Although I’ve been back in regular training since late October, now that it’s January I am “officially” in marathon training so it’s time to start posting a bit more about my own training and progress as I prepare for the 2015 Marathon de Paris. I hope you enjoy sharing the journey with me.
I kicked off the year with my Parkrun debut last Saturday (3rd January) and followed that up with a 10k training run on the Sunday. I had also entered a virtual 10k race for the month of January (my aim is to complete one virtual race per month in 2015) so used that run as my “race” and submitted my time. One of the nice things about a virtual race is the exciting post you get as a medal drops through your letterbox a few days later!
But traditionally, the official start of my marathon training programmes is the first Monday in January, which this year was Monday the 5th. Coincidentally, this was also the start of the Jantastic challenge I signed up to, so my training runs this year also count towards my Jantastic total.
Of course, when preparing for a marathon, it’s not all running, there are other vital parts of the preparations to add in. One thing non-runners often say to me when they hear I’m training for a distance event is, “oh, so do you run every day then?” and are surprised when I tell them I don’t. Running is wonderful, but it’s not JUST about running, and the days when I don’t run are just as important as those when I do as that is when the body adapts and becomes stronger. Cross training of some form is good, as is strength training and core conditioning, all of which make for a better runner. And rest is important too, even if the rest day takes the form of “active rest” such as swimming or a gentle recovery run.
With that in mind, here’s how my training for the first week of my programme looked:
Monday – swim/sauna
Tuesday – 6 miles (hilly)
Wednesday – conditioning
Thursday – cadence drills
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – 5k (Great Winter Run)
Sunday – 8 miles
And this will form the basis of my plan throughout January. The number of reps in my Thursday drills will increase by two each week and my long run will increase by 2 miles each week, but all other distances and activities will remain the same right now so that I build a solid base without overdoing things. I’m already feeling the benefit of the work I did throughout November and December and know that I have made good progress in that time. I now need to capitalise on that and keep that momentum going.
Since I have a swim scheduled for a Monday, I have decided to use that time to continue working on my front crawl. It’s something I never learned to do as a child and although I have had a couple of lessons in recent months, I still need to keep working to make my breathing more consistent and build up some “water fitness” (it’s definitely different to “land fitness”!). Since this is my active recovery day, I decided to alternate one length of crawl with one length of a gentle, “pensioner-style” breaststroke and will aim to build this up over the coming weeks. The session is also great for taking the focus away from my legs and helping to ease tired muscles (and the sauna afterwards is a nice treat!).
My Tuesday run will take me back to some of my staple routes from last winter and will be useful in making me stronger. Despite the fact that I have to do this run in the dark right now, I found myself really enjoying it this week and remembering my training from last year with great fondness. There’s something about running up a steep hill in the dark/cold/rain that makes me feel hardcore!
Wednesday’s conditioning took the form of a session with Steve working on some squat-based exercises designed to strengthen my lower legs and ankles, particularly some of the muscles which ultimately let me down last year, so this will be another crucial session in making me stronger for the challenge ahead. It was strangely tiring, but I know that it will really help me. Rather than increasing the number of reps each week, I am to aim for increased range of movement so it will be interesting to see how this progresses.
Thursday is another running day and I am continuing with the cadence drills I began working on back in October. Throughout November and December I completed these once or twice a week and they are designed to help me both improve my form and teach my body to run faster. After a warm-up jog, I use a metronome app on my phone to set a particular beat and complete a set number of reps, 1 minute running and 1 minute walking for recovery. These drills have made a massive difference to me. At first I struggled with 10 reps but added on reps each week until I reached 20. Now the number of reps has dropped and the cadence is a little quicker as I build up again. While this will never be easy (it’s not supposed to be!) it definitely feels easiER and I know it has boosted my fitness and helped me to run faster.
Friday is Metafit which, although a hard workout, I still love. Last year I felt it made a big difference to my core strength and general fitness and was a great complement to my running. Previous experience tells me that Metafit helps me to run faster and since it is just half an hour long (although a pretty intense half hour) it fits easily into my day and makes for a brilliant start to my weekend.
And then the weekend is, of course, about running. Saturdays will usually be 5k at Parkrun, but this week I took part in the 5k Great Winter Run in Edinburgh. I’ve already written my report on that race, but suffice to say it was an interesting challenge to start my year and gave me a pleasing indication of where my fitness is right now. I tend to run on consecutive days at the weekend during marathon training as it gets my legs used to running when they are tired, which is invaluable in the latter stages of the marathon. 5k on a Saturday is sufficient for now, with my Sunday long run mileage increasing gradually throughout the month. Today I ran 8 miles (the furthest I’ve run since April or May of last year) and was pleased with how I ran in some tricky underfoot conditions. Compared to Saturday, the air felt much less bitter, but there was still some ice and snow on the pavements and there was some drizzle around. As a result, my pace was a little slower but that was more down to being careful than a lack of energy and at this stage, pace on the long run is not as important as time spent running.
Since the weather was not the best, I had the ideal opportunity to try out a couple of new pieces of winter kit I bought recently. My road shoes were still wet from the Great Winter Run, so I decided to wear the Adidas Climaheat Rocket Boost shoes I bought when I was in Paris in October. I was really pleased with them as they seemed to be the right shoes for the conditions. The upper is a waterproof material so even when I managed to splash through a puddle, I didn’t feel any water in my shoes, and the soles are designed to give better traction in tricky conditions. There’s not much they can do on smooth, glass-like ice (but then nothing other ice skates will help there!) but where the paths were crunchy or slushy, I felt like my footing was pretty stable and my feet were not slipping which gave me a bit more confidence.
I also decided to try my new Climaheat hooded top which has a built-in face warmer. It was nice and cosy and although I didn’t need the face warmer today, knowing that it is an option on really chilly days is good, even if it does make me look like I’m about to hold up a train or rob a bank in the Old West!
On a more sombre note, today’s run was also one for reflection. It was the first Sunday long run in my preparations for Paris, and events in Paris this week were inevitably on my mind. I was invited to join an event on Facebook which asked runners around the world to dedicate their run today to those killed earlier this week as a show of support and unity. Last year I thought a great deal about Paris throughout my training, and this year will be no different. As I ran, I remembered my experience last year and thought ahead to April when I will be running the streets of my favourite city once more, so dedicating a run to the people of that city was the least I could do. Seeing an image like the one below really brings it home to me. A familiar and important landmark which holds a lot of emotion for me, being used to mark these tragic events. Aujourd’hui, je suis Charlie aussi.
Sometimes we run for ourselves, to clear our heads or meet a goal, but sometimes we run for other reasons. Today I ran for many reasons: I ran for the simple joy of running; I ran to complete my training and Jantastic targets for the week; I ran for my chosen charity; and I ran for Paris.
Why did you run today?