­2014 London Marathon Race Report by Catherine Wilding

It promised to be one of the most exciting races ever.  The London Marathon was to bear witness to the double Olympic Champion – Mo Farah – making his debut over the 26.2 mile distance.  Ever since Mo turned up on the start line of the London Marathon in 2013 to “practice” going off with the leaders, before dropping out at the half way point, we have waited with eager anticipation to see what could happen in the second half.

Mo Farah after his baptism of fire. Photo © Telegraph
Mo Farah after his baptism of fire. Photo © Telegraph

After a year-long wait, here was the nations sporting hero and Olympic Champion “stepping up to the road”, carrying the hope of a winning debut on the Mall to add to his Olympic glory. For once, the Marathon made headline news.

It ended in disappointment, not just for Mo but for the rest of us – the media, the commentators and anyone who thought that Mo may be able to shake off the dominance of the Kenyan’s and Ethiopians.  2.08.21 was the finish time for Mo,  8th place and 4 minutes behind the winner, Wilson Kipsang.  Mo may just have settled for a new British record if not an outright win, but he even missed that by almost a minute.

So what happened?

The stakes were set high. There were some formidable names on the start line – Kipsang  (the current World Record Holder), Mutai, Kebede and Olympic champion Kiprotich.  All eclipsed however by the legendary Gabreselassie who was here to run as a pacemaker.  That’s right, the former world record holder was here to pace the leaders beyond the half way point with the aim of setting a new world record.

It seemed a risky strategy to assume that anyone making their debut over the distance would not only be able to win but also walk away with a new world record.  So, Farah and his coach, Alberto Salazar made the decision for Mo to run in a group, a few seconds back from the leaders. Mo was to hold back, 30 seconds off the pace with a half-way target time of 62.15. Presumably the rest of the plan – which was not discussed – was that Mo would catch the leaders in the second half and pick up the pace to run a blisteringly fast last 10K.  That was the plan.

It was much debated and the media couldn’t understand why Mo – a runner who runs every race with the self-belief to win it  – was not in the mix from the beginning with the leaders.  But any experienced coach and marathon runner knows that a few seconds too fast in the first half can cost dearly in the remaining miles.

The early miles

It was a day that runners refer to as “ideal marathon running conditions” – clear blue skies, a chill in the air and a temperature on the start line of 9 degrees. As the gun fired at 10am, the first group went off with the pacemakers and Mo followed just a few steps behind. So far, so good, but by the 5K mark the gap had opened up and Mo was already 27 seconds behind the leaders. Beyond the 10K mark it was starting to look like Mo was working a little harder than perhaps he should have been – still off the pace and more importantly off the plan.  Realising this he picked up the pace for the next 5K and ran a faster 5K split at this stage than the lead group.  In his efforts to make up ground and catch the lead pack, this burst of speed so early in the race could have been his downfall.  The pacemakers for the second group had a plan to stick to and that was to go through half way at 62.15.  As they kept to the pace, Mo had fallen further back from the pacemakers and was working hard to try to bring them back. At the half-way point with a time of 63.08, it was clear that his race was not going to plan.

By mile 17 it was even more evident that Mo was starting to tire and his pace slowed.  He was starting to look less like a marathon runner as he didn’t quite have the ease in his stride that the leaders had.  His dream of a home win was now – like the lead group – surely out of sight.

Meanwhile, at the front of the race, a pack of eight runners entirely dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians had opened up a significant gap.  The pace was quick – too quick maybe – for Gabreselassie who had been scheduled to pace until the 16 mile mark, but had dropped out just after half way.

Killer finish

Just after the 30K mark, Kipsang who was looking comfortable and almost as if he was biding his time, suddenly surged away from the pack.  Only Stanley Biwott responded and went with him. The two then ran together along the Embankment until with just over 2km to go, Kipsang surged again and never looked back.  He opened up a gap of 26 seconds in the last 2km, sprinting down the Mall to set a new course record of 2.04.29 – 11 seconds faster than Emmanuel Mutai’s record set in 2011.  It was Mo Farah the crowds had hoped to see but next came Biwott in 2.04.55 to make it a double Kenyan victory with Kebede the Ethiopian finishing third in 2.06.30.

The British men didn’t make much of an impact on the Kenyans and Ethiopians, with Mo in 8th place and Chris Thompson not too far behind in 11th place at 2.11.19.  It was also another disappointing race for Scott Overall who having gone out at 2.10 pace and passed the half way mark in 1.05.05 finished in a disappointing 2.19.55.

Enthralling women’s race

Kiplagat victorious for the first time. Photo © Run247
Kiplagat victorious for the first time. Photo © Run247

It’s fair to say that the women’s race was overshadowed by the excitement of the men’s but in a separate story, the plot line here was remarkably similar.  Tirunesh Dibaba – double Olympic champion in the 5K and 10K was also making her debut over the marathon distance.  The race, however, for Dibaba was more closely fought than for Farah.  The Kenyan’s, Florence and Edna Kiplagat (not related) lead the race with Dibaba in the group going through half way in 1.09.17.  All three looked in contention until the 18 mile point when a debacle at the drinks station left Dibaba behind.  Dibaba reached for her bottle, dropping it and then stopping to pick it up.  The Kiplagat’s had seen the mistake and with a quick glance and exchange to each other they took advantage to surge ahead opening up a gap of 5 seconds. This seems to be where Dibaba lost her chance of a debut win.  From there she couldn’t close the gap.  It was Edna and Florence that were still leading side by side with 800m to go.  As they turned into the Mall, it was Edna that had the final kick. Having twice finished second in London perhaps she was more determined as she sprinted to the finish line in a time of 2.20.11 leaving Florence 3 seconds behind in 2.20.14. Another double win for the Kenyan’s.  The gap for Dibaba had now opened up to 11 seconds as she finished 3rd in 2.20.35.

Of the two track-stars, it is Dibaba that showed the most promise, keeping the leaders in her sights and securing a podium finish. A runner who is used to coming from behind and with a big kick in the closing stages of a race, who knows how the story could have unfolded for Dibaba had she not dropped her bottle.  We’re sure she’ll be back.

In the elite race, the lead British woman was Amy Whitehead in a time of 2.34.20 with the 44 year old Emma Stepto a couple of minutes behind in 2.36.04.

A little further back from the lead men was Simon Freeman. He breezed along looking a little too comfortable and with a smile and a wave he cruised to the finish line to break the 3 hour mark in style with a 2.58.55. He said “I was running comfortably and within myself and the difference in terms of pain and suffering is incredible.  It was an amazing experience.” You can read about his race here.

The marathon distance can never be underestimated. “I know what the marathon is about now and hopefully I will come back stronger” Mo added with the greatest respect for the greatest race.

 

Gone to seed or laying fallow?

Marathon training: laying fallow or going to seed?
Marathon training: laying fallow or going to seed?

I was recently talking to my friend and fellow Chaser, Tom Craggs, a coach and personal trainer who is quickly developing a reputation as one of the top running coaches in the UK. Tom and I ran the Berlin marathon together, literally in stride, back when a sub-3 hour marathon was something that I dreamed of running. Since that day, we have become firm friends and we often talk about what we are trying to do with our running.

The last conversation was about the fact that I really have not been training well for the upcoming London marathon and I am coming to the realisation that I am no where near in shape to run a decent time. Freestak is growing fast and that is proving to be too much of a distraction for me to maintain the levels of training that I should be.

Not always ‘on’

There have been other times when I have thought that I might need a break – when Julie and I were buying a house. When we were contemplating setting up Freestak. When my Nan passed away.

But now I look back on those periods, I realise that every time I have felt that I need to take time away from running, it has been under duress and I haven’t really done it. I have maybe dropped a few runs for a week or so. But I have continued to plot and plan and try to negotiate with myself about what I can do.

However recently my training has really nose-dived and perhaps my feelings about that have changed as well. My training plan has been suggesting 8 or 9 runs a week – three of them being sessions or long-runs with good hard efforts in them. I have actually been managing to get out 5 or 6 times a week… sometime even less. I have only been to the track three times in the last 8 weeks. Threshold sessions have been ditched in favour of a steady run. The rain has been all the excuse I have needed to not go out at all. You get the picture.

Guilt about marathon training, or not

The problem is that when I am not training as I know I should, I feel guilty. I worry and negotiate with myself. I try to convince myself that there is still time. That it will all be OK.

But the honest truth is that I have not trained hard enough for the London this year. I know that it is very unlikely that I will be able to get anywhere near my PB. In fact I am not sure I am going to run at all. I know that I don’t have to make a decision yet so we will see, but with 7 weeks to go I can’t expect a miracle.

Something Tom said to me has stuck in my head. I don’t need to worry that I have gone to seed and that my days of running a decent marathon is over. Instead I am looking at this as a fallow period – a chance to focus on other things and allow my mind and body to recover from 7 or 8 years of marathons.

The number of marathons I have run each year has reduced since the third year after I discovered running. But the intensity and effort to run them has definitely gone up. Last year I only ran one marathon hard – the London (I also ran the Copenhagen marathon, but it was with a friend and I was not hammering myself). But the effort of that one race – 16 weeks of hard training, with a 75+ mile average to finish in 2:37:07 – was massive and I finished feeling relieved, rather than excited about the next one.

So I will have to see what I am going to do in 7 weeks. I am off to Portugal for a warm weather training camp with 2:09 Events and Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs and it may be that I find that I am not as far off decent shape as I fear I am. But then maybe I need to decide that I am going to avoid ploughing the same marathon furrow. What say you?

Stand and deliver… why standing all day and running go together

As many of you will know, at the end of last year my wife, Julie, and I launched freestak, a social media marketing business for running and endurance sports brands. In many ways this has been a life-changing experience: I am working many, many more hours than I ever have before. I am also loving every minute of work (in fact I wish I could find another word for it than ‘work’ because what I do all day is the most exciting and fulfilling way I can imagine to spend my time). I am spending more time thinking about, reading about and learning about my two favourite activities – running and social media.

I am also working from home. And this is where I have made another big change – I now stand all day.

Yep, that is right – I no longer have a chair. Julie was the first to abandon her chair in our little home office. Initially she tried a kneeling chair and then, because that was uncomfortable on her shins, she moved to standing up. Just after Christmas I followed suit and now we have a fully standing office.

But why?

Standing desks at freestak
Standing desks at freestak

The reason Julie threw her chair out was that she was starting to get back ache. I had a sore back most days too.

After a few weeks of standing, Julie told me that her back was absolutely great and I conceded that slumping in front of a computer 12 or 14 hours a day was just not doing me any good, so I decided to try standing.

My back no longer aches. At all.

As if that wasn’t enough, I feel energised standing up. I don’t suffer from the mid-afternoon crash any more. I feel alert and awake all the time. I can walk around the room thinking and as I am a bit fidgety anyway, I am now free to juggle, dance and wander around when I need a moment away from the key-board.

Finally having looked into the whole issue of the health issues surrounding our sedentary lifestyles (check out this and this) I realised that with all the time I was working I was either flat on my back asleep or slumped in a chair 22 hours a day. Even when I am running 85 or 90 mile weeks, that probably only represents an hour and a half a day on my feet running.

How to manage standing for 16 hours a day whilst marathon training

The reality is that for the first few weeks that I was standing all day, I did find it tiring. I was certainly ready for bed at the end of the day. But within a month, that is by the end of January, I was standing at my desk from 8am to 10pm every day with only a few breaks (running, dinner, laying on the floor…) without a problem.

As I increased my weekly mileage through January, February and March in the lead up to the London, I was finding that if anything I was having fewer problems with my hips, glutes and hamstrings than I had been when I was training for previous marathons and sitting all day. There were days when I was tired and then I would just bring back the chair for an hour or two. And after long runs I would wear compression socks if my calves were complaining. But it really was never a problem.

I also think there are other benefits: I stand up straight and that improves my posture: my legs feel stronger as a result of standing: I feel lighter (that could be nothing other than all the marathon training).

So if you haven’t thought about it before, I would urge you to consider kicking the chair into touch. Maybe start for an hour or two a day and increase the amount of time you stand. But try it – after all if you are getting out of bed in order to sit at the breakfast table, sit in your car or on the train to work, sit at a desk or in meetings all day, sit in the car/train on the way home, sit down for dinner and then sit on the sofa for an hour before retiring to bed… you’re really not using your body for what it was designed for!

If you do decide to give standing desks a go, please let me know how you get on.

 

Virgin London Marathon 2014 entry opens… and slams the door on some GFA runners

After the excitement and razzamatazz of the London marathon, there follows a somewhat unsightly scramble for places the following year. There is a ballot system in place which is capped at 125,000 entries. Once this is reached the ballot entry closes – and that usually takes a few hours to fill up – and then the lucky runners are informed later in the year, whether or not they have gained entry. There is about a 1 in 7 chance of getting a place, provided you get into the ballot.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 09.13.29This is the nature of the beast. Mass participation running and endurance sports are getting more and more popular and the demand for places has outstripped supply for decades. This could be seen as a good thing. Or a bad thing – I guess that subject warrants a post all to itself.

But if you want to run the London marathon, having to rush to enter a ballot to then have a 1 in 7 chance of getting a place is a pretty frustrating situation.

There is another way to get into VLM

This is where the three guaranteed entry systems come in to play. Yes, there are three ways that you can get a guaranteed place in the London marathon. In order of difficulty they are:

  • Elite entry – for a man you need to have run faster than 2 hours 20 minutes to get into this hallowed group. Do that and you will have every advantage possible and stand right on the start line
  • Championship entry – a race within a race. This is the UK AAA Championship, held every year and open to club runner who have qualified by running 2hrs45min for a marathon or 75mins for a half marathon (for the men) or sub-3:15 for a marathon or sub-1:30 for a half (women’s entry standard). You will enjoy a separate start pen, warm-up area, dozens of portaloos, water and a tent to change in as well as a start right behind the elite men’s field.
  • Good For Age entry – this is a guaranteed entry for anyone who has run a particular time that is considered good for their age group. You can see the qualifying times here. The start is similar to the Championship (above) with a separate pen, loos, etc and a position right on the start line.

As you can imagine, these entry systems are something that many, many marathoners aspire to. No queuing for hours for the loo. No 15 minute shuffle to get to and over the start line. A much more relaxed bag-drop. A sense of having ‘made it’.

Not so fast…

So it is a bit of a blow for many runners that this year, without warning, the London marathon powers-that-be have elected to make the Good For Age qualifying times tougher, by 5 minutes across the board from what I can see.

I imagine that the reason for this is to restrict the number of people that can get one of these coveted places. A few years ago the Boston marathon, which has a qualifying standard for all entries, did the same and I was caught up in that trap myself (more on that in a moment) and I guess it is a pleasing outcome in some senses: it means that standards of running are improving. But what about the people who thought they’d got their GFA place and now discover that they don’t?

A few years ago I went to run the New York marathon. I can’t remember the time that I did, but I crossed the line thinking that I had got my BQT – Boston Qualifying Time. Only to be told by another runner that the Boston Athletic Club, who run the race, had lowered the qualifying time by 10 minutes and I was now too slow for Boston. I was gutted.

Runners affected

So I can understand the reaction to the change in Good For Age qualifications from some of the people I know. Here are two tweets I received this morning:

@fehrtrade: I ran 3:48 in Oct & thought I’ve had GFA for the past 6 months. Completely cruel to change it now.

@themrwyatt: Means what I had planned is now not an option. Shame when your working hard for something that the goal posts change

The problem here seems to be that the team at the London marathon have made the change without telling anyone. So now people who assumed that they could get into London for 2014 have found out they can’t and with the Good For Age application phase closing in the next couple of months, they don’t have time to do anything about it.

What do you think? Is it more than a little unfair to change the entry requirements without telling anyone (in my Boston example the change to the qualifying time was publicised a year in advance… I just hadn’t checked!) Or is it just a symptom of the fact that more people want to run so the standards are creeping up, something that should be applauded?

I guess which ever way you look at it, the standards are now set and if you have just missed out, I can really recommend Brighton or Paris… both really lovely races.

 

The Simple (Simon) Guide to Racing a Marathon – Part four: Psychology

The final post in this mini-series is all about the head.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 21.54.07

Race day can be stressful and whilst I think that a degree of nerves can be a good thing, I want to keep it under control. And control is what I focus on. Control the things you can and don’t worry about the rest.

Getting prepared

I make sure my race day kit is washed, checked and packed days before the race. I pack spares of everything. I write a list of things I will need on the day – tape, Vaseline, Bodyglide, plasters, pins, something to eat and drink in the hours before the race, etc. Getting all that stuff organised on the Thursday before a Sunday race means less stress closer to the time. I figure out how I will get to the race days before the big day.

In the days before the race I spend time visualising the race. This year I am racing the London marathon, which I know well, so that makes the visualisation even easier. I know what it will feel like to cross Tower Bridge just before half way – look left and see the Mornington Chasers cheering station on the far side of the road. Pass the half way mark and check my watch (more on that in a minute) then focus on the Isle of Dogs. After that Canary Wharf where the crowds are immense. On the way beck west, there will be the 20 mile mark, which is an important point for me (again, more on that in a minute). Then the fun really starts.

Highlights of the race

First the RunDemCrew cheering station at mile 21’ish – a wonderful, life affirming sight and a huge emotional boost. The RunDemCrew means a huge amount to me and my running and to see them there yelling and waving will be amazing.

Then the Mornington Chasers just after mile 22. This is my club and they are all runners who know what it means to be at that point in a race. There will be people there who have played big parts in helping me achieve what I have and I can’t wait to see them and hear the  shouts.

After that, it is a parade of wonderful sights and sounds – the Blackfriars underpass, which feels a bit like a re-birth when you emerge onto the Embankment. Seeing the Houses of Parliament. Turning into Birdcage walk… the turn onto the Mall and the finish line.

Race tactics

As far as tactics for the race are concerned, I like to control the things I can, such as my target pace, as much as possible. So here is what I am planning –

  • Reach the half way point in around 79 minutes – that is five minutes slower than I finished the Cambridge Half Marathon, in the freezing cold and snow in the middle of a heavy training period. That should feel manageable.
  • Keep that pace going for another seven miles.
  • Then at mile 20, have a stern word with myself and start to race the person in front. Slowly, slowly start to increase the pace. 10km is all I have to run at this point and I can afford to dial up the effort one click at a time, working on catching the person in front and then the next one and then the next one…
  • All the way to the finish: if my plan comes together and I manage to dial up the pace from 20 miles then I should manage a PB (currently 2:38:30) which will be a very pleasing result.

There are many ways to approach a marathon. But from a psychological point of view, I think that breaking the race down into manageable chunks – 13.1 miles slower than you know you can manage, another 7 at that pace and then 6 miles as fast as you can manage – makes the marathon feel less daunting. And I believe you should visualise the things that you are going to look forward to so that you enjoy the journey. After all, enjoyment is the reason we run, so the marathon should be the pinnacle of that enjoyment.

Final thoughts

I really think that running is woven into our DNA. I don’t care to debate whether we should wear shoes or not. Or whether we should run 100m or 100 miles. I just know that when I run, I feel fantastic. You only have to watch children do what they love doing, to know that running is one of the most natural things we do.

I have decided to pit myself against the classic distance of 26.2 miles and I hope that I can motivate others to do the same. If you are doing the same, I hope that the last few blog posts have been though provoking and/or useful. Most of all, I hope you have a great race and do yourself proud. And remember, keep it simple…

The Simple (Simon) Guide to Racing a Marathon – Part three: Fuel

Eat

As with hydration, I think that during the race, the best you can hope for is to top up your fuel stores as best you can. The body can absorb 90grms of carbohydrate per hour which equates to about 360 kcal.

In general running is considered to require about 500 kcal per hour. However this is a rough estimate. For a man of my weight running at my target pace of 6 min/mile the rate of calorie burn rises to almost 1000 kcal per hour.

Depletion is inevitable. The ‘wall’ isn’t.

Even if I consume 90g carbohydrate per hour, that will deliver around about 360 kcal which is less than I need to run at my target pace. However provided that in the days leading up to the race, I manage to eat well and top up the carbohydrate stores in my body – the endogenous fuel – there will be about 2,000 kcal that I have in my body to which I add the gels as I go.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 21.42.59

The ‘wall’ is something I have encountered a few times – once in the London marathon – and it is pretty real. When it happened to me in the London, the change from feeling good and barreling along at 2hr 40min pace to shuffling through an aid station guzzling energy drink and gels, took just two miles – 15 minutes. Thankfully the recovery was equally swift and I was able to finish that year in 2hrs 43min. But I had missed my target by 8 minutes and those minutes were spent trying to refuel.

So my aim when I am racing a marathon is to buffer the endogenous carbohydrate stores that I have through the consumption of gels, in my case those from TORQ Fitness.

My plan in London this year is to take six gels during the race – one every 30 minutes – to keep the depletion of muscle glycogen stores to a minimum and to give the ‘wall’ a miss altogether. I would say that for most runners who are trying to race the best they can, a similar strategy will be beneficial.

The Simple (Simon) Guide to Racing a Marathon – Part two: Hydration

Drink

I don’t think it is possible to race a marathon (I use the word ‘race’ as against ‘run’ or ‘complete’ because ‘race’ to me means pushing as close to your limits as you can) without getting dehydrated.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 21.21.23

As with so many things relating to a marathon, the key here is making sure you get it right in the days leading up to your race, so drink plenty in the few days before the race – and if you have to go to a race expo and walk around for hours looking at the latest gadget or pair of shoes, take a BIG bottle of water with you: a few sample cups of energy drink is not sufficient. Then on the morning of the race sip something like water or a diluted energy drink and make sure that you empty your bladder as close to the start of the race as possible.

During the race

Quite simply the act of getting water in your mouth when you are running as fast as you can, is not easy and at best you are likely to only get a mouthful or so. And even if you can get water into your mouth, your stomach can only absorb a certain amount and you really don’t want water sloshing around inside you as you run. So ‘little and often’ is my best advice here.

It has been reported that the great Haile Gebrselassie was 9% dehydrated when he set the then world record of 2:03:59. And his last mile was astonishingly fast. So dehydration can be managed. Just take a mouthful as often as you think is necessary, don’t drink too much and make sure you are very well hydrated before you start. Now that’s not complicated, is it?

 

The Simple (Simon) Guide to Racing a Marathon – Part one: Timing

It was my birthday a while ago and my aunt sent me one of those gently amusing cards that cause very little offence or mirth. Here it is…

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 21.05.12

But it got me thinking about how all too often, achieving a goal can become a daunting exercise over over-whelming complexity. I know it was for my first few races.

But now I take a much simpler approach to the marathon and I thought I would share my plan with you in four blog posts over the next week:

  1. Timing (this post)
  2. Hydration
  3. Nutrition
  4. Psychology

Time to think about time

I really strongly suggest that you do not use a GPS to manage your pace on race day. They are notoriously inaccurate and especially when surrounded by 37,000 other GPS watches.

If you are running a marathon that has its course measured by the Association of UK Course Measurers, then the mile markers are accurate. Very accurate.

If your GPS beeps to tell you that you have run a mile before or after the mile marker… then your GPS is wrong. Thinking otherwise is a mistake that too many runners make.

If you accept that your GPS device might be a bit out, then think about this: if your GPS is short by 15 seconds per mile, that is six and a half minutes for a marathon. If you are aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon, your GPS only needs to be 43 meters out per mile – which is only 2.7% – and you will finish in 4 hours 6 minutes.

So what do I suggest?

A stopwatch. I use a GPS watch, but I turn off the GPS function and just use the watch as a stopwatch. Each time I pass a mile marker, I hit the lap button. If the time for the last mile is more than my target pace, I am behind schedule and if it is less than my target pace, I am ahead of schedule. I can then adjust as necessary. Simple.

The next post will be up in a couple of days. In the mean time, what do you use to make sure you are on pace? Or do you not bother with that? Let me know what your tactics are and how you have honed them in the past.

The storm is coming

Think back if you will, to the point before your marathon preparation cycle started. Let’s take November last year for example. Whether or not you raced last autumn, it is highly likely that last November you were not training for anything specific. Wasn’t that a lovely time? Blissful in fact. You were running, sure, but it was base building stuff – more steady runs and less sessions. Maybe even skipping a run or two if life or work got in the way.

But now, if you listen carefully, you can hear the rumble of the approaching spring marathon. Coming like a train down the tracks, ever day it is getting closer and closer…

And the training is getting harder and harder.

Welcome to the Twiglet Zone.

As I look around me at my compatriots, my training partners and the people I have contact with through this blog or through social media, the incidences of injury and tiredness are becoming more and more common.

At the track last night, people were missing. Others didn’t manage to finish the session. The recoveries between reps stretched out from 60 seconds initially to 75 seconds.

I have heard from friends who are starting to get over stretched. Little injuries are appearing. General fatigue is setting in.

I’m suffering too. As I write this I am sat on the sofa with my feet up and a cup of tea, like an old man. I felt OK after my track session last night, but a combination of a hard session, a rather restless night and possibly not eating very sensibly after the track last night, left me feeling utterly drained as I went out for my run this morning. I managed the 60 minutes and kept to the pace that I usually manage for those runs, but I felt ragged and there were several very sore spots in my legs – right calf, back of the left knee and both quads. I was in a sorry state!

But I have now got to the point where I realise this is all part of the training. If you want to be the best runner you can be, you have to manage these difficult periods. Training for a marathon involves having injuries treated or resting them for a few days. It involved making sure there is enough food in the house. It requires making sure that you create the environment that will allow you to sleep properly. And most of all, training to run the best marathon you can (or excelling in any sporting endeavor for that matter) requires you to embrace the challenges that come with training hard and the build-up of fatigue that is part and parcel of training week in, week out.

Professional athletes suffer too!

It is tempting when you see the runners at the top of their field, floating along at super-human speeds, to thing that the pros have it easy all the time, but that is far from the truth. Check out Jessica Ennis in this BBC film, at about 4min 25sec talking about the struggle of getting out of bed when the weather is horrible and she feels broken from all the training. Or consider Julia Bleasdale, who I interviewed recently, who told me that

Sometimes when I am really tired and I have a second run to do and the weather is miserable – those runs are very difficult, but of course they can also be the most beneficial.

What the pros know is that when it comes to the day of the race or event, all the hard training will pay off and succeeding will look easy. That is what we have to focus on – the end goal.

So, there is no way to sugar-coat this. If running a marathon was easy, there would be NO POINT DOING IT. We do it because it is hard and because it is a challenge. But in reality the bulk of the challenge is now, not on the day. So get that injury fixed and make sure you have the right stuff and the right environment to train hard and recover. And visualise the moment when you achieve your aim… I promise you: the pain and fatigue you feel now will pale into insignificance on the day. You didn’t really think it would be easy, did you?