I know the London Marathon is looming closer because people have started to talk about it more on social media. It’s about this time that there’s a universal feeling of worry. Three months away is plenty of time to train, two is salvageable, but six weeks? It’s that same feeling you get when you’re closer to exams and you realise you’ve done little more than read the first chapter a few times.
Up until this week it sat somewhere hiding from the front of my mind, avoiding any attention like an introverted school kid in class. People would bring it up and I’d just nod and say training is going okay without really thinking about it. But now I’m having to put some hard thought into it. Now I have to make some real decisions as to how well I want to do when April 26th comes.
Now, that’s not to say I haven’t been training. I know I can run the marathon, not amazingly well but I can finish it respectably. In the past that may have been okay, but this is London. My family and friends are coming to watch me, they want me to do well, they want to know I’ve trained hard.
So what have I been up to? You may ask. Well, aside from all of the non-running based exercising that I inevitably end up doing, I’ve actually done quite a bit. Firstly I’ve spoken to fitness coach (and husband of Liz), Martin Yelling about a feasible training plan based on my diary. The result was breaking down my week into four different runs: A long run, a fast shorter run, some short distance sprints and a race each Sunday. So far I’m managing to keep up with the majority of this, although the long runs are the element proving difficulty sometimes… they’re the one I’ve always missed in the past.
The next thing I did was run through a series of VO2 max and body composition tests with Richard Brennan at Sport Science Consultants. The results of which told me that as well as my left leg being stronger than my right (more on that in a bit), I also have quite a low VO2 max. This means that my ability to burn calories becomes inefficient quite early on (i.e. I’m burning carbohydrates and not fat). Which helps to explain why my usual technique of shooting off quickly at the start of a race normally results in me slowing down a great deal later on. So I need to increase my VO2 max and maintain a more steady pace to ensure I don’t hit my max.
Finally I went to see Alastair Nowell at Pure Sports Medicine, a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist who would help work out any physical issues that may affect my performance. Alastair spotted almost immediately the imbalance in muscle between my left and right legs as well as a need to stretch my hip flexors and back muscles (along with a few other things). I was given a physio training plan to carry out which included a range of exercises to run through 2-3 times a week. I’ve loosely managed to fit these in and in a second session there was a noticeable improvement in my back but I still needed to focus on my hip flexors. As for actual training. Over the past few weeks I’ve been running half marathon’s most weekends. However, due presumably to the weak right leg issue, I’ve been struggling with calf problems. The result has been some pretty poor times over the last month (my fastest half-marathon is a 1.31, my last two were 1.51 and 1.45) However today I ran the Vitality North London Half and everything felt great, no pain, no issues. I ended up with a 1.37, so things are looking back on track with a few more races coming up over the next four weeks. So all in all things are starting to look very positive. I’ve learnt where a lot of my weaknesses lie and what I should be focussing on. I seem to be clear of injury and I even met Mo Farah. Which was nice.