MARATHON TRAINING – WEEK TWO

As time passes by the training continues. At the time of writing this there are 104 days to go until the Milton Keynes Marathon takes place. Sounds like a lot of time. This is over three months or fourteen weeks to go. It is, however, surprising how quickly time seems to pass. I have several events to take part in during this period and I am looking forward to each of them. Everyone will be an adventure.

Meanwhile reflecting on the past week I can say it has been interesting and ended in excitement.

Monday – Rest Day. The first day of the week is planned to be a rest day. Having just ran a long distance on the Sunday I firmly believe that both the body and the mind need time to recover and relax. Therefore the plan is to put your feet up, sit back, and relax. REST = NO RUNNING. This is an excellent opportunity to sit at the computer and do “homework”, e.g. write the blog and chill out. This week it did not entirely go according to plan. Not sure what happened but did not write my blog. Did some “unofficial (top secret – shush, don’t tell anyone) work” from home along with other things.

Tuesday – Easy Run. First day of the week to put on the trainers and run. Target on the plan is for an easy three miles run. It was a nice day, cold but not raining and with sunny spells. I went up and around the boundary of a local golf course (the Windmill Hill Golf Course) and got a bit carried away. I ended up doing 4 miles and a bit too speedy. It felt good but a lesson I keep learning is that I have got to be more disciplned with my running. Distance = 4.2 miles. Pace = 8:32 mins/mile.

Wednesday – Active Rest Day. Every Wednesday evening I attend a core training session led by Clean Coach Katie. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy these. They are good exercise focusing on the core and we tend to have a good laugh whilst working out. This week, however, there was no core session for me due to a run meeting that evening (Redway Runners Move on up to Half Marathon). Along with other runners from the club I am co leading a planned course to help and assist runners to move up to a half marathon. The target event is the Milton keynes Half Marathon that occurs on the same date as the marathon. Other activity for the day involved some stretching (whilst doing the ironing), some weight training, and working up a sweat cleaning the oven (and replacing the oven light). Surprising how hot you get with your head in an oven.

Thursday – Intervals. This week was hill repeats. Intervals are my least favourite type of run. I cannot explain why but they just seem like a chore and take the enjoyment out of running. Perhaps it is because they are a disciplined run (a set time, pace, distance, etc). Or is it because they are hard work? Anyway the day was a nice sunny day although a cold temperature (approximately 3°C). I went out late in the morning and started with a short warm up. Then the hard work started. It was four repeats up and down Wincanton Hill (a local road on the estate I live on with a ½ mile distance with a climb of 80 feet). Admittedly it was a struggle at first but got into it and (dare I say it) I enjoyed the run. Followed by a short cool down run. Distance = 4.2 miles. Pace =  9:05mins/mile.

In the afternoon there was a little extra run. I arranged to meet Sue (my wife) in central Bletchley. I initially thought about getting a bus into the centre of town but decided against it. It was still a nice sunny day. Therefore I ran into Bletchley centre to meet Sue. Again I enjoyed the run and got some starnge looks from people who were walking around the high street when they saw me running in shorts on a cold sunny winters day. I wondered if people from Bletchley had ever seen someone running before? Distance = 2.4 miles. Pace = 8:51mins/mile.

Physical Training – My wonderful wife had gifted me for my birthday last year a course of physical training with Clean Coach Katie –
https://cleancoachkatie.com – I had attended one session at the end of August 2018. Then there was a nasty cycling accident at the beginning of September which resulted with me receiving a fractured skull (another story for the blog). This was to be my first PT session following the accident. My nerves were kicking in – I was feeling apprehensive and was concerned how the session would progress and how would I cope. I need not have worried. Katie was very understanding and the session was good. A couple of times I struggled with my balance due to the nature of the exercise at the time but overall I felt good and there were no adverse effects. So I can safely say that I am looking forward to the next workout. Katie also provided some advice regarding my training plan. Did you know that recovery runs should take place within twenty four hours of a long run? I was not aware. All mine were two days after. My plan has been amended. Recovery runs have now become “easy runs”.

Friday – Rest Day. Easy does it. Rest up and get ready for running at the weekend.

Saturday – Easy Run. As always we ran the local parkrun in Milton Keynes. This was an easy going parkrun with Sue. I was saving the legs for the following day (Sunday) as there was a 10 miles distance to run. The parkrun took us 36 minutes to finish. Nice and gentle without any pressure. Distance = 3.1 miles. Pace = 11:25mins/mile. The parkrun was followed by the Beginners Group, which I am co-leading with Annette. We appear to have recruited a great bunch of enthusiastic runners. It has been noticed that they are very lively and good humoured. This week was about running for a minute with a minutes rest for six repeats. Not a moan or a grumble was received. We started with the compulsory warm up and ended with the cool down. The last interval was for one and a half minutes and eveyone did it. This was all about just starting to run – easy going, no pressure for speed or distance. Distance =  0.7 miles. Pace = 9:08mins/mile.

Sunday – Fred Hughes 10 miles run in St Albans. This as my first event for this year and also my first event following the nasty cycling accident. It was a cold day, 1°C, a sunny frosty morning with very little wind.

I was feeling nervous, and excited. I had run nine miles last weekend but for some reason when it is an event my nerves still start playing up. I have been running for over three years and have taken part in many events but it is always the same. Then there is the excitement. Any event I take part in excitement kicks in. I see it as my body and mind getting ready for the run. The course is a tough and hilly route around the country lanes around St Albans.

Fortunately there were several of us from the running club taking part so there was plenty of support and encouragement. We made our way to the start line, a good ten mnute walk. It was a very congested start to the race. There was a narrow path to follow with many runners jostling for space. It took a good mile before runners started to space out and it took a while for me to get into the run. My head was a bit out of focus for a while but after a few minutes it settled and I got into the run and enjoyed it. It was hard work to keep running up hills but felt good coming down hill. Running up hill my thoughts were “take it easy, don’t push too hard, maintain and even cadence, shorten the stride”. Down hill was “lengthen the stride, use gravity to assist, keep my arms low and wide to help with balance, don’t get carried away”.  The unexpected bonus for me was that I attained a new personal best for 10 miles = 01:30:09 (three minutes quicker than my last PB). This was not my intention as I had viewed this purely as a training run but I am delighted. I was worn out at the end and took a little time to focus and recover but gladly and proudly received my new T Shirt for the Fred Hughes 10 Miles 2019.

Distance = 10 miles. Average pace = 8:55 mins/mile. Very pleased with the result.

I now wonder – what if it was a relatively flat course? Could I have gone quicker? I paused for thirty seconds at the water stations to take on hydration. If I kept running what time would I have achieved?

Questions pop ino your head when you analyse a run. Again, this is a problem I have. I am my own worst critic……

Target distance for the week was 19 miles. Actual distance for the week was 24 miles.

A Fascination for Steam Engines.

West Country Class Express Engine, Lord Dowding, No 34052. Originally Named Braunton, No 34046, It was renamed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated and admired steam engines. Whether it is a main line express engine or a small industrial locomotive they have always enthralled me.

This all comes about from an early age when we always seemed to be looking at and watching steam locomotives.

My family have history and connections with the railways. My grandfather worked on the railways on the East Coast mainline. He clearly had a fondness for the engines. I remember clearly when visiting my grandparents there were numerous books about the railways and we often went on walks via the local railway station and stood to watch the trains pass by.

An A4 pacific locomotive pulling an open wagon goods train at Sandy, Bedfordshire.

My father has always been a steam enthusiast. He speaks of days when he would go train spotting when he was a boy, and it seems he never got out of the habit. His enthusiasm has clearly passed onto me.

Hornby model of the Mallard A4 pacific engine, No 4468.

Model railways have always been present in my life. When I was a boy, I was introduced to the pleasure of making a layout and running the trains and today I have a collection of model trains. Regretfully they are hiding in our attic, but it is my hope to have a permanent layout one day.

Llangollen Railway Station on the Llangollen Heritage Railway.

I love visiting heritage railways to see steam engines in action. It is difficult to explain but the noise, smells, motion of pistons, clatter of coaches and wagons, even the workings of the track and signalling still have me enthralled.

It still amazes me when you consider that so much railway was constructed during the industrial revolution. So much has disappeared, and yet it is a pleasure to find and explore places where the railways were constructed. Discovering our industrial past gives me great pleasure. I study old maps to find old railway lines and use current maps to see if anything remains.

Great Linford and Bradwell Railway Stations, Milton Keynes.

In Milton Keynes we have an old railway line that is now a Redway (a path for cyclists and pedestrian). The old Wolverton to Newport Pagnell line. There are still remnants of the railway past and it makes for an excellent route to go running. So I can do two past times that I love at the same time. Exploring an old railway whilst going for a run. Absolute bliss for me.

Race the Train at the East Lancs Railway in Bury, Lancashire.

I shall never forget an amazing experience of Racing a Train last year. This was made possible by a dear friend – https://savagemumruns.wordpress.com/ – who gifted me the opportunity to do the run. It occurred at the East Lancs Railway in Bury, Lancashire. On arrival we discovered we would be running against the Union of South Africa, an A4 streamlined pacific locomotive. I am not going to bore you with details of the engine, its history, and heritage, but suffice to say that it was a fantastic experience that I will not forget. Thank you. Read about the adventure in her excellent blog – https://savagemumruns.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/savagemum-races-a-train/

The Mallard, No 4468, in the National Railway Museum, York. (Credit to K. Platt for the photo)

I find the way how railways and steam engines evolved fascinating. From the very early days of steam traction and the engineers (Richard Trevithick, George Stephenson, et al) through to the time when steam was being replaced with diesel and electric locomotives, right up to today.

Not forgetting the pinnacle of steam engine achievement with the Mallard locomotive creating the world record for steam engine speed in July 1938, achieving a speed of 126 miles per hour.

The commemorative plaque on the side of the Mallard.
Tornado, No 60163, at Milton Keynes Central Railway Station, April 2013.

From the first days of steam railways, right through to the present-day they have always commanded admiration, fascination, excitement, and awe. Even today, the Tornado mainline express steam engine (which was only constructed ten years ago), and the Flying Scotsman engine along with others draw large crowds when they are working, and I love being one of the crowd.

Steam trains and engines will always be working. They will always be popular and create an attraction. Heritage railways are becoming more and more popular as the years pass by and crowds are drawn to a railway line if there is a steam train passing.

May it always continue……..

TRAINING PLANS FOR RUNNING – WHY?

Why have a training plan? This is a question that has been asked on many occasions. It was a question that I asked in the early days of my running.

I asked the question to my oracle (advisor and run and social manager, loving, supportive, and adoring wife) and her response was quick and decisive – “You can’t just rock up to a race and run it well without one”.

This made me think… How many times have I competed in an event and not been happy with my result? Why did this happen? What went wrong? On numerous occasions I did not have a training plan. I just turned up assuming I was fit, prepared, and ready. Why did I think this way? Because I did a lot of running.

Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon May 2017

I used to think that if you were going to take part in an event you just went out running and gradually built your strength to complete the distance. But how often do you run? How do you keep track of what you have done? How do you know how far and how often you run? Do you run different types of running? Can you see any progress in your running? Is it just about running or are there other activities you should do? How do I fit it in with my family, work, and social life?

There are many questions we ask when registering for an event. Whether it is a 5km parkrun, or 26.2 miles marathon, or 100 miles ultra. Many questions come into our minds.

Bournemouth Marathon October 2017

This is when a training plan comes into good effect. It helps by answering many of our questions. It informs us about what we should be aiming for when training for an event. It provides structure to our training. It helps and supports us when we have an event to compete in. A good training plan provides variety to your runs. It makes us accountable. It enables us to plan our lives around our running (or should it be to plan our running around our lives?).

Something to bear in mind – we are all individual, we are all different. There are so many training plans available it is tempting to go with a general plan for the distance you are running. These are readily accessible on the internet and in books and magazines. I am not knocking them and have used them myself in the past. What they fail to deliver is individualism. They usually assume we are all the same and capable of running the same distances on the same days. Last year I followed a generic online Asics marathon training plan and I must admit it took the fun out of running for me.

Milton Keynes Marathon May 2018

Most of the training in the preceding weeks occurred during miserable and very cold weather. I had followed a nutrition and hydration plan to get me ready. The marathon took place on an unusually very hot day in May and half way round I was ready to quit. At the end my legs were like jelly and I could hardly stand up. I swore I would never run a marathon again. At the time I just thought that I had done everything expected and required but still could not run a marathon. This was going to be my third and my last marathon (or so I thought at the time).

This is where a tailored made individual plan comes into great use. It is designed for you, not for everyone else. It considers your lifestyle, running experience, your pace. It helps with your routine and structures your training runs. A structured training plan will ensure that every run you do has a purpose, whether it’s a hard workout or simply an easy recovery run. It will also encourage us to do runs working on our weakness that we do not enjoy (in my case this is interval running and speed runs). This also adds the variety to your running.

Current Training Plan for the 2019 Milton Keynes Marathon

My own current training plan is one which has been designed for me by me. I am not an expert, but I have sought guidance and researched training plans in some depth. It is a plan that has been developed overtime with the knowledge and experiences that I have acquired. I am currently waiting on some feedback from a very trusted friend, but I am confident it delivers what I need for the training for the Milton Keynes Marathon in May this year (after I had sworn never to run another marathon).

A few friends have asked me for some help and advice, and I have felt honoured and privileged to create training plans for them to prepare for events. To date there has been no moans or complaints and they have completed the events. It makes me feel proud and appreciative that they trust me for help and advice, but I am prouder for my friends who worked hard and have crossed the finish line. I feel this will be the subject of a future blog…. mentoring.

My biggest problem is probably being too ambitious in my own training runs by entering several events en route to the marathon. On top of this I may need to re think the planned interval runs – make them more varied to help build speed and strength.

The three marathons that I have run have their own stories. The first in Liverpool was fun, the second in Bournemouth I hit the wall and my legs gave way, and the third in Milton Keynes I just wanted to quit half way round. I look back and analyse my training and the runs and just pull them apart and criticize them.

Maybe this is a problem I have. I am my own worst critic…..

Write a blog they said….

I have had it said to me that I should write a blog. This makes me wonder why and what should I write about? I am a keen runner, I have a fascination for steam engines, and I have spent my working life in the public sector within custodial institutions. What could I possibly write about?

Perhaps a little background scenario may help.

Running in the local parkrun with my lovely wife.

Running – My running adventures started just over three years ago. I reluctantly joined a local running club after some encouragement from my lovely wife. My interest and enthusiasm for running had been non existent prior to this. At first it was a battle to put the training shoes on and join in with the running activities but, surprisingly, I soon got to enjoy the running. We both joined in with a beginners group for running with the local running club. Within a couple of weeks I was hooked. Three and half years later and after numerous events, including marathons and half marathons, I love running and have become a run lead and have had the privilege and honour to be a mentor for other runners. I am now in training for another marathon. It is my plan to blog about my adventure to complete this event, giving some hints and tips along the way.

60009 Union Of South Africa

Steam Engines – I have had a fascination with steam engines from my earliest memories. The looks, motion, sound, and smells have always intrigued me. There is something amazing in their design and engineering and when the engines are in motion belching out clouds of steam and smoke for me it is an amazing experience and sight to see. It is in my blood. Older generations of the family worked on the railways in steam days, some of my earliest memories are seeing steam trains, my life has been full with railways. It is fair to say that I am a steam train enthusiast and love to visit heritage railways. I have been known to stand by a main railway line waiting for a steam special to pass by. Steam trains will chuff into my blog on occasions.

In uniform

Public Sector Work – My working life has been inside custodial institutions. My career in Her Majestys Prison Service commenced in 1981, directly after leaving school, and ended in 2014, when I retired. A total of thirty three years in custody. It has been a long and illustrious career during which I have worked in different establishments in different roles and witnessed many changes in the prison service. There have been good times, happy times, sad times, and some truly dreadful times. My experiences in a public service may be boring to some, but I hope to others they are interesting, and perhaps give some hope and insight into what it is like to work in a prison.

So, in answer to my initial question, it looks like the blog is going to be about running, steam engines, and reflecting on my life in the prison service.

This could be interesting……..