VLM Training Week 19

VLM Training Week 19

Been a bit slack on the blog lately, I tried to write a few times but every time I loaded up the site I was just lacking inspiration. I guess there are only so many times you can say ‘the training is going pretty well but I’m quite tired’! Today we went out to cheer a couple of friends in the Manchester Marathon, plus as many of the runners we could. I love doing this, having been on the receiving end of a lot of support in the last few years it’s lovely to go out and make some noise for other people. It also properly got me in the mood for next weekend…

… which is good because this last week has been a bit of a weird one. Last Saturday I went on a work trip to Saudi Arabia for 6 days. As preparation for a marathon this is not ideal but I was trying to convince myself before hand it would be like a training camp. the good thing about Saudi is the zero alcohol rule so no temptations there and the hotel promised a pretty slick look gym to train in. Well, the work kind of took over and it was a pretty stressful trip leaving very little time for training, oh and it turns out the hotel didn’t have a gym after all. In the part of Saudi I was, running outside in shorts wouldn’t have been appropriate, so I had to make do with some hotel room circuit sessions. The amount of fitness you drop in 6 days isn’t that great and I’m sure the rest did me good but those first few runs after coming back were horrid. The 8 mile long run I didn’t yesterday was a proper shocker. Couldn’t get in a rhythm, heart rate was way too high – felt like I’d not been running in years! I’m sure all of this is in my head, but my legs were heavy, my right achilles was hurting and it was generally a bit rubbish.


Everyone fears picking up a cold or bug at this stage in the training so I spent a lot of the trip thinking ‘don’t eat anything weird or do anything stupid’ but I always forget my own rules and spent the entire week eating an absolute shed load of food (flat bread and humus is my drug) and at one stage drinking fresh camel milk, dates and arabic coffee in the desert.

Neil plus camel

So I’ve done the training now I just have a week to get my head in the right place! Supporting today definitely helped with that. There’s some pretty special about standing near the finish line of a marathon and I walked away thinking that in 7 days time it’d be me crossing that line and I cannot wait!

2 years ago I crossed the line being really disappointed in myself but this year it’s different. I couldn’t have done any more training. In this whole 20 weeks I’ve missed 10 running sessions. As I’m doing 6 runs a week, and half of those missed sessions came in this last week and were enforced I really couldn’t have done any more. In a way I’ve already achieved what I wanted to, I’ve done the training, I’ve hit the numbers. Whatever happens next Sunday will happen. Good or bad, fast or slow I’m taking part in the best race in the world. I’ve been pretty focussed on getting some times, and you often hear people describe ABC goals. C being your minimum, B being a good performance and A being that perfect day where everything goes to plan and the wind is behind you the whole way (those races do happen by the way, my half ironman last year was just perfect for me!). Well, I’m going to go a bit crazy with it, may I present my list of goals. If I do any of these things, I’ll be a happy bunny:

Goal Details
A To finish If I get to the line – I'll be happy. I'm healthy happy and fit enough to run a marathon.
B 4:39 My 2012 time
C 3:59:59 Standard sub 4 hour goal time
D 3:57:16 My current marathon PB
E 3:45 This was 2012s goal time
F 3:29:29 A PB of 27 minutes – I'd be ecstatic with this
G 3:22:59 Beating my Dad's 1990 time
H 3:19:19 I'd be amazed with this time
I 3:15 The time I've trained for
J Under 3:15 You'd have to slap me pretty hard to make believe I'd hit this time!
K To enjoy it. To appreciate the crowd and the race and high five as many people as I can
L To love that medal

So it’s pretty much feet up time now. Couple more light runs, one bike ride. I’m ready.

I have a Virgin Money site here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson. I’m raising money for the MS Society and I’ll love you forever if you consider donating. Oh and extra finally, I added this thing on the blog that let’s you sign up for email updates if I add a post. If you want to you can sign up below. Thanks for reading!


VLM Training Week 15

Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce…..

Last week I was in the middle of getting a little grumpy about the training. The end felt a long way away and I was suffering a little from a lack of mojo. I was also feeling a little on the tired side from Silverstone. It all adds up. Someone also told me I talked a lot about what I couldn’t do, not what I could do. This is absolutely right and something I hear pretty frequently!

Once of the weird things about losing motivation is that it happens so quickly. You can be out enjoying your runs one day and struggling to get out of bed the next. The flip side to that is that you can get your enjoyment back as quick if not quicker. Last Sunday I did my third 20 mile run, my legs were sore when I started and I figured it would be a bit of a mental battle to get round. As soon as I started though I loved it, it went really quickly too. It was just a really nice run. I do this thing now at the end of my runs (don’t laugh) but I live on the third floor of a pretty old building – so when I get back from the 20 miles runs and my legs are a little dead I spring as fast as I can up stairs. When I’m doing this I say over in my head ‘You’ve always got more left’, you’ve always got more left’. Yes it’s silly, yes I’m almost certainly a bit mad, but your head always gives up before your legs and I’m trying to convince myself that despite how tired you are after a long run I still have a lot left!

Anyway, once I got back it suddenly dawned on me how close I was to the end of this training. Two weeks before I start tapering, it’s practically just around the corner. Then on Sunday it was a beautiful day, I saw a tweet from the Marathon people saying it was only 5 weeks left. 5 weeks! That sent me bouncing off with excitement.

I guess through all this training I have been concentrating so hard on training hard and hitting the numbers I a bit forgot what this was about. It’s such a crazy, beautiful race. A million people cheering you on. Tower Bridge. The finish on the Mall. Feeling like a rock star for four hours. The intro song, go on, you know it. This one:

(after writing that, I got this video from YouTube. I’m typing now a little, err ’emotionally’!). In a way it’s crazy to want to run this thing as I can. Why wouldn’t I want to take my time and just enjoy the day??

Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce…..

Then what do you know the weather picks up. Running when it’s like this isn’t a chore it’s an absolute pleasure. It’s light outside when I wake up. I’ve got to see some stunning sunrises over the past few days. And now I only have a few tough sessions. Two pace runs, one sprint and a 20 miles and then it tapers off. I’m actually going to do this.

To say I’m looking forward to it now is an understatement. It may go well, it may go badly, but I’ll be there alongside 35,000 taking part in the greatest marathon in the world with my friends and family there cheering me along. What is not to look forward to! Bring. It. ON!

I have a Virgin Money site here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson. I’m raising money for the MS Society and I’ll love you forever if you consider donating. Oh and extra finally, I added this thing on the blog that let’s you sign up for email updates if I add a post. If you want to you can sign up below. Thanks for reading!



VLM Training Week 14

Warning. There are no graphs in this post. I’m sorry/you are welcome.

Right now is a difficult part of my training. On the whole it’s gone way better than I could have predicted, but that doesn’t stop me from going through an annoying cycle of:

  1. I can’t do this marathon, it’s too far and fast
  2. I can’t do this training it’s too hard, I’m tired, I just need a day off
  3. I don’t want to go out
  4. Right, I’m off
  5. Ohhh, that was a nice run

I cycle through this pretty quickly and it’s a massive waste of mental energy and it annoys me and Pilla too I’m sure. The last week was a pretty prime example of this. I did my fastest ever 20 mile run in 2:33. This is quick for me and a little faster than I hoped to be even at the end of training. The run itself was a nice loop around south Manchester which I panned the night before. For ages i’ve just been doing out and back running, where I just run out for a set amount of time and turn round. I quite like runs like this as you don’t need to plan but I fancied something different and had a spare Friday evening so I planned a route instead.

I actually got a little emosh about it because almost every section on it covered areas of Manchester I ran through different bit’s of training I’ve done over the years I’ve been running. The first 5 miles to Cheadle was my typical ironman route, the next couple were on a route I used when I did my first marathon in Paris in 2009 through Wythenshawe. I ran down the canal in Sale to remind my of the 2012 VLM training and finally around Salford Quays where I did my first ever 5km (and boy did that hurt). It was a lovely little run and I felt great until about 18.5 miles at which point the wheels totally came off but even though it hurt I kept up the pace until the end. Job done, felt fantastic.

However all of last week I just couldn’t get motivated to get out. I did my 2nd fitness test at the Uni of salford (quick clip below).

This is me at 16 km/h and it felt FAST. It actually hurt my legs quite a bit, so much so that I had to give up on my Tuesday run after about 2 minutes. I was just to full of doms to continue and I spent the rest of the morning beating myself up about it until Pilla told me to give myself a break. I’m pushing myself hard, I’m doing pretty well and one failed run in a 20 week program isn’t going to break me. I know this. It’s obvious. It’s what I’d be telling other people too but it’s much harder convincing yourself.

The rest of the week was about gritting my teeth and getting through it. The Thursday run was a particular low-light. This was a 90 minute run with 50 minutes at marathon pace. These runs are hard, especially when you are tired, but the actual run was a doddle compared to the ridiculous arguing and procrastinating I was doing in my head before I got going. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go a LOT. I went and it was a great little run. I would like to say lesson learned, but I know I’m going to go through some similar things over the next few weeks.

So going into the Silverstone half at the weekend was actually a bit of a relief; a break from the constant routine and a chance for my legs to tell my head to be quiet and show it what they could do after 14 weeks of training. The plan I’m following has a fairly simple rule for predicting if you can meet your marathon time. You take the total minutes of your goal marathon time (mine is 195) and divide it by 2.1. That figure of minutes, if you can hit it a couple of weeks out from your marathon gives a fairly strong indication of what you are capable of. That figure for me was 1:32:50 ish. That was the figure I was aiming for.

Silverstone was pretty bleak on Sunday, somewhat annoying given Saturday and Monday have been beautiful spring days, but such is spring marathon training. I was a bit disorganised getting there and my phone ran out of battery when I arrived so we missed out on seeing everyone we wanted to 🙁 but I did bump into the supremely handsome DanRunning just before the start. The run itself couldn’t really have gone much better for me. It was windy but I felt good almost all the way round (there was a bit at mile 7, running behind the stands, into the wind and uphill that I was fairly hating my life) and it was massively helped by getting a running pace mate. You know, that person who is running at exactly the same speed as, that you hardly talk to but you know is helping you get round. We ran shoulder to shoulder pretty much from mile 4 until the finish line (where he beat me!!) and without that guy I would have dropped the pace way before the finish line. Thanks that guy whoever you were!

(Right, actually before I go on, I love running and running folk and all that. You’re all great, seriously. But those runners that have either pace alerts or beeping cadence alerts on their watches at races. Why? For the love of all that is good, WHY?!)

Anyway, as I was ticking down the miles and my pace was still good I was doing a little bit of mental maths to my finish time. 1:32 looked good, but I knew I could get a 1:31 with just a bit of pushing. The last mile was lovely as the wind was behind us and I was ecstatic with 1:31:48. It’s almost 5 minutes off a PB. Loved it!

There comes a point in the training plan where I just think it’s about clinging on as best you can and just getting to the start line in shape, fit and happy. I’m there now. I know I can do this, it’s just about getting each session done. It’s not going to get easier, but it is going to get done.

Finally, I have a Virgin Money site here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson. I’m raising money for the MS Society and I’ll love you forever if you consider donating. Oh and extra finally, I added this thing on the blog that let’s you sign up for email updates if I add a post. If you want to you can sign up below. Thanks for reading!


VLM Training Week 12

VLM Training Week 12

There comes a point in every marathon training plan where, and I don’t think it matters how much you run, you come to the business end. If you are anything like me it sort of hangs over you for a couple of days and sits in your mind. You know something is about to happen and you kind of want it to, and you kind of don’t want it to.

The 20 mile run.

There is something mentally tough about getting out and going running for 20 miles on your own. For one thing, it’s a bloody long way. For another, it’s hard to keep drinking enough and eating when all you’re carrying is a warm bottle of lucozade. I HATE carrying stuff with me when I run. I don’t like fuel belts or bags or arm bands. I end up just elastic banding a couple of gels to my drink and call it good. Last weekend it was a flipping windy day and my route was pretty much straight out into the wind for 10 miles then a run back with it behind me. The route out was hard (duh) the route back was ace. I think the training must be working out ok because I got it done in a personal best time of 2:38. It also didn’t absolutely wipe me out like previous 20 mile runs have and I even managed to get through the afternoon without that post-long-run-pass-out-sleep. Progress!

This week was a little tougher. I was away for a couple of days down in London village and training when you are away is always tough. Tied together with some pretty long working days, constant grazing (if there is a way to go to a conference without constantly eating I have yet to find it) and whisper it, maybe a little too much alcohol and too many late nights and you have a recipe for a bad week. Co-incidentally this was also the week my speed work started. From now on every Tuesday I add in increasing amounts of intervals (I started this week on 8 x 400 meters) and Thursday I add in increasing amounts of time at my marathon pace. Both start hard and get harder!

Anyway back to the trip. It went really well from a work point of view thanks for asking, I only got into bed at 3am once and completed the Thursday speed stuff without issue. I say without issue, it was a weird sort of run. I was running around Hyde park which is really a lovely place to run and I enjoyed it a lot. At 55 minutes I started the faster stuff and enjoyed that too. It’s running each mile at 7:20 and for the first three miles I loved it. It’s tough don’t get me wrong but achievable at the same time. The last mile and a bit was a little uphill and a little against the wind and I felt like I was running through treacle. Not fun. I was clinging on at the end. I finished thinking that there is no way I can hold that pace for another 22 miles but then I remembered that you I don’t have to. Yet. There’s another 8 weeks of pushing myself to get through and then I’ll be all set.

I did skip Fridays run due to the late night, but given what I did the day before I didn’t feel overly bad about that. I postponed my long run till today due to the bad weather and had a pretty nice 16 mile run today. I feel tired but I’m ready to have a good week. It’s only 5 weeks till I start tapering which is a sobering thought.

In case you are interested, these are my run distances so far. I’m expecting this week will be one of the longest I do, and should probably be around 55 miles at a guess. It’s pretty clear to me that the more I do, the faster I get. Not rocket science I guess!

Week Distance(miles) Average Pace Total Time
1 4.25 0:09:16 0:39:21
2 6.97 0:09:15 1:05:16
3 13.82 0:08:42 2:00:28
4 19.29 0:10:18 3:35:23
5 23.33 0:08:29 3:16:13
6 29.48 0:08:39 4:12:36
7 35.32 0:08:13 4:51:26
8 41.68 0:08:03 5:38:24
9 45.17 0:07:54 6:02:58
10 47.53 0:07:31 6:08:29
11 49.87 0:07:42 6:28:17
12 46.07 0:07:42 5:57:00


There are now only 8 weeks till London. I’m very excited. I’m fairly nervous. This is about right. I’m nervous enough to make me keep training and I’m excited enough that it’s still fun. Perfect. In other news Pilla and I are doing the Silverstone Half in two weeks. There will be lots of twitter-folk there and I’m VERY excited about it.

Finally, I have a Virgin Money site here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson. I’m raising money for the MS Society and I’ll love you forever if you consider donating. Oh and extra finally, I added this thing on the blog that let’s you sign up for email updates if I add a post. If you want to you can sign up below. Thanks for reading!


VLM Training Week 10

VLM Training Week 10

On the face of it it’s been a pretty good week, I’ve done all the training. It’s been tough though. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to wake up, get out and do my run before work. It becomes a vicious circle though because the more time you invest thinking how hard it is to get out, the harder it becomes and the less you look forward to it. The weird thing is, as soon as I’m going I never have a problem carrying on, it’s just getting going. I’m annoying myself because I really do enjoy the training, but there is that 10 second window when the alarm pings at 6:15. Do I jump out of bed and get going, or do I lie in bed and chunner to myself about just having an extra 5 minutes in bed? At the same time, I’m really doubting myself on the time target I set. It’s 1hr25 faster than last time. It’s too hard and I can’t do it.

For the past 6 weeks, my week has looked roughly speaking like this:

Day Session
Mon Cycle/Run
Tues Run to work
Weds Cycle/Run
Thur Run to work
Fri Cycle/Run
Sat Long run
Sun Swim

I’ve added in some yoga (I love this now and would really recommend it to anyone out there, particularly runners) and the occasional circuit session. It’s a tough plan. I try to do all the mid week stuff before work and the longer those sessions get the earlier I have to get up. This week I really struggled on both Wednesday and particularly Friday. So much so that on Friday I got up and just decided not to do the run. Part way through the ride I decided I’d just run at lunchtime instead. Crucially, it wasn’t raining when I made this decision. Come lunchtime at work it was, predictably, pouring down. I very nearly put this off again, but some sensible advice from Pilla made me see sense. I described this as like Superman III. It’s pretty much Good Neil versus Evil Neil each time I go out at the moment and it feels like I have to get thrown into the car crusher to remind myself how much I actually enjoy doing this.

Note: my running tights are actually black.

So back to Friday. It’s pouring down with rain, it’s windy and cold and I don’t want to go. I have forgotten my socks. My feet are going to be freezing (I have Reynauds which means the slightest breeze and my hands and feet give up attempting to be warm and just shut down. Quitters). And yet, as soon as I get going I love it. The wind is behind me for the first mile or so and it feels like I’m flying. I LOVE it. The 30 minutes goes really quickly and even though I can’t feel my feet at the end I still enjoy it. It felt like no effort at all. And I look at my watch and the run was exactly the pace I want to do in the marathon in 10 weeks. 7:20 minute miles. Maybe I can do this after all?

That 30 minute run after 30 minutes on the bike? Well I did a lot of 30 minute runs during the IM training too. I always *always* wanted to get to 4 miles in it, but never quite managed it. This week, I hit that mark twice. Progress! When I did it on Monday I did a little celebratory run dance, until a bloke walked round the corner and saw me and I promptly realised what I was doing and stopped!

I was supposed to complete the second of my running tests at Salford Uni this week but due to a broken treadmill it got cancelled. I swapped this round to do a run that @vivslack was organising for Get Out and Give. Due to a couple of people dropping out and me not wanting to run further than 5km because of my long run on Sunday, it turned out I was the only entrant in the 5km category and therefore won the first race of my running career!

Embedded image permalink

Today I did a 17 mile run (with my very fetching fuelling belt/elastic band) in 2:16. This is pretty much the fastest I’ve ever averaged for a long run and it was lovely to get outside in the sun for the whole 2 hours. Loved it.

Finally, I set up my Virgin Money Giving page this week, it’s here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilWilkinson. I’m raising money for the MS Society and I’ll love you forever if you consider donating. Oh and extra finally, before I forget, I added this thing on the blog that let’s you sign up for email updates if I add a post. If you want to you can sign up below. Thanks for reading!


VLM Training Week 9

VLM Training Week 9

The good this week:

  1. Completed all my sessions (except the optional swim one I had today)
  2. Dealt with some very wet and windy runs
  3. Ran the furthest I’ve ever run in a week
  4. Eaten a lot.

The bad:

  1. Got very wet
  2. Questioned if I can actually do this
  3. Almost got run over
  4. Got soaked by an idiot driver
  5. Knocked someone’s wing mirror off whilst running past

To be honest this week has been a bit of a struggle. It’s been dark and wet and very, well, meh. You can waste a tremendous amount of mental energy and not to mention time, thinking about getting out on your runs.  Almost always this is forgotten to moment you get going but I’ve had a couple of late starts this week because of it. On Wednesday I changed my bike/run in to a bike then a run home from work. This is the first time in ages I’ve fluffed a session and it annoys me even now I did it, but I just wasn’t feeling it on the bike.

Thursday’s was an eventful run into work as I decided to risk going without my rain jacket, a decision I regretted almost immediately as it started pouring down. One of the great joys of city running is car dodging and my mood wasn’t greatly helped by the taxi driver that tried to drive into me. Now, normally I would just let this go but as I was dressed head to toe in neon and I was soaking wet on this occasion I may have used some fairly industrial language. Anyway the taxi driver apologised and drove off so job done there. Later on during that same run, in some frankly biblical conditions another car drove post and flipping soaked me. Not the little splash on the shin you might normally get, but the full on spitting-gutter-water-out-of-your-mouth drenching. Lovely.

Due to a beer festival on Friday night I postponed my run to Sunday and did a circuit session with Pilla on Saturday. This had two implications:

  1. It slightly ruined our arms and legs
  2. It meant running today in weather that would have had Noah youtubing ‘How to build an Ark’ videos.

On a side note adding boxing into our circuit session is fairly brutal but I can’t help feeling very proud when Pilla is hitting the pads so hard I keep having to step back. Fierce is not the word. If any muggers are reading this you’d probably do well to steer clear. Getting out today was a bit of a struggle and we were procrastinating a lot on Twitter. Once we got out it wasn’t too bad to start with in fact we might have got the first 15 minutes rain free. It didn’t stay like that for long although once you are going as long as you stay warm it’s never too bad running in the rain. On the way back in between dodging puddles and squeezing my gloves out I managed to run into a car.

A stopped car.

(as in, it was parked).

Given the grief I gave that taxi driver about not looking I felt a little (a lot) stupid about this and I felt even worse when the wing mirror subsequently dropped off. Now I had a choice here, run off (fast) or go and knock on the door of the house whose car it was and fess up. Run off and feel guilty or fess up and have to pay for it. Eeek.

I fessed up.

The guy was really nice about it, came out to have a look, clipped it all back together and said ‘don’t worry about it mate, cheers for telling me’. Nice bloke. Although he probably just wanted rid of the bloke who looked like a neon drowned rat!

On a final note, I’ve just completed a 31 day training streak. I have my 2nd fitness test this week at Salford Uni and it should be pretty interesting to see what fitness gains I’ve made in the last 9 weeks given how hard I’ve been training. 9 weeks down, 11 weeks to go…


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