Registering at the London Marathon Expo at the ExCEL Centre. Finished work at 6pm and headed east with Jarlath to pick up my registration details and have a look round the running exhibitions. Pretty big set up, very efficient and registered in no time. Had a look round the stands, saw lots of things that I could easily spend a lot of money on, a lot of events that I would love to go and do and left happy that I didn't have to do all this tomorrow!
Doing very little today except making sure everything is in place for the big day! Pinned the running number onto my vest, got all my running clothes out ready and tested, fastened the chip to my shoe laces, drank a lot of water and ate a lot of pasta.
The best thing about my new Garmin GPS watch is that it allows you to run wherever you want. No Gmap Pedometer routes. No remembering mile markers. No directions. Freedom.
I hadn't quite appreciated how potent this would be until I went for tonight's run. I set out towards St Pauls, and then decided I would go over the Millennium Bridge, around Borough and around the City. Whenever there was a traffic light or a busy road crossing I didn't need to stop - I could just go another direction.
I can now run wherever I want, whenever I want. Obviously I could have done this before, but this time I have my times and distances accurately (well, pretty damn accurate if not 100%) recorded.
First proper run since being ill, and it became a run of two halves. I was intending to head up along the canal - a new favourite since doing the marathon last week. I also had a new toy to play with. A serious piece of kit, and something which was about to revitalise my love of running. The Garmin Frontrunner 405CX is not exactly cheap (mine cost about £230, but the rrp is about £399), but it is bloody good! A GPS based navigation system with more features than you could possibly use in a lifetime. But the biggest advantage is freeing the training runs from the monotony of plotted routes, mile markers and remembering all of the directions.
The run should have been fine, but I messed up on a few first principles. I forgot to take my inhaler, forgot to bring the sweatband and generally was not in the right frame of mind for a long run. Although a significantly shorter distance than the marathon, I was still proposing a 14 mile run. I eventually decided to cut it short, and headed home to take my inhaler and then head out for a better second half.
This second half saw everything come together - it was a nice run and a nice reintroduction to running after an unfortunate forced slow down in to my tapering.
A little under a year ago I was doing as much as I could to help my friends Jarlath and Mark complete a rather audacious bid to run seven marathons in as many days. At that point I was severely overweight, obese by several measures. I was easily able to cycle alongside the intrepid duo, doling out water, energy bars, directions and encouragement. But the idea of running anything like the distance they covered on each single day of that week was unthinkable.
Running had never been a particular strong point, especially running outside. There had been periods when I had honed an indoor treadmill technique, and could maintain a certain speed for a certain time. But set foot outdoors and I would huff and puff my way with a few miles finishing me off.
I was about to turn 29, and it seemed as though this was a turning point. I had two choices. I could accept a much larger body size than I was comfortable with, or I could do something about. I chose the latter, and am very grateful I did.
At that moment I committed to running the London Marathon. The stated intention was to complete a marathon in under four hours. It seemed a long way away, but doable. And, today, I proved it was indeed doable. I've met my target three weeks early, and now look forward to doing one better in the marathon proper.
I've yo-yo'd with training, doing well, stopping, weight fluctuating around it. The difference in this training has been that this time I was publically signed up to do something - I would definately be running in London, so I pretty much had to make a good go of it. And it will continue. I'm signed up to the Milton Keynes half marathon, when I want to smash my 1:40 barrier, and then the Berlin Marathon, a fast course when I can train for a sub 3:30 marathon.
Anyway, today's run. A marathon. To have over 26 miles stretching out in front of you is pretty daunting. This time I had left the route planning to Jarlath, and he was accompanying me on this Good Friday exertion. We would be starting at his house just off the Roman Road south of Victoria Park. North to the Park, and then along the canal to follow the River Lea over ten miles north, and then back and then twice round the park to make up the final distance.
To make things even more interesting there was a strong weather front advancing on the capital from the south-west, bringing heavy rains and strong winds. We were running against the clock to try and beat the worst of this weather. I made things more difficult for myself by forgetting some pretty useful bits of kit - my sweatband and putting plasters on the nipples. Both of these would bring painful repercussions later.
It was slightly disconcerting not knowing any of my mile markers. It was at this point that I committed myself to buying a Garmin GPS watch, but that is for later runs. At the same time, there was something gloriously liberating about running without knowing the precise pace and mile marks, without parcelling up the hours of running in to eight and a half minute blocks. But, ultimately, it is this pacing that produces the proper results, so I wouldn't necessarily stick to that method.
The northward run was strong. The first few miles along the canal were annoyingly muddy and wet, but the rough terrain finished after a couple of miles to leave the even, flat and quiet towpath. Only by the turning point did we face the winds blowing in from the south-west and the first spots of rain.
I have noticed on previous runs that the worst portion for me is between miles 10/11 and the half-way point, when you've come a far distance but there is still so much to go. Jarlath noticed that I was slightly subdued in the 15 - 18 mile portion as well, but this may be as much from not knowing how far we had come or still had to do. It is inevitable that so long a race will produce its own highs and lows, the journey is far from an even race either physically or emotionally.
By the time we had got to Victoria Park we were pretty sure we had run further than we had mapped out. The mapping had been rough, and the time and pace we had been running suggested that we had cheated ourselves of more than a few hundred metres (as would turn out to be the case when I re-routed the run after we'd finished). The park section was a tough finish, with heavy rains and strong winds making it a more challenging finish than would have been ideal.
But, that said, I finished strong, feeling that I still had something left inside. It probably means I should be working towards a better London time, but properly smashing my target times can wait until Berlin. London will be about delivering a 3:45 marathon (if possible)
So, with the training's longest run done, it is taper time now. This is the glorious period in which I can wind down to an energetic start in three weeks time. Hopefully spring will start, and I can easily knock out the decreasing length runs in sun-bathed evenings.
4 mile jog, 0.5 miles fast, 400 metre recovery x 6, 3 mile jog
Distance – 10.5 miles
Time - 1 hour 22 minutes
Didn't have much time between the long run on Saturday and Good Friday's marathon bid for training whilst ensuring I had sufficient recovery time between these two long runs. This meant Wednesday would be my only training run this week, and so I decided to combine some steady running with some interval training.
So off to Clissold Leisure Centre, where they've expanded their cardiovascular offering by opening the Running Zone, a lower-level room full of running machines. The bank of treadmills in the main gym have been retained, but now have little signs encouraging runners to stick to 20 minutes in busy times and, if a longer session is envisioned, to use the Running Zone. So I headed downstairs. I like the idea, and there are lower-level changing rooms as well. Slightly strangely there are no water coolers as far as I could see, but if and when they correct this it will be a perfect set up for long runs (especially in the winter if next year is a repeat of this year's ice nonsense).
Did a few miles at a steady pace (hitting the required 8.5 minute miles that make up my race pace) and then set off on the higher speed intervals. These were pretty intense, reaching a maximum speed of 20km/h, which is just the speed at which your legs start to fly underneath you and you are on the cusp of losing control. It would be pretty nasty to be thrown from the treadmill and smash against the wall, taking whatever mangled remains are spewn from the machine, so I probably won't repeat that too many times.
Today's distance was set at the dauntingly ambitious 24 miles. Alright, last week was 23 miles, but that was accidental. I only set out to do 21 miles. Actually setting out to do 24 miles is an entirely different proposition. It is also a weird distance - long enough to be an agonising prospect, but lacking that extra couple of miles that makes a marathon a special distance to covet and strive for. In the pantheon of races, 24 features only as hours in a round the clock race.
This was the first outing for my new trainers. This was not intentional - you shouldn't really break in new trainers on such a long run. I would find out the reasons why at about mile 8, when the back of my feet rubbed raw, staining the pristine white trainers a darker crimson that paled into a prettier pink as it spread out a few inches from the heel. I didn't even have enough money on me to buy plasters, and so just had to live with the dull pain.
Apart from this annoyance the run went well. It was solidly paced, and properly spaced food and water supplies meant I didn't hit any wall or suffer any bio-mechanical problems. The weather was fine, if a little blowy, but a bit of sunshine and no rain.
The run was the usual home to central London along the Embankment to the end of Lots Road and back (map).
But the last half of the run was done at a precision pacing, running just under 8.5 minute miles. This brought me in for a tired but happy finish at 3 hours 24 minutes - well on target for a 3:45 marathon let alone the intended sub-4 hour finish.
Farewell then, my old faithfuls. You've been there from the start, a constant companion, source of unfailing support and comfort. But now that support is starting to fail, and the comfort is increasingly questionable. Yep, its finally time to replace my trainers. And, it appears, not a moment too soon. I've wracked up 576.75 miles on the original Brooks.
576.75 miles is a far old distance. Its enough to take you from London to Inverness (and by a roundabout route at that) and still have enough miles to do decent marathon around the city.
Alternatively, in a straight line, it would get you from London to Berlin, Bilbao or Turin.
Nothing particularly exciting about the replacements - another pair of size 9 wide Brooks Adrenaline GTS. They've tinkered with the colours, and they look dazzlingly white compared with the older trainers. But they are essentially the same.
But I've popped the old trainers in a box in my cupboard at work, just in case I need a pair and forget them. So its not really farewell. Just au revoir.