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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dublin Marathon Weekend 2014

A Dublin Marathon weekend is so much more than getting your carcass from the start to the finish of a 26 mile strip of tarmac - so we set out to make the most of it :) :)

Friday 24th Oct

Since Marathon day was Monday we had plenty of time to go off and do a bit more exploring of the Emerald Isle beforehand.

First stop, Galway over on the west coast and since it is nigh on illegal to visit a place containing a parkrun venue without havng a run round it, 5k it was:

From Galway it was up to Westport, a tiny place oozing with friendliness. As Westport also has a parkrun course out and back along the Greenway leading to a very scenic bay, it simply had to be done.

If you look at where Westport is, out on the North Atlantic coast with not a lot around it you will appreciate how much of an acievement it is to make so much use of a single metal pole:

Saturday 25th Oct

From our hotel in Westport it was a mere 2 minutes to the official parkrun there on Saturday morning. However, we'd already enjoyed that course on Friday evening and since Castlebar parkrun was a mere 15 minutes along the road, off we went there instead.

A really attractive setting for a parkrun course. In hindsight it may have been run a bit too quickly at 18:15 but the marathon still seemed a fair old way off being two days away. Hannah ran a more sensible 18:56!

Sun 26th Oct

The International Breakfast Run - Battle of Clontarf

The Dublin Marathon organisers really go out of their way to welcome overseas runners. Runners from 47 countries were invited to attend a 5K breakfast run over at the famous Croke Park on Sunday morning. The start time was 10:14am to commemorate the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The run itself took us to the site of the battle where a reenactment was performed complete with gruesomeness and fatalities. Luckily the fatalities miraculously rose from the dead shortly after :)

Back at the stadium and we were treated to free breakfast, free t-shirt and a comprehensive display of Irish dancing.

Tony Aimon, Seb Cosgrove , Tom Eales , Steve Darby, Ben Hartley, Dan Donnelly, Rachel Bourne, Eoin Fegan, Hannah Oldroyd (all Hyde Park Harriers except myself, Hannah and Eoin of Malahide parkrun in Dublin)

Monday 27th October - Marathon Day

Race day arrived and the first sight on waking was seeing a tree outside the hotel window trying to bend itself in two! The BBC forecast had suggested 10-12 mph winds, this didn't look like 10-12 mph.

The Course

The course was changed from previous years due to construction works but the general idea was that the hardest part of the course was going to be a 2.5 mile uphill drag through Phoenix Park into a headwind. After that the course profile looked reasonable and if there was going to a headwind in Phoenix Park there could well be a helpful following wind for a lot of the remainder. At least that was the theory!

The Race

At 9am the first wave pictured below set off.

There was a lot of congestion in the first 2-3 miles, which is hard to understand considering that the circle below indicates our starting position. It was no great concern though as there was no rush to get on with it when there was the Phoenix Park drag coming up shortly.


The thinking during the first 10K was just to get to the top of Phoenix Park using up as little resource as possible. It was bound to be slow in relative terms so it was just a case of getting it done and then seeing how things were feeling.

Over the 10K mat and the clock was showing 42:21, around 2:30 slower than Yorkshire two weeks earlier which seemed reasonable given the difference in courses.


This section was encouraging with the effort level and pace being almost identical to Yorkshire. The second 10k was 39:45 so it would be nice if the third 10K produced something similar in the knowledge that the last 4 miles after a little hill at 22 were supposed to be nice and flat.


Where is all the wind coming from? I was either imagining it or the wind was really picking up now as the halfway marked was passed. To add to that there was what seemed like a never ending long straight uphill stretch into this headwind. This was getting tough. Trying to keep the effort level down was easier said than done as you had to try to keep some forward momentum going.

The second half of this section was noticable for the amount of runners stopping, it is rare to see so much carnage so early in the race amongst a group of runners clearly expecting to run sub 3 times.

The pace seemed to be drifting a bit now but not too badly considering  - it was looking like maybe a 2:55:xx sort of time as 30K was approached.


30K in 2:04:31 was around 6 minutes down on 2 weeks earlier but nothing seemed particularly problematic, the legs were strong and positions were being gained every now and then.

Around 22 miles there was a stiff little hill with a Lucozade sponsored 'Wall of Support' at the crest. On the road as you passed under their archway it had the wording 'You have now beaten the wall'. Nice idea but a little optimistic :p

Around the corner and I heard some very familiar footsteps close behind, there were thousands of pairs of feet out there and yet these were unmistakably familiar.

And there she was, it looked like Hannah had judged this one better through the tough third section so she was then able to pull away and keep up a higher tempo over the last 4 miles. This gained her 56 positions up to 213th while I slipped back 14 to 274th. That third section is always the key and she nailed that one to get her first ever back to back sub 3s just 2 weeks apart :)

For my part, 2:58:53 was satisfying enough. There wasn't going to be a scintillating time on this particular day so I was happy to marvel at somehow managing a 7th sub 3 in 12 months, something that would have seemed barely believable the way I used to think about marathons, ie months of recovery before attempting the next one!

Updated comeback marathon list:

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)
2014 April - London Marathon 2:57:52 (Age 47)
2014 June - Rhyl Marathon 2:58:24 (Age 48)
2014 October - Yorkshire Marathon 2:47:34 (Age 48)
2014 October - Dublin Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 48)

As predicted last week, whatever happened there was likely to be some much anticipated Guinness consumed with Dr Dan Donnelly. As it turned out he had his most enjoyable marathon to date so enjoyed the black stuff immensely :)

The Hyde Park Harriers contingent also seemed partial to Dublin's finest brew. Here with Tom Eales, Rachel Bourne and behind the camera was Ben Hartley enjoying his newly achieved GFA time.

Tues 28th Oct

Before leaving Dublin on Tuesday there was time to try out a couple more new Dublin parkrun courses, Waterstown and Poppintree (starts this Saturday):

5 day weekend in Dublin with zero non-Guinness days, can't beat it :) :) To be recommended? 100% YES!!

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Week Before/After A Marathon

The inspiration for the title:

So here we are mid way between two marathons, 7 days after The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon and 8 days before The SSE Dublin Marathon. Dublin is run on a Monday due to that day being a bank holiday in the Republic.

It doesn't seem much time between marathons but then again there are many people who can run them day after day, including Kelvin Dickinson who ran two sub-3 marathons in 24 hours not too long back. I believe Kelvin and Caz Hall were probably the most responsible/guilty for getting us into trying out back to back marathons. They do look like a couple of dodgy looking characters likely to lead the unwary astray ;)

Firstly though it is worth jumping back a bit to the lead up to Yorkshire. This was the most enjoyable marathon to date by far so it is worth noting any points which might have had some influence on that:

Yorkshire Build Up

1. Long Runs - This might be surprising but in the 9 weeks before Yorkshire there was only one training run longer than 10 miles and that was only 12 miles! The only longer runs were in races.

2. Training Paces - All training was 8:00/mile+. Since all racing was faster than 6:30/mile this means that the paces in the range 6:30-8:00 were pretty much never touched. 

3. Races - The 9 weeks contained 22 races/parkruns at the following distances: 
1 Mile - 3
5k/parkrun - 11
10K - 3
10 Miles - 1
Half Marathon - 3
Marathon - 1 (Thames Meander Marathon)

4. Mileage - Those 9 weeks were something like 83, 80, 73, 79, 76, 70, 66, 53, 56 (race week)

A few discussion points in there amongst those basic stats!

Why 2 Marathons in 2 Weeks?

So why are we doing something that just 12 months ago I would have considered pointless, stupid and pretty risky, ie running two marathons in quick succession? Good question!

It has been said a few times, by wise people that know about these things, that the best time to run a marathon is actually two weeks after the previous one. Can this be true or is it nonsense?

How many runners actually try it? Not many as a proportion of the total marathon running population as it flies in the face of the supposed 'rule of thumb' that you should rest for 1 day for each mile of race distance.

So, in the last 12 months we have tried running 'pairs of marathons' three times (four for Hannah) and this is the experience so far:

1 week gap - Hannah:
13/10/13 Budapest Marathon 3:01:18
20/10/13 Yorkshire Marathon 2:57:53

2 week gap:
1/12/13 Lancaster 5-3-1 Marathon 2:54:17
15/12/13 Pisa Marathon 2:54:09

2 week gap - Hannah:
1/12/13 Lancaster 5-3-1 Marathon 3:02:50
15/12/13 Pisa Marathon 2:56:54

1 week gap:
6/4/14 Manchester Marathon 2:51:52
13/4/14 London Marathon 2:57:52

1 week gap - Hannah:
6/4/14 Manchester Marathon 3:05:37
13/4/14 London Marathon 3:00:45

2 week gap:
12/10/14 Yorkshire Marathon 2:47:34
27/10/14 Dublin Marathon ??:??:??

2 week gap - Hannah:
12/10/14 Yorkshire Marathon 2:52:08
27/10/14 Dublin Marathon ??:??:??

What will the question marks be this time? Well, if anyone is really bored at work next Monday morning:

The Sandwich Filling - What fills the gap?

The last thing you feel like doing between two marathons is not running. 

The First 7 Days:

The 7 days since Yorkshire has contained 11 runs, Monday to Friday had 8 runs with nothing further than 10k and nothing faster than 8:00/mile and then there were a couple of blasts over the weekend to get the legs back up to speed:

Sat - Huddersfield parkrun
Sun - Stadium Runner's Woodland Challenge (Huddersfield), an off road 6 miler that provided a good feel for how the legs are shaping up. I was quite happy after this one. How? I'm NEVER happy after off road races :p

The Second 7 Days:

The next 7 days leading up to Dublin will consist of one run per day, alternating between 5k and 10k with everything at 8:00/mile+ except Saturday, which will see a parkrun somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, which will be run pretty strongly but not flat out, maybe 19 mins or so.


In the lead up to a marathon we usually carb deplete for 4 days, Mon to Thurs, in both of the last two weeks. However, when you have two marathons two weeks apart you can't really start carb depleting the morning after the first one so there will be just one week of carb depletion before Dublin. There's nothing strict about this, it is just a case of eating predominantly lots of protein for 4 days and then eating normally up to the race. There is very little in the way of 'carb loading', just eating to normal appetite but with a bit of a shift back towards carbs. For the last 10 or so marathons this has worked out fine.

Ready for Dublin?

It is hard to say at this point but it will be approached in the same way as Yorkshire, ie run at the same effort level, and the pace will be whatever it turns out to be. Whether that means 3:15, 3:10, 3:00 or something a bit quicker or a DNF will remain to be seen but I can confidently predict that we will be sharing a pint or two of Dublin's finest with a certain Dr Dan Donnelly on Monday afternoon :)

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon 2014

Sunday 12th October 2014

The weather forecasts leading up to this marathon were looking damned near perfect - fog was predicted for the early part of the race but temperature and wind conditions couldn't have been better:

Although just 7 days earlier a not too friendly virus had resulted in a 42:00 performance at the Burnley Fire Station 10k, in the days leading up to York the legs were feeling great with each run during the week feeling progressively easier as the week went on.

So did this mean that the 21 year old marathon PB of 2:48:58 might be coming onto the radar, especially with a couple of quick fire sub 80 half marathons in the build up? It had to be getting close so Sunday couldn't come around quick enough to give it a good go and find out the answer.

This was the state of play of the marathons since the comeback started:

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)
2014 April - London Marathon 2:57:52 (Age 47)
2014 June - Rhyl Marathon 2:58:24 (Age 48)

The Race

After a few hellos on the start line we were off into the fog bound centre of York. It all seemed very peaceful despite sizeable crowds and that made it easy enough to switch off early doors and start getting into a tick over rhythm. If you're feeling any effort in this first 10K then you're doomed, so it is just a case of ignoring anything going on around and trying to get Tony Audenshaw out of your head after listening to 'The Day Before/After A Marathon' on the way to York. The fact that the organisers were also playing the same track as we booked the baggage in only served to doubly entrench the earworm :p

Anyway, the first 10K took 39:38 feeling nice and easy. Just seven days earlier 42:00 had seemed so much harder for a single 10k so at least that showed that the virus was no longer on the scene.


Out on the quiet country lanes now and by quiet I really mean quiet. There were times when, because of the fog hanging around, there wasn't another runner or spectator to be seen. This was absolutely fine, it felt really good to have an uninterrupted rhythm and an empty road ahead.

The second 10K went by in an uneventful 39:14. There was no thinking about potential finishing times yet as I leave that until at least 30K when you get a feel for how the closing stages are going to shape up. Nonetheless, I was happy that moving along at sub 2:50 pace was feeling pretty comfortable and that places were being gained on a regular basis.


The halfway mat was a little late, which is why the splits from 20k to halfway on the official stats look a bit odd. My own halfway time showed as 1:24:00 (which I was happy with) but in reality it was a few seconds quicker than that.

As a comparison, in the previous comeback PB of 2:51:52 at Manchester in April, halfway was reached in 1:26:11 and I don't recall it feeling as comfortable as this.


This section included the two switchback points, at 14 miles and 18 miles, where crowds gather at just the right times to get the mind switched on to start laying the stall out for the closing stages. I find that if you get to 30k and you are thinking about chasing times and/or chasing down runners in front then you are probably going to be fine to the end of the race and hold together pretty well. On the other hand, if it is starting to already feel laboured at 30K you can quickly become a passenger in a slow inevitable car crash of a last 10k.

On this occasion, 30K provided a nice boost as the 3rd 10K had taken 39:45 despite having some of the stiffer stretches of road within it.

So the pace was staying constant, the legs were feeling strong and there was a nice feel good factor provided   by the crowds at the 18 mile switchback point.

I must have been feeling pretty chirpy at this point as I'm usually a miserable bugger not one high fiving the crowds:

It was now going to get serious as the crowds were left behind for the next few miles, so it was time to start thinking about potential finishing times to provide a focus for this section.


My previous PB of 2:48:58 was conveniently exactly 4:00/km or 20:00 per 5km so the maths were nice and easy. To be on target at 30K required 2:00:00 so going through there in 1:58:37 meant that I could now start thinking about chasing down a new PB. It wasn't going to be easy but to get into this position and feel up for the challenge meant that I was going to give it a damned good go.

As miles 20, 21 and 22 went by it was starting to feel like it was getting harder now but I wasn't quite sure whether it was because we were slightly climbing or whether I was slowly falling into a hole. But each mile marker was providing a really big boost as the splits kept coming in in the 6:20s. No matter how it was feeling there wasn't a lot wrong.

40K was reached in 2:38:43 meaning that the last 10K had taken 40:06, marginally slower than the previous 10k splits but only by a handful of seconds.


It wasn't going to fall apart now so it was time to really soak in the best closing stages to a marathon that my legs had ever experienced. Going trough 25 miles with the clock still showing sub 2:40 and being able to see the clock at sub 2:45 when the 26 mile marker was visible just up ahead were both new experiences for me. And quite pleasant ones at that :) 

Down towards the finish line and I could see the clock up ahead showing 2:47 and not many seconds so it was now time to relax in the knowledge that the job was done and do a bit of showboating with the crowds. Embarrassing behaviour I know but if it's good enough for Mr Way ;)

The Marathon Age Time Line (2hrs + Age)
This used to be a novelty target which created quite a lot of discussion around what was the optimal age to achieve a time better than 2:00 plus your age in minutes. It sounds quite straightforward but then when you consider that it means that a 20 year old has to run faster than 2:20 and a 60 year old has to beat 3:00 it quickly becomes apparent that for most mortals there is a very small window where it is even feasible.

So, for that contrived reason a 2:47:xx at 48 years old is rather pleasing :)

Build Up To Yorkshire

So what was the build up like leading into this race? 

The answer was that it was the same as usual only with more miles, so where Manchester had been preceded by 10 weeks averaging 50 miles or so the comparative for York was more like 80mpw.

Running every day but with no 'training sessions' at all. Pretty much all training was 8 mins/mile+, with much at 9 mins/mile+. As a substitute for 'sessions' there was racing, lots of racing, with an emphasis on covering a wide range of distances.

It seems to work for me and exactly the same build up seems to lead to pretty much the same results for Hannah too. A 2:52:08 huge PB for 5th place yesterday wasn't too shabby :)

And celebrating by dunking Guinness loaf in Guinness is probably a first for any marathon runner anywhere. Ever. The girl has got class :)