The Road to Cardiff

Brooks Ravenna 8The Cardiff Half Marathon is now 12 weeks away, so like countless other runners I’m getting back into proper training.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about which training plan I’d follow for Cardiff this time around. I’ve worked through any number of ideas in the past, either for half or full marathon training; Strava, Asics, Bupa… just type ‘half marathon training’ into Google and you will be bombarded with countless suggestions. Read a running book and the last chapter will probably be devoted to how to create a good plan. Our own Vicky Mead has kindly taken the time to create a detailed 12-week plan for Road Runners. And of course I’ve run enough races in the past that I should be able to work out a training plan for myself. Where to turn to?

That last sentence is the key for me – I do know what works for me and what doesn’t.

  • I respond well to a structured plan, rather than just ‘do plenty of running’.
  • I like being constrained and seeing a developing system.
  • I like variety.
  • I also like separating out speed from distance. A training plan which got me to my first marathon had me doing a lot of long distance runs where I was told not to worry about pace (other than try to run slow – harder than it sounds!), mixed up with midweek short fast runs, intervals, hills etc.

Some people will have heard of Hal Higdon. He’s now 86 and has had a very long career in running, writing extensively on how to run distance. I can’t say I’m the greatest fan of his writing style; like many of his ilk he’s keen to point out how successful he’s been and how many people he’s beaten. His running advice is good however. Some interesting snippets – don’t run through drink stops. It increases the chances of collision with other runners and makes it harder to actually get the drink in you. By slowing to a walk you don’t lose more than a second or two and get greater benefit. To that end, Hal recommends not being afraid to walk during training runs.

The Plan!

Many of Hal’s training plans are freely available on the internet. I’ve taken one of his plans which is shown in the table below:

1 3 m run 6 x hill 3 m run 40 min tempo Rest 3 m run 90 min run (3/1)
2 3 m run 7 x 400 5-K pace 3 m run 45 min tempo Rest 3 m pace 90 min run
3 3 m run 7 x hill 3 m run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 5-K Race
4 3 m run 8 x 400 5-K pace 3 m run 40 min tempo Rest 3 m run 90 min run (3/1)
5 3 m run 8 x hill 3 m run 45 min tempo Rest 3 m pace 90 min run
6 3 m run 8 x 400 5-K pace 3 m run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 10-K Race
7 3 m run 4 x 800 10-K pace 3 m run 45 min tempo Rest 4 m pace 1:45 run (3/1)
8 3 m run 3 x 1600 race pace 3 m run 50 min tempo Rest 5 m pace 1:45 run
9 3 m run 5 x 800 10-K pace 3 m run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 15-K Race
10 3 m run 4 x 1600 race pace 3 m run 55 min tempo Rest 5 m pace 2:00 run (3/1)
11 3 m run 6 x 800 10-K pace 3 m run 60 min tempo Rest 3 m pace 2:00 run
12 3 m run 6 x 400 5-K pace 2 m run 30 min tempo Rest Rest Half Marathon

Now I’m not saying that I’ll stick to this religiously – for example I’m running the Severn Bridge Half Marathon in week 7 – however I’ll be seeking to use this as a guide. Hal makes the point that a plan has to be able to survive contact with real life. So I’m going to be switching the hill session in week 1 from Tuesday to Thursday, because I’m seeing Coldplay on Tuesday night and I’d like to do the hills with my friends in the club!

The starting line

I’ll aim to post at the end of each week with a short summary of how the week has gone. So I thought I should start this morning setting out where I am now, and see how the training impacts on me. Let’s start with every runner’s favourite subject – injuries and niggles.

My feet are in pretty good shape at the moment. I recently moved up from Brooks Ravenna 7 to the Ravenna 8. I’d stuck with the 7s for the last couple of years (if it ain’t broke…) but I’d read good things about the changes that had been introduced for the newer model. I have wide feet and like space in the toe box. Ravennas offer mild stability and are really light and comfortable.

My ankles, now that’s a different story. If you’ve run with me for more than a couple of miles I’ll surely have told you about how a couple of accidents about 20 years ago damaged the tendons in both ankles and a disregard for physio at the time means that I have problems with them now. I wake up with very stiff ankles, making walking downstairs quite painful! Sit still for more than 20 minutes or so and I have to stretch them out again. Paradoxically, I find that when I’m running good distance each week the discomfort in my ankles tends to reduce, but it’s a painful transition to get to that point. On the plus side, my ankles ache whether I run or not, so running doesn’t cause the problem, and as such it doesn’t discourage me from running.

No shin splints or knee problems right now. Thighs are also feeling ok. I do have the perennial runner’s problem with glutes. Having done some strength training in the last few weeks, my backside has felt pretty tender from time to time, however the strength training seems to be helping because I haven’t noticed any soreness in that area when running. Everything else from the waist up is ok at the moment!

The Cardiff Half Marathon is probably the biggest local race of the year. This year in particular the Road Runners are aiming to be represented en masse – we currently have more than 80 people who will be running the streets of Cardiff as part of the Pontyclun Road Runners club. I always enjoy this race. If I was asked to choose my favourite half I’d be a little torn. I think that Cardiff are great at putting on this sort of event – it’s always well organised and the crowds are undoubtedly the best of anywhere I run. The course is not too challenging which means that a PB is always on the cards, and of course the medal is great 🙂

However I also have a soft spot for the Severn Bridge Half Marathon. It’s not easy – the hill half way through is daunting, and there’s a lot of running through very quiet country roads where support might be described as ‘patchy’! But the thrill of starting a run from the middle of the old Severn Bridge, and the walk from the runner’s camp to the start line, is just amazing.  So it’s going to be difficult to consider Severn Bridge as a training run for Cardiff but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try and post a good time!

So later today I’ll be going out for a 5k run and starting off my plan – I’ll see you again in a week…

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