Posted on December 2nd, 2018 by John Armstrong
I’ve put together a training plan for London Marathon 2019. We’ll also have a half marathon specific schedule building up to Croydon half marathon which should be up by the New Year.
We’ll use the same key training races for both schedules, so book your place and get them in your diary now.
- Fred Hughes 10 OR Benfleet 15. Fred Hughes is a fast flat road race. Benfleet 15 is a slow hilly trail race. Don’t even think about Benfleet unless you are confident to run that distance in January. Think of it as roughly equivalent effort to 20 miles on the road.
- Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill. This is a brilliant race and a must for any Chaser who owns a pair of spikes. Click on the link to enter (you will require England Athletics membership too, so request that via your Chasers account if you don’t have it already).
- Wokingham Half Marathon. This isn’t even mentioned in the schedule yet. It will just be an alternative to the current published schedule for those who want a half marathon test at the end of Feb. The scheduled alternative is to do a long run the next week building in a fast section at the Regent’s Park 10k.
- Croydon Half Marathon. Get your discounted tickets from our online store.
Posted on April 17th, 2018 by John Armstrong
- Race number, pinned to vest
- Shoes, chip attached.
- Bag with number on it.
- Pacing wristband *
- Mobile *
- Fancy dress costume *
- Vaseline, for anywhere potentially chafy
- Sunglasses *
- Hat *
- Plasters for nipples (or more vaseline or a bra)
- Gels, jelly babies, carrying device
- Imodium *
- Loo roll *
- Beetroot Shots *
- Drink for while you are waiting, maybe a bite to eat.
- Bin bag or disposable clothes.
- Oyster card. They say its free travel on race day but not everyone in TFL seems to get the memo.
- Something to wear afterwards *
- Lucky heather *
* = optional
I think that’s everything. See you at the start or at the Pineapple.
Posted on April 10th, 2018 by John Armstrong
Just two weeks to go to the London Marathon. If you’re racing it you’re probably beginning to feel the nerves. If so, that’s good. We want that excitement and nervous energy on race day. Here are some thoughts to get you mentally prepared.
Have a Plan: If you haven’t done so already use our pace calculator to check whether your goals are realistic and formulate your race day plan.
Part of your plan will be your pacing plan. Some possible suggestions are: stick with the pacers for a particular goal time; aim to arrive at half way 1-2 minutes ahead of goal pace to allow for a slight fade at the end of the race; pace it absolutely evenly throughout; go for a slight negative split (that is aim to do the last half slightly faster). Each of these options has their merits, so I’m not going to pick one for you. But what I will say is that you shouldn’t aim for more than 2 minutes ahead of goal pace at half way and you should go in with a plan. “Go out hard and see what happens” does not count as a pacing plan.
On race day you will be sorely tempted at two points to break the plan by going too fast. That’s at the start and half way. As in practically all races most people set off too fast. Let them shoot off, while you pace it right. If you’re starting further back at London, accept the reality that it’s going to be very crowded at the start. Don’t waste energy weaving and getting angry with other runners for being in your way. Take it easy and think of the big guy in front of you as a useful windbreak. The second moment when people decide to waste energy in London is half way. I find that everyone starts waving at the crowd and speeding up for no clear reason. Again, let everyone else zoom off. You will have caught them all up again by mile 15.
Another part of your plan will be your hydration and nutrition plan. A hydration plan perhaps isn’t such a big deal for London as there are very frequent water stops, but if you are relying on the Lucozade sport they hand out, you’ll need to know exactly when to expect it. In smaller marathons you may only get water once every 5K in which case you definitely want to be prepared. Your nutrition plan should start several days out from race day and will certainly include your race day breakfast and everything you plan to eat during the run. Do listen to your body, however: if your stomach starts complaining about the gels, stop eating them; drink if you’re thirsty; don’t take on excessive amounts of water.
Stay in the Moment: On race day, try to focus on where you are in the race right now. Are you running with good form? Are you following the blue racing line? Are you keeping to an even pace? It can help to run an occasional check on yourself asking how everything feels to make sure you are staying relaxed and comfortable. If you’ve been working on an area of your form, think about that but don’t try to force it. For example, I’ll be monitoring myself to try and keep my head up and avoid crossing my arms. Try not to think about that beer you’re going to have at the finish as you’ll find that distractions like that do actually slow you down a little as you lose focus.
A Mantra: A mantra is any phrase you can say to yourself to focus your mind. Go for something positive. Nike recommends “Just do it”, I like “I have found the line and its direction is known to me. Absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction” (Talking Heads – The Good Thing). You might also try counting. Paula Radcliffe would count to one hundred over and over again to help keep focus. I like to just count and see how high I get. My PB is over 8000.
Enjoy the Cheers: For me the two highlights of the London Marathon are the cheers from the Chasers cheering squad. You’ll get the cheers at about mile 13.5 and mile 22. I think they’re a huge psychological boost. The crowd will be cheering you the whole way too. Smile and look around you to take it all in. Enjoy the fact that all these people are out there supporting you and want you to succeed.
Positive Visualisation: As race day comes, you will find you dwell more and more upon the race ahead. Use this as an opportunity to mentally rehearse your race day plan. Visualize yourself running in controlled and comfortable manner from the start. Rehearse your mantras. Picture the crowd cheering you on. Picture yourself smiling as you take it in. Picture yourself staying focussed throughout and holding your form to the end.
This week’s training
To help you prepare your mind for race day, this week includes a marathon pace fartlek on Thursday and a hard Parkrun on Saturday.
The hard Parkrun is a practice for staying focussed andlooking at your form. If your training has been going well and you get a PB that’s a bonus, but you’ve been marathon training not 5K training so don’t worry too much about your time.
The marathon pace fartlek is a comfortable run where you run some of it at marathon pace as you feel. This run is about getting outside and just enjoying running without tiring yourself out. It’s about running comfortably, sticking to a sensible pace, looking around and having a nice time. There aren’t any more rules to the run than that, its all about doing the kind of running you enjoy as a reward for all that hard training.
Posted on April 1st, 2018 by John Armstrong
If you are following our schedule for the London Marathon, you have just started your taper. For those of you doing Brighton or who are racing a marathon next weekend, your taper should be in full swing.
A taper is a period of gradually reduced training just before a big race. The idea behind it is simple. It takes about a month for any training you do to have a positive impact on your race performance. However, training does make you tired and that will have a negative impact on your race performance. So you should reduce your training before a big race in order to get the best possible time. This is true to some extent whatever the distance, but it is particularly important for marathons.
If you’ve been following our London schedule, you should have been doing a lot of very hard training over the last few weeks. The chances are you’ve been feeling a little tired as a result. Our schedule should have pushed you about as far as it is sensible to go without risking too big a chance of illness or injury. It’s time to ease off. You’ve probably heard about elite athletes who aim to peak at the Olympics. Our schedule is designed to get you to peak on race day.
The first week of the taper feels a lot like business as usual, but if you look closely at our schedule you’ll see that there is a small reduction in effort from the last few weeks. In particular the long runs are not so long any more.
In the second week of the taper, you’ll begin to notice the reduction in training. In particular, there’s no track session in the second week. You will be doing a marathon pace fartlek instead (I’ll explain some other time).
In the third week of the taper, you should scarcely run at all.
You might start to panic that you haven’t done enough training and be tempted to put in a little more work than the schedule says. Don’t worry, you have done enough training. Yes, I know you had to miss some training at one point due to injury, and there was that session you missed because you were working late, but this happens to everyone. You’ve done the work, if you try to do more now you’ll be doing more harm than good.
The final week of your taper is critical. You have to do a lot of resting. You may actually hate this. You may start to feel nervous tension building. You mustn’t go on a run just to calm your nerves. We want that nervous energy still in place for race day.
Don’t be tempted by other activities in place of running. So no gym work during the taper. No decorating the house. No gardening. No overtime. No long walks. No sight seeing. No swimming. No acrobatics. No heavy petting*.
So download a Dan Brown/E.L. James/Melville onto your kindle, find yourself a good box set on Netflix, and start relaxing.
* The heavy petting comment is a joke. It is perfectly OK to have moderate to vigorous sexual intercourse during the final week of the taper. However, it should not be attempted during the race except in the portaloos provided.
Posted on March 22nd, 2018 by John Armstrong
If you’re following our marathon schedules this weekend’s long run should be a bit of a celebration.
If you’re doing the Brighton schedule, it should be the easiest long run you’ve done in a while and should feel pretty comfortable. Given that it’s still a long way by any normal standards, this should make you realise how far you’ve come.
For those following the London schedule, this weekend is a 20 miler. For many of you that means its your longest training run, so make sure you enjoy it. Go somewhere nice and take it easy. Bask in the glory of knowing that you can now run 20 miles continuously.
Some of the faster runners who have already achieved the distance will want to do a bit of marathon pace, but absolutely no more than 10 miles at that pace. 5 miles easy, 5 miles steady, 5 miles easy, 5 miles marathon pace might be a good option. But I’ll say it again, if this is going to be your longest run, do it all easy.
Are you worrying how you will ever run 26 miles at race pace? If so stop worrying and have faith. Right now you are knackered. You are not in the ready to run 26 miles at race pace. It takes about a month before the benefits of a training session can be felt. That’s because you need time to grow new muscle etc. So in a month you’ll be even stronger than you are now. Even better, we’ll be lowering your training workload. The next month will be about recovery. On race day you will be totally fresh. Prepare to be amazed what you can achieve.
But, and this is important, you will only feel like that if you have the recovery you need. If you foolishly decide to run a 20 miler at race pace you won’t have time to recover. You will have thrown away your marathon on a training run. So follow my advice and don’t do more than the schedule says.
Where should you do this 20 miler. I strongly recommend going to Gade valley and doing the run there. Not only will it be an enjoyable change of scene, but they’ll hand out water on the way round. That means this is the perfect opportunity for a marathon dress rehearsal. So wear the clothes you have in mind for race day. Take the gels or sweets you’ll be eating. Try out your race day nutrition plan – so that might mean an early dinner the night before and maybe try out your beetroot shots or Imodium if you want to try them on race day.
Gade Valley is just a couple of train stops from Euston. Entry is on the day only for £10. There’s tea and cake when you finish. Hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, take it easy and make sure you enjoy your biggest training run.
Posted on March 11th, 2018 by John Armstrong
We have a pace calculator on our website which you can use to figure out what you might be able to achieve in a race and also what sort of pace to run in training.
It’s pretty straightforward to use except when it comes to figuring out your marathon pace, but it gives you a range of three possible marathon times.
The reason for this is that the marathon is a pretty extreme event, so it is hard to predict a marathon time based on shorter distances. So rather than give you a single figure I think it is better to show you a range.
The “Optimistic” time is based on a formula devised by Peter Riegel in 1977. This is the formula used for all other distances and it is pretty accurate for short distances. It predicts a marathon time only a few runners actually achieve (though some do achieve it, for example it predicts my times very well).
Ian Williams of Fetcheveryone had a look at the data for his runners and wrote an article about it that you can read here. I’ve used this article to come up with our “Conservative” time, though I actually used a different formula which should improve on it (see Geek’s corner below).
I call this time “Conservative” because it attempts to work out how the average runner will perform. But this average includes all the idiots who haven’t trained properly, who have set off too fast, or are running dressed as a chicken. I think you should be able to achieve the Conservative estimate if you train and race sensibly.
Finally with have the “Pessimistic” time. This is also based on the Fetcheveryone data but assumes that you will be roughly in one of the bottom 95% given your half marathon time. I think it is helpful to show the full range of marathon times, but I’d recommend you try to achieve a better time than this. I mean, you’re planning to train well and race sensibly aren’t you?
I’d recommend that when racing a marathon you should target something between the optimistic and conservative times. If you have raced a marathon before, you will have some idea of which of the predictions works better for you. If you haven’t raced a marathon you might want to err on the side of caution to make sure you enjoy the race.
When you use our calculators or schedules you can choose whether to go for the optimistic, conservative or pessimistic estimates by saying whether you or biased towards longer or shorter distances.
The Riegel formula is:
What Ian Williams of Fetch everyone asked is whether the power 1.06 in this formula is the best choice. He studied how half marathon times predicted marathon times and found that the best power varies quite considerably from runner to runner, but a value of 1.15 would work for the median runner.
In his article he also drew the following graph showing how the best choice of power varies according to the half marathon time.
The red line in the graph shows what value you should use instead of 1.06 to predict how the median runner will perform given their half marathon time. What this shows is that the basic shape of the Riegel formula doesn’t work so well since no single power works for all times. Since the red line in the graph looks roughly straight, I decided to let the power used in the formula vary linearly from 1.10 for an 80 minute half marathon runner to 1.20 for a 2 hour marathon runner. I also decided that for runners faster than 80 minutes I’d cap the power from below at 1.08. This is how I calculate the “Conservative estimate”.
For my pessimistic estimate I just made sure that the conservative estimate was half way between the optimistic and pessimistic estimates. The graph suggests this is a fairly reasonable thing to do.
Of course, one could try to produce a more accurate calculator by examining the data closely and taking more factors into account. If you are a computer scientist looking for a project, why not train a neural net or similar to predict people’s times? In practice, I think these formulae are accurate enough. They give a decent impression of the range of possible times you might achieve and are a useful reminder that we are all different.
Posted on March 6th, 2018 by John Armstrong
Nobody wants their marathon time ruined by a loo break. If that’s a concern for you, now is the time to decide what you are going to do about it. Ultimately its a matter of experiment to find what works for you. Start experimenting now rather than leaving it to race day. Here are some thoughts…
1. Come up with a nutrition plan now, write it down and see if it works.
2. What time will you get up on race day? You will probably want to mirror this in your trial runs. You may want to get up early for a few days before race day to shift your body clock.
3. What time will you have your evening meal before the race? You might want to eat early, say 6pm.
4. Does cutting down on fibre and fat for a couple of days before the race help?
5. Try a hot drink in the morning. Does caffeine help or hinder you?
6. Try taking an imodium before a long run. If it helps you could do this on race day.
7. If you are travelling to your race, should you prepare your own food in advance (or take ingredients if you are self-catering). Unfamiliar restaurant foods are a terrible idea. If it’s a big problem for you, maybe do your big PB target races close to home and not race abroad for the holiday and the experience rather than the time.
8. Know where the loo stops will be on your race, so you can find them if you need them.
9. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Get it over with quickly and you’ll spend more of the race running comfortably and a little lighter.
10. If you insist, keep a food and bowel movement diary. But please, don’t blog about it.
Posted on March 1st, 2018 by John Armstrong
If you get a chance, go for a trail run in the snow. It’s safer and more fun to run through fresh snow than on icy paths. If you wear your cross country spikes they will miraculously clean themselves. A double win.
If you are racing the 10k this weekend, I’d probably just have some enjoyable snowy runs and forgo a speed session. But those of us doing the marathon schedule have had a couple of light Thursday sessions recently and so might consider a treadmill session instead.
Here’s what you need to know about treadmill running:
- Most treadmills measure speed in km/h. You can use our pace calculator to find the right treadmill setting.
- There is no air resistance on a treadmill so you should set the gradient to 1-2% to compensate for this.
- It’s easy to overheat on a treadmill, so take unseasonal clothes like a vest. Bring water too so you can practice drinking and running.
- Stop staring at the screen. If you can’t resist, put a towel over the screen. I consciously ask myself what focal point I will stare at for the session and fixate on that rather than the screen.
- It’s psychologically tougher on the treadmill, so try to practice your mind games. I find focussing on my form helps. As the session gets tough, I found counting slowly in my head helps me stay focussed and also helps me stop looking at the screen.
- Wear headphones. If Talking Heads don’t do it for you, try PJ Harvey. She feels your pain.
Posted on February 24th, 2018 by John Armstrong
It’s a gorgeous day for smashing out a fantastic performance in the National Cross Country championships.
In case you didn’t notice, our schedules got you doing a long run on Tuesday, so you’re all set up for a guilt free rest day tomorrow. That means you can really push it. Also on Thursday we did a light sprint session, so you should be going to the start line with fresh legs and a taste for speed. It’s almost like we planned it.
Today is definitely a race, so let’s talk race tactics. There are two kinds of running tactics, PB pacing tactics and beating your enemy tactics. Times mean nothing today, so let’s focus on the latter. Here are some fun tips:
- When you overtake do so with a burst of speed so it is hard for them to follow.
- If someone is just behind you, put on a burst of speed as you go round a corner. The sudden inexplicable gap will break their morale.
- Overtake wide. Buy the time you’re in their field of vision you’re already ahead.
- Control your breathing. You can fake not being tired as you pass and that will break their heart.
- Pre-empt their attack. If you think you can guess their plans don’t wait to counter attack, attack first.
- Attack on the flat or a downhill. It’s hard to make substantial gains on an uphill and it is demoralizing if you lose all your gains instantly on the downhill. When a downhill levels off is a time many runners drop their guard, so that might be a good time to attack.
As usual, warm up well and don’t set off too fast. The race is crowded so you probably do need to push it a little at the start to not get stuck, but you shouldn’t kill yourself. When the going gets tough, focus on your form, relax and then deploy the ultimate psychological weapon: smile.
Posted on February 15th, 2018 by John Armstrong
Our current training schedules all end after the London Marathon. What will happen for the rest of the year?
I thought I’d let you know the key events we will base our training around once marathon/half-marathon season ends.
What do you need to do now to prepare?
- Go to our calendar and ask it to email all the events to your calendar. Sure you might not do them all, but its good to pencil them in.
- Enter Cabbage Patch 10.
- Be poised to enter St Neots.
In the summer we focus on shorter distances, from 5k to 10k. I hope we’ll also organise some middle distance and perhaps even sprint training too.
Our main club racing focus in the summer is 10k and 5 mile races for Summer League. This is a super friendly race series for absolutely all abilities and includes kids races, relays a picnic and (new this year) a bake-off. You simply enter on the day.
A second summer strand is track amd field with Southern athletics. If you have an inner sprinter or middle-distance runner you want to unleash, this should be your summer focus. Entry is free, but you will need to sign up in advance so the officials know who is running. You’ll be able to sign up using our calendar nearer the time.
If you fancy triathlon, the Crystal Palace Triathlon is our club championships. Contact email@example.com for info on how to enter.
Our club training will switch to a half marathon focus in the autumn.
The big races are the St Neots Half Marathon in November and our club championship the Cabbage Patch 10 mile. Both races sell out.
St Neots can sell out within hours so sign up as soon as entries open. If you’ve never entered before you could try liking them on Facebook and asking to be put on their mailing list. We will mention it in our Facebook group, but you don’t want to miss it.
You can already sign up for Cabbage Patch, so do.
The other autumn races we know we’ll be doing are the Essex Way Relay and the usual cross country races. Essex Way is a relay through some lovely countryside with legs for all abilities. Its brilliant. Its free to enter, but we will need to decide on teams in advance so will take names nearer the time.
Finally, if you plan to run an autumn marathon, Dublin and Abingdon are good choices that attract a lot of Chasers. Abingdon sells out fast, so be poised ready to enter.
Hopefully we’ll also organise a trip to the countryside for some trail running, probably in May. We may also book the track for the day so we can all finish the summer with PBs (and I can show Lauren Longhurst how to win at the wheelbarrow race).
Watch this space.