A marathon training run

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before: I ran a marathon.

Okay, let me qualify: I’ve actually done that five times before, but what was different this time was that it was on my own, on a local trail called the Downs Link, as a training run. To add to the challenge, it was 30 degrees Celsius, I had to arrange my own aid stations (thanks to my Dad and Southwater Co-Op). Oh and I’d done a long run and a 92 mile ride the day before!

The Downs Link itself is a fantastic multi-use trail following the old railway line route linking the North and South Downs. It stretches for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham-by-Sea – my family home is conveniently located mid-route in Henfield, West Sussex. I enjoy running in London: gritty, urban, yet quiet and almost social in the parks, by The Thames and along Regents Canal. But there’s something liberating about running free in the countryside, feeling the clean air fill your lungs, drawing strength from the beauty of the landscape surrounding you.

The run itself was tough. For 2hrs I felt great: low heart rate, easy pace, taking on sports drink (using a Fuel Belt) and making water stop #1 in Southwater just on the hour mark. But as I hit the turn around – mile 13 – at Slinfold (near Horsham) the heat was starting to become a bit of a factor. I’d agreed to meet my Dad by a little hump-backed bridge outside Christ’s Hospital school – 2h20 on the clock and as I saw the car I felt elated. I think I’d been dreaming about water every few minutes or so since about 1h30, not helped by running past a load of kids splashing around in a big water sports lake! Fluids consumed I resumed the mission and trotted off southwards back towards Southwater.

My heart rate remained low throughout, but I must have been dehydrated as my energy levels dropped in the final 45mins and every step felt painful in my calves and quads. It seemed an age before Partridge Green emerged; I had to focus mile-by-mile, landmark-by-landmark to get myself home. Seeing people outside the old Cat & Canary pub in Henfield (where the station used to be before the Beeching axe fell), sipping beers and getting ready for the footie really drove home what a bizarre morning I’d just experienced! If I’m honest, I’d say it was possibly the hardest marathon I’ve run – maybe even harder than my first in Stockholm in 30-degree heat; perhaps harder than my PB run in London last year. I finished in 3h42, average HR 132bpm and a pace of 8.30 minute miles. I lost 5 pounds in weight despite taking in over 3 litres of fluid.

Well, technically that’s my sixth marathon under the belt then. I’m pleased to report no soreness today and as Coach says it’s “money in the bank”. In recent years I’ve been a disciple of Tim Noakes who argues that there are no physiological benefits from runs over 2hrs. But this Ironman training schedule has challenged a number of principles I’d hitherto firmly held. Will I see the benefits from going VERY long?

I’ve put my faith in Steve Trew. I’m not one to do things by halves; in for a penny in for a pound….and hopefully – going into Ironman Switzerland in 4 weeks’ time – he’s absolutely right about how much is in my training bank.