Sometimes you have those moments in life where everything slots into place and for a short while it feels like the puzzle is complete. The last 7 days have been precisely one of those moments and I’m going to keep surfing the wave for as long as a I can so make no apologies if this post is very happy and positive!
Broadway marathon 2016 goal achieved
Last week was my last week working for a company I’d worked for since graduating 11 years ago. I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and been job searching for the past month which I can confirm is exhausting when you have a family and a day job to keep going too. But last Tuesday I was offered a new job that is just perfect, no commute and a really good role that will challenge me. Already a great week hen on Sunday I took on the Broadway marathon 2016, a final goal race for the year and one where I’d racked up more miles than ever training for. My goal was sub 4 hours and a top 10 finish and I smashed it finishing in 3:53:49 for 5th place. I’ve never been in the top 20 of a race before let alone the top 5, so bloody happy.
I’ve used the Hanson method for the first time to train for the Broadway marathon this weekend, clearly I need to wait and see what the result is in the race but from a training perspective it has felt awesome and really clicked for me. But it is a plan aimed at road marathons given how the pacing’s work for the various sessions so I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I’ve adapted the plan for a trail marathon.
What is the Hanson method?
If you haven’t come across the Hanson method before I do recommend buying the book on Amazon and having a read. At the very least it’ll get you thinking about your approach to training even if you don’t follow one of their plans. In essence their approach is all about building fatigue in your legs so that when it comes to your long run you are tired. The longest run you do is 16 miles but it should feel like the final 16 miles of the marathon given the running you’ve done in the days before it. There is also a big emphasis on different paces with easy runs truly being easy and then strength and tempo work done around marathon pace.
I’m a structured person, I like plans, lists, goals, meeting minutes, good queuing etiquette. I’ve tried the ‘take it as it comes’ approach and honestly it makes me uncomfortable and stresses me out. I can cope with freedom within a framework as my corporate colleagues would call it, some rules and limits to guide with freedom in between but that’s it. This applies in particular to running and training, I love setting some big goals and then building a plan to try and achieve them. Just drifting along without some structure for when/how far/how fast just makes me feel I’m wasting time and not achieving anything. Sure I have periods of training where I don’t have a training plan and instead just enjoy being out running/cycling/swimming but those periods are planned and designated as ‘holiday’ periods, you see, freedom in a framework!
I’m also not a prolific racer, I like setting a big single goal and then focusing everything on that rather than flitting between races. Setting that s There is something so interesting about the process of developing your fitness in this way, trying different approaches to training to see which gets the best results and fine tuning with each iteration. I think it also helps that a big part of my motivation for training is mental health, this is my time for reflection and de-stressing, so I don’t mind the long periods of training alone.
If I could summarise this year I would say it’s the year I stopped being a man who runs and became a runner. That may sound a bit odd but despite having run for as long as I can remember I think it’s only this year I’ve truly become a runner.
In the past my running has always been in fits and bursts, picking up either when I’m feeling fat and unfit or when I have a race to target. But this year it’s been truly consistent, week in and week out always running. I’ve only had maybe 2 or 3 periods of 7 days where I haven’t run and they were either through injury or a conscious decision as recover after a big race.
At the beginning of this year I set myself the challenge of running 1000 miles, mainly because it sounded like a nice round number but also when I did the maths of what that meant for weekly mileage it was at a level that would push me to be consistent without needing to go way beyond what I could manage. It’s been amazing the impact running so regularly has had on my fitness, that consistency should never be underestimated. (Incidentally Bracken has done at 95% of those miles with me and probably more given he never runs straight!)
I feel like a completely different person to the one sat this time last year planning the year ahead. I’m a good couple of inches smaller on my waist for a start, but more importantly feel good. I’ve never felt this fit before and it’s a great feeling isn’t it? Feeling lean and strong and mentally healthy too which is potentially even more important.
I’m also feeling fairly satisfied at ticking off a couple of races from my bucket list; finally doing the Scotland coast to coast is awesome, such an amazing race across incredible scenery. Also enjoyable having done it as a pair with my brother, having someone to share it with makes it somehow more real I think. I feel like I learned quite a lot about myself doing that race as well, not least from being able to keep going for over 11 hours and covering such a huge distance under my own steam.
Then of course there was finally popping my marathon cherry and all because I got my London marathon rejection letter through. I decided to just get on with it and do a marathon rather than talking about it and hoping to get into a big city race. Doing the Broadway marathon was more in keeping with me anyway and the stunning Cotswold countryside certainly made for a nice backdrop to the race.
Beyond those 2 big races there was a half marathon PB in the Neolithic half marathon, a race that was an awful lot hotter than I expected but finishing at Stonehenge is a pretty cool experience. There was also the race that started the year; a 10k in Bath in thick snow covering the other extreme temperature wise.
In journalistic terms this was a breakthrough year, one where I learnt an awful lot about running and definitely one that has given me the confidence to take on bigger challenges. As we move into 2014 that’s exactly what I’m starting to think about, what’s the next thing to tick off the bucket list? I know I train better with something to aim for so time to start getting some races in the diary. Plus I hope 2014 will be the year that I manage to get to a Write This Run conference, gutted to have missed the first 2 due to other commitments so the next one is a must do!
Happy new year everyone, I’ll leave you with my running motto.
My top tip if you’re running a marathon is not to do it on Remembrance Sunday and if you do happen to do it on Remembrance Sunday definitely don’t listen to Good Morning Sunday on the drive to registration. Alas I failed on both counts and arrived in a beautifully sunny Broadway a little bit emotional but also proud to be wearing a poppy on my race pack for the day.