The Berlin Marathon 2022 – what a day!

The phrase “it’s finally here” just seems like the biggest and most ridiculous understatement of all time at this precise moment. I am stood, well sat actually, between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column on one of the most famous avenues in the world, the Strasse des 17 Juni, amidst a crowd of 45,000 runners, and many many times more spectators. I’ve walked up past Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz, then assembled at the very steps of the German Reichstag, the seat of power of probably the most famous and indeed infamous ruling parties in all of history. Indeed Hitler’s Bunker is close by too, as is a square mile memorial dedicated to the Holocaust. Within a few hours I’ll have run past der Mauer, the Berlin Wall, and many more iconic places in this most incredible city. Oh and Eliud Kipchoge is here as well, amongst many other legends. This, is the 2022 Berlin Marathon. 

For me it is the culmination of a lot of effort to get here. All of my own making, as I’m a stickler for following a training schedule, and managed to pick a very thorough and hard one! I’ve run 6 days a week since May, and if there’s one thing I know full well, then that’s no matter how today goes I will not be putting either of my feet in a pair of trainers next week! 

It’s funny also (or not funny in this case!) how little things can threaten to almost derail your plans, even at the last minute. For example, despite some rather meticulous preparation to make sure I got myself here with everything I needed, yesterday two small happenings both caused consternation. 

Firstly my watch strap on my Garmin broke. “First world problem” I hear you say! But as someone who has his face literally glued to his watch on every run I do, then I literally couldn’t run a race like this without it. Both pace per mile and heart rate are crucial to whether I speed up or slow down, and probably even finish at all. Thankfully I found a shop in Berlin who stocked spare straps, and so that little hiccup was solved almost straight away. I’m just relieved it didn’t happen on the way to the start! And then potentially worse, yesterday I found myself running to the loo after breakfast with a dose of the trots.

If there’s one thing you don’t want for a marathon it is to be without energy/nutrients and also dehydrated. Thankfully it passed as quickly as it seemed to start, and after some crisps and a coke it seemed to subside. Phew! I did end up drinking rather a lot of water to make up for it, and hopefully I’ve now got rid of it all!!

Right – so I’ll update this after the run……..

So here I am, at Brandenburg Airport the following day. And overall it went great, in that I got a PB and beat my target time (whoop whoop!!) but not without some little trials and tribulations!

So firstly I just never really felt comfortable at all. I must have overdone the liquids beforehand, as despite peeing about 10 mins before the run, and not drinking after that, I felt like I needed the loo from the off! Only for a pee thankfully (I’d managed to otherwise “go” successfully beforehand for a number two, and I bet you really needed to know that!!!) but the feeling just wasn’t going to go away. I was determined not to have to stop, trying hard for a time of under 3hrs 40mins, which I knew would be tight. Every second counts! I figured then that I’d just run off the need, as perspiration and respiration took care of any excess fluids, but nope, it wasn’t going away. By mile 10 I could think of nothing else, and it wasn’t until about mile 16 that I found somewhere to go, thankfully finding some portaloos when I was fearing that I was going to have to duck into an alleyway and then get arrested by the German police! 

And then my flipbelt was just too tight. I’d swapped between two flipbelts in the weeks before the marathon (the ethos always being ‘never try anything for the first time on the day’), but I was between sizes. The medium was a tiny bit slack, and it caused a bit of bouncing and chafing when full of gels and phone etc. and chafing can be at best a terrible distraction, so I bought a small one. It was tight! I did wear it for the Great North Run, and whilst I was aware of it the whole time it was never uncomfortable. So I went with it here. I think that maybe because my bladder wasn’t empty properly it just exacerbated the tightness. I just wanted to rip the thing off, and at one point I pulled my phone out and carried it in my hand, but that was just another distraction, and I didn’t want to drop it either.  

Oh and also my shoes started to bother me at about mile 12! I wore the Vaporfly in the end, and despite these having been worn many times before, they ended up hurting my toes. I felt like I was getting a blister on my left toes early on, and then my right big toe starting aggravating me. You just don’t need or expect these things when you are doing a marathon! My toe has literally turned black afterwards, and having only lost one big toenail in my life, and heading off to Everest Base Camp in three weeks time, I really hope this one doesn’t go the same way.

I think that all of the above ultimately led to a bit more stress than I needed, and that culminated in an elevated heart rate. More of that below!

So on the plus side, despite what was a crazy long walk to the start, the rest went well! The hotel where I stayed was about two miles to the start, and I chose to walk (along with the rest of the group who were in the same hotel), so by the time I’d got through all of the backwards and forwards to get to the correct wave, I’d done almost 10,000 steps already!

I managed to pace things exactly as I wanted though. I’d set myself the target of trying to get just under 8 mins 18 seconds per mile overall, as that would beat my target of 3hrs 40mins. I knew I musn’t go off too fast, and so I’d told myself to do 8min 30s miles for the first two, and then to just very gradually make that up later on. In the end I did 8:28 and 8:21, and was pleased with that and settled into my stride. The weather was ok early on too, at about 12 degrees, and pretty much perfect conditions. I was in Wave E, so set off about half an hour or so after the fast runners.

Most of the first half of the run was pretty much straightforward, and I went through the half marathon in 1:49:18, which was pretty much exactly where I wanted to be. My heart rate up to then was at around 160 to 162, and whereas I’d preferred it lower, that was all fine and manageable. But the pressure of needing to pee, and the tight flipblet, and the sore feet, and then it started getting hot (to was 18 degrees at there end, too hot for me!) just led to escalating heart rate after that. I ended up averaging 183 over the last few miles, and touching 190, which is (obviously) just way way too high. I actually stopped twice to walk, to calm it down (it didn’t), and that just should never happen. I also had to stop for that pee! At about mile 18 it was all too much really!

So the last few miles were all really a bit too much hard work. I didn’t really bonk, but I was just hanging on for actually most of the last 10 miles. I really don’t want this to sound like a big gripefest, but I can only tell it how it is. Despite my fighting against myself, I did so much enjoy running under the Brandenburg Gate – it was all I could do to contain emotions, and the headrush was extreme.

I remember also thinking to myself on so many occasions towards the end that I was leaving everything that I had in me on the streets of Berlin. There would be no wondering about whether I could have run faster, or should have done things differently. I had given it my best, my all, and that’s all I had on the day. And that’s all I can ever ask for really.

It has been a long road to get here, and I am so glad that I did it. Marathons (for me anyway!) just take all that you have got. They take a lot of planning, of sacrifice, of dedication and motivation, and of drive and desire. I put all that I had out there, and 3 hrs 37 mins and 58 seconds later I had (and have for all time) a beautiful medal and some amazing memories to show for it.

Me producing a smile as the finish line is in sight – the Brandenburg Gate in the background.
This is pretty great too of the Brandenburg Gate – I’m in there somewhere…… 🙂
And it is finally done!!
The anticipation of 45,000 runners at the start..
…to the exultation that it is all over!
The medal in closeup, it is heavy and great quality, and Eliud Kipchoge is on the reverse side!
And here is my Garmin at the end!

So the first thing I heard as I got into the finish area in front of the German Reichstag and got to sip a (sadly non alcoholic!) beer was that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the world record – I was (albeit an infintessimally small part) of history!! His time was a completely remarkable 2:01:09, and he’d gone through the half way point in 59 min and 51 seconds apparently! That legitimate 2 hour mark remains tantalisingly close – and it is so incredible and amazing to have been there as part of (albeit a very long way behind!!!) the day that history was made for all time.

For the final records, I was apparently 392nd (out of how many I don’t know, it might have been 392!!) in the over 55s category, and 8,108th overall out of the 45,000 who started. Not that those numbers mean anything at all. The only person I was competing against after all was me, and I did all that I hoped I would, and am ultimately over the moon with the result.

Berlin is a fabulous place, and incredible marathon, and was an utterly incredible experience, which I will remember for the rest of my days. Whether I will ever do another one is a subject for another day – my immediate thoughts afterwards were “that’s it, I have nothing left to prove to anyone”.

And in any case, I have Nepal to think about now. It is coming up, I am very happy to say, very soon indeed………

19 days to go…..

…..until the Great North Run! I’m dedicating this post to that very occasion therefore. It’s after all the occasion in terms of any event I have ever done, or ever will do, that means the most to me. It is the first time since 2019 (and because of the pandemic) that arguably the North East’s very greatest asset and occasion will be winding its way on its full route to the seaside.

So I’ll explain here as to why it is so very special….

Can’t wait to be here – “Sea” you in September!

Well firstly (although I should say that this is in no particular order) it is the World’s biggest half marathon. Each year (and this one certainly no exception) some 60,000 eager runners take on the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. And that’s good for me because I love the buzz. Moreover, although it is impossible to count, spectator numbers that line the route are estimated between 1/4 to 1/2 a million people, which is simply incredible. There is nothing to beat the excitement from start to finish, and it is something that I absolutely love.

Secondly it is a veritable homecoming for me. I grew up and went to school in South Shields, and although I left home now some 40 years ago now (that’s a very scary thought in itself!) – it is a true pilgrimage of the purest order. My parents still lived there until they died (My Dad the last, 8 years ago, more of that below) and so I went to see family and good friends several times a year and have done my whole life.

Then the route of the GNR itself almost follows a storyboard of my early life. It begins very close (within about 400m in fact) to where I finished my schooling, in Jesmond, Newcastle. Then goes through Gateshead and Felling, where my Dad took me to learn to swim. Then it is on to Hebburn, formerly home of one set of my grandparents, and where my Mam and Dad met. Then it is Jarrow, where I was born, and home to my other set of grandparents. And then onto South Shields itself, which was my home and where my heart still beats the most vibrantly. It literally finishes just off the beach where I would spend as much time as I could as a kid.

An overview of the route to the seaside…

The most emotional thing about the Great North Run though is that it literally passes the top of the road where I was brought up, Mitford Road. The Great North Run has been on TV since its inception (over 40 years now), and every year wherever I happened to be, my Dad would phone me up on the day of the race. He’d tell me he was going to stand on the corner of the road by the roundabout, and ‘wave at the camera’. I’d never see him of course, but did always have a look. It excited him a lot, and like so many people (and also being a former sportsman and runner himself) loved everything that it brought to the North East.

After my Dad died, and in subsequent Great North Runs which I have taken part in, I can’t help my eyes wandering to the crowds at the roundabout at the corner when I run past. I know that my Dad is there somewhere, waving at me and cheering me on.

And finally, The Great North Run is just massive for the North East. It is a weekend long party, bringing money to the hoteliers, pubs and restaurants. It also brings the Red Arrows, and a massive amount of money in donations to charities (second annually only to the London marathon I believe in terms of sponsorship monies raised). I could go on (and should, so I will) to say that this year alone we have none other than Kenenisa Bekele, Joseph Cheptegai, Selemon Barega and Jacob Kiplimo taking part. Kiplimo is the world record holder and the other three have run four of the fastest half marathons in history. That’s all a tribute to Sir Brendan Foster, champion and founder of the event, and my boyhood (and indeed adulthood) hero.

And so onto the running then, well last week I did 55.1 miles. And all thankfully passed without incident. I have to say though that it is all really hard work both mentally and physically, and I wish I hadn’t taken on such an intensive training programme now. But I’m at week 14 of 18, and am not going to stop or slow down now – plus if things like the Great North Run don’t inspire me, or indeed the thought of being in Berlin (despite BA this week cancelling my flight, more of that next time), then nothing will.

My running progression for the last 12 weeks – 55 for the week just ended!

And so finally, to end where I started (and if you thought I’d finished waxing on about the Great North Run then you’ll be disappointed, because I never will!) – my final thoughts on the GNR are this: It brings people like me home, and families together, and hope, excitement and entertainment to so many. I’ll be there every year as long as my legs will carry me. Long may that last!

Can you hear my heartbeat…..

So I said in my last blog post that I’d talk about running shoes and also heart rate next time around, and here we are. The reason for raising both is that I really hadn’t realised that they are related – oh yes! Let me explain….

Well firstly I’ve always suffered from a pretty high heart rate, under anything less than resting conditions. Tachycardia I think is the medical name. It doesn’t take even the slightest bit of angst and my heart can pound almost out of control. It gets bad when running too – if I look at any of my previous half marathon attempts, or a hard run of any significant distance (in fact even a Park Run) and my heart can average 180bpm. 

That’s not good really. And especially when the formula of ‘don’t let your heart rate go above ‘210-your age’ would have my max heart rate at 152! I have had alerts before when doing a run to say my heart rate is up at nearly 190, which is actually pretty terrifying. So the very interesting thing when doing a prolonged bout of training for a run like a marathon is the effect on your heart rate, and also shoes matter here too, and here’s what I understand of it, scientifically, as it were:

So basically our bodies have a ‘fight or flight’ reaction in many situations – it is what is called the sympathetic nervous system, something I find fascinating. An(y) increase in intensity basically produces an adrenaline surge, which means blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate all increase.

Over time however, like a period of sustained training (which I am very much in, obviously), your body adapts to it, which decreases the burden on your cardiovascular system. As your muscles, and your heart, get stronger, they do a better job of extracting oxygen from your blood, so your heart itself doesn’t need to pump as fast to drive blood around the system. It’s all about the oxygen in the blood, which is why the key measure of fitness for example is called Vo2 max. This is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise, and the higher the measure the fitter you are basically. 

So this all manifests itself in various ways – your heart rate gets lower for the same amount of strain (or length of run at the same pace), and also the spikes get lower too, as your heart doesn’t react so badly to that fight or flight thing. There is a key to the running too though – in that the majority of it needs to be done aerobically, at a slow and easy pace. If you did lots of running but just thrashed yourself every time then you wouldn’t improve, in short. That’s how I understand it anyway – and if anyone realises that I’ve got this all wrong then please let me know!!

And the tie in with shoes is very interesting too. So again as I understand it, the more your shoes have the likes of ‘rebound foam’, or as is the case with some shoes a carbon plate, then the less energy you need to expend for a given pace or intensity. The shoes are basically helping return some of the energy expended as downforce and basically not letting you waste it by letting you have it back. It’s a bit like being on a trampoline. This also means that for a longer distance you get less tired, and your heart has to work less. Now the differences aren’t staggering – maybe about 3 or 4bpm according to the advertising materials for the Nike Vaporfly Next% or the Alphafly, but every little helps as far as I’m concerned.

For me (and I have both of the above pairs) I think I do actually notice the difference, particularly over longer distances. In my only marathon, where I wore the Vaporfly Next%, I did my fastest mile in the last mile for example. Now adrenaline and excitement I am sure played most of the part in that, but the fact that I had enough left in my legs to do it was the main thing for me. I’ve bought a pair of Alphafly for Berlin – after all if they work for Eliud Kipchoge then who am I to say otherwise? So far I’ve taken them out on just two (slowish) runs, and the jury is still out overall as to how I like them compared to the Vaporfly (they feel a bit heavier and ‘flappier/noisier’ to me so far). I’ll keep going with them on the faster training runs and decide nearer the time whether they get the vote.

Alphafly or Vaporfly Next% – what’s a boy to wear?

And so here we are then at the end of week 12 (of 18). This week was 47 miles, a slight reduction on last week thankfully, but it was still very hard work as it has been brutally hot here – not a phrase normally heard in the Lake District! At the end of week 12 I’ve done just over 400 miles on the programme so far, and it feels every inch of it. I have four weeks of hard training to go, harder than I’ve done yet, and then two weeks of tapering towards Berlin. Having said that, both of the last two weeks are around 50 miles too, albeit at less intensity. One of those weeks includes the Great North Run, which I will be itching to run ‘properly’, but I know I can’t/shouldn’t, as it’ll take too much out of me. I’ll enjoy it nonetheless (and that’s an understatement of all time) – and I’ll talk more about the anticipation of that next time.

Oh and I’m also dreaming a bit of being in the Himalayas in the autumn (in fact I’m just dreaming of not having to run anywhere at all!). Everest Base Camp of course. That needs a lot more thought and planning too, but where there’s a will there’s a way…..

Countdown to Berlin – 42 days. Countdown to the Great North (training) Run – 28 days. Come on!!!!

The road to Berlin goes on, and on……

A long time ago, I went skiing to Andorra. I remember it quite vividly. It was all cheap bars and cheap food, lively music, and short but fairly decent ski runs. It had the sort of ski runs that if it is your first ever ski holiday they would be almost overwhelming, but if you’ve been on two or three you would avoid as being not worth the effort of getting back on the ski lift so quickly again. The reason I mention all of this is that there was a guy on the holiday who I used to work with, and let’s call him Simon (because that was actually his name). 

It was Simon’s first ever ski holiday (first time on skis full stop in fact), and despite suggestions and indeed firm instruction from those around him to book into ski school, he refused. “I’ll be alright” he said, and took the gondola up with the rest of us and decided to just ‘wing it’ back down somehow. Being of a nervous disposition, and frankly not wanting to see him hurt himself or worse, I stayed well out of the way. His closest friend Steve, who could ski well, chaperoned him to the point where he was stood, somewhat Bambi-like at first, with skis pointed vaguely at the direction of the slopes. 

“Which way do I go” was all Simon wanted to know. With a bit of a directional steer from Steve, all of a sudden Simon was off, hurtling downhill, all arms and legs, and the biggest grin on his face I’d ever seen. He crashed of course, albeit into a bit of a bank of soft snow, but got up, dusted himself down, and off he hurtled again. He hadn’t a care in the world. By the end of the week he was skiing runs that I was unsure about even for myself, and I think this was my tenth time skiing. I think that it has been said before that skiing is about 20% ability and 80% confidence – well in Simon’s case it was more like 5% of one and 95% of the other. Go Simon!

And onto the running then. Last week was the biggest week so far – 54 miles on the schedule in six runs, culminating in a 16 miler on the Sunday. That would be the longest run I had done since running the TCS New York Marathon in 2019. It’s fair to say there was a degree of trepidation on my part, not just because my last two long runs had ended slightly short. The first, a 10 miler, I stopped after 9. It was too hot. The second, a 15 miler, I stopped after 14 – I had some fairly uncomfortable chafing. With the second one, if I’m very truthful (and why shouldn’t I be, I am after all really just talking to myself here :D) I could have stopped anywhere between about 10 and 12. There’s always a reason to stop, right? 

So this week I was just determined to get to the end and see it through. All of my midweek runs have so far been going pretty much ok. The easy runs are of course, well, easy (thankfully :O) , and the intervals have been ok, if much harder work (7:30 pace in the main which is basically my top speed). It is the tempo runs which are now the test. The tempo runs are at race pace (8:30 for the marathon) and should be the real benchmark. They started in week 3 at about 4 miles and are now up to 8, plus a mile each side of warming up and cooling down. This week I did this in Nottingham as I was privileged to be asked to look after my gorgeous granddaughter Jessie, whilst my son and his partner played in the European Touch Rugby Championships. 

So the Thursday tempo run also followed a Tuesday interval run at my lowest heart rate so far (I’ll talk about heart rate and also shoes in a subsequent blog post). I was therefore confident, and set off with gusto along the banks of the Trent, a route I know well. After about two miles I knew it wasn’t good. My heart rate was pounding, up at over 160. Now 160 is ok if I’m flat out (and so is 170), but not for the start of a ten mile tempo run – it is only going to get worse from there.

And get worse it did – after mile three and four my breathing was more laboured, the effort too high. After 5 miles I stopped, drained. I did sort of jog another mile to see if I could get to a six mile total out of the intended 10. All that did was add another mile to my Strava count – it did me no good whatsoever. I was very deflated. I’m still 7 weeks from Berlin, with all of the big and toughest weeks ahead of me. Take nothing for granted, I told myself, amongst other things.

On Friday I had a shortish 6 mile easy run when I got home from Nottingham. On the Saturday it was 8 miles, again easy. Thankfully both passed without incident, and I braced myself for Sunday’s big one. A moderate (for me!!) alcohol intake on the Saturday evening gave me a decent sleep, even if I did wake early on the Sunday. I drove for my long run to Ambleside (to get some flattish ground as there is literally none by me bar a running track), my favourite place, some four miles away from where I now live, and set off with a determined air. I am very happy, and also relieved, to say that the 16 miles got ticked off without heat exhaustion, chafing, or other (reasonable or unreasonable) excuse. The week thus finished with around 50 miles completed, which I have to be pleased with. There are probably only two or three weeks in my life when I have run that far, and this programme is a test of both physical and mental resolve.

Another week over then. I don’t know how many miles I’ve run so far – it’s just been a lot. This week is 50 again, next week 56, then 54, then 57 I think – it’s a long August that’s for sure. But after that it is September – and on the 11th is the first proper Great North Run since this horrible pandemic took over (and so much worse for so many) so many lives. I can’t wait until the Great North Run – the phrase “it’ll be emotional” is the understatement of the century. More of that anticipation and excitement next time. I’m going to be blogging weekly again now. 

And so for now I will continue to believe, that Berlin will happen, and that I can do it. I’ll never have Simon’s gusto or confidence, but I am nothing if not lacking in determination. I also found out recently that none other than Eliud Kipchoge, undoubtedly the greatest distance runner of all time, and world record holder for the marathon (set in Berlin four years ago) will be running too. If I said that he’s a hero of mine that would be significantly understating my admiration for all that he has achieved in running and in life. And if that doesn’t get me motivated to ‘go like Simon’ then nothing ever will.

The one and only Eliud Kipchoge leading the way home through the Brandenburg Gate.

Oh and as more than a little footnote to all of the above, both my Son and his partner’s teams won their respective finals of the European Chamionships, and I am so very proud of them both – happy days 🙂

Week 9 already – how did that happen?

So no updates from me for a while, but that’s just because I’ve been busy with life. Very busy. In fact as I dwell and reflect on life in general, it occurred to me that I have done very little recently of the very thing that I moved to the Lake District for just over a year ago, and that is go out and walk/enjoy the fells.

I have actually only done two walks in fact since May, one a short one around my local (very small) hills, and a nice big ultra walk of 50km for an ultrachallenge, with around 4,500 feet of climbing. The latter (about a month ago now) was great fun with friends Kev and Fiona, ably supported by Helen who got us there and back again, and we were lucky with the weather for sure, as there had been a lot of rain forecast, but we escaped it all.

Nice shirt Kev!

Since then I’ve been working a lot, something I hadn’t planned really, but an interim assignment came up in Nottingham, and I said yes rather too willingly. I find myself staying away from home for half of the week, and the weekends have been made up of trying to get my home ready to become a holiday let, so there has been a lot to do. Oh yes, and there’s been some running too!

It is true that the mind seems to blank out pain from the memory bank when deciding to do something again. I won’t use the ‘like childbirth’ analogy here, as obviously being a man I haven’t experienced it (before 50% of the population shout at me!), but it is true that when doing my first marathon training there were moments ranging from “this is crazy hard and taking over my whole life” to “never again”. And here I am now at the end of Week 9 of the programme (and there is therefore the vast majority of the really hard work to come) and I am absolutely beat!

Not helped by a combination of early mornings and warmer than usual weather (and also Hanson’s Marathon Plan, which is full on to say the least), it is the case that this week’s 46 miles of running has been a killer for me. Negotiating last week’s 40 degree heat (ok well only 35 in the Lake District, but still!) was hard work logistically, involving either early morning or late evening stints was tough too. And then today was the longest run yet, of 15 miles. I managed 14.3, and stopped early as a.) I was knackered, and b.) I had some chafing in at least two uncomfortable places!

The runs are now also in full flow as far as intensity and variety. Most of the first few weeks of the programme were all about easy runs, to build up both distance and aerobic capacity. Now however there are always at least three ‘SOS’ runs each week. SOS stands for ‘something of substance’, so a specific purpose and at faster than easy run pace. Tuesdays are speed/intervals (for example 6 lots of 800m at 7:30 pace), Thursdays are tempo sessions (this week 8 miles at marathon (8:34/minute) pace, and Sunday is a ‘long’ run of (like today) 15 miles at 9:18 pace. There are then three days where I just run at easy pace, but the distance for these is increasing all the time, which gives basically no recovery time at all.

Of course the increasing intensity and distance is what marathon training is all about, and this programme is very much about cumulative fatigue. I’ll be up to close on 60 miles a week in three weeks time, with the Sunday sessions up to 16 miles too, so lets hope the weather is a bit cooler that week!

I shouldn’t admit to this but I’m already looking forward to September 26th very much, which will be the start of the week following Berlin, when I can guarantee that I will not be running at all!! Fingers crossed most of all that I stay injury free and just get there. With all that is going on still in the world right now it is nice to just have something to look forward to.

Happy running one and all!

Marathon Training – Oh Yes!!

So further to the last blog post, which was going to talk about Marathon training (but I got carried away talking about the recent ultramarathon that I walked), it is here instead, finally!

So yes, today I embark upon Week One (of 18) of Marathon training for the Berlin Marathon on 25th September. The details are as follows:

Training Plan:

I have chosen the Hanson Marathon Plan for this one, for no better reason than I have the book! Actually there is another reason, in that I used the Hanson Half Marathon Plan successfully to PB in the Great North Run. Oh and another one (!) – Hanson recommends a longest Long Run of just 16 miles in training. I remember last time when doing New York that the plan I used (from Runner’s World I think) went over 20 miles three times. I decided that was important for me at the time as I didn’t want the psychological barrier (or the dreaded wall) to hit me in the race itself. However, in reality the running of over 20 miles, taking over three hours, is absolutely knackering, and I’m sure added to too much tiredness and probably injury too. You live and learn I suppose. In fairness also, Melanie, with whom I did New York, did tell me that 20 miles in training was too much (she’d done four beforehand), but I refused to listen :). She actually also told me about the Hanson Plan, so I should add some acknowledgement/appreciation here, so I will!

Here is the plan written down:

It starts off nice and gently, thankfully….
….and then quickly gets very serious!

The plan uses a fairly typical mixture of Long Runs, Easy Runs, Tempo Runs and speed/strength runs. They all colour coded of course :).


The plan amasses some 717 miles of training, which I calculate probably means three pairs of trainers! I have of course been somewhat meticulously planning, and have bought said trainers already! I have a ‘rotation’ as they call it, of different shoes. I intend to use Nike Pegasus 39 (newly acquired this week, but I’ve used three different iterations of the Pegasus series and I love them – they just seem to fit me best in terms of comfort and running style (not that I have a style :D)) for my long/easy runs, punctuated by Nike Invincible for recovery/easier easy runs (!). Then I’ll use New Balance 1080 v11 for my tempo runs, and an old pair of Nike Vaporfly Next% (as used for the New York Marathon no less!) for my speed runs. Finally I have a newly acquired pair of minty coloured Nike Alphafly for Berlin. I’ve tried the latter ones out just once, and the jury is out as to whether I prefer them or the Next%, so we will see in due course. OK – so that’s FIVE pairs of trainers, I lied!

Nike Zoom X Alphafly – expensive but hopefully satisfying!!


So I might as well set out here that of course would love a PB! Now as I only have one marathon under my belt then it can only either be better or worse than before! For the record, I ran 3 hours 54 mins in New York, having been determined (no, absolutely possessed!!) to beat four hours, and so that’s the benchmark. This time I am aiming for 3 hours and 45 minutes, and that’s what every single minute of the training plan is aimed at. 3 hrs 45 mins is 8 mins and 34 seconds per mile. It’s not the fastest running pace, but it is for me the best I reckon I can do over the distance. I’ll be absolutely over the moon in fact if I can run under the Brandenburg Gate with 3hr 44mins and 59 seconds in my sights. You heard it here first, but there is a long long way to go before I can get properly thinking about that, although of course I am already!!


It had to be Berlin of course. Why? Well I have always had the approach that you might as well ‘go big, or go home’, and this for me is the biggest. Of the six World Marathon Majors, this is really the one for the runners too, being the flattest. It is where my idol Eliud Kipchoge set the current World Record too, over the very route that I will do, so if running in that man’s footsteps (ok, about two hours behind his, but even so!) doesn’t inspire you then nothing will. I think also just the big atmosphere and excitement gives you all of the adrenalin that you need to make sure that you give it your all, and get it done. And what better city to do it in!

Berlin of course has both the most amazing (and indeed poignant) history, and it is there on almost every corner for all to see. It doesn’t shy away from the past one bit, with the massive holocaust memorial in the centre, covering 200,000 square feet of ground. They even call it the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Then there is the architecture, from the Reichstag, to the remnants of The Wall, to the incredible museums, and the simply unforgettable Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognisable features in Europe, if not the world, and it symbolises power, unity, glory, peace and reunification all at the same time. When I walked under it for the first time it gave me goosebumps. To think that I will (all being well) run under it as I approach the finish line in September will be nothing short of utterly overwhelming. Berlin has so much else to see too, and when I did a city tour there it was the best I’ve ever been on. – Go, if you haven’t been, is all I’ll say.


So having rekindled my blog, I’ll update it weekly or I so like I did for New York. There’s no training partner this time, so just me myself and I. But I’m not short of motivation, desire, or the excitement of all that Berlin has to offer. Tickets/flights/hotel all booked, and it is time for the hard work to properly get underway………hopefully no cartilage injuries or lost key issues this time, but with me anything is possible! Watch this space……