Monday, 19 October 2009

A Boy From Nowhere

It has been another fantastic week at fivemarathons HQ. Personal bests, 2010 marathons and drinks with the world’s greatest living Welshman. Having said that, I seem to have spent longer behind my laptop than I have on the road. As well as writing this week’s blog, I’ve been asked to prepare articles about fivemarathons for both and, the forthcoming online running magazine from the team that brought you Despite the diversions, training continues to progress well and I’ve no shortage of motivation after the Congleton half marathon last weekend.

Under the Brandenburg Gate

In the run up to New York, my emphasis will now shift to tapering down my training, getting plenty of rest, avoiding injury and, next week at least, carbing up. In any event, with less than two weeks to go until the big day, there’s not enough time to improve from a physiological perspective. Laith and I have however discussed neurological improvements which will benefit me in the race. For example, speed training helps to bring physiological improvements – being able to run more quickly and comfortably – but there isn’t enough time to see the benefit before race day. On the other hand, the return on neurological training is much quicker. Have you ever tried to play a video game and found it virtually impossible to coordinate the controls? Curiously, after just two hours, you’re finding it much easier. This is because, even in that short time, your body has developed the neurological programming necessary to successfully operate the controls. We can therefore look at the neurological programming element of my training and still expect to see a positive improvement before the race. I’ll work on running smoothly and maintaining a fluid running style. This is a matter of neurological, as opposed to physiological, programming. I’ll run acceleration strides, where I accelerate smoothly from zero to almost flat out in fifty metres. When accelerating, I work on keeping a distance runner’s style, and not slipping into a sprinter’s form. Watch some of the great middle distance runners, like Seb Coe, on Youtube and you’ll see what I mean. His action is very fluid and smooth, but his pace is blistering, all of which is down to neurological programming. We spend a lot of time considering this aspect of my running. After all, it’s the smooth running style which makes it possible to maintain a quick pace for long periods with minimal effort. If you’re having to force yourself along, you won’t be able to sustain it over 26.2 miles. Or, as Laith explained it to me: it doesn’t matter how powerful your engine is, if you’ve got egg-shaped wheels, it’s going to take an almighty effort to move quickly.

About to cross the finish line

Yesterday, I had my last long training run of the entire fivemarathons campaign. I’m missing it already and even thinking about races for next year. There’s been no shortage of tempting offers. I already mentioned the Vancouver Marathon on 2 May 2010 ( Having run over 45 miles a week, every week, for the last two years, I’ve clocked over 4,600 miles, which is more than the distance from here to the start of the race in Vancouver. That’s got a disturbing ring of Forrest Gump about it. My university friend, Rachel, has also invited me to the Auckland Marathon in October / November 2010 (, which sounds great. I considered Auckland for the fivemarathons, to give it a truly global feel. As it turned out, Auckland is on 1 November this year, the same date as New York, so I had to pass. 2010 is looking much better, though. Jessica has also lined me up for the Jurassic Coast in March, which is a scary looking race on the south coast of England. Between now and then, I’m looking for a fast course European marathon in January or February. A great opportunity to unlock some of the times which Laith and I are confident I can deliver.

Next stop, New York

Now, back to the world’s greatest living Welshman. On Thursday, I was enjoying a drink with a friend in the bar of The Lowry Hotel in Manchester, when who should literally bump into me but the man, the legend, Sir Tom Jones. A conversation about matters Welsh ensued and Sir Tom kindly signed the back of my running top above the Welsh flag. What better tribute to my Welsh grandparents than the great man’s endorsement? While it all may seem a little unbelievable, even to me, I’m assured it’s not unusual.


Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009


Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009 1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 12 October 2009 2.5 miles recovery run
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 6 miles brisk
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 4 miles easy easy
Thursday, 15 October 2009 8.5 miles steady
Friday, 16 October 2009 Rest
Saturday, 17 October 2009 5.5 miles steady
Sunday, 18 October 2009 12 miles marathon pace

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004