Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Leaner, Faster, Better...

...that's now the name of the game.

Sunday night was all about relief, relief that my first marathon was at an end, Monday was fuelled with disappointment, today is just a sense of dissatisfaction and feeling that it is now just another run (although admittedly a bloody long one).

Part of my issue is in not really knowing what constitutes a good time beyond the male bravado of sub-4hrs. One of the speakers at the Expo said it was one of the strange things about people's fascination with the marathon, that in much the same way as you might watch a gymnast on the beam and wonder was that actually good when she dismounts, the same element of confusion reigns with marathon running and finish times. At the time I thought "nah, bollocks", but 48-hrs later I'm not sure.

I'm not over-the-moon with finishing in 4:33:13, but maybe (probably) I should be.  Is that a good time?  I don't actually know. On the face of it, it was my first Marathon, I've only been seriously running for a year, dropped about 10lbs and gone from struggling through 6miles to managing 26.2 so I should be damn pleased, and let's face this there's something wonderfully English about going off too fast in pursuit of glory only to implode gloriously.


...I wanted to go faster. I knew I could go faster, or at least hoped I could go faster and never expected problems to start as soon as they did. And no matter how much I tell myself not to, I'm pissed off that I walked - 1.6miles according the Great God Garmin. I should have zipped the man-suit tighter and  wrested that bit more with the Central Governor. In my defence, it was very warm which had a huge impact on my race, but unfortunately I'm not going to be able to control the weather any time soon so if I don't want the same to happen I need to become...


I learnt a lot of lessons yesterday. The race brought home to me just how much it is about running against yourself and just simply running your own race, only now do I really understand the significance of this.

I thought Sunday was the end of the journey, but now I realise it's actually just the start. I need to do it again, I need to do it faster, better and with more "enjoyment". And I will.

Training to date has got me to the start line, but now the hard work is really gonna start. Mileage alone is not enough to take care of the rest.  I ache everywhere, but we have the technology to rebuild this man and at a far cheaper cost than 6million dollars!

I need to...

  • eat and drink better
  • lose more weight
  • warm weather training (although in England, chances of running in heat this summer are at best 50:50)
  • stretching - start really doing this and as an addition to running not a before or after
  • weights and core-work 
  • proper interval training 
  • hill work for endurance (daft not to take advantage of South Downs on the doorstep)
  • "proper" training schedule - more than just running miles, and when it demands speed or interval work, an LSD or a tempo to do exactly what is says on the tin not just the equivalent miles (especially with speed). 
  • focus on improving general fitness (which was lacking at start of this adventure), and 
  • as Scott from In the Long Run told me start pushing for faster 5ks and 10ks if I want to run fast marathons. 
But what do I know. It's easy to write down the list, but what I really need to start doing is quite simply "doing". I've got unfinished business with the marathon, I will be leaner, faster, better when I line up for my next run. So if you've got any ideas and practical advice on how I can get there and deliver against this list then PLEASE PLEASE pass on your words of wisdom and experience. 

And you know what I just realised in the bath soaking my aching limbs, its as much about the process as the outcome. It's gone now, no point looking back, it's all about the next one now...Leaner, Better, Faster

"Ask yourself: 'Can I give more?'. The answer is usually: 'Yes'." Paul Tergat


  1. Really like that Paul Tergat comment Stephen. You know I heard it for the first time only last week and was going to put it on my blog.

    I think that if I had to give one factor that helped me to get "faster" it would be to lose weight. So yes I think you're on to something. But off course weight loss is all related to other aspects of training.

    That time is not too far off what I did for my first marathon and some people will be surprised that you even run another marathon, they think that one is enough, check it off the list and all that. But you will be able to continue to improve for the next 10 year and where that leads, noboby but you body (and mind) knows!

  2. thanks Scott - kind words. felt good getting out to run 48hrs after the marathon, now I'll just crack on. need to get my warm weather training so i don't melt in japan this summer

  3. Stephen,

    First off, i dont think anyone should be dissapointed in the time from their first marathon, regardless of wether its 6hrs, or 3:15. Prior to completing it you had NEVER completed a marathon, and now you have. Through your first marathon you have gained valuable experience, but now you also KNOW that you can do it.

    As too how to improve a marathon time... My approach to training was to consider what the underlying limiting factor will be too my performance in a marathon. That is Aerobic condition. The better my aerobic condition the faster pace i will be able to maintain. Lactate threshold, VO2 Max, leg speed bassically anything to do with running fast over short distances are all secondary. So once i decided to embark on a marathon i set improving my aerobic condition as my main goal.

    The best way to show real improvements in Aerobic condition is too provide consistant long aerobic workouts. My current personal situation afforded me the luxury of usually being able to train for as long as i liked (or could manage). So I would jog 90 minutes one day and 130 the next and even more on the weekend. I have slowly switched to running bassed on effort/heart rate and time rather than pace and distance.

    For me the other elements you mention, diet, reducing alcohol consumption, core strength training, cross training, hill workouts, intervals, these are all elements that help build a strong efficient body that is capable of maintaining the long aerobic conditioning runs. That is where their real value is, its not in their contribution to race day performance. So including them is important, and you will benefit from them.

    I think its also worth mentioning that your performance should allways be judged relative to your training budget. by that i mean the time, effort, and even expense that you can devote to training. A family father with small children is simply not going to be able to maintain the same training budget as a guy that is living on his own. Actually id be very worried that he had got the balance wrong if he was able too.

    I hope that as you gain some distance on your intitial dissapointment that you really start to realise what a fantastic achievement it was. Sure running a marathon is on a lot of bucket lists, but only a small minority of them actually have a tick beside it....and that for a very good reason.

  4. Thanks Paul - great advice
    One of the things I've come to realise in the last 72hrs is that I'd focused on The Marathon as the point for what I was doing. In reality for ME I see now its just the by-product, I was seeing it as the be-all-and-end-all outcome, but its not.

    Yes, I want to run a better Marathon next time and I will, but I also want to just run better and more efficiently, whether its the quick 30-mins before breakfast or the long run at the weekend.

    I see now that I'd got my focus wrong. Some want to tick off the Marathon as you say and never run again. I want to run. If I run I'll run Marathons, but they'll be a by-product (admittedly a very long and torturous one), where the shift will come is in not running blinkered for a Marathon.

    Next time it will be a goal along the way. I'd seen it as the culmination of a year's work and in a way it still is, but now I see its just the start. I'm gonna do some more races, but more importantly take my running to a more varied harder working level that will actually deliver more fun.

    If I run to enjoy myself and push myself to get better, then the improvement both in and off the track will come.

    Its been a really interesting process of change in the last year, and its really quite exciting to see where this can now take me.