Manchester Marathon Training: Week 6 of 18

Week 6 has been a watershed week in two different ways.

Firstly, its the last week of the P&D “Endurance” mesocycle. The purpose of it was to do lots of aerobic mileage, building a solid base to progress from in the next mesocycle, which is designed to increase my lactate threshold. So now I have the miles in my legs, I can start making them a bit faster!

Secondly, it was the first “Recovery week” of the plan, and represents being exactly one third (33%) through the training plan. A drop in mileage and intensity has left my legs feeling significantly better than they did after last weeks Marathon paced run. Interestingly (OK not interestingly at all, quite clearly deliberately planned) the next recovery week is immediately following the NEXT marathon paced run!

The more I learn and read about this training plan, the more it just makes sense. Its logical, well balanced and it seems to be working. As such, some of the “Tweaks” I’d previously made (And detailed in my strategy post) have been undone, leaving only the changes to accommodate the Reading Half Marathon, and an increase in long run distances to ensure I do 5 x 20 milers.

Meanwhile, week three of Jantastic is in the bag! Still rocking the 100% score, keeping it up for both myself and for the team!


Next month you need to additionally set the length of your longest planned run for each week. So I have planned 20, 18 (Marathon pace run), 13 (Recovery week), 20 in that order. I was torn about possibly putting a 22 into the mix, but I think I’ll wait for March to assess that. I can’t tell yet if it will help me either physically or psychologically.

From a pure training point of view, this week exactly matched the plan as described in the book. As it was a recovery week I saw little point in pushing anything and wanted to focus on recovering my legs ahead of the next tough mesocycle. I am happy to report I ran each planned run with 100% success!


Monday was a rest day, though my legs were quite sore. I contemplated a short recovery run in order to get the “Pro” Jantastic badge for running 6 times in a single week, but decided against it. Not worth it in a recovery week.

Tuesday was the new favourite 10 mile general aerobic, with 10 x 100m strides. After reading the book a bit more and learning more about this session, i chose to run it differently to usual. Rather than spacing the strides out evenly throughout the run at half mile intervals, I stacked them towards the end of the run, at quarter mile intervals instead. This meant the strides were a bit tougher as there was less recovery, but also most of them seemed to be uphill! But its still a brilliant session, shame about the weather as it was cold wet and miserable!

Wednesday saw a nice easy recovery run with Jodie. I really enjoy the recovery miles, (although they are often still tough despite being significantly slower) as they follow a harder run, the session the day after ALWAYS feels easier. I have seriously neglected these types of run in the past.

It was an 8 mile general aerobic run on Thursday. By golly it was cold and I think it’s only going to get colder before it gets warmer! I actually went a bit faster than I think i should have, and Strava reported the workout as “Extreme”. I think part of that was because of the first couple of miles being me trying to sustain the pace while running uphill, then on the downhills and flats running faster than I should have. Either way, it certainly didn’t feel extreme and actually finished feeling pretty good.

Friday was weigh in day, and I lost a pleasing 2.5lbs, of which 2.3 were fat! Still on track to reach my ultimate goal before Manchester, though could do with a couple more good weeks (Perhaps even a couple of 3 pound weeks?) to give me some breathing room. Ultimately as long as I get close to it I’ll be happy. Still 5lbs over my pre-christmas weight – I’ll feel much happier when I’m back below that figure and reaching new “Lowest ever” weights!

I volunteered on parkrunday, and I was run director for a phenomenal 215 runners! A record attendance for a non-anniversary run! The car park was a bit chaotic though so we have to put a marshal out there next week, though I’d be surprised if we had the same amount of people again! As I couldn’t parkrun, I went on a nice little 4m recovery run, which was later than intended as we had a busy day!

Credit to Karen Handley
Credit to Karen Handley

As I “Only” had 12 miles to run on Sunday, I took the opportunity to run with the running group I usually do intervals with. It was so much nicer running with people than slogging out a long run on your own! Officially this was only a “Medium Long Run”, according to the training plan. It was a little faster than I had planned but my legs felt fine afterwards so not too concerned.

All in all, I have to say this recovery week has been a success. I feel good and ready for the next mesocycle, where the plan is to build on my lactate threshold. More miles, and faster! Bring it on ūüôā

Gels and Fuelling: My Approach

Race fuelling is an important consideration¬†for the marathon.¬†Generally speaking, if you’ve had a decent carby dinner and breakfast, most people have enough glycogen (The way carbs/energy are stored in your muscles) to see you through to about 18-20 miles.

(Yep, this means you don’t really need them for a half marathon, though they do provide a useful boost as a placebo)

Obviously this leaves a shortfall of 6-8 miles for your body to find juice for. So you’ll need to consume more energy whilst you are running to see you through the extra miles. Of course, you can’t stop for dinner on the way around, so you need to consume your energy¬†on the move.

You also need to remember that¬†the carbs you take on board won’t be ready for your muscles to use straight away. It takes time for them to digest and convert to glycogen so your muscles can use them. So waiting until you’ve made it to 18 miles to start taking fuel on will be too late. Common sense dictates you should start fuelling early on, at regular intervals so your body never runs out of glycogen in the first place.

So what do you take to fuel yourself? Well some people take flapjacks, jelly babies or¬†a manner of other things. Personally I use energy gels. They are small and easy to carry (Some are, anyway) and more importantly, easy to consume. I’m not sure I’d get on too well trying to chow down on flapjack at marathon pace!

Gels however are very rich, vary widely in flavours and also vary as to how much energy they actually give you per pack. I read some horror stories about people who try gels and they simply do not agree with them, causing ‘runners tummy’ – not nice to be caught short with that mid marathon!

You need to find a gel that you like the taste of, sits well in your tummy, and provides the right amount of carbs for your needs. The only way to work that out is through experimentation, and practise. And the best time to do that is on your long run.

Firstly, pick a brand (With various flavours) and get a few individual sachets of a gel and stick with that brand for a long run. See how your tummy reacts during that run, and see how you feel at the end of it. It’s no good mixing brands, if you have a bad reaction to one its impossible to tell which caused it! When you have tried them out, ask yourself these questions

Did you feel sick? Need the toilet? If its a no to those then your digestive system agrees with them.

Did you like the flavour? Many brands have a range of different flavours to experiment with, as long as your tummy agrees you can try different ones.

Were you able to open them OK? Silly question, but when you are running¬†at speed and reaching mile 22, your coordination isn;t what it used to be! You want to be able to open them easily and with confidence that you won’t drop what could be your last gel!

Can you carry enough? Think about how many you’ll need for the full 26.2 and how you are going to carry them? I have a SPI Belt with 6 gel loops which is enough for me to have one every 4 miles with one spare for droppage. Do you have capacity to carry them?

Can you run with that many gels? Make sure you have a practise run with all the gels you’ll need loaded in your transport system. When I ran Paris, I had never worn the gel belt, and it felt incredibly weird carrying a heavy waist pack. I wish I’d have tried it first!

If you find a gel which meets all those requirements, get a box of them (as they are cheaper in bulk) and keep practising with them. Your body will get more used to them and you’ll be able to work out how frequently you need to use them, if you need water with them etc.

I tried SIS Go (didn’t like the taste), Clif Shot Bloks (Tasted great, but struggled to shew and breathe whilst running at marathon pace) and finally settle on Gu. Thick and syrupy, but very tasty. Small to carry on my gel belt and also light. Easy to open and easy to consume. My order is with Wiggle as we speak!


When Jantastic meets discipline

Following yesterday’s epic 18 mile marathon paced session, the 150 mile 5am drive to work this morning was a little more challenging than usual. Not only was I mentally tired from the shortened amount of sleep I had (not a good idea for recovery, especially when Strava just rated your suffer score as “Extreme”) but my muscles were achy and stiff. My eyes could barely stay open!

Following that up with hard day at work I was feeling a little drained. There were several things running around my head.

  • My legs could really do with a recovery run to shake off the stiffness
  • I need to burn some calories to help me lose weight this week
  • I’m in a hotel room on my own tonight
  • There’s a Jantastic badge to be earned for completing 6 runs in a week
  • It’s -1 degrees and there’s a Jantastic badge for that too!

However, written in clear letters at the top of my training plan for this week was this stark reminder:


It was my first “recovery week” of the program, and its a noticeable drop in intensity and volume. Therefore I deduced that on tired legs I’d be stupid to go out for a run. It would do me FAR more harm than good.

Having previously written about how much walking helped me through my Paris training, I figured I’d brave the baltic conditions of the West Midlands and headed out for a brisk 5k walk.¬†And the mission was a success! My legs feel much better (though still a bit fatigued), calories burned, and it killed an hour.

But those Jantastic badges had better watch out… I’m coming for them next week!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 5 of 18

After nailing last week, my Monday rest day recovered my legs nicely to start this weeks training, which followed the book precisely except for the Sunday Run. P&D wanted a 16 miler with 10 at Marathon pace, and I wanted to, in line with last week, increase that to a total of 18 (Keeping the 10 at marathon pace.

With all that jargon out of the way, here’s how the week looked. Perfectly to plan!


Though that obviously doesn’t tell the whole story. Tuesday’s threshold run was a particular challenge. The longest session of that type and sustained intensity I’ve ever done, and by the end of the 5 miles in the middle I knew about it! I was a little quicker than threshold, which I hope was effective enough to make it a worthwhile session.

Wednesday was a 5 miler at recovery pace, but it was much harder than it should have been. With hindsight I recognise that cold and windy conditions didn’t help, but the main driver for it being a struggle was just lack of sleep. 2 early (4.45 alarm!) wake up calls in 3 days and I haven’t been having the best quality sleep either.

Thursday saw an improvement, compared to Thursday, with 10 miles of general aerobic running. As it was around Coleshill it was a bit flatter than usual and my splits were nice and consistent.

As I was volunteering I was unable to add to my parkrun tally this week, though Jodie managed to secure yet another brilliant PB! I went for a 5 mile recovery run in the evening instead. Clear skies, cold crispy weather it really was a lovely evening for a run.

Then came the big one. I was apprehensive (Or scared, one or the other…) about the session. 18 miles with 10 of them at Marathon Pace. But what a session! I started the run at a nice slow pace (9:15s) and increased it by 15s per mile until I reached Marathon Pace. So far so good. I ran up through Ham Hill and down into Stoke-sub-Hamdon, and through to Montacute where I called in for a bottle of water. Up until then¬†I felt really good and really comfortable. But it was like after that I tried to compensate for the short stp and it became a bit tougher then. Unsurprisingly, the last 3 miles at MP were quite hard, givn the elevation profile, but all in all a very good, very pleasing session. I came away feeling confident – 275m of elevation in that run so it looks like I can possibly make y target! But there’s a long way to go yet.

After week 1 of Jantastic, they were kind enough to award me some badges!

For achieving 100% in any week in January
For being a top 10% most consistent scorer in my location
For ranking my workouts as “Ready to Go Go Go!”
For claiming a Strava workout

OK, they are meaningless, but I am still LOVING them. Unlike last year as well, you can now see what you need to do in order to win the badge. So I have my eye on a few – I hope to achieve ALL the available badges by the end of the challenge. And by available, I obviously exclude the cycling and swimming badges, and also the “Silver and Bronze” versions of the top awards.

Next week sees a drop in volume and intensity as its a recovery week – hopefully the last few weeks training will see some “supercompensation” in this recovery!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 4 of 18

New year, new start, and the first week of Jantastic! Marathon training week 4 was identical to the P&D 18/55 training plan with one exception – My long run was 16 miles instead of the plan’s 15.


Tuesday was a bit of a challenge. With my working scenario now generally involving a long commute on a Tuesday, I’m not normally home til 6.30, so getting motivated to do an 8, 9 or 10 miler is difficult as I know I’ll be out for an hour and a half.

But goals don’t achieve themselves so i headed out for my 8 miler with strides. And I’m so glad I did! Its the second time I’ve done this session and I really enjoyed it. My stride splits were rapido and its nice to know I can run that fast, albeit in very VERY small chunks! Must be good for my fast-twitch.

Wednesday was a 5 mile recovery run and I ran it with Jodie. She¬†is continuing to impress me – she did¬†17 miles on Sunday (Her longest ever) she barely seems to be fatigued! Very jealous but very proud. She’s well on track for London. I struggled around though and felt better for finishing it.

Thursday saw a 10 mile at general aerobic pace. After the recovery run was a struggle I expected the same here. Thankfully it wasn’t, and goes to show that the recovery runs in this plan are really working for me. I covered 174m of elevation and had some gloriously consistent splits!


Friday was a rest day, but also weigh in day. The post christmas bloat is back under control. I’m about half a stone over where I was at the start of December, but i’m back on track and on target to reach my target weight before Manchester comes around.

On parkrunday I was scheduled for 4 recovery miles, and as Yeovil Montacute was cancelled, we went on tour to Southwick. The intention was to parkrun for 3.1 miles at recovery pace and then top it up by leaving the funnel to do another 0.9 miles. I ended up doing a bit quicker than that and finishing at threshold, but I did do a cool down lap.


Sunday was a 16m long run. After reading the book it said the long runs ought to start at the slow end of your pace zone and end up around 10% slower than marathon pace. With my target marathon pace being 7:30 per mile this meant finishing up at about 8:15s. So with McMillan calculating the slow end of of my pace zone at 9:05, that’s what I targetted as my start pace, then speed up 5s¬†or so a mile.¬†This would take me quicker than the books target, but still within my McMillan zone, which I’ve always trusted and never let me down. And aside from one or two anomalies it went to plan and finished strongly.

Oddly, I thought I had picked a much flatter route than last week – but it was only about 10m less in the end, and felt much less strenuous. Best of all, my legs felt good all day afterwards.

Although it was week 4 of marathon training it was week 1 of Jantastic. The motivational challenge which promotes consistency as an avenue for improvement. I successfully negotiated week 1 with a perfect score, and until it gets to March (When you have to predict a race time) I hope this will continue!


On the whole I am really pleased with my progress through the plan so far. My legs still feel good, and I am in much better shape than I was last year – I had to take a week off as I fell over at Weymouth parkrun and gashed my leg! If I can remain consistent and stay confident my ambitious target is definitely achievable.

Southwick Country parkrun

Having had to cancel this weeks Yeovil Montacute parkrun due to high winds, Jodie and I, along with her visiting friend headed off to Southwick Country Park to run their run. It was the closest local event and the Event Director there is also our Ambassador.

It took about an hour and the weather was a it drizzly, but it was unseasonably mild at around 13 degrees – not that you could tell with the gusty wind whipping around us!

We arrived at about 8.30 with plenty of parking and it was easy and obvious to find the start and finish, the volunteer hi-vis and registration tent in the field by the entrance. On entering the park we saw this amazing statue! Constructed by local parkrunners it was presented on the very first Southwick Country parkrun and holds pride of place. Sadly, one of those who made it died recently, and the team paid their respects to him last week.

"Spirit of the oarkrunner" and Ambassador Sean Price
“Spirit of the parkrunner” and Ambassador Sean Price

The start/finish area was already bustling with runners and volunteers, who were busily putting together the makeshift funnel. Usually its on the grass, but it was too squidgy today. The backup plan is to use cones on the concrete but they kept getting blown away! The creative solution was 2 volunteers holding a piece of tape – not sure if there is a predefined volunteer role for “Human Cone”!

Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_010Meanwhile we took the opportunity to get a Southwick selfie!

Southwick Selfie!
Southwick Selfie!

Before long we were called to the start – about a 300 yard walk from the funnel area. We left our bags next to this tent – unfortunately shortly after this photo the wind got the better of it and it took a group of volunteers to grab it! I saw it stuffed under a fence after the run!

Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_006

There were plenty of people gathering up on the start. As paths are narrow, everyone was snaked up at the start and the team had to call people in closer to do the run briefing, during which I had a special “shout out” which was very kind and a small ripple of applause!

Run BriefingMatt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_012 Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_011The run briefing covered everything we needed to know, including the course description. 2 and 3/4 laps (Anticlockwise), and we had to pass the “Spirit of the parkrunner” statue twice. If you passed it a third time, you’ve missed the funnel!

The course was hard compact trail. Perfectly adequate to wear road shoes, but in the wet conditions trail shoes may have been a better choice, though¬†not by much. The course was quite puddly – which I love! I don’t know why, but when you’re running a wet course people around you tend to run at the side and try and avoid getting their feet damp – that opens up nice big overtaking gaps, so I run through the middle and the water keeps you cool!

Another nice touch was that they have permanent marker posts, indicating the start, finish, and each kilometre. They are carved into short stump type posts, perfectly fitting with the aesthetic of the park and ideal for anyone wanting to have a freedom run.

My run was meant to be part of a 4mile recovery jog, but after the first half a mile I was enjoying myself too much and picked up the pace to finish at about my threshold pace, with a negative spit for every km I think! I finished in 25th place in 22:15. It was my 34th run across 13 different parkrun events. I thanked all the volunteers on the way round, and if you don’t – I recommend you do! Without them you couldn’t run, and on a multi lap course theres no excuse not to say thankyou to each marshal at least once.

Afterwards we went to the cafe, which also had toilets. You can use the toilets ahead of the run, but only if you come back and use the cafe afterwards, which is very fair! It was very busy and clearly enjoyed by parkrunners – it was standing room only!

Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_015

They had an amazing selection of cakes on display, did a fantastic looking cooked breakfast and was all very good value. The other nice thing about the cafe is that it supports a local charity for adults with learning disabilities – another brilliant example of how parkrun supports local communities.

We hit the road shortly afterwards, whilst this nice lady was sorting the tokens. We had a lovely time, and will be back in the summer to have a crack in the dry!

Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_016

¬†UPDATE: “Official” photos from Southwick Country parkrun’s Flickr Group.

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Monthly Review: December 2014

When I wrote my November review I discussed that I didn’t think I was over training. With the benefit of an additional months hindsight, the abject failure to¬†achieve any of my December goals, and 3 weeks properly structured training with rest and recovery days, I now recognise that that’s EXACTLY what i did. I’ve never been more convinced by the principles in the P&D Advanced Marathoning book, and Daniels Running formula about the importance of a balanced training regime (Which I didn’t really have in November), and have learned some important lessons.

I think I’ve cleared the worst of the overtraining side effects now. My running in December, despite race times not reaching the heights I hoped, finished with a flourish. a 5k PB (By a measly 6 seconds, though¬†Basingstoke isn’t exactly a fast course¬†course) was a nice Christmas present. I even found myself, by sticking with my marathon training plan, really excited to be running again and motivated to get out. This has been a great boost!


You can see in the above calendar my abysmal Street 5k performance. I just had nothing in the tank, and it didn’t help that I was unwell (Not that I was prepared to admit pre race or immediately post race, instead preferring a stroppy cool down walk). I¬†took a clear 3 days off and skipped a long run – which was the first time thats happened for a while! This clearly helped me, and if nothing else I have a score to settle on the course – I think I’ll target the last race in the series!

Usually here I’ll analyse the goals I set for the month. Simple analysis: I hit none of them.

  • Sub-42 at the Weston Christmas Cracker 10k – I managed 42:44. Conditions WERE tough though, very windy.
  • Sub-20 at the Street 5k OR Basingstoke parkrun – Street was the peak of my crisis. Basingstoke I did manage to set a PB on a not so easy course.
  • Reach a weight of 13st 13lbs – Ha! It was Christmas, not sure why I deluded myself!


In positive news the progress report showed an increase in average speed, a decrease in distance and a constant in average elevation gain. This means despite the shorter distance I did the same climbs – which indicates steeper/more frequent inclines! I firmly believe that the elevation gained last year helped me massively in Paris, so I’ll be looking to build that back up again in this campaign.

My goals for January are simple. Its base building for the Marathon, my “Endurance” mesocycle, and of course it’s Jantastic!

  • Score 100% in Jantastic
  • Increase the Average elevation gain
  • Get my weight down to my pre-christmas weight (14st 3lbs)

Keep it simple and achievable. You’d have thought I could design a decent set of SMART objectives after getting my MBA but apparently not!

(I know these are really superceded by my weekly marathon training posts, but its good to look back at the bigger picture too – not to mention these will need to continue after the marathon!)

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 3 of 18

Week 3 marked the final week of 2014, an enormous year for me running wise and ushered in a new one with new targets. It also saw the last week of training plan disruption caused by the festive period, though this was managed quite nicely thanks to some creative thinking!

According to the book/training plan, this week called for:

Tuesday – 10m GA
Wednesday – 4m Recovery
Thursday – 8m (4m LT)
Saturday – 4m R
Sunday – 14m MLR

And this largely remained unchanged, except Thursday was New Years day! I wanted to take the opportunity to do a “parkrun double” s decided to switch the Tuesday and Thursday session, and add a mile either side of each parkrun which worked quite well.


Tuesday’s LT run was much harder than when I did it a few weeks ago. A Christmas of indulgence made me pay the price by delivering a tough run. I managed to hit the splits but it was far less comfortable. Note to self: Shift the Christmas timber!

Thursday was parkrun double day! In Bristol, Chipping Sodbury and Pomphrey Hill¬†started an hour and a half apart allowing 155 people to do both. As I was due to do 10m at General Aerobic pace, I though a mile warm up and warm down for each would be a good way of fulfilling the training obligations provided I didn’t take them too fast…. Jodie and I drove up with friends Nikkii, Steve, Paige and Kam and also stumbled across the Biss family who were also on double duty! It made for a good away day for Yeovil Montacute!


Chipping Sodbury is a 3 lap course on narrow tarmac paths around a rugby club playing fields. The tourism/NYD factor tripled their average attendance and the first lap was quite congested. This helped me keep it easy. I then started getting a bit faster as the run went on and even kicked in a solid finish before having a cool down lap. The people and marshals were lovely, though the course wasn’t the most interesting. Very flat though, and could be good for a PB in the right conditions!

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Pomphrey Hill was similar in that it was a three lapper, but had a feature hill which of course needed to be climbed 3 times! My warm up lap took me down it and it put the Yeovil Montacute hill to shame! The course is all tarmac apart from the hill and a section along the top which was woodchipping (Apparently the hill woodchippings are quite new Рwould have hated to have tackled it without them!) and the paths are much wider. I found the surroundings much nicer for some reason, and actually think this is one of my favourite parkruns!

In my run I decided to give it a good tempo effort as I liked the challenge of the hill. I wasn’t going all out but set a pleasing time with a good finish.

1910997_10152973371632241_4597823702280872528_oI couldn’t quite believe it but we had loads of volunteers for Saturday’s parkrun too, so I got the opportunity to run at home too! The idea was I’d do the run at recovery pace. It started well, but the competitive juices got going and upped the pace for the last mile. This was semi conscious – the last mile is ALWAYS the one my pace drops off at. So by injecting a quick last mile in a “training” run, meant I could get a psychological boost without affecting my training too much and taking too much out of my legs for the Sunday long run. I even managed a sprint finish!

16184689495_c73935357b_kThis puts me on 33 parkruns, a tantalising 17 from the 50 club!

Sunday of course meant a long run. 14 miles at LR pace. I managed to keep things nice and consistent, managed a good amount of climbing for strength building. The first 9 miles flew by, and the last 5 got gradually harder – though that’s to be expected!

Week 4 started today with a rest day! And it’s officially the start of Jantastic! The free online motivation challenge helps you to be consistent with your running, as consistency is the key to improvement. Sign up at to take part!