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Planning for both the London Marathon and the Comrades

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Planning for both the London Marathon and the Comrades

The London Marathon, on the 21st April this year, will be my latest assault on the stubborn 2:37:41 pb from what is now way back in 2008 in Amsterdam.

London hasn't exactly proved to be my favourite course. Despite entering more times that I can remember the race is littered with disasters.  Several times I've failed to toe the line through injury, in fact the most recent example was just last year when I was to be found desperately jogging around the block at 6am trying to convince myself my ankle injury would hold out.  Several other versions of the race have started well only to go West midway through; most disappointingly an enormous 20+ minute bog stop at 14 miles having gone through halfway in a best-ever 1:16:45. 

Not sure exactly what it is about the course that causes trouble.  It is after all almost totally flat and I get away cleanly at the start from the Championship pen.  The only pace-disrupter is early on with a fairly steep downhill (relative to the rest of the course) either side of the 5K marker which you need to be careful not to overcook, followed by a small rise at 4 miles which slaps you in the face - like the feeling you get when you step off the end of one of those travelators and suddenly you're relying on your own steam again.

There are a lot of small undulations over bridges and the like and I think they gradually cause more fatigue.  I always forget the rise over Tower Bridge too, though it's nothing like the shock of being faced with the Verrazano Narrows and Queensborough bridges at the New York marathon. 

A new complication this year is the looming Comrades Marathon on the 2nd June.  This 56-mile behemoth of a race has been on my bucket list forever and this year the itch will be scratched.  

Running 56 is a totally different proposition to the VLM.  I am determined to have a shot at sub 7.5hrs for a Silver medal.  That's just 8 minutes per mile whereas I'm looking to average under 6 minutes per mile for the marathon.  There's absolutely no comparison between the courses either excepting that they are both on roads. 

To endure 7.5 hours of non-stop running (ok, there will be a small amount of walking!) you obviously have to up the mileage in the build-up.  A good marathon though needs speedwork and the two are not very compatible.  My typical marathon training week is 2 quality sessions (tempo, hill reps or intervals) and one long run or a race.  Endurance training for the ultra boosts long runs to marathon distance rather than the low 20s and the best preparation is running two of them back to back.

So this year's attempt is to perform well over both races.  I've decided that as your endurance capability, once earned, stays with you for a long time versus sharpening which vanishes like snowflakes in Summer (not one of our Summers admittedly), I've been packing in the long stuff well in advance.

The likes of Bruce Fordyce, every time he's interviewed about how to train for the Comrades, says build up miles over March-May rather than starting too early so maybe this is a rash strategy.  However as of now I've run 5x 20+ mile runs, two of which were back to back, plus a 44-mile Ultra race - the Country to Capital. 

The next part of the long run plan is the Hyannis Marathon 70 miles from Boston, Mass.  at the end of the month.  The plan for that 2-lapper is an easy paced sub 3:20 for a back-up qualifier for the Comrades, good enough for Pen B.  I have half an eye on the weather though; they seem to be dealing with the sort of snow (without much fuss) that would stop the UK dead in the water.

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