Saturday, 27 March 2010

Week 2 - Marathon Training

The second week things really started to pick up - I was beginning to feel slightly stronger. The runs were longer and after a week without cigarettes I wasn't out of breath after every run. I was still trying to keep my runs fairly short and steady, with perhaps the most enjoyable run occurring on Sunday morning at 7AM. London was like a ghost town - no cars, no people - much better than normal! Normally I would wake up groggy and lifeless on a Sunday, but woke up early on the 21st and literally sprung out of bed.

I also attempted my first time trial! On Monday 22nd I plotted out a run of exactly 1 mile on around Clapham Common, and after a careful warm up and stretch gave it everything I had. I know most running sources would say don't over-exert yourself or include any speed training in the first month of training, but I thought what the hell. I like speed, and wanted to see how quick I was. Surely a four-minute mile couldn't be that hard?! I started off far too quickly, completely out of breath after the first 200m. I battled through, maintaining what I thought was a fairly rapid pace. The last couple of hundred metres were agony, anaerobic respiration kicking in and I wanted to stop more than anything, but powered through in olympic fashion. Surely this time was good - the pace was electric. Six minutes and 4 seconds. I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or not. Apparently this is fairly quick - just under 10 mph for a mile is fairly steady in my second week of training. Yet I could not believe how anyone could do it two whole minutes quicker than this - these guys were good! I was for some reason disappointed but also more determined - I wanted to get this time as low as physically possible. If I can go that quick in my second week, after six months I'm sure I could go below 5 minutes.  I would have to run each mile in 6mins 52 secs to complete the marathon in 3 hours, which is pretty bloody quick, but at least I could actually go that quick! I just need to somehow build my fitness and stamina to another level.

I went for a longer run on Tuesday - 4.5miles in 33mins 49secs. This was good pace, 7mins 30 per mile or 8 miles per hour, which is fantastic at such an early stage, but by the end I felt horrendous. I think I may have started far too quickly, and also ate before I set off, causing stitch and immense gut problems! I finished the distance I wanted too, then limped back. The blisters on the back of my feet were getting horrendous now - I hadn't used plasters and wore small trainer socks so my footwear acted like sandpaper. Ouch! I figured I hadn't picked up any injuries yet though, so this pain was a small price to pay for the gains I had made.

After a few easy days, I set about taking up my first interval session on Friday 19th. I was feeling good, now was the right time. I was going to attempt to tackle 500m intervals as quickly as I could (possibly not the best way to approach it), doing 6 reps with a couple of minutes recovery inbetween. I had been reading Jack Daniels' Running Formula which I bought about 6 years ago when I was trying to be healthy. It's quite in depth and very technical but really interesting. However, I had slightly ignored his advice, which suggested no speed training for the first 3 months. I thought 2 weeks was long enough! It went OK, but I was so exhausted after the 5th run I couldn't quite face the 6th, so jogged back to base very slowly. I had read in another book that 95% of all heart attacks caused by running are caused by stopping immediately after a hard run, as your muscles help pump your blood around the body, and if you stop exercising the blood stops pumping, making clots more likely. This scared the hell out of me, especially after my unhealthy lifestyle previously, so I'm going to keep on moving even after the heaviest workouts.

The first two weeks went really well, I just hope I can carry on my training and continue to build up gradually. I'm starting to look at entering 10K races over the next couple of months to compliment my training and give me real focus. The 3 hour time for the marathon in September still seems like an almost inachievable target, but my first two weeks have given me real hope, and I've been really pleased with my progress. It's a friend's birthday tonight, I just need to be sensible and not get too carried away!

Friday, 26 March 2010

The First Week's Marathon Training

Right, so I started my goal on 10th March and we're already over two weeks into my training 'regime,' so I'd better let you know how I'm getting on.
The first day was hard. I had been out of work early, hitting the pub with around 40 colleagues, which involved lots of beer and lots of cigarettes, starting at around 4PM and finishing after 10.30PM. This is when I decided, having just bought a pack of 20 cigarettes, that I didn't really want or need them. I had just found out I had a place in a marathon in Bordeaux in September, so I thought the sooner I kick this habit the better! Having just spent over £6 on them, a hell-bent fury creased over my face and, after crunching them up I threw them into a bin across the street. Looking around, I was slightly disappointed to see that nobody had noticed my amazing feat.

Waking up in a groggy state the following morning, I realised that I had to be at work, and that we were holding a wine tasting in the evening for our customers, which would go on until around 11PM! No running today then - except to the station as I had slept in, missing my first train. The day was long, yet I had remembered my pact last night to not smoke and had my first day for over a year without smoking. I was tired after the tasting, but felt good. I rewarded myself with a glass of Champagne.

The next day was the day of the first run. I knew I would be exhausted, but had set my alarm early to get out in the fresh air. It was hammering it down with rain. I hit snooze on my alarm. As I slowly drifted back into slumber, the pesky alarm went again (a lot of research must have gone into that standard 9-min snooze time!) and I jolted out of my soft, warm paradise (bed) and threw on some suitable attire, and tumbled out of the door into the perishing, bitter rain. It was horrific. I set out at a ridiculous pace to try and warm up, but after around 300m my ankles felt as though they were about to fall off and I couldn't breathe. I adopted a much slower pace, and managed to cover 1.5 miles in around 20 minutes. It was a start!

After a really long day on Saturday (yes, I work in retail so weekends are the busiest days!), I managed to go for another run in the evening after work. The same route, 1.5 miles in around 20 minutes. My legs were still aching like hell from yesterday (and having stood on my feet all day), yet it was exhilarating - the wind in my hair and the blood pumping around my body made me feel like I was flying.

Sunday 14 March - off work and trainer buying day. I ran across the Thames to a specialist running shop, over 2 miles away! OK, there was quite a bit of walking involved, but who cares! I spent £55 on a pair of new Mizunos, which were so light it felt as if I wasn't wearing footwear. Donning these, I jogged/walked back (I prefer to call it Scout's pace), and then went to the gym. This was a massive error, as whilst on the rowing machine in my new trainers, the shoelaces somehow undid themselves and instead of stopping to rectify this problem, I carried on rowing. After finishing out of breath, I realised I had the most agonisingly painful blisters on the heel of my left foot - ouch! I haven't been able to wear my new trainers since - they are still in their box in my porch!

After a rest day on Monday, Tuesday was my mum's birthday, so I headed off back to West Sussex, which was bathed in glorious sunshine. I still hadn't smoked, and was really looking forward to getting out and about in the Sussex countryside that I grew up in. It was beautiful - the fresh and clean air, forest dirt tracks and rolling fields made me feel a world away from London. I went on a bit of an epic run - 8 miles, including a complete lap around the spectacular Petworth Park, a National Trust gem that feels like an English wilderness. The 8 miles involved quite a lot of walking, but I didn't care. I was just appreciating the outdoors, for the first time in years. I slept well that night.

I had gone a week without a cigarette, and even though my fitness was still appallingly bad, I felt slightly more confident that I could run a marathon. Earlier in the week I didn't think I could even do this, let alone achieve my ridiculous time of under 3 hours, but now there was a glimpse of possibility. I had run 8 miles (OK, run and walked) in 1.5 hours, but this was as far as I'd run since my teens, and after less than a week of training. I didn't want to bite off too much at such an early stage, as any injuries would seriously harm my plan, but today had given me a glimmer of hope. I was starting to despair, thinking I was past my prime, dead and buried. Now I knew that I could do it, and that if I trained without going off the rails, I could really achieve something amazing...


Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Beginning...

OK, so here's the story:
Having partied through my youth up until my current age of 27, I managed to blag my way through school and university, gradually receiving worse grades as time went by. I now work for a large company in the wine trade, which, although highly enjoyable and a superb place to work, does present a certain temptation to get carried away with excesses. I have smoked moderately for 10 years (10 a day, more if drinking) and have consumed a lifetime's quantity of alcohol and junk food, amounts that older generations would  not have thought possible in their youth. However, on 10th March 2010 I decided enough was enough, and crunched up a full packet of cigarettes and threw them in a bin in the other side of the street in Baker Street, London.

I decided it was time to change. Signing up for a marathon was the first step, actually doing enough training to get a good time was the next. I wanted to prove to myself that I was not too old to still achieve a sporting goal, and that I hadn't completely ruined my health (fingers crossed, then!). I guess giving up smoking was the important thing, but I have always had an adventurous spirit and I felt I had lost this and my life was going nowhere, so the moment on Baker Street was fairly revelatory - I still had that spirit and desire to really achieve something!

Obviously I have had these kind of moments before and gone off the rails/given up pretty swiftly afterwards, so hopefully writing this blog will give me some kind of motivation, as the more people who read it will be more people I let down if I give up! I also hope that I can help other people to achieve their goals (or they can help me!) by sharing their experiences with mine.

Unfortunately, I don't think that either of these things are really enough to keep my focus in the long-term, so I really wanted to challenge myself. The challenge is: to run this marathon in under 3 hours, with no previous training or distance-running experience. Madness? Perhaps, but if I don't set my sights high, I have the potential to lose interest unbelievably quickly!

Fortunately, I have always possessed a high metabolism and fairly wiry physique, yet have never had the fitness or stamina for long distance running, and my first run confirmed this; I arrived back at home after a mile and a half run barely able to breathe, let alone walk or run. I was horrendously out of shape and this was going to be hard.....

ps. I am not a self-help guru, I am genuinely doing this off my own back and hope I can really be an inspiration to others