If you haven't heard yet I've got a place to run the London Marathon this April. I only found out a couple of weeks ago that I had a place and the first thing I thought was, "Is there time enough time to train?" At that point there was 12 weeks to go and although I was nervous there was no chance I was passing up the opportunity so I said yes.
I began to look at my commitments and my potential training schedule and immediately felt overwhelmed. How on earth was I going to cram 16 weeks of training into just 12 weeks and keep all of my other plates of work, buying a house, spending time with friends and family and all of the commitments I already had booked? The answer, I wasn't. After the initial panic subsided I took a step back and decided I was going to train smart. Despite looking at every training plan available online and reading loads of articles I decided to go against the majority and make my own plan.
I'm no marathon expert or running expert either for that matter but I do have experience and that counts for a lot. When I ran the Paris Marathon a few years ago I reviewed a number of plans first and spent hours drawing out my training plan by hand on pieces of A4 paper. I was so proud and excited to start. I did the first week a week early because I was going on a ski trip. Whilst I was on my trip I broke my leg, not a serious break, a fractured tibia. I'm pretty sure no doctor has ever seen someone so excited to be told their leg was broken, the French doctor kept asking me if I could understand what he was saying. Despite my difficulty translating I knew that he was saying that a break meant 6-8 weeks rest whereas ligament damage meant no marathon. Anyway, after a lot of anxious waiting, I got 9 weeks training in for the marathon and I got my sub-4hr time.
How did I do it? I trained smart and that's exactly what I'm going to do this time and here's how...
At the time I read a Runner's World Article about using Cross Fit to train for a marathon. Essentially it was trialling less running and more effective strength workouts to build a strong body to perform. Instead of running lots of short "wasted" miles it focussed on key sessions: four gym sessions, two short runs and one long run, the long run being about 10k!!!!! There were a number of differences between me and the RW guinea pig Kerry McCarthy, he had run 35 marathons before and I'd done none. As a result I wasn't confident enough to cut out the long runs because I had to convince myself mentally that I could do it. However, the rest of it made sense, train effectively. I cut out the "slow 4M" on my plan and the "steady 7M" and instead drafted in 3 running sessions a week. A speed session, a hill sprint session and a long run. It worked for Kerry - 3hr 46 with a 15 min pb - and it worked for me - 3hr 54, my first marathon time and so also a pb!
Since then I've read more and more and the more I read the more I'm sure that for me less running is the best way to train. I read this great article too by the Nike sub 2hr team which highlighted the importance of rest and not over-training.
So after getting the news two weeks ago, the initial panic and then the excitement of dashing out on a run dreaming of the start line, I took a step back logged into Garmin.com and downloaded my old training runs. Luckily I was a geek and had named the sessions with the details of the training!! I'm going to go with my gut and follow a tried and tested steady low impact running plan, with tough gym workouts, including Cross Fit.
When I sat at my desk last Friday and entered my details onto the London Marathon website I paused. "Estimated Finish Time?" Did I really want to run for a time? Did I want all the extra pressure for the race. Pressure I was only putting on myself? Hell yeah! Otherwise, why was I doing it, for the experience yes. The London Marathon will always be an incredible experience whatever happens, that won't change. However, not only will it be an incredible race it could also be my next PB!
All of the photos on this blog post are taken in Greenwich Park, the starting point for the London Marathon.