Monday, 8 December 2008

Scorching times at Victory 5 Miles Road Race

Left: eyeballs out at the finish. Photo courtesy of Sussex Sports Photography. Buy your race photo

While most of the post race talk was of a mishap at the start which meant we ran about 65 metres short of the full 5 miles there was much applaud at this year's Victory 5.

Near perfect conditions, a flat course and a competitive entry list meant that up front there was some hard racing and very fast running and my 23.56 was good enough only for 6th place. By the time we had completed a second lap of the running track instead of the outside cycle track a lead group of 5 had formed with aussie Russel Dessaix-Chin leading the way along with Mark Warmby, my Wells team mate Ben Tickner, Neil Gamester and Mark Draper. Hanging on to them were perennial fast starters Will Levett and Hassan Raidi.

A few meters back I was running with Ben Whitby and Phil Tulba in what could charitably be labelled the 'experienced' group. Before 2 miles we had swept up Will and Hassan while the leaders were starting to fragment. A tricky section through the IBM grounds slowed us a little as the we trod carefully on the icy paths which had yet to thaw out in the winter shadows. Back in the sun by 3 miles Ben and me were clear of our group and in pursuit of Mark Draper who was off the back of the leaders and coming back to us. In the final mile Ben had a change of gear which I was unable to match. But keeping going at a good pace I was able to get past Mark with about 600m to go and take 6th place.

Although the short course may have taken the shine off things for those who were after a PB consider that this was an event where you could enter online, by post or on the day up to the last minute. There are plenty of changing facilities at the HQ at Mountbatten Stadium. And with a slick results operation positions and times are posted on the wall by the time you get back from your warm down. For the speedier runners presentations are efficient and the organisers appreciate the value of an old fashioned 'brown envelope' rather than rubbish trophies ! And all this for under a tenner. If other races got as much right as this event I think most of us would be happy runners.

I was pleased with my run and clearly my fitness has moved on a long way since my last couple of modest cross country races. More on my latest training block to follow in the week ....

Men's Results

1 R Dessaix-Chin (Belgrave) 22:54
2 M Warmby (NEB)23:04
3 B Tickner (Wells City) 23:17
4 N Gamester (Shaftesbury Barnet) 23:18
5 B Whitby (Windsor SE&H) 23:49
6 A Marriott (Wells City) 23:56

Full Results
from Portsmouth AC
Race photos by Sussex Sport Photography

Saturday, 22 November 2008

4th (again) at Parliament Hill Cross Challenge

They say that 4th is the worst position to finish and I seem to be making a habit of it in 2008 with this my third finish just off the podium. The occasion was the first race in the new ECCA Cross Challenge series run in conjunction with the London Championships at Parliament Hill Fields.

With most of the top British runners aiming for the Euro trials next week in Liverpool and having stretched their legs at Gateshead last weekend the field was a bit thin at the sharp end and it was still too good for me as Darren Deed (Bedford) ran out a comfortable winner. The threatened snow failed to materialise and the stiff northerly wind kept things chilly without being biting as the sun shone. These were probably the driest conditions I have raced on at Parliament Hill and that covers a fair few races, especially as we use to run it three times a winter just in student races.

Today's race started near the top of the hill to avoid the path that cuts across from the lido and so after the initial charge a leading group of about 6 settled down for the first lap before Darren made his move on the second lap and quickly opened a gap. I had a good battle with David Bruce as Chris Smith in front of me chipped away at the gap to Richard Franzese of Harrow. By the last lap we were strung out 1 to 5 across the heath and that is how it remained to the finish. At least today was a step forward as I was able to get myself in contention early on but was lacking in the middle part of the race this time. That will come with a few more weeks hard work. Above all i'm relieved that I made a late decision to switch my 15mm spikes for 9mm. My feet are sore from the shorter ones (the ground was that hard) so I would have been in a real mess with the nails in !

Turnout in the age group races seemed a bit thin on the ground but it was great to see a healthy number of former clubmates from Hercules Wimbledon battling it out in the London Championships race.

Next up is one of my favourite races, the Victory 5 Road Race in a fortnight's time.

1. Darren Deed (Bedford)
2. Richard Franzese (Harrow)
3. Chris Smith (TVH)
4. Adrian Marriott (Wells City)
5. David Bruce (Highgate)
6. James Connor (Kent)

Full Results to follow

Monday, 17 November 2008

Saucony ShoeLab coming to Tri UK Yeovil

On Saturday 29th November the Saucony ShoeLab will be at the Tri UK store in Yeovil to enable the massed ranks of south somerset runners to have their gait checked and pick up a new pair of shoes for the winter at great prices. The action kicks off at midday.

Left: ProGrid Omni 7

Friday, 14 November 2008

Autumn marathon lessons learned

Its now 6 weeks since Geneva and I've had plenty of time to reflect on the race and my build up and put in some serious thinking about what I need to do next time to improve my performance.

Looking back there were several objectives that I set myself for this autumn's marathon beyond just getting into 2.17 shape: 1. Be involved in a 'race' with the possibility of being in contention for top 3 position in the closing stages 2. Try out returning from altitude approx 16 day pre-marathon 3. Develop the long run into something more challenging.

The first one shaped my decision to go for Geneva rather than Berlin or Amsterdam. Its a harsh reality that these days if you are running between 2.13 and 2.20 its very difficult to find races where you are going to have people around you. Even the smaller marathons won in 2.13 have the leaders going through in 65 for halfway and the big city races tend to thin out seriously after a first group in 63 and a second group in 65. So Geneva looked like a good option. On the day the leaders indeed went through in 65 and although they were coming back I wasn't close enough to them to pick up the pieces in the closing stages. Having run 40k alone/leading a small chasing group I can honestly say I dont want to do that again ! But if I find myself in that position i'm at least prepared. It really was a different experience from what I have had before in London, Amsterdam and Toronto.

The altitude experiment was a success and also part of my downfall, but not for the usual reasons which get many athletes when going to altitude i.e. overtraining. After a terrific 3 weeks stretch in St Moritz in July I was really fit - and carrying an injury. Having put my pelvis slightly out of alignmenent 3 weeks hard training had inflamed the muscles in the hip. What was really required was a rest to let things settle but I was in damage limitation mode for the last 7 weeks training. Next time I will be visiting Claire just before going away for a training camp.

This had a couple of effects. Firstly my training just wasn't as consistent as before Toronto. I was able to hit most of the key workouts but in between it was just injury management. To compound this I made a decision to focus on hitting the MP work and dropping some faster workouts when I was forced to choose. Looking back it meant that I did quite a bit of MP at altitude at a speed around 3:20/km and in reality did very little running actually at target sea level MP (3:14) or 10k pace. Come race day I had bucket loads of stamina but running target pace felt mechanically challenging i.e. I felt like I was really legging it to run at 2.17 pace. So I finished full of running (last 2.2km in 6:54) but couldn't sustain it earlier in the race. With hindset I was probably optimally trained to race 50km at about 3:23/km - just don't tell Norman Wilson !

The big reminder for me is that I am a 'slow' runner and need to keep some long, faster (10k pace) efforts in my training pretty much year round. Just doing the hill sprints and strides isn't enough. The other reality check was that training the fuel systems with MP effort running is one thing and training the muscles to run at target MP is another. I need to do both if I'm training at altitude.

And finally the long run. I've found over the years that just going out for 2-2.45 hours doesn't really challenge me much anymore. I'm pretty well adapted and can go out and nail a 20 miler any time of year. So I wanted to make things more demanding by adding some faster efforts. The first time I did this was quite tough. Running some short fast bursts in the first hour makes the last hour a bit more uncomfortable from a combination of having burned off fuel and fatigued the faster twitch muscles fibres which normally get recruited towards the end of a long run when the slow twitch are exhausted. What was really pleasing was that over the course of just three of these more demanding long runs I was able to adapt to the point where I was putting in a significant amount of fast running in the first 2 hours then able to finish with a progressive 5k finish at faster than MP. A big step forward and one that made the closing stages of the race a much more appealing proposition come the day.

So plenty to take in and work with come my next marathon in the spring.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Back to basics, Gwent Cross Country League

It was a battle of the generations in the Senior Men's race as Rob Whalley and myself lined up against Tom Russell and Josh Lilley in the second Gwent League of the winter at Bath University. With the likes of James Thie also toeing the line it was a tasty looking line up and the strong winds and driving rain added an extra tactical dimensional to the race.

For me this was an opportunity to build on last weeks relays over a distance which suits me better than a 5k burn up. Again I was undone by a lack of pace as Tom and Rob scampered off in the first half mile and I just couldn't keep up. The race quickly settled down and a group formed behind me into the wind. I couldn't really complain as in days gone by I remember sitting behind the more experienced guys letting them do the work. By the 2nd lap it was time for an experiment (thats what the races are for after all) so I put in a fast burst of about 400m into the wind which only Josh could follow so we were down to a battle for 3rd/4th with Tom and Rob still up the course and battling it out for the win.

Pleasingly I was able to run the 3 big laps progressively quicker with splits of 8.58, 8:57 and 8.52 to finally get away from Josh with a mile or so to go. A game of cat and mouse at the front ended with Tom Russell coming out on top.

Encouragingly for the sport there was a large turnout with teams from across south wales and the west country making the trip to Bath. With colourful team tents pitched across the muddy fields the scene was reminicent of a medieval army encampment with bodies strewn about after each of the races !

Full Results to follow

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

National Cross Country Relays

As we all know from Beijing getting the baton round is the primary requirement. Or in the case of a 4 man cross relay having 4 men ! Looking to build on last years tantalising 5th place when we finished just a couple of seconds outside the medals my Wells City Harriers team were quietly optimistic in the build up to this years race. Frank Tickner was returning to fitness after a stress fracture, big brother Ben was in good early season form and Andy Hennessy and myself had miles in the bank from our autumn marathon exploits. So far so good then the jinx struck as Andy's marathon caught up with him and a dose of achilles tendinitis left him on the treatment table and out of action. And with an injury list to our reserves that would have had 'big Phil' tearing his hair out we had to take the start line with just three runners.

And what a day we had. Ben powered round the first leg to put us right in the thick of the action in 3rd place. My job had always been damage limitation and despite having Andi Jones and Dave Norman breeze past me early on I was able to hand over in 5th. Blowing away the cobwebs Frank was clearly not at his best but was still good enough to take us into the lead and cause the commentators to reach for the stat book in search of previous Wells medal winning exploits. Of which there were none of course. A statistic which will have to remain for another year alas. At least the three of us had a good run out to get our cross country seasons underway. The conditions were a bit wetter than previous years and my Shay XCs did a great job. I'm going to enjoy a winter wearing these.

I'm a big fan of the country. Its great for getting used to frequent changes in rythmn and challenges the muscles in a way that road and track can't do. Looking back the mud was where I had my early successes, from winning my first race as a 9 year old through to my breakthrough race in the 1994 British Universities Championships. And this year the 'National' will be back at its spiritual home at Parliament Hill Fields and even in the slightly emasculated 12k form its still a race to send a shiver down the spine. I plan on being there ! But first up is the Gwent League at Bath this weekend and a return to man to man combat after the relay season. Can't wait.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Shoe Review: Saucony Shay XC

Let me declare a prejudice at the outset of this review. I'm no fan of specialist cross country spikes. Whenever i've tried them in the past they have been heavy and stiff. In fact they have felt like a pair of trainers with nails in the sole. I've always pressed into service last season's track spikes as this seasons cross country shoes and even on the muddiest of British courses have been fine.

So the prospect of getting the new Saucony Shay XC didn't exactly set me on fire until I tried them on. And boy are these shoes good. They are by a mile the most comfortable spike I have worn and much of that has to be down to a similar inner shoe design as Saucony use in the A2. The forefoot is nicely gripped and the heel sits snuggly as well. The heel tab, while looking fairly high, is deceptively positioned and also actually quite soft so caused me no problems. And at 195 grams these are proper lightweight shoes unlike some previous specialist XC spikes.

Wearing them on a grass circuit this week felt great, almost like running barefoot. Like most XC shoes the spikes are recessed a bit so in effect are about 3mm shorter than their nominal length. The supplied 9mm spikes should be fine on american golf course type cross country but I was beginning to struggle for grip on the corners by the end of the workout so will be shopping for some 12 and 15mm spikes in time for my first cross country of the season next weekend.

A note on sizing. I mentioned in the Fastwitch 3 review that the Saucony racers were a slightly closer fit than the trainers of the same size. With spikes I dont wear socks, even thin racing socks I have gone down a half size in the Shay XC compared to my other Saucony shoes. The Shay XC is available in the UK exclusively at Sweatshop.

What is your experience of the Shay XC ? Post a comment ...

Sunday, 28 September 2008

4th place in the Geneva Marathon

A frustrating morning for me in the Geneva Marathon as I came home an isolated 4th place in 2:20.54, not what I had anticpiated.

A leading group of 4 took off after a kilometre and even on a good day I wouldn't have gone with them. So I was left with a couple of other guys for company who weren't able to contribute to the pace so I ended doing most of the next 41km on the front of my group until they had all dropped off by 23k and then it was solo to the finish.

The real frustration was that there was just no speed in my legs. As soon as I tried running faster than 3.20/km I was struggling to get my legs moving, but 3:20 was comfortable. I've got a hunch as to what I got wrong in my preparation but will leave that for the debrief in a couple of weeks time. At least I was strong at the end with fuel in the tank (6.54 from 40k to the finish).

Sitting in my hotel writi
ng this I feel so much less knackered than after my previous marathons which I suppose is something to take heart from - I can walk normally for a start ! There were a number of other pluses which will come out in the wash but my Saucony Fastwitch 3 racing shoes performed really well and my feet are in the best shape ever after a marathon.

Up at the front Ethiopia's Tesfaye Eticha broke the course record to take his fourth win a row with last year's runner up Philipp Muia of Kenya having to settle for second place again.

Time for a good rest now before digging out the spikes for some cross country.


This morning I'm reminding myself why I chose Geneva rather than Berlin or Chicago for my autumn marathon. I really wanted to be in a race situation: near the front, hopefully having to use tactics, fast finish etc rather than just sitting in a group on another drag strip and trying to squeeze out a top 20 finish. What yesterday taught me was that a marathon 'race' is a completely different game from the big city races that I have done before (Amsterdam, London, Toronto) and certainly comparing my performance yesterday with my previous runs in those events based on the finish time is nigh on impossible. Looking at it from the perspective of position, which is why I was here, I finished 4th in a race in which I had the 5th best PB. I would have needed a big improvement to get 3rd (though I felt that 2.17 was on the cards). And on current fitness 1st and 2nd places were beyond my capability.

So actually 4th place was decent result which I should be satisfied with and the experience of the preparation and race situation will be beneficial in future.

1. Tesfaye Eticha Eth 2:14.23,1
2. Philipp Muia Ken 2:15.36,8
3. Zeremariam Berhe Eri 2:17.33,8
4. Adrian Marriott GB 2:20.49,5

Full Results

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 21st Sept - the taper

Two weeks to go before the race is always the worst period for me. The hard training is done and as I start to back off I invariably feel rubbish with heavy, unco-ordinated legs. This time was not much different apart from the blessing in disguise that was last saturday's sore adductor. That forced me to take it very easy for a few days and shifted my focus away from how my legs were feeling to making sure I was pain free.

The last real workout before the marathon was done on thursday, 11 days out. After a good warm up a mix of MP and some faster running with a total volume of about 25km was designed to remind the body what a hard (but not exhausting) effort is like and give a good amount of time for supercompensation before the race. Sunday was 5x2km run at marathon pace to keep familiar with the race rythmn.

Mon 35 mins easy
Tue 45 mins moderate and finishing at a steady pace
Wed 50 mins including 7x200m fast
Thr 92 mins including about 8km of MP followed 5km of 10k pace efforts
Fri Rest
Sat 50 mins incl. 6x200m fast
Sun 15min w/u, 5x2km MP, 15min w/d

So just one week to go now. This is familiar territory. Just easy running with a few fast strides to keep the CNS awake and a few kilos at race pace on wednesday. Making sure I'm fully hydrated and fueled up goes without saying and I will be spending some time rehearsing the different race scenarios in my mind so that as the race unfolds next sunday I will have been there before and can react automatically.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 14th sept - the last long run

This week was the 6th of my 8 scheduled marathon build up weeks and definitely fell into the two steps forwards one step back category.

A couple of easy days got last sundays 3x7km out of my system and then on wednesday I nailed my last long run. I mentioned at the start of this series of posts that I was going to be making my long runs more challenging this time round as just doing 30-40km at a moderate to steady pace wasn't giving me big benefits any more. I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise really. After repeating any training stimulus several times the body adapts and it ceases to be a stimulus ! This weeks long run had quite a bit of faster running in it and I'm looking forward to seeing how this translates into my ability to race the last 10k in Geneva.

The plan was to end the week with a less than flat out effort round the Bristol Half Marathon. Unfortunately doing drills on saturday I managed to tweak an adductor so spent a worried 48 hours clutching the ice pack. Its a classic compensation problem as result of piling on the training when the hip wasn't working properly. Fortunately the adductor is only a strain and i'm back running and a few easy days have also allowed the hip to clear up so all in all not a bad outcome ! On top of that my Saucony team mates Tom Payn and Ben Moreau finished 1st and 3rd and Bristol, just a shame I wasn't able to be up there with them.

Anyway last weeks training (at 6000ft altitude so paces about 5-7 sec/km slower than the same effort at sea level):

Mon 60 mins very easy + 40 mins easy
Tue 45 mins easy + 40 mins easy
Wed 2hr 17 (approx 38km) split 40 mins easy, uphill: 10 x 60sec fast / 90sec easy to burn off some fuel, 25 mins moderate, 25 mins MP into a strong headwind along the lake (bit of psychology for Geneva), 5 mins easy, 20 mins progressive with last 3km: 3:17, 3:14, 3:10 Solid effort and drinking water only - save the Vitargo rocket fuel for race day :-)
Thr 60 mins very easy
Fri rest and travel home
Sat 30mins, drills and aarrgghhhh ....
Sun off and ice

2 weeks to go and its a question of letting the body heal up now while keeping in touch with race pace so that the CNS doesn't forget what it needs to do come race day.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 7th September

With 4 weeks to go until Geneva I'm now at the business end of my build up. Very marathon specific training sessions to get me used to running race pace efficiently and hopefully having a change of gear for when the race really starts sometime after the 30km point.

For this build up I had planned to do a couple of the 'special block' sessions where you do the same hard training in the morning and afternoon but the hip issues in august put paid to that. So instead I'm experimenting with a 10 day altitude 'top up'. Its a technique that Marius Bakken reported getting good results with so worth a test. In the past I've raced really well after about 10 days back at sea level and get better for another week or so but i've never raced a marathon less than 4 weeks after coming down. So on monday evening I travelled back up to St Moritz and will come down 17 days before Geneva, hopefully feeling turbocharged.

So the first few days this week were about recovering from last sunday's long hard effort and re-adjusting to 6000ft altitude before hitting a couple of big efforts later in the week. I must be jinxed because August in St Moritiz was apparently glorious and the rain followed me from home all the way up to the Engadin where its still miserable as hell.

Monday off and travel

Tue 70 mins with last 20 steady then strides + 40 min very easy

Wed 68 mins incl 8x12sec hill sprints + 38 mins easy

Thr 40 mins easy + 50 mins easy incl 7x200m fast stride (had planned a hard workout but hardly slept so pushed it back a day)

Fri 90min including 60min fartlek alternating approx 1km HM/10k pace with 1km steady (average pace for the hour was MP). The emphasis of this workout is to control the pace of the 'recoveries' so that they are a bit slower than MP and this gives the body time to remove the lactate created by the faster segments while still keeping the overall speed up.

Sat 60 mins moderate + 42 mins easy

Sun approx 30km with 3x7km at MP in freezing, pouring rain. About as much fun as 'delhi belly'. At least on days like these you know that some of your opponents are sitting in front of the TV waiting for the rain to stop and when it doesn't then they havent put in training.

So another solid week and just a couple more big efforts to go before backing off and resting up for the big day. The Letsrun Fall Marathon Thread is here

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Shoe Review: Saucony Fastwitch 3

I've been breaking in a new pair of Saucony Fastwitch 3 racing shoes for my upcoming marathon in Geneva so here are a few observations after a few runs.

First thing is the sizing. I usually go down half a size in racing shoes to allow for the fact that i'm only wearing thin racing socks compared to thicker socks and orthotics in my trainers. But with the Fastwitch 3 I'm wearing a size UK 8.5, the same as my ProGrid Triumph 5 trainers. The Saucony racers do fit a bit closer than the trainers (same applies for the A2) so this is something to keep in mind. My local Saucony stockist Tri UK holds a pretty comprehensive range of sizes which made life a bit easier.

The fit is what attracted me to this shoe. I have a narrow heel and broad forefoot so can have a problem with my heels slipping around and the consequent blisters. These fit like a dream, nice grip on the heel and plenty of room in the toe box. First time out they were fine, no problems with blisters or bruising.

The ride is somewhere between soft and hard ! The shoe has a decent amount of cushioning and some medial support so should be fine for longer races up to the marathon. For a real low profile shoe for 5-10k I would probably go for the super skinny Saucony A2.

Because this shoe has a blown rubber outsole there is some wear on it already but as I normally destroy the midsole of my racers before the outsole i'm not overly worried about this. Will report back when they have done a couple of hundred miles though. One point to note is that like many racers these days there are holes in the midsole to save weight. On a wet road this is OK but when I ran through standing water I got wet socks. So hopefully no big puddles in Geneva !!


Here is a picture of the sole of my Fastwitch 3 racers after 150km of running. There is some wear at the back of the forefoot and also where I push off on my toes. Otherwise they seem to be holding up well.

How did you find the Fastwitch 3 racers ? Post a comment ...

Monday, 1 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 31st August, back in the saddle

Oh the rollercoaster that is marathon training. From despair to optimism, renewed doubt and finally supreme confidence in a few short days. Money can't buy highs and lows like this ! The week started with painful easy running and a sense of 'will this hip ever heal up in time for my marathon at the end of September' and ended with a flying couple of miles at the end of a solid 2hr 15 min effort and moments of glory once again entering my dreams.

The key has been patience. Religiously doing my exercises to loosen the muscles around hip and get the glutes activating properly again. Its time consuming and tedious but essential. And then the patience to every day just stretch the training a little bit without going over the top. The temptation is to hammer the body back into shape with a few hard sessions. Instead I've concentrated on starting easy and building each day a few more minute of good aerobic running down to marathon pace and then threshold top remind the body how to work. Next week is the time for a really hard effort.

Monday Easy 37 mins and easy 30 mins. Hurting and wondering whether there is any hope
Tuesday 50 minutes with some uncomfortable strides and 30 minutes suddenly feeling much looser
Wednesday 45 mins starting easy but with last 15 mins steady. Still feeling the hip but at last no pain, cautious optimism. Physio and the good news is that everything is still where it should and just need some time for muscles to relax. More optimism !
Thursday 62 mins moderate with the hip feeling OK at last. Evening easy running and 6 hill sprints. Actually able to feel the glutes working on the right side, my arse must have been getting really flabby :-(
Friday 25 mins easy then 40 mins progressive to threshold pace. So hard, blowing out of every orrifice and wondering where on earth all that fitness has gone. Self doubt in spades.
Saturday 50 mins moderate and 30 mins easy. A bit sore from yesterday which is not a good sign after a progression run.
Sunday 2hrs 15 starting easy then at a moderate pace with the last 30mins building to marathon pace. Really helped to have John McFarlane for company on this run especially as I felt pretty rough after about 90minutes before really picking up in the last half hour. Able to change gears in the last couple of miles and felt great. Finished feeling full of belief again.

Not sure I can stand the emotional turmoil of many more weeks like this one so now hoping for a normal couple of weeks then taper down to the race on 28th Sept.

Last night I went to Wembley to support a few of my colleagues at Connectwell as they took part in the Nike Human Race representing London against the rest of the world. You have to admire the marketing genius of the folks from Oregon. Hundreds of thousands of runners all round the world (well at least in their target markets) all wearing Nike T-shirts and just doing it.

It was a c
ool wet night in London and being on the other side of the fence holding kit and dishing out water bottles gave me a different perspective on our sport. Isabel, Kim and Steve (left with supporters) were all so pleased to complete the 10k in 67 minutes, a big achievement for them as non-runners.

Their excitement was palpable as talk turned to 'next time' and beating the hour m
ark. Looks like we have three more potential addicts !

It was great to see so many people participating and actually running at a solid pace and enjoying the experience even although it was a miserable evening for running in and even more miserable for the few hardy souls who left the dry confines of the stadium to get out on the course and spectate. Although one young lady running in wave 4 (bottom left) seemed to be taking things far too seriously as she weaved in and out of the other runners with the Wembley arch lit up in the background.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Marathon Training W/E 24th August

After 6 months of trouble free running it all went a bit wrong this week. I've had a tight hip recently and on monday it finally decided that I wasn't going to run another step. Fortunately I've got a great physio in Claire Wheller and she quickly found that my pelvis had upshifted and rotated forward on the right hand side. This was causing the muscles to work in ways they are not supposed to - and hence the pain. The best metaphor I can think of is when you bash your car wheel against a curb and then a few thousand miles later find that the tyres have worn unevenly because you put the suspension out of alignment. Thats basically what's happened. Its not new for me, I did it last year before Toronto but at the start of my taper so it didn't interfere with my preparation beyond forcing me to run the race on one leg. Its a bit annoying because I thought I stopped a recurrence by spending time doing some exercises to keep everything solid but clearly I haven't been doing enough. Must do better !

With 5 weeks to go until race day this is not an ideal position to be in but there are two rays of light. The first is that before my first marathon I missed 10 days with a horrid gastro bug at about the same time in my build up and if anything the break did me some good. The second is that i'm in good shape already so if things come together this week I should have time to get in a few more key workouts then taper though I may need to have a review of my goals. Time will tell !

So after a few days of rest to let things settle training was a 25 minute jog on saturday and 45 minutes on sunday. At least this left me with some time to watch the olympics and enjoy two terrific marathon races.

The men's marathon really was a surprise. Along with most other onlookers I was expecting the fast early pace to really take its toll later on due to the conditions but Sammy Wanjiru just kept pouring it on right to the finish. There's no doubt in my mind that we will look back on this race in a few years time and say that it marked a step change in men's marathon running. Why do I say that ? Until now the fastest 10k guys to move up to the marathon have been Tergat and Geb but they have done it at the end of their careers. A couple of 13min /sub 27 guys like Evans Rutto and Felix Limo made the move mid career but nobody with such speed has specialised as early as Wanjiru. Remember he has run 26.40 for 10k and a mid 58 half marathon. With Bekele crushing the opposition again at 10,000m I can see a few more fast runners moving up mid career (I would expect Zersenay Tadesse to debut this winter) and some of the aspiring 10,000m runners to skip straight to the marathon like Wanjiru and Ryan Hall have done.

If that is not concerning enough for the european/north american marathoners it also seems that the effect of foreign coaching on the east africans is starting to take effect in how they acclimatise for hot and humid championship races. With Rothlin 6th and Ritzenhein and Hall 9th and 10th the african performance was stronger than in recent championships. And when the Ethiopians finally swallow their pride and prepare their marathon runners properly for a hot and humid championship race then there really will be fireworks. The days of relying on superior acclimatisation to beat them may be coming to and end.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Marathon Training w/e 17th August

Managed to get in two good marathon specific workouts this week though not quite as much running in between as I would have liked due to a slightly sore hip but thats all part of the joy of a marathon build up.

Having stayed up half the night on saturday to watch the Womens Olympic Marathon I made sure that sunday was a really gentle day. It would have been very easy to push too hard and risk over stressing the immune system after not enough sleep.

And what a great race it was. Britain's Mara Yamauchi kept me on the edge of my seat for the last hour as she looked very strong just tucked into the leading group. We were at university at the same time and I don't imagine for one minute that when we were slogging through mud in the students cross country league that Mara would have imagined that 15 years later she would finish 6th in the Olympic Marathon. It just goes to show what is possible with the right amount of focus and progressive training. Inspiring stuff really !

My week looked something like this:
Mon 50mins easy and 40mins very easy
Tue 2hr 15 mins moderate with 10x1min fast/2min mod after the first hour then 20mins MP to finish. The fast stuff put some fatigue into the legs which made the last 20mins more challenging. These long runs are going to get tougher in the next month and hopefully this will pay off in the last 10k of the race
Wed 52 mins easy
Thr off as the hip was sore
Fri 50 mins moderate and 45 mins easy
Sat 5x4km at marathon pace with 1km in 3:45 as recovery. Was able to really put my foot down in the last 2km of the last rep so plenty of power in the engine which is good news.
Sun 60mins easy and 45 mins easy

Monday, 11 August 2008

Marathon Training w/e 10th August

This autumn will be my 6th marathon build up and each time i've had to change things a bit to keep challenging my body to adapt. Last time out I put in a 27km continuous tempo run. For this one I've already gone a bit longer on my long runs so far (2hr 45mins) and run a bigger volume during July. Next I will be throwing in some faster segements on my long runs to get used to running at race pace on tired legs. Should be fun!

I found this week a bit of struggle. Coming down from the mountains it has felt really humid all week and the legs have just been a bit sluggish, that said there was plenty of speed when required so its just a question of re-adjusting to sea level. So the details:

Mon 90mins undulating with the last 30 steady
Tue 45mins easy + 9x2mins fast with 75 secs jog
Wed day off and a visit to the physio to make sure everything was moving properly
Thr 50 easy mins incl 7x200m fast + 45mins very easy
Fri first structured MP run: 8x2km + 35mins regeneration
Sat 65mins moderate + 45mins easy
Sun 65mins with the last 30 steady + 45mins very easy and 7x80m uphill max sprints

This works out at about 160km for the week and after the training in St Moritz actually felt quite easy. I doubt I will still be saying that in 5 weeks time though.

For those of you wondering what pace easy, moderate etc is it goes something like this:
Regeneration = 5min/km
Very Easy = 4.30
Easy = 4.00
Mod = 3.45
Steady = 3.30
MP = 3:15
AT = 3:05
Fast = sub 2.55

And as a general rule I start a bit slower and build up to the required effort and if in doubt run slower rather than faster.

The Letsrun 'Fall Marathon Training' thread is here

Monday, 4 August 2008

Funny thing endurance

At a weekend track meeting I got talking to two of my clubmates, both veterans (masters) and both the proud owners of big new personal bests. The first had just knocked 4 seconds off his 800m time to go sub 2:20, which is a big chunk by any standard. Especially as all of last season he had trained specifically for the 800m and this season he hadn't ! The second runner had a tough winter with not as much running as last year. The last time we spoke in June he was toying with the idea of running some shorter races than last season's range of 800m-5000m. This seemed like a good idea as he has plenty of speed. So when he popped a 59.9 for 400m (not bad for a 45 year old novice sprinter) the plan was vindicated.

Earlier that morning I had been reading in the newspapers Marilyn Okoro explaining her 1:58 front running win in the Crystal Palace GP the previous friday. Maz is a 800m runner with enough 400m speed to be on the GB 4x400m relay team. Her slow start to the season (she was running 2:02 back in May) was down to the heavy endurance work she was putting in she explained. In the same paper Michael Rimmer was chuffed with his 1:44 breakthrough which in his estimation had a lot to do with a winter spent training with the 1500m man (and accomplished cross country runner) Tom Lancashire under the guidance of experienced coach Norman Poole.

So this got me thinking, what have a couple of 45 year old club mates got in common with two of Britain's Olympic middle distance hopes ?

Well the first of my clubmates had actually run his first marathon this spring. As a result he had spent the winter running more volume and doing more long runs than before. So while he hadn't been hammering short reps on the track all spring he had been getting aerobically much fitter. And given that the 800m is about half and half aerobic and anaerobic contribution its pretty easy to work out now where the 4 second improvement came from !! In fact if he now does a few weeks of race pace workouts I would bet that there is another second or two to come off that time. And the second club mate was simply matching his race event to the amount of background training he had managed to get done in the winter. Instead of facing a summer of disappointment in the longer middle distances he moved down and focused on setting personal bests at those distances.

So what's the takeout ? The aerobic system has far more scope for training than the anaerobic and the majority of us are underdeveloped aerobically. (Even after a few years of marathon training I am still improving my running economy and turning in faster races even though my anaerobic power is less than it was 10 years ago). So whether you are a half miler or a marathon runner get to work developing your aerobic capabilities. It takes time and the payback is well worth it.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Swissalpine races in Davos

Yesterday we had a great day out at the Swissalpine races in Davos. Its a one day festival of mountain racing with the blue riband event being the famous 78km race which hits the heights of 2600m on the Panorama Trail. Britain's Lizzy Hawker was the defending women's champion and this year had to settle for second best to Switzerland's Jasmin Nunige while Sweden's Jonas Buud retained his title in a fraction over 6 hours.

For the mere mortals amongst us there was a choice between the K42 (the last 42km of the main event), the K31 (the net downhill first 31km) or the standalone K21 from Klosters to Davos with around 3000ft of ascent. So not an easy choice :-)

With 4 demanding races the logistics are pretty incredible especially as the start times are scheduled so that the K21, K42 and K78 are all finishing at the same finishline in Davos stadium within an hour of each other. This provides an excellent spectator location with almost non stop action as it means you have either a men or women's race winner coming home every 10 minutes or so.

My race started on the spectacular Sunniberg Bridge (pictured) down the valley from Klosters before climbing in a series of steps to the top of the pass at Davos-Wolfgang. The route was mostly trails in the forest which at least gave some shelter from the scorching sun, though it was still pretty warm. As always the course profile, which looked fairly tame as a pdf document turned into a brute once you actually got going. A few of the final climbs were very steep and even the downhills between the steps provided little respite. Its fair to say that after nearly 13km of climbing my quads were pretty tired ! Fortunately the opposition had wilted half way up the climb so I was left with a relaxed run from there on with the biggest challenge being to stay upright on the loose gravel paths with rocks and tree roots sticking out.

The run in to Davos was not without it moments either as the organisers gave us a tempting glimpse of the finish from the Davos See before taking us on a 4km detour up the valley and throwing in a nasty climb as a sting in the tail before the final 2km run down in to the town and the finish on the track in front of a large crowd. In 2nd place was Marcel Tschopp from Lichtenstein who was also behind me at Rhylauf in March. Afterwards Marcel was lamenting his bad luck at chosing the same races as me so I offered to swop both my wins for his spot on the Lichtenstein marathon team for Beijing :-)

To round off a good day for the Brits, Thames Hare & Hounds Dave Symons produced a storming run in the K31 to take third place.

Results K21
1. Adrian Marriott (GBR) 1:20:34

2. Marcel Tschopp (LIC) 1:24.16

3. Christian Puricelli (SUI) 1:24:49

Full Results

In the News
Western Daily Press
Swiss Media Release

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Full moons and She Devils

After a monster 11 days here in St Moritz today was a rest day from running and time for a trip on the narrow gauge railway up towards the Bernina Pass. Hopping off at Bernina Diavolezza I took the cable car up to the top of Diavolezza for lunch and some spectactular views before the cloud closed in. At more than 3000m even the post lunch stroll along the ridge (not the one in the photo !) was hard work and makes me realise just how awesome the Ethiopian training sessions are from Addis up to the top of Entoto which reaches a similar altitude.

Friday night was a full moon which is nothing to get excited about apart from the fact that this one was supposed to be the 'fullest, most spiritual of the year' so there were plenty of events around town from late night moon walks to open air cinema. In St Moritz itself there was a street party with barbeques, beer tents, music and the usual stalls you would expect to see. A few athletes were out enjoying the festivities and I spotted Craig Mottram sneaking off with a foil tray loaded with stuff from the barbie, though no evidence of any tinnies I should report.

Monday its back down to business with another hard week before a day at the Swiss Alpine Races in Davos which should be fun, even if most of it seems to be uphill :-(

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Go Dean, Go

UPDATE sunday 8pm: It looks like Dean has missed out on Beijing scoring 7,491 points.

Full results will appear on Hexham Meeting and EAP

While the attention at the Olympic Trials is yet again on the Chambers soap opera, Dean Macey is still in one piece and getting the job done at the Hexham Combined Events meet with 4,176 points at the end of day 1. Fingers crossed for decent weather on day 2. Go Dean !!

Decathlon - day 1 results

1st Darius Draudvila LTU 4,326pts

2nd Dean Macey GBR 4,176pts

3rd Dan Awde GBR 3,933pts

Friday, 11 July 2008

Training in St Moritz

This week I arrived in St Moritz to get my autumn marathon preparations underway. It seems that all the world and their coaches are here preparing for Beijing so there is certainly a buzz about the place and plenty of people to run with.

The first few days are all about acclimatising. Just nice easy running while the body gets used to the thinner air at 1800m (6000 feet) altitude. Fortunately I'm used to 8000 feet in Kenya so Switzerland feels pretty good and I find that after 3 or 4 days I'm ready to start running faster.

Back at home the Olympic Trials are on this weekend and hopefully everyone comes through unscathed. Athletes enjoy a love/hate relationship with their national federations so I'm expecting some controversy and tantrums when teams are announced on monday ! Away from the main event one of the most talented and entertaining athletes in british sport will be doing his bit in Hexham. Dean Macey will compete in his first decathlon for 2 1/2 years in a bid to qualify. If there is one guy we would love to see on the plane its Dean !

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Gabe on a roll and action from Kenyan trials

Gabe continued to roll back the years with another well judged run in the semis of the US trials. With only 5 of the finalists having the Olympic qualifying time of 3:36.80 it should be a fast race. 3 rounds in 4 days will take its toll and as the only sub 2.20 marathon guy in the field Gabe should certainly be strong !

On the other side of the world Kenya staged its 'one day olympics' at Nairobi's Nyayo Stadium. Employing a similar sudden death system as America there were a few surprises. 800m star David Rudisha who had been tearing up tracks all over Europe this year was injured and didn't start. He wasn't selected and the much anticipated match up in Beijing with Sudanese stud Kaki will be delayed for another year.

In a tasty steeplechase race Sydney Olympic Champion Reuben Kosgei could only manage 8th as the first 3 home ran 8:13 with 4th placed Paul Koech the unlucky man to miss out on the team for Beijing.

1. Ezekiel Kemboi, 8:13.56
2. Brimin Kipruto, 8:13.60
3. Richard Matelong, 8:13.89
4. Paul Kipsiele Koech, 8:13.98

Elsewhere races went to form with Pamela Jelimo dominating the 800m, Edwin Soi the 5000m and Augustine Choge the 1500m. The marathon teams were announced earlier after the London Marathon.

Selected Men

1. Wilfred Bungei
2. Boaz Lalang
3. Alfred Kirwa

1. Augustine Choge
2. Asbel Kiprop
3. Nicholas Kemboi

1. Edwin Soi
2. Eliud Kipchoge
3. Thomas Longosiwa

1. Moses Masai
2. Martin Mathathi
3. Micah Kogo

3000m Steeplechase
1. Ezekiel Kemboi
2. Brimin Kipruto
3. Richard Matelong

Full Kenyan Olympic Team

Friday, 4 July 2008

Recharging the batteries

After Torbay I put my feet up for a few days to make sure I was fully recovered. Its as much a mental as physical thing. Just switch off from running, focus on other stuff that needs attention and then come back recharged. It doesn't take long and is probably the most underestimtated component of most training programs !

This week i've eased back into things and I'm really looking forward to heading for the swiss alps next week to put in a block of aerobic work at altitude before moving into more specific marathon pace work in august. More on my marathon plans and training as I get nearer the race. Can't wait !

On the other side of the world the US Olympic Trials are in full swing. It was great to see my old friend Gabe Jennings win his 1500m heat last night and fingers crossed he can repeat his 2000 performance when he ran away with the final to get to Sydney. The US trials are such compelling viewing because of the winner takes all rules. First 3 in the final with qualifying time are on the plane. No if, buts or selectors opinions. Black and white. And that makes box office.

Here there have been plenty of encouraging performances from our athletes in the run up to our trials though the big news seems to be off the track yet again with Dwain Chambers going to court to try and overturn the BOA ban on convicted drug cheats representing GB & NI at the Olympics. I have little sympathy. He knew the rules and chose to cheat so he must live with the consequences of his decisions.

Now, where's my passport and SPF25 ?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Torbay Half Marathon: England 2 - 0 Kenya

When was the last time english runners took the first two places in a road race with kenyan starters ?

On a blustery morning on the English 'Riviera' Toby Lambert and myself got the job done over my friend Zac Kihara and former Istanbul Marathon winner Joseph Mbithi in the Torbay Half Marathon. Its fair to say that having just got to the UK on friday Zac and Joseph were not in the best racing condition, not that you would have guessed it from their standard surging tactics in the opening miles. I was struggling very early in the race. No bounce in my stride and hammies like drainpipes after last weeks track 10,000m so I settled in for the long haul, hoping the hills and wind would reward a more conservative effort.

Up front Toby and Zac quickly dropped Joseph and started to build a solid lead. I had caught Joseph by 4 miles and we ran side by side until the hills at the start of the second lap when I put my foot down at the 8 mile mark and opened a gap. Coming off the top of the hill I could see that Toby had dropped Zac and the marathoners mindset kicked in of slowly reeling in the man in front. At the final turn in Torquay I sensed Zac struggling and one more effort enabled me to pass him just after 11 miles and maintaining the pace up the last hill ensured there was no way back for him.

While the times were nothing special, today was all about racing and using the course and conditions to the maximum. Not long ago I would have come into a race like this with african runners and been running for 3rd place but now having trained in Kenya and got used to how africans race I know what strategies I can use to make the most of any weaknesses.

1. Toby Lambert 67:21
2. Adrian Marriott 68:30
3. Zac Kihara 69:xx

Full Results

In the news:
Herald Express
Race Video

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Sunday, 15 June 2008

29:47.77 for 11th place at the UK Championships

Well i'm still buzzing after last nights race as part of the excellent BMC Elite Meeting at Watford.

These are the occasions that us athletes spend thousands of miles preparing to be a part of. The strong domestic field lined up for the UK Championships and Olympic Trials is not the easiest place to run a first track 10,000m for a decade but I really enjoyed it and ran a personal best into the bargain which bodes well for my next marathon this autumn.

The early pace was a bit fast for my liking as I got dragged through 2km in 5.50 before things settled down as the field broke into three groups with me tucked in the middle of the third of those. By 3km (8.48) myself and Fredrik Urhbon from Sweden were at the front of the group and alternating the lead to reel in the second group in front of us which we managed just after halfway (14.46).

From that point it was taking all my effort to stay on the back of the group and just after 7k it started to get really ugly and I had a couple of bad laps and got dropped off the back of the group. Fortunately the marathon mindset meant that I was able to focus on 2 miles to go as the 'last rep' in a typical marathon training session and keep it together - in days gone by I would have fallen apart at this point. With the last km back under 3 mins again it was a satisfying finish in 16th place overall and 11th of the brits.

Up front Antony Ford reversed last year's result to take the win from Phil Nicholls who was involved in a tangle of legs with Somalia's Moumin Geele early on and never really recovered. Its not the first time Moumin has gone down, I remember him hitting the floor hard in the Cabbage Patch 10 a couple of years back and taking a few runners with him after he clipped a kerb. James Walsh added a bronze to his recent Inter Counties 5000m win.

While 11 athletes under 30 minutes (8 personal bests) will hardly strike fear into the heart of the Rift Valley this was one of the best strength in depth 10,000m races in the UK for some years and even compares favourably to the last UK Championship race I ran in 1998. And with the likes of Matt Ashton and John Beattie running well in america hopefully something to build on for next year.

Some reflections on the training I did to peak for this race and the mindset I brought into it will follow in a few days when i've got some time to write it up.


1 28:30.39 Antony Ford Blackpool Wyre & Fylde
2 28:54.95 Phil Nicholls Tipton
3 29:19.42 James Walsh Leeds City
11 29:47.77 Adrian Marriott Wells City Harriers

Full Results

2008 UK Rankings

Monday, 9 June 2008

Supporting the CRY Centre for Sports Cardiology

Greg Whyte and his intrepid team from the Centre for Sports Cardiology are about to start the Race across America 2008 bike race to raise money for CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).

This is a cause close to my heart, if you will pardon the pun. Greg and his team screened me a few years back to check for any structural defects in my heart. Although I have the cardiac equivalent of a misfire at least the mechanics of it are all sound ! While screening can't prevent every case of sudden death in young sportsman it can and does pick up many structural problems and improves prevention.

You too can sponsor the team on the Just Giving web site.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

UK 10,000m Championships and Olympic Trials

Updated 15/06/08 report and results

A few days ago I received my invite for this years championships and trials on 14th June at Watford then today the
start lists were published which really starts to focus the mind.

I'm really excited to be lining up for my first track 10,000m for a decade. One of the benefits of being a marathon runner is that 25 laps doesn't build the mental barriers that it used to. When you do sessions like 20km alternating 'fast' (3.05) and 'slow' (3.25) on the track as part the marathon build up then 10km stright seems perfectly manageable. Sure the speed is going to be a shock to the system but that's why i'm doing it !

With just over 2 weeks to go I will put in a couple more workouts at race tempo and then start to back off the volume a bit which has been consistently in the 105-115mpw range for the last couple of months. Hopefully that will leave me lining up with fresher legs to keep up with the strong field that is entered.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Canova Hill Sprints

The last few weeks I have been back on the track doing some specific training sessions to prepare for the 10,000m trials on the 14th June. One of the things I've noticed is that despite having done very little traditional 'speedwork' I have still got plenty of speed (by my standards) and was able to run a series of 200s in 29 secs the first time out.

I'm sure that retaining the ability to run at close to my maximum speed has got something to do with the hill sprints that I have been doing for the last year. I started them as part of my build up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2007 and have kept them going weekly during the winter. The idea has been popularised by Italian coach Renato Canova who is currently head coach for Qatar and the personal coach to athletes such as steeplechase world record holder Stephen Cherono (aka Said Saeef Shaheen) and Mubarak Shami (formerly Richard Yatich) who won Marathon silver at Osaka's World Championships.

The idea behind the hill sprints is quite simple. As long distance runners we spend a lot of time exercising the slow twitch and intermediate fibres in our muscles but relatively little time on the few fast twitch fibres that we have. However these fast twitch fibres are needed at the end of the race when all the others are exhausted or to produce a sprint finish. So to train them effectively we need to provide a training stimulus which activates them and the quickly overloads them. Hill sprints are how we do it. I tend to do these workouts in flexible shoe such as the Saucony Type A or Grid Tangent as there is a lot of foot flexion required to maintain a good running action when sprinting uphill.

The precise gradient of the hill is not that important but it needs to be steep and long enough for a 10-12 second maximum effort. After a good warm up you are ready to go.
1. Sprint for 10-12 seconds uphill at maximum speed. Why 10-12 seconds ? Well after that the effort is starting to be lactic-anaerobic and the speed will start to decrease. Remember we are looking for a maximum effort to recruit the fast twitch fibres.
2. Walk back down the hill taking as long as required to recover. 2 minutes is probably the minimum recovery time.
3. Repeat until the legs are exhausted. You will tell when they are because they feel like jelly and the speed starts to drop off ! As soon as you can no longer maintain the speed then stop.

Adaptation to this type of training is surprisingly fast. The first time you try it you may only be able to manage 3 or 4 efforts but can add one effort each subsequent session.

Remember though, its all about maximum speed and full recovery !

1st July 2009 COMING SOON - photos and video clip

Bristol Photos

Photos from the Bristol 10k. From left to right
1. And we are off. Eventual winner Jean Nyasenga is wearing 25
2. Leading the second group along the Portway. Top V40 Rob Whalley is in the glasses and Ewen Malloch is on my shoulder wearing 14.
3. Under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 19th century British engineering at its best - just don't ask about the delays or cost over runs ...
4. Sprinting for the line

Monday, 5 May 2008

4th place in Bristol 10k

On a humid morning I finished an excellent 4th in a strong field at the Bristol 10km road race behind a couple of african runners and UK 10,000m champion Phil Nicholls. The race went as well as I could have hoped for and after a steady start in the second group I was able to push on at the 4k mark and pick off several runners before the finish.

The race was superbly organised though the course is not the quickest and the muggy conditions left us all drenched in sweat by the finish. As a result times were a bit down on what people would have expected. For me the benchmark is how close I was to the leaders and generally it was a good 30 secs closer than a week ago at the national road relays so I was delighted with my morning's work.

With 6 weeks until the Olympic 10,000m trials I am feeling confident of running much faster as I am only just starting to do some specific 5k/10k training after a really good block of endurance work.

1. Jean Ndayasenga (Bur)
2. Phil Nicholls
3. Zak Kihara (Ken)
4. Adrian Marriott
5. Toby Lambert
6. Martin Williams

Full results

In the news
Western Daily Press

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Easing down for Bristol 10k

After a hard block of training I can't wait to race again on fresh legs. One of the most difficult balancing acts of an athlete is training hard enough while still racing regularly. The temptation is to back off the training before every race but if you are racing every few weeks you quickly find a that a few days easy before a race followed by a couple of recovery days after means that training quickly gets compromised. So the alternative is racing on tired legs and accepting that performances could be variable.

Fortunately I've had 3 solid races during my most recent training block, the half marathon win in Switzerland and a couple of strong relay efforts over about 9k. It certainly helps being a marathon runner. The extra training miles means that I recover more quickly from races and also racing on tired legs is the essence of the last 10k of a marathon so you learn to love that sensation of pushing hard when your body is telling you it is time to sleep !

It always surprises me just how tired I feel after a couple of easy days. I can keep knocking out 30km training days and feel OK but a couple of days of less than 20k and I feel knackered. It just goes to show the cumulative effect of hard training and reinforces the need for a proper taper to get fully refreshed for a big race. Hopefully a couple more easy days will see me starting to feel good again and ready to go in Bristol on monday.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

National Road Relays

Saturday saw the annual 12 stage road relays take place in Birmingham's Sutton Park. A fixture on the endurance calendar for many years this event has been graced by the greats of British distance running. Its easy to imagine how it must have been in its heyday with all star teams from Bristol, Gateshead, Coventry Godiva and the like doing battle round the undulating but spectacular course.

For our Wells team we were looking to build on last years 18th place and were able to count on a few returning runners to boost our challenge. With Eddie Richards, Frank Tickner and Pete Grist back in the line up and Eliot Haimes making his 12 stage debut for Wells we were able to get round some 5 minutes quicker than last year and finish in 12th place, which was about as good we could hope for.

Up front Leeds retained their title to add to the National Cross Country and consolidate their spot as the top endurance club at the moment. Personally I had a solid run on the last long stage after a 3.5 hour wait to get into action. It was pretty windy by mid afternoon but my 27.01 clocking was my fastest round here and on tired legs was a satisfactory result. I can't wait to race again on fresh legs !

At risk of being labelled a heretic by the traditionalists I would have to say that this event feels like it is past its sell by date. Sure there are some great aspects to it. The course is a challenge and the alternating long and short stages make for variation and cater to the middle distance and long distance guys in each team. But the sad reality is that the face of endurance running has changed. Mass participation is the name of the game and the competitive club scene is much smaller now meaning that many clubs struggle to field a solid team. Realistically only a handful of clubs have a shot at a medal in this event. While its a nice day out and an opportunity to catch up with old friends there is precious little action for the 4 and a bit hours of running required for the 12 stage relays.

Without being bold I fear that the 12 stage will die a slow death as fewer teams can compete each year. The good news is that the shorter version, the 6 stage, held in the autumn is a far more competitive event and the Saucony Cross Country Relays at Mansfield are a real racing festival with the participation of the kids teams as well. Both events thrive. So here's an idea to revitalise things. Turn the 12 stage into mixed men/women relay. Or to be really radical, add the short/long formula into the 6 stage and drop the 12 stage altogether while moving the cross relays to be an early April post World Cross season finale.

1 Leeds City AC 4:09:40
2 Notts AC 4:11:01
3 Belgrave Harriers 4:11:58

12 Wells City Harriers 4:23:34
Eliot Haimes (24) 27:50
Jack Bancroft (28) 16:25
Ben Tickner (19) 26:47
Frank Tickner (11) 13:55
Andy Hennessy (9) 27:38
Jon Gilling (14) 16:23
Pete Grist (14) 28:59
Rob Parfit (15) 16:47
Alan Jones (15) 30:05
Eddie Richards (15) 15:59
Adrian Marriott (13) 27:01
Jon James (12) 15:45

Full Results

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Kenyan Olympic marathon team announced

Today Athletics Kenya (AK) announced a formidable team for the Beijing Marathon.

The men will be: Robert Cheruiyot (4 time Boston winner), Martin Lel (3 time London winner) and Samuel Wanjiru (Fukuoka winner and coached by Olympic Silver Medallist Koichi Morishita). The reservers are Luke Kibet (World Champion) and William Kipsang (2008 Rotterdam winner)

The women's team looks slightly less formidable and is headed by Catherine Ndereba (World Champion from Osaka and Olympic silver Medallist) who is joined by Martha Komu and Salina Kosgei with Rita Jeptoo as reserve.

It will be interesting to see if the team learn the lessons of preparation for warm/humid conditions. All too often Kenya's marathon runners have underperformed at major championships. The omens are good with all of the men stating in recent weeks a desire to run in Beijing. All three are shrewd business men and understand the value of an Olympic medal. As for previous experience, well Cheruiyot was 4th in the hot 2007 Chicago race and Wanjiru has lived in Japan for several years and is used to the asian summer. While on the women's team Catherine Ndereba has a proven hot championship record with her Athens and Osaka.

So top marks to AK for getting the selection right. With Mubarak Shami (formerly Richard Yatich) of Qatar and Viktor Rothlin both showing good form this year and strong Japanese and Korean teams it should be quite a race.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Reflections on London

All too often sports events fail to live up to the hype but this year the Flora London Marathon really delivered. The quality at the front is hard to put into words. With a group of 9 going through halfway on world record pace and then slugging it out for podium positions in the closing miles this really was one of the best marathons i've seen. The first three all ran 2.05 and 3rd-5th ran the fastest times ever for that position. Not many people would have believed that you could run 2.06.17 and only finish 5th ! And all that in the face of wind and rain and in the closing miles which undoubtedly slowed proceeedings.

My clubmates had a good day with Al Jones and Tim Hawkins both going sub 2.40 for the first time with 2.38 and 2.39 respectively and a combined improvement of nearly 15 minutes which just goes to show what you can do with thorough preparation. Jon Gilling was just outside his PB with 2.43 and I'm sure that Tim and Al's runs will have convinced him that he can be in the 2.30s next time out. And Paul Rose also ran a sub 2.45 to book a championship start again for next year. Top of the ladies pile was Jenny Moore with another near miss at the 3 hour mark.

Best of the Brits was Dan Robinson who ran a PB and another well judged race while Tom Abyu committed himself to go with OQ pace but slowed in the second half. His third marathon in 6th months and some recent ill health making the task just too big. Toby Lambert ran his first sub 2.20 and while he will have been hoping for a bit faster I'm sure he will be relieved to finally get a good marathon under his belt. With only 4 guys under 2.20 this was hardly a vintage year for british mens marathoning. No doubt the armchair coaches will be having a raging debate on the internet message boards as to what needs to be done but if you look back 5 years at the long mid-distances its clear that we are now reaping what we sowed with a lost generation of distance runners.

The good news is that the young guys starting out seem to be making good progress. The team for the world cross this year contained plenty of guys just out of uni and they need to push on now and that will feed through into the marathon in future. There is definitely some good stuff going on in the US which we need to tap into with several of the World Cross Team being based there and just last week my Butler Uni based Wells team mate Andy Baker ran 13.55 for 5000m.

If I was an ambitious 22 year old and I hadn't got the speed to compete at the mile I would plan for the marathon right now with a view to a 2011 debut as a 25 year old. If its good enough for Hall, Ritz and Wanjiru ...


Thursday, 10 April 2008

Remember the Vaseline

3 days to go and a couple of final tips to make London as enjoyable as 26 miles of hard labour can be.

The forecast looks good. Nice temperature, light breeze and there are going to be showers about. So keeping dry before the start is essential. An old t-shirt to keep warm and a bin liner with holes in the top and sides for head and arms is a good standby. Who cares what it looks like if it works !

On a cool damp day you can be fooled into not drinking enough. You still need your fluids so start drinking early in the race. Sips of water from 3 miles onwards.

And finally a pot of Vaseline to grease up before the race. Only on your feet if you have done this training. But definitely groin, nipples, armpits and anything else thats going to rub.

I'll be watching on TV and internet and hoping that all my friends have a good run.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Relays in the snow

Sunday morning greeted the entrants for the South of England 12 stage Road Relays with 6 inches of snow and a biting northerly wind. Not exactly what you would expect for a spring day. Whether it was the snow, proximity to the London Marathon or just another sign of declining numbers of serious runners only 36 teams managed to field a complete 12 man line up this year. At least our new tent left us well protected from the elements during a race that takes over 4 hours.

While Belgrave and AFD swopped the lead a couple of times before the Bels ran out comfortable winners the action behind was limited to say the least, with teams well spread out after the first few stages and only a few changes of place. My Wells City Harriers team put in our best performance at this event finishing in 7th place and with a few more big guns likely to be back in the team for the Nationals we will be hoping to improve on last years 18th place. For a couple of our guys this was their first experience of the relays since returning to the sport for the first time since school days and both Elliot Haimes and Matthew Lewis put in well paced runs to keep us in contention.

My 5th stage effort was another step forward after last weeks half marathon win with the second of the two 4.3k laps being about 15 secs quicker than the first to give me the equal 10th fastest time of the day.

It was a shame to see my Toronto team mate Neil Renault on the sidelines with a foot problem but he takes a mean photo judging by this effort !

1 Belgrave Harriers 4:00:01
2 Aldershot, Farnham & District 4:01:25
3 Woodford Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 4:04:23
7 Wells City Harriers 4:15:05

Fastest Long Legs:

1 Robert Russell Thames Valley Harriers 25:44

2 Dave Wardle Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:09

3 Ben Moreau Aldershot, Farnham & District 26:10

4 Adam Bowden Harrow A.C. 26:11

5 Simon Jones Belgrave Harriers 26:13

6 Neil Speaight Belgrave Harriers 26:14

7= Ben Lindsay Aldershot, Farnham & District 26:18

7= Stephen Hepples Newham & Essex Beagles 26:18

9 Simon Plummer Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:21

10= Adrian Marriott Wells City 26:42

10= Ewen Malloch Woodfrd Green A.C. & Essex Ladies 26:42