Winter Training 2019

Goals of Winter Training

Winter training is crucial for runners of all abilities.

Generally, this period is a time to build an aerobic base, without the pressure of running hard. Thankfully (for some), the early months of the year are not packed with road races for recreational runners.

After 2018, which saw me suffer intermittently with MTSS, my priority for winter training was to return to consistent, injury-free running. My strategy was to run predominantly at an easy-pace (corresponding to an effort level of 5-6 out of 10), 5-6 days every week. My hope was to develop my cardiovascular fitness and enjoy my running again.

Statistics from My Winter Training

I’m pleased that my winter training has gone to plan. I also managed to deal with slight niggles without affecting my frequency of running.

Days: 84 (12 weeks commencing 31 December 2018 and concluding on 24 March 2019)

Runs: 70

Miles: 389

Average Miles per Week: 32.4

Longest Run: 10 miles (twice)

Time Running: 55 hours, 57 minutes and 8 seconds

Average Time Running per Week: 4 hours, 39 minutes and 46 seconds

Lessons from My Winter Training

Easy running aids recovery. But I found that it’s still demanding on the body and mind. The accumulation of miles and ‘long slow runs’ result in a lot of “time on feet”. I was able to experiment with double-run days, which are not easy to complete when running faster workouts. This strategy to increase my training miles allowed me to change shoes and routes, whilst benefiting from short periods of recovery.

Alongside my running, I’ve naturally committed to a routine of daily walking, core exercises and stretching (including some foam rolling). I’ve found that these activities encourage me to set different but complementary objectives. They also allow me to understand better my body as it deals with the training load.

My Recommendations for Winter Training

Running easy for months in a row requires discipline. It’s often tempting to speed up when you feel strong. But easy running improves the body’s ability to utilise fat as an energy source, which is crucial for endurance events. Easy running also strengthens important ligaments and tendons, which improves a resilience to injuries.

There is little pressure throughout winter training to ‘perform well’ so mileage should be gradually increased over time.* Instead, correcting any inefficiencies in running technique can be prioritised. Time-trials, strategically planned, can reveal progress in aerobic capacity. It’s crucial that they are not run at an effort level equivalent to that sustained when racing.

Winter training is a periodised approach that builds a foundation of fitness, which can ease runners into a new season of racing. If completed appropriately, runners will feel physically stronger than at the start of training, with fewer injury concerns. Runners should also have a greater desire and confidence to run hard as Spring arrives.


* Avoiding sudden increases in training loads will reduce the likelihood of running injuries, according to David Lowes, a level 4 coach, in his article ‘Wintering Well’ in Athletics Weekly, published March 21, 2019.

 

My 2019 Running Goals

2018 was a memorable year for me. The ups and downs of last year have inevitably influenced my 2019 running goals.

My focus this year is achieving consistent, progressive, endurance-based and injury-free running. 

Although I will still compete in a few races, I want 2019 to be the year of developing the strongest aerobic fitness of my life. 

Run my First Ultramarathon

 
For many years I have wanted to test myself over a distance longer than the marathon. 

Initially, my inspirations were the books and audiobooks of incredible ultrarunners such as Scott Jurek, Pam Reed and Dean Karnazes
 
Later, my experience as a 8-time marathoner got me wondering, too frequently, how I could cope with the extra mileage. 
 
In 2017, I set myself the goal, before I turned 30, to explore this relatively new running phenomenon. 
 
Fortunately, there is an ultramarathon race close to my home
 
Held in early October, it is the ideal challenge that offers me plenty of time to experiment in my training.
 

Improve my Marathon Personal Best

 

Since completing my first marathon in 2013, I have achieved relative success at this iconic running distance. 

However, my dream to qualify for the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry remains a long-term goal. 

My aim for 2019 is simply to improve my personal best, accomplished in October 2017 at the Chelmsford Marathon.

Although only two weeks after the ultramarathon race, I feel confident my endurance training, recovery and race tactics will aid my success.

Run Injury-Free

 
After a disappointing end to my 2018 season, I want to return to building a strong foundation without the pressure of short-term racing. 
 
 
By returning to an appropriate and progressive stretching and strengthening routine I believe I will enjoy pain-free running again. 
 

My hope and expectation is that I will become a more resilient and fitter athlete.

6 Elements to Improve Endurance Running

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance (2018) by Alex Hutchinson


Theory

A traditional view of endurance is that the body is a ‘machine’, limited by the muscles’ ability to use energy and oxygen.

However, more recently, researchers such as Tim Noakes and Samuele Marcora have asserted that human limits are defined by the brain’s functions. Conscious or not, our mind senses the dangers of exerting ourselves too much and so guides our body’s ‘pace’ (otherwise known as ‘anticipatory regulation’).

Our sense of effort and ability to overcome our instincts to stop once we feel pain are crucial elements if we are to perform at our best. Researchers point to the finishing ‘sprint’ during a marathon as proof that our bodies always have a reserve of energy.

Practice

Pain is unavoidable, a complex and situation-dependant sensation, but, if we seek pain in training (e.g. run harder, faster workouts) our pain tolerance will increase.

The more hours we spend physically training our bodies, the better we can alter our minds to push ourselves faster and further.

Muscles

Brain fatigue and muscle fatigue are inseparable, but lactic acid isn’t the feeling of acid dissolving our muscles. It’s a cautionary signal created in the brain by nerve endings triggered only in the presence of certain metabolites.

Caffeine is an effective performance enhancer because it disables brain receptors that detect muscle fatigue.

Oxygen

The advantage that East African runners have originates from being born at altitude and having active childhoods. This means they can better maintain their brain’s oxygen supply due to possessing a greater number of thicker blood vessels that connect to the brain.

Heat

For every 100 calories we consume, it’s estimated we will generate at least 75 calories of heat. This means that to fully adapt to bodily heat, we should exercise repeatedly in hot conditions.

We will sweat more heavily and our blood volume will increase, resulting in our heart rate staying lower during exercise.

Thirst

If thirsty we should drink when we have the chance, but we shouldn’t obsess about it when we don’t, because any losses of less than 4% are unlikely to impair our endurance performance.

Fuel

We should never be under-fuelled at the start of a race, otherwise this will be a limiting factor in our performance. The brain uses fuel, and so having larger stores of glycogen is optimal.

An example is it only helps to consume a sports drink in runs shorter than 90 minutes if our body is low on fuel to begin with.

Brain Training

Ultimately, as athletes we need to better monitor our body’s reactions to training loads. The more we can predict pain, the more likely we are to feel impartial to it, and push through that feeling to make better micro-decisions during a race.


Runner Alex Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s own views as a runner, after completing his first marathon in a time of 2:44:48, are useful to ensure we best implement the advice from the countless studies he compiled. He wishes he implemented more positive self-talk. Over many years, this will inevitably translate into greater self-belief.

More than anything else, running lots and holding greater faith in achieving personal goals will give us the best chance of athletic success.

Extending Time on the Saddle

I know I need to accumulate more time on my bike to maintain my endurance fitness ready for my upcoming marathon.

So I aimed to peddle for longer than an hour a day.
My concerns were the numbness and minor pain as a result of sitting in the same position on the saddle and the mental fatigue from not giving up after boredom set in.

First, I enjoyed a rest day after the first four days of my cross-training.
Then I fully committed to sweating.

2 hours on Sunday.
45 minutes twice on Monday.
30 minutes yesterday, after cycling 7.2 miles on my mountain bike outdoors.
1 hour and 10 minutes tonight.

I used a combination of distractions to get me through the workouts as best I could.
I listened to a running audiobook.
I sang to some of my favourite albums, from music artists including Angels and Airwaves, The Kooks and The Script.
I daydreamed.

I got off the saddle a few times to take very short breaks.
I rose up on my saddle to relieve the pressure on my buttocks.
By far the most effective method of passing the time simply refraining from checking my Garmin sports watch every minute




3 Training Principles from Ultramarathoner Lee Grantham

Lee Grantham’s recent stardom on social media and being a genuine contender at top ultramarathon races is testament to his strength of staying true to himself.

But what stands out about the Mancunian’s training approach?

1. Cross-Trains to Build Mileage

Grantham may be a full-time athlete, but he doesn’t spend all his time running. He instead complements his 60 miles per week (an achievable target for some recreational runners) with substantially more cycling.1

At around 150 miles per week, Grantham is improving and maintaining his aerobic capabilities while reducing his injury risks. This strategy gives him the perfect opportunity to keep mixing up his workouts, whilst maximising his most important energy system.

2. Replicates Tough Running Conditions

Grantham is known to run up mountains for hours in hot conditions, only to have to hitch-hike back home.1 This allows his body to adapt to conditions he will inevitably face in competition.

Mentally, he is further challenging himself to cope with the multitude of ups and downs when running for many hours at a time. Although he may have a relaxed character he continually tests his survival skills by relying on factors outside of his control (namely motorists) to return him to the safety of home.

3. Stays Himself

At 35 years old, Grantham has never been more ambitious, looking to win some of the longest races in the world. Grantham trains his way though, admitting he travels to different parts of the world, such as Thailand and mainland Europe, to both train in picturesque and awe-inspiring landscapes as well as experience new cultures.2

Grantham believes that these unique races can also help runners keep determined throughout the winter months when enthusiasm can easily wane.3

Surprisingly, Grantham has only been focusing on running for eight years, beginning in his late 20s.1 Nevertheless, his experience playing football and rugby in particular, where running was emphasised2 has put him in good stead.

His marathon personal best of 2:21:43 reveals that he is certainly no ordinary athlete. Add to this his vegan diet, eco-friendly lifestyle and interest in strength and conditioning at the gym, and no wonder he is popular in an already extraordinary sport.4


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Aiming High. Published on 23rd August 2018.
2 This Steemit article is entitled Interview with Playboy and Elite Runner Lee Grantham. Published on 22 January 2018.
3 The MyProtein article is entitled Racing Overseas: How to make the most of it. Published in 2016.
4 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Trail-blazing Endurance Athlete’s Winning Social Media Strategy. Published on 23rd August 2018.

Easy Workout with New Tyre

My new turbo trainer tyre arrived in the post today.
But I forgot the tools needed to change my current tyre.
So I bought a bicycle pump, valve adaptor and a repair kit.

The new tyre will wear less and save my original tyre in case I ever cycle on the roads.

I wanted to cycle easy today, so I popped my earphones in and forgot about my pace.
Instead I stayed consistent and enjoyed the constant motion of my legs.
The seat felt more comfortable too.

My heart rate was low and my mind focused on Kathrine Switzer’s marathon journey.
With a rest day tomorrow I was satisfied that my fourth workout was easier than my first workout, at the same effort level.


Day 4
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 21.9 mph and 99 rpm)



First Test Cycling Hard

I wanted to test my capacity on my new bike.
So I shortened the workout to 20 minutes, which fitted ideally into my morning routine.

I had to be prepared to work hard.
I started faster than yesterday and found I could maintain over 24 mph.

I didn’t listen to any music or my current audiobook in order to keep concentrating on improving my speed and cadence progressively.
By halfway I was cycling at over 25 mph.

My quads started to ache.
Then my calves.
But I dug deep.

I kept glancing at my watch to make sure my performance wasn’t dropping.
I stayed strong throughout.
I ended the workout dripping with sweat, satisfied that my heart rate had elevated higher than I expected.

I proved to myself that I have more to give; my aerobic and muscular capacity for cycling is still to be discovered.


Day 3
20 minute cycle at increasingly faster pace
(average 25.1 mph and 111 rpm)

Suspected Stress Fractures Reduces my Training

3-9 September 2018


Unfortunately, after my successful long run last week I inadvertently triggered a shin injury I suffered months ago.

Although I tested my legs at another fast interval workout at my running club, I knew that rest was the most sensible option. Online research has suggested I could have stress fractures on the inside of both my lower tibia bones.

Although last week’s plan to run only three times per week is simply not advisable if my shins are to heal in time for my eighth marathon, I couldn’t be inactive.

Cross Training

I accumulated over 16.6 miles (almost 3 hours) of cycling in four days. However, I plan to accelerate my cross-training over the next month so have ordered equipment to help me maintain fitness…



18 Miles to Celebrate my Birthday

27 August – 2 September 2018


I enjoyed eight days of rest after my seventh half marathon. The only exercises I committed to were walking and easy-paced cycling.

Then, knowing I only had seven and a half weeks before my eighth marathon (my fifth in Chelmsford) I returned to training.

However, I was conscious that to improve my personal best I needed to ensure my training was different than previous seasons. The only other criteria was I didn’t want to commit to excessive weekly mileage.

I discovered the Runner’s World plan, focusing on three runs per week. Studies have proven that this method works, if the strict paces are adhered to. Based on my fitness level, my targets are the following:

Type of Run Pace Range
Long Run (15+ miles) 7:00-7:15 per mile
Long Tempo Run (8-10 miles) 6:30-6:35 per mile
Mid Tempo Run (5-7 miles) 6:15-6:20 per mile
Short Tempo Run (3-4 miles) 6:00 per mile

Tempo Run – Tuesday

1:00 per mile slower than training plan

Intervals – Thursday

0:20-0:40 per mile slower than training plan

Long Run – Sunday

0:05 per mile slower than training plan

Rest Days – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday

Includes walking and light cycling 


Although I failed to hit any of the target paces for my workouts I expected this to happen. Still, there were many positives to take from my week, namely that my running form stayed strong throughout my workouts and my long run was surprisingly ‘comfortable’.

I also complimented my training with cycling of over 12.75 miles, including intervals as a hard cross-training workout (with a fast one mile run directly afterwards).

I accumulated over 30.5 miles (over 3 hours and 40 minutes) in four days. I feel confident I can build on this, and am motivated to achieve a new marathon personal best next month.

5 Secrets to Young Success of Jakob Ingebrigtsen

Jakob Ingebrigtsen has caused a frenzy amongst the athletics world with his incredible double gold (1500m and 5000m) at the European Athletics Championships earlier in August. At only 17 years of age, he has already accomplished more than some of the experienced athletes he competed against in these races.

So, what are the secrets to his success?

1. A Healthy Family Rivalry

Jakob has two world-class runners as older brothers to look up to. Although he admits that pressure to live up to their European and World Championship medal performances is tough1 the motivation is even greater.

He has training partners, who not only harbour the same ambitions but want him to succeed as much as they want to themselves. More importantly, Jakob has an advantage over his brothers – he has witnessed their success and can learn from proven training techniques.

2. Intense Mileage

According to reports2, Jakob manages up to 85 miles per week, running twice a day. This amount of running would seem rare in a young teenager, although is obviously necessary for pursuing the most elite titles.

However, realistically, Jakob has spent his youth gradually improving his mileage. As his body has developed so has the stress from running. This has meant that he has refined his endurance and speed to an elite fitness level, whilst staying injury-free for crucial races.

3. Threshold Training

Thus far in his career Jakob has focused on developing a strong cardiovascular fitness base. According to reports, Jakob has achieved this through threshold running, a form of training that stresses the body just enough to cause incremental adaptations. He should therefore be more than adept at running at a ‘comfortably hard’ intensity, ideal for boosting his confidence and coping with elite track races, many of which require astute tactics and gradual accelerations.

4. Hungry Learner

Jakob is a keen student of the sport too, reading all there is on running1. Although an academic student himself, this shows how passionate (and serious) he takes the discipline. He wants to improve and therefore must be willing (and able) to understand the training approaches, motivational techniques and former (and current) athletes’ journeys to success.

This is an important component of a champion, one who experiments to ensure he gets the best out of himself. Failures are inevitable, but his coach has helped analyse what has and hasn’t worked in order to get the best out of his young son.

5. Greatest Ambition

Jakob is motivated to become the best in the world. As soon as he had won the 1500m he was preparing for the 5000m race,3 showing that he is not willing to rest on his laurels.

He knows that there is still uncharted territory for the Ingebrigtsen family, namely an Olympic medal and a World title. What more incentive is there than to not only match his brothers’ achievements but to supersede them? This mindset will only strengthen as he enjoys more and more success, and grows into a more mature athlete.

Mentored by his coach and father4, Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s rise to senior success is remarkable. As Tim Hutchings echoes5, Jakob could be considered “outrageously gifted” and has broken “long-established rules”. However, the secrets to his achievements are not as unique as one would perhaps imagine. Instead it is the structured running routine, tested and proven, along with family support and drive to win that has projected him to the top of Europe’s middle-distance runners.

What is most incredible about his recent athletic performances is how dedicated a 17-year old can be, since the age of ten,1 to pursue a demanding sport. Even at such a young age, Jakob is willing to push himself to the brink in order to overcome his challengers.

His titles prove that to be the best one must be willing to train, research and race as smart and as hard as possible. Jakob already appears to have plenty of experience.


References

1 The IAAF article is entitled Teen Prodigy Ingebrigtsen’s Tale Comes of Age in Berlin. Published on 12 August 2018.
2 The IAAF article is entitled After Smashing through the four-minute barrier, Ingebrigtsen Serves Notice. Published on 30 May 2017.
3 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Jakob’s Stunning Double. Published on 16 August 2018.
4 The News in English article is entitled Father Scolds the Ingebrigtsens. Published on 8 August 2018.
5 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled A Breath of Fresh Air. Published on 23 August 2018.



Reducing my Running Load

6 – 12 August 2018

Week 9 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:10 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday, Saturday and Sunday


With one eye on my upcoming race I reduced my pace and mileage this week. I enjoyed three rest days (including a visit to the location of my race), lead another four coaching sessions (helping one runner achieve a new 5km personal best) and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 11 miles.

I accumulated almost 17.8 miles (over 2 hours) in four days. Although not a lot compared to previous weeks I wanted to ensure I am fully fit for my race next Sunday.

Running Longer

30 July – 5 August 2018

Week 8 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

Slower than 6:55 per mile pace

Fast Intervals – Friday

5:25-5:30 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday and Saturday


After a relatively slow start to the week, I made sure I focused on running longer and furtherI enjoyed two rest days, lead four coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 4 miles and walking (accumulating over 16,000 steps each day).

Another positive aspect of my training week was that I was able to run comfortably faster than my half marathon pace Friday evening.

I accumulated almost 30 miles (over 3.5 hours) in five days, recovering quickly. This has made me feel stronger and better prepared for my upcoming race.


Returning to my Running Club

23-29 July 2018

Week 7 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Slower than 7:25 per mile pace

Interval Club RunThursday

4:50-5:45 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday


After three weeks of increasing mileage, I made a conscious effort to reduce my running load this week. I enjoyed three rest days, lead two group coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 10.5 miles across three days, just as I did last week.

My weekly goal was to return to my running club and complete a tough interval workout, which I did on Thursday. My calf muscles were sore afterwards but consuming my homemade protein smoothies helped me recover.

I accumulated 19 miles with still no signs of my recent injury, which has set me up for a ‘heavier’ week of training to come.


Week of Building Endurance

16-22 July 2018

Week 6 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:15 per mile pace

Tempo RunSaturday

Faster than 7:15 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Sunday


I stepped up the quantity of my running this week. Almost all my workouts were easy-paced, long runs. This took more time and energy, and therefore I didn’t feel it appropriate to run any miles at my intended half marathon race pace. 

My weekly goal was to run continuously for at least an hour, which I did on Friday. I also cycled over 10.5 miles across three days. Although simply recreational, the exercise supplements my training.

I also enjoyed coaching my first two-day running assessment on one of my runners.

I accumulated over 29 miles with no signs of my recent injury, which built my confidence that my body is adapting well for ‘longer distances’.


Quality Running, Injury-Free

9-15 July 2018

Week 5 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Thursday

Slower than 6:45 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Saturday

Fartlek run (whilst coaching)

Intervals faster than 6:05 per mile pace

Rest Days – Friday and Sunday


I’m pleased I’m still injury-free after my shin pain. I was therefore able to run several tougher workouts, replicating my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile. The high local temperatures and tiring workload this week were factors affecting my performances but I enjoyed the challenge.

My strategy for the remaining five weeks of training for the Clacton Half Marathon is to focus on tempo intervals at race pace and progressively building my endurance with longer runs.

I accumulated over 21 miles, and ensured I primed myself for a heavier mileage week next week.



Running Injury-Free Again

2-8 July 2018

Week 4 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:00 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Sunday

Faster than 7:00 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Saturday


After cross-training for much of June, I feel recovered from my shin pain. Although my running paces were slower than my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile, conditions have been particularly hot recently.

I have also experimented by running in my Vivobarefoot shoes and Vibram FiveFingers. With six weeks until the Clacton Half Marathon I feel confident that I can improve my speed endurance.

I accumulated 19 miles, and rather than ‘time on my feet’ I am happy that I am injury-free.



Enjoying Cross-Training

4-10 June 2018

Week 3 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon, modified due to injury.


Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Monday – Sunday

Although the injury in my shins has remained it has not prevented me from enjoying a wide range of exercises.

I have focused on workouts to strengthen my lower body, including using machines such as leg extension, curl and press, as well as dumbbell lunges, barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.

Every day I have also spent hours on the cross-trainer, static bike and rower to continue sweating.

I also purchased more running shoes from Vivobarefoot, to give me more support when I return to running.

Accepting a Recurring Injury

28 May – 3 June 2018

Week 2 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday

>16.5 miles at 7:35-7:40 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Wednesday, Thursday

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I accumulated over 22 miles in just over 2.5 hours of running. However, a recurring injury in my shins meant I had to re-examine my training plan.

To prevent me from stressing the affected areas further I decided to join a local gym. I now have an opportunity to build strength with weights and machines, whilst I maintain my cardiovascular fitness with lower impact equipment, such as stationary bikes and cross-trainers.

Starting a New Strategy

21-27 May 2018

Week 1 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

>15.5 miles at 7:25-7:50 per mile pace

I also purchased a new Garmin sports watch.

‘Long Run’ – Tuesday

7.5 miles at 7:33 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Thursday, Saturday

Rest Day – Sunday

Visited Clacton, the location of the upcoming race.

I accumulated over 29 miles in just over 3 hours of running, and foam rolled daily.

Aiming to Win a Race

For over a year I have wanted to win a road race.

I earmarked the Clacton Half Marathon, a flat coastal race, as my best chance of finishing first.
Since the first year of the race in 2014 the winning times have been 1:17:151, 1:15:492, 1:21:273 and 1:19:284.
Although all the winning times are faster than my current personal best, set in the summer of 2016, I believe I have the potential to run sub 6:00 miles for 13.1 miles.
Last year I was sidelined with a hip injury due to overtraining for my fourth Chelmsford Marathon.
But this August I aim to win.
My training will commence tomorrow after a fortnight of recovery from my first 10 mile race.

I have thirteen weeks to improve my fitness and mindset.

Although I will focus primarily on tempo intervals and continuous runs at target race pace I know I need to change my routine compared to previous training periods. I must place more intense and varied stresses on my body in order to stimulate the necessary physiological responses.

I will use many techniques to ensure I recovery adequately and prime myself as a future champion. These include:

If I am to take my race finishes from the top ten (once in 2016 and again in 2018) to the ‘podium’ I must believe I am a champion. I intend to demonstrate my best at the Clacton Half Marathon and leave nothing to chance. Previous race results are so tantalising that it may be the greatest opportunity to realise my ultimate ambition.


1 Equivalent to 5:53 per mile average pace.
2 Equivalent to 5:47 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:12 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:03 per mile average pace.



Staying Patient (Week 4)

23-29 April 2018

Despite my best intentions I didn’t find the energy to build on last week’s increased mileage.

Much of the week consisted of staying realistic about my chances in my upcoming race and keeping my body healthy.

Lesson #7: Don’t push the pace unless you can

Ideally, the week would have consisted of more miles at my intended race pace*. Except for the first two miles of Wednesday’s (25th April) run my pace was not close.

The effort required to get up to speed would not have been worth it, as I didn’t feel confident I could sustain it. Rather than risk injury, especially in wet conditions, and further discouragement I focused on slower-paced miles**. The 27.45 miles I covered in five days was beneficial to keep my legs and my mind active without much stress.

Approaching my taper week, the most important aspects of my training are now remaining injury-free and eager for the challenge ahead. As I developed some tightness in my left calf muscle I now must ease off to ensure full recovery before race day.

Lesson #8: It’s not always about times or distances

On Sunday (29th April), a week after the 2018 London Marathon, I purposefully ran 3.7 miles.

I thought of Matt Campbell, the man who collapsed and died 22.5 miles into the capital’s most iconic race. The sadness of his death reminded me that although running performances  are important for motivation it’s the sport itself that should bring the most joy.

Sometimes times, distances, races and medals are not important. Instead, all the support, globally and from non-runners, has the greatest impact. Unfortunately, mass participation events in relatively hot conditions will very likely result in casualties, but the best of people often shines through.


I took two rest days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and will now look to stretch and rest before my first 10 mile race in a week’s time.

10 mile Training: Week 4

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-8:30 per mile.

Building Mileage (Week 3)

16-22 April 2018

I knew I had to focus on increasing my weekly mileage. Reducing the number of rest days would also develop my leg muscles quicker, although I had to be careful due to a recent minor injury.

I believe I found a productive balance.

Lesson #5: You are stronger than you think you are

On Friday (20 April) I wanted to test myself over a distance that was close to 10 miles. I had doubts that I would find it comfortable.

I chose 8 miles and, although I started strong, I did not expect to be particularly consistent. But I was.

The miles seemed to fly by and I was pleased to finish, knowing that 10 miles would not be difficult to cover in a few weeks’ time. Although I have not demonstrated my race pace for an extended period I ran five days in a row, building my mileage sensibly by running some at an easier pace. My legs did ache at times but not enough for me to worry about injury.

This proved that my endurance is progressing and I am still on track for my future running goals. Psychologically the ‘long’ runs were a boost.

Lesson #6: Running on grass can sap your energy at high speeds

I ran my only interval workout on Monday (16 April). I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace* with 3:30 walking recoveries. Only the last mile rep fell below my race pace but the I feel I met my target.

However, the interval workout was challenging. Each rep was two laps around my local park, and after the first minute of each rep my effort level increased significantly. Despite the consistent pacing I was clinging on at the end of the reps.

My One Mile Challenge taught me that although grass is a kinder surface than road for bones and ligaments, a runner has to work harder to generate the same power from the ground. This means that for speed workouts the pace can be lower than expected.

I knew I was hitting my target pace because I allowed for this. So rather than be disappointed I was satisfied with a tough workout.

Excluding the interval workout I accumulated over 27.3 miles during the week, of which 12 miles were ran at less than a minute slower than race pace**. The remaining miles were run at a comfortable endurance pace***.

My only rest day was Tuesday.


10 Mile Training: Week 3

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-7:00 per mile.
*** This is equivalent to slower than 7:00 per mile pace.

Reducing Training Stress (Week 2)

9-15 April 2018

Transitioning from my One Mile Challenge to endurance-based training has resulted in a minor injury. I was therefore forced to take more rest days than I had planned.

Still, this made me more determined and focused to gain the most from my limited training.

Lesson #3: Never ignore your gut instincts

The purpose of my first workout of the week on Monday (9 April) was to accumulate more miles at race pace*. Like last week the tempo threshold run was tougher than I had wanted it to be. Still, I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace with ¼ mile recovery jogs** in between.

I knew that I needed to rest but because I coached in the evening, and the following two days, I knew I had to be sensible. As I often run to the start of my coaching sessions I found the extra effort resulted in increased pain in my lower legs.

Although I was fully aware that rest was essential I decided to ignore it. This set my training back a couple of days. Therefore I learnt that a more sensible approach would have been to modify my own workouts to factor in extra, but less structured activity.

Lesson #4: Running on grass can aid recovery

On Sunday (15 April) I ran simply to stretch my legs and test my MTSS injury, which was made worse by the club run I committed to on Thursday (12 April). The club workout was 30x 30 seconds of fast pace running*** with 30 seconds of jogging recoveries in between. The high impact of running on the pavement did not support my training. Instead I realised that these faster workouts are not what I need in the build-up to my 10 mile race.

So instead, on the last day of the week, I purposefully ran on grass, striking the ground with my mid-foot rather than forefoot. These modifications ensured that my leg muscles received a workout but without excessive stress.

Psychologically, the run gave me confidence because I felt positive about my injury. Also, because there was less focus on maintaining a particular pace I could enjoy the countryside around me.

During the week I ran 4.25 miles on Friday and 4.6 miles on Sunday at recovery pace** to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. My mile repeats on Monday and interval workout on Thursday amounted to 6.95 miles at race pace or quicker.


10 Mile Training: Week 2

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace this week (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 8:50 per mile.
*** Interval training for me this week is any pace faster than 5:30 per mile.

Two Reflections on Transitioning to Endurance Training (Week 1)

3-8 April 2018

After last week’s success of breaking multiple personal records from ¼ mile to 2 miles my focus switched to endurance. My next race, 5 weeks away, is a local 10 mile race.

So from Wednesday I began accumulating miles in preparation for my attempt at running under an hour, equivalent to less than 6:00 per mile pace.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you need to change your workout during it

I intended my first workout of my 10-mile training (on Wednesday 4 April) to be a 10k time-trial. However, after a mile at race pace* I realised my legs had not fully recovered from my mile time-trials so after another mile at race pace I altered my workout.
Instead, I completed a 1-mile jogging recovery**.
Then I ran another two miles at race pace.

Although I did not accomplish what I originally set out, I modified it to reflect my current fitness level. I therefore accumulated 4 miles in the pace range I desired as opposed to 2 miles (as my pace would have progressively slowed if I had not had a recovery).

The workout proved to me that runners need to prioritise the overall purpose of a workout (in my case to accumulate as many miles at race pace) rather than any preconceived plan. As a result training will be maximised.

Lesson #2: A running nickname can reflect important developments

On Thursday (5 April) I ran a quality session*** with my running club. As there is a greater amount of daylight I chose to run in my black running jacket.
I led the session from the start, running 2,3,4,5,4,3 and 2 minutes quicker than race pace with half the time of the intervals as jogging recoveries.
One coach called me the ‘Black Assassin’, later the ‘Silent Assassin’.

More important than obtaining another positive nickname is the observation that my forefoot strike in my Vibram FiveFingers barefoot shoes is quiet. This suggests the lightness on my feet has transferred to efficient speed. This style of running feels so natural to me that my calf muscles are fatigue resilient.

The nickname reminds me of the hard work I have made with calf raises and committing to barefoot shoes.

I also ran 4.4 miles on Friday and 6.4 miles on Sunday 30-90 seconds slower per mile**** than race pace to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday and Saturday.


10 Mile Training: Week 1

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race pace goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 9:00 per mile.
*** Interval training for me is any pace faster than 6:00 per mile.
**** This is equivalent to 6:30-8:00 per mile.

Snow Disrupts my Training

26 February – 4 March 2018

Sunday – workout #25

3 x 1-mile at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with 3:30 standing recoveries

The snow had disappeared overnight and all that remained was damp grass and wet pavement.
I knew I had to get back to running hard if I was to make the most of my training so far this year.
I was excited and nervous before my first challenging workout for over a week.
I ran wide laps around a familiar patch of park with my fiancée watching me and taking photos.
The first rep felt controlled throughout.
The second rep felt difficult by the last quarter mile.
The third rep felt challenging from the start.
Yet, when I examined my times later I actually ran progressively faster for each rep.
Although the times were all under six minutes it wasn’t what mattered most, but the fact that I felt back on track – fatigued and satisfied.

One Mile Challenge: Week 9

Aside from my single hard workout I took two rest days (Tuesday and Saturday) and managed four days of easy running (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), accumulating over 16.4 miles, most whilst running in thick snow.

The freezing cold temperatures and problematic terrain meant that I was forced to run miles at a relative jogging pace. I found this unique challenge enjoyable as I could forget about my block of hard training and focus on traversing through fields of virgin snow.

I wore many layers and limited myself to around 40 minutes per run. I used these runs to build endurance and to rest from more strenuous exercise. I also freed up some time to undertake core exercises, such as wall sits and planks.

I believe I am now mentally prepared for my final few weeks of quality training before my attempt to break the five-minute mile.

Demonstrating Maximum Speed

19-25 February 2018

Wednesday – workout #23

16x <0.1 mile at 3:54-5:13 per mile pace with various jogging and standing recoveries

After three days of rest I expected to feel strong running with my work group.
Except my lower legs were still aching from last week.
I remained positive though and led the uphill and flat sprints the entire session.
I maintained a powerful and relaxed form throughout.
My only concern throughout was that the short bursts of energy will not be improving my speed endurance.
I was very pleased with clocking a lifetime maximum speed of 3:28 per mile, and how I recovered well in between reps.

Thursday – workout #24

6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1-minute intervals at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with jogging recoveries of half the time of the intervals

I felt ready for another tough workout. This time with my running club.
I shot off from the start. For the first interval of six minutes I was leading the pack.
During the jogging recovery I was overtaken by other faster runners.
I was content to run alone along the curving path around the lake.
I thought about the other runners around me fleetingly. Instead I reflected on the cold but calm evening under the stars and moon.
I continued to work hard, but always within myself, refusing to let the lactate accumulate.
By the end of the session I still had a little to give, but knew I needed to recover for the rest of the week.

One Mile Challenge: Week 8

During my two harder workouts I accumulated 4.58 miles (25 mins and 53 secs) within a pace range of 3:54-6:17 min per mile. During the week I enjoyed three rest days (Monday, Friday and Saturday) and two days of easy running (Tuesday and Sunday) accumulating over 12.7 miles.

Although I had plenty of rest I still felt my lower limbs were a limiting factor this week. My progress is still strong though so I will take forward the momentum I have built to focus on feeling optimal for my future harder workouts.

Increasing My Mileage

12-18 February 2018

Monday – workout #20

4x ¾ mile at 5:30-6:10 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries

I used a long stretch of country lane, usually quiet, to run my intervals.
Rather than check my sportswatch I focused on my high knee lift and breathing. I knew that my tempo pace would be tough but manageable. I kept my pace steady so that my breathing was close to the edge of becoming exhausted gasping.
I felt strong and my rest breaks were more than adequate.
On the last two reps I felt closer to losing my rhythm so I consciously made slight adjustments.
At times the traffic forced me onto the grassy banks but I kept my concentration.
Despite the four rest days last week I felt some niggles on the outside of my lower legs.
My times were also more erratic than I wanted but remain positive.

Thursday – workout #21

6x approx. ½ mile at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with 3-4 sprints interspersed throughout, with 2-2½ minutes walking recoveries between laps

I was excited to run a different type of workout at my club night.
I ran in a ‘train’ of three runners around a local lake, where the runner at the back would sprint to the front.
The pace was a consistent tempo, and the 3-4 sprints per lap were less than 50m each.
I felt strong throughout and knew I always had more to give.
I encouraged my teammates to continue to work hard.
The winding route kept bunching us up but the shorter sprints meant we could maintain a fluid rhythm.
At the last bend of the final lap I ran hard with another runner to finish the session strong.

Saturday – workout #22

3x 1 mile at 5:30-5:50 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking recoveries

I wanted to test myself over the distance again. But not at 95-99% of my max.
I changed my mind from 4 to 3 reps when I felt slight niggles in my legs during the warm-up.
I was confident though that 5:30 miles could be run without excessive effort.
I stayed in control, keeping an even pace along slightly undulating paths, roads and grasses.
Only in the mid-section of the reps did I feel I was close to building lactate in my legs.
I noticed my left hand was tense at times so I consciously relaxed it, and used my arms to drive me forward.
It was only the last rep that I struggled to maintain my pace. Otherwise it was a strong performance, and a great indicator for my future efforts.

One Mile Challenge: Week 7

My three harder workouts amounted to 9.14 miles (52 mins and 40 secs) within a pace range of 5:30-6:10 min per mile. During the week I enjoyed a rest day (Wednesday) and three days of easy running (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) accumulating over 18.25 miles.

Although the increased ‘recovery’ miles did fatigue me I was pleased to return to training with renewed vigour this week. I now know I need to practice and improve my speed endurance for the remaining weeks of my challenge.

Resting to Recharge

5- 11 February 2018

Monday – workout #18

5x 0.4 mile at 5:05-5:40 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking recoveries

I deliberately paced myself sensibly for the first two reps around my familiar patch of grass. Although still tough I felt I was holding back a little.
My times were almost exactly as I expected*.
Despite the slow walking between reps my breathing became uncontrollable and my legs heavier by my third rep.
I still ran as aggressive as I could but my pace for the remaining reps were nearer my tempo pace than maximum velocity pace.
I was easy on myself though, reminding myself that last week revealed my growing fatigue that I still hadn’t corrected.
I decided not to punish my body any further.

Wednesday – workout #19

3x 4 fartlek reps of fast running (at 4:45-5:30 per mile pace) of 20-45 seconds with easy recovery jogging in between, with 2-3 minutes active recoveries between sets

I didn’t feel my regular springy self. But I forced myself out.
I knew I would be resting the rest of the week.
I led my running group at work from the front as usual.
First we charged hard up a short but steep hill.
We recovered back down, then headed fast along a longer flatter stretch of pathway.
We jogged back to the start again and repeated the hill.
The final stretch was the shortest and slightly downhill.
In between the three sets we undertook a mix of deep squats and single leg squats.
Although I stayed strong throughout I consciously held back, not attempting my top speed.
I was more pleased that my fatigue would end as I my short break from running was now due.

One Mile Challenge: Week 6

I only accumulated 3.17 miles (16 mins and 53 secs) during my two hard workouts, recording 4:45-5:37 min per mile pace. However, I knew my body needed adequate recovery and therefore during the week I enjoyed four rest days (Thursday – Sunday) and one day of easy running (Tuesday) amounting to over 5.25 miles.

Although mentally challenging I am pleased that I was disciplined to let my body adapt to the stresses I had placed on it since the start of the year. To keep myself active I walked a lot and committed to exercising my core most days. I also frequently stretched my lower body.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

Struggling for Speed Consistency

29 January – 4 February 2018

Monday – workout #14

6x ¼ mile at 4:30-5:10 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries, then 3x ½ mile at 5:40-5:55 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries, with 5 minutes walking recovery between sets

I returned to the same grass ‘track’ as yesterday’s time-trial.
I was conscious of continuing my consistent fast pacing.
Only I set off too fast.
Despite my self-talk during my recoveries I kept finishing my single laps hard.
This meant that after three reps I was working harder to actually finish slower than my intended goal mile pace*.
I was disappointed by the end of my sixth rep.
But I still wanted to run hard so I ran more reps, this time for two laps each. Although the average pace was far below my expectations, I persevered.
I felt better because I knew I had paced myself better and still maintained a sprint along the final straight.
My last rep was the fastest of the three.

Wednesday – workout #15

Fartlek sets of easy, tempo and fast running at various distances accumulating 5x 0.1 mile at 4:10-5:00 per mile pace and 5x 0.13-0.3 miles at 5:18-5:49 per mile pace with active recoveries at various paces

I again ran with my running group at work.
This time we used a familiar figure of eight circuit in a local park, interspersing easy running with bursts of tempo pace and sprints.
I enjoyed leading from the front, quickening my stride with ease along the bends, and feeling strong as I sprinted on the final straight.
Each section of running was controlled and although it was a much easier workout than recent efforts I was pleased with my raw speed.

Thursday – workout #16

2x (½ mile, ¼ mile, ⅛ mile at 4:25-5:15 per mile pace with 2½ minute standing/walking recoveries) with 5 minute walking recovery between sets

I used a quiet stretch of grass I had never run on before.
I felt confident with the challenge, allowing myself enough time to recover between reps.
There were undulations on the course and the bends were sharper than I wanted them to be.
But I ran hard throughout.
I checked my reps during my recovery periods.
Although my first rep was not as quick as I expected I refused to let it negatively affect me.
I did my best to keep my shoulders relaxed.
After my first set my stomach felt painful.
It didn’t subside as I tackled the second half of my workout, working as close to my one mile pace as I could without pushing myself to my limits.

Sunday – workout #17

2 mile time-trial at a perceived even pace.

After my recent 5 km club time-trial I chose to pursue my personal best at the two mile distance.
My last hard workout was three days ago and I felt confident I could get close to the 5:39 per mile pace I set in December 2016.
I used a figure of eight circuit near my home.
Conditions were windy and cold, with the grass a little muddy.
I wanted to be conscious of my pace throughout so I checked my pace.
By the end of the second lap I was struggling.
I ran the first mile in line with my personal best pace.
But despite pushing on I could not prevent my pace from falling.
Even my fiancée taking photographs of me could not inspire to run faster.
By the fourth and final lap I developed a stitch. I ignored it, along with my sports watch, and just tried to hang on.
I charged over the line to record an average mile pace of 6:00.
I would ordinarily be disappointed but accepted that fatigue from my five weeks of intense training had taken a toll on me.

One Mile Challenge: Week 5

During the week I also enjoyed a rest day (Saturday) and two days of easy running (Tuesday and Friday) amounting to over 6.45 miles.

I accumulated 8.25 miles (44 mins and 47 secs) during my four hard workouts, recording 4:09-6:01 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 194 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

Advice to Optimise Your Running

Running Science: Optimising Training and Performance
(2017) edited by John Brewer


Fantastic Facts

  • Running performance is greatly determined by how much and how quickly horizontal force can be applied to the body.
  • On calm days the energy cost of running to combat air resistance is still approximately 8% for sprinting, 4% for middle-distance running and 2% for marathon running.
  • There is no additional benefit in exceeding 60-70 miles of training per week for a recreational runner (or 70-110 miles for elite runners).
  • Exercise is an effective strategy to regulate and improve mood, which supports creative thinking. Successful performances are therefore linked to strong mental and physical health.

Training Tips and Errors

  • Avoid straightening your knees on landing, striking the ground in front of your body, swinging your trailing foot and leaning too far back whilst running because it decreases running economy.
  • Run on a variety of surfaces to create greater adaptations in bones and soft tissues.
  • Avoid taking an absence from running (unless due to injury or mental fatigue) for four weeks or more. Cardiac output may fall by 8% and VO2 max by up to 15%.
  • As exercise intensity increases concentrate on the components of running, such as form, foot strike and stride length, to run closer to your maximum.
  • If you listen to music whilst you run, ensure the tunes incite emotions appropriate to the situation; listen to calming beats on easy runs and personally motivational songs during more important workouts.
  • Avoid wearing clothes made from materials such as cotton and wool that will keep sweat from evaporating whilst running. Instead choose wicking fabrics such as polyester to prevent overheating.
  • Wear sunglasses whilst running on sunny days to ensure your eyes are relaxed, which is crucial for performance.

Overcoming An Early Injury

15-21 January 2018

Wednesday – workout #8

7x 0.15 mile sprints (with uphill sections) at a range of 15 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1½ min jogging recoveries

After 3 days of rest I knew I had to run.
But my right leg was still feeling sore.
So I compromised, committing to less reps than I could ordinarily manage.
I needed to prove I hadn’t lost any fitness.
Each rep began with an incline before flattening out for the last two thirds of the route.
My starting point for each rep crept up the hill as I struggled to jog far enough to return to the base.
“Drive. Drive. Power. Power.”
The mantra kept me strong throughout as my breathing became uncontrollable.
I had to dodge dogs and a few walkers but overcame slight stitches and acid reflux.

Thursday – workout #9

10x (2 mins hard effort at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 min jogging recoveries)

My right leg was worse, forcing me to doubt whether I should run a fast club session.
But I risked it, knowing I would have the remainder of the week recovering.
I was conscious of not running too hard.
I didn’t want to run at the front of the pack.
But I found myself there.
So I used lapping others as my motivation.
As another runner passed me during the active recoveries I used him as the marker to overtake on the hard sections.
“Don’t panic.”
I didn’t rush my movement but kept quickening my pace, attempting to feel relaxed.
Then the drizzle came.
I persevered until the end of the session, proud that I performed so well under less than ideal circumstances.

One Mile Challenge: Week 3

The rest of the week included 5 rest days (Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to ensure that I fully recovered from my sore right fibula and sore throat. Heat and ice failed to make much difference so I used kinesiology tape, which supported Thursday’s workout and helped heal my injury over the weekend.

During my two quality workouts I accumulated 4.73 miles (25 mins and 8 secs) between 4:29 – 5:43 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 197 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

First Complications of My Fast Training

8-14 January 2018

Monday – workout #4

10x 0.35 mile at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 2¼ min walking recoveries

1 ¼ laps around two recreational football pitches.
I felt early on that I was not matching my 1 mile goal race pace by the half way mark of each rep. 
I adjusted my expectations and kept working hard.
I finished each rep strong but the extra distance played on my mind.
I used the mantras “stay strong” and “keep your form” to remain positive.

Wednesday – workout #5

3x (3x approx. 20 sec hill sprints at faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 40 sec jogging recoveries downhill) with approx. 2 min standing recoveries between sets

My first 2018 workout with my work running group saw me running Kenyan Hills.
My new Vibrams felt slippery on the stony gradient. So I switched to grass.
I stayed strong, using my arms to propel my way to the end of the straight at the top of the hill.
A fellow runner, a young 400m athlete from the local club, training on the same stretch reminded me of the power and form I needed.
I kept a little in reserve, unsure of the effect of an extra workout in the week.

Thursday – workout #6

11x 0.25-0.3 mile at approx. ¼ min slower to ¼ min faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1-1½ min jogging recoveries

Again I led my running club from the start as I navigated through the twisty path along the perimeter of a pond.
Despite the dark and sharp turns I soon knew my way.
I stayed fast along the last curve until I could jog.
I didn’t look around until rep nine when I had to pick up the pace to finish ahead of a fellow fast runner.
I had proved my speed and didn’t worry about him passing me the last two reps. I was pleased to stay within my pace range. I shook his hand in appreciation of his indirect support.

Saturday – workout #7

5x ½ mile at approx. ½ – ¾ min slower than 1 mile goal race* with 2 min walking/standing recoveries

My relatively straight route on the grass along a stretch of my local river walk felt long. Then I headed back the other way.
I couldn’t help but slow the last half of the distance for the first two reps.
I better managed my fast start the next two reps.
I kept telling myself “no pain, no gain”.
My final rep was hard.
I embraced the gut-busting effort and tried to control my breathing.

One Mile Challenge: Week 2

My week also included 2 rest days (Tuesday and Sunday) and 1 day of recovery running (Friday) amounting to 5 km.

Although I didn’t suffer much calf and quad ache throughout the week, I felt slight pain half way up my right fibula, requiring rest.

I accumulated 9.65 miles (51 mins and 14 secs) between 4:29 – 5:50 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 190 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

My New 2018 Fast Workouts

1-7 January 2018

Monday – workout #1

2x (8x approx. 1/10 mile uphill sprints at approx. 1 min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1-1.5 min walking recoveries) with 3 min standing rest between sets

Staying at my family’s house in the Derbyshire Dales I felt ready to tackle my mile challenge on the first day of 2018.
I used a nearby hill to work on my speed and running form.
I did not set myself a target of reps beforehand. Half way through I felt low in confidence.
“You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.” ¹
I battled against fatigue and stayed positive until I completed the last rep.

Thursday – workout #2

2x (1 min, 2 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, 1 min at approx. faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 min walking recoveries) with 2 min standing rest between sets

For my first 2018 workout with my running club I surged from the start.
In cold conditions I led the pack of runners around a local industrial estate, used as the ‘track’.
Some runners stayed with me for spells but I always pushed harder and finished stronger.
Others complimented my running form and performance throughout the tough workout.
I told them “I felt really good” and that I must have “jet packs attached to my Vibrams”.

Saturday – workout #3

5x ¼ mile at approx. slower than 1 mile goal race pace with 1.5 min walking recoveries

My calves still ached, but I wanted a third hard workout of the week.
In the dying light I used the perimeter of a football pitch in a local park as a track.
I forgot to wear my running gloves and leggings despite the bitterly cold and windy conditions.
“It’s all good mental training.” ²
I struggled to keep the pace I intended despite working at what I felt was maximum effort.
“I want this.”
It was the first time I ever used my Garmin sports watch to preprogramme a workout, and it did prove a distraction as I am still unfamiliar with the set-up.

One Mile Challenge: Week 1

The rest of the week included 2 rest days (Tuesday and Sunday) and 2 days with easy paced recovery runs partly with my fiancée (Wednesday and Friday) accumulating 5.8 miles.

Although I suffered calf and quad ache throughout the week, I accumulated 6.64 miles (34 mins and 45 secs) between 4:26-6:25 min per mile pace and felt at full strength on Sunday. My maximum heart rate recorded was 210 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.
¹ Quote spoken by Ken Chlouber, the founder of the Leadville Trail 100 race
² Mantra outlined in mindset number 1 from The Ultra Mindset (2015) by Travis Macy

Why I Became a Club Runner

For over eight years I was an independent runner. On December 1, 2017 I changed my running status; I became a member of my local running club in Witham, Essex.

In truth I had spent many months considering the decision. In theory my choice was based on wanting to grow as a runner. I believe learning by speaking to and comparing oneself with others are rewarding and essential activities if one is to realise one’s potential.

The timing of my joining was also a conscious act. My off-season began after my seventh marathon at the end of October and I knew that this would be the ideal time to focus on other elements of my running, aside from racing and training with a specific goal in mind.

Since joining, my perspective on running has shifted unexpectedly. My first three club workouts have been tough but enjoyable.

  • 2 x 15 minutes of 400m repeats with 1 minute standing rests (3 minutes between each set)
  • 30 x 30 seconds hard effort with 30 seconds of walking rest
  • 5km time trial

Although I view myself as a disciplined runner, these workouts are more difficult to complete alone. The soreness in my calves for subsequent days was a constant reminder of how other runners can motivate and support me.

I have also met many friendly and experienced runners, who are keen to include me and have already provided me with some technical advice and new methods of warming up and stretching. They have already taught me that experimentation keeps one fresh and focused.

I do not regret the choice to become an affiliated runner. Now I experience the best of running, often training alone, but at least once a week interacting with other passionate and skilled runners. I look forward to embracing more of the club running culture so I continue to improve as a well-rounded and humble athlete.

Mitigating the Challenges of Ultramarathons

Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel (2013) by Jason Robillard


This guide to ultrarunning is down-to-earth and unique. Robillard offers a fresh perspective on running factors such as distance and cut-off times, terrain and weather, and pacing and strategy. It is the purposeful physical advice and experimental mental training that stands out.

Calorie Consumption

Robillard urges runners not to be reliant on eating food during long runs as this can be a distraction and also dictate a certain pace range. Instead he advises eating as little as possible before and during training runs so runners can better utilise their fat stores to cope with extremely long distances.

However, when deciding to eat he explains that personal cravings should not be ignored, and that chia seeds can be a nutritious option on the go, as is adopted by the famous Tarahumaras.

Practice Every Aspect of Racing

Robillard encourages runners to take a systematic approach to replicating every running situation. For example, he advises runners to fall, on purpose, whilst running slowly in order to practice breaking the impact by rolling with arms out and elbows bent.

Enthusiasm to experiment is essential for runners if they are to understand what aspects help, and hinder, during an endurance event. Enjoyment and performance should both be enhanced as a result of understanding one’s individual responses to training stimuli.

His race strategies for ultramarathons also include walking, advocating that runners should become fast walkers. Walking enables runners to better survive harsh race conditions, by continuing to move forward.

Managing Pain

Robillard also outlines a no-nonsense attitude to pain.

Runners should accept, embrace and learn to enjoy the aches that occur during a race. His positivity originates from his belief that most pain is temporary and can be dealt with before it flares up. Writing a list of the regions that may hurt and a race strategy of fixing problems, long before setting off from the start line, can really help.

An effective technique is to train in every mood, especially when you do not feel like running, either through tiredness or hunger. Another is to speed up when in pain, if for no other reason than to respond differently to natural instincts, this breaks the monotony of running.


Although unconventional Robillard offers invaluable advice on how to view and tackle ultramarathons. Ultimately, he believes endurance challenges are akin to difficult life events; the sharper you react the more empowered you are to succeed.

An Ultra Transformation

Finding Ultra (2012) by Rich Roll


Serious Swimmer

Roll was born in the 1960s and by age six he was swimming, inspired by his grandfather who was a top swimmer, an Olympic hopeful and local legend. He was mentored by excellent older swimmers and his love for the water grew as he began winning local summer school meets before he was ten.

He was bullied throughout his school years so worked hard on his studies rather than his social life. It taught him to accept and thrive despite pain, as he was accustomed to the disconnect with his peers.

His tenacity to develop and realise his swimming potential resulted in him training in the pool as early as 5am and accumulating over eighteen hours of swimming a week. At age sixteen he was travelling all over the United States competing in the 200m butterfly, recognised as eighth in the country for his age group, often finishing in second place. He also single-handedly inspired his school to found a swimming team.

He attended Stanford University due to its superb swimming programme and was made freshman co-captain.

Audacious Alcoholic

Roll’s performance levels would soon fall once he was hooked on drinking alcohol, which was partly a mechanism to overcome his social anxiety. He dropped out of the team and would later become a legal assistant in New York. His raucous social drinking lead him to dodging DUIs, a failed marriage and eventually being arrested in Los Angeles.

Roll continued to relapse until he was forced into rehab after realising he had a problem and would lose his job if he did not change his habits. Over the next one hundred days Roll changed his perception of himself, and rid himself of resentment and fear in order to draw on spirituality and faithfulness to recover.

Lean Vegan Triathlete

Despite staying sober for many years, fathering a family and setting up a successful entertainment law firm, Roll was overweight and addicted to unhealthy foods. As he turned forty he knew he needed to change if he wanted to live longer. So he transformed his diet with support from his yoga and juice enthusiast wife.

Roll quickly adjusted to a vegan diet, similar to Scott Jurek, becoming ripped and losing over forty-five pounds. Inspired by the popular movement of Ironman Triathlons, he entered a long-course hilly half distance in 2007 but did not finish, suffering cramp and succumbing to high muscle lactate. In the same year he had to walk the last eight miles of the Long Beach Marathon.

So in May 2008, Roll experimented more with his food choices, motivated by fuel optimisation rather than for political or ethical reasons, and worked with top coach Chris Hauth.

After lactate tests, months of zone 2 training, periodisations and a whole-foods plant-based diet Roll steadily enhanced his aerobic endurance capacity.

Inspired by David Goggins, he completed the UltraMan World Championships in 2008 (eleventh overall) and 2009 (sixth overall). Not satisfied, Roll embraced an even more extreme test of fitness in 2010 – the EPIC 5 adventure. Alongside Jason Lester, a disabled athlete and friend, he embarked on a series of back-to-back Ironman Triathlons on the islands of Hawaii.

Despite the enormity of the challenge, adverse weather conditions, frequent mechanical faults with bicycles, saddle rashes and the loss of essential gear, they both navigated five separate islands over seven days, accumulating 12 miles of swim, 560 miles of cycling and 131 miles of running (703 miles in total).

Transformation

Roll’s journey from high school swimmer to chronic alcoholic, and overweight lawyer to elite endurance triathlete is remarkable. Along with an unwavering dedication to change his life, Roll took advantage of the advice and presence of national swimming champions, Olympic Trial qualifiers, and even Olympic medalists. He came into contact with some of the best swimmers in the world, including his idols such as Pablo Morales and John Moffet.

His persistence to better himself led him to realise that a healthy and fit lifestyle is within everyone’s grasp. He distilled his vegan diet into easily digestible and compelling advice for his readers. Foods he uses throughout his incredible feats include many slow-releasing carbohydrates:

  • Avocado and veganaise sandwiches
  • Coconut water
  • Kale and spinach
  • Mustard greens and spirulina
  • Rice balls and yams

His openness to explore himself and follow proven principles resulted in him running many miles at a lower intensity to improve his ratio of exertion to relative speed. He is a true inspiration because his positive attitude and quest for finding other people’s motivation (through his own popular podcast) is second-to-none.

Walk to Assist your Running

For most people walking is a daily necessity. For most runners it is an undervalued, often forgotten, training activity.

Walking is ideal to move and stretch your legs on rest days, or as an alternative to easy training days, when you do not feel like running. There is no reason why a runner cannot also practice elements of running form during a leisurely stroll, especially foot placement, arm movement and strong posture.

This stress-free mode of travel has further benefits; walking offers runners an opportunity to multi-task. Runners can analyse past runs and races, plan future strategies and efforts, or even talk about running with a friend or family member.

Personally, I enjoy listening to audiobooks or podcasts, solving important problems or answering persistent questions about my running, whilst appreciating the natural surroundings, and exploring potential running routes.

Depending on how I feel it can also be a time to forget about running and instead think creatively about my writing.

Although walking does not have the same aerobic benefits as running, it remains an essential component of any person’s fitness. If for no other reason walking will likely be the only movement you undertake where you can forget about speed, time and distance. I advise you to take full advantage.

How I Trained for my Quickest Marathon

Early May – Mid October 2017

After a promising spring marathon, I wanted to continue towards qualifying for the London Marathon. So after a week of rest to recover from a local 5 mile race, I began training for a familiar autumn marathon.

I devised a flexible training plan that aimed to increase my mileage of my spring training (34 miles per week) over a period of 24 weeks. After thorough research I intended to run 7 days a week. After 5 weeks I had to include a weekly rest day to ensure adequate recovery between workouts.

Read more

How I Improved from my First Marathon

Sunday 11th May 2014

The sky was overcast and drizzly.
My mum, partner and I waited for the start of the race in the crowded sports hall.
I was confident of a good race so I started at the front of the pack as the gun went off.
By the first quarter of a mile I was gasping for breath and my legs felt tired.
My enthusiasm was soon squashed and I settled into a smooth, comfortable rhythm.
Not long into the race I saw my supporters. I threw them the gloves I had taken off.
I tried to keep with other runners, but every time I found a steady rhythm I would be deserted again. One dropped off my pace to run with a fellow club member, another got too far ahead of me.
Still, I stayed mentally strong, refusing to stop, even when I accepted water from the numerous aid stations.
The weather improved, brightening the scenic route.
I kept checking my watch and noticing the mile markers were accurate.
I overcame the occasional hills and repeated sections without feeling deflated.
As the distance dragged on and my pace slowed my mind strayed to food. I wanted the banana I had given my family to keep ready for me but I had to cross the line before I could replenish the calories I had burned.


It was a hugely satisfying race as I finished in the top third overall, and in the top half of my age and gender category. In contrast to my first marathon I was able to interact with the marshals on route and not feel as if I had failed to represent my capabilities.

I ran my second marathon because it was local and I needed to prove to myself that I could run the entire distance. I followed an intermediate training plan that lasted more than 20 weeks.

I developed mental strength and a greater tolerance for pain during my long runs, and overcame a bout of illness.

My first marathon taught me so many lessons about preparation. The changes I have made since then meant I finished 46 minutes quicker.

  • I registered for the event months in advance.
  • I used a respectable source for training advice (a plan endorsed by Runner’s World magazine).
  • I logged my workouts and mileage, through my previous blog.
  • I learnt to use more functions on my Garmin watch, including lap counts, which encouraged me to run slower and to warm-up and cool-down.

I still made one mistake pre-race; thinking that gluing together the front of my well-worn trainers meant adequate footwear.

Most memorable were some impressive runners that participated in the race, including Rob Young and athletes that were completing their 100th, 200th and 600th marathon. It was also the first time I appreciated runners who finished last, for some had endured over seven hours on the route.

Unsurprisingly, my gut reaction was to sign up for my next marathon.



How to Squat to Improve Running

Squat

Squats build the leg and buttock muscles that supports your running form.

I enjoy this core exercise the most because I can do them fast while maintaining good form. However, due to my strong quadriceps I must complete many reps to feel the burn.

I complete two variations of the exercise: the standard and the jumping. Both require a straight back, bent slightly forward with knees not bowing outwards. Jumping squats need a good stable landing, ideally on the midfoot, with arms swinging high as you lift up from the ground.

This more challenging exercise is also ideal to work your cardiovascular system.


Personal records

Traditional

1 minute – 59 consecutively

2 minutes – 124 consecutively

100 reps – 1:31

150 reps – 2:22

Plyometric

1 minute – 43 consecutively

2 minutes – 61

4 Reasons to Record Running Data

Data

There is a balance between physically running and analysing the performance. It is essential to record running data to reach your athletic potential.

Below are four interconnected reasons to collect statistics about your runs.


1. Starts your running journey

Your first set of data is your starting point. It is a baseline that you can always refer to as the moment you made a conscious decision. It means you have taken your running seriously; that your running is worth reflecting on. It is.

2. Measures your progress

As you accumulate data you can view your performances using various parameters, such as pace, distance and heart rate. You can compare your current ability with your short and long-term aims, as well as understand whether you are running consistently.

3. Provides valuable feedback

Although there may be setbacks in your training, data offers some insights as to the reasons behind any injuries or below-par performances. This works at a macro level (examining changes in weekly mileage) and at a micro level (scrutinising similar workouts or courses).

4. Motivates in a personalised way

The data is yours, not anyone else’s. It should be a source of pride and inspiration not only to run more but to improve. It should offer you the momentum and confidence to explore your running further. Reflect on your past efforts and dream for greater outcomes.


Regardless of your ability, data creates in the mind a series of reference points. It makes visible what you have accomplished in a comparable and tangible way.

Believe me, you will not regret it.

Sit-up Training

Sit-ups strengthen the abdominal muscles. These muscles are the core stability the rest of the body relies upon.

I find sit-ups one of the easiest core exercises. This means that I often need to complete more to maintain and improve. I use an Abmat, an abdominal training mat, to support my back as I attempt to reach new personal records through the 200 Sit-up challenge.

There are so many variations of sit-ups but they all require good technique in order to avoid lower back pain.

The abs must be engaged and feet firmly planted. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower. The head should remain still with the arms across the chest or hands beside or behind the head.

Sit-up Phase 2

Personal records [using Abmat; in order of easiest to hardest]

Traditional Sit-ups

Consecutive – 63

1 minute – 32

2 minutes – 63

50 sit-ups – 1:18

100 sit-ups – 2:52

Decline / Slant Sit-ups

1 minute – 42

5kg Weighted Sit-ups

50 sit-ups – 2:01

Press-up Training

Press-up 1

Press-ups strengthen the muscles in the arms and chest. These support and improve running posture, forward momentum and greater stability.

I find press-ups one of the most difficult core exercises. But this makes them even more important for me. I find improving the speed and endurance of my press-ups enjoyable and rewarding.

I have achieved my personal records through daily and progressive training. I am currently following the Hundred Press-up Challenge.

There are so many variations of press ups and yet the technique remains the same; straight back, fingers spread apart and head still with eyes looking between the hands.

Press-up 2

Personal records: [in order of easiest to the hardest]

Traditional / Wide-grip press-ups

Consecutive – 42

1 minute – 42

2 minutes – 73

25 press-ups – 0:32

50 press-ups – 1:11

100 press-ups – 5:58

Decline press-ups

1 minute – 33

45 press-ups – 1:52

Plyometric / Clap press-ups

Consecutive – 21