Friday, 14 January 2011

Marathon build up races.....getting it wrong?

 Yesterday's post  related  race frequency  and race build up,  focussing  on the marathon. As an example of perhaps a sensible approach  I went back to 1983 and the London Marathon in April.   There was perhaps less temptation  to over race in the first 3 months of the year, as having had a relatively easy November and December,  there was still a feeling of building back up in the first quarter.
  Later in the year, however,  I was definitely guilty of "going to the well" too often and consequently paid the price, albeit small.   In 1985,  by the end of August I had run 12 races including a successful 2nd in Selby Marathon (2:27.49)  Build up to that one had included 4 half marathons, between 70 and 72, so again faster than marathon pace.  So far so good. 12 races in 8 months.
  With a rare "high value" team prize up for grabs our team at Valley Striders (Leeds) next targetted the Humber Marathon (Hull).  There would be 12 weeks between the Selby and the Hull races. Again the build up looks sensible with a 22K,  a half, a 15 miler, a 20 mile race.  But another half two weeks before the Hull and a 10K the week before look questionable in retrospect and ill advised.
  I was beaten at Selby by team mate Steve O'Callaghan by just 50 seconds.   12 weeks later he beat me by over 3 minutes at the Humber.   Consolation was the team performance.   Martin Hopson (8th 2:27)
Steve O'C. (9th. 2:27)  Terry Bean (10th 2:27)  with me 11th 2:30.41.   But not good enough to win the team prize and so we resolved to turn out again in force in the local Leeds Marathon. ....just 6 weeks later!!   Perhaps that was what we were plotting in this post Humber photo or was it the fact that with 8,9,10 and 11 there had been no team prize to collect!
  I think if I was advising an athlete today I would say OK,   do it if you must,  but let's ease down for a couple of weeks, pick up for a couple of weeks and then ease down again.  Run the race and have a rest from racing for November and December. 
 Trouble was I didn't have a coach.   This is what I did in the 6 weeks between the 2 marathons.

  Week after marathon......SEPT 22   Sale Half....................71.41
                                            SEPT 29   Blackpool Half .........70.25
                                            OCT    6    Nidd Valley Half......70.33
So 3 half marathon in the 3 weeks following the Humber....time for a rest? 
No chance, why not run 2 races the following Sunday. One in the morning. One in the afternoon !!
                                            OCT   13   (morning.....Horsforth 10K......33.03
                                                                afternoon..York  10 mile.........56.34 
                                            OCT 20.....wait for it.......REST ...NO RACE (that made a change!)

 Naturally, having  had  a week of racing I must have felt "well up" for the LEEDS and  despite a quality  field with a dozen sub 2:30 runners in it, decided I would try to break them early......making a break after just 2 miles...WRONG!!
 I can recall drifting back from 20 miles. Eventually dropping out of the top 10.  Not totally disastrous but I had hoped for much more.  I eventually finished 12th in 2:31.19. 
 This picture below clearly shows my frustration in the finishing funnel just ahead of ALAN DENT of BLAYDON.  Alan ran 2:31.26 for 13th.   You can check out Alan's current running at

Looks like we're doing the hokey kokey, doesn't it? You put your left shoulder in, put your right shoulder in.....but don't shake it all've just run 26.2 miles.

  You can read as much as you like about marathon preparation but no where will it tell you to race another marathon within 6 weeks of another, let alone slot 3 half marathons and more in between.     This was binge racing in the extreme.  Why on earth did I do it?
  In my defence,  looking back, I can only think that we must having had the van selling at all those events and I tended to do the races that we were selling at.   Madness!
  In conclusion,  if you  are focussing on a spring marathon, do just that..... focus.  Choose your build up races wisely and run them 100%.  You should be as fit as ever.  Go for some PBs.  Not marathon pace. You never know what might happen before your big day or  on  the big day itself.  Have a good build up!

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