Sunday, 10 May 2009

Local Zero

Hot on the heels of the recent fivemarathons article in The Cumberland News (, this week I was contacted by The Westmorland Gazette (, which is the regional newspaper in my home village of Shap. The Gazette’s Aaron Jolly has kindly prepared an article for publication in the Friday, 15 May 2009 edition. Both of these articles will help to raise awareness in Cumbria, and hopefully generate funds for Christies and Macmillan. 

Regular viewers of the blog may remember my ill-advised suggestion that racing in Hull wouldn’t have the same appeal as Barcelona, London, San Francisco, Berlin and New York (see “New York, New York”, Thursday, 8 January 2009). Now that the recriminations from the east coast have finally started to die down, I’m off to offer my apologies in person, and race in the Humber Half-Marathon, on Sunday, 14 June 2009 ( This should fit nicely into my preparations for San Francisco and will complete a neat treble with the San Francisco and New York Marathons. The San Francisco Marathon crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, which was the world’s longest suspension bridge from 1937 until 1964. From 1964 until 1981, the title was held by the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which links the route of the New York Marathon from Staten Island to Brooklyn. Upon its completion in 1981, our very own Humber Bridge became the world’s longest, which I’ll cross at miles 2 and 11 of the Humber Half-Marathon. 

Another major motivation for running in Hull is the race’s strong support for cancer charities. The principal charity for the 2009 event is Marie Curie Cancer Care. Last year, the race raised £30,000 for Marie Curie Nurses and a further £40,000 for a variety of other national and local charitable causes.

Mary (left) and friends, after the Broad Street 10 Miler

Last Sunday saw the 2009 Blue Cross Broad Street Run in Philadelphia ( The event is reputed to be the biggest 10 mile race in the USA.  Several fivemarathons supporters were taking part: my friend, Mary, was running her first long distance event, in a fantastic 1 hour 55 minutes, and James Arnold (fivemarathons’ Kirsten’s Dad) finished in a stellar 1 hour 17 minutes. I hope Kirsten is taking note for the Great Manchester Run next Sunday – running is obviously in her genes. Following the race, Mary emailed me to say that the race had inspired her and her friends to move up to half marathon distance, which is great news. Mary also asked if I had any tips for making the transition to even longer races. As I’ve always maintained, I’m not a sufficiently accomplished runner to be able to dispense sage advice, however I can at least impart the things I wish I’d known when I was getting started. After all, experience is something you get, a few moments after you needed it. In case anybody else is interested, here it is:

“Half marathon isn't a big step up from 10 miles, you should nail it easily. Marathon is a big step up from half (only because you've got to try to avoid the wall at 18 miles). Here's what little I know, in a few easy points:

1) if you haven't already, get some top notch running trainers (Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony). Not a huge fan of Nikes - if you get theirs, buy the Bowerman Series shoes). Shoes are really important, you've only got one set of knees! Your best bet is to try to find a specific running shop – some of the big sports shops are just chain stores, and the staff won’t necessarily have a clue. Many specialist shops will have video gait analysis. They video you running (on a treadmill), to see if you are over-pronating or supinating (rolling over the outside, or inside, edge of your feet as you run). Once they’ve identified your running style, they can suggest trainers that will correct any issues. None of this stuff really matters for casual running – but as the miles stack up, it gets increasingly important (and you’ll want to stay injury free).

2) get a heart rate monitor. They cost as little as $25. It will demonstrate your improvement by showing that, even though you're running at the same speeds (or even faster), your heart rate is lower. It's also like a rev counter in a car - it will keep you running at the right intensity (and stop you from backing off without noticing it). 

3) as well as running set distances, run for set times. For example, run for 40 minutes - out for 20, back for 20. You'll see the improvement in your running by how much further you get in your 20 minutes out. Same as the heart rate monitor, it's all about staying motivated by seeing the improvement.

4) have you tried carbohydrate gels for your longer runs? They're fantastic. The body can only store enough glycogen for about 15 miles, so runners hit the wall by about 18 miles. You can replace your glycogen stores with carb gels (take one 10 minutes before a long run, then one every 20 minutes while you're running). Try Highfive Energygels - very easy on the stomach. I don’t use the Highfive Energygel Plus - they contain caffeine (see below re: caffeine).

5) don't always train at the same pace. If you do, your body can get used to only running at that one pace, and feel uncomfortable if you're forced to change in a race. Often race conditions are such that you're forced out of your rhythm (too much traffic from other runners etc). Try mixing slower runs, steady runs and runs at race pace. Also make time for some weekly speed work, e.g. 1 or 2 minute bursts within a longer run when you push really hard. This gets your body used to working hard and dealing with the lactic acid that gets produced by your muscles.

6) eat right. Cut down on fat, favour carbs, protein and fresh fruit and vegetables. My daily diet is usually: porridge with skimmed milk and raisins (a big bowl of it), bagels and lots of fresh fruit for lunch, another bagel (or two) late afternoon, grilled chicken breasts with rice / pasta / potatoes with fresh vegetables for dinner. This is too carby if you're not running a lot, but perfect if you are (and you won't put on weight, trust me - I've lost 3 stones easily in getting down to my race weight).

7) consider giving up caffeine. This isn't essential, but it has certainly helped me. By running, you're getting fitter and bringing down your resting heart rate. Caffeine is artificially stimulating your heart - and undoing your good work.

8) hydrate. You're almost certainly not drinking enough water. Most other drinks are diuretic (i.e. they're dehydrating rather than hydrating you). Tea, coffee, most fruit juices, sodas are likely to be diuretic.

9) sign up for some more races. It's hard to get (and stay) motivated without goals in mind.

10) have a strategy for your races and try to stick to it (e.g. 10, 9, 8.5, 8, 7.5, 7 minute miles). Run within your comfort zone in the first half of the race, and if you’re feeling strong at the mid-point, gently pick up your pace. To run quick times, don’t concentrate too much on running hard in the first half, concentrate on not fading in the second half.

11) Get yourself a training schedule – try Go to the training section and input the relevant details into the Smartcoach service; it will give you a personalised training plan, starting now and finishing on race day. It’s a great service – completely free, and will tell you exactly what you need to do. 

If you want some proper advice, visit, and contact Laith (Marc Laithwaite) with your requirements. On Tuesday, I’ll be out running with Laith again. Last week, we concentrated on speed work and it really pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what I need. By running hard, and much more quickly than I normally would, for example 5 minute 30 mile pace, it makes an increase to my race pace, for example 7 minute 30 mile pace, seem much more comfortable and easier to maintain. My marathon pace won't get near 7 minute 30 mile pace, but I’ve got shorter races to think about before the San Francisco Marathon. Roll on the Great Manchester Run on Sunday.

VO2 Max test at The Endurance Coach

Finally, I’m pleased to confirm that the Cashback for Christie campaign has received more than 100,000 signatures on its petition to ask Prime Minister Gordon Brown to intervene. You’ll recall that The Christie lost £6.5M in the Icelandic banking collapse. Last week, Christies’ fundraisers delivered the petition to 10 Downing Street (see Many thanks to those of you who followed the link at the bottom of the recent blogs and added your support to the campaign. 

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

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 11 May 2009   6 miles easy
Tuesday, 12 May 2009   Warm-up, 3 x 4 mins fast, 2 mins slow, 10 mins jog recovery
Wednesday, 13 May 2009   5 miles easy
Thursday, 14 May 2009   1 miles warm-up, 8 x 1 min fast, 2 mins jog recovery, 10 mins warm-down
Friday, 15 May 2009   Rest
Saturday, 16 May 2009 15 minutes very easy
Sunday, 17 May 2009   Great Manchester Run

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

Sign the Manchester Evening News' petition at: 

Visit us at 

Join the Facebook fivemarathons group

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004