London Marathon 2011

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At last, I’ve done it.  Several months of preparation, over a month of abstinence from alcohol, Italy’s annual output of pasta consumed in 1 week and enough Lucozade to keep GSK’s share price buoyant and now it’s all over.

What an experience that was.  Having never run full marathon distance, even in training, there was the natural anticipation and nerves on the day but my alarm woke me up, the trains ran to time and all the build up went like clockwork.  I met some fellow runners on the train down and this was great for the pre-race nerves and as we all parted ways to get ready for the start everything was going smoothly.

Starting from Greenwich, I was over the start line in about 3 minutes and the crush wasn’t too bad.  The crowds by the road were amazing and definitely helped push me along.  I was delighted to be pacing myself at 9 minutes/mile throughout the first half and as I crossed Tower Bridge, I felt amazing and was relatively trouble free.

Turning right towards the docklands I could see the last of the elite runners coming back into London and I was still on pace – so far, so good.. then came the Docklands and it started to get really tough.  Funniest T-shirt of the day; “If I collapse, someone pause my Garmin”, helped me through miles 15/16 but as I wound my way round Canary Wharf, the smell of a bbq exacerbated the slight nausea that I was starting to feel and by mile 18 I had discovered that the wall was rearing it’s ugly head a few miles earlier than I’d hoped.

Trying to put one foot in front of the other was proving trickier and trickier and from this point on, I just had to slow to a walk/shuffle to regain some strength and at this point, getting round started to become a target, rather than focussing on my planned 4 hours.

However, the encouragement from the crowd (and a magical piece of orange  – thank you) got me going again and apart from a few blips in the remaining, agonizing miles, I was able to generally keep a (kind of) running pace up.  Once I reached the embankment, the crowd cheering me on helped me keep going and when I saw 800m to go, it actually came as a surprise.  I even managed a (sort of) last dash to the finish to try to hit my (ahem, revised) target of 4hrs 15 and finished 12 seconds over.

I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life as I did yesterday afternoon but 24 hours on, my original thoughts of “never again” are being replaced by, “I wonder if I’d gone a bit slower in the first half if I could’ve had enough beans left to beat 4 hours”… something to ponder over a long awaited glass of wine…

What an amazing experience and thank to the generosity of my sponsors, I’ve managed to exceed my fund raising target for Asthma UK and I am extremely  grateful to every one of them for helping me raise so much for this hugely important charity.

So, would I recommend taking part in the London Marathon?… absolutely 100% yes!

The Day Before the Marathon

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The nerves are starting to kick in, I’ve had pasta for dinner last night, lunch today and dinner tonight… maybe even breakfast tomorrow, parnoid about twisting an ankle, eating something dodgy, missing my train, trains being cancelled, not being able to sleep, sleeping in, losing my running vest, timing chip, trainers, kit bag, forgetting my essentials and a million other things that could all go wrong.. I guess this is similar to 34,999 other people right now.

Had hoped to get a last minute light run in yesterday but didn’t get out of the office on time, so have decided to just relax (or try to) and make a conscious decision that I am as ready now as I’m going to be and as long as nothing goes bandy I should be fine… I hope.

Strategy for race day; aiming for 4 hours which is 9min 9 sec per mile, so going to try to do a 10 minute mile for the first one, then 9 minutes thereafter for the rest of the race.  Once I get beyond mile 16, if there is anything left in the tank, i might crank it up a little bit and then again at 21 but I may just stay at the 9 minute pace (assuming I can keep it up!).

Mustn’t get carried away at the start and hopefully the dreaded wall will be breakthroughable!

Can’t believe that in 24 hours it’ll all be over (I Hope!!)

Wish me luck!

Andy

Tapering For a Marathon

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With just over a week to go until the London Marathon, there’s not much time left to make any dramatic improvements to my physical preparation for the day and I’m doing my best to adhere to the overwhelming advice to taper my efforts down to race day itself.

I’ve been to the gym a couple of times, ran a steady 5 miles yesterday and plan to get a similar run in over the weekend.  It really is proving quite a strange situation as normally I’m able to track improvements and gauge performance but for now, it’s a waiting game and one that I’ll only be able to report on after the main event.

So, for the week ahead, a trip to ExCel to register and some carb-loading to add some fuel for the race. Not to mention getting the brain in gear for what is sure to be one hell of a challenge.

So, not much to report at this point; time will tell whether I’ve done enough and whether I’ve done the right stuff.  Whatever happens, it’s all for a great cause (Asthma UK) and I can’t believe the amazing support I’ve had so far from all my generous sponsors – thank you all so much – I’ll do my best!

9 days until the London Marathon and counting…

Marathon Training Difficulties – Last Few Weeks

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Ouch.  There are times when it just doesn’t quite go to plan and this weekend was a perfect example.   With just 21 days until the marathon the inevitable happened and a planned mid length run (about 15 miles) turned into more of a puffing and panting stagger round the block.  Barely managing 8K, I gave up and headed for the showers feeling quite disconsolate and pretty much exhausted.  Are my marathon hopes dashed?  I certainly hope not but on Saturday I was definitely falling way short of the finish line and naturally, this was quite distressing!

However, jumping straight back on the horse on Monday, I managed 10K in the gym on Monday in a slightly slower than my typical average time  (about 55 mins, in a 10k race would aim at sub 50) with relative ease so it appears that all is not lost!  Back to the gym tonight to continue with the tapering plan (aiming at 10 miles / 90 minutes) and we’ll see how this goes.

So, what have I learned from this?  One big thing was the impact of going off too fast and underestimating the time it takes to get into the rhythm, even on short runs; having done longer training runs my head clearly wasn’t in it on Saturday and motivation hit rock bottom.

If I can keep the training to plan, without too many niggles (ankle starting to play up a bit!) hopefully all will be fine.  My big lesson from this weekend is that I must ease myself into the Marathon itself (all too tempting to go shooting off and ruin the whole race) and I must be 100% committed to the race plan and have the belief that I will have what it takes… so training the grey muscle between my ears is seemingly just as important as all the other ones!

18 Days to go….

Breaking the Wall in the Marathon – I hope!

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I’ve been doing some research over the last week or so and was under the impression that with 4 weeks to go, I should’ve done my last BIG run… however it now appears that this should be this weekend and then it’s a case of tapering the runs down in preparation of the Marathon on 17 April.  This presents me with a dilemma; I seem to be still massively struggling at 20 miles but on the other hand I don’t want the current niggles (now the knee is playing up!) to become injuries!!  I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this!

There does seem to be a general consensus that the need for (high risk of injury) 20 mile plus runs is not an essential part of final training for a marathon however, as I’ve yet to run the full 26.2 miles ever, this does fill me with a fear of the unknown and the thought that it could all go terribly wrong as I hobble into the final 10k!

So here’s my plan and I’ll report back after the race on how it worked for me.  To avoid the risk of a race-stopping injury, I’m going to limit my runs to 2.5 hours max between now and race day and in the last fortnight reduce this even further.  I’m going to try to increase my speed on these shorter runs and also focus on increasing my general fitness and reduce weight by circuit training and also focussing on my diet (haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 2 weeks today!).

The idea behind my logic is that I arrive on race day without niggling injuries, at my physical peak (whatever that may be!) and also carbbed up to the eyeballs to help the stamina.  With a hearty breakfast, banana at the start-line, gel packs, Lucozade and water on the way round and the atmosphere of the day, hopefully the dreaded wall will become a hurdle rather than a total barrier!

Well, that’s the plan anyway… watch this space!

Lost in Hertford… with 5 weeks to go!

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The training for the big day seems to be back on track (touch wood) and I managed my furthest ever distance on the road on Saturday – 2o miles.  While quite elated to have achieved this milestone, there is absolutely no doubt that I was absolutely shattered at the end – could I have managed another 6.2 miles?  I’m not so sure…

On the plus side, I did complete this without any serious preparation on the day, supplements and with a total of just 1.5 litres of water throughout so hopefully I’ll have some more energy reserves on the 17 April.  However, I remember reading another London Marathon blog where the author mentioned hitting the wall at 2o miles and hugely struggling to get going again.  So fingers crossed.

One part of my run that did add to the excitement was managing to get lost (for about an hour!) running round fields until eventually I managed to find my original point of entry and get back on the road.  While this made interesting running, I’m also taking consolation in the fact that this was hard going and perhaps stole a couple of my marathon road miles!! At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  If it wasn’t for the GPS (thank you Garmin), I’d probably still be running round that field!

Planning my final big run (as far as I can get in 3.5 hours) on Saturday and then the folks in the know suggest that I start to reduce my distance until race day – I quite like the sound of that advice 🙂

Marathon pack arrived yesterday and the countdown begins – it’s starting to get quite exciting although when I look at the route plan, it’s also looking quite daunting too.  Am hoping that I’ll be spurred on by the crowds and the thought of what I’m running this for (Asthma UK) and all the generosity from those that have sponsored me.  Thanks to you all 🙂

So the training has begun..

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Well, I signed up for the Marathon at the end of October, as April was ages away and then immediately got man-flu!  Not letting this deter me, as soon as I was on the mend, it was back to gym for a gung-ho approach to training.  Second outing on the treadmill and my ankle took a beating and that was the end of the training right up to Christmas.

Christmas came and went, and the extra pounds came but didn’t go and in Jan it was time to try a return to the gym.  Alas, the ankle problems still persisted and the approaching date of 17 April was no longer “in the Spring of next year…”

Time for some drastic action and a very quick learning curve on personal fitness.  Perhaps this has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced me into looking at alternative exercise to simply hitting the treadmill.

A few wise words and a sports massage later from the fantastic guys at Purus in Covent Garden (thanks!!) and the training is starting to get back on track – hoorah!

So, with just under 10 weeks to go, 26.2 miles round London does seem to be quite a mountain to climb.  At the moment, providing my leg (and the rest of me) holds up, I’ve got to say that I’m really looking forward to the event, although the concept of running twice my furthest distance is still quite ominous.

I hope that once it’s all over, I’ll be able to look back on a brilliant day and that I’ll manage to raise my charity target for Asthma UK and all the good work that they do.

So, I managed 10 miles yesterday, ankle and rest of me in one piece.. 16.2 miles left to go…

158 Days to the London Marathon… how did it all begin?

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I should start this blog by saying that I’ve NEVER run anything like a marathon distance in my life and the prospect of what lies ahead is extremely daunting!

In 2009 in a moment of madness, I decided to enter the Great North Run for charity, Asthma UK, as I wanted to raise some money for this cause which is extremely important to me and my family (my young daughter has been hospitalised by asthma in the past). Although I would’ve considered myself at the time to be of average fitness, I had never run any sort of distance or entered any sporting event (unless school sports day counts!?!), so this seemed like an ideal way to really challenge myself and genuinely earn my sponsorship money.

It was tough, a genuine challenge in the truest sense but thanks to amazing generosity and support from my friends, family, colleagues and clients I was able to complete the race (in just over 2 hours) and exceed my own personal goal, and more importantly, I far exceeded my sponsorship target; I am confident that the money I raised will now have been put towards helping those who suffer from Asthma and hopefully improving their future.

In April 2011, it will be over a year and a half since and although I now would consider myself as someone who has developed a bit of the running bug, the idea of the finish line of the Great North Run only being the half-way mark of the London Marathon is somewhat terrifying!! However, I can only do my best and am hoping to raise as much as possible for Asthma UK again.

It is with this cause in mind that I’ll be heading out into the cold dark nights and early mornings to try to get into some form of condition to stay the course. As the countdown progresses, I may even have to cut back on my, ahem, occassional glass of wine too..

So here goes.. :o)