It has become traditional for me to be accompanied on my Sunday long run by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams as I listen to the most recent episode of Marathon Talk, one of my favourite podcasts. As I ran today, I was particularly interested in the “Training Talk” segment which was focused on checking in with our marathon training as January gives way to February. I found myself mentally answering the questions posed and considering what each point meant for me, so thought I would share that on the blog. Making my thinking public helps to keep me accountable and it might just help someone else as they prepare for their next marathon. Everything which appears in bold below is taken from the show notes for the episode
Five signs of January success:
1. Done every run – nailed your consistency. Done what you said you’d do.
This one gets a big tick. One or two of my weekly workouts did get switched around to work with other commitments, but overall I only missed one PT session in January and every single run was completed as planned. Go me!
2. You’re still healthy and injury free. No niggles, just a few aches and pains that go.
Another yes. I’ll admit to being a little tired, but it’s so far so good on how my body is holding up. I think the yoga is really helping me to stay balanced and stretch my muscles, and all the changes I’ve made to my training in the last year are working for me. As I write this my legs are a little weary from my long run, but that’s kind of the point and I’m confident that I’ll recover well before my next hard workout.
3. Still smiling. You’re just reaching a point of increased motivation rather than a dip.
On my long runs I try to visualise the race I’m training for. Since it’s Paris, I have the advantage of having been there before so I know what the course is like. It’s therefore easy to visualise myself setting off down the Champs Élysées, running along the Seine and tackling that final death march through the Bois de Boulogne. I know that last turn to see the finish line ahead of me and can hear the sounds of the crowd as I speed up for that final dash. It’s so powerful that I can feel the emotions rise in me right now, and that’s what gives me the motivation to keep on going and strive for my goal. This isn’t exactly my first cycle of marathon training so I know what’s ahead of me and I know I have some unfinished business that I want to take care of.
4. You’ve adapted to your workload and feel like you’re ready for more.
This is probably true. I coped well with my workouts in January and saw the progress I made in my hill reps. It’s difficult to judge from parkrun given that the conditions across the grass can be quite tricky in the winter, but I feel strong and have banked some pleasing times. Having experimented with NOT training at this time of year, I know that the fatigue I feel is mental rather than physical and comes from the workload in my job at this time of year. In actual fact, I felt WORSE when I wasn’t training as I didn’t get the same stress relief, so as long as I get my rest and recovery right, I can cope with more.
5. You’ve not annoyed everyone you know by talking about running all the time.
Unlike my last training cycle, this one isn’t a secret, but outside of blog posts and appropriate social media groups, I don’t actually talk about running all that much. I rarely mention it at work unless I’m asked as I know most of my colleagues don’t “get it” and have the mistaken belief that I run a really long way every single day, or they make comments about how “lucky” I am to be able to eat loads. I certainly can’t mention being tired as I know they’ll say it’s because I run so much (even though I only run once during the work week and it’s for about 45 minutes max!). If I do talk about running, it’s because a runner has asked me a question, or it’s a conversation Steve and I are having at home. I’m really lucky to have a husband who is always training for something too as we can support each other and discuss any issues without feeling like we’re boring the other or spending too much time training. I know not everyone is so lucky.
Five ways to progress in February:
1. Reflect on your plan and progress. What has worked, what hasn’t. Bin what’s not right.
This is something I’ve become quite good at. I regularly assess how my plan is going and think about whether or not it’s working. My current plan is based on the routine I trialled in the autumn. I may not have made my goal race then, but it wasn’t because of a training error, it was just bad luck. Experience has taught me the importance of being flexible with my plan and these days I’m much better at listening to my body and making changes when I need to.
2. Up your long run distance – carefully and appropriately.
This is already in my plan. I’m following a pattern of increasing my mileage for three weeks (adding 2 miles at a time to my long run) then cutting back in the fourth week to the distance the month began with to allow for training adaptation and a bit of recovery. This means my four planned long runs for February are 12 miles, 14 miles, 16 miles and a cutback to 12 miles. Sounds easy when you put it like that!
3. Increase your focus. Learn how to lock it in for a phase of training and a specific run.
This is something else that experience has taught me. I know each run has a specific focus and can turn my attention to making sure I achieve that. On my long runs I have to really focus on my pace as it’s all too easy to run too quickly so I’ve been working on locking that in. I also use parkrun to help me focus on maintaining a specific pace over a particular distance. When it comes to marathon training, I do tend to be pretty focused, especially when I have a time goal in mind!
4. Trial your fuel requirements.
All over this one too. I know that on race day I’ll carry a hydration pack filled with High 5 Zero and will take a gel every 5 miles up to 20 miles, then an extra one at 23.1, thus dividing the final 10k in two (this helps with my mental strategy as well). My January mileage isn’t really long enough to justify the hydration pack, although I do carry a bottle with High 5 so I’m used to sipping from it, nor do I take a gel unless I’m running double-digit mileage. That means February is the ideal time to start working on this. I’m currently using Science in Sport gels which can be taken without water and are gentle on the stomach. At the moment I’m not taking caffeinated gels but plan to use those in the latter stages of the marathon so will probably try those out in March when I reach the BIg Ones in my long run schedule. I also use For Goodness Shakes post-run to aid recovery so will be re-introducing those in February too.
5. Practise your mindset techniques. It’s not just the physical you’ve got to get right.
I’ve heard it said that running is 90% mental and the rest is in your head. Thinking about it, I have to agree. Mindset is key to performance – you have to BELIEVE it’s possible in order to succeed. After all, as Henry Ford famously said, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” This is where visualisation really works for me. And as an experienced marathoner (it feels strange to describe myself that way, but I have done this 8 times now!) I have the advantage of knowing that I’ve done it before so can do it again, as well as knowing how tough it can get in the closing miles. I know how I’ll mentally break down the race and my long runs help me to work on this when my body is fatigued. By staying positive during my long runs, whatever they throw at me, it will simply be habit to stay positive on race day. Now bring it on!
How would you evaluate your January training?
What do you need to focus on in February?