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Lessons from the Manchester marathon

By Darren O'Toole | In Marathon training | on April 30, 2019

2018 was one of the worst running years since I started to take running seriously. It consisted of my slowest ever marathon in Rotterdam, my slowest half marathon in 7 years at the Great North Run and an abandoned half marathon because I hurt myself in a circuit class two days before it.

In a nutshell, everything I was doing training-wise was making me slower and with poorer endurance.

Now into just April in 2019 and I have a new half marathon PB (1:28) and marathon PB (3:16). So, what’s changed?

Training in High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya last December was massive for me. The quality of training, the enjoyment of training, and learning valuable tips. The main changes I have implemented to turn my running around are simple ones which everyone could do:

1. More mileage

Unite simply, I wasn’t running enough. The more you run, the more the body adapts. I was often afraid of injuries but actually, a steady, progressive running programme keeps you reasonably injury free

2. Getting used to race pace

A lot of my runs (especially in the last six weeks) have been in and around the pace I would run the race – the result: my body was completely used to this come race day so it felt a lot more natural.

3. Losing weight

I admit, over the last couple of years vanity has played a role in adding muscle which has cost me some running performance. I haven’t lifted an upper body weight in 3 months to reduce unnecessary weight. The result: running this race 4kgs lighter than last year.

Despite this, I still think I can apply these principles further to bring that time down more and more. My speed dipped over the last 8-10kms which tells me that whilst I did more mileage, if I can get through even more then perhaps that dip won’t occur. Plus, I feel I can get the speed of shorter distances down further which may, in turn, bring my race pace for longer durations down too. Weight-wise, we’ll see! I am going to integrate resistance training back into my programme but don’t envisage returning to the weight I previously was ahead of future races. I raced at 67.5kg yesterday. I think 65kg would probably be my fighting weight.

Hopefully if you have any races coming up you can apply some of these principles to yourself. This doesn’t mean smashing out 100-mile weeks because the pros do it. Rather, if you currently do 30km per week, then aim to take that up to consistent 40s and 50s. The difference over a month or two will be huge for your training.

Next challenge

I am doing my first ever triathlon in June (which considering I can’t ride a bike and it is now April, it’s a bold move!) and have a couple more half marathons in the calendar for the rest of the year. Possibly a second marathon this year may be in the offing but I will update that once negotiations with the better half have culminated 😉.

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