The theory — training for what I hope will be my fastest ever marathon

For the 2015 Seville Marathon, when I broke three hours, I used a personalised, self-devised plan following the guidelines set out in Steve Magness’ ‘Science of Running’ book. For London 2017 I see no reason to depart too much from a system that worked: long build-up; cross-country races; convergence on specificity; very hard final sessions; and a sharp taper.

For London 2017 I’m going to keep those elements, but try and improve on them where possible. The first step is not getting injured! I lost a decent chunk of my Seville training to injury and had to resort to cross training rather than running for a prolonged period. So this time round I’ll be sensible when building intensity and volume, and also add strength training as ‘pre-hab’.

I’m also adopting some of the influences of Renato Canova who was a big influence on Magness (with appropriate adaptations to account for the fact I am not an elite Kenyan). As such, I’ll spend time getting my anaerobic threshold (AT) low, before attempting to extend my marathon pace runs. I didn’t do too much AT work before Seville (or not as much as I would’ve liked) due to getting injured and then focusing heavily on marathon pace (MP) work. The MP runs were especially important as I was training with a specific time in mind and wanted to make sure I could hit that pace for an extended duration.

This time, I don’t know what my target is. Best case scenario is sub-2:45', but I’ve got to be realistic and accept that is a massive jump from 2;59'. Therefore it makes sense, to me at least, to get my AT low, assess my ability, and then try and extend the duration.

As said, I think this makes sense. When Tony Fern coached me (Barcelona 2012 and London 2013), my plan involved lots of very fast (as close to race pace as I could get on my own) ten mile runs. The result was that I got really quick over ten miles, probably because I had pushed my AT. With the addition of some more long, MP runs I could probably have run those two marathons slightly quicker. That said, I’m not sure I could have handled long MP runs back then. For London 2013 I struggled with injury — my fault, not Tony’s.

Because my current fitness and target time are unknown, I’m not drawing up a whole seven month training plan. Instead I’m breaking it down into chunks, representing the progression from general to fundamental to support to special to specific-paced runs. These are Canova’s definitions and I’ll go into his methodology in more detail in another post.

To avoid injury, from sticking to a rigid, week-based schedule, I’m trying a ‘bullet journal’ approach to planning and logging runs, with the expectation this will allow me to flexibly work towards the different stages of the progression plan. Changing how I write down my training might not seem like a significant change, but in the post I’ve felt enslaved to my training plans — even when I’ve written them — and not listened to my body enough. The bullet journal approach is new to me, and I’ve not explained it particularly well here, but I’ll write about it at some point, once I’ve had longer to assess whether it is working or not.

The next post? Probably a piece on Canova methodology. I’m not sure if anyone reads this, but if you do: thank you, and feel free to add your comments.