Day 224 – Running with the elite…

Today was the Chester Marathon’s marathon running workshop with UK athleteAndi Jones, who took tenth place in the 2010 London Marathon

Firstly I’d like to say a big thank you to Chris and the guys at Chester Marathon for organising a great event. The opportunity to throw your questions at elite runners for mere mortals like yours truly is a really valuable experience we don’t get too often. Andi Jones is an interesting Manchester based runner, teacher by day, elite runner by morning and night (but more on that later).

I listened, questioned and scribbled intently for the three hour session and then joined Andi and some twenty or so other runners for six miles of Chester canalside running. It was great to meet some of the other runners aiming to break three hours at Chester, but a little intimidating to hear they’re mostly within 5-10 minutes of it already!

Alongside Andi was one of his sponsors and one of the sponsors of the marathon event itself, FitnessAssist CEO Steve Raven. Steve introduced himself as a sports scientist, to give us the techie version of the piece, reliably supported by the reality check of Andi and his own experience at a national and international level.

My scribbling gleaned the following nuggets of information, from the man who’s run a 2h15 London Marathon, so you guess he sort of knows 😉

Andi delivers lines deadpan. He’s down to earth, honest, and above all a joy to listen to, waxing lyrical about the sport he loves. He’s also not afraid to contradict the science and explain what he does, when it comes down to the reality of a teacher with a young daughter trying to compete on the world circuit!

The first interesting piece of advice comes at the inevitable question of a first time marathoner. He asks how he’ll know he can run a 3h30 if he’s never run race pace for 26 miles before the day, on a training run. Those of us who have run one know that 26 miles really beats you up and frankly, I believe the suggestion that each of us only has so many marathons in us! Running a race pace 26 mile training run is going to take weeks to recover from so you only get the opportunity to run a handful. Andi suggests that the way he approaches the longer of his long runs is to run a good, steady (but certainly not race pace) half marathon distance and only then, once you’re already tired crank up the pace and push yourself. Sounds like a sensible suggestion to me.

Next, how do you identify ‘that’ pace, the speed at which you could maintain 26 consecutive miles? Good question, and one I think I knew the answer to already. Steve chips in with 150bpm. That’s the target heart rate. The concensus seems to be that if you can run a pace for 12 minutes with your heart rate at or under 150 bpm then all other things being equal, you’re good for holding that for the distance on race day. Another audience member asks if there’s any accounting for age in the 150bpm target and Steve says not. Personally I’d question that one, having established that my 8 min/mile pace was what I could keep my heart rate between 155-160 and that’s how I personally decided it was an appropriate pace for me at Brighton. I think there’s a definite age/ability fudge factor to be applied to the 150. Take it from me, if you aim for 80% to maybe 85% of your max heart rate, you won’t go far wrong in a marathon.

Scary fact of the day: to run a sub 3 you need to be running 50 mile per week for the 26 weeks leading up to the event. I don’t have 26 weeks and I run around half that on average. Hmm, tough news to someone set on breaking 3. Interestingly though, Steve says half that, 25 miles per week will get you sub 4. I’m doing that and broke 3h30 so maybe there’s hope yet!

Steve asked for volunteers who would be willing to test a device and diary their running performance for his research efforts. Of course I jumped at the chance to long term test another gizmo and so I have a PowerLung Trainer to tinker with. As soon as I know what the drill is, I’ll let you know how it works and whether it makes enough difference to be worth a steep £80 or so.

Anyway, that’s enough insider info for one day, I’ll save some for tomorrow.

And by the looks of it, I’m 190 miles ahead of the minimum target now. Not bad, but not amazing. Need to get some extra miles in…


Today’s shoes: Battered Old Kayano 17′s
Miles today: 6.17
Target: 672
Miles to date: 862.58
“I prefer to remain in blissful ignorance of the opposition. That way I’m not frightened by anyone’s reputation.”
– Ian Thompson, 2:09.12 marathon at the 1974 Commonwealth Games

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