daft. I’m at the beginning of the process, not at the end. I’m not marathon fit but I shall be in four months’ time. Manchester or Bust is not the most inspiring of slogans but it’ll have to do for now.

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