Featured

The Sub 3:30 Marathon Experiment

September 2020 Update:

Well the inevitable means Brighton is off this year and the 3:30 Marathon won’t be happening this year. Bummer but that’s life and no surprise.

So what now? A lot of training all to waste?

Well not really, I have signed up to the Race to the Sea 50Km event on 10th October, run by UltraViolet events.

It’s not a marathon and its not the same sort of race, but it at least keeps my training as valuable time spent.

The other news is that next year I aim to hit a bigger milestone of 100miles. This means a longer formal training program and incorporating Brighton 2021 into the training plan. I still believe I can get my 3:30 target even if the marathon becomes part of the training program and not my A race.

Lets see how that goes!

July 2020 Update:

Things seem so unsettled still around whether my target race will go ahead. At the moment I assume its game one and training is on. But it seems so unlikely a mass event of such size could go ahead. in the current climate. I guess we wait and see. For now, the sub 3:30 goal is still on for 2020!

Since Junes update I finished the month with 300+ miles of training and completed the #GVRAT1000Km virtual event. Massive mileage for me (635 in 2 months) and probably not the best training miles for a marathon but I certainly feel I’ve built some good endurance in the legs.

I also did the Quarantine Backyard Ultra earlier this month. loops of 4.17miles every hour, on the hour. A really different type of event, and one that made me feel I had to behave like a real endurance runner. Planning, nutrition, pacing lots of things I don’t really do well (ha ha). But I thought why not. I covered over 107Km (Report link). I learnt a huge lesson on preparation that will stick with me for a long time. I hope to do the next event, but it will all come down to timing.

For now I’ve reverted back to marathon training. Lower weekday mileage and long weekend runs. Pace sessions using temp/threshold structure as well as typical short intervals. Mixing this with easy miles too, including having my 6 year old pace me on a scooter (lol!).

So July continues and I expect more certainty will come next month.

Bournemouth half was cancelled and so after Brighton im looking at the Great South Run, then Reading Half. What will be will be and we will have to realise that COVID-19 has made the world a very different place. At least for a while longer that is!

‘If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up

Dean Karnazes

June 2020 Update:

Well what happened there then!

I think we all know the answer to that. With the onset of March’s Coronavirus lockdown and global events being cancelled and postponed, my sub 3:30 plans were left in a few tatters. Brighton Marathon was postponed from April to September. Training was ultimately put on hold and a little bit of my enthusiasm and excitement for reaching that goal went south!

That said it wasn’t like the world had ended. I usually have an optimistic outlook, at least externally, and was just thinking ‘well OK, it’ll be September, maybe the rest of my events will go ahead’… Obviously now I know that was beyond optimism. As march moved to April I had to seek a new option, a new goal. Enter the world of Zwift.

I’ve had a treadmill for a bout 18 months and have only ever used it when weather is awful, or I wanted to run but had to also look after the youngsters. But treadmill running in my garage is tedious and it’s so much harder for that fact alone. Zwift however gave me a competitive edge to the running, something to watch and a little bit of a feeling that I actually was running with others.

That led me to join a Marathon event , on the treadmill at 8am on the 26th April – London Marathon day!

not to be underestimated how challenging that can be.

Anyway with a bit of focus I managed to get that done in under 3:15. Now whilst I was chuffed I also realise that its a bit different running on a treadmill.

For now the true sub 3:30 dream is on ice until September. And realistically until April 2021 if I’m being really honest with myself.

But we keep running and there will be a chance to go for my goal in the not too distant future.

Feb 2020 Update:

February saw the training continue but has been a tricky month. The weather was hard to fight against with long runs lost to the elements. The temperature has been up and down and it’s been harder to get out first thing in the morning to keep churning out the miles. But I plodded on with my marathon training plan with the Ultra twist.

I managed to put in a few couple of 20 miler runs. One on road and one trails around Wendover Woods – a real highlight in the month for me. I tried to push one of them to my marathon pace. I aim to hit 8 minute miles to get around Brighton Marathon in 3:30. On the 2nd Feb I put in just over 18 miles at an average pace of 7:31 per mile. comfortably within marathon pace. this was on roads so close as I can to race day. I also employed the relatively new Levitate 2 in orange. So that was fabulous, that has given me renewed confidence of achieving the task in hand.

The highlight around Wendover woods has been something I have been thinking of and planning for a while. It has appeared on many searches, Facebook posts and there are a lot of events. Being a trail fan I got the feeling I needed to try it out. So on 20 Feb I packed up the car early and rolled up to Wendover woods, arriving in a rain shower and to be only the second car in the car park.

I packed a drink some snacks and took on the 10 mile circuit from Centurion Running. Well as best I could. the route includes some of path routes which were not always easy to find, let alone follow. I did two loops, pausing in the car park for a snack renewal half way. I pulled in just under 20 miles and achieved over 4000 feet of gain. It was a real challenge with some serious poor weather making it incredibly wet, slippery and windy. But I loved every step and every second of it. A trail runners dream I would say.

Theres only a smidge left of February, and I plan to put a small pre-race warmup 5K in for that on the 29th. I’m in the Big Half on the 1st March, to take on my first race of the year. I’ve taken part in the first two years of the big half and at the moment I intend to they and take part each year, until I forget and book another race the same day, or they introduce a ballot for which I have zero success with so far!!

Oh and the New York Marathon ballot was drawn on the 26th. Big fat no for me, will try again and maybe next year I’m lucky.

For March in in two events (Big Half, Maverick Buckinhamshire) and I need to build my training a little towards completion. Early April starts with the Reading Half too.

my distances for the last 6 months are below, Jan was a highlight and feb a little low.

I’ve also included the last 12 months trace for VO2 max as this has shown a nice trend and I’m really pleased with how that has developed.

So the month is up and we go again. Brighton is not far away and the thought of breaking that 3:30 barrier is front of my mind when I get out running. This could be the year for making it happen, and I certainly won’t miss the target through not trying.

Jan 2020 Update:

So training has started as of 1st Jan. In order to make a 15 minute improvement in my marathon time I’ve got to make some noticeable improvements in my training. 15 minutes is a big deal, that won’t come without some effort. So I’ve started to follow the Runners World sub 3Hr 30min training plan which is 5 runs most weeks, a mix of easy effort twice a week, mid to high effort twice a week and a long run. Now to confuse the situation I am running a 106Km ultra 2 weeks after Brighton. So a marathon plan alone isn’t going to give mt the mileage I need for the ultra. So I’ve decided to modify the plan a bit. Firstly 5 runs a weeks has become 6. Long runs starting around 9 miles and working up to 20 are starting at 10/15 miles and work up to 30 miles prior to marathon day. Finally I have opted to take the short easy runs (3-5 miles) and add an extra mile on. What that has meant is that week 2 totalled 45+ miles already and im likely to hit 60+ miles training weeks before I get to Brighton.

Progress though has been encouraging. My training runs were often mixed with some real high pace (for me around 3:30 per km/5:40 min per mile but also regularly 5:30 min per km/8:51 min per mile. So far after nearly completing 3 weeks of training my tuns are averaging 7:47 min per mile which equates to 4:50 min per Km. an average that is much faster than I used to run at. And it feels OK. I’m not finding it a real struggle and I’m not finding I’m on the edge of what I can do. A good indicator of where I am now is my rent long run at the end of week 2 – 17.06miles averaging 7:57 min per mile which, in a training run, is probably one if not the fastest run over 15 miles. And I still felt strong and could have carried on. My splits were good and I wasn’t flagging at the end.

So it’s going well. Im enjoying the training and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. Building the miles further and looking to see my pace hopefully improve a bit to underpin my hope of making my goal of a sub 3:30 marathon. Fingers crossed!

Dec 2019 Update:

Brighton 2019

2019 – my first Marathon year.

Brighton – April

3 Hours 44 min 7 seconds

Write Up here

2020 – the. 3:30 marathon experiment begins!

In 2020 I aim to try an push 15 minutes off my Marathon PB and go under 3Hrs 30min. For many that’s an easy target, for more thats far too fast – we all have different targets which are all as challenging and significant on a personal level. Mine just happens to be 3:30, yours might be 2:30 or 4:30 or 5:30 – we all have our own goals to work to.

I’ve drawn uo a training program using Excel which is based on the Runners Worlds Training program for a sub 3:30 marathon. The link for that Runners World training plan online is here:

https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/marathon/a760129/rws-ultimate-marathon-schedule-sub-330/

What I have done is prepare a spreadsheet with all my runs listed and then built a training program about delivering the ones I want to target for performing well at.

Currently my training program focusses on hitting Brighton Marathon on form for a sub 3:30 time. 16 weeks starting in the new year.

Over time I will build out the rest of the year too but for now, and for the purpose of this blog I am focussing on Brighton.

If you want to see the training program or wonder if my template might be useful then you can download it below.

Notes on the plan:

I have-it most sessions in as the below example:

1M/@9, 3x(0.5M/@6,200m@10),1M/@10

This translates as:

1 mile at 9min/mile followed by 3 repeats of – 0.5 miles at 6 min/mile then 200 metres at 10min/mile – cool down 1 mile at 10 min/mile

I have also included an adjacent column for the approximate total training time. For me thats also key as time is not so easy to find sometimes and knowing a good idea of the time I’m committing to a training session means I can better plan and work around training days.

I plan to put routine updates on this blog post during my training. Compare plan to actual, record general comments and how things feel. And hopefully come late April 2020 I can report on a successful marathon and breaking that 3:30 barrier.

Featured

The route through my first 100Km

How I handled my first Ultra Marathon

Having written a review of the Race to the Stones 2019 (LINK), I have now reflected more on what I did on the day and in the lead up to the race. The race was great and I really enjoyed it. The experience. was unbelievable and one I know I will repeat. In fact I have already booked my next ultra.

I recorded a video of my day as well which you can access below:

I then turned my mind back to the many months ago when the crazed idea of running an Ultra had leapt into my mind. At the time I had only run a Half Marathon, no further. My first marathon was booked, but would only be 3 months prior to the Ultra, so I had to get my self together for a race of immense scale, with little experience both physically and mentally. There was little that explained the urge to sign up, and there was even less in my head about how I was going to achieve what was needed to get to the start line. And when I get to the start line, what will I need to take? How will I strategise my refuelling? How will I feel? What will my body do?

When I set out on the journey I had no clue. I researched a bit, read a few books, surfed the internet and yes, there are loads of things out there. But everyone is different and knowing what parts of everyones experiences would relate to you was difficult. But what I did realise was that the more you read and look into it the more you realise that fact, that there is no text book to follow and listening, seeing, reading or understanding others ways of tackling this challenge helped me to get to that start line, believing I would be able to reach the finish line!

So you’ve read this far, I guess you want to know if it’s worth continuing. Well I hope you determine that its worth another minute or two, before you google stealth cats on youtube.

This is the summary of my experience.

Training

I decided that i would really try to train specifically for the ultra from the new year, 6 months of training. I also decided from research a few things:

  1. An ultra isn’t about pace and speed (not for me anyway) so lots of speed sessions are less important in your training sessions
  2. Long runs are key
  3. Tired runs are important to understand how your body responds to running when it feels tired and worn out.
  4. Ultimately the greater amount of distance you can build up in training then this will be a good base for an Ultra of 100Km

I had read about 80/20 running whereby you manage a lot of your sessions at an easy pace (about 80% of session time at an ‘easy’ pace). The remaining time (20%) you spend putting higher efforts in (intervals, fartleks etc). I liked the structure of this and how it gave each session a purpose. The book by Matt Fitzgerald (link. here) gives some structured training programs but only up to Marathon distance. I decided that I would follow this plan (actually level 2 for marathon distance) but for the long runs I would focus purely on long distance, ideally looking to build up to 50/60Km before race day.

I managed to achieve the training program, and 2 weeks before RTTS I managed a 52Km trail run – which was a really excellent preparation for the day. (Strava link)

Kit

The kit I wore to start was nothing special. I researched the weather and knew it wasn’t going to be cold, so dressed for a fair weather run. I also researched terrain. I run the Ridgeway routinely and had read some experiences people had written about RTTS previously and it was clear that unless the weather was significantly wet, the terrain is likely to be firm. Road shoes seemed a good plan – so I went with Brooks Levitate 2.

Running Bag

I used the Kalenji 10L trail bag. from. Decathlon. Its. a. great price and genuinely I’ve found it to be incredibly comfortable, good fitting and adjustable, with loads of storgage.

I packed a change of socks and a change of shirt, as well as a spare cap. – I always run with a cap.

Feet

This was my big concern. if I suffered blisters early on I could really suffer and that would then cause me problems for some time post race. I played around with a few strategies prior to race day, and viewed a few YouTube videos. I settled on using Zinc Oxide tape to tape the instep of both feet and wrap my big toes. nothing else was taped. I also put powder into my socks – Baby Talc – to keep my feet dry and provide a little more friction protection.

Walking Poles

I never intended to use these, and actually don’t own a pair. But having completed the race I would say for a runner it isn’t worth the effort of carrying them for the few times they might be helpful. But if its technique you really get comfort from, then poles for RTTS might suit you.

Other items in my pack

I packed some extra nutrition (see later), battery chargers for phones etc, head torch, first aid kit.

Nutrition

This is where I felt under prepared. firstly I wanted to run the race as much as I could. so I knew that I wasn’t going to go eat massive lunches of hot food. I thought I might grab a sandwich or something similar, but was really unsure of what to expect. Having not run such a length of race or time out, I didn’t know what my body would be asking for, what I would want and what I felt I might be able to manage.

I took water (1L) with SIS hydration tablets (500mL) and Tailwind (500mL). I took some additional tablets (SIS) and sachets (Tailwind) to use in refilling stations, so that I could be sure to get the salts and also the extra carbs/calories that Tailwind provides. I trained using both of these throughout the 6 months prior to the race. I didn’t;t want to rely on the High5 hydration tablets etc being stocked along the course in case they didn’t;t work for me or even upset me.

I took some flapjacks from Chia Charge which I adore and find easy to eat when on the move. Again, trained with these prior to racing.

The final two items I took were SaltStick fast chews and Dextrose tablets. Both of these I felt would help though I had limited training experience with them. In Brighton Marathon 3 months prior to the RTTS I suffered cramp towards the end of the race and I felt some additional Salt options would help, so SaltSticks seemed a wise plan. The dextrose tablets were there in case I felt a sugar low.

During the race

So during the race my strategy was:

  1. change socks and shirt around halfway
  2. stop at each aid station to manage pace and refresh
  3. drink minimum 500mL between each stop
  4. eat flapjacks maybe 1 per 2 aid stations
  5. eat sensibly from the stocks at the stations
  6. saltstick tablet every 2 stations

That was the plan and most of it worked that way.

I found that making myself consume the fluids I was carrying to have at least one fully empty flask at each aid station really worked, and during the day I really never felt dehydrated at all, even though it was a pretty warm run in the end.

I stopped at all but pitstop 1, I felt good so carried on – meaning I ran about 25Km before my first stop. I was out of liquid by that time, but that was the only time I was in real need of refuelling my stock.

As far as food was concerned, I found my body didn’t want it. I was consuming calories via tailwind and I ate over the course of the race 2 flapjacks. I did consume fruit: bananas, oranges and pineapple, but precious little else until Pit Stop 9 at 88Km. There I found malt loaf and immediately ate 3 small lunchbox sized packs ! I love malt loaf so …

I was concerned as to whether this would be enough, and on reflection I am surprised it was, but I felt good with it, I never felt weak – I felt worn out from running – but not week in a bad way.

Running Strategy

Though I planned to run as much as I could – and I pretty much did, I knew I had to pace things. I intended to walk most hills that would be a running struggle. little inclines OK to run, but larger hills I would walk. As a strategy this sounded common, but. a lot of people seemed to continue run the walking hills. Though they moved past me on the hill, I felt I routinely caught and overtook them after the hill levelled out. I was certainly trying to power walk the hills, but I still felt that as a strategy I saw too many people try and slow run the hills and clearly this was taking a lot out of them. I think the walk the hills was a good strategy, The challenge is to ensure you pick the right ones to run on. I missed a few I should have run, but there’s always next time!

Pace wise I was hoping to run 6min/km. This would then be reduced as an overall pace by the hill walk sections and pit stops. I generally run much faster but knew that this wasn’t the race to try and be speedy and break into fastest Km splits. I wasn’t;t far from this I think so was pretty pleased afterwards.

Psychology

I expected periods whereby my head started to tell the heart that the body was struggling and that maybe I was trying too much too soon. I got through to 50Km before this set in a bit. I didn’t;t really have a strategy to deal with it, but two things helped me, no make that three.

Firstly I kept picturing the moment of finishing the race, having my wife there to see me over the line and that sense of achievement that I would feel. To be honest I felt quite emotional when thinking this and on a couple of occasions had a bit of a tear in my eye moment.

Secondly I organised for my youngest children and wife to meet me around the 40 mile mark. Near the National Trust site of Uffington White Horse Hill. A place we knew well. This was a massive lift. Seeing them and having a brief run with my 5 year old was just one of the best experiences ever. It was only a short pause but the impact on my motivation and feeling that I would succeed was huge.

The final thing was something that I wasn’t expecting. I’m a lone runner normally, Always run on my own with the exception of organised events. However, at RTTS I fond a number of times I would chat with people and discuss the race and previous experiences. Amazingly I also met somebody I knew but hadn’t spoken to for over 10 years! Odd things happen when you run 100Km !!

The Recovery

Having completed the race the recovery was the next unknown. I had done 2 marathons by the time I reached the start of RTTS and for both I suffered with aching thighs, aching calfs and hated stairs for the first 48 hours post race. Legs were back to normal within 5 days.

For an Ultra I didn’t;t know what to expect but my strategy was this:

  1. Keep moving – the day after the race I did some shopping, looked after the youngest children for a while and continued moving around. Stairs were an awkward inconvenience but manageable.
  2. Refuel – I ate sensibly, not excessive, but good healthy ‘normal’ food.
  3. I used ‘Aftermath‘ recovery shake from Bulk Powders which I really feel speeds up recovery
  4. I continued to use rehydration tablets in water once a day for the first 48 hours.
  5. I was back out running after 2 rest days. – 5Km
  6. Stretching on ret days after a race also helps and ensures you muscles get the best opportunity to recover quickly and healthily

Lessons Learnt

I was happy with how the race went. It exceeded my expectations, and I felt I coped well.

I would say these are the key things I would look to improve next time:

  1. More hill training – being stronger on hills would be great, but generally hill training helps build strength and stamina so is a good help in endurance running
  2. I would look to eat more – I didn’t suffer but. I was worried after the race that I consumed. very little on race day and in another circumstance I might have struggled a. lot more
  3. Tape feet more – my feet were in a really good state after the race but I got a few small blisters (3 I think) between my middle or little toes. I hadn’t taped these. So I would tape theses. I would. also consider. Injinji socks which are the glove like socks. I’ve bought some of these now to try!
  4. Such myself more. I felt afterwards that I could have pushed a bit more, I learnt. what my body can do and what my mind will do in retaliation, and in reflection I. think I. could have pushed more in some stages. without. it being detrimental to the overall race or my wellbeing.
  5. Don’t underestimate. the value of fresh top and socks, and the benefit of talking to others and engaging with other. runners – even if you are their on your own! you will find this all a boost.
  6. I want to do it again …

So that’s my story of what I did to complete RTTS 100Km in 13 Hours. I don’t think its spectacular, but. I am very proud of this as a first 100Km race. I am absolutely going back out there as well. I have already booked Race to the Tower 2020 and have my eye on a 100Km+ one day ultra as well which I will organise very shortly for early 2020.

Im absolutely bitten with the Ultra bug. They are the most amazing experience I can imagine in running and I know that I am meant to be out there running endurance races. Yes I;ll take it easy and ensure I stay safe, but there’s more miles in these legs yet.

Thanks for reading, and if you want to know anything else about my experience or what I learnt on the day feel free to message me via my facebook page ‘ridgeway runner’, or use my email nick@ridgewayrunner.com.

Featured

2 Years can take you a long way!

Ridgeway Runner, 2019

On the eve of my first Ultra marathon – The Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones 2019, I realised I’ve just gone past my second anniversary of having taken up running. I knew it was about June/July 2017 but I checked back on MapMyRun which I used when I started and realised that my first logged activity was the evening of the 25th June 2017. A 2.11Km run around the park outside my house – one of the motivational aspects of getting me running int he first place.

That first run nearly killed me, looking back it was only 2Km, at a pace of nearly 7min/Km but it was real hard. Now I look at it and thin how things have changed over that two years. I now comfortably run in the sub 5min/Km pace for half marathons, and 5:15min/Km pace for marathons. the idea of trying to run at near 7min/Km pace for me is now something that I simply couldn’t do!

The simple act of reflecting back on that run makes me very proud of what I have been able to achieve. I’ve literally come a long way, I now regularly look at UltraMarathons with a genuine consideration for signing up, I don’t think for long about running a marathon, and I regularly. run more than a half marathon on a Sunday morning for training.

Thats one hell of a world away from early 2017.

I’ve learnt quite a lot in the intervening period. I’ve often been a person that would start a hobby or interest and quickly lose interest. I’ve always liked my sleep and I’m a snacker. I hadn’t run since being at school some 20+ years before. There was no real reason why running would be a success. That, coupled with a 3 hour daily commute to work as a Director in a fast growing Cancer therapy development company in London and having four kids ranging from teen to newborn (back in early 2017) were all good reasons that this flash in the pan idea was doomed to failure.

It gives me great satisfaction and areal sense of achievement to think two years on I am still on the run! I’m still pulling on the trainers and putting the miles in. I have managed to balance my sleep and family time around the work demands and find a way to put up to 7.5 hours of running into a week on a regular basis.

I have a lot to be thankful for. My body has been welcoming to the idea of running – it could quite easily have said no chance – as a youngster I played a good deal of football and had real issue s with my knees. My doctor told me at the age of 14 I had ‘Old Mans Knees!’

So what does the next two years have in sight for me? More of the same with more endurance running I hope. I have truly been bitten by the long run bug. I loved a recent 50Km+ training run! So entering more Ultramarathons is very much part of my plan. I also hope to continue exploring areas such as the South West Coastal Path, The Cotswolds Way, South and North Downs way and also exploring more of the amazing countryside around me in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

Running has become an integral part of my life and I genuinely cannot envisage a life over the next few years without it. I have to trust that I look after myself and that I am lucky enough to avoid any significant injury or incident that makes this more difficult. But with luck and hopefully some good judgement, I plan to be lacing up my trainers and pounding the footpaths for some time to come.

Achievements:

  • London Big Half Marathon, 2018
  • 10K Henley Trail, 2018
  • Windsor Half Marathon 2018
  • Maverick Original Oxfordshire Half Marathon (and a bit) 2018
  • 10K Rivermead Reading 2018
  • London His Half Marathon, 2019
  • Brighton Marathon, 2019
  • Henley Trail Half Marathon, 2019
  • Hampshire Hoppit Marathon, 2019

Featured

Hampshire Hoppit Trail Marathon 2019

Photo gallery here.

The Hampshire Hoppit is trail run through the North Hampshire hills. On offer to budding trail runners is a Marathon and Half Marathon distance. I decided that this would be the best option for my second marathon and my first ever trail marathon.

From the offset the organisation is great. Some good communications from the organisers and good active facebook, twitter and web platforms to inform and engage with participants.

Number and race pack is collected on the day, with final instructions sent out a few days earlier. I was getting a bit nervous about having missed something as the final PDF of instructions only came out 3 days before race day, but at least you know the details are going to be up to date! To be fair the organisers did communicate this date about a week prior too.

The marathon was set to start at 9am. I was taking the whole clan with me for support, but also as the in-laws live int eh village of St Mary Bourne my wife was making a visit whilst I was trotting around in the country, and then coming back to see the finish. Journey to the race was, as you can imagine with 4 kids, a struggle and I only got to the registration tent 15 minutes before the race start. Not my preferred level of organisation. Im a bit of a worrier (I generally manage to hide it, but I don’t like being late!!). So I was in a bit of a mild flap that I was going to miss the start. No need to worry. I was ready on time, but the organisers made it clear that the start would be held if anybody was still registering or getting ready, so that’s really great and immediately put my mind at rest!

Ready for the race

So, number 266 was mine, bib fixed, vest on and thankfully sun out. Weather hadn’t been great in the run up (pardon the pun) to the race, but on race day it was simply spot on (maybe a tad too warm!), but I had the suncream and cap so all was good.

Going in to the race I was aware that this was a hilly course, and that there was ‘that’ hill at the start. I read on facebook a comment where somebody had asked ‘is the hill at the start runnable’ and the response was ‘it’s barely walkable’. OK! That really is a hill then! This was going to be an interesting challenge!!

Before the race my only marathon was Brighton in April this year (2019). I had completed it in 3 hrs 44 minutes. I had struggled on the final 6 miles and cramped at 25 miles. But I had a marathon time, and thought, given the hills, 4 hours on this one would be good. So the call to make the start line was made, I had 4 hrs in my mind and the family walked down the track a little to wave me off as the race started.

So race on, the course started in Kingsclere stables and then exited the stables/gallops area and off to the hills.

About 0.9Km in the first ‘barely walkable’ hill raised its head and there started the tail of the hills of the Hoppit.

‘Is it runnable?’
‘Runnable, it’s barely walkable!’
Elevation Plot of the Hampshire Hoppit Marathon, 2019
Hampshire Hoppit Marathon Route

So the elevation plot will give you some idea of the hills that lie ahead of any participant of the marathon. I think it’s fair to say that there really isn’t any flat sections, none, not 1! it’s either go up or down!

Top of ‘that’ hill

So I got to the top of the hill, even without the term running featuring, frankly a rope and climbing axe wouldn’t have been out of place!

Reaching the top was a relief, the pace picked up and I cracked on.

Not long after I hit aid station 1, and the ‘cup’ was the order of the day.

One of the excellent little features of the race was that the organisers decided to go cupless. I’ve run two races that have gone bottleless and seen varied success. Brighton Marathon had paper cups, they were fine once you learnt the pinch and pour technique. I also had a trail half in May that used plastic cups (not sure that’s exactly a real improvement on plastic bottles !!) and they were impossible., Pinch and pour resulted in pinch, split, splash! Anyway, the organisers of the HH decided to issue collapsable running cups to all for free. This in my mind was a genius idea. they were good little cups, worked well and branded as a memento. Well done guys, great decision.

The race then continued with some great scenery and some great (honestly!) hills. The aid stations were frequent and run by some excellent volunteers so keen to help and keep you fuelled and hydrated.

As the race went on the hills were constant. To be fair the elevation profile makes it look worse than it was. A lot of the ‘gentle’ hills feel flat based on the fact that there is the occasional steep one that stands out!

The Half Marathon starts at 10am and for a period it meets with the Marathon route and at this point I got a bit confused. reason being in a Marathon (or any other race for that matter) I make sense of my run and pace based on the people around me. When the two races merged there were a lot of additional runners around all of a sudden and it was hard to keep a track of the ones that were in the Marathon around me. That said it was not a real issue, apart from my pace was that little bit quicker than a good few of the HM runners at this point so there was a little more doing to be done. All the other runners though were fantastically accommodating and moved aside without any problem, thank you !

As I reached 20 miles I got a stitch, my fault! I do follow the rule that you don’t try a new thing (kit or food/drink) on race day. Always try things in training first. For some reason I was tempted by Pepsi on the aid station so pulled out the collapsable cup, filled up and slugged away. This was a mistake (and possibly my only niggly complaint) the Pepsi wasn’t flat, so the bubbles surprised me and I’m pretty sure gave me a stitch a little while later. But that’s life, you learn. So I cracked on, at 20/21 miles though another modest hill arose in front of me, and the discomfort of the stitch just meant I was down to walking this one! Im always disappointed when this happens, but to be honest, there were worse hills still to come!!

20/21 miles in and ‘Oh look, another hill’

Hill over, surely that’s the last. Erm Nope. I refer you to the elevation profile earlier. But you know what, it’s the hills that make this an amazing challenge and a fantastic race. The hills just go on until the last half mile pretty much. every turn when you think there surely cannot be another hill as the race is nearly over, they slip another in, just to keep you awake!

So the end arises. The finish arch appears in the distance and as you descend the final stretch (a descent that is pretty steep and isn’t as easy to run down as you would like!) the aches and pains disappear. I find a few more ounces of effort, push the pace as best I can and for one, finish the race with an actual smile on my face.

Is that really the end! Please say yes !!!!

Thankfully my family had made it back from the visiting the inlays to see me finish which was great. I always get a real buzz from having family there to watch.

I had finished, I completed it in a little over 3Hr 49mins and was so happy. Only a few minutes outside the Brighton time, but given those hills that to me is a massive win!

So race over, but that’s not the end!

The Hampshire Hoppit isn’t called the Hoppit for fun. A significant benefit of this race is that as part of the reward for surviving you get a pint (marathon) or half-pint (half marathon) glass. And the real bonus is the free fill of Hoppit Ale from the Lodden Brewery near Reading. Now I might have just completed a marathon, but that is a might fine ale!!!!

So, Hampshire Hoppit, thank you for an amazing day. The race is a real challenge but such a stunningly stout race with amazing views and hills on hills that it was a delight to be able to take part. The volunteers were amazing and helped make the day spot on. The medal, glass, T-Shirt and general feel before and after was perfect, and you even organised for about the only sunny day in June so far!

I’ll be back without doubt.

And finally, we all know that a marathon is tiring and the last thing you need is a long walk to the car afterwards….

Inov8 TerraUltra G270 – The first 100 miles

TerraUltra G270

Firstly, these are one of the first times I’ve bought ‘new’. This was bought on the day of release and I paid the full price. Not my normal way, I’ll normally go for a previous model at a cheaper price. But with these the improvements were really key for me and I felt if I was going to go for the TerraUltra, it would need to be the G270.

So 100 miles (well 96) done and what do I think?

Well they are simply stunning. I cannot say enough about how highly I rate these.

They are designed for long run, properly long ultra length runs.

I’ve worn them (apart from the first 10 mile taster) on 20 miles and up.

I’ll start at the top, and work down.

The laces are good, simple but good. they stay tight, grip when being sone up and help anchor the shoe nicely.

The upper is very flexible and comfortable. The material doesn’t always clean well but it is a very comfortable upper.

The heal and sides of the foot around the ankle get a good deal of support in this shoe and you feel really well supported.

The shoe is wide, the widest width Inov8 do (level 5 out of 5). This was a reservation on my part as I’m an. average width foot person and was worried this would slip around all over the place. In reality there is nothing of this. With a bit of adjustment, the placing and the upper really anchor the foot into the shoe and the width of the toe box is generous and really comfortable. The width is intended to steal with expanding feet over long runs, and I can see this would be a fantastic feature as runs stretch on. The rubbing fear came to nothing and the idea the foot would move about, simply was unfounded. My foot feels at home in these shoes.

The insole is a piece of magic, with cushioning beads fo foam to provide a more comfy run to the predecessor (according to Inov8). the shoe certainly has good comfort over long runs and feet don’t feel tired.

Drop. This shoe is a zero drop shoe. I’ve never run in zero drop shoes and feared the change would give discomfort in the calf and thighs. But nothing. These just feel quick and easy and I don’t find they have had any negative impact given the zero drop. Of course some people are more suited to the zero drop than others, and maybe I’m just one of those that it suits.

Sole and grip. The ‘G’ relates to graphene which is integrated in the sole to give durable grip. In my experience the grip is great. On the South West Coastal Path in Cornwall I found the grip was great on damp rocks, gravel, paths and grass. really giving me a confident run, including running the path in the rain. It also seems pretty durable. 100 miles has certainly given it some wear but not much and hopefully the shoes will be good for a whole many more miles.

Overall I think these could be quite possibly the best Trail shoes you could want. (yes I know I have only tried a few – so make of that as you wish). I will be using them on trail miles of 20 and above and my ultra’s I have in the plan over the coming months (sadly less than I would have hoped but hey 2020 is what it is !

As I said at the start, the idea of paying full price for a shoe is often reason enough to look back at old versions. In this case I couldn’t be convinced to part with these and am very pleased I took the decision to. enter the Inov8 fold.

These sit proudly and happily alongside my Roclite 300’s.

16-week 50-mile ultra-marathon training schedule

Want to run an ultra marathon? In 16 weeks, this training plan will get you ready to run 50 miles.
— Read on www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/ultra/a774983/16-week-50-mile-ultra-marathon-training-schedule/

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 2020

Im not really a fan of virtual racing, I enjoy the atmosphere of an event and run races for that feeling. medals are great too, but running virtual events to get a medal has never grabbed my attention. That was until 2020 happened. COVID-19 has a lot to answer for!!

With the impact of cancellations and postponements of events on my 2020 running plans I started to think 2020 was going to be a forgettable year for running achievements.

Then in my Facebook feed I saw an advert for Runners World, referencing virtual event being hosted by Lazarus Lake. It was a virtual event to travel the distance across Tennessee, coming in around 635 miles or about 1021 Km. Of course in true Laz style it was called a 1000Km virtual event !!

Now I like running, you might have noticed. But that sort of distance is a bit bonkers. I was hitting the 200 miles a month or so level when I saw the advert, but this was not normal for me. More 150 miles a month is my level, but the lockdown was doing funny things to my running distances. And maybe was fogging my mind – so of course I signed up. When I then started reading, I saw that this wasn’t just a 635 mile event. It was an endless event, meaning there was the option of reaching the finish, and then returning – 1270 miles. OK you had 4 months to finish it but seriously Nick, that’s ridiculous. So of course I immediately set my personal target of reaching the finish after 2 of the 4 months, giving me a realistic chance of reaching the start line again. What had I done!!

Bring on the miles

So then the race starts, the miles begin and I. have to lay down 10.3 miles on average every day for. 2 months to make this initial finish line goal.

My Stats:

MayJune
Miles335.94301.97
Calories32,51826,721
Time elapsed2966 minutes2809 minutes
Number of activities3829
Elevation gain3,053 m3,123. m

Lockdown limitations

I started the race on the treadmill, lockdown still in force meaning that getting out was something I wasn’t;t comfortable on too much unless I could be confident of being out in the middle of nowhere. As lockdown restrictions began to lift I managed to build more time out in my comfortable place. The trails around South Oxfordshire, UK. And where possible out on the Ridgeway National Trail, Home of the Race To The Stones Ultra.

During May and June I simply had to dig deep. Achieving mileage like never before. I have been lucky to remain injury free, and with lockdown and working life in particular changing I was able to find more time to run, when normally I would be on a train travelling to work. I know what I prefer!!

I reached 20 June in a good place, but wasn’t able to run that weekend, that left me 115 miles to get in 9 days. So I decided (yes another crazy idea) to run the final full week as a 100 mile week. I had only ever hit 78 miles a couple of times so this was another crazy decision so late in June. But if I didn’t I felt achieving my 30 June target was lost.

100 mile week

This week was the hardest week.

I planned 15, 15, 15, 10, 10, 10, 25 miles giving me no rest day. But it was hard. The first 3 days went OK, with the two day weekend break I was fresh and energised. When I hit Thursday though I struggled. An evening run and I only managed 8 and a bit miles, that tied with being a little short earlier in the week (which was me being lazy) left me needing the full marathon distance come Sunday. No sweat, knocked out a few recently – but not at the end of a week where I had already run 73+ miles!!

Needless to say I got to the 29 June needing 15 miles to close out the job. I took the 29th as a rest and took the finish line on the 30th. I’m relieved to have achieved it and I have now learnt my first buckle – something I’m really excited about!

Within 24 hours I received an email from Laz giving me the link to sign up for the return journey. Well, rude not to, isn’t it?

Running this as I did taught me a lot. I have the ability to push hard, I can endure high mileage and stay committed to a cause, even when it is virtual event. I learnt the importance of treating recovery with respect and being more active in that phase of my running. I also learnt that pace is important to control, I felt it on days after I had run hard, and in they event that wasn’t required, that was annoying but I learnt the pace that works well for me to do my best, but also be able to go on and on.

Most. of all I learnt that there are a lot of similar people out there that are just crazy when it comes to running distance. No matter how far people ran, no matter how quickly they crossed Tennessee and no matter how quickly some of them yo-yo’d across the state knocking miles out like they were millimetres there are so many winners out there in that event, over 19,000 of them. Many of them took on their own challenge in this event, and that’s what made it so great. For those that run for fun they can clock the miles, and those that are more modest in their distance abilities, they can run with others virtually, and achieve goals that they would never have thought possible.

#GVRAT1000km

Nike Pegasus 36 – The first 100 Miles

The Nike Pegasus has been updated to the 37 – and that means the 36 can be found at some bargain prices. But is it any good?

I’ve given this blue pair a run around for a couple of weeks, clocking up 100+ miles, so thought I would give my feedback.

Fit

As with the 35, I find the 36 needs to be a half to full size up from normal day-to-day shoes. The upper is nice, sift woven material and wraps the foot really well. The support around the. ankle, heel and achilles is comfortable and supportive. It gave me a feeling of confidence on the shoe. That it was working with me.

What I did notice was that, compared to the 35, this shoe sits wider across the forefoot. whilst that isn’t a problem per se I did find for me that the upper gathers a little near the lowest lacing point due to this wider fit. It took a couple go goes to get the laces right and to avoid this gathering up. But I got there.

The shoe tongue is minimal. I always expected fat, padded tongues in my shoes, but this one is almost paper thin, but it works.

Comfort

Above the points in ‘Fit’ the shoe is very comfortable. The feel between sole and road is good, there is some spring and cushioning, but I didn’t feel that there was too much. I felt connected to the road and it didn’t have that Hoka like cushioning which some like.

It’s a road shoe so rocky trails are not it’s bread and butter and not surprisingly it can be a little uncomfortable on slightly stony trails. Gravel is fine, much bigger than that and you’ll feel it!

Traction and Grip

The Nike shoe has a minimal looking grip. but after 100 miles of running roads and light trails, it’s shown next to no wear. Which is quite impressive. Theres a few marks on the foam sections between the rubber, but given that I’ve run light stoney trails in this show that is expected.

Speed

I really find this shoe a fast shoe to use. I often feel surprised when I look at the post run data and see the pace and splits. It’s no sub 2 hour marathon shoe, but compared to my other road shoes, this feels easier to run fast in.

Overall

Well, considering that I got these shoes for around £55 I am very happy so far. Good look, comfortable, speedy and seemingly long lasting.

2020 The year that needn’t have bothered… (Part 1)

Or should it?

I think we could all be excused for thinking 2020 was going to end up a whitewash when Coronavirus hit and life as we know it changed.

There are obviously lots of negatives about the impact of COVID-19 and it has been a terrible global event. One we would all prefer to not see repeated soon. To compound all the health implications we all saw many of our day-to-day activities/expectations get taken away. Just when having an escape mechanism to get yourself immersed in, many of them were taken away.

As Spring continued and as a runner many of the plans that had been made become blurred, changed, postponed or cancelled it was hard to see what running ambitions and goals would remain.

Maverick Buckinghamshire 21Km trail- Postponed twice

Reading Half – Postponed

Brighton Marathon – Postponed

Isle of Wight Ultra – Postponed – Now Cancelled

Oxfordshire Epic 10Km – Postponed

Race to the Tower Ultra- Cancelled

Temple Trail Ultra – Cancelled

Bournemouth Half – Still On ?

Great South Run – Still On?

When it comes to running I, like many, enjoy having the target of a race or event to focus the mind and provide motivation. Having everything cancelled or postponed for 2020 could have been an excuse to find the running shoes gathering dust in the cupboard, and seeing all the good from 2 1/2 years of running – in terms of weight, physical form and real escapism washed away and lost.

I started the pandemic optimistic. I usually see things as ‘glass half full’. So when things started going awry, I tried to remain optimistic that events that were just ‘shuffling around the calendar’ would still go ahead. I tried to keep an eye on marathon training. I tried to carry on as normal.

I’ve always been an early runner, getting up at 5:30am to run before then commuting to work etc. Working my running around family and work time. Initially I thought, yes! lie in. Get up later do the same and then all is well. But with young kids they then get ups before I can get out to run, and I feel a bit bad about getting up and going for a run when my wife is already up with the kids. So that wouldn’t work. So I had to still get up early. But not needing to commute meant I could consider running longer on a weekday morning. An interesting thought. Normally 6 miles on a weekday, was looking like I could push to maybe 10? Maybe more!!

So there started my first challenge. If I can run races I can see if I can break the monthly ceiling I had scraped but not reached, which was 200 miles. I got this landmark a little bit before Race to the Stones 2019.

March 2020 – 200.2 Miles

April 2020 – 250.9 Miles

So that was a pretty good feeling. A nice and kind of easy enough goal to reach given this new found morning time to run further.

Whilst my target was breaking 200 miles in a month, maybe for you it’s 200Km, maybe its 50Km. We all have a ‘most miles/Kms in a month’ value. Whatever that is, setting a new ‘best’ always has the possibility of putting a smile on your face.

But just distance for the sake of distance isn’t exactly a stimulating motivator, it’s also something that has it’s limits. Both physically for me, and also time wise. Yes I can do more morning miles, but I have to work, I have family time I don’t want to miss out on, and I need to make sure that my wife isn’t a running widower.

So that’s why I tried to beet some PBs too.

But that’s for another blog post …

Inov8 Roclite 300

The first 100 miles

“““““““““`It’s mid June and I’ve now crossed through the first 100 miles in the Roclite 300. 113 miles to be precise.

So far the feedback has been good. The shoes were instantly comfortable. Inov8 shoes have 5 width sizes and the Roclite 300 is a size 3, or ‘average’ width I guess. These for me fit well and compare comfortably to standard width Brooks and Nike.

The Roclite has a good upper and wraps the foot well. It gives a feeling of your foot being well supported in the shoe, especially the toe box, and the fit across the top of the foot is great.

The tongue is not overly thick and the laces colourful but nothing overly exciting to write about. The laces doe at least stay tied, something that not all other shoe’s I’ve had have managed!!!

In the heel these have the ‘X’ shaped support and this is really good. Your heel feels supported and locked in. There’s no movement and having run 3 marathons in these shoes now in their first few weeks, they hold their position and avoid rubbing and friction well.

The shoes themselves are not a very cushioned shoe, and coming form a Brooks Cascadia/Glycerin shoe you notice this quite clearly. That takes a little to get used to and is noticeable in the wearing of the shoe. I’ve decided to up the insole quality and gone for the new Enertor insoles to give a little more response and cushion. These fit the shoe well and provide a bit more cushion and response without making the shoe dull.

Grip wise the shoe promises a lot. It’s designed for firm rocky terrain, and was recommended to me by Inov8 themselves for mixed terrain running using roads and hard packed trails. They do have other shoes in this category as well but they often appear to be a wider fit, which I was dissuaded from trying.

The lugs are good and deep and on loose surfaces and general trails they hold well, giving good grip. They are also road comfortable. Even with the deep lugs they don’t feel like a tractor wheel on a race track and are pleasant to run in for those runs where you have to include mixed surfaces.

So far my only criticism is the wear. The rear lugs are showing quite a bit of wear already that I just don’t normally see with the other shoes I’ve used. I’m going to keep an eye on that and see how it goes. I like to get 500 + miles from a pair of shoes and at the moment I’m unsure if these will make that!

Overall, a great shoe, good value and comfortable. Well placed for trails, mixed surfaces and equally as comfortable on the road. They hold the foot well, give great ankle support, and, in my opinion, are a great looking shoe. There is a question over sole durability but I’ll see what things look like as I pass the 200/250 mile wear point. A really good option to consider for your next trail shoe.

Staying in? Some top documentaries and films about running that are worth a look 👍

Follow the link below to a great collection of documentaries and short films about some of the most amazing runners and endurance events you could imagine. Some great entertainment if you are finding yourself locked up inside for one reason or another!!

www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a20856267/the-best-running-documentaries/