Monday, 29 April 2019

London Marathon 2019 Training Recap

It's 1am on Monday 29th April and I'm sat in my kitchen at my laptop writing this still in a slight state of shock from the race of my life the day before. It might be the lingering effects of the race-day caffiene, but it's more likely the combination of the intensity and emotion of Sunday's running in the 2019 London Marathon still coursing through my body is keeping me awake (with a good dose of muscle soreness to boot!) . So i might as well jot down a bit on how things panned out, starting with a look at my training and build up through the spring.

Going in to this race I'd had a near perfect training cycle, starting back in January with a few weeks building up from the general largess of the Christmas holidays to solid 110-117 mile a week training by the end of the month. For the first time in my running career I felt capable of running as much as I wanted, just as long as the effort was kept easy and I could fit it in to work and family life. This meant getting up at 5am (and earlier sometimes) became the norm and double digit runs went frequent (most days, usually early am). At the start of February I was fortunate to get to go on an England Athletics Marathon Development squad training weekend in a snowy Forest of Dean. this really helped focus my mind on what was important to enhance my training & recovery and it was a great opportunity to meet many runners of a similar caliber and exchange training ideas. 
EA Marathon Dev Squad functional exercises demo!
Snowy Long Sunday Run in the Forest of Dean

A staple of my training is a 70min steady run at less than marathon heart rate (taken to be 167-168bpm) and as marathon training progresses I would expect to see the average pace on these runs slowly drop. It was an encouraging sign when the first one (mid Feb) came in at low 6min miles and improved to running under 6min miles within a few weeks.

At the start of March I was priveleged to be selected to run for Hampshire in the Inter-Counties 20 mile match as part of the Essex 20 near Southend. I used this as a test of my marathon fitness, with the aim to keep the effort below marathon levels to minimise the fatigue, minimise recovery and hence reduce impact on the following weeks training. Despite it being a windy day things worked out well, with my pace coming out around 2:30 marathon levels and the average heart rate of 163bpm. A PB of 1:54:50 and team silver medal for Hampshire made for a rewarding day!

Team silver for both the Hampshire ladies and men at the inter-counties match
Two weeks later I was hoping my legs were largely over the 20 mile race with the Fleet Half in my schedule. This is a good pre-London tester with a strong field but a slightly undulating course. It turned out to be hard run, but pleasing to get the miles down into, And below, the 5:30's consistantly and finish with a PB of 72:35.

Trying to be fleet at Fleet!
As April finally came around I started to switch my focus to persuading my legs to go a bit faster. I had been doing strides (i.e 6-8x30 secs fast but with good form) frequently in my easy runs, with the aim to improve my brains ability to command my leg muscles to go faster, without inducing much fatigue. The ultimate goal is to make running fast feel easier. To further enhance my leg speed in the last month before the marathon I did a couple of extended speed work sessions running 26x200m fast then 200m float/cruise, which resulted in 10km times of 36:15 and 34:50.

My final race effort before the big day was the Salisbury 10M race 2 weeks before London. From past experience I've felt that a strong run at Salisbury is indicative of good fitness for London, as the course has a few moderate climbs which test your leg strength. I set off well with the first 2 miles under 5:30 pace, but then my legs had other ideas and decided that a pace more around 5:45-50/M was suitable! I couldn't really push my heart up to 10mile race levels, but I was definitely running over marathon effort. Finishing 4th was still satisfying, but I was a minute down on my time from 2018. On reflection I thing I might have been flirting with a low level virus (one had be doing the rounds in our family the weeks before). It was time to taper and see what I could do at London.....

In the last 3 weeks leading up to the big race day I decided to plan for a possible repeat of 2018's hot weather and introduce heat adapation into my training. This was split into two types, Active and passive. The active adapation involved getting on a treadmill wearing far too much running clothing and getting a good sweat on for 30-40mins. To supplement this I also did passive adapation, usually straight after the treadmill run, by spending up to 30mins in a sauna at 100+degC. The sauna really gets the sweat rate going and can elevate heart rate to easy run levels within 20 or so minutes. Over the course of the 3 final weeks I managed to log 7 overdressed treadmill runs and nearly 7 hours of sauna time! As it turns out marathon race day was near perfect weather conditions, but I still believe I got some strong positive benefits from the heat adapation training. Read more about the theory here on

So going into final taper week, I had run 1600 miles in 16weeks, my biggest mileage ever for a marathon training campaign (helped by a late Easter!), had no injuries/illness/work interruptions and was primed and ready for the streets of London once again.... RIght going to try for some sleep now, race report to follow shortly!


  1. Good to read the thoughts, pros and cons of someone you know. Looked like everything fell into place, so reassuring. Hope for all levels.

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