Long Slow Run – Three words, all important.

The past couple of weeks my long runs have been in a bit of a ‘funk’, they’re just steady, minimal effort time-on-feet workouts. I was starting to get a little bit nervous about the speed I was doing (9:30min/mile) and if this would be good enough to get me over the Marathon distance in under 4hrs, for which I have to average below 9:09min/mile. So this week I decided to do something different on my long run, which has made me appreciate more that in the phrase ‘Long slow run’, all 3 of the words are equally important.

Long Fast RunAs you can see from the run above, I set out to do a 7mile there-and-back route for my long run, which was mistake number 1. Actually, it wouldn’t have been a mistake other than it was compounded by the idea that I wanted to do it with some effort this week. On Saturday, my friend Gary, who I’m running the marathon with did his long run of 12miles at 8:30min/miles. Gary is the one who first bullied me into signing up for the marathon, or to be precise, he twisted my arm gently and I agreed pretty quickly. This inspired me to want to go out and see if I could do the same. Sadly, I forgot Gary lives on the sea front, so did a 12mile run with around 280ft of elevation total throughout. The route I picked, had 3 times as much total elevation, including some pretty long steady climbs, and a couple of very short but very steep routes. Oh, and I also got lost on the way back, which is why there’s a weird loop on the map rather than a nice line going straight out and straight back.

I did manage it, but yesterday wasn’t a fun rest day as my calves, glutes and thighs were all sore from the effort of foolishly sticking to 8:30min/mile pace. I did manage it, but it hurt, both at the time, and afterwards. I’m not stupid enough to think that 8:30min/mile is achievable for the marathon just yet, doing it in under 4hrs is still the goal, and I need to base my training around that, including making my weekend runs longer and slower. Time on feet is the key, not the speed of a training run. You don’t get rewards from a training run.

I’ve managed to shake out most of the kinks from my legs with a nice steady 5mile run today. I even put my Vibram Fivefingers on for the blast, which is the furthest I’ve ever run in them. I’m now suffering from a pretty sore blister, caused by a little debris which I think crept in my shoe before I put them on and rubbed on the ball of my left foot. It was still a good run, and I managed to get some nice intervals and speed work in (I really don’t enjoy speed work!). I even manage to set a couple of segment records on Strava.

My KSO's


I still loved the run, even with the blisters, the weather currently is perfect for me, as I get very warm very quick, and running as the sun goes down is nice.



So, I may be a heel striker

So I had a look at the bottom of my running shoes yesterday for any wear and tear (Incidentally, the needlework my mum did last week is still holding strong after nearly 20 more miles in the shoes), and spotted a very interesting pattern of wear on the heels.

Heels of my shoes

Heels of my shoes

If you look a the outside edges of both heels (more noticeable on the left foot – the upper of the 2 in the picture), you can see that the thing green rubber is wearing through and exposing the EVA cushioning below, which won’t be as robust over time.

Now I don’t think I heel strike when running, in fact when I think about my running form I’m mostly happy with it as it feels mostly like I’m landing my whole foot at the same time. Only very occasionally near the end of a longer run or if I get distracted do I actually feel myself land heel first, and in these shoes, I definitely do feel it. The wear on my shoes suggests something completely different. Although it is only on that very outside part of the heel, the rest seems to be holding up well with minimal wear.

I think what’s happening is that I’m not landing on the heel exactly, but it’s not far off. I seem to be sliding the outside of my foot on the group just before the entire foot lands. That’s why I’m not feeling any massive impact, but the abrasive nature of the heel sliding over the ground is akin to me rubbing sandpaper across the bottom of the shoes.

I think I need to do more work on my running form. Get out for some shorter runs in my Fivefingers and really focus on how I’m landing before I completely wear through my heels!

On a plus note, had a successful run yesterday, did a 10k around the area I live in 47:53, that’s 5 mins quicker than I’ve done before, but it could have been quicker if I hadn’t had to avoid all the mothers and parents walking home from school (seriously though, do they ever give up any space on the pavement? Why’s it always me that has to run on the grass/roads whilst they walk 5-abreast). I need to do some more speed-work in preparation for the marathon, but this was encouraging.

Mud and Mum!

This week has been a bit of a slower week. I got out for a 12 mile long run early Sunday morning which felt very easy and comfortable, by the end of the day I’d already recovered from it. I wasn’t able to get out on Tuesday, as I wanted to spend the entire evening with my lovely wife (running is a hobby, I won’t put family behind a hobby). I did manage to get out on Thursday to Manor Farm Country Park, which is a lovely little area of woods and trails a couple of miles from home. The only downside is that I had to pay £2 to park in the car park there! Next time, I may just run there and then round, or park on a street closer and run into the park.

Manor Farm Country Park

The above is an image not taken by myself on the day, I can tell because it isn’t covered in mud, glorious mud. There was so much mud on the trails on Thursday that running just over 6 miles through it was way more effort than the 12 miles road running I did on Sunday. Two days later and I can still feel the burning in my calves. All that said, despite it being ridiculously muddy, and hilly, and cold, and wet, I loved it! Every last second was enjoyable, even the twice I slipped I was able to just laugh off and get back with it as it was wonderful being out in nature and see sights like the below.

View from the trail

The only time in the entire run I had a bad moment was coming down a slippery slope just after hopping through a stile when I slipped on a branch hidden under 3 inches of mud and rolled my ankle. The fraction of a second between doing it and needing to put weight back on that leg was a moment of extreme panic “How hurt am I?” “Will I be able to finish running today?” “Have I injured myself and put myself out of the marathon?”. Luckily, it was only tender for about 30 seconds and by the end of the run, I’d forgotten about it.

The only other time I’ve rolled my ankle like that running was on the road a few weeks ago, there was no hidden branch under the mud, so I have no excuses, I simply misjudged when running across the road and hopping up onto the pavement. It wasn’t as big a panic moment as Thursday, but at the end of the run I had a look at the side of my shoe where I’d felt it impact the floor/kerb and seen that the friction had caused a small hole in the outer fabric on the shoe. As I’d only just got these for Christmas from Becca, I was far from impressed and have kept an eye on it to see if the hole was growing or fraying more. I’m pretty sure my imagination had increased the hole to something the size of a meteor crater over the subsequent couple of weeks (looking back I don’t think it had changed much), so I decided I was going to use my non-existing sewing knowledge to put some stitches across the gap to keep the edges together. Luckily, Becca convinced me that as we were going to visit my parents this weekend, it’d be better to let my mum have a look at it instead. The results from her stitching today are below.

Before and After

     Before                                         After

What a good job she did! Not only am I lucky enough to have a mother who is willing and able to stitch over a hole in my shoes, but I have a wife with enough wisdom to curb my impulsive nature to ‘fix’ things myself. I’m a lucky man.

I’m hoping the stitches hold through tomorrow’s 12 mile run. Not sure what I’ll do next, I may need some Shoe Goo.

Getting longer, getting stronger!

The last week has been a busy working week. I live on the south coast in Southampton and was in London on Monday (automobile), Belfast on Tuesday (plane), Liverpool on Wednesday (train), London again yesterday (train). A very varied an travel orientated-week, but it’s nearly done now, and the weekend is looming. I haven’t been able to get out and do my normal Tues/Thursday running sessions, but I have still manged to get some time out on the roads, or on a treamill (urgh).

Saturday was my longest run so far, I did just over 10miles in 1hr34mins, going at a nice and easy pace. That’s 8 minutes faster than I managed the Great South Run last year over the same distance, and I was running well within myself. It was nice to get some variation into where I’d be running for this one, my very understanding wife suggested that she could drop me off 10miles away somewhere and I could run home. It worked really well, the first mile and a bit was alongside a river on a tarmac covered part of the beautiful Itchen Way trail and it was nice to get away from road running for a bit before hitting the road for 8 miles. It’d be interesting to see how much more of that Trail I could run along in future, the whole thing is 31miles long. Could be a fun challenge post-marathon.

Ran home from Winchester

Ran home from Winchester

I followed the long run up on Monday at work with a 4.5mile run on the treadmill. I’d rather do 10miles on the road over 3 on a treadmill, I really struggle with it, and it’s clearly a mental thing. Not seeing any progress other than a ticking number is mindless. It doesn’t help that, as with all gyms, there are mirrors everywhere, and looking at me is not a pretty sight!

Instead of doing a 7mile run on Thursday I split it into a fast 5k on Weds and a steady 3mile on Friday. The 5k went well despite some stomach issues and nausea, and I did it in just under 23mins. I think I can improve on this a lot and build up my speed base on shorter runs whilst building up my stamina with long runs at the weekend. It’s weird to think that shorter quick runs help build up long distance pace, but it does work!

Speaking of which, I have to get up early to do a 12mile run first thing tomorrow, so I need to sleep.

Back on it

Finally the snow and slush has gone enough to get out and run. Have been out the past couple of nights and I feel much much better.


Wednesday’s run was a bit of a leg loosener having not run for nearly a week. Just over 5 miles at a steady pace throughout. Average pace around 8:39 and felt ok, biggest concern was the cold. Started running with my gloves on, then had to take them off after 2miles as my hands were too hot, they then got cold again. Perhaps I need some gloves more appropriate to running rather than standard woolly gloves, but given that there’s only about 2/3 weeks of the year in which I feel cold enough to wear gloves (benefits of a hot metabolism), that might not be a worthy investment. The good thing was, this run was below my target marathon pace (9:09min/mile to be sub 4hr), and felt comfortable, with plenty of training to come. I think the <4hr target for April may be achievable. The nicest thing was, after running that on Weds, I was able to do a longer and quicker 7mile run yesterday.


Average pace over the first 6 miles was around the 8:33 mark, but I felt good coming up to the last mile, so wanted to stretch the legs out a bit and pushed the pace for a 7:43 closing mile with still a bit of effort to spare. The biggest thing I noticed, was despite me running further, harder and for longer my heart rate averaged 156 for 7 miles and 159 for 5 with a similar pattern for the peak heart rate.

I’ve not fully looked into heart rate and the impact, but it may have just been that I was fitter, and the run the previous day had got my heart going nicely. I’m a bit of a stats and numbers fan (as my wife will attest), so I’ll undoubtedly bore those of you that read this with more heart rate numbers in future. At least I think it’ll be interesting to see how my heart rate changes at different speeds over time, I’ll find a level of ‘effort’ that works well for me at a steady pace and maybe change my target time for the marathon as a result (higher or lower, but hopefully quicker).

Another non-running day

Today was due to be a 5mile run with some hill sessions. It’s not snowed for 2 days here and the snow on the ground had melted into what I thought was a semi-safe to run on slush. My wife and health-and-safety advisor was less keen on the idea (quite rightly), and when it started raining 30mins before I was going to go out, I went and had a quick look at the ground.

photo (30)The picture kind of shows what it’s like on the ground. The nice slush now has a layer of water on top and has turned into a thousand little lard-covered icebergs, just waiting to catch the unwary runner, or even walker as I found on a trip to the post box at the end of the road. That trip of 200 yards I walked over 3 different types of ice on the ground, some parts were clear and fine, others were a solid mass of the above WD40 imbued Titanic-sinkers, and then there was the ‘somewhere in the middle’ patches like the picture above.

I really want to do this marathon in April, and it won’t happen if I injure myself trying to run on a day where it’s probably not the safest option. Instead, I’ll get to the office early tomorrow and see if I can replicate 5miles of hill work on one of the running machines there. Will update tomorrow.

Just looked out the window, it’s snowing again…

Running in the snow (or not)

Britain has once again been hit by a blizzard-like level of snow. On the sunny south coast, we received a massive 4inches of snow on Friday, with a little bit more on Saturday and Sunday. This amount of snow, as always, brings our country to a halt as everyone either stays in or goes out very very slowly. What we have now on the streets where I would normally run, is a mixture of snow, slush, hard packed ice and other random bit of gravel/grit/salt rocks. It’s barely safe to walk, leave alone run as the infrastructure just doesn’t cope with snow due to the rarity of it.

This has meant that I’ve been stuck indoors, and I’ve noticed as I’ve done more running, that on my rest days, I start to feel itchy and feel like I should be out running. Being in a place where I’m fit to run, am due to run, but unable to go out and run is a new situation to me, and just made me glad that we’d bought a cross trainer to use.

Saturday, I was due to do a 5km race for the first time ever. My marathon training plan I’m following suggested that this would be a good time to do a shorter quick race for the experience, and I felt ready. Sadly the snow came and the Park Run was cancelled. I was able to do a good ‘speed’ session on the cross trainer at least, and again yesterday, when I should have done around 6miles of Long Slow Run, I did a little over an hour on the machine. I’m not sure of the relative merits of an elliptical machine compared to going out and running, I know there’s less resistance and less impact, but to me it just felt way less fun.

I’m due a run tomorrow, I’m hoping the icy sludge on the floor is gone.