Month: March 2018
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.
The Chasers Pace Calculator
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.
Time to cut the crap
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.
The Road to Nowhere
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.