Training Plan for the Brighton Marathon

Right, here is the aim.

6 April, Brighton Marathon, sub 3:30.

Given that I’ve run only one marathon in the past (London 5 years ago in 4:51) that is an ambitious target. So why do I think I can do it?

Well, I don’t know if I can.  Just like I didn’t know if I could finish the London.  Or if I could cycle to Skegness that first time.  Or if I could cycle to Paris.  But I did each of them, so that’s why I believe I can do this.

And the target is 3:30 because I see 4 hours as the upper limit of a serious time.

I’ll be blogging about the trials and tribulations of my training here throughout the winter.  Using a BUPA (Intermediate) training plan as a base, I’ve drawn up my plan this week.  Here goes:

Marathon Training Plan

Up Peak and Down Dale (the sequel to Reaching Peak Fitness)

After exploring on day one of our stay, I decided on a run rather than bike ride for day 2.  The commuter bike is OK but not up to any off-roading and I wanted to get closer to the country side.  So I pulled on my old trainers and set off for my first run in my new running tights and gloves.

Leaving our cottage at Hulme End I headed straight up hill over the Manifold River and swung a left to run along a small lane parallel to the camping and caravan site.  I was stunned to see some hardy campers getting ready for a days trekking in the wet and blustery conditions.  But probably only as stunned as they were to see a bloke in fluorescent yellow gloves and jacket run past them for fun!

The lane was about a mile long and came out on a small cross roads.  With no particular plan for my run I decided to follow the signs for Beresford Dale, and after a another mile or so the lane came to an end as it was met by another fast flowing river.DSC_0127

So far I had been running on Tarmac and had managed to avoid any of the bigger puddles beginning to accumulate as the rain water ran off the surrounding fields.  Now though, the terrain changed as I headed along a trail next to the river.

The landscape changed from fields and hills in to something resembling a rain forest.  It was stunning.  Heavy rainfall had boosted the river and it was roaring along its path as I ran past a couple of Dippers.  These beautiful birds are generally pretty scarce but can be found around several of the rivers in the area.

Flanked by rocky cliff faces on both sides, the sounds of the river was impressive and after stopping for a few pictures on a bridge, I continued along the path.

Eventually I emerged over a stone wall on to a footpath across the dales.  Out in the open once more I realised how heavy the rain had become and the uneven grassy surface was quickly becoming treacherously waterlogged.

Continuing at a slower pace with unsteady footing I followed the path up hill and down dale before passing through a muddy gateway.  This is where the elastic laces of my old tri-trainers were found wanting.  Having selected a slightly less muddy route through the gate I did my best to skip through the mud and find some more solid ground.  But failed dismally when the mud sucked the trainer right off of my left foot!photo

Unable to immediately convert my running action to a hopping action meant my foot went in to the mud and my sock was instantly saturated.  So I decided to take a photo to capture the moment, figuring that I was wet anyway!

Slipping my trainer on over the muddy sock, I reached the end of the cross country section of my run and arrived in Hartington.  A final couple of kilometres along the slightly busier road got me back to my cottage safe and sound where the process of drying out and warming up began with a cuppa in front of the fire.

I loved the unpredictable cross-country run and will be doing more of it as I train through the winter.  But I’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere as spectacular until I go back to the Peaks.

Reaching Peak Fitness in Derbyshire

Soz, that’s a complete pun.

Since the 10k race a couple of weeks ago I’ve barely trained.  My Achilles has been aching since the race and work & studying has been mental.  So I’m nowhere near peak fitness. But I’ve had a cracking few days in the Peak District where I’ve managed to get training again.

A view of the Manifold Trail

A view of the Manifold Trail

Staying in a cottage at Hulme End on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border has provided a stunning location for getting out on the roads and trails.  Every first morning needs a scouting mission.  So heading out on my old commuter hybrid bike (now with the bike seat bracket attached) I set off down the Manifold Trail.

The trail runs down the side of the Manifold river so it’s fast and flat but surrounded with stunning scenery. After a mile in the open, the river drops down whilst the trail stays high and the hillside provides shelter from the outside world. The leaf covered path winds parallel to the river, passes under an old railway tunnel and over the occasional tributary whilst constantly flanked by sheep grazing on steep hills.

After 4 brisk miles my scouting destination arrives in to view. Thors Cave looms directly in front of the path, 75 metres up in the rocky hillside on the opposite bank of the river.  It’s an impressive sight, by no means the only cave overlooking the trail, but the only one with some kind of path to aid the ascent.  Pretty quickly I was able to tell that this was going to be a great destination for the kids and a good target for my eldest to ride to on her own.

Me and Thor's Cave

Me and Thor’s Cave

The return journey is moderately more challenging than the outward leg with a slight incline most of the way.  Passing just a few other casual cyclists and the odd dog walker, the ride takes no time at all.

That is a different story when we do the ride with the girls the next day. The round trip takes us two hours.  But this time the adventure included a walk up to Thors Cave, a celebratory photo shoot to mark the achievement of a 2 & 6 year old both scaling the rocky path unassisted, and a game of eye-spy all the way back!!

Losing a bit of my masculinity

I had a dreadful moment of realisation today when we cycled the kids to school. I’ve allowed something small to change and with it, given up a bit of my manliness.

It’s nothing to do with doing the school run because I think of that as a real treat if I am ever able to do it.  I love getting to the school and watching how the girls behave in an environment which is far more familiar to them than it is me.  Sometimes I feel really out of place, but others it is just like being in my local pub on a Sunday afternoon 10 years ago.  We’ve all moved on.

No, the school run is a great thing, especially when it is a school cycle.  But it’s the cycling that is part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, Mrs G decided she wanted to cycle alongside me with the girls whilst I went for a run.  To do this, I had to move the child seat from my bike and on to hers.  ON TO HERS!!  This had never happened before.  Towing the kids has always been my job.  DAD’s job!

I’ve always been the one with stronger legs from running and cycling.  The one with a bit more balance and confidence for these things.  But now all that masculine superiority has been dashed…. she can do it too!!

Even worse – for weeks I have been trying to find a spare bracket so that we can easily switch the seat between the bikes.  But the bike seat is so old that I can’t find one that fits properly.  So without refitting bits and pieces with allen keys and spanners every time I choose to reassert my manliness, I have got a dad-bike that is missing a bit of dad-ness!

Anyone ready for next years Standalone?

There we have it.  For another year the Standalone 10k is done and dusted.  It was another amazing family day out, as always it was a superb event and even the weather was brilliant!


The Family Day

This is the most important aspect of the race for me.  My girls look forward to the day, so we started celebrations early.   On the way to Standalone Farm, we belted out a few classics in the car.  Mrs G and the kids joined in with my energising renditions of Gold by Spandau Ballet, Fire by Kasabian and the Rocky sound track classics Eye of the Tiger and Gonna Fly Now.

Every year, my family turns out and supports the race and the runners.

Step-father, mother-in-law, and Mum

Step-father, mother-in-law, and Mum

By the time we arrived, my cousin Linda was at the farm with her kids, and pretty soon we were joined by my Mum, step-father, sister, mother and father in-law, brother-in-laws (x2), an abundance of nieces & nephews and a handful of great friends.  After the race we were joined by my Nan and enjoyed a meal for 20 in a local pub.

This years race was even more special to my family than normal because my sisters husband Matt completed his first road race.  It’s an emotional day for me and my family anyway and when Matt came around the corner on to the finishing straight, half of us were in tears because we were so proud of him.

The main race is followed by a 2km fun run for all the kids.  Most of ours ran in the 6-10 age group and I shepherded my eldest, my Godson and my nephew around.  It was hilarious! We started with the plan of running together until the sprint finish but things got tricky when my nephews shoe came off (twice).  Then they were running in zig-zags all over the path.  Then we got split up when my Godson made his run for home about half way around.  We all made it in the end, and even managed to finish in front of the lady running it in Ugg boots and jeans whilst carrying her handbag and a Bob the Builder rucksack!  I probably had it easy though; Mrs G ran with my God-Daughter and my youngest who insisted on sitting on her shoulders the whole way round (until collecting her medal at the end)

The Event

I can’t believe that, from it’s humble beginnings as the Novatek 10k in the 80’s, the race my Dad built now has a capacity of 1400 runners.  It felt bigger this year but maybe that was because I started with Matt, and my friends Jim & Leanne at the 55 minutes (target finish time) section.  That was a good move because it kept my pace steady at the start whilst picking my way through runners.  Of course there was one person walking in the first 600 yards, but that is the only tiny niggle I could come up with for the whole event.  The course remains undulating but reasonably fast and the field is made up of a good range of experienced club athletes and people like us – which means that everyone feels at home!

The sun came out around the 6k mark and for a moment I was worried that my decision to not take a drink was going to backfire when I could feel the temperature beginning to rise.  But the small pockets of shade helped me through the final 3k and I maintained my pace to finish under my target time of 45 minutes … so I was happy.

Here comes Matt

Here comes Matt

After collecting my fetching blue t-shirt I quickly made it back to cheer on our other runners.  I missed Jim who was just after me at 48 minutes, managed to catch Leanne’s sprint for the finish and was delighted to be able to celebrate Matt’s arrival well inside his target time of an hour.

Once again, the North Herts Road Runners have delivered an outstanding day.  Everyone who came with us had a great day out and I can guarantee that we’ll all be back next year to keep supporting the event that has become so important to me.