Wow! I can not wait to race in Stockholm, after visiting Oslo, Helsinki and Goteborg a few years ago, I vowed to return. Combing my love for Scandinavia (Vikings and all that) and long distance running into a long running festival weekend, is surely going to be epic.
This weekend we lace up and tackle the hot, hilly and beautiful course across the Swedish capital.
Back then my eyes had not been opened to world of running and going back to run 26.2 miles over 7 bridges in a land that I can’t imagine is flat, would have seemed, well….. ridiculous. However I can say I am relishing this and it is going to be my greatest running challenge.
A challenge that I haven’t faced mind is the price. To be fair all European Marathons are a few quid too high anyway and this is 100 Euros. However, the flights are £49 return with Ryanair. Which is a great result and cheaper than the bloody train to Manchester! How is that possible!?
The training plan is The Ben Parkes Sub 3 Hour plan. I can say its the best plan I have seen on the market so a far. The technical sessions are outlined very clearly and the pace for each run is also mapped. So you know what an easy, steady or fast run should be run like. I would recommend anyone looking to break 3 hours to check his website out (www.benparkes.com).
Due to certain lifemin getting in the way however, I have not been able to fully commit to the plan. However, I am planning to when aiming for the Autumn Marathon because I will have more time available to put in the hours needed. Subsequently, I have had to put more time into tinkering with the plan rather that sticking to it, and to be honest have missed a number of key sessions. Which ultimately is probably the reason why I did so poorly in Manchester
For example, for the technical sessions I will swap around a little to entail more long runs and miles. This is because of the endurance failures I have had recently and also the course that Stockholm Marathon holds. However, it is flatter than what I thought, its actually a similar level of elevation to that of London.
What I have learnt from Manchester, Bournemouth and London is my cardio is strong but leg strength is where I fall down late on. Planning to run at a faster pace for such length, I know weakness. I have the speed of a 1:19 HM therefore going in sub 3 should be easier. However the endurance is the difficulty.
Hopefully adding more marathon pace work will tackle this head on and we can finish around the Olympic Stadium in 2 Hours 59 Minutes and 59 seconds. What I can say though is this year I have done more “long run” than I have ever done in any previous marathon, and I can take confidence in this.
Finally I have been running more long runs. Hoping that the basics of more miles and time on the feet will pay dividends.
Stockholm is an unusual marathon. It challenges your preconceptions both of Scandinavia and of marathon running. It starts at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon in early June, when the weather is warm and balmy and the city is full of loud, boisterous crowds.https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/events/a760558/the-worlds-top-10-marathons5/
So far I have ran 320 miles in the first 2 months comfortably a personal record.
Having read alot about the Stockholm Marathon it’s clear this is a beautiful capital race. Over many bridges across the city the views are spectacular and especially running around a city I have never been to the experience will be one to remember.
Keeping focused will be a challenge throughout. Particularly because this will be only my 2nd race attempt at a sub 3 marathon.
What I have learnt from previous Marathons is the attempt to go 6:51 on repeat like a robotic metronome isn’t going to be possible with my current level of fitness and due to the elevation in the Stockholm Marathon. In particular there are miles like; 8, 12, 16, 24 which on occasion have 70ft in excess of climb. Which means other miles will allow my legs to catch up on lost time.
This is something I am going to put into this marathon strategy because I want to ensure I am there or there about come mile 20 and a little bit of protection on the up-hill miles will only help me say around pace with only that final 10k to go!
Subsequently breaking 3 may not happen, but this marathon will be a success if I run a PB and have a strong last 10k.
Finally, enjoyment. Going to Sweden to race is a real privilege and I want to make the most of the long weekend. Lots of photo’s, Instagram’s and hopefully a great story at the end.
“Manchester Marathon, I will see you again.”
“Manchester Marathon, I will see you again.”
Is the last thing I thought, as I waddled over the finish line in 03:13:49 (20 seconds off a PB….sigh) and 14 minutes behind my target time. Having had a “good prep” for this marathon and clocked up more miles than I have ever, I thought “metronoming” my way around this course in 6:51 /mi would allow me to breeze through in under 3 hours.
Oh how I took the distance, the race and the challenge for granted.
It’s taken a while for me to write this up, simply because it’s been a kick in the balls doing more work than ever and getting worse results. However, I have been able to evaluate my short comings and once Stockholm is out the way, I can begin to re-write my wrongs and get under that allusive 3 hours.
First things’s first, we checked into the hotel in Eccles. Avoiding cakes we stayed in a quirky little place about 10 minutes walk from the Metro. Thanks to Sean for booking this, and the first class train tickets to and from Manchester!
On the day we walked down to Eccles Metro. The best thing about being at the end of the line is the guaranteed seat on the train as we weaved around Salford Quays, the TV’s stations Metro City and caught glimpses of Old Trafford.
That was however, as good as it got for me……
5 Manchester Mistakes
- On the day Sean and I arrived way to late. We had to run 1.3 miles from the bag drop the start line to make our wave start. And didn’t make it
- I ordered the wrong food the meal before and ended up with basically cheesy grilled pasta. It was more cheese and then pasta and physiologically I felt gross
- Didn’t attend MKAC as I said I would 1/2 days per week
- Drank way to much beer this year
- Had a 4 week “break in Feb/ March” due to work. Therefore, I could have ran more
The Marathon Review
I think my mind is a little blinkered in not enjoying Manchester Marathon at all. Mainly down to the collapse, founded in the breakdown below.
I found the route ok, the support was fantastic around the course but it isn’t spectacular. You start and finish down a dual carriageway outside of the city and visit places such as Sale, Altrincham and Salford. This is the best parts of the Marathon; through the “towns”are the best parts, in particular Mile 11- 15. Apart from that, there is a lot of nothing.
The course is so gettable though, I didn’t feel challenged throughout any section. Its fast and flat as advertised, and on the day it was cool enough to allow for a quick time. The only twisting you face is in Altincham, where you turn through the town and head back towards the main city. Though I liked this part of the route (mile 12ish) and it was definitely the best supported part of the route. With “Tizzy” also on my vest I think I was a bit of a fans favourite.
Where I can’t comment though is the last 10K. Having not ran a marathon for 18 months I remembered flying through Bournemouth’s last 10k in a negative split to a PB of 03:13. In Manchester I ended up walking the last 4 miles to the same time. I can only blame my dip in training for 4 weeks in Feb/ March time but maybe there were other factors that affected this dreadful ending.
For example, as mentioned earlier, really disliked the amount of walking around. We arrived from Salford Quays Metro stop and ended up near the start line. This meant a total of 3 miles to walk down to the bag drop and to our start grid. Due to the que to the toilets this meant we had to run to the start line, ended up going out with category D runners and subsequently weaved our way back to the guys and girls running at a similar pace.
However, this is something to learn from, ensuring I arrive with plenty of time moving forward, and checking where the bag drop is etc. Luckily with Stockholm I have 36 hours in the city before the race, so loads of time to check everything out before hand.
Finally, what I liked the most was finishing the Marathon to a pint of Erdinger, a t-shirt and a decent medal. It’s just a shame I mentally and physically gave up after mile 21. Something I have never done before and certainly wont again.
Need to hit a PB in Stockholm and certainly edge closer to that Sub 3!
…. Manchester, I will be back…….
As we are well and truly back after a stop start and disastrous 2018. I can this year in confidence share the races I will be competing in 2019.
If anyone else is doing any of the below then please let me know! Would be great to meet up!
2019 Running Schedule
There we have it, some real treats to look forward to, especially in Stockholm!
Finally if anyone has done any of the races above, feel free to comment with hints, tips or any other story from racing them.
Now! Best go and do some running
Looking ahead to the Manchester Marathon and the training plans followed
Setting a race gives true purpose to your running. A structure to base all the hours and hours and miles that you cover every week. Unfortunately due to a certain stag do, I cannot run the London Marathon, therefore I am switching to Manchester with the hopes of maximising the fast and flat of the northern powerhouse.
I haven’t looked at the route yet but the training plan is in place. Using a comprehensive plan by Ben Parkes (https://www.youtube.com/benparkes).
His YouTube video are the best I have found yet for training, motivation and particularly diet. He also makes recipes and the whole food/ nutrition side of running seem easy. I would definitely recommend checking him out. His Vlogs are helping me as we head towards the Marathon. I have put a link to his Sub3 plan here ->
Also helping has been running with better runners than me. Both Sam and Sean in particular have helped me up the mileage and get through the long runs. Last weekend we managed the Ben Parkes inspired 19 miler (7 easy, 9 @ 6:45, 3 easy). You certainly run better with someone and having a few people around you who are similar or slightly better is a massive help.
This is the session below.
In the lead up to Manchester I have booked a couple of events to incorporate into the training. Firstly the MK Winter Warm up 10k on the 17th February and the MK Festival of Running 20 Mile race on the 17th March. This maybe a tad too close to Manchester but I will aim to run it at 06:50 to mirror the target marathon pace.
Also the big change for this year is a change of clubs. I have loved, particularly in 2017, running with MK Lakeside Runners. However, in a bid to take it to the next level, it makes sense to move to MKAC. First training session tomorrow. Canne wait!
Finally, I even had time to race Sam in a parkrun and come 2nd (as per) at Willen Lake last weekend. The mad man himself, even polished off a Waffle from the Cod & Waffle in Leighton Buzzard and then came a respectable 32nd in the Chiltern Cross Country! Madness!
This is us when I was only just 2nd!
We are all systems go now -> 2019, Let’s have it!
This week I have been officially signed of by the Doctor to run. After 8 months of tests, we’re all clear to run into the New Year! Having no excuse to now not drag my lazy ass out of bed, I thought I would re-ignite the blog. To give myself some public accountability/ shaming.
Also getting a cheeky mention in Mark Atkinson’s book “Run Like Duck” (available on Amazon and in Waterstones) book has given me the motivation to log and document again…. Even if it was for chasing down his dog during his 100th marathon and not for exceptional running!
Having read back through the old blog posts, its really amazing how you forget the events, training and race days! Ironically! See the link below for the book…
So by returning to the Blog I want to write 3 clear goals and then break goals down in 1/4’s of the year
- 3 Hour Marathon
- 1.15 Half
- Break 17 minute 5K
1st 1/4 Targets
- Loose a few KG
- Hit the Gym 1/2 times a week!
- Keep it social, make an effort to get out with the runners in MK
Back to it, cant wait for 2019!
Would I do it again? Probably not.
31 minutes 34 seconds. My slowest Km to date. This is the time it took me to get from my starting position to the start line. By this time Sir Mo had elapsed the 10k mark, making my chance of winning slim.
I am not a fast runner, averaging around the 9 min mile pace. I started running back in 2016 when I got a call from Matt informing me I had a place in the 2017 London Marathon. 17 weeks of training later, I had picked up a medal on the Mall having ran for 4 hours 38 minutes and 52 seconds. After 6 months or so of getting overweight and unfit, I decided to enter the ballot for the Great North Run the following year. Although I was hopeful of a place, I was not expecting a place. Therefore, the binge drinking and excessive smoking continued.
Little did I know that on the morning of 7th February an email hit my inbox to inform me I have been successful and I have indeed received a place for the Great North Run 2018. “SHIT” I thought, although presenting myself far more grateful and fortunate than I really was. Throw the cigs’ away, pour the lagers away. I wanted to get a good time. I plodded around London, waving and thanking the crowd, whilst taking everything in. I wanted to record a time I could look back and be proud of.
Training was good, I enjoyed some very nice runs with my good friends Matt, Andy, Michael and Iain. I also enjoyed running with my fiancé, who got into running this year and it was really nice to spend time with her whilst training. Previously, Beth had been waiting at home with a bath ran for me, my E-Cig waiting and something to watch on my laptop, whilst I recovered from a long run. This time, it was the other way round!….
….The training was not good, although I ran 2/3 times a week, I was focusing too much on trying to improve my 5k time, something that in hindsight, was disastrous. My longest run was on July 30th. 7.2 Miles, 4 Miles on which, I virtually crawled. It was one of the runs, where everything went wrong. Eventually I got back into the car and drove home disappointed, texting my running partner’s apologies as my performance must have affected their run. All was forgiven.
We drove up to the North-East on the Saturday before and enjoyed a lovely pasta dinner and the reality check of England loosing to Spain, during the UEFA Nations League.
As my alarm went off at 7am, I felt good. Well rested and optimistic. I inhaled my porridge and it was off we went. A short walk from Gateshead to Town Moor found us at the start line. A further 30 minute walk found us at our bag drop. Another 45 minutes later I found myself at my start pen. The weaving in-an-out of people was exhausting and I hadn’t run a single yard.
At 11:11am, I crossed the start line and I was excited. Mostly because I spotted a television camera pointing in my direction and my watch buzzing continuously with WhatsApp notifications. “I’m probably on tele”- I thought. Starting off at my normal pace of 9min the first mile elapsed with no problem. There were concerns, certainly as on the other side of the central reservation, the other runners were seemingly running underneath the ring road and I was faced with the task of running over it, I thought “what goes up, must come down”. How wrong I was. I cannot remember running downhill until the final mile. The Tyne Bridge is something special. The Crowds were packed 4/5 people deep and plenty of hands offering a moral boosting ‘high-five’.
The most apparent stat of the Great North Run is the amount of participators. The course was packed from mile 1 to mile 13. This was the hardest aspect of the run. Every time I thought I had passed people recovering, you had to navigate around another set and so on. Not only was this hard to settle into a decent pace, it was also mentally tiring. 5K had passed before a water station was available. Then again at 7K, 9K, 10K, 11.5K and so on. There were no consistencies with the water stations which was challenging for me, as I like to know when to take water on and settle into a routine.
As I checked my watch throughout the race, it was apparent my target of 120 minutes, was falling away from me. Not to worry, I will take in the crowd and the atmosphere. The atmosphere was fantastic, with steel, classical and rock ‘n’ roll bands dotted around the course. Families were out in numbers offering water, jelly babies and oranges to everyone. This is my favourite thing about running. I am never going to get anywhere near competing with my running, therefore I have to take smaller victories. The smile of the crowds, the ‘high-fives’, even the deafening screams of “oggy-oggy-oggy”.
Mile 12. As you come over the steep hill, you can see the North Sea. More importantly, you can see the final stretch is all downhill. For me, I could also see the famous red arrows commencing their air show. As my 120 minutes had just elapsed, I took it all in. Running whilst watching the red arrows completing their near impossible show was incredible and a moment that will stay with me for a very long time. This stretch also saw the deepest crowds across the course. However, for me, I was only looking for one of them. My fiancé had been waiting 350 metres from the finish line for 2 hours, to cheer me along. Fortunately, I did spot Beth and after a quick wave and a kiss, I was moments away from completing the greatest half marathon in the world.
Would I do it again? Probably not. I don’t want to come across ungrateful, but the whole race had been under-whelming. For me, there were too many people. This was evident in the pandemonium at the finish line. However, this day was more than the 2 hours 11 minutes and 55 seconds it took me to finish. My best friend was running in his first ever event. Oli has family from Newcastle and when we spoke back in November about running, he was keen. Oli completed the race in a fantastic 2 hours 30 minutes. Together we raised just shy of £1,500 for charity.
I will keep up with my running. Shorter races for now, but I would like to run the royal parks half marathon next. But for now, where’s the beer?