What it took to run 2.20.48 – post race review – Post 2

As mentioned in my previous post there is a dearth of other blogs that cover how others train to achieve a marathon time in the range of 2.18 – 2.23.  I occasionally see the odd blog here or there, but I always craved more.  This is my version of what it takes…  Part 2 focuses on everything other than training, whilst the final Part 3 (to come) will look at training and the future.

The question for me is whether my huge PB was despite my unconventional approach to training and all things running, or because of it?  Read on to make your own conclusion.

Valencia PB.

I will freely admit I have a problem with food.  I calorie count and I struggle to allow myself enough beyond the bare minimum.  I am usually hungry to a greater or lesser degree.  On the other hand, I don’t eat particular foods because of my running, just the sort of normal healthy diet one would expect.  If you work on the basis that you burn roughly 100 calories a mile my net calorie daily intake is usually in the 1,800 – 2,000 range.  I don’t buy into the protein bar and sports supplements craze, other than an occasional post run electrolyte drink after my Sunday long run and a daily cod liver oil caplet.  I don’t drink at all during any training run, even on a 20+ miler whatever the weather.

My 19p energy bar.
I’m 5’11’’ and weight 9st 12.5lb (138.5lb or 63kg).  My problems with nutrition are probably linked to my weight – I weigh myself obsessively three times a day.  That all being said I am happy with my weight, but its more about keeping it where it currently is.  I’ve read that most elite male marathoners are as a rule of thumb under 2lb per inch of height, if not nearer 1.90.  For me that works out at about 1.95 so is more or less where you would expect.

Routine prior to and on Race Day
I’ve seen all sorts of stuff about carb depletion followed by rapid carb loading.  Frankly I just don’t buy into any of it.  This is not my poo-pooing what others do as if it works for others than great – if you have got this far reading my post I’m sure plenty of people would be horrified.  I tend to, regardless of race distance to have a pasta dish for dinner the day before a race and in each of the three days prior to the marathon.  Other than that, I have no specific nutrition routine, perhaps with the exception of some additional nuts or seeds the day before.  I don’t bother aiming for a certain % of carb intake, though I would perhaps try to avoid heavy ‘stodge’ type stuff.

I can be a bit of a nightmare to my poor wife on marathon race day, maybe less so at other races.  I know I can get short and snappy at times.  My routine is pretty much the same for all races, regardless of distance.  Breakfast is 3 hours before the race and comprises of 4 x non-brand Weetabix and a cup or two of tea to follow.  I will stop drinking liquid at 2.5 hours before, with the exception if the race is a warm one in which case it might be 2 hours or even a little less.  The only difference for my Marathons is that somewhere around 2 hours before I’ll have some natural yoghurt, with some honey and maybe half a banana or a bit of granola thrown in.

Cheapo Weetabix - I'm too tight to pay for the real stuff.

During the race, I don’t tend to bother with drinks offered on course in either the 10k or half.  The approach is somewhat different for the marathon – I will usually try to find out what gels are offered on course and when and then carry what ever extra I think I need on top of this.  In the case of Valencia there were only two gel stations, so I carried an additional 4 with me.  I usually take whatever water is going even at the early part of the race.

If I was asked whether I’m a glass half full or half empty person, my response would probably be along the lines of ‘what glass’?!  I’m full of self-doubt and end up convincing myself that it is not going to be my day and perhaps I should just take it easy.  As a result I hate the hours leading up to my races and I do get quite nervous, even for low key events.

I don’t believe I’m elite (let’s not get into the debate of what constitutes an elite runner), nor do I really think that I’m particularly gifted.  Occasionally I get moments of thinking ‘oh crikey’ I’m 22nd in England so can’t be as bad as I thought, before getting back into the self-doubt box and convincing myself that I’m a piss-poor runner.

I’m a fairly quiet person, mostly keep myself to myself, that has always been me and always will be.  Some people will mistake that as arrogance and it couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’m always happy to speak to others and could talk running stuff for hours given the chance (my poor wife usually has to bear the brunt), its just that I’m pretty shy so wont randomly approach other people.

Racing / Clubs
When I first started out, I was unattached but had always enjoyed mountain running and the like.  At the beginning of 2017 I therefore decided to join Mercia Fell Runners as they are the local Fell Running Club that covers much of the Midlands.  A bit of a disparate group due to the geographic spread of members and to be honest I’ve only ever met a handful at the odd race here and there.  As my focus has increased on the road, there has been a corresponding decrease on the fells.

My second fell race in early 2016 - Inter County Champs representing Warwickshire.  I was well chuffed at the time to get selected.  From memory I came 48th and little did I know at the time I'd end up focusing on the road.

The club is only registered with England Athletics on the Fells and Trails so strictly speaking I have no first claim club for Track, Road or XC.  I’ve not really ever sought another club, partly out of shyness and partly I’m just happy doing my own thing.  It probably goes some way to my perception of being an unknown athlete – I’m not in any of the XC leagues or road relays and therefore the opportunity to mix with others at a regional or national level is near non-existent.  As I don’t race that much compared to the average runner, it also contributes to a very low profile.  It also works the other way, I recognise a few names here and there from various results but would otherwise struggle.

About 18 months or so ago a local club did approach me to see whether I was interested in joining, but at the time it wasn’t right for me, but never say never!

Sponsorship / Social Networks etc.
I don’t have any sponsors, nor I have I ever sought any and no-one has ever approached me – why would they!?  It does seem that quite a few people in the sub-2.30 window have sponsorship to varying degrees these days and frankly I have no idea where it all comes from!

I suspect part of the answer to the above comes from my lack of social media presence.  I don’t do Facebook or Twitter (partly a mixture of shyness creeping in, can’t be bothered, and in some cases just seems to be a way seeking adulation) and have no idea what most of the others are despite a few people having patiently tried explaining to me in the past.  This blog has been an exception – as previously mentioned this is done so I can look back at my running in 20 years or so and show the children.  If others enjoy reading it then you are more than welcome to!

After surprising myself at Manchester Marathon in early 2017 and being selected for the England Masters at Chester later that year I did get some online coaching as I needed some fresh ideas.  Unfortunately, a few months after my Chester victory the injuries kicked in and I’ve not been coached since.  For all intents and purposes since I started running in 2015 I’ve been coached for 8 months, the rest of the time I’ve been self-coached.  I haven’t read any books on training although am aware of others following the likes of Canova etc.  I just base my training on what feels right and that the somewhat traditional (outdated) belief that hard work in its purest form works wonders.  I don’t bother with weekly schedules or plans etc., nor do I set out to do a certain mileage each week.  I take each day as it comes, albeit loosely around a structure that Tues and Thurs will contain a session of some form and a long run on the Sunday that will sometimes involve a few miles at a faster pace.

I’m not sure how ‘coachable’ I am these days – if my ankle gives me some aches I’m straight back onto the treadmill and will move sessions around as needed.

The above all being said I do sometimes wonder whether with a bit of guidance I could be so much better than I currently am.  Something to ponder.

I’m conscious that the above makes it seem that I have a laissez-faire approach to running and it cannot be further from the truth.  I live, breath and think running and consistently push myself to get that bit better.  However, there is no such thing as perfection and I’m just highlighting my failings and idiosyncrasies as a runner as well as the good bits.

On the off chance anyone has stumbled across the blog and even less of a chance of getting this far I’m happy to answer any questions…


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