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Marathon de Paris : Two weeks to go

Or; ‘The unorthodox training continues…’

In a recent post I talked about my ‘unorthodox’ training build-up for Marathon de Paris, but that I had managed to find a strong finish to the last week of training before the taper.

Or so I thought. Turns out my cold which stopped me running for the early part of last week decided to rear it’s (very ugly) head on Saturday and Sunday, so I missed my last long 30km run in my schedule.

Yeah, I admit I have a bit of trepidation about missing that run, but I’m sticking to the key rule that is relevant to all runners of all experience – always stick to the plan.

Read the rest of this entry

Paris Marathon Training : and some new recovery snacks

It’s three weeks until Paris and yesterday I completed my longest run of this build up, a 27km TLT (Threshold-Long-Threashold) session. The session went like this:
– Dynamic warmup: squats, walking lunges, leg swings, sideways leg swings, hip-openers, glute-activators followed by 1km slow run.
Threshold : Three repeats of 3.2km run to HR at Zone 4.5-5.0 pace, followed by 3 minute walk break.
Long : 13km ‘LSD’ run to HR at Zone 3.8-4.2 pace, followed by 3 minute walk break.
Threshold : 3.2km run to HR at Zone 4.5-5.0 pace.
– Cool-down : 0.5km slow jog, 800m walk.

Read the rest of this entry

Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon : 4 days to go

The sneaky half is almost upon me, but I’m feeling ready. So far this week I’ve run twice, both have been hard sessions but not too much distance as I go through a ‘mini-taper’ before the half marathon on Sunday.

Yesterday’s run was along the beach in Forte dei Marmi. It’s the middle of winter in Europe but something aligned to provide a warm day and bright sunshine while on my work trip. After the day’s meetings I was able to go for a run along the coast as the sun set, in just shorts and a t-shirt. It’s been ages since I ran in just shorts and shirt, and even longer since I ran on a beach, and being an Aussie by birth both are something I’ve missed. There is just something special about running on the beach. The air, the smell, the rhythmic sound of the waves that seem to sympathise with the rhythm of your breathing…
Apologies to everyone for waxing lyrical just now – I had a moment but I’m over it.

It’s also hard on the beach. The sand absorbs your impact but robs you of any spring and your push-off is soaked up as the sand compresses behind you. I ran close to 4km on the beach but it felt like much more and I was glad to be on the road for the 4km back to my hotel.
This morning’s run was flat, shorter and away from the cloying sand. Forte dei Marmi is a coastal town and has a long, straight, perfectly flat road running parallel to the beach, which is perfect for speed work. This morning was cool and overcast, perfect running weather, and after roughly a one mile warmup I did 3x1km repeats with 1 1/2 minute walking between each rep. By staying on the beach side path I was able to run non-stop for each kilometre, something that is almost impossible when road running in my home town of London. That and a good tail wind are almost certainly the reason for setting a new 1km PB, but it was still nice to hit stop on my Garmin and have it flash up with a new record.

Tonight I will do some strength work on my glutes and hip flexors, with tomorrow being a very light recovery run of about 3km. Friday and Saturday are dedicated to rest, foam rolling and stretching. On Saturday I have signed up to volunteer at my local Parkrun as I’m not going to race, and I’m skipping football training just so I’m not tempted to get out there and chase the ball. Sometimes I think I might be part Kelpie because I just can’t help chasing the ball if it’s there…

All in all I’m feeling that despite the hiccough with my calf at the start of this marathon training schedule it is starting to come together and, with fingers fully crossed, this weekend’s half-marathon will go well and put me in good shape for a successful run in Paris.

Is anyone else racing this weekend?

Happy running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Wait. What?

Running rehab again today. Overall, good progress. My strength and glute/core activation is improving as is my form. However, seems my mental capacity isn’t, because I asked my trainer a stupid question…
“Can I do Parkrun AND my 10kRunning Group tomorrow morning?”
This was the look my trainer gave me:

Can’t blame him really. I knew it was a stupid question before I asked it, but it did serve to open the dialogue about Marathon de Paris, and it turns out that Paris is go!

After my rehab session I had a chat with Mike, the performance director (ie the Big Boss Man) at The Running School. From his training of both professional athletes and Average Joe runners like me, Mike understands that some people want to compete so long as they are able to, not just when they are 100%. Sure, I could spend six months doing a really good build-up, focussed training, workout schedules and all that sort of stuff and shoot for a PB in an Autumn marathon. However, for me, running is fun, and the time I achieve is less important to me than the doing. I may never beat my marathon PB ever again, but so long as I’m always running to the best of my ability that is what it’s about for me.

So, Mike understands that, and he’s building me a schedule which will get me to Paris in 11 weeks, able to compete. The focus will be on smart running to build strength and endurance without a repeat of my self-inflicted overuse injury. I’m looking forward to it!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering. Running Group was the answer. Parkrun is going to have to wait for at least another few weeks…

Happy running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Marathon Palma de Mallorca : The Final Countdown

“Daahhhh, da duh duh duh…dah daahhhh daahhhh…dadadahhh…”

It’s in your head now too, isn’t it? Sorry about that.

There’s a bit less than 16 hours to go until race time. And I still haven’t shaken this stupid cold. Last night I barely slept, due to the coughing and sniffling. This also meant my girlfriend didn’t sleep much either, so there were two grumpy heads this morning.

Still, onwards and upwards. My race buddy is over from the USA for this race with his girlfriend, so the four of us went for a walk through the old town of Palma de Mallorca to do some sightseeing in between breakfast and lunch, along the way doing our race-pack pickup and timing chip scanning.

As it turns out my friend also has a cold, which started one day earlier than mine. We figure it’s the stress on our bodies from the marathon buildup that weakened our immune system, but I think it’s probably more coincidental. He lives in NYC, I live in London. Two places with less-than-sparkling-clean underground systems, and it is well and truly the start of cold and flue season. We were just unlucky, that’s all.

So, 15 hours and 16 minutes to go until the start. I have between now and then to sort out this cold. I’ve been hydrating and carb-loading so that’s OK. I’ve skipped my shakedown run that I would normally have done in favour of rest – our apartment is about 3km from the start line so we’ll jog 1-2km of that tomorrow morning to combine our shakedown and warm-up. And then we’ll run…

We’ve had a good chat about strategy and as we’re lacking a bit of conditioning due to illness we’ve decided to play-it-by-ear with regards to goal time. The first 10km we will run at 4-hour pace (about 5’32″/km) and decide from there how we feel and whether we push for sub-4 hours or take the foot off the gas and aim for 4:15 (or worst case we are knackered and simply go for a ‘completion’).

We’ve also agreed that after the half-way point we’ll decide if we stay together or split up, depending on how we are individually feeling. Ideally we’d like to cross the line together at 3:59, but it’s important that we’ve discussed and agreed our strategy so that there is no confusion in the race. A marathon is an intensely personal experience, which will change from mile to mile, so agreeing that we will split up if one can’t hang with other BEFORE the race eliminates possible disagreements during the race. The last thing either of us want is feeling like we need to stay with the other, or the other feeling like they are holding the other back. Racing with friends is complicated at the best of times, but the marathon kicks it up a notch…

Now for a siesta, and hopefully I’ll wake up feeling a bit better than I do now!

Has anyone else run a marathon with/just after a cold before? What am I getting myself into?

Happy running everyone! And big ‘ups to everyone else who is racing this weekend!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Marathon training : mental focus for runners

In my last post I talked about my mental focus being a bit off, so I thought I would have a bit of a re-read of the book Grateful Running. In the book Dr. Grayson Kimball discusses this very common problem in runners, along with some tips on how to improve for race day. Here are some of the tips I’m going to employ to help me sharpen my focus for race day:

Losing Focus vs Changing Focus:

Losing focus while running is a common problem, especially in long distance runners. It is simply very difficult to continue concentrating on the singular task of running for that period of time. However, Dr. Grayson Kimball says runners “never truly lose their focus, they simply change their focus”.

This is, for me at least, an important distinction to make. Losing something implies being unable to find it again. Changing focus implies it can be simply changed back. The latter is a much more positive way to look at the issue and doesn’t imply a negative outcome if my focus happens to change. My issue is in controlling my focus and applying it to my running.


Change your focus!

Changing the Channel:

Like a TV, a runners focus can be changed, sometimes by external events around you (think of this as someone walking into the room and clicking the TV remote, away from what you were watching) or by internal processes (think of this as channel surfing, you’re seeing a lot but not actually watching anything).

During the hours of a marathon your focus will change countless times. The important thing is to realise when it changes and to switch back to your ‘running channel’. Kimball suggests that you make sure that whatever you switch back to is a positive help to your running. Tuning back into a stream of negative thoughts or your ‘pain channel’ isn’t going to help. When I find that my ‘channel’ has changed, I immediately ‘change back’ by going through a little mantra that I picked up from my coach at The Running School while I was rehabilitating from a bad case of ITB. It was originally to help me focus on my running form, but I adapted it into a mantra for long runs: “U. A.B.C.”.

U actually has two meanings. The first is ‘You‘. It is my trigger to ‘check-in’. Where am I, how am I, what’s my pace? This re-engages me with my run and changes my focus back to my ‘running channel’. Once I’m ‘back’ I go through the mantra:

U is for Upright

check my posture, make sure I’m not slouching, leaning back or twisting my torso too much. Upright with a slight lean looking straight ahead about 30m in front of me is good.

A is for Arms

Check my arms, make sure they are engaged, have a good drive rearwards and are controlling my cadence. Arms that are strong (but not tense), engaged wrists and relaxed hands is good.

B is for Breathing

Check my breathing is controlled, rhythmic and deep into the chest. Even and without panting is good. Except for the last mile – then ‘balls to the wall’ all out effort and panting like a dying horse is OK!

C is for Cycling

Check my gait, make sure I’m cycling my legs through, my knee lift is good, I’m engaging my glutes and hamstrings and I’m not scrubbing my feet as fatigue sets in. A smooth efficient action that doesn’t rely on my calf muscles for propulsion is good.

This little chant is a good way to bring my focus back to my running, and is a good example of associative thinking to manage and improve performance.


This chap is highly focussed on changing the channel. He’s probably a runner…

Associative vs Dissociative Thinking

Associative thinking:

Refers to reviewing your current situation and keeps you focussed in the current moment. You are purposely associating thoughts with responses and actual data from your senses. You can’t be daydreaming if you are intentionally reviewing factors like breathing rate, muscle fatigue (Internal associative thinking) or race strategy, mile markers, refuelling points (External associative thinking).

Generally speaking, I am able to complete associative thinking while running (my “U. A.B.C.” chant is an example of this). The issue I found on my runs last week was unstructured dissociative thinking. Daydreaming. I can’t remember what any of it was about, I just remember the feeling of ‘checking in’, seeing my pace way off and that hundreds of metres had passed me by. It is this I need to address.

Dissociative thinking:

refers to focussing on things that are irrelevant to your current task of running. If left to just happen, you’ll end up daydreaming and your race will suffer. Interestingly, Kimball notes that dissociative thinking, if used in a structured way, can be advantageous as a ‘purposeful distraction’. The idea being that if you can distract your mind from discomfort or boredom, it has the ability to enhance your run, especially if you think about something that has a positive impact on your mood. For instance, by singing to yourself the words from your favourite inspirational song you are distracting yourself and lifting your spirits (Internal dissociative thinking), or for some serious distraction, you can try external dissociative thinking – count numbers of purple shoes, people with headbands, anything that keeps you focussed but also distracted. A word of warning, dissociative thinking can be bad. Do it too much and you will prevent associative thinking and you can miss the signals that allow you to manage your performance.

Dissociative thinking can be a useful distraction, but don't drift off to la-la land!

Dissociative thinking can be a useful distraction, but don’t drift off to la-la land!

Onwards to Palma de Mallora

Where I need to work is on structuring my dissociative thinking and doing it at appropriate times in the run. I don’t have a ready answer as to how successful I’m going to be, I just know that I am going to have to focus more on my associative thinking and only do dissociative thinking if it is structured. Hopefully recognising the problem and knowing some solutions will allow me to put them into practice on race day.

In other news:

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve just been able to dissociate myself from my entire journey on the underground to work, to my meetings, and then back home to write this post. I’ve also found that writing during this week and the last has given a good distraction from the ‘taper crazies’ as I’ve got something to fill my extra time and distract me from the race! Double bonus!


What tricks to you use to keep your focus during your long runs/races?

Do you have any favourite dissociative thinking tricks to distract you when the going gets tough and you need a mental break from a long run/race?


Happy running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Marathon Training : Taper Week 2 – Pacing For The Race

Tick, tick, tick went the metronome in my head as I ran along at a steady 5’23”/km pace, feeling like I was in cruise mode. Not a very interesting run to be sure, however very important – especially for me – but more on that later.

I’ve just finished the second week of my taper, which I’ve dubbed ‘metronome week’, and the week was all about pacing – getting used to the pace, honing my pace, and mental pacing. Read the rest of this entry

Marathon Training : A strange case of lack of pre-race nerves

I’ve got a marathon in 11 days. I’m not feeling anxious, there’s no nerves. The days are counting down but there isn’t a noticeable building of anxiety, fretting or fear of what’s coming.

Maybe it will come next week? At the moment I feel a (strange to me) calm.

Maybe it’s just the eye of the storm? Maybe next week will be a hurricane of mixed emotions – nerves, elation, fear of failure, giddy anticipation of the starting line.

I’m hoping not. I mean, I don’t want to go into the marathon like an ice man, that would indicate hubris and unbridled arrogance (and that I’m a bit of a d*#% – no-one gets to be arrogant going into a marathon). But, at the same time being a bundle of nerves, self-doubting and anxious isn’t the way to run well either. Somewhere in the middle would be perfect. Read the rest of this entry

Marathon training week 16 : The Two-Times Taper

No, I’m not doing some form of double taper. In fact, I don’t even know what that would be (the semantics of increasing something that is decreasing always escapes me), I’m referring to starting my taper period as well as having to tape up my toes because of my annoying niggle.

Taper x 1: The toe taping: 

If you saw Saturday’s post I’m suffering from an ‘injury’ which is causing a lot of pain in my two smallest toes in my right foot. The pain was significant enough after my Thursday 10miler that on Friday I wore trainers to work. A great look. Not.

At least they weren’t my Adidas Adios trainers with the hypercolour laces. No, wait… Read the rest of this entry

Marathon Training week 15 : A time to reflect

D. O. N. E.

Those 4 letters (and overzealous punctuation) accompanied a Facebook post I made after completing my peak-distance long-run of my marathon training.

I had blogged just before going on my run that there were some nerves about the upcoming 20 miler, what with it being the longest single distance I’d run in almost two years. I’m happy/relieved to report that the run went off without a hitch. Consistent prior training and following my routine on the day allowed me to go out and complete the 32km without any dramas. There was a bit of a tough period from about between 23-25km, which taught me that on race day I need to hit a gel and some sports drink at 20km. However, I was able to power through kms 26-30 at a slightly faster pace than the average for the day, which means that I’ll hopefully be looking good for getting through the last 10km on race day without dropping too much pace.


The photo I shared to my Facebook page. Trust me, I didn’t look as good as this guy after 32km…

As I move into my 3 week taper and my focus turns to peaking for the race I thought it might be useful to me to reflect on the last four weeks since my bonked long run, to assess the progress made since then and say ‘farewell’ to the build-up phase of my training. Read the rest of this entry

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