Phils hills ills

Tonight was my first attempt at 'hill reps' as part of my London Marathon training.


Yes, I went to the park apres the bulk of my work day, but pres (I'm sure that's right) an evening meeting.

Yes, I had spent the day mentally preparing myself to jog for 10 mins to warm up and have my first go at 5 x 1 min uphill, jogging back down.

Yes, I even ate healthily through the day so I was well petrolled .

Yes, I managed the 10 min jog ok-ish, but that's where the wheels... erm... feet... erm... ribs fell off.

I did manage almost an entire one uphill before the ribs decided this wasn't for me.

I say 'decided' like it was the culmination of a long discussion where both sides had a chance to rationally put forward their arguments before coming to a mutually convenient conclusion.

It was actually more like being smacked in the side by a cricket bat.

So, I bailed.

That's the second time an attempted run has failed due to the cracked ribs. Who'd have thought that they'd keep being so annoying for a whole month?

Oddly, they aren't giving me much jip when I'm cycling. I guess that's because I'm more hunched over, closer to the foetal position I scramble into whenever I feel a sneeze is imminent.

Now, you might think I'd take the hint, but if this marathon attempt is about anything, it's about me putting my body in it's place.

I'm gonna take it easy tomorrow and then have a go at the next task set by the sometimes-lovely-but-also-sometimes-not-quite-so-lovely Sally.

Surely it'll get better soon, but in the meantime I've got a dull meeting.

Bike service resumes

Following a few weeks off the bike due to gross stupidity, it was with mild trepidation that I once again donned the hi-viz and helmet yesterday.

I know this is supposed to be a blog about running, but I've started to rely on the bike as a way of not only getting to work cheaper (and quicker!), but as great for my overall fitness and a good way to strengthen my stupidly lame knees.

First thing to notice was that the daylight seems to have done a runner. So, not only was it my first proper ride without part of my anatomy, but it was also my first time with my lights.

It was also my first time doing the journey on new mountain bike*, so I'd have to get used to gears actually working, and being able to accelerate out of junctions.

Thankfully, I'd gone old school with my light selection and gone for pure out-and-out brightness. I don't need 26 different sequences of flashing, just as much wattage as you can possibly cram in.

This seemed the right choice as I pulled out of my garage not long after 6am and the unlit access road was not so much bathed, as drenched in light.

Hell yeah!

Once I was off, it seemed like I'd not forgotten how the whole cycling thing works. In many ways, it was just like riding a bike...

The slight climb at the bridge was seen off with ruthless efficiency by the new bike which seems to love going uphill - psychotic thing.

Not having been out for a while, I was consciously trying not to overdo it by blasting off, but after a while I was on a nice bit of flat and I thought I'd have a play and slipped into top.

Hell yeah!

This beats the living poo out of my old bike - so light, controlled and fast! It's not something I expected from a humble mountain bike, but it took off.

Pretty soon I realised I was overdoing it a bit and would end up burning out, but there's no doubt that there's some good potential for smashing my PB to work time to well below the 40 minute mark.

Yesterday was, according to the first proper week of my training plan by Sally, cross training day. Was supposed to be 30 mins on the bike. Since I rode to and from work, it was slightly nearer 90 mins. Oops.

Hey ho, got to try to get some hill reps in today - never done that before so could get a bit interesting!

* I just prefer MTB's - more fun at the weekends in the woods etc. Unless you come off and smash your ribs and mouth apart - that kinda sucks. But would probably have been worse on a road bike!

Training while injured

I figured that one of the few benefits of cracked ribs, amputated parts of hand and smashed teeth would be that I can take time out to chill from marathon training.

The ribs are the main problem at the mo – though they only hurt if I do anything requiring superhuman effort like, say, walking.

Or sitting.

If I'm being honest, the last two attempts at the marathon were not exactly built on solid foundations. The first time was my first real exercise in 10 years, the second built on that, but only after an eight-month lull.

This time, after enforced rest for rebuilding strength in my knee, saw me investing in a bike to keep the fitness up, and occasional gentle runs when I felt like it – built up slowly as dictated by the physio who'd spent months getting my knee to stop hurting.

However, not being able to run or cycle for the last four weeks after a series of accidents has started to get on my nerves, so, I have ambitiously started taking strolls.

Last week I started having lunchtime strolls around the park next to work – it's got a convenient marked mile.

When I've used this route for recovery runs before evening meetings at work, I was usually getting in around 7:30 minute miles – prob too fast for recovery runs, but never felt like I was overdoing it over the shorter distance.

On paper, average walking speed is supposed to be c. 3mph. I've always been a bit of a speedy walker so I reckon I get nearer 5 mph,

The first time I tried it, it took me 25 mins to walk a mile.

25 mins.

That's 2.4mph, or a marathon time of just shy of 11 hours.


Clearly there's work to do.

Not being an optimist, I'm not going to claim this will all be good, rather I'll just rely on my usual coping strategy – refusing to understand how bad it really is.

It's not that I don't understand, I just stubbornly can't be bothered to think about how bad it could be – takes way too much effort!

So, as most cardio is off the table for (hopefully only) a week or so, I'm focussing on the strength stuff I often overlook/get bored with.

That's stuff to strengthen my lower back, which I often have issues with, and getting the knees as strong as poss ready for the demands of a marathon training schedule.

This consists of mainly gentle stretching/light lifts/squats etc. but it's pretty boring, and not without rib pain. But, I need to get on with it otherwise October becomes November, becomes December etc.

Hopefully my possum-like reaction will see me through, but it's also backed-up by the least possum-like woman trainer I've ever had Sally.

She's fully aware of my problems, and has been beavering away on exciting plans, an has even had an insight into my eating habits.

So, it's all a bit in limbo here, but all being alright, I'll be getting going soon.

I'm not fat, it's just big bones!

I knew having a trainer helping me run the London Marathon wouldn't exactly be fun, but there's motivational, and borderline mean.

After diligently filling in a few forms about where I am now and promptly sending them off it was dispiriting to see that the opening of the email response from my trainer Sally included the phrase:
“Not really overweight either”
There's nice!

I'm about 11 stone 6lb. I say 'about' as my electric scales died in an incident known in Phil Runs London Towers as 'too much water-gate'.

As I'm only about 5'7” my BMI says I'm borderline obese.

Understandably, I was somewhat miffed when I found that out, but I've been reassured by numerous medical practitioners I'm not.

Being from good Yorkshire mining stock I'm just well built.

When I ran the London marathon in 2008 I lost 2 inches from my chest over 10 weeks of running – which was expensive as I had to get my usher's suit for a wedding refitted quite a lot.

This doesn't necessarily translate well for running – ideally I'd be light and lithe (Gimli wasn't the best runner in LoTR was he?) .

I'm sure Sally's making a valid point, but there's nicer ways to do - last night she proposed that since I'm not able to run at the mo I should try to lose any 'spare lard' now as it'd be better than during proper training.

Don't sugarcoat it will you Sal?

So, it'll only be salad and seeds for me for a while – not the best comfort food when I'm recuperating.

Hang on a mo!

This is exactly what she wants me to do anyway - so, her meanness has worked.

It's almost like she knew what I needed to hear to prompt me to act.

That's either very clever, or - more likely - witchcraft.

Anyone know where I can find some trinkets to ward off evil spirits?

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Unless you get someone else to do it for you

In the immortal words of Hannibal, I love it when a plan comes together.

It's even better when you don't have to go through the hassle of actually making the plan in the first place!

As anyone who has ever run a marathon knows, you can't just rock up on the day and run 26.2 miles – unless you're a freak of nature who's incredibly fit. In which case you probably won't be reading this as this blog doesn't welcome your sort.

For normal – and I use that term loosely – marathon runners there will be months of preparation for the big day, usually revolving around a training schedule you've found somewhere online, in the London Marathon Magazine or from your charity.

Social engagements will be forsaken, days will be planned around a run, and you'll be riddled with self-doubt about whether you're doing enough.

The beauty of the London Marathon is that you won't be alone in this – there's thousands of others out there in the same boat.

Not that they let you do it in a boat – though it did piss it down in 2008, but I doubt there'd have been enough water to keep you afloat.

It's easy to find out how others are doing online – blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc – and get reassurance and motivation. Last year I felt the people I met online and I were akin to a marathon running support group. It was ace.

However, I didn't even make it to the start line because of injury. So, despite being able to enjoy their success and amazing achievements, the overwhelming feeling was of disappointment.

Months of training, carefully planned to get me over the finish line, and hundreds of miles covered, had led to nought.

If you've been following this blog for a while, or have even just browsed some old posts, you'll know I'm not exactly a keen runner. My motivation is based on self-loathing and determination to force my body do something it clearly doesn't want to. So, I was not a little surprised that the disappointment at not being able to run affected me so much.

Thankfully, as my place last year was through the ballot, I was able to defer it to next time so I had a chance to redeem myself.

So I've spent the summer getting the knee working again (currently it's the only major limb on my body that doesn't hurt, but that's a different story) and keeping up some of the fitness I built up by cycling lots.

But, that's not enough to get to the finish line, so I obviously need a training plan.

One of the many physios that have helped get me going again was quite adamant that most of the training schedules available online contribute to injury of those completing them. They were too arbitrary and couldn't take enough account of the individual who was following them. By trying to give themselves some kind of structure to achieve their marathon goal, people were actually risking their success.

But, given limited resources, what else could I do? I've been reading as much as I can to try to tailor my own schedule, but the experience of two ultimately fruitless attempts to run London didn't really feel like a sound foundation for success.

So I clearly needed help, but the prospect of a personal trainer was too expensive, and the thought of pestering some of the actual experts I know online wasn't palatable.

Then, I noticed one of my twitter friends, a personal trainer and cartographer nonetheless, was offering a chance to win online training for the marathon. All I needed to do was pay attention to her tweets of health/training facts over a week or so, then answer some questions about them.

I was busy on the evening the questions were posted, but the following morning I convinced myself it was still worth a go so answered and, somehow, won!

Sally then emailed me a few forms to fill in – training history, height/weight etc. which I've now done and she's formulating a plan for me!

It's a bit eerie that she has already used my responses to identify potential pitfalls I'm already aware of – I suspect witchcraft – but it's reassuring that I'll actually have someone who knows what they're doing helping.

It also means I can absolve myself of any responsibility to plan my training so I make it round - that's her job!

So, weight lifted from mind, I can focus on getting over my current ailments, safe in the knowledge that once I'm good to go, she'll get me round faster and stronger than ever before.

No pressure Sally.

I won something!!!

It looks like me terrible run of luck might, at last, be changing for the better!

I've somehow won £500 worth of training for the marathon thanks to the (hopefully) lovely and kind @Sall_y via twitter.

I've no idea what it involves (why trouble myself with such trifles!) so it could be another piece of bad luck masquerading as good fortune, but the unfamiliar glow that I assume comes from winning something is dulling my usual trepidation.

What could possibly go wrong?

Only 200 days to go!

Today begins the 200 day countdown to the Virgin London Marathon.




If you're running, I hope you're in a better state of preparedness than me - distraction, injury and general stupidity mean I'm not as far along in my training as I'd like to be.

Thankfully, I've acknowledged this earlier than in previous years and have plans in place to get up to scratch. Hopefully these will be clever enough to prevent me coming down with any more injuries!

My immediate goal is building endurance. Thankfully I've been cycling lots over the summer, so my overall fitness is better than it has been for my last two attempts.

That doesn't translate exactly into performance on the road, but it means the heart and lungs are working well so as the distance builds it'll be less demanding (relatively!).

So, the 200 day landmark is my kick up the arse to get out and run and get this marathon monkey off my back!

Post waiting depression

I don't know what I did to the postman, but I think it must have really pissed him off.

Not only am I still waiting for my London Marathon News, but other mags I usually get on a Friday still haven't turned up. I'm used to them turning up on Saturday, but it's now Monday and there's still nothing...

Maybe it's because I've started remodelling my front garden?

I've tried to make sure he's always got a clear, clean path to the door. Maybe he was just fond of the old dead hedge I'm replacing?

I suppose some people might think the concrete path had a certain charm, but I hated it and want something less institutional looking.

Whatever it is I've done, I hope he tells me soon so I can put it right - I'm waiting on a cheque from selling the car which will be paying for new trainers etc.

So, if you're reading this Mr Postman: I'm sorry.

Whatever it is that's upset you, I'll work on.

I can change, just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it!

We've gone through so much together already, lets not throw it away...

Getting motivated for training

Being a pain in the arse kind of bloke, no-one ever knows what to get me for my birthday.

Thankfully this usually results in lots of book vouchers and my 30th this year was no exception!

In a rare example of me trying to be helpful, I decided to make a list of books I fancied so people wouldn't complain at me. Predictably, I didn't get any of them, so, armed with vouchers I hit the bookshops.

Top of the list, and the first one I've read, was Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, the autobiography of Ranulph Fiennes.

I've always admired the little I've known about him - polar explorer, seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, amputating own mummified fingers in the shed - but reading more about him, and the challenges he's faced, put my own issues into perspective.

The almost humble, matter-of-fact way he writes is quite alarming at times, especially describing deaths of others attempting similar challenges. But this shows his focus and determination which helped him achieve so much.

He even has tips for endurance running - jogging for two and a half hours every other day, no more than three days apart.

Five of his seven marathons in seven days were quicker than my injured attempt in 2008.

This, from a man more than twice my age.

So, eager to make use of this fresh inspiration, I'm working away at a serious plan to get the running going properly.

Any thoughts of other adventures are being suppressed as recent form suggests I would doubtless lose several limbs at the very least.

It's that time of the year again...

As well as signalling then end of summer, and apparently legitimises Christmas cards appearing in the shops, October sees tens of thousands of people eagerly awaiting their postman.

Not just for the birthday cards from months before that got lost during industrial action, but for the much anticipated copy of the London Marathon Magazine that breaks the news of success or failure in the entry ballot.

For most, it will be the latter, but solace can be found by applying for one of the thousands of charity places that are available each year.

For the 'lucky few' it means you're in. You will be running 26.2 miles through London on a Sunday morning in late April next year.

That might seem a long time (29 weeks this Sunday!) but rest assured, come February and March, you'll wish you'd had longer.

My advice - stop procrastinating (pot, kettle?) and get out and run.

If you're a regular runner, you probably have a good idea what it takes. If not, you need to get out there and see what you can do already so you can realistically assess what you need to do.

You'll also need to invest in some good trainers. Seriously.

As someone who'se buggered up each knee for the last two years, I can's stress this enough.

Go to a proper running shop where they look at how you run so can recommend models that give you the right support (or not) in the right places. It's worth it.

As well as starting now, you need to make sure you build up slowly.

Three physios who helped me with my knee said that training schedules you find online and in the mags assume a higher level of fitness than most first-time London marathoners have.

Constantly increasing the mileage meant when I started to taper shortly before the race this year, my knee had had it.

Believe me when I say you don't want to end up pulling out days before a race you've ran hundreds of miles in training for.

Finally, enjoy it. There are loads of places online to find people in the same boat as you. Search Twitter, Facebook and blogs for friendly support along the way - it will make the long road ahead much easier and enjoyable!

Idiocy - because marathons aren't hard enough already...

Not content with merely losing part of my hand, it seems I need more obstacles to contend with.

A leisurely ride in Bedgebury Forest on Saturday has resulted in a lost tooth, four severely bruised ribs (possibly cracked, but can't be bothered to get x-ray as they can't do much about it if they are), a knackered wrist, and very sore knee.


As the pic shows, I'm not looking my best at the mo - and I'm certainly not feeling it.

It's looking like an extraction of the remainder of the tooth next week (need to finish antibiotics first as got infection from the trauma) unless they manage to get a post in there - unlikely as it's the weakest tooth in the mouth.

I can't afford an implant to replace it, so it's looking like I'll need a bridge, which could be a pain in the arse in years to come.

As well as the antibiotics (which make me want to heave) I'm on a couple of different painkillers to help me at least potter around.

Having an easy one today to try to get some healing done, but not looking like I'll be exerting myself too much for a week or so.

Lesson - wear gumshield when on bike!