Saturday, 17 November 2007

Final Total

A thank you to everyone who sponsored me. The final totals raised for the schools in Pokot are:

Given under gift aid: £943
Money reclaimed under gift aid: £943 * 28% = £264.04
Given not under gift aid: £1507

Total: £2714.04.

You can of course still donate any time you like - I can still process the payments, and I'll pass the money on.

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

Possibly final words, and tips if you ever try this...

My feet look about normal now, but I can still feel it every step though it's not painful any more. The post-marathon muscular aches have subsided too - the acid test is being able to walk down stairs without staggering!

I'll post a final update on how much was raised for the schools in Pokot later, but it looks like it will be about £2,300. There's still time (hint, hint)! In fact this blog, which I set up because I saw someone else saying that they'd had strangers donate through becoming interested, didn't have the affect of attracting any donations from strangers - but it's been fun anyway.

I benefited a lot from reading other runners' blogs and reading all the advice I could from the Internet. Of course, some of it conflicts and as ever, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so you have to be cautious. In case it helps anyone, I've uploaded the spreadsheet with my training record. Anyone can click on the HTML one, but the spreadsheet one has more comments in:

You'll see that I did about 6 months training, starting from nothing, running 4 times every week unless injured or a couple of times with an extra little jog thrown in. I didn't do any cross-training (i.e. exercise other than running), but think I should have done. It would have reduced the injury risk and made the cycling I had to do in the final weeks because of the shin splint easier! (It's not a good stage to start stressing muscles that you haven't stressed before!). I worked up to about 40 miles a week (only going over it once - 42 miles), and maintained that level for a couple of months more or less. All I can say is that it worked for me. Here are some unordered thoughts in case they come in useful for anyone:

  • It took me a few weeks to realise that you can't carry on trying to increase your mileage and speed every week and every run. The body does not get much fitter if you over-do it. I needed to relax. One shorter-than-planned run does not really spoil anything. You can't skimp on doing the quota of long runs, but one shortened session is better than being injured for weeks. I didn't get my first proper injury until the last three weeks, so I didn't have the lesson of hindsight: if something starts hurting persistently and doesn't go away, stop running! It's not worth aggravating it whilst you grind out the last 5 miles!

  • It took me a long time to learn to relax. But this is the key, I think. It takes a while to get a sense of the speeds you're comfortable at and where all the gears are. I'm sure that someone who does running anyway would get into it a lot quicker.

  • I tried to do too many long runs too close together at first. The long runs do take a toll. You get fitter when resting in between runs as your body rebuilds, not during them as it spends its resources. Good sleep makes a great difference!

  • I should have got shock absorbers earlier. I also did all my running on the roads, as there aren't any long stretches I knew of off them - but I should have probably tried harder to find them to protect myself from the impact. Looking at my second pair of running shoes, the heels are very worn, but I didn't have any injuries whilst using them.

  • Running whilst holding a fluid bottle in my hand worked for me. I got so used to it it felt quite odd to not carry one.

  • I never ran with a heart-rate monitor or fancy GPS thingy to track my distance and speed. If I was going to get serious and do this again, that might be interesting. But frankly as a first timer it doesn't seem worth it.

  • Stretching is good. Skimping on it is bad!

  • As a first timer, I was nervous that the last few weeks with reduced training load (which in my case was enforced because of the injury so I didn't have a choice) - would it cost me? By race day, I felt I could hardly remember what it was like to run. But, all such thoughts vanish pretty soon. I really felt the benefit of the freshness - much different to when in the hard parts of the training.

  • Finally... I should have followed the advice I'd seen to put some vaseline on my nipples! I'd not done this on the long runs in training and I'd been fine; but on race day it really rubbed it down and left me with ongoing soreness for the next few days and a nice scab. My wife says she saw people running at the end with blood pouring down their clothes from theirs; not very nice!

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Thursday, 1 November 2007

Does this look normal to you?

I didn't really look at my feet/shin after finishing on Monday or on Tuesday, but Wednesday evening, I noticed that the left one (right on the photo above) doesn't look quite right... it was a lot easier to walk on on Wednesday though than on Tuesday, so I wonder how much swelling it had on Tuesday!

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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

A little dream came true!

Did it!

Official position: 1,649 (8,428 finishers, approx. 11,000 starters)
Official time (race time): 03:40:54
Official time (chip time): 03:40:15

10 km, half-way, 30km times: 00:51:33, 01:47:39, 02:33:57. (Check it out here).

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I slept very well the night before the marathon. As I was fairly convinced that I only had a very small chance of making it, that took the pressure off. I had begun to think that it was possibly a stress fracture - it gave me pain at night, is quite localised and in the "right location" and I couldn't contemplate hopping 10 times on it; all of which are apparently indicators of a stress fracture. I was, though, also seeking to put all of that out of my mind - determining to give it my best. Having booked my place, the ferry, hotel room, etc., I might as well start! My plan was to run until it hurt, take an ibuprofen, and then run until I could run no more - and walk the rest.

Before the start

The weather was good for the time of year - clear sky, only a gentle breeze. It was cold though to stand around for an hour beforehand. I took the advice and wore a bin-liner! The toilets were surprisingly clean, and the queues not too bad. I joined the "less than 4 hour" group that I'd signed up for a few months ago, and waited.

Eventually we were off, and you can see from the difference between my "race" and "chip" times that it was about 40 seconds before I crossed the start line. (Each runner has an electronic chip which triggers as you pass certain points monitored on the race. The official times and places are decided on the race time which starts at the same time for everyone, whether an elite runner starting from the line or someone 5 minutes back. Those who are competing for prizes will be at the front anyway and so the two will hardly differ for them).

There was not much room to move in the first half-mile, and it was about 3 miles before there was comfortable freedom. I'd done all my training on my own, so it was quite different to be surrounded by lots of runners all the way. By the end it got a little bit thinner than the photo below, but not very much. The photo below looks like I'm about to execute a karate chop, but I think in fact it's just that I've given or am about to give a "thumbs up" sign.

I think that the first mile was actually the slowest for me - 9:00 according to my watch (which I started as I crossed the start). In such a huge crowd I found it really difficult to know how fast I was going - you can't "listen" to your body amongst so much commotion. I'd heard plenty of warnings about going off too fast (if you've got spare energy, use it in the last mile, not the first!), so erred on the side of caution.

The next couple of miles were about 8:22 and 8:10. At five miles, my watch said 41 something (either 20-something or 50-something, I can't remember). My dad caught my attention at about four - he was running across between various points on the course where it was possible to meet up: I think I saw him at 4, 11 and 21 miles. He says that thinks he ran 8 miles during the race dashing across the city!

I did all my training with isotonic drink bottle in hand, and that's what I did here too. I figured that if you're using energy and fluids gradually, it makes sense to replace them that way. I found the water stations, every 3 miles, a nice concentration break - I used most of them to grab a bottle and tip some over my head to cool down!

So far, it all seemed pretty good - I wondered at what point I would start feeling my shin. It had been before 4 miles just over a week ago. In fact, it hit me just after 7 miles (which I think took me 56:56). I was feeling a real pain, every time I landed on it - thud, thud, thud. Ouch! Very disappointing - I was beginning to dream that it had gone away!

Time to take an ibuprofen! I didn't take one before beginning the race, because I didn't really know how long they would mask the pain for, and I did want to know if there really was pain still there. Half a mile later, the pain was getting worse, so I took a second one as I doubted that the first on its own would be enough once it had kicked in. It was about ten miles before my shin just started to feel like a minor soreness rather than a sharp pain on every step.

It was really nice to see so many people lining the streets. Those playing drums, ringing bells were a great encouragement. There were stretches of a mile or two with nobody, and then others with quite a lot - it varied from one part of Dublin to another (the course is basically one big loop around the city).

I dashed into a Portaloo at about 11 miles - the only time I stopped running during the race. For me the stretch from about 7 miles to 12 or so is the toughest mentally in many ways - by now, things are hurting quite a bit, and yet it's a long, long way to go. I found it very boring! Eventually, though, the half-way mark approaches. As I crossed over, my watch said 1:47:00 which about agrees with the official time (given the chip difference and a couple of seconds). I was still feeling good - plenty of energy still in store. The large amounts of rest in the final couple of weeks had done the job. If I could repeat that time in the second half, I'd make 3:34; I wondered, hopelessly optimistically, if I could beat that if I retained enough energy for a speed-up in the last few. My plan was basically to just keep going at a comfortable pace until 21 miles, and then if anything was left for a speed-up, to go for it from then and see what was possible.

In reality, though, they don't say that it's a whole different ball-game from 20 miles onwards for nothing! At that point, I could really feel the bruising in my calves, and everything felt that much stiffer and heavier to move. I've got some nice blisters under my feet too, as I was wearing some new shock absorbers. The photo above is from about 21 miles. I did though feel reasonably comfortable mentally - the sun was out and it was quite bright, and there was a little breeze behind us for a couple of miles or so from about 15 miles. At about 15 miles I picked up a gel sachet, and ate it a couple of miles later - very sickly, but surely full of energy and caffeine! From about this point onwards there were plenty of people handing out all kinds of things - sweets, chocolate, oranges, biscuits; not all of these things are easy to digest at this point though! I took a barley sweet from someone but had to spit it out a couple of miles later as there's just no energy to suck the thing! At the 16 mile mark there was the chance to reflect on the fact that the winners would have already finished... but still, they do train 120+ miles every week.

At about 20 miles, my shin started to become quite painful again, so I took another ibuprofen - a final one to see me through the last few miles. Into the last 6.2 miles - which many runners say are often as painful as the 20 going before! I started to see people walking from about 19 miles onwards; at the pace we were going (just slower than 8 minutes/mile) I didn't get to see any walkers until this point. Now there started to be plenty of people stopping because of exhaustion, to stretch, or suffering from cramps, etc.

The miles started to slow down noticeably for me, but not hugely. As I said, I think the slowest mile I ran was probably the first, at 9:00, though maybe the 23rd or 24th were a few seconds longer; I wasn't keeping an accurate count. I could see that the time per mile was slightly rising and likely to get me to about 3:40 (I thought I was going to just dip under it but the final 0.02 in the 26.22 must have tipped me over!) When I got to 21 miles I felt like I still had some energy and ran the next mile slightly faster, but when I finished that mile I didn't keep it up!

The end was getting near now, and the crowds were getting thicker as we came nearer to the centre of Dublin. At this point of course you're pretty desperate for it to end. I found it quite difficult with all the cheering crowds not to cry (I managed!) - I really didn't think I would be making it to this stage, still running, only just outside the pace I'd been aiming for if I'd never been injured. It was such a thrill to be fulfilling a dream which I thought was not going to come true. Truly God is full of mercy.

Eventually, comes the 26 mile sign... and it was only after I'd run past it that I realised, "you don't need to save any energy now - that sign means there's only about 300 metres to go!" I broke into a sprint, which was quite fun, as some of those around me did too whilst others were clearly just hanging on as best they could to stagger over the line. I think I won the sprint of those around me! I got into it so much that I forgot to look up and smile for the photo they take as you cross the line. It was impossible not to smile though once I'd stopped running - made it! Yes yes yes! At last! I looked at my watch: 3:40:13 (my eventual chip time was 3:40:15). I could hardly ask for any more.

First half: 1:47:39
Second half: 1:52:36

As you walk through the finishing area, you're congratulated and given the medal, and then the T-shirt (which says "Finisher" on it). I was asked if I was small or medium, but was too brain-dead to process the question and the fellow just gave me a small. The chap next to me seemed to have done several marathons and said that 3:40 was very good for a first time.

With my dad

It was some minutes before dad turned up, back from the 21-mile marker. I hadn't spotted my wife and children cheering me down the home straight - I think you get tunnel-vision once you see the finishing line!

With the love of my life!

I owe a huge amount to the help and encouragement of my wife, Liz, over the six months since I hatched this insane idea. She has been supportive from the start. I don't know which of us was more relieved that it all turned out so well on the day - I thought it was all going to be for nothing!

Scoff, scoff - mine's a double whopper; make it large please!

Though I did keep stretching after finishing, it's not long before the stiffness started to set in! A marathon really is a very very long run - there's no escaping it. Those last few miles are really amazing in what they do to you. I started to feel the pain from my shin pretty quickly. Writing this the day after, I can hardly walk - it's staggering rather than walking; everything is stiff! My shin is very painful, and I can't put enough pressure on it to operate the clutch, so it was a good thing I didn't go to Dublin alone else I'd likely still be there now! I had a somewhat painful night with it, as it wouldn't and still won't let me turn one way or the other without a lot of discomfort. If I press it it's very painful. I don't care too much about that though - it got me through my little dream, and now it can do what it likes for a few months. I'm not planning to need it to take me running anywhere any time soon. Mission accomplished!

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Thursday, 25 October 2007

This is it...

Twenty-five minutes of cycling today... that's it, except I'll try to jog for a few minutes on Saturday, all being well.

So there it is! In April I was a desk potato; six months later, marathon day is just about here. The outlook has changed rather drastically in the last few weeks; as the "taper" period approached, all seemed on course to be able to have a serious attempt at 3:30. Now, I think that my chances of finishing the marathon are probably about one in five or six - it seems very unlikely that my shin will let me do it; it keeps giving me strange twinges and I don't see how it can be in a state to do a marathon if it's healing from an injury like this.

I am, though, very privileged to have got to this point. It's been very enjoyable; I started from scratch, and have got to the point where I have a shot at making one of my little goals a reality - it's a thrill to be able to get from there to here. I've run a 22 mile run in training, and so know that I've done what I had to do to turn dream into reality inasmuch as I could.

I've had the privilege of experiencing another part of human life. Human experience is amazingly and fantastically diverse, and we can only experience a little part of it. I've enjoyed tasting on more. I know that the immensity of enjoyable human experience isn't a coincidence which happily "just happens" to be; I give God praise the amazing world that he has created. I know as well that my little goals in this kind of thing and whether I achieve them or not isn't the "big story" of history; that's Jesus Christ. I've really enjoyed the experience of planning, learning, training, improving, and so on. My wife has been wonderfully supportive of my latest mad scheme, and I will in all honesty likely not achieve what I set out to do.

Before I get to the start line on Monday (presuming no more incidents!) I'll have to try to erase the likelihood of failure from my thinking because it'll be irrelevant once the starter's gun goes. I intend to give it my best shot; I don't intend to stop running until my legs fall off. You can't do these things if the word "can't" exists in your thinking up until the point that you have no option at all. I'll give it my all, and we'll see what happens. Just because I say "one chance in four" doesn't mean I'm thinking I'm defeated already. I'm going for it; it's all or nothing! Dublin here we come!

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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

It's good to be tired

Another 7.1 miles cycled - the first consecutive days of significant exercise for a couple of weeks. It's a good feeling. Six days to go!

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Monday, 22 October 2007

Some cycling

I calculate that last week I had a total of, hmmm, 78 minutes of exercise. Oh dear!

Well, today I cycled for just under 73 minutes, around 13 miles. The aim of this is just to keep up my cardio-vascular fitness... the fact that it involves legs is a bonus. It's good to get the heart pumping again.

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Not going very well...

I attempted a 4-mile run last Thursday, after a 1 mile and a 2 mile run in previous days. It was too far; after 3 miles the shin splint could be felt with every stride, and so I decided to stop and walk home rather than make it any worse.

There are seven days to go; I think it may be best just to not run at all in that time, except maybe for a little jog on Saturday to loosen up for Monday.

I didn't really do any cycling either last week - only 5 miles; it was a really busy week. 6 miles run, and 5 miles cycled... and it looks like those 6 miles will be all I do in the last three weeks. Ho hum. I have no idea what effect this will have. I'm fairly sure that the shin is going to start hurting once I start running the marathon; it's just a question of how much it hurts and how much speed these three weeks and that hurt will cost me. I suppose I should just aim to finish now and forget about the 3:30 goal.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Back running

It's been a week since I last ran, and a few days since I was able to detect anything in my shin, so I decided to have a short and gentle run today.

I ran 2.1 miles into the next village and back, all the time wondering whether my shin would start playing up. It wasn't easy to tell - when you think there are biting insects around, every little movement of air is suspected and you feel itches all over! I think that it must be good that it wasn't easy to tell. However, when I'd finished, I felt it very definitely (though not in terms of pain). It only lasted about two minutes, though, after which it felt perfectly normal. So, I think it's almost there; it just needs to be handled carefully.

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Saturday, 13 October 2007

Another cycle ride

I don't feel the shin splint any more in just going around the house. I had a short walk this morning; I think I could just about detect it at the end, but that might have been by imagination.

Anyway, to remain on the safe side at this stage I didn't run today, but cycled again - 10 miles / 49:31. With a day's rest tomorrow, I'm hoping to try a jog on Monday and see how the shin responds - that'll be six days between runs. I've been very blessed with being free of injuries - I haven't had more than one consecutive day without a run since July! 22 miles run this week, and 20 cycled. Just 23 days to go now.

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Thursday, 11 October 2007

Definitely a shin splint

Like probably most of my UK readers, I now have rubbish collections only ever fortnight. It's tough to get everything in the bin, and I normally have to resort to jumping up and down on top of the rubbish to squash it down. Just doing that today made me feel a bit of pain in my shin - definitely a shin splint.

Hence I didn't run today, but instead went cycling for 50 minutes / 10 miles. (That's slower than world class marathoners run 10 miles!). I don't know how valuable that is or isn't; it should maintain my general fitness; if I cycle exclusively the muscles will probably develop in the wrong proportions. I have no idea; but I don't think I have much of a choice at the moment.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2007

An injury

For the first time since I started running in April, I think I've got an injury. I've had aches and sore bits, but I've got something at the moment which is in its 10th day.

I've got a shin splint. When I did the 22 mile run just over a week ago, my left shin was feeling sore in the last few miles; I pressed on. It then seemed to die down, gradually, over a few days. But I could feel it again during yesterday's 16-miler, and since then I have felt mild pain whenever walking about, and lying in bed at night. It was quite painful overnight.

Apparently the cure for these is complete rest; aggravating them can make them much worse, even to the point of bringing about a stress fracture. Hmmm. It is troubling that it feels significantly worse now than it did at first. It's good that I'm at the stage where I'm meant to be winding down the mileage. I'm keeping some ice on it, and will see how it feels tomorrow. I was only planning a couple of 5-milers more this week; we'll see how it responds.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Last of the long runs...

Today is 20 days until race day. I set out to do 15 or 17 miles, depending on how I felt... in the event I split the difference and did 16.

Every mile was at about the same pace - 8 minutes/mile. I found it quite tough though in the last few miles especially. I don't know to what extent last week's diarrhoea and vomiting bug will still be affecting me - I'm sure it'll be a couple of days yet before its effects are fully gone.

All in all, 2:07:50. Looking at my records, I can see that I've run a 16 mile run once before, about 11 weeks ago, and improved by just under 13 minutes; at the time that was the longest run I'd ever done. The pace I did today is the pace I need to average over the whole marathon to get under 3:30 - that seems a really tough proposition at the moment. I suppose that three weeks' tapering and hopefully fresh legs in the morning (I did this one late afternoon) ought to help. If I can do it, I think it's going to be very close.

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Monday, 8 October 2007


I had a 5-mile jog this morning - I felt rather queasy. I don't know if that's because of last week's sickness. I think I ate too much yesterday! I felt rather weak most of the way, but got more into my stride into the last mile. 40:59 in all.

My plan this week is to get in one longer run early in the week, and then just do a bit more to make the mileage up to about 32. I'll keep an eye on my fellow marathoners' blogs who are aiming for similar-ish times to see what they're up to: those who've done this before seem to have more of a clue than me! Various articles I've read talk about speed-work, but I'm really not sure how this works out in practice.

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Saturday, 6 October 2007

Another week over - not quite as planned

After Monday's long(est yet/ever) run, and Tuesday's recovery jog, I ran again on Thursday, a fast run of 7.1 miles. This took me 50:38, which was 11 seconds faster than I'd done it before - the improvement was in the last couple of miles, which is a good thing I think.

Then, though, I had a diarrhoea and vomiting bug on Thursday night, together with the rest of the family (one of my children began on Wednesday) - out came Thursday's dinner, and I didn't eat another bite until a piece of bread Saturday morning.

That meant that I couldn't meet this week's target of 45 miles - this was meant to be a final tough weak, before beginning a taper (easing off) until the race day. As it's turned out, though, with all that's intervened in the last couple of months, I've scarcely increased my weekly mileage since I got up to 36 miles 8 weeks ago.

Never mind! As a first-timer, I have no experience to inform me as to what I should be aiming for anyway! After eating nothing on Friday, I felt a bit better today, and had some fish fingers for lunch, before running 5 miles at tea-time. I ran really gently, though when I finished I was surprised to see a time of 40:38 - I was expecting 43 or so. I think that only one day of D & V means I won't have been affected too much; just a bit weak and needing to start eating again to recover my strength. 39.2 miles for the week in total; the race itself is just 23 days away. Tomorrow I'll be, all being well, carrying on preaching the sermon series which can be downloaded here:

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Wednesday, 3 October 2007


Yesterday I ran 5 miles after getting out of bed. Lots of bits felt quite stiff and sore after the 22 miles the previous day - I think the first couple of miles felt almost as bad as the last miles the day before had! But, by the end, I was feeling more normal again.

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Monday, 1 October 2007


Today I ran my third. and in my current plan, final 20+ miler before the marathon, which is four weeks today - a run of 22.1 miles.

I didn't find the middle miles as thoroughly dull as last time; I don't know if this is down to experience or just the mood I wake up in!

The course was 5 miles round the hilly circuit, then 5 miles up the A6, 5 miles back, round the hilly circuit again, then into the next village and back. On the one hand, the final hilly circuit didn't feel quite as painful as last time, but on the other in the last couple of miles I felt like I'd only got one speed available whereas last time I was able to speed up a touch.

Split timings were approximately like so (going from memory):
First 5 miles: 40:39 (8:08 per mile)
10 miles: 1:22:55, hence 42:16 for the section (8:27 per mile)
15 miles: 2:05:37,42:42 for the section (8:32 per mile)
20 miles: 2:47:55, 42:18 for the section (8:28 per mile)
22.1 miles: 3:05:49, 17:56 for the section (8:32 per mile)

That's pretty consistent; I used to check my watch every mile but that was unhelpful in terms of relaxing mentally - I would spend half the time doing unnecessary calculations and worrying whether I was going too slowly! Today I just looked every 5 miles, apart from at mile 1. I didn't consciously slow down after the first 5 miles; I just went at the speed that felt comfortable, though with an effort to slightly increase the pace in the final 5-mile section. The last couple of miles were physically tough - the tank was just about empty.

I was hoping for 3 hours, but I didn't have the reserves to speed up to make that. I'd guess that's probably because of the half-marathon "race" I ran 6 days ago. Still, according to I ought to aim for a training run of 20 miles in 2:55 a week after a raced half marathon of 1:36 at about this stage if I want to beat 3:30 in the marathon itself, and that's pretty much where I am. I'm meant to have about 7 days more of full training, and then gradually wind it down over the last 3 weeks. Not long now!

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Saturday, 29 September 2007

Brisk 5 miles

I found an unexpected spare bit of time to fit in a quick 5 miles... 35:36. That's actually the quickest I've run my 5 mile circuit, but I wasn't trying to beat my best time until the last mile or so - I'd just been going at a comfortable though brisk pace until then. It's just the general improvement in fitness in the six weeks since I ran my 5 mile record which allowed me to do this. And the fact that I've run less miles this week than any of the last 7 weeks, so I was fresher and there was plenty left in the legs for the last mile and a half.

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Friday, 28 September 2007

5 miles before breakfast

I ran 5 miles before breakfast today - all I'll have time for today I think. 39 minutes. That makes 27 miles so far this week - about 10-15 short. Hmmm. Still, it could be worse. I've been remarkably blessed to be so injury free since beginning training.


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Thursday, 27 September 2007

7 miles whilst there's time!

I didn't make time to run yesterday, which means that with the rest of what I need to do this week, it'll be tricky to make up the miles. I think I'm meant to be pushing myself quite hard at the moment as once you get to 3 weeks beforehand you're meant to slow down so that the body isn't tired on race day. Ah well - there's still next week.

As I hadn't run yesterday, this was my first run after the fast half-marathon - so I just needed to give my legs the opportunity to stretch out again; nothing too fast. I chugged round in 55 minutes, and everything felt OK - not too tired. That's not surprising, given that I've only had two significant runs (more than 4 miles) in the last week. I think this run will have done me good.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Half-marathon time trial

I haven't blogged since last Wednesday... after that I did a 4 miler on Friday to stop my legs from freezing up, and then a 2 hour run on Saturday which must have been 14 miles or so. That was the first time I've run that far before breakfast! Yesterday I ran a couple of miles in a few spare moments, keeping my legs fresh for today...

I had planned on running a half marathon (13.1 miles) this week to help me work out what kind of pace to aim for in the full marathon (most runners using the Internet will have come across the McMillan running calculator). I've not run an exact half marathon before. I was just running against myself and the clock, but tried to put myself under some mental pressure - as if it were a real race. I ran 3 miles up the A6, and then back down, then around my 5.0 mile circuit, then the 2.1 miles down to the next village and back.

At the outset my goal was to break 1:40, and I thought that 1:36 would be about the best I could realistically manage. In the event, I just about did that, finishing in 1:36:40. The last 10 miles were done in 73:45, slightly faster than my best 10 mile run of 74:11 from 17 days ago.

It felt very good. I was definitely feeling the pain; I don't know if I could have done it much faster - maybe in a real race a little boost of adreneline would have shaved another half minute off, or an earlier start (I ran at 4 p.m.). The conditions though were very good - not humid at all, a bit damp but not raining. My legs testified that this wasn't a pace they could have really kept up for any longer, so I think it was a fair trial. If I trained for a marathon again (I have no plans to), I think I would get a heart rate monitor so that I could get a more objective evaluation on how hard I'd pushed myself.

Based on this time, I think it is realistic to aim to go under 3:30 in the marathon, if all goes well. There are just 4 weeks and 6 days to go!

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Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Quick quick!

I have almost no time to say this... did 10 miles yesterday, 7 miles today. All OK - recovered from last week's 21 miler now I think; today's 7 miles was 5 minutes quicker than the same 7 miles on Monday.

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Monday, 17 September 2007

Getting back into it

I didn't have time for a real run on Saturday (well, I ran a mile!), but I was back to it this morning, running 7 miles. I was a bit stiff in the first half, but after that it felt good - I ran the second half a couple of minutes faster than the first even though there was a good-sized descent from the first half to climb back up.

I was just running at a comfortable pace to recover after last week's 21 miler, and took an hour. I dropped off for a few minutes this afternoon - it's been very busy the last week or two (which is why I only got in three runs last week).

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Friday, 14 September 2007

How to really enjoy a bath

How to really enjoy a bath - just run 21 miles before getting into it. A simple theory... the side effect is that you may have difficulty getting out, or walking downstairs afterwards.

This was my second completed 20 mile run (the previous one was 20.1 miles). I made a deliberate decision to try to not care about how long it took me - just to make sure I finished the distance. I know the rough rate I'd like to attempt the marathon at, but today the aim was just to give my legs experience of the distance.

I ran 5 miles of the hilly circuit, then 5 miles up the A6 and then back down, then 5 miles of the hilly circuit again. Once you've run 15 miles, just the mildest slopes feel pretty painful! Then I ran half a mile down the A6 and back again at a fraction quicker just to assure myself that I had completed the run and not just survived it!

The first 5 miles took me about 41 minutes, then the next 3 sections took about 42 each. My total time was 2:56:47 - an average of 8:25 per mile.

At about 12 miles I felt like I was struggling, but I came through it. What I found most difficult to cope with was boredom. The websites I read advise someone who's aiming for the kind of marathon time I am to run these long runs about a minute per mile slower - but I'm too impatient for that! For the same reason I find myself running up hills faster than seems wise - just so that I can get them over with!

Between about 7 and 14 miles just felt very boring; I felt tempted to stop just so that I could do something else instead of running! However I've noticed that gloomy thoughts normally coincide with inclines - once you're coming down the other side, things look a bit better. Hopefully on race day the adrenaline will mitigate this a bit and compensate for the extra 5 miles on the end!

Last time I ran 20 miles I thought at the end "I don't want to attempt that again until I've forgotten what it's like - I'm glad I didn't have to do another 6 today". Today I felt like I'd made progress since then; I ran at the same pace but felt like I had more in me when I finished. 6 and a bit weeks to go!


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Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Running in central London

I ran for about 45 minutes today in London to maintain fitness during a busy few days. Quite crowded... through Picadilly Circus and a few laps of St. James' park.

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Monday, 10 September 2007

Warm-up jog

As last week, I did a 7 mile jog after getting out of bed this morning, which took me almost exactly an hour. It was quite windy, but I wasn't running directly into it until the last mile. The first couple of miles involve a lot of continuous climbing, so this run is a good work out for those muscles! There was a beautiful rainbow visible at the top, though there wasn't a drop of rain whilst I was out. I also paused to read the plaque by the natural spring today - apparently it's never known to have failed since the pipe to allow collection was put in in 1897, and was the main water supply for the houses up there until 1952.

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Saturday, 8 September 2007

That was better

I set out for a 10-miler today, which I managed in 74:11 - 37:55 for the first half and 36:16 for the second. On reflection now I think my mistake in my aborted 20-miler on Wednesday was to not allow for the humidity by running a bit slower. It's just common sense; when it's hotter outside, your heart has to work harder to go the same speed. Trying to reproduce the speed I would have tried in cool weather wasn't very clever.

I felt pretty good all the way round. Not so good that I could have maintained that pace for more than another couple of miles mind you, but good enough to enjoy most of it. I ran in the new running shoes; they still make my left foot feel squeezed, but a bit less than the old pair. They're a whole size bigger than my everyday shoes, so I still don't really understand why my foot feels like that.

I now understand why the websites I've seen advise that you train for a year before a marathon - I'm still getting fitter each week. Because I was a desk potato until April, I'll just have to be left wondering how much fitter I could have been if I'd taken that advice!

Here's the evolution of my 10-mile time since the first time I ran it:

22nd May: 94 minutes 44
29th May: 84 minutes 29
14th July: 83 minutes 03 (start of a 12.1 mile run)
23rd July: 79 minutes 38
18th August: 75 minutes 50
8th September: 74 minutes 11

The gap from May to July is when I had a very heavy cold followed by gastroenteritis.

I was really pleased when I knocked 10 minutes off my first time (a minute per mile)... it's taken three and a half months to do it again! Just 7 weeks training to go. Next week I have a very busy schedule, so I'll just aim to get a couple of jogs in before trying the 20 miles on Friday, all being well.

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Thursday, 6 September 2007

Little recovery jog

I went for a 5 mile jog today. The only aim was to complete the 5 miles - which I managed! My legs felt like they were made of lead most of the way. It is unusually humid, which makes me feel quite lethargic.

The new running shoes seemed fine. They're half a size bigger than the previous pair - that pair make my left foot feel like it was being squeezed once I've gone a few miles. We'll find out in due time whether the problem was with the shoes or the foot! (The old pair were already half a size bigger than my normal shoes).

I've now passed 400 miles since I started training! But there are only 26 which will count in the end...

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Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Further thoughts...

Having reviewed some of the suggested training schedules and advice offered from various sources on the Internet, the verdict on what went wrong with me not finishing my 20-mile run this morning seems to be...
  • Don't do 3 runs of over 10 miles at near your intended marathon pace within 8 days.

  • A training run that is both very long and near marathon pace isn't something you should do. Save it for race day.
I think that with only 4 or 5 weeks to go until I'm meant to ease off, I was trying to fit too much training into that time. The 12 and 15 mile runs last week were confidence boosting because they showed me I can run those distances at around the pace I aim to do the marathon at; I ought to have left it there instead of trying to push that same pace up to 20 miles - because failing to do so ruins the confidence boosting effect! The general guidance seems to be that runs of 12 miles or more should only be attempted once a fortnight and you should spend the rest of the time working on other things. My problem is that as this is my first marathon I don't have the confidence to trust the advice knowing that I won't be under-trained when the big day comes... but today I'm learning why I ought to!

Lovely Liz (the wifey) has bought be some new running shoes, having done about 300 miles in the existing pair, so I'll try those out on the next run.

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That didn't go too well

Today I set out for my 20-mile run. Having done a 15-mile run last week with the second half faster than the first, I thought I'd set out at the same pace I set out at then.

It all felt fine... for about 4 miles. After that, my legs started feeling like they'd done 4 miles or so more than they had. By 7 miles instead of feeling relaxed and in control I was really feeling it and running with a one-speed gearbox. I was passing my front door after 15 miles and decided that was enough.

The first 5 miles was about 40 minutes and so was the second; the third was 43 minutes. 2:03:04 in all. If I'd had to stagger through the last 5 miles (i.e. it was race day itself) I could probably have done so, but not today. Hmmm.

So what went wrong? Last week I did the same course in 4 minutes less, only 2 days after running 12 miles. Maybe I'm still recovering from that. It was quite humid in the first hour today; maybe I should have slowed a little to allow for that. I've not had great sleep the last 3 nights, and eaten too much fatty food. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to do 20 mile runs at this pace anyway during training - the main aim of a 20 mile run is just to build up endurance. I think overall I was just a bit too ambitious, and hopefully will learn to be a bit more cautious. Ah well. Press on!

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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A little more about Pokot

Since I wrote the last little bit about Pokot, the women's marathon took place at the world athletics championship. The winner... a Kenyan, Catherine Ndereba, who lives in the Rift Valley region.

The picture below is a typical sight in Pokot. It's a traditional Pokot mud hut.

This hut is made of mud, and thatched. They prefer to use metals for their roofs, but that is more expensive. (And sweltering - but they don't mind!). The door on this hut is made of wood and has a padlock on it. The number of people living in such a hut will vary depending on the relative wealth of the owner. It is not uncommon for a whole family to share one; the hut will be divided into a sleeping and a living area, and mum, dad and all the kids will share a bed.

To the left side of the hut you can see some goats. Most Pokot people are animal herders. You can see from the background to the photo that Pokot is not a desert; there is sufficient rainfall for much greenery. This rain does tend to fall all at once though, with long periods without in between.

Animal herding leads to a nomadic lifestyle which can be difficult to integrate with school. For this reason many Pokot people are keen to have boarding schools.

Many Pokot men, once their children are old enough to herd the animals themselves, will "retire" and leave it to the next generation - spending their time chatting about politics and playing Pokot games with their peers. Some of the older generation don't see the value of education - how much do you need to learn to herd animals? Denied an education, of course, their isn't then much choice to do anything else but herd animals.

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Monday, 3 September 2007

Chug chug chug

I went for a 7-mile trot after getting up this morning, in just under an hour. This is just a little trot to keep my legs in shape. There's not much to say about it, really. It's on a single loop which involves about 1.5 miles of near-continuous climbing - a rude start to the week! I normally feel lethargic for a bit after getting up; maybe I should run at this time more often so that I don't!

The plan is to go for a 20-miler later this week... shudder shudder...

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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Where did that come from?

My 3 runs so far this week had been a warm-up jog and 2 longer runs at a steady rate. So that meant that today I ought to try a faster one. I chose 7.1 miles (one lap of the hilly bit and then to the next village and back), for which my best time was 53:54. I was aiming to take a minute off that.

I looked at my watch after the first mile and it told me I was going far too fast. But, I felt relaxed; and just kept going. Somehow I managed to take 3 minutes off, finishing in 50:49. I felt in control all the way round. At the 5-mile mark I was only 10 seconds off my best 5 mile time from last Saturday - when I felt like I was going flat out (relative to the distance), and finished with a sprint. The last 2.1 miles today was also faster than I've ever covered that distance at the end of a run (14:42).

This seems like an odd business. My records don't show me as having eased off in the last couple of weeks so that I could record a fast time more easily. Sometimes running seems hard work and sometimes it feels easy. Sometimes the reasons for that are easy to work out - trying to do too much, or having had a break. Sometimes though, I don't know why. I hope I'll work it out before the race day! Maybe really pushing myself on the shorter run last Saturday was what did it. Or maybe its the extra strength from last week's 20-miler. I really don't know; I hope I'm not peaking prematurely! I do know that on days like this it's easy to admire God's world - the colours, the hills, the sky, the quietness - as you slide by.

I think this has probably been my best week of training yet. I ran the same distance as last week (39.2 miles), which is the most I've run, and I've felt great. Admittedly the effort of the 27 miles on Tuesday and Thursday (combined) really tired me out - I've cat-napped during the day 3 times since then!

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Thursday, 30 August 2007

15 clockwork miles

I was hoping to run 15 miles on Saturday, but the other events of the week don't make that very convenient. So it was today, or not at all.

I decided to see if I could run 15 miles at 8 minutes per mile - the pace at which I did 12.1 on Tuesday. This would be a good test to see if I could maintain the same pace at a slightly increased distance, and to see if my legs had the endurance to do so only 2 days later. This may be about the pace I aim for on the marathon itself so it would help me know how feasible that was. Plus it would take about 2 hours, which is the minimum you need to run if having a training run to increase endurance (or so saith the Internet, anyway).

I've only run a distance of exactly 15 miles once before, 6 weeks ago today. That was the first time I'd ever run further than 12.1 miles. Then, I did 3 laps of the hilly circuit, but I'd like to be able to move my knee joints again before mid-September - so that didn't seem like a good option. Instead, I ran 5 miles up the A6, then back, and then did a lap of the hills. Happily someone's removed the rotting adult badger from the back road - the stink was getting so bad it was getting difficult to avoid heaving!

As far as the timings went, it was almost clockwork. I was within a few seconds of the overall pace throughout the first 11 miles, and then there was a very slight acceleration to get home in 1:58:58. The first 5 miles were done in 39:38, the second in 40:21, and the third in 38:59. This time was 13 and a half minutes faster than when I did this distance 6 weeks ago - over 50 seconds per mile. From about half way, I could feel in my legs those 12.1 miles I did on Tuesday, and the last 4 miles felt very tough; I got a stitch, my hips started whinging, and the big hills called me nasty names as I ran up them (I think). My knees felt pretty good though, and the watch kept telling me that the pace was being maintained. All in all, today's run was a real confidence booster. 9 and a half weeks to go!

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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A little bit about West Pokot

The remoteness of West Pokot is well illustrated by the shortness of its Wikipedia page. There is, though, within the 6 sentences of that epic read (one of which is the glorious revelation "Pokot people inhabit the area.") a hint at something significant: "Tegla Loroupe, one of the most famous Kenyan female runners is from West Pokot."

A typical sight in West Pokot

In fact, Pokot is part of the north-west Rift Valley quadrant of Kenya which is responsible for about as many of the world's top ten marathon runners in the last decade as... the rest of the world put together. Did you notice that a Kenyan won the marathon at the world championships a few days ago? He was raised in Eldoret, in the Rift Valley. The world marathon world record holder? Paul Tergat, from the Rift Valley. If I ran a single mile 90 seconds slower than he can reel off 26, I'd likely vomit up my breakfast. Tegla Loroupe, mentioned above, holds the world records at 20, 25 and 30 kilometres and is a former ladies' marathon record holder.

Pokot: A very beautiful place.

So, it's somewhat ironic to be running a marathon on behalf of Pokot! They are part of the world's hotspot for producing talented marathoners. What they don't have, but we do have, though, is the opportunity for a good education for our children. We have the opportunity to give them that opportunity. A little money will go a long way in Pokot. Read about the cause and make secure donations here.


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

12.1 miles at a reasonable (for me) pace

Today I set out for 12.1 miles. It's satisfying to look back to 6 and a half weeks ago when I did this for the first time - then it was not long after coming back after gastoenteritis and it was my first attempt at such a distance for a decade (and then it was only once!); I staggered through the last couple of miles and truly felt dead-beat afterwards.

Several weeks of training later, though, I can consider this distance as just a medium challenge and not something to get too worked up about. The course is two laps of my 5 mile route (with 3 climbs) and then 2.1 miles (flat) to the next village and back.

Last time I did it (4 weeks ago) I took about 41 minutes for each of the first 2 laps, then 17 minutes to finish off. Today I was aiming to take a minute off each of those 3 stages.

The outcome was 40:28 after 5 miles and 79:58 after 10; followed by another 16:12 to finish it off; average 7:57 per mile in all. A few muscles felt like something was up in the last couple of miles and I had to hop a few paces, so I didn't push it for a swifter finish. I want to train again this week! Hence a total time of 96:12 which was 2:36 quicker than last time, so progress has been made. My left knee felt like pretty sore most of the way round; it'd probably be wise to rest it tomorrow.

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Monday, 27 August 2007

Little trot

I got out of bed this morning and trotted through 5 miles. I had a head-cold from Saturday evening so was feeling a bit weak. (I felt exhausted after preaching on Sunday morning).

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Saturday, 25 August 2007

Introduction; 5 miles today.

(My full marathon website:

The Dublin marathon, should I make it, will be my first. I did a bit of running when training for another sport 10 years ago. Once I ran a 12-miler (or so - wasn't measured) as part of that. This April I was sitting at my desk, listening some invigorating music, when I decided to go for it. Beware of invigorating music.

As I'm a Christian, I won't take part in Sunday sports. (To understand this, you really need to see the scene in "Chariots of Fire" where Eric Liddell gives a magnificent delivery of these words to the Prince of Wales. The future king of England was pressuring him to run in the Olympics on a Sunday for his king and country (link):

Eric Liddell: "God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern. And those rules say that the Sabbath is His. And I for one intend to keep it that way").

That severely restricts the options for which marathon to run! I only found one other this year - the "Seven Sisters" marathon near Eastbourne. The website for that says that it's hilly and will take you half an hour longer than a road marathon... so that was an easy decision!

So far I've clocked up just about 336 miles. Time to get some new trainers before they fall apart the week before the big day!

Today and yesterday have been pretty hot. But I haven't run any fast runs this week, so today I felt I had to go for one. 5 miles in 35:57, which is my new record. There's a 5-mile circuit from my house which includes 3 good hills. After 2 miles I felt I'd definitely set out way too fast; but after the biggest hill there's a nice sheltered downhill run for about half a mile, and I felt better after that. Everything feels like it's in working order still.

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Welcome! Here's the cause...

Hello! I should have set this blog up a while ago. The purpose is as follows: I hope that some of my visitors will be moved to donate to the cause!

The Dublin marathon, if I get there, will be my first marathon. Its cause is to raise money to fund teachers and schools in a very under-developed part of Kenya (no electricity or water, terrible roads). A little money in that particular place will go a long way. Investing in children's education is one of the most effective to help people in places like these. Can you help?

I'm digging for water. I'd rather go to school!

I have a website up with more information (including dozens of photos), and can take debit/credit card donations securely, and re-claim gift-aid to boost the value of UK gifts by 28%. Please consider donating what you can, and passing on this link to anyone and everyone you know who has an interest in Kenya, development and/or education. Link me from your blog, pass it on to e-mail lists, mention it on your website, print it out - whatever you can.

All the details, lots of photos, here:

Please educate us! Go here!

David Anderson