What it took to run 2.20.48 – post race review – Post 3

My previous two posts looked at the journey so far and general approach to all things running.  This final post looks at what training typically looks like, plus an eye on 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 find out.

You would think that with me previously stating I’m running obsessed that I love running.  You couldn’t be further from the truth.  It is a real love / hate relationship for me.

Love / Hate

I love it on the odd occasion I race and it all works out coming away with a PB.  The days that follow are euphoric.  I also occasionally feel great in the hour or two after having a session that went better than expected.  Whilst I’m also out running I generally enjoy it, but the thought of going out for a run in the hours beforehand is something I mostly dread.  It is like some weird addiction, I cannot not have my running fix, but I feel like I have to take a running ‘hit’ rather than want it.

The Training Week
If you have already read the first two posts, you may already be thinking that this guy shouldn’t be running 2.20.  If you haven’t already thought this, then this section may convince you…!

I see lots of other marathon runners topping out at about 120+ miles a week.  Excluding taper etc., I might just about reach 100, but I probably average closer to 90 – sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more.  I don’t have a set weekly target as such.  I've also only ever run by myself - I don't think I've ever run with other people - not out of intention, again just a bit of shyness creeping in.

Because of my ankle issues and sometimes a bit of laziness creeps in I usually do 70% – 80% of my runs these days on the treadmill.  The only exception will be the long run which for 85% of the time I’ll normally do outdoors.  I almost never do any sessions outdoors – these days it is all on the treadmill.  I know the treadmill is much maligned by many, but I believe if you use it in the right way it can give you some cracking sessions that are just as good as running outdoors.  My 2.20 at Valencia has finally given me the confidence to think of it in this way - and not to think of it as cheating or calling it the ‘dreadmill’.  Two examples:

The Acceleration Run
13.4kph warm up for 5 minutes.  Increase by 0.1kph every minute for 55 minutes peaking at 18.9kph.  If I’m feeling good I will then either decrease by 0.2 or 0.3kph every minute thereafter back to base speed.  Sometimes, I’ll just warm down after peaking and not do the deceleration bit.  Of the three sessions, this is my main go to session and is by far the hardest.

13.4kph warm up for 5 minutes.  Keep the same speed for the whole session but 15 x 4 minutes at 11%, or 10 x 6 minutes etc. (basically an hour in total), with 2 min recoveries on the flat.  The actual recovery is far less as it takes best part of 30 seconds for the treadmill to adjust the incline.  The first reps always feel easy, but the sting is in the tail.

Just a plain old run at a fast speed for 40-60 mins.  I go somewhat faster than normal as I do recognise that the treadmill aids leg turnover.  I don’t have any pre-set speed other than it should feel uncomfortable.

I will occasionally do say 6 – 8 x 1 – 2km repeats but is not a key go to session.

Where a significant chunk of my training took place.  Staring into a blank wall listening to Radio 5 Live.

I will mostly do single runs each day, with the exception of two days a week.  I normally schedule a rest day every 10 days or so.  A typical peak week would look something like this:

Mon    10 miles easy (TM).
Tue    AM 7.5 miles easy (Outdoors).  PM Acceleration Run (TM) c. 12 miles.
Wed   10 miles easy (TM).
Thu    AM 7.5 miles easy (Outdoors).  PM Tempo or Hills (TM) c. 12 miles.
Fri      10 miles easy (TM) or REST (every 10th day interchanged with Monday)
Sat     13.1 miles easy (TM or outdoors)
Sun    19 – 21.5 miles Long Run (outdoors)

Total   90 - 102

In recent weeks the Sat is now turning into a mini session e.g. Parkrun followed by easy miles, Fartlek or say 3 x 4km mini efforts etc.  If the miles are easy on the Sat then I’ll try to put something into the Sunday run depending where I am in the training block.  For instance it could be 5km easy, 5km steady, 5km tempo, 5km hard repeat, or just something as simple as a push in the final half hour.
Now for the bit that will shock most people, my easy runs are somewhere in the range of 3.50 – 4.00 min/km (6.10 – 6.26 per mile).  This includes long run day.  I know this breaks just about every rule in the book as the saying goes that you should keep your easy days easy and your hard days hard.  Not in my case.  I think there is some method in the madness as it means I’m very used to operating what is in effect not that much slower than marathon race pace – I have the engine for it.

The clear downside is that I have a very narrow operating window that probably explains why my current PBs are as follows:

10k – 32.13
HM – 68.11
M – 2.20.48

I don’t think I have ever run a single km on the flat in less than 3 minutes.  I have almost certainly got the weakest 10km PB for an equivalent marathon time.

So what do I think my strengths are:
- Running uphill.  For some unknown reason I am almost unrivalled.
- Mental grittiness.  I can shut out what my body is telling me pretty well.
- Ability to just ‘lock’ onto a pace and hold it.  I also tend to be fairly consistent when I’m doing a tempo or km repeats, it will be rare if I slip time over the session.
- Stamina.  I’ve often fancied a crack at an ultra and maybe I will do in the next couple of years assuming I stay fit and healthy.

And as for my weaknesses:
- Downhill.  I am truly and utterly shocking.
- Lack of raw speed.  This is an area where I know that I need to work on.  There is little scope for further improvement on my marathon time without improving my 10k times first.

So back to my original question:
Is my huge PB at Valencia despite my unconventional approach to training and all things running, or because of it?  What do you think?

The Future / England
I’ve already come to the conclusion that to break 2.20 there is no way I can achieve this at lower key marathons.  I’m therefore going to have a crack at London next April and see what comes of it.

Would I be selected based on 2.20.48 if the England Athletics Development Standard is sub 2.23?  Some people have been selected with slower times but I’m working on the basis that it wouldn’t be good enough for me – I doubt that I’m on the radar due to my low profile, don’t race enough to give the selectors confidence, I’m no spring chicken and if you look at my Power of 10 / Run Britain my Valencia Marathon time looks anomalous compared to everything else – the reality is that I’m ‘all in’ for a single race and everything else is just a build-up but you can’t blame others for drawing a different conclusion.  Apart from anything else the times this year have been better than in recent years.

Aiming to get a full England call up - not just V35+ Masters.

If I was asked a couple of years ago it was never on my radar to even think about England selection, but I’ve now surely got to give it a crack.  I need to work on the basis that I need to make it impossible to be ignored.  The first step has got to be a sub 2.20, as regardless of national selection that is another huge marathon barrier that needs to be overcome.  Beyond that I probably need to work towards 2.17/2.18.  However, that all being said I’m well aware of others having the same goal as myself and never manage to do it and with time against me I know there is a good prospect that it may never happen.  What with the injury nightmares I’ve had I’m constantly aware that the next run could well be my last.

What will it take?
There is no such thing as a perfect race and Valencia was no exception.  I reckon I ‘lost’ 30 seconds in the last few km when my mind just drifted a bit and no one else to work with.  There was also a few km just before half way where I started to slip that cost a little time.  Other than that, there was not a huge amount to improve upon on the day.  I think that there are three areas I need to improve on:

1) Final phase of the race.
I’m pretty confident these aspects can just be sorted by having more long runs than I was able to during my build up because of injury.  Also, perhaps by having a bit more of a focus on some faster miles towards the end of the long run will help.  I see this as an easy fix.

2) Mix of treadmill / road running.
Whilst I’ve made an impassioned case for the use of the treadmill, I suspect I’ve gone a little too far in favour of it and I need to do more outdoors.  Post Bournemouth, my ankle got as bad as its been for some time so I was pretty much forced to resort to the treadmill, but otherwise I need to mix it up a bit more and do some focussed road sessions as well.

3) Speedwork
I avoid speedwork like the plague, but this is where the big improvements are going to come from.  If I can’t currently do 6 x 1 km faster than 3.08 average, then by default I’m not going to improve my 10km time.  It then follows therefore that it limits any potential improvement at HM level and therefore the marathon too.

There are probably a couple of other minor areas I need to think about too – my pre-race craft at Valencia was not fantastic due to the amount of travel time.  Whether it cost me anything in the race itself is difficult to say, but it certainly didn’t improve my mental state.  I also need to think about my confidence; I’m conscious that most of my ramblings have a negative undertone, but I need to be more confident in my ability and trust myself that I can deliver a good race.

Of course, the above is all relative as it assumes I stay fit and race conditions etc. on the day are all favourable.  However, I can’t allow things outside of my control to dictate the future and am about as enthused as I’ve ever been to give next April a real crack.

Races Ahead
I’ve entered the Wheaton Aston 10k on 27th December, which is then followed by the Warwickshire County XC trials.  The latter is only my second XC so am not expecting anything, but the timing is right, albeit I may have to procure a pair of spikes.

After that I’ve entered the Vitality Big Half in London on 1st March and will then probably do Reading Half Marathon on 5th April before London Marathon on the 26th.  I will probably look for a 10k at some point as well in late Jan / early Feb but will make a decision nearer the time depending on how training progresses.

April Goal.


  1. Enjoyed reading all all those Lloyd. 👍🏻 That pre training run 'dread' is easily fixed by running the first mile or two much slower. When tired or maybe slightly under the weather, the thought of running mara pace +30-40s is daunting straight out the door. You can always pick it up after those initial slower miles. Might be worth a try. My first mile of any training run is about 7.30-7.45 😂 👍🏻

  2. Very interesting insight. Seems to me you should definitely be in with a shout of a full England call up. Given your strengths, perhaps an uphill year at Comrades might be a good option..?

    1. Funny you should say that, the thought has crossed my mind!
      Maybe a couple of years away.

  3. Excellent read Lloyd. The amount treadmill running is interesting. I’m recovering from an injury so it’s something I might look at.

    The ambition to qualify for England is great. I think it’s essential to push for something that is really challenging, even if you don’t succeed you’ll know you’ve given it 100%.

    BTW you are more than welcome to come out with us.

    1. Thanks Ash, I'm assuming you are the one and the same from Peel?

      I do think it aids injury recovery for a couple of reasons - if you are not fully recovered then you can just abort the session immediately, rather than things going ping a few miles in and being pretty much forced to continue.

      Also I've found that the number of muscle injuries are far far less than out on the road. But its a two way thing as running on the treadmill being softer, you need to ensure your muscles can remember what it feels like on a harder surface.

  4. Great read Lloyd, good luck for London, with your 10k/marathon time differential you're probably more talented than you give yourself credit for! You should look at uphill mountain running trials perhaps? And finally where do you buy 19p flapjack bars??!!

    1. Tom, Thanks for your comment, appreciated. I've had a quick look and I don't think I've found anyone with such a differential in PB times between the two distances, so hopefully there is some improvement to be had.

      Have thought about uphill trials although don't think there are that many around. I have a theory that I'm pretty sound with a moderate %, but on when it gets ridiculously steep I suspect I might get found out.

      19p flapjacks, Home Bargains, B&M Stores are the place to go, the brand is Higates. Tend to buy as many as I can get my hands on and then duly annoy the person manning the tills!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Spine Race - Some Stats (2012-2024) - Updated following 2024 race.

Ranger Ultras - High Peak 100k

Ranger Ultras Pennine Bridleway 270km