Record breaker

Brilliant perk of running as part of the Freshfields Oxfam team today.  And I’m not talking about the rather fetching baseball cap they gave me .  Freshfields sponsors the world record breaking marathon runner and Paralympic medal hopeful Richard Whitehead, and today the marathon runners got to go out on a training run with him.

Fears that we wouldn’t be able to keep up were fortunately allayed as we headed out at a very gentle pace along the Embankment and made our way up to Hyde Park.  Richard runs with a wide circular gait which makes running right alongside him a little hazardous until you get used to it, so for the first half a mile or so we made quite a spectacle for the tourists as he led the way with a dozen girls (and one guy) chasing after him.  When we got to Hyde Park we did a few intervals of around about 200 metres or so, which gave my dodgy quad something to think about, and finally headed back to the office at a much more brisk tempo pace which felt pretty great actually.

Richard is a great guy and very happy to chat and answer questions.  We discovered that his secret weapon is a large bowl of plain spaghetti for breakfast before a marathon race – a strategy I don’t think I’ll be adopting.  Haribo might not fuel me to a world record but they are a much more tasty option!

As midweek training runs go, they don’t get much better than today’s.  A great combination of easy, tempo and interval running, some inspirational chat and the opportunity to bunk off work with impunity.  I think my training may have just peaked.

Distance:  11.6km
Time:  not sure, no watch
Weather:  misty but not too cold
Time of day:  2pm, on a Wednesday, so pretty indulgent.  Lucky it was sponsored by the firm really.
Route:  Embankment, St James Park, Green Park, Hyde Park
Notable features:  training with a world record breaker – can’t beat it.



Home advantage

One of the potential advantages I have for this marathon is that I live and work in London, so I get to practise on parts of the actual marathon course.  Of course, I don’t choose to spend my time running around the glass and steel city of the Isle of Dogs rather than in the beautiful Royal Parks, but my running commute naturally takes in the last couple of miles of the marathon down the Embankment and Birdcage Walk to Buckingham Palace.  Last night when I felt strong and fast running home after work, I tried to imagine how I will be feeling tracing these same steps after 24 knackering miles.  Hopefully, knowing those last two miles as well as I do will give me a bit of a pyschological advantage for a strong finish.  (And at least I won’t have to negotiate the uneven pavement flagstones in front of the Palace in the dark on the day itself!)

I’ve been feeling quite pleased with how the training has gone this week – it feels like I am back on target.  I impressed myself at the start of the week by getting up early on both Monday and Tuesday to go to a spin class and swimming respectively – its got to the point now where keeping up the cross-training and just building that stamina is as important as the running.   And I was very good yesterday and skipped my department drinks in order to run home.  Skiing and the week after it were pretty alcoholic, and its probably time to start cutting back now (birthday parties aside).  I’m Boxercising this afternoon and will do my interval run tomorrow morning, so its been a pretty full week.  Saturday is a well-deserved day off though as I head home to Warwickshire for a joint family celebration of my 30th and my grandfather’s 90th birthdays.  Hopefully that will prove a lucrative occasion for the fundraising drive!

Distance:  5.75 miles
Time:  58 mins (approx, as I was wearing my normal watch.  Included lots of stops at lights.)
Route:  commute home (via Birdcage Walk instead of the Mall)
Time of day:  7pm
Weather:  mild and moonlit night

Pounding the treadmill

Work is getting in the way of the schedule a bit at the moment. Fortunately, this being Week 4 of the plan means that it’s a week of easing off slightly – the midweek runs are both only 3 miles (and even this weekend’s long run is stepped back to just 10K).  Consequently, it’s been simple to squeeze both my interval and tempo runs in by nipping down to the gym in the office.  I wasn’t expecting to do them on consecutive days, but I narrowly missed my spin class this lunchtime having failed to get a client off the phone in time, so I decided to do the tempo run this evening just to make sure it got done.

Yesterday’s intervals were 2 x 1 mile at 10.9 kph (with the warm up, recovery between intervals and cool down making up the other mile).  I think the mile intervals will be my favourite of the speedwork sessions as they were far less painful than the previous weeks’ efforts, although having finally remembered my iPod definitely made a huge difference.   I followed up the run with some upper body weights and was pleased with my stolen 45 minutes of exercise.

This evening’s tempo run was excellent, at least in terms of the running.  I had lots of pent up energy from spending so much time at my desk and was chomping at the bit to expend some of it on the treadmill.  However, for one reason and another I was keen to get out of the gym again as quickly as possible so I just kept upping the pace.  I ended up averaging 8:43 minutes per mile, which is great, and almost a minute per mile faster than the prescribed tempo pace. (Although,  I had forgotten to put on any gradient to make up for the lack of wind resistance.)  Also managed to fit in some abs work on the mats before hitting the shower and racing back to my desk.

I suspect that if my workload keeps going as it has lately then there could be a fair amount of treadmill running in the months to come.  Given the likelihood of snow soon that’s possibly not such a bad thing in the short term, but I hope I get out into the fresh air again soon.

Distance:  3 miles (both days)
Time:  27.37, inc 2 x 1 mile at 10.9kph (Tues);  26.10 (Wed)
Terrain:  Treadmill
Time of day:  6pm (both days)
Notable features:  the iPod really does make a massive difference on the treadmill


For me, it seems, the terms “early morning” and “tempo run” shouldn’t really be put together.  I am not a morning person at the best of times, and trying to do a fast run when I am barely awake is just not something that my body appears to be capable of.  Running at all in that state is tricky enough, but manageable with willpower; but there are some physical limits that even the greatest amount of determination in the world could not break.  And needless to say, 8am on a gloomy Thursday is not my most determined time.

So when I woke up later than planned this morning and realised that I needed to be out of the door and running to work within the next 15 minutes if I wasn’t going to be horribly late, I knew it was unlikely to be my best performance.  Technically, according to my FIRST running schedule, this mid-week run is supposed to be a tempo run, at a 10 minute mile pace.  (Actually, 10 minute miles are about my easy average pace even for my long runs at the moment, so perhaps something has gone a bit wrong there.  I’m not sure that I fancy adjusting those suggested paces just yet though because the speedwork ones seem to be pretty challenging so far, and I reckon I’ll inevitably slow down as the long runs get longer.)  But when I first left the house I felt sleepy and sluggish and every step seemed like an effort.

Once I got into a rhythm though, things picked up, including the weather – the sun started glinting through the clouds and the temperature was perfect.  Hyde Park looks very pretty on an autumn morning like that.  There were some equestrian types trotting round in a circle waving flags in a rather ridiculous way, so I stopped briefly to take a picture or two to illustrate this morning’s effort.  But they didn’t come out well (see? they really do have flags, honestly) and I immediately felt guilty about stopping at all on a tempo run, so I decided to make up for it by putting in a bit more effort on the second half of the run.  Which I did – I ran fairly hard and felt strong and was pleased that I must have done a negative split at least.   When I got to the office my watch informed me that I had done the 5.35 mile route in 54.01 (including picture and traffic light stops) – so almost exactly on the 10 min mile target.  And the last 2.23 miles from Wellington Arch (with no stops) was done in 21 minutes flat, an average pace of 9.25 min miles.  Which is not bad at all for first thing. 

Distance:  5.35 miles
Time: 54:01
Route:  Run to work
Terrain:  road, park
Time of day:  8am
Weather:  pleasant autumn morning
Notable features:  horsey types riding in circles waving flags