He's only gone and done it. Simon has officially run two marathons in three weeks.
The last time we checked in with Simon’s 2 Marathons in 3 weeks challenge, Simon had just finished the Paris Marathon in an incredible 3 hours and 33 minutes. With just a few weeks to rebuild and go again for the London Marathon, recovery was our priority post-Paris.
RECOVERY IS KEY
Fortunately, Simon works in the right business when it comes to recovery, so a spa trip and a pair of SKINS recovery tights later, we were on the right track. Usually, I would work off the basis of giving an athlete a full week off running post-Marathon to reset both physically and mentally. However, with Simon, I didn’t want him to take a full week off and then spend the middle week between the race rebuilding his running before being back in race week again. So, in order to keep some physiological load in the plan without adding extra loading through the body, we used a couple of swimming sessions as active recovery in week 1.
As we didn’t have time to gain any extra physiological gains between the two marathons, the aim was to keep Simon fresh, sharp and ready to go for London. So week two saw Simon do a short interval session to get the legs back moving again. We also used strides across the week to keep him primed. Strides allow athletes to run quickly and keep their speed topped up without creating too much fatigue. Used at the end of an easy run, I find them a great way to keep my athletes fast without fatigue. You’ll never get worse at running by putting in 4-5*20secs fast sections at the end of your runs!
The plan with London was to replicate the Paris Marathon plan and see if we could close out the race slightly faster. Based on Simon’s training, we knew he could break 3:35, which he did in Paris with the A** aim of breaking 3hrs and 30 mins if we could.
LONDON MARATHON 2023
The race started well, hitting 5km a shade under 25 minutes and on pace. London has a really sharp downhill section just around the 3-mile marker, which is quite unsettling for the rhythm at the start of the race. As the road then takes you down to Cutty Sark, you hit both the 10km marker and Cutty Sark, which is one of the loudest parts of the course.
It was great to see Simon flying around the iconic landmark with fellow SKINS team member Charlie! Simon had slightly slowed to 25:24mins for the 2nd 5km putting him in and around the 3:30 marker. As the London course heads to Surrey Quays and around Rotherhithe, the 15 and 20-km markers swiftly come by. Splits of 24:52 and 25:16 had Simon operating just outside of 3hr 20 pace as he approached the biggest landmark of the whole race.
Running across Tower Bridge is one of if not the most iconic things you can do in running, certainly in the UK and if not the world. The atmosphere is absolutely electric. As you head over the Thames, you cannot help but burst with pride, excitement and happiness. You don’t realise until you run over the bridge, though, that it is a very significant climb, and after the flat sections before it, the legs don’t always take kindly to it!
After dropping off the bridge and taking in the Tower of London, the halfway split beckons on the way to the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. Simon’s halfway split of 1:45:49 was just a single-second difference from the halfway split in Paris 3 weeks before! So at this point, we were right on to achieve the desired outcome of breaking Simon’s PB of 3:33.
THE HALF WAY MARKER
The halfway marker in a Marathon is quite challenging to manage during the race. Although you have reached the top of the pyramid and it is technically downhill from here, there is still over 1hr and 45mins of racing left to complete. The key is to keep your brain’s emotional side in check and focus on the process. I even go as far as to say that until 20 miles, you can’t even think about the finish line. Just stay in the moment!
Simon’s 5km split up to the 25km marker was his fastest in the race so far, taking just 24 minutes and 41 seconds. For context, around this time last year, Simon wouldn’t have managed this for a flat-out parkrun, which shows just how far he has come on in the last 12 months!
After 25km, the course then winds into the Isle of Dogs, which is quite a lonely part of the London route. After the high of Tower Bridge, you really have to regain focus at this stage. Through the 30km marker with a split of 25:29 minutes, the 3:30 clocking was still on. However, it would require Simon to hit the last 12.2km at 5:00mins a km or 8:00mins a mile exactly.
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS TOUGH
This is where the Marathon gets seriously tough. The body typically has around 2 hours’ worth of fuel from carbohydrates stored within. That’s why with Simon’s race plan, we have a gel every 30mins to prolong the use of the carbohydrate energy system for a longer period. We will never finish a Marathon in energy balance. A good example of this is Galen Rupp, the American Marathon record holder would need roughly 30 gels in the Marathon to maintain energy balance.
As the energy levels start to deplete, the mind begins to play horrible tricks on you. Suddenly the 12km you have to get to the line seems longer than every run you have ever completed, despite the fact that on any given day, most marathoners could knock out a 12km runner any day of the week! This is where you have to delve into those mental channels of resilience and toughness to keep digging in. Simon and I spoke about this before Paris, where he would take a moment where he has been resilient in his training and in his normal life. When it gets tough, we think about those moments and use them as strength when the going gets tough.
*APPLAUSE & CHEERING*
The last 12km of the London Marathon course is such an electric atmosphere. The only break from the noise and the cheering is in Blackfriars tunnel! No matter how tough things get, the crowd will get you home! Through 35km, Simon started to drop a little more with a 26:08 clocking followed by a 26:42 min clocking to 40km. However, he still held it together well to finish just short of his time from Paris, coming across the line in 3:35:15. An awe-inspiring run considering Simon’s debut was just three weeks ago! Even more impressively, Simon was among the first 10,000 people to finish the event, and with over 47,000 runners starting the race, this is incredible!
I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER
A superb block followed by two superb marathon races. As a Coach, I couldn’t be happier with Simon and his efforts. To complete two marathons in such a short space of time is incredible. And now the planning and work have started into getting that sub 3:30!
A (FEW) WORDS FROM SIMON
I read a quote recently that ‘Running is 90% mental and the rest is physical’, and this certainly rang true throughout April.
Paris felt like the end of a journey, the goal I had been working towards for months, and I loved every minute of it. But it wasn’t the end of the journey, I still had London to go. Leaving Paris on a real high, the mental wrestling soon began to creep in. The training program in the three weeks between the two events felt too light. It didn’t feel like I was doing enough, only 20km in week one, then 46km in week two. Feeling some pressure of running on home soil with family and friends standing along the route, I needed to put in a decent show. All ridiculous thoughts in hindsight, but as always, Coach to the rescue.
As I have noted in earlier instalments, you have to trust the process and trust your Coach. He knows best. All the work I had done leading up to Paris and that race itself, I would be getting the benefit of just as I hit London. The three weeks in between were just about keeping my legs ticking over, fuelling and sleeping well. In the week before the race, my confidence and anticipation grew, and I was ready to go again.
Race day arrived, and the atmosphere was immense. Arriving at London Bridge for the final leg of the journey to the start line in Greenwich, 47k runners were all ready to run their own marathon journey. You could feel the excitement radiating from the crowds. Given how I felt after Paris, my goal for London was to break 3h 30m. I was on track to hit this at the halfway point despite all the puddle navigating and stopping/starting at congested parts of the course, crossing Tower Bridge feeling strong. I kept near to pace for the third quarter, but coming out of Canary Wharf, I started to struggle.
The last 5km was a real battle in my head, doubting myself, feeling every pain in every muscle – ‘I’m done, I need to stop and walk’ train of thinking. However, I knew my daughter was watching somewhere on the final part of the course…that was the focus I needed. I pulled my head together and got it done, finishing slightly slower than Paris at 3h 35m.
What an incredible experience, I am so grateful for all the support throughout my marathon journey. A special thanks to the SKINS team, who had to listen to me bleat on about running every single day, and all the crew at PGC1 Coaching. You guys are all incredible and such an inspiration, and of course, Josh – no words.
Two marathons, One month – done – Peace out.