Two Marathons, one month. Catch up with with Simon's Marathon training & discover how he got on in Paris.
The last time we caught up on Simon’s progress with two Marathons in 3 weeks, we had just completed the Wokingham Half-Marathon and were about to tackle the Milton Keynes 20-mile Race.
MILTON KEYNES 20-MILE RACE
I use this race as a key part of the preparation for a Marathon with the athletes I coach. I find that building some (cumulative) fatigue in the week and using this race as an indicator of what the last 20 miles of a Marathon should feel like is a great gauge for the Marathon itself. Having used this method for a few marathon blocks, we can now build a good prediction of how the Marathon should, all things being equal, play out in terms of an outcome.
Once I have worked out an outcome goal with an athlete, I first park it and put it to one side. The Marathon is about understanding all of the processes behind the race, refining and executing them. If you/we can do this, the ability to achieve the outcome is much greater!
ANOTHER LONG HAUL FLIGHT
Overall, Milton Keynes was a positive experience. Simon had just returned from America, where he had been at the incredibly exciting SKINS x SKIMS launch. This meant a long haul flight just 48 hours before race day had to be tackled, but he overcame this and had a lovely day out on the redways of Milton Keynes. This is a course I really like for Marathon preparation. However, my athletes tend not to like the last hill the course makes them run up! I project out the 20-mile completion pace to a Marathon time and then take this as the predicted Marathon outcome.
Simon’s time indicated that a 3:36hrs clocking is what we could expect for the Marathon. However, in our review meeting, we both felt this was not quite representative of Simon’s fitness due to the circumstances of race week, and we agreed a pace closer to 3hr 30mins was more achievable.
FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR PARIS
The final preparations for Paris race day went really well. Simon did a 5km TT 8 days out from the race to sharpen up the speed in the legs and broke 20 mins for the first time. This is a superb reflection of how hard Simon has worked in this block. Being able to beat his 5km time under a Marathon training block is fantastic! We also focused on perfecting the processes during race week, which can have a big impact on race day!
Things like nutrition in the days leading up to the race and having a good strong race plan for how you will run the race and manage the day are also really important. When you have trained for so long for such an event, leaving no stone unturned in your preparations is essential! Regarding the race itself, the plan was to hit a pace of low, 5:00 mins per km or 8:00 mins per mile. The aim was to get to 20 miles or 32 kilometres at this pace, then assess how things were and either maintain or have the option to push on from there.
Race day soon rolled around, and Simon was ready to go on Les Champs-Elysées to embark upon his first Marathon and the first part of the two marathons in three weeks. The first 5km in Paris has quite a good downhill section as you pass monuments like the Place de la Concorde, Paris Opera House and the Louvre Palace. Hitting the split in 24:39 mins was a little quick; however, Simon managed this really well, running 25:07, 25:10 and 25:17 for the next three 5km splits.
THE HALFWAY MARKER
The halfway marker approached after completing the section around the Bois de Vincennes, which takes in both the Paris Zoo and Château de Vincennes. Simon split a brilliant 1hr 45mins and 16 seconds at halfway. To provide some context to this, Simon’s PB for a Half-marathon this time last year was 1 hr 51 mins exactly! This was perfectly on pace and a brilliant first half of the race. As the course turned back towards central Paris, taking in sights such as the Gare de Lyon and the Place de la Bastille, the 25 km marker approached. Hitting just under 25 mins for the 20-25 km split, Simon moved really strongly through the second half of the race.
AN ICONIC MARATHON ROUTE
The Paris course is an iconic Marathon route running alongside the beautiful Seine alongside Notre Dame, the Louvre once more, the Musée d’Orsay and the 30km marker is directly outside the Grand Palais. Another 25:00 clocking for the 5km through to 30 km had Simon on pace to run 3:31, which is exactly where we wanted to be. The 20-mile marker is a crucial point in the Marathon for me. This is where the race proper starts. Twenty miles was also the furthest Simon ran continuously in the build-up to the race, so the fear of the unknown really loomed large in front of him.
THE BOIS DE BOULOGNE
As Simon entered the Bois de Boulogne, the 35 km marker passed the 5km section and was completed in 25 mins and 50 seconds. This was the time to dig deep and keep pushing through the pain. Your mind takes you to dark places in this section of the race. As your energy stores are almost empty, your legs feel drained, and your body feels exhausted. All your mind does here is telling you to stop and pull the plug. Before the race, Simon and I went through how he would tackle this phase of the race and how he could keep his mind in check at this point. Positive self-talk in this part of the race is so important. Remind yourself of how strong you are, how well you are doing and how you have been to these places before, and you are strong enough to cope!
3 HOURS, 33 MINUTES & 6 SECONDS
The 40km marker passed, and Simon was into the finishing straight, where he actually picked up the pace slightly for finishing in a fantastic time of 3 hrs 33 minutes and 6 seconds! An absolutely incredible debut Marathon time and a superbly executed race from Simon. Running the second half only 90 seconds slower than the first half is a superb showing of strength and race management. As a coach, I couldn’t be happier for Simon. Balancing a hectic working/personal life alongside his training, he gets everything done, and this result is a true testament to that.
NOT LONG UNTIL LONDON
Usually, we would take a week or two to savour the moment and enjoy becoming a marathoner. However, we now have London to prepare for! The next two weeks or so will be focused on recovering and keeping the legs/body ticking over, ready to go all over again on the 23rd of April! Plenty of active recovery, stretching, and of course, compression wear will get us to the start line in Greenwich, ready for round two!
AN UPDATE FROM SIMON
As I write this, I can legitimately classify myself as a Marathoner. However, the job is only half done, and London is just over two weeks away, so there is no time to sit on my laurels just yet.
Paris was the first time I had stepped up to the Marathon, so I didn’t know how my body would react. In the weeks before Paris, I ran the MK 20 miler, but I wasn’t happy with that race. It didn’t feel right from the start, and my calves started to cramp up in the final quarter. Mentally, this made the doubts creep in for the Marathon and whether I could actually complete it, let alone at a decent pace.
Taking heed of all the materials I have presented countless times in sales meetings, I started running in our MX Calf Sleeves to support my calves. What a difference! I feel a bit ridiculous saying this, but our compression actually does work. With my calves feeling super strong, this was exactly the boost I needed, and I finished the final training sessions with confidence.
Josh was a huge support in the final stages of my training, hitting me up with words of encouragement as well tips and strategies for the big day. This level of support cannot be underestimated. It was exactly what I needed and what made the difference between success and failure on the day. An athlete is only as good as their coach, and there is a huge difference between a good coach and a great coach!
On race day, it was a mix of excitement and anticipation. I was ready. I found a pace at the start and stuck to it. Josh had advised me to run the first 20 miles with my head and the final six with my heart. I stayed on pace for 20 miles, and it felt comfortable. At no point did I feel like I could be in trouble. I had fuelled well going into the race and throughout, taking in 70g of carbs per hour. Not knowing how my body would react for those final six miles, I decided to keep at the same pace and not risk something going wrong. I knew I had London three weeks later. Paris wasn’t the race to push myself too hard. What a feeling crossing the finishing line. It’s definitely a different feeling from any other race I have taken part in, a real accomplishment.
After finishing, I was straight into our S5 Recovery tights for the rest of that day and slept in our Sleep tights (September release date). Three days later, I’m fighting fit again, just heading out now to resume training for London. Genuinely can’t wait!