Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Cool Runnings

Sunday's 20 mile training run in Ireland went well. Inside 3 hours, which was my target. It can be hard to hold back and run slower than your normal pace, but it's important not to push too hard and be running on empty for the last few miles. Today I aimed to run 9 minute miles, and run a negative split, where you run faster in the second half than you did in the first. Being able to comfortably run harder in the second half is a big psychological boost - it confirms to you that you're not tying up. I enjoyed the last 6 miles most today; before that, I spent most of the time over-analysing whether or not I was getting tired, whether I was on schedule, whether or not I'd drunk enough, were my legs about to go bang?

It's a relief that my last long run before Barca has gone well. For one thing, it's a real confidence boost and, hopefully, it confirms that the training is working. The route for the run was fantastic. Along the Irish coast from County Meath into County Dublin: from Stamullen, through Balbriggan, on to Skerries and then back along the same route. As I followed the beach, there was heavy snowfall, which made it really atmospheric, even if the visibility was awful at times.

The ferry journey back was a trial. The sea was so rough that the old tub was pitching from side to side at quite ridiculous angles. Try walking straight when you've just run 20 miles and the floor won't sit still. The look of disgust which I received from an old dear in the bar prompted me to explain, "I'm not drunk, I just can't walk straight right now". She kindly reassured me that she'd heard it all before. She must have been horrified when she saw me driving off the car deck. Hopefully the floor won't be moving under my feet in 3 weeks' time in Barcelona.

I'm completely sick of the cold weather right now. In 2004, training for London was far harder than for New York. At least the training for New York is through the warm summer months, whereas for London, you're out in all weathers, freezing yourself, which is where I am right now. Still, it's not as bad as trying to summon the enthusiasm to run through the German winter. When I lived in Germany, I learned a new definition of cold. The temperature got so low that I overcame some sartorial misgivings and purchased some long-johns. Matters finally came to a head when it was so cold I could hear my knees squeaking. On particularly cold days, the local radio station would broadcast warnings not to have hot drinks straight after coming in from the cold – for fear of cracking the enamel on your teeth! If I can find the motivation to run through that, perhaps the current bad weather isn't such a problem after all.

This week, we confirmed the final designs for the running tops (see below). The bottom half of the back is blank for the logos of fivemarathons' principal sponsors. Each gold sponsor will get its logo on the top for one of the marathons, so those will change from race to race. The platinum sponsor will get its logo on the tops for all 5 of the races (plus The Great Manchester Run and the Coniston 14). There's also space on the front of the tops for our names. While it may seem a little egocentric to have your name on your top, a lot of marathon runners do it, and you shouldn't underestimate the lift that it gives you in the last 6 miles to have the crowd calling your name to urge you on to the finish line.

The closer I get to the first marathon, the more "motivational" platitudes I receive. Some crackers this week include, "Pain is just weakness leaving the body". If that's true, I must have had more than my fair share of weakness, because I've been feeling it leave my body for months now. Another good one is "Pain is temporary, pride is forever". If the pride has half the staying power of the pain, I'll be unbearable for several months after New York.

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 16 February 2009 Rest
Tuesday, 17 February 2009 6 miles easy
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 6 miles, incl 8 x 1 mins fast, 1 min slow
Thursday, 19 February 2009 5 miles steady
Friday, 20 February 2009 Rest
Saturday, 21 February 2009 Warm up, then 3 miles at marathon pace, timed, then warm down
Sunday, 22 February 2009 10 miles steady

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).


  1. Good luck in your incredible effort! London 07 was enough for my lifetime!

  2. Thanks Matt - I'll need all of the luck I can get!

    Best regards,



NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004