Tuesday, December 27, 2016

If you’re still going, well done.

So, after “Christmas Party Season” we had some “Winter Weather Proper Season”. For the last several weeks and months the weather has been great. Of course, if you were visiting from somewhere Mediterranean it might not fall into your meteorological definition of great, but for us Irish it has been a lovely winter. Very little severe frost, an absence of poorly named Atlantic Storms and little in the way of sustained stretches of rainfall. As a runner, it’s been excellent. That was until last week when the weather closed in and it finally felt like winter. Cold, damp, rain, wind and Storm Barbara. In this type of weather, it is oh so easy to swap the Brooks for a Bake-Off, their Asics for an Attenborough, the Garmin for a Gogglebox as you close the curtains, turn the heat up and break out that box of Seasons Greetings.

It was those Season’s Greetings that I was thinking of as I wrapped up and took off along the side-streets and foot-paths of town on Tuesday night for a short run. Thankfully I had my brother home from Oz for company, which just about got me through. Despite the fact, he had only just left 30+ Celsius summer sunshine Down Under, in his veins still runs Irish blood so he didn’t mind (much) the bitter wind, the icy chill and the flicks of rain.

He proved good company again on Friday when we got out for what was only my second an only other run of the week. It was a fast session with 3 minutes on and one minute recovery repeated four times. On the way, out Storm Barbara’s tail-wind saw me fly along at about 3 and a half minutes a kilometre pace while on my way back getting below 4 minutes a kilometre seemed a terror. Winter weather I tell you!

Thankfully the weather is due to change a little once we get pass Christmas weekend so if you can get past Saturday and Sunday and into “More Turkey, Ham & Stuffing Season” then you’ve done well and are almost half way through.

Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up – 4 x 6 mins intervals with 2 mins recovery - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 60 minutes slow.

Finally one last idea. There are plenty of Christmas 5 and 10 k events that you can use for your tough run and to burn off that Christmas turkey and ham.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That was tough

So training was tough last week. Part of this was because we’ve entered the staff night and ‘Christmas Season’ season! A place where intervals and long runs do battle with office parties and burgeoning lunches. It will be hard for everyone, but persevere!

For me the training week ultimately proved rewarding. That’s the thing about tough weeks; the tougher they are the more rewarding they prove. The more you give, the more you get back.

Tuesday I did my hardt session but my lateness (a characteristic that seems to define me these days) meant that by the time I arrived down, the lads had already completed 9 of their 10 reps. As a result having met them on my third run I only got to do one more in their company before I was on my own. Doing intervals on your own isn’t fun. It’s far from fun. It’s damn hard so it is. It’s the type of training that’ll put hairs on your chest my father would probably tell you. While I can neither confirm nor refute this, I certainly would say that it does make you stronger, physically and mentally.

Physically there is nothing better than intervals to push the ceiling upwards. In effect this training will allow you to run faster for longer. Mentally, running intervals on your own will harden you up, as long as you can complete the set. At number 6 (of 10) I was getting tired and cursed my lateness. At 7, I kind of thought that 8 would be plenty. At 8 though I thought I’d do this and then decide. At 9 I told myself that this would be the hardest one to sustain if I did it. And then at 10 I smiled, gritted my teeth and was thankful that was now the last.

Thursday was a light session of no more than 30 minutes, up and back from my parent’s place while they took on child-minding duties.

And then Saturday was my long(ish) one. However it was also the Meath Cross Country Championship Day so my long(ish) one was also going to be another tough one with a good dose of hills. 5 miles – 8 km – even if my watch read a little more on finishing. And all of it a hard slog up hills, down hills, along riverbanks, around steeples, through gates and beside ditches. The weather was beautiful, the scenery stunning, the going soft and the running hard. You don’t get many better courses. Although I must add, being my first cross-country race since I was probably 15 means I am not the best judge.

Usually at the end of races you don’t want to leave anything on the course. Saturday though I made an exception, I did leave something on the course (or at least just a little bit off it). Thankfully the early week rain should have washed it away by now! As for the time, I was delighted to come in feeling strong, though fecked in a time of 31 mins 29 seconds.

Not only was it a good boost to see I hadn’t lost much since October’s marathon it also meant that when I re-entered Christmas party season later that evening I did so guilt-free.

So this week’s training, and apologies if you have already kicked off is:

Slow run: 40 minutes.
Tough run: 10 minutes warm up – 15 minute tempo* run – 10m minutes warm down.
Long run: 50 minutes slow.

Thanks Ciaran for the photo.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Intervals & Tempo

While short runs and long runs are pretty self-explanatory tough runs might need a little bit more in the way of illuminating.

Yes, you usually feel and look like crap doing them, but they are really important in helping you raise your race pace. As a result, they are particularly important for those chasing a time.

The first type of tough run you might be experiencing or want to include into your schedule if you have yet to do so is interval training.

Intervals are effectively where you run much faster than you would expect to run a marathon over a much shorter distance. You can run to the clock or to a specific short distance, though you usually combine both.

For example, you might run hard for 2 minutes at the same speed you might run for a 5 k race and then do a slow recovery run for the next minute before repeating this four times.

Or you could do 800 metres around a track in 3 mins 10-15 seconds taking a 90 second stationary recovery before repeating six times.

Or you could do 6 x 2 k at half marathon pace with 2 minute recoveries.

Or you could just not bother thinking about the mathemathics of it all, join up with your athletic club and run the bollix off yourself as you tag along with a group, grit your teeth and try not to drop out the back.

While intervals are tough, they are really worthwhile pushing the ceiling up on your regular running speed and once you get your breath back, the heartbeat drops and you stop sweating, they do make you feel like good when you’re finished.


Tempo – no, not the small village in east Fermanagh (pictured:) at the foot of Brougher Mountain – perhaps ‘easiest’ type of tough run commonly undertaken during marathon training.

Put simply tempo running is where you run a short to moderate distance for a sustained period of time at a faster pace than you might do your long slow runs at but usually just a little slower than your 10-mile race pace.

I like tempo runs for those sessions where you are out on your own and you want to do a tougher run but don’t have the absolute motivation to push yourself to the limits.

An improvement.

First up, I made the three times out this week. It wasn’t perfect but it was an improvement and that’s something to keep in mind over the next month and a bit. If you can improve week on week you will be doing exceptionally well. It’s winter. It’s coming into Christmas. It’s not always easy. So take every positive as a success.

Monday was my first day out for a short run. And boy was it short! Running to and from my house I was under the clock as the winter light faded dramatically. Wearing the illuminous Trim Braveheart 5k orange tech t-shirt from last summer with a running vizzy vest layered over it, I couldn’t be any more visible on the road. However, on a winter’s dusky evening I wasn’t going to take any chances and as soon as I hit 2.5 k I turned for home and into the final retreating breaths of light. It wasn’t perfect but at least I made it out.

Next up was Wednesday when I got out for a short tempo* session. On my own, with not a lot of time nor a lot of extra energy I decided the tempo run was the right amount of tough for me this week.

And then finally on Sunday I capped the week with first another 5 k long run, which I did in the wonderful company of my wife at a pace where we could take in the rusty beech hedges, the fleeting appearances of robins and those new white squidgy buds that now populate the recently groomed hedgerows. When done I hit the nearby hill for three steep speedy ascents to push myself that little bit more. While it may not have been the longest I’d completed since the marathon it was definitely several feet in the right direction. Well done to you all for a second week completed. Roll on week 3.

This week’s training schedule:

Slow run: 30 minutes.
Tough run: 10 min warm up - 4*4 mins intervals* with 2 mins recovery - 10 mins warm down.
Long run: 70 minutes slow.

* Definitely will have more on tempo and interval training sessions this week.

Monday, December 5, 2016

So how did that go?

So, the first week of training. Did it all go to plan? Did you manage to make it out all three days as planned? Did you make use of the cold but dry weather to take to the paths and the trails, to blow out the cobwebs and get back up and running? If you did, well done, you’re flying. If you didn’t then don’t worry, join the club!

I started on Tuesday all bright and ambitious. I hadn’t really run since I finished the marathon last month. Part resting on my laurels due to it being the only marathon I’ve ever finished well and part due to a dose I picked up with half the rest of the country I had really taken things easy. But now I was ready.

So I took to the paths on Tuesday night and started my training with the interval session that was the tough Thursday session similar to that suggested last weekend. However instead of doing 4 minute intervals I did 3 minute intervals with a minute jogging recovery and did seven and a half of these because I was a little late. Despite the lay-off the legs held up and in the company of the friends from the club we paced up and down the outlying roads around Trim. It was a good start. And then I hit a speed-bump.

Thursday was the next day I was due out but I remembered I had arranged to go out for dinner and a film with my wonderful wife, and considering I had spent the best part of 4 months on every sort of run leading up to the marathon I was not going to call time on this. Then Friday was a retirement of an old friend. Saturday we had a family day out down in Wicklow and Sunday I spent laying paving slabs. Now, while I might say climbing the Sugar Loaf was a long run of sorts except a lot slower and lifting paving slabs was core work, one thing is for sure, it wasn’t real running.

There are weeks like this when it just doesn’t happen for you. You don’t get out due to illness, due to tiredness, due to weather, due to family commitments, due to paving slabs! But whatever the setback don’t mind it. It is a speed-bump along a season and a distant memory come race-day. It’s like what they say about pain, it is in the past. Move on and good luck with this week.

This week’s training schedule:

Slow run: 30 minutes.
Tough run: 10 minutes warm up – 15 minute tempo* run – 10m minutes warm down.
Long run: 60 minutes slow.

* A tempo run is where you run at a strong pace usually similar to what you might expect to run in a race. More on tempo mid-week.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The runs

To help you understand the types of runs that training is going to involve I’ve developed a list:

Talking pace warm-up and warm-down runs: If you running at a pace where it is impossible to tell your friend how your day went; discuss the latest box set on Netflix; give out about the mess the kids are making; make predictions about tonight’s Champion’s League or reflect on the love-life then you are running way too fast for a warm-up or warm-down!

Short runs: The grain of running. The basics, which everyone can generally do. These are the short runs that fit most neatly into a working week, where you get out and do anywhere from 4 to 8 k at a nice easy pace, much slower than you’d expect to run your race. They help build up the miles and get your legs and lungs accustomed to what’s to come.

Long runs: The hops of long distance training. This is how every week you incrementally (fancy word for slowly) build up a long run from 8, 10, 12 all the way to 14 kilometres. For first time runners, the longest run will come a fortnight before race-day for this 10 mile. When completing these make sure to never do these in a new pair of runners; it can be nice to have refreshments lined up along the way; the more company you have while running these the quicker these seem to go by and again like the short runs you should be at a pace a lot slower than race pace. So expect to be still able to talk by the end.

Tough runs: The yeast of the run. These training sessions will almost inevitably last less than an hour but are often the hardest sessions. Tough runs add pace to your overall run, helping you to take minutes off any lingering personal bests. There are many types of tough run you can do and you will know them by the following:
·         You come across a lot more sweat/spit/phlegm and all the stuff that will derail any first date.
·         You find yourself cursing towards the end of it, either in general, at yourself to keep yourself motivated or at your soul-mate because it was their idea to do the tough run in the first place. (Don’t mind the latter, they will understand).
·         You will deeply appreciate the company of a club doing it because on your own it can be hellish.

Other runs that you may come across over the course of your 10 mile training, which may have no or little relation to it:

Dawn runs – Nice morning runs, which mean you have the whole day in front of you, not to be mixed up with the legendary Irish thoroughbred race-horse from the 1980’s.

Home runs – More likely in baseball but may metaphorically end up in your marathon training when everything works out.

Shopping run – Last minute bargain hunting when you realise you forgot to get your brother’s new girlfriend a Christmas present and she’s coming for dinner.

School runs – Occasional reasons why you might have to cut that long run short when you realise you have forgotten it’s your turn to pick up the kids.

The runs – Can happen at the end of a long period of training when feeling run down and slightly ill. Not good.

So good luck during the week and chat to you all next weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Right, a plan!

So it’s booked, there’s no going back, the Trim 10 Mile. On Sunday February 5th, you will be lined up ready and rearing to go. But we need to get there first and we have ten weeks to do it! The great thing about training plans is that no matter how far you have run or how fast you think you can, most people’s training programmes are roughly the same.

To best understand them try to think of training programmes as if they were a beer. While there are many different variations of beer they all generally contain the same core ingredients of grain, hops, yeast and water. So that’s what we will use for our training programme (simple key ingredients not the beer!). Keeping the water as water let’s swap the grain for short slow runs, the hops for long slow runs and the yeast for our tough intense fast runs. More on each of those tomorrow.

And that is what I will base the plan on. I will give you a blueprint based on three runs a week and aimed at a time of 1 hr 30 minutes. If you want to run a bit more than a week then that’s no problem. And if you want to finish faster than 1 hr 30 that’s fine too. You can always add a small amount of time onto the short and long runs and go a little faster for the quick stuff.

Then at the end of the week I will share with you how I got on. While I will be aiming for a slightly quicker time than 1 hr 30 mins I will be enjoying and enduring the training just as you are. Along with a weekly update and schedule of runs I will occasionally add a few titbits of info of varying degrees of usefulness/uselessness.

So, to begin this week:
·         Tuesday – The short run – 30 minute slow run, which means slower than you would run at during a race.
·         Thursday – The tough fast run – Begin with a 10 minute warm up. Warm ups and warm downs should be done at talking pace, which means you are able to tell the person beside you how your day was without being out of breath. Then run at your 5 k pace for 4 minutes. When you hit 4 minutes stop and take a 3 minute rest to recover before running for another 4 minutes before another 3 minute recovery. Repeat this for two more times so that you will have ran 4 x 4 minutes. Finish with a 10 minute warm down.
·         Weekend – The long run – 50 minute slow run.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

And we’re off!

So you’ve bought an entry into the Trim 10 Mile. Or you’ve been bought an entry into the Trim 10 Mile. Or you are contemplating buying an entry into the Trim 10 Mile.

And as a result, you are left contemplating winter training.

Winter training!

Even saying it brings out the goose-bumps and the thoughts of Siberian Gulags and roads closed due to snow.

So, let’s first get this all out of the way before I continue. Reasons why you don’t look forward to winter training:
·         Cold
·         Rain
·         Wind
·         Sleet
·         Snow
and then let’s not forget
·         Cold, rainy, windy, sleety, snow.

Now that we’ve got them out of the way, let’s look at the reasons to look forward to winter training.
·         Remember the camaraderie you had from summer training? Well double that and then some. Running with those same people during winter brings people even closer (if only to protect against the wind!)
·         A hot shower after a run is nice. A hot shower after a winter’s run is nicer.
·         When most people drive by those out training during winter they sometimes feels pangs of regret, pity or remorse. When you begin winter training and you drive by others out training, you feel pride.
·         You will feel absolutely no regret. None whatsoever diving into Christmas seconds having gone out for a light 8 k on a cold crisp Christmas Day morning.
·         In fact you could even pass off a midnight snack of a turkey and ham sandwich as carb loading.
·         As for that late-night tipple with old friends who are home just for the holidays, nothing offsets guilt than the knowledge of an 8-mile long run done earlier that day.
·         And remember, there is nothing better than coming into the spring time season with lengthening days, sprouting buds and greening hedgerows than also feeling fit.

And that’s where the Trim 10 Miler comes in. A real runner’s run and a race that those who’ve braved old Jack Frost over November, December and Januember can reward themselves with. Roll on winter training. Roll on.

Finally, as for that cold, rainy, windy, sleety, snow well there has never been a weather more suited to the wearing of under-armour. For those who don’t know what this, under-armour is that body-hugging tops and bottoms that you wear under your t-shirt and shorts that makes you feel you are running covered with hot-water bottles. It is the apparel equivalent of Superman shorts and a cape. If you haven’t got any, buy some. You will rarely feel less guilty buying clothes.

After that you’re set. Go home. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine or beer. Put on the Netflix. Sleep in. (Children permitting). And tomorrow we’ll settle on a plan.

Finally, if you’re still contemplating, just press click. Trust me. We’ll be with you every step of the way.


Monday, October 31, 2016

The Hunt (the final entry)

‘I am going to hunt you down. I am going to hunt you down’. Now there may have also been the employment of the F word in that sentence, which was perhaps unfortunate for the male runner just in front of me, its usage reflected more the wave of positive emotion that swept over me rather than anything of murderous intent. It was 28 k and I suddenly felt great!

Injury aside I had come into the final few days in good form. I had been happily reconciled with the fact that my taper, which had been heavy on rest and light on miles had allowed my body to recover from what had been a very intense window of training where miles had increased steeply. I had started to feel my calf again but was confident to put this down to phantom pains and my body losing a little flexibility that would come back on race day. I had carried a water bottle around with me like a fifth limb and was happily hydrated. I ate well and my little girl Esme had given me three uninterrupted nights of sleep. Even on the final night before the marathon the wake up I got from her and the party across the road (a first since we’ve moved here) was only temporary. I moved into the spare room and the extra hour of daylight meant that I slept a sleep of kings. Finally, the weather was ideal with the only complaint being that there could be no complaints with the weather. It was dry, not humid, with no wind. Perfect. So, all things considered I couldn’t have been happier.

As for the race then I had my plan and I stuck with it. I began ahead of the 3-hour markers knowing that they always start off fast and would soon spill past me thus giving me a marker to aim for later in the race. This they did just before mile 3. Despite their wave washing over at the most inopportune time – the first drinks station – I managed to tag a water and with that began my feeding.

I had been told, backed up through my experience, that you need to take on food and drink early in the race. The longer the run goes on the less likely you will want to take on food until finally it’s too late and you’ve hit the wall. So, a gel and half a bottle of water at 5 k is followed up by a banana and bottle of water mixed with a Dioralyte I take from my parents at 10. A Dioralyte is an oral rehydration sachet that does much the same job as an isotonic drink except with less sugar and fancy packaging. I’ve had a lot of Dioralytes over the years from when I lived and travelled overseas and after bouts of gastro-enteritis. I’m hoping that there will be none of the gastro-enteritis today.

This routine of gels and water continue up to the half-way mark with water also been used to cool the head and the thigh muscles. It is not really hot but anything to lower the body temperature a little I think is good.

At the half-way point I am almost a full minute down at 1 hr 30 mins 58 seconds. While everything has gone to plan I am not that happy for three reasons.

1.      The first is that aside from running in a serene Phoenix Park during our re-entry, so beautiful the morning is, I don’t feel I’ve been running fluidly at all. I thought by going a minute over the 1 hr 30 mark, a full 8 minutes more than my half marathon PB, would have been feeling fresh.
2.      By the time I actually hit the official half-marathon marker my watch is reading not 21.1 but 21.4 and I realise that every estimate from here on in, which is hard to do when you’re running, will have to remember this.
3.      And finally, my heart-rate monitor continues to read MAXIMUM. Having gotten a lovely new Garmin that has a wrist heart rate monitor that goes from Warm Up, Easy, Aerobic, Threshold to Maximum everytime I hit my 3 hr race pace of 4.15 it hits MAXIMUM.

Consequently, as I pass the half-way marker I decide two things, one is to fuck the heart-rate monitor. I don’t feel great but I don’t feel terrible either so if I blow up I blow up. Two, maybe marathons are not my thing after all.

All the way along Crumlin towards Walkinstown I keep moving steadily taking my third gel and some more water. Shortly after the Walkinstown roundabout I meet my sister and niece for my second and final banana and Dioralyte station. I eat half the banana and drink a third of the Dioralyte, give them a smile and keep going.

And then three kilometres later something special happens. I suddenly feel good. A purple patch down the beautifully paved Templeogue Road heading for Terenure. I first sense it when I realise that I actually recognise my surroundings, something I have generally been unable to do in past Dublin marathons when I reach the 17 and 18 mile marks. In the past I’ve just been looking for the markers trying to count them down. However, now I am looking at streets and roads I have actually driven on. Then I cop that I am starting to pass people a little more easily. And finally I feel like I am not really noticing the time. Later I will see that my kilometre times from 25 k read 4.12, 4.12, 4.12, 4.12 before at 29 k I can no longer hide my desire to start pushing and hunting the red balloon of the 3 hr marker that is becoming increasingly visible in the distance.

Suddenly the hunt is on and while I am not thinking of sub 3 I am thinking of attacking. 29 k is a 4.09, 30 k a 4.06, 31 k a 4.02, 32 k a 4.07 while 33 k knowing I have less than 10 to go is a 3.59! At this stage I’ve joined forces with Eugene from Middleton County Cork. I hadn’t really realised but I have been running with him since the Cahpelizard fly-over but it is only in the last 14 k that we both see that we are both moving at the same pace. An observation ‘you’re running well’ and a question, ‘have you ever broken 3 hrs before?’ confirms that we are running in tandem now and fighting together. There are Eugene’s in every race and if you find one it is important to hang on to them.

As we hit Clonskeagh and the beginnings of a long drag that will finish with Heartbreak Hill we are on each other’s shoulders keeping the tempo going. At this point while we are passing more and more runners we are starting to feel the pain 34 k in 4.12, 35 k in 4.15 and 36 k in 4.19. We have some 6 k and a bit to go and all of a sudden the sub 3 is on, even if I still won’t allow myself to believe it. I know that my distance clock is off and I know that it might be tight so all I can do is keep on going.

We take off down the hill from Heartbreak and burn the next 37 k up in 4.04 before turning onto Stillorgan and the almost run for home and 38 k in 4.06. God knows what my heart-rate monitor is thinking now but feck it, keep on moving. At one stage Eugene drops a little behind me and I call back to him ‘C’mon Eugene, I need you as much as you need me’ and he pulls back up to me and we pile over the UCD fly-over back down onto the Stillorgan Road before shooting down Nutley Lane where he drives us forward, 39 k in 4.08.

As we turn onto Merrion Road he swears that we better not let this slip now. Close up ahead are the 3 hour balloons with only a few remaining runners with them, either because they’ve sent their group on or already burnt them off. The shouts from Trim and Middleton A.C. supporters grows. The toughest k comes at 40 when it is still too early for the mind to think that sure you’ve only more than a mile or a couple of k to go but the body is now beginning to burn. All around us runners are tiring and slowing and cramping and cursing. It feels like I am running through a collage of early marathons with past versions of myself sprawled along the road. I recognise in the pain of the faces of those whose times are now beyond them myself in every one of my past five marathons where I have really gone for sub 3.

Today though, it is within my grasp. I can’t let it slip now. I am not sure if it is the enthusiasm or the fear that starts to drive me forward. I push past the 3 hour balloon 41 k in 4.07. Eugene starts to drift a little back though he still is moving. I guess he knows he has it in the bag at this point. I refuse to believe. I hit 42 k in 4.09. It is only then that I start to see the 800 metre to go marker, the 400 metre to go marker. It’s hard to do Maths but even still I look at my watch and know I can run 400 metres in less than 2 and a half minutes.

I pass by the FM 104 car that teased me two years ago and then I see it. The finish. And I can read the time 2.58.10, .11, .12, .13, .14. It’s a couple of hundred metres to go and I know almost 10 years of trying have finally been ended I begin to feel the tears well up. I start to pump the fist to the crowd. I can feel the emotion beginning to grow. And then I’m over. I’ve done it. It’s a Thomas Barr moment and I am euphoric.

Dublin Marathon 2016
2 hr 59 mins even.

I put the time up later on Facebook and for the first time in my social media life I actually give it a Like. I think I deserve that.

Then, to everyone; to my wonderful wife and beautiful little girl. To my family who’ve lived the past highs and lows and fuelled me along the way. To Trim A.C. To the crowds of friends and strangers. To the Eugene’s. Thank you.

Finally, to those who it didn’t work out for this year, don’t give up. The marathon is a beast. It killed the first person who ran it all those years ago in Greece and he finished not at 26.2 miles but at 26. Every year it doesn’t give in without taking plenty of runners out with it. Believe it from someone who knows. Don’t feel guilty or down that it didn’t happen. I mean crying as I was being stretchered into a first-aid tent in Edinburgh 2011 because I let my parents down? What’s that all about? Things can always be worse as the guy beside me who was running the wrong up that street can also testify to. Although this might come as cold comfort at the moment. Marathons that don’t work out leave you raw, as well as blistered, and unable to walk down a stairs front-ways like the rest of us. Recover, treat yourself and go again.

(Thanks Ciaran for the photo).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hoping for that Thomas Barr moment

I am hoping for a Thomas Barr moment. I am hoping that a season hampered by injury will produce a raw gem to finish. I am hoping that a training regime that had seen me give up on the eternal aim will somehow complete an amazing turnaround and come through by 12.00 tomorrow. I am hoping.

But I am also planning and you should too.

You’ve done the training, you’ve done the work and you’ve earned the right to have a go at whatever ambition you have in mind. I would suggest if you haven’t already settled on a plan, decide on one today and stick with it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a plan B or take alternative actions if during the run you find yourself struggling or indeed succeeding. But to begin with, stick to your plan.

If you have decided to do 8 minute miles for the first 10 k then do 8 minute miles for the first 10 k. Don’t let the day and the occasion get to you and do otherwise. Of course you will feel great at the start. You will be surrounded by 18,999 other people who feel great too, why wouldn’t you want to take off down the road like a bull let out at Christmas. But remember one thing how many of those 18,999 others will feel great come 20 miles. They say your race only begins at 20 miles. This is true except for those, like me, whose race has traditionally ended at 20. So will you be amongst those struggling backwards or those powering forward?

If I were to suggest something it would be pick you time you want to aim for. Let us say 4 hours. Run you first 10 kilometres between 0 and 5 seconds slower per kilometre so you will be about 30 seconds down. Then run your next 10 k at your expected pace and you will probably be a couple of seconds quicker each kilometre and inevitably end up being only a few seconds down come half way crossing somewhere about 2 hrs 00 mins and a few seconds. Then at that stage it will be either in you or it won’t. If you can’t run the second half in 1 hr 59 minutes and 50 seconds then you were never going to beat the 4 hours. Don’t run hard the first half expecting to make time so you can hang on. From my experience you don’t really hang on in a marathon. Come mile 24 you are either going forwards or going backwards.

If that is not your plan however then so be it. You’ve worked damn hard in preparing for the marathon so you have earned to run this race however the hell you want. You deserve it.

For me I’ve learnt a lot over the course of my eight marathons, usually from the mistakes I made. I learned I needed to train in my first, to take on energy in my second, to take on water in my fourth and not to take on to much off everything in my fifth. I learnt to have a Plan B in my sixth, to enjoy it in the seventh and to stick to my plan in the eight. In my ninth I hope I will follow my own advice in the ninth.

My plan is to run closer to 4.20 than 4.15 a kilometre for my first 10 k to be down between 30 and 50 seconds after 10 kilometres. Then to stick to race pace in the next 10 so my half way I will be about 20 seconds down coming in no quicker than 1 hr 30 and 15 seconds. For fuel for the first half I will have a gel after 5 k, a banana after 10. Another gel at 15 and three-quarters of one last banana at 20 with gels every 5 k after if I can.

I then want to do something I have never done in a marathon. I want to feel at half way that I am ready to attack. That I am ready to chase down my time. I want to feel like I am the one on the offensive. That I am going to breach the 3 hour wall rather than hang on, hoping my own walls won’t be breached instead.

I aim to have a mental picture of Heartbreak Hill in my head and look forward to it. I plan on seeing it in the person and smiling as I take up it. On reaching its summit I will then mount the final attack building momentum pushing forward and not going back.

And if I can do all that then maybe just maybe, I’ll have my Thomas Barr moment.

To everyone else, good luck with yours.

3k just to give the mind a run out:)

Friday, October 28, 2016

A shout out to... the Fans

When it comes to marathon day there are four types of people in this world.

1.      There are those who cannot understand why you would ever want to run a marathon but will come out to support you for undertaking what is, and don not excuse the pun – a marathon task.
2.      There are those who cannot understand why you would ever want to get up early and stand around for hours often in the wet or cold to cheer on mostly complete strangers.
3.      There are those who now understand why you would do both.
4.      And then there are those who don’t know the marathon is going on and are wondering why there is such a traffic delay on a Sunday morning.

I used to fall into the second category happy or determined to run but never quite understanding the reason so many people supported us. In my second Dublin marathon I remember passing throng and throngs of people whose cheers and claps seemed never to end, irrespective of who was running past them. I remembered how the Americans in south Dublin with college names emblazoned across the warm hoodie tops used to be the most vocal and I thought, “seriously, what is the maximum amount of runners the could know in an Irish marathon?” Yet they just kept shouting and by mile 22 I was so thankful that they did.

It wasn’t until my first attendance of a marathon when I was injured and unable to run that I finally found the enjoyment out of it. I recognised etched in the enthusiastic faces of those early on, the hopes and dreams of PB’s and enjoyable runs. And then I could identify in the pain and grimaces painted across them on the backward stretch the same emotions I had felt in my own runs. And I found myself hitting the nearest shop and buying two big bags of jelly babies for those struggling down Pearse Street who had one last loop of Trinity to do. Jaysus, it was great!

On Sunday I will be on the road this time round and the grins or grimaces will be etched on my side of the barrier with the claps and cheers on the other. A shout to the fans then for helping us home and if you have a few jelly babies comes mile 25 God Bless You!


Thursday, October 27, 2016


I ran the old regular route yesterday – the almost 8k up and back down the Rock Road that was the bread and butter of my early runs. I hadn’t run the route that much of late. Part of that was to get onto the grass for as much as I could to allow the injury to ease. And part of it was the change of season that saw evenings getting darker and the need to swap a country road for a street-lit town.

Along the way I noticed the animal horn had gone. For a couple of months, I had been fascinated by an animal horn that had lay along the fringes of the inbound route. Each time I passed it I wondered of its origin. Was a bull in a car accident and lost its horn during the crash? Had a goat been abducted as it walked along one evening, bundled into the back of a car and only its horn coming lose offer evidence of the crime? Or was it something altogether different. Whatever, it’s not there now.

A lot has changed since I began training this year. Not in the, ‘haven’t they grown up so quick’, ‘everyone is now on smartphones’ type of way. But in the way that those who spend hours outside notice.

When I began running there were the beginnings of spring warmth with snowdrops followed by cowslips, followed by daffodils, followed by those purple yokes followed by the summer crowd of daisy’s, buttercups and dandelions. Now the trees are colouring dramatically and leaves are already beginning to fall.

When I began, the days were chasing onwards and now they are dramatically drawing to a close. With this weekend being the real end when hours fall backwards and darkness descends. It has been an incredibly mild training season and I can remember at least one day when interval training was broken up by taking the shade of riverbank tree. Soon the under-armour that has only made two appearances so far this year will be a regular companion.

There have been ups – such as the greater companionship of the local running club and there have been downs – slow walk backs from injury. But as I get ready to line up for Sunday I can feel happy for a season well ran. It’s good to reflect on that.

Yesterday’s Training
Easy 7 k with some 80 metre strides to finish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Important to have some Afters

As you reach the final few days to go it might not be a bad idea to spend some time looking ahead past the marathon.

What! Look past the marathon! Are you mad!?

I know it might sound strange but for any runners, either experienced or a first-timer, the end of a marathon can be a tough. Aside from the obvious physiological stress of 26.2 miles (remember, the first guy who ran this died), the mental come down can be difficult too. You have been training for months and months. Everything from that box set to the few drinks with friends on a Friday, a short weekend break away and a few extra hours with loved ones have been sacrificed for this moment.

For many they will have achieved their aim, either to finish, to exact a personal best or to realise a secondary time they had on stand-by. For others, it will not go to plan. Either way, for those who feel they succeed and for those who feel they fell short (and they should never feel they’ve fallen short, believe me I know) what they have in common is that by lunch-time this Sunday it will be over, sometimes leaving quite the gap in the weekly routine.

And it is for this reason that many a runner will experience a low after a marathon, particularly their first. It’s natural.

So, it can be good to have something immediately in the horizon that you can continue to look on to. It doesn’t have to be anything reaching the distance of a marathon but something that might invite you out for a few miles a couple of times a week, to meet up with old friends is to be welcomed.

For me it will be a toss-up between the Run in the Dark mid-November, the Clontarf half marathon along the sea around the same time or the Fat Turkey run up and down Howth (not Nevada where the photo seems to be from) come Christmas.

Yesterday’s Training
Not sure if I should be even calling it training at this stage. Just something to keep the body alert. About a 10 minute warm up, just under 15 minutes at race pace and then 10 minutes slow down. Short and simple.

Monday, October 24, 2016


‘Why don’t you just run it easy?’ Frances asked me, ‘sure aren’t you’re fit enough, even without the proper training?’

And that was all it took.

I had booked a marathon shortly after Dublin 2014. It was to be a European weekend break away with a spring marathon that resembled Sevilla mixed in. I had failed in Dublin but if I continue the training I could come back just as strong in Barcelona. But it didn’t happen in the end. I just didn’t have the dedication, the discipline or the stamina to get the training off the ground again. I needed time to recover from Dublin, mentally as much as physically and getting stuck into a winter full of intervals, tempos, hills and long runs was not the tonic I needed.

However, when I booked the marathon, myself and Frances had also booked flights and accommodation so while I may have relented on the training we weren’t going to give up on the trip. And this is what it would have been -  a lovely relaxing sight-seeing trip except for the fact that there were more than a half dozen marathon runners on board, all wearing old Asics, Mizunos and New Balance; all with that same slight gaunt expression on their face; and all having the look of excitement that goes with pre-marathon running. If this brought me down a little, then the question of a fellow passenger on the way to immigration, “so what time are you looking for?” mistaking my running runners for participation dropped me a little further. And sensing this Frances then suggested I “just run it easy.”

So what to do when you decide to run a marathon last minute?

Go to the Expo and get your race bib and t-shirt, which you in the absence of any other technical top or a Saw Doctors t-shirt will do you for the race.
·         Be grateful that you came over wearing your race runners and a pair of socks that you’ve trained in before.
·         Buy a new pair of runners that you can wear coming back.
·         Buy a pair of shorts.
·         Don’t take advantage of the kindness of your loved one by hijacking the trip and saying we need to be in bed by eight. Instead do everything you would normally do on a sight-seeing trip to Barcelona such as walk up Las Ramblas, visit La Sangrada Família and have a nice meal that evening.
·         Don’t expect support from your loved one along the route except for maybe the very end.
·         Drink water at every stop and take on food whenever you can.
·         Enjoy.

And I did, even getting to stop briefly at the end to give Frances a kiss before lifting the pace home and getting in a shade over 3 hrs 30.

Barcelona Marathon – 3 hrs 30 mins 03 seconds.

Yesterday’s training