The training is now banked and it’s time to taper, that period when the marathon runner becomes neurotic about illness and injury whilst building energy stores without the usual outlet of copious miles. Usually I start the taper with excitement only to read the plan and disappointingly realise that 70 miles is still plenty of miles to keep me occupied. The week itself played out rather well, starting tired after the Gibbet and nervous about my Hamstring, through another injury scare and finished with a spur of the moment race via the hardest session of the whole plan.
Mon: I put off running for as long as I could because of the sore hammy and tiredness but eventually at 7pm a quick trot round Basingstoke covering 5.5M in 33:10 i.e. steady got the week started.
Tue am-ish: An easy 5M around Wokingham later than planned as work got in the way, still it is in the bank.
Tue pm: The usual Tuesday evening intervals with the Harriers, but for the first time this year there was enough light to allows us the luxury of running in the park rather than mixing it with the traffic. A session of 2×2 mins, 6×4 mins, 2×2 mins was brutal on sore legs and soon took it toll as we dropped like flies, Neil succumbed to a phone call first, then Stuart with serious nausea and finally me, going over on my ankle turning too fast downhill. I was in pain but managed to finish most of the session, followed by 4 days with my ankle strapped.
Wed: A slow 8 miler was just what the doctor order, just toodling around Wokingham feeling very fatigued just managing to hold on to a respectable pace.
Thu: The day I have dreaded for the whole of the training plan. The hardest session of the plan/year. Thirteen miles of reps that go like this: 1M warm-up; 2M at Marathon Pace; 2 x 1M at Half Marathon Pace with 400m jog recovery; 3 x 1km at 10k Pace with 200m jog recovery; 4 x 400m at 5k pace with 200m jog recovery; 5 x 200m flat out with 20s recovery; immediately into another mile at Marathon Pace followed by 2M cool down. The pace looked like this MP – 6:10/ HM – 5:45 / 10k – 5:30 / 5k – 5:20 / Fast – 4:40. It was the first time I wished I hadn’t lowered my 10k PB! The whole thing was 13.4 miles in 1:23. Importantly this session has the ability to make Marathon Pace seem slow on the last rep giving a very helpful psychological boost, a hard earned one though!
Fri: Now this did seem like tapering, 4M easy which I just managed without keeling over on my very tired legs, this is why I need easy days.
Sat: This was always planned to be my last long run before the marathon, taking it easy for 17M before 3 miles at marathon pace. To make it a bit more interesting I decided to enter the Compton 20 on the day and use it as a training run. It is a really friendly race set in the North Wessex Downs, perfect for a relaxed amble to tick the last box. From the start it was hilly even around the school field there was a steep bank. Exiting the field I was leading even at 6:50 pace this continued for the first couple of miles until i got lost and dropped 200m back before retaking the lead at around 4 miles, taking another chap along with me. We would end up running the rest of the course within 50m of one another taking it in turns to lead as we went, this certainly helped the navigation for both of us. The course itself is mainly undulating with one huge hill that the organisers kindly take you up twice at around 11 miles that reduced me to walking in places. The 3 checkpoints were well stocked and I would of like to dwelt longer to chat and munch my way through a whole packet of Jaffa cakes but unfortunately there was a race at hand. With Compton underneath our feet once more my companion for the day had a 50m lead that rather than close down I stuck to regulation marathon pace 6:10 to finish second in 2:21.
Afterwards we were treated to a full hot meal before the prize giving that game in the form of cash, always a bonus. This may have to become a pre-marathon tradition.
Sun: Nothing more than a family 5 mile stroll…phew!