Month 2 – Manchester Marathon Training

Where on earth is my life going? After just completing week 8 of training for Manchester Marathon, I am now HALFWAY! I feel like it’s been 2 minutes since I first looked over my training plan from Clean Coach Katie.

Still rocking the shorts despite the freezing temperature!

Over the last 2 weeks in particular, the mileage has ramped up. Last week I hit just under 35 miles and in January I achieved a total of 127 miles, which is the highest monthly mileage for me since 2018!

Since month 1, the main change, other than a ramp-up in mileage is really that I am now running 5 days per week instead of 4. At the moment, my weeks look like this:

  • Monday – 1 hour speed work with club (usually hills or something like 2 x 12 efforts)
  • Tuesday – Rest day
  • Wednesday – 45 min core class followed by 1 hour easy run with Club
  • Thursday – tempo run, at the moment around 6 miles
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Long Run.. as of this weekend I will be up to 16 miles!
  • Saturday – 5k recovery run

I can honestly say that right now, I am definitely the fittest I’ve ever felt. During the last month, my long runs have been 12, 13.1, 14 and 16. Building up nicely.

I am actually really surprised at how energetic I still feel. I’ve never had a coach before, and if I am honest I was little nervous that I would be pushed too far and constantly feel tired. That’s not the case at all though – I am loving every moment. The runs push me; I am doing speed on a Monday and a Tempo on Thursdays, and my long-runs usually include some marathon paced miles at the end to test my tired legs. But, the plan works so well around my life that I really do not feel like I am compromising my run/life balance!

I love to be busy but I am also the type of person that needs space to relax. Having 2 consistent rest days helps me to plan my week and also ensures I dedicate those days to foam rolling and stretching. As I know I have some good rest days, it means I can put 100% effort into my runs. Which leads me onto a few things I’ve learnt in January….

What have I learnt or changed in month 2?

The importance of rest days

I love running and I do genuinely look forward to each run. But knowing that I have 2 rest days each week really helps me mentally. I don’t feel like I need to hold back during my runs to ‘save’ energy for the next day because I know I am well rested, and whilst I still get tired (week 7 was tough for me, a mix of an increase in mileage and a busy work week), I feel like I am getting the right balance.

It’s easy to compare yourself to others. I see some people running more days per week or even having no complete rest days, but for me, 2 days off a week is great and I do not feel like marathon training has become a chore!

You’re not lazy or not dedicated if you take rest days, remember!

Caring for those overworked muscles!

Unfortunately, my right calf is being a right little diva. Its been really tight and sore for about 3 weeks. I do suffer with stiff calf’s, but the pain increased after a tempo-run i did during a lunch break. I was in a rush so i did no warm up or warm down and i was really pushing the pace. What a donut!

Luckily, I had my monthly sports massage with Rudi at The Treatment Lab a few days later. The next day, I felt better and I was able to carry on running for a few weeks, kinda ignoring the tightness I get at the start of a run.

However, during week 8 of training my calf just said NO! I headed out with my running club and had to turn back after a couple of minutes as my calf was so tight that I wasn’t running properly. Rudi came to rescue and I headed back to The Treatment Lab.

He assessed my movement and then suggested acupuncture on my calf. There was no absolutely no pain (apart from a slight twinge in the really tight part of my calf) and it was over pretty quickly. He then massaged the areas and taped up my calf to ease the pressure on my muscles.

I had a 16 miler to do the next day and I fully expected not to be able to run it. However, I headed out and I had no pain! Just some tenderness, probably because my calf was a little bruised. I also made sure I warmed up properly – lesson learnt!

Taped up to take the pressure of my calf – it really helped!

Having an active life is important, not just running

Rudi previously mentioned about some tightness in my hips, which is common in most people who have desk jobs like myself. It really got me thinking.

Overall, I am fit and healthy, but I am either sitting at a desk, or running. Apart from weekends, there isn’t really much else in-between that I do to keep active. Since my last session with Rudi, I have made an effort to walk during my 1 hour lunch break. I can do between 2-3 miles if I then eat lunch at my desk. What’s the point in trying to develop my running if I don’t do much else?

I will never neglect strength training again

I attend Katie’s core class for runners (also suitable for non-runners) every Wednesday in Milton Keynes and I am definitely noticing a difference. Core class is my favorite session of the week!

You have to bear in mind that I did no consistent strength work beforehand, but I genuinely am noticing some improvements in myself:

  • The most obvious one – I’ve noticed a difference in my ability to do each exercise. Katie also corrects our form or gives tips on how to make it harder. I noticed that particularly in plank exercises I was shaking a lot! Whilst they’re still not easy, I feel stronger doing them and can step the exercise up to the next level to keep it tough
  • I recover from runs much quicker. Particularly tempo / speed runs. I am not super sore the next day and I think this is coming from being stronger overall.
  • I feel more energetic. I recovery quicker but overall I am feeling ‘ready to go’ more often
  • My resting heart rate has dropped quite a lot! On rest days, it tends to sit about 15-20 bpm lower than a few months ago. The strength training helps me improve my overall fitness over and above running, so I think this is definitely contributing.
  • Despite my tight calf which is common for all runners, I have no niggles. I had niggles during my last 2 marathon rounds despite my mileage being much lower. A great sign that my body is strong enough to cope with the mileage (for now at least!)
Katie’s core class, Wednesdays @ 6 and 7pm!

There’s more to nutrition than just sports gels – woo!

Dionne at Up and Running kindly gave me a range of during and post-race nutrition to try. Beforehand, I had only ever used SIS sports gels (which are fantastic!) and also the heaps of sticky sweets I’ve snatched out of a strangers hand during races!

After trying a selection, I have switched to Cliff energy bloks! Each pack has 6 cubes of jelly like blocks and they’re super light weight to carry. 3 cubes = 1 gel, and so 1 packet = 2 gels, meaning I can carry half the quantity during runs! Woo!

The ginger and peppermint flavor is the one I would recommend if you feel sick during long distance races, as both those flavors are known for curing sickness and helping digestion. However – I won’t lie – the first 2 times I used the Bloks, my tummy felt a little weak…. luckily, I was fine but don’t be put off at first if you feel the same, just try them a few times first. Dionne suggesting following the blok with some water. You can pick them up online or at Up and Running stores.

Unfortunately, like most sweet-like things that are edible in my life, these came and went pretty quick and so i can only share with you an empty wrapper! 😉

So what’s next?

I’m in month 3 now and I am heading into LONG run territory! I’ve got some 17 and 18 miler’s coming up, followed with the big one… 20 miles!

My focus for the next week is to make sure my calf does not turn into anything worse and then get back on track with speed work!

Happy Running

x

Why do I run?

My attempt to answer a question I am so often asked – “why do you run?

“I am confident and comfortable in my own skin”

Running is hard. It requires effort. Sometimes the rapid breathing hurts our chest and our quads start to burn or our knees feel funny from the pounding of our feet against the ground. Running requires heading out in the cold and running in a big circle and then ending up exactly in the same place you started.

It’s easy to see why people question someones love of running. Particularly when I enjoy it so much that I have a dedicated Instagram account and always have a race coming up. I can no longer say ‘I just want to get fit’ or ‘I just want to lose weight’. 2.5 years into my running journey and I’d probably have achieved at least one of those goals by now if that were the case.

The truth is, I don’t run to lose weight, and I do feel pretty fit now. Finally, after 25 years, I really couldn’t give a damn about weight loss and I am confident and comfortable in my own skin. When I take my running trainers on holiday or make every effort to squeeze a run in during a busy day, it’s not because I am ‘obsessed’ or get scared that I will lose fitness or gain stone if I miss a run. Running is much, much more than that to me.

So, why do I run?

Running takes me to a place that I am simply addicted to. I somehow find a mindset and an energy that I am yet to find doing any other activity. During my last marathon (Milton Keynes, 2019) I hit 21 miles and felt the ‘wall’ coming, but more mentally than physically. Somehow, I switched my mindset and went to a place that I have never been before. I was able to block out all negative thoughts and all pain and focused 100% on taking enough steps to get me to the finish line, so much so that I really cannot remember that last 5 miles. When I crossed the finish line, I suddenly awoke again and had an intense rush of endorphins and pride.

“I become so disconnected from everyday work and life, that I somehow become incredibly connected with myself.”

Endorphins and pride are both elements I still feel after each and every run today, because I make sure I never forget where my running journey started. To a seasoned runner, even 10km is an effortless distance, but I make sure that I appreciate that like all other runners, I started from not even being able to run 1 mile.

Running is also the only time my brain switches off. Personally, I cannot switch off through popular mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga, but I can during a run. In day to day life, I am an over-thinker and I often let little details get in the way of my day. But when I am running, my phone is away, there is no one but myself that cares about what I am doing, I am running through woodlands that are awake whilst the rest of the world sleeping and I am simply elated. I become so disconnected from everyday work and life, that I somehow become incredibly connected with myself.

Exploring the woodlands

During a run, the only important thing in that moment is getting to the next mile, allowing me to think about an issue I need to solve, or something I need to plan. When I get home, anything that has been bothering me has already been put into perspective and somewhat solved, which is perfect for someone with a busy mind, like myself. Plus, I’ve already achieved something amazing by heading out for a run, even if the rest of the day is not quite so successful.

I also run because I am fascinated by the strength others have. I will never forget standing at mile 24 of the London Marathon in 2017 (before I had ever run a marathon). I saw hundreds of runners run by who at the time, would have felt in a difficult place. They have 24 miles of running in their legs with 2.2 miles still to go. I saw people limping and then trying to run again, people crying, the odd person with a forced smile. I was so inspired by actually seeing people push through a difficult situation. They’d trained for around 16 weeks for this moment, knowing that it would be far from easy and now here they all were, 2 miles from the end. Sticking to a training plan for 16 weeks to essentially achieve a goal that only YOU care about, that is 100% for yourself, is something that must be admired.

I guess the message in this ramble is that, I run because it makes me happy. It helps me focus on the rest of my life. I can prove to myself that I really can push myself and go out of my comfort zone and that I don’t give up, even though in other areas of my life, sometimes I want to, or do, give up. Running to me is like someone else’s ‘Netflix’ time. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Netflix (I’ve watched all seasons of Gossip Girl 5 times), but often people will say ‘relax, take a day off!’ if I mention a run. But that’s the thing – it is the way I relax.

Why do you run?

x

Month 1 – Manchester Marathon Training

Starting my training plan and getting new trainers!

Okay, so I’ve just finished week 3 of my Manchester Marathon training plan. Before I tell you more about what the first 3 weeks have entailed, let me give you some background.

This will be my 3rd marathon.

I ran the London Marathon in 2018 (hottest EVER!) in 5:29 and the Milton Keynes Marathon in 2019 in 4:22 – a huge PB. My goal of London was simply to finish. My goal with Milton Keynes was to just get a PB and so I just kind of made up my own training plan. This is the first time I’ve ever seriously followed a plan or received any kind of coaching.

My goal for Manchester is 3:59. A little ambitious, yes, but feeling scared will ensure I do everything I can to make sure I get as close as possible.

With this ambitious goal in mind, I was delighted to be accepted onto the Sponsored Athlete Programme run by Clean Coach Katie, Up & Running Store and The Treatment Lab (sports massage). I am one of two athletes – the other being Mark (Run Like Duck) who has run something crazy like 135 marathons and ultras.

The Sponsored Athlete Programme

The programme provides excellent coaching and a training plan by Clean Coach Katie, a full Motion Matrix Analysis (a much more advanced version of a gait analysis), running trainers, nutrition, weekly core and strength classes, PT sessions and monthly sports massages – an opportunity that I could not refuse!

The Training Plan

I’ve received the first month of my training plan delivered online / via an App. The plan has details of what pacing I should be aiming for with space for me to review how each session went. It’s also linked to my Garmin, so Katie can see my heart rate, splits and average pace!

Each week of the plan looks different and is tailored around my requests. I asked to do my long runs on Saturday rather than Sundays, as I prefer to just ‘get it done’. Typically, the plan looks like this:

  • Monday – speed session
  • Tuesday – rest day
  • Wednesday – core & strength class + 1 hour club run
  • Thursday – tempo run
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – Long run
  • Sunday – rest or recovery run

At the moment, I am running 4 days per week and 1 strength session. Katie provides comments on the app to let me know if I’m doing a good job (I haven’t missed a run yet!). I can’t believe how much more motivated I am by having a coach. Yes, you can follow online training plans, but being accountable to someone else has been a game changer. The other game changer has been my new pair of trainers I received from Up and Running after I used their Motion Metrics Gait Analysis!

Gait Analysis (Motion Metrics by Up & Running)

The Motion Metrics at Up and Running Milton Keynes is a new innovative gait analysis done in-store. Whilst running on a treadmill, the technology looks at your full biometrics to analyse your running style, your energy efficiency and rating and also lets you compare your running style when using different trainers. I left with a video and a super detailed 6 page report giving me scores on all areas, from my braking force to how much I lean forward.

Ever since I started running. I’ve always run in Adidas Ultra Boost. I once walked into Adidas and said ‘I need some running shoes?’ and simply purchased the first pair they showed me. They’ve always been fine and so I never thought to change. Then, Dionne from Up and Running brought out some Saucony ISO 2s…

My energy efficiency (how much energy I can recycle from my muscles per step) went from 9.3% to 18.3% – that’s a huge increase! The trainers felt like I was running on marshmallows and I knew from that point that these would be a game changer. So, unfortunately it’s the end of a great love story between me and my previous 4 pairs of Ultra Boosts. I still need to name my new Sauconys though.

My sexy new Sauconys and a tonne of nutrition to try out before race day!

Dionne gave me lot’s of nutrition to try out – gels, blocs, trail bars, all sorts. Now that I’m in the swing of things, I will be trying out each one over the next few weeks, so I’ll let you know what’s good!

Now that I’m part of the Brooks Run Happy Team, I will be fortunate enough to test out their range of trainers and I will be interested to see how my gait changes in those!

Sports massage

Rudi at The Treatment Lab has completed 8 marathons, so I knew I’d be in good hands when I went to see him. I had a 30 minute assessment to check for injury risk areas and a 30 minute massage.

The assessment was in-depth and he noticed I have a tight ITB band and pretty tight hip abductors. I have noticed some pain previously. He gave me stretches to do 1-2 times per day and then a comprehensive foam rolling plan to do 1-2 times per week. It’s been two weeks so far and my legs feel pretty good, but hopefully by the next blog I will be able to report improvements!

What’s next?

My next update on the programme will be at the start of February. I’ll be sharing a bit more on strength training for runners. I’m attending weekly classes and it’s the first time I’ve done real, deliberate strength training as part of a training plan.

Happy Running, Anastasia x