weather forecastLast Friday afternoon we crossed the threshold into long range weather forecast territory for the Edinburgh marathon. Not that there was anything useful to be determined; the weather soothsayers were clearly playing their cards close to their chest at this point by predicting that anything and everything could happen. Since then, the inexorable advance towards the start line has gathered pace. Runner’s law #9 – as the reality of the impending event increases, so time accelerates. Physics, eh?

I have had no trouble filling taper-time. Work, books, movies and videogames have all expanded to fill the void left by running less. I have had an Edinburgh marathon band made to add to what I can now call a collection. I use this as a motivator rather than a reward, which is why I got it done before the race rather than after.

PARIS 14     I DON'T NEED A REASON EDINBURGH 14     A SHORT WALK HOME

PARIS 14 I DON’T NEED A REASON
EDINBURGH 14 A SHORT WALK HOME

The weather has been great, and my reduced training runs have been varied. As usual, most runs have been on the road, but I have made a couple of excursions into trail territory in an attempt to look like less of an idiot at the upcoming Seven Hills of Edinburgh Race. This has mainly involved the slightly surreal experience of getting completely lost on trails which are only a couple of miles away from home. I started the reconnaissance exercise feeling that as a local, I have an obligation to know my way round this course. I finished the exercise knowing that I am going to have to find someone with at least primary-school orienteering skills to follow. Anyway, I digress.

This will be my second marathon. First time out, in Paris a mere 7 weeks ago, I started the race with all the enthusiasm of a pupil on the first day of big school – apprehension, nervous excitement and innocence in equal measures. I finished it practically on my knees. This time around I have the benefit of the Paris experience to draw on. So, I can strike off naivety, but in return I trade apprehension for fear. I do not want to repeat the experience of those last 6 miles in Paris. If I am to progress in the marathon, I need to find a way to end it more positively, if not actually enjoy it.

I have made some changes to my preparation and race plan.

    1. Long Run Distance

    I am sceptical about the usefulness of the training plan I adopted from Hal Higdon at the end of last year. I never fully got to grips with two things. Firstly, it gradually increases long run miles up to 20, but no further. In the race itself I was fine at 20 miles, and hit the pain barrier shortly after. Really, a marathon training plan should include at least one run closer to the full distance, to help mentally, if not physically, prepare for The Wall. Between Paris and Edinburgh I have increased the miles I had pencilled into my running plan and included one additional 20 miler, but there has not been enough time to allow a full distance training run – 3 marathons in 7 weeks would simply be too much.

    2. Long Run Pace

    The second thing I did not fully understand was taking long runs at slow pace. Yes, it reduces the risk of injury but all it really accomplished was to adjust my body to run slowly. For Edinburgh, I have been keeping long runs at the pace I expect to run on the day.

    3. Taper Period

    I had planned a 3 week taper for Paris, but in the event this got bumped up to 4 weeks because of a business trip. That was too long. This time around I have gone for a 2 week taper, with the 3rd week out containing a 20 miler and a half marathon race. I hope that the harder push will keep my body in better shape at the expense of a shorter training recovery wind-down.

    4. Race Pace Plan

    In Paris I did not have a race plan. I started quite slowly with vague thoughts of seeing how things went. Things went well for a while and so I speeded up. This was a mistake. For Edinburgh I would be happy to achieve the same overall time but to finish the race stronger. That way I will have something to build on. I am setting out to run an even paced race with a finish time of 4:10, i.e. 9.33 mins / mile.

    The Theory ...

    The Theory …

    5. In-race food and drink consumption

    I relied on High5 isotonic gels and took on water sporadically in Paris. I declined the bananas, oranges and other food on offer. I believe I need to take on more calories. This time around I plan to bring the same gels, but add jelly-babies to my race bag. I plan to make more use of water and food stops on the course. And I plan on having a banana close to start time.

I will not adjust other things that I got right for Paris. My sleep patterns, carb loading, breakfast, and pre-race toilet tactics are already up to marathon standards 🙂

I am hopeful that I will be able to build on the good parts of the Paris experience and run a wiser race with a stronger finish. That’s the theory, anyway. This time next week I will know if it works in practice.