My VLM. For those who asked for some background on my training

Hi, I had a really great result at my first VLM with a 12min pb, finishing in 2:47:51. Quite a few people have asked about the training plan that I followed leading up to this.

I am putting a bit of background centrally in this thread if you are interested. I was delighted with the outcome, but also have loads to learn, and some of you will spot my weakness(es) which I welcome your advice on.

I know there are lots of others who had great successes and dissapointments. Congratulation and commisserations, oh, and appearently there are other marathons as well - so same to youimage




  • Background – skip this post if you are a long term 3.15 poster – nothing new for you guys here!

    Age 43, 5’10”, 64kg

    So as a quick background summary:  after leaving school, exercise,  other than walking, really hasn’t been a feature of my life. The odd session in a gym when staying away in a hotel with work, a bit of ten pin bowling, and a handful of attempts at running which lasted about a mile due to knee problems was my lot. Approaching my forties I had put on a fair bit of weight, and decided it was time for a change. I shifted about 3 stone through the Harcombe Diet in combination with plenty of walking (approx 25 – 35 mpw). In addition the odd bit of trekking was added, culminating in a walk up Kilimanjaro in Jan 2012.

    So prior to running I had got my weight back into really good shape, and the walking was where my heart is – i.e. on the endurance side of sport / activities. Kilimanjaro was a real turning point after meeting a couple of women who were completely nuts about running and they inspired me to give a half marathon a go.  Once back in the UK I immediately got a charity place at Reading HM, bought a Garmin and was off training. 

    Reading HM  was run in 1:28 (Apr’12), and I then signed up for Wales Marathon in June’12  and quickly joined the Sub 3:15 thread for top advice and support on the possibilities of a GFA time.  A new spiritual home for me.

    The training for Wales was very ‘organic’ and unplanned, and not particularly high mileage (40 – 45pw) but I really enjoyed it and running 3:02 on a hilly course was a really special moment for me.

    Moving on, I got a bit more serious and knuckled down to a P&D style approach, broadly following the 55 – 70 miles pw schedule.  I planned to run Leicester as a sub 3 attempt which I though shouldn’t be a problem given it’s flat, and the higher volume training should pay off. Unfortunately I picked up several injuries, found the training becoming a drag as I missed several sessions, and also picked up a virus before hand. A result of 3:04 result left me feeling gutted, and I began to understand how marathon running can be a cruel sport. I put my head down and ran Abingdon the following week to achieve 2:59. I felt drained and empty afterwards having not really enjoyed the whole training process, getting wrapped up in targets, and slavishly following schedules.

  • Base Training for VLM (Oct’12 – Dec’12)

    In short a period beset by injuries and many trips to the physio to try and get things sorted. Main problems were a recurrence of ITBS, and right leg inner hamstring / adductor tendon pain (pes anserine). ITBS cleared, pes anserine remains a problem if I don’t keep up the stretching.

    I worked hard during this period to recover with some strengthening exercises from the physio, and lots of indoor rowing to replace a lot of the running miles. Gradually the running came back and I was ready to focus on VLM training and got a few weeks of decent base mileage in.

    Looking at a number of plans I decided to give P&D another crack, using the 55-70 mpw plan, but modified with some of the recovery/ easy sessions dropped for indoor rowing sessions.  Unfortunately I suffered my first case of shin splints following  a threshold run and took it easy over the Christmas period limiting myself to indoor rowing, and rethinking the whole training plan – I remembered how unhappy I became chasing the numbers, the mileage volume, and the fixed plan.  So I entered the new year with a fresh approach

  • VLM Training Dec 24th to April 21st

    The training was shaped as follows:

    • If I’m not enjoying it, I’m not doing it – it’s important for me to take something out of the training other than improving physiologically. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a bit of pain.
    •  Reducing  running mileage initially through limiting myself to 3 or 4 sessions. If I felt like doing extra runs, then fine, but I would only commit to 3 to 4 initially
    • Introduced Indoor rowing into my training with VO2, threshold and easy rows. My rowing min/mile is only slightly slower than running, so the early weeks of lower running volume were bolstered with the rowing  miles. Cardio wise I treated 1 rowing mile to equal 1 running mile – keep it simple
    • Introduce a lot more variety to the runs per Julian Goaters “Art of Running Faster” book, whilst retaining many of the principles and theory of P&D’s Advanced Marathoning.
    • Treating all build up races as ‘A’ races – i.e. give it some. I might arrive at VLM injured and wish I’d tested myself while I had the opportunity.
    • Take every opportunity (other than treating every race as an ‘A’ race) to help minimise injury risk. Started doing some strengthening work by setting foot into a gym, doing a bit of pilates, and doing the heavy pounding of tempo / VO2 runs on a treadmill instead of tarmac


    I set off without a target marathon pace in mind. That came very late on after thinking through build up races.


    Sessions were not planned out in any detail. I knew what I needed to achieve based on P&D, Goater and other books, so if I was feeling up for a bit of VO2 or threshold running then so be it. If I was feeling a bit tight, then I just ran easy.


    No magic in the training – all the usual elements there, with my key runs being LSR, Midweek medium long run, Threshold, and Hill Reps or VO2 session covered each week, with some cut back on mileage on raceweeks.

  • Injuries:

    None other than splitting my head open attempting a long run in Iceland - 7 stitches


  • Some stats


    Weekly  Mileage (Total – Run – Row)


    Wk 17    78 – 55 – 23
    Wk16     60 – 42 – 18

    Wk15     78 – 46 – 32
    Wk14     89 – 55 – 34
    Wk13     83 – 53 – 30
    Wk12     90 – 59 – 31
    Wk11     72 – 48 – 24         Wokingham HM 1:21:46
    Wk10     73 – 55 – 18         Bramley 20 2:08:29
    Wk9       89 – 56 – 33
    Wk8       86 – 55 – 31
    Wk7       81 – 78 – 3
    Wk6       59 – 46 – 13         Reading HM 1:20:55
    Wk5       85 – 69 – 16
    Wk4       81 – 62 – 19         Maidenhead 10 60:47
    Wk3       89 – 78 – 11
    Wk2       51 – 47 – 4
    Wk1       26 – 22 – 4           + 26.2 VLM 2:47:51

    20 Milers -  Average Pace  7:29min/m

    9 x 20m
    2 x 21m
    1 x 24m
    1 x 27m


    Threshold Runs were paced at around 6:15min/m initially, and came down to around 6:00 – 6:10min/miles towards the end. Typically ran as a single block of 5 to 7 miles plus w/u and c/d


    VO2 This shows up my distinct lack of speed having not done any 5k / 10k training. Typically run as 6 x 1200m  with the pace coming out somewhere around 5:50 to 5:55.  That is one narrow band between my marathon pace and 5k pace. Something to work on next perhaps.


    Marathon Pace sessions:  No not really – I had no idea in training what I was going to do. I had sub 2:55 in mind but seemed to struggle hitting the pace.

  • VLM


    Two weeks of taper taken, and the first 10 days was pretty careful with my food intake, ending up at 63Kg before the carb-loading.  I wasn’t hugely restrictive with carbs at the beginning of the race week, although did have no carb main meals.


    Carb loading was based on roughly 10g per Kg body weight for  Thur and Fri, and then eased off a bit on the Saturday.


    Target was set late on with a dash to print off a Sub 2:50 Pace Band before I left the house. I took the Bramley 20 as a good indicator given that I ran Wokingham HM the week before and trained through both races with a small cut back.


    The race itself went well, going off slightly quick but feeling confident in the pace and just pleased to start a marathon with ticks in all the boxes for training, diet, injuries, confidence etc.


    Half way in 1:23:28, with a 55s positive split to end at 2:47:51. There were no real issued along the way apart from losing a bit of concentration on the embankment where I lost about 25s on one mile.

  • OK, I really need to go and do some work now image

  • AR - really helpful stuff. Have saved this to help build towards next year's campaign.

    Sorry I didn't recognise you on Sunday - if you still had the bashed up eye it would have been a lot easier!

    Look forward about the successful attempt on sub 2:45.
  • True Lorenzo - the only other photo of me had my face covered in mud after a face plant on the Thames Path - I like a good disguise.

  • image you used that last time. What you should take note of is my use of the treadmill borrowed straight out of the DF3 manual. Thanks!

  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    2hours 47? cripes man that is awesome!

    And i expect that 1hr 20 half will need serious revising well done!

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Bloody marvellous!  Very impressive time, well chuffed for you.  Jeez, you've done some 20 milers!  The finish time and what looks like excellent pacing* is all the more impressive considering you've not had a lot of MP work to gauge things from.  I guess physiologically you were in good shape to post a good conversion from shorter distances, although you could turn that around and suggest that if you want to improve your shorter distance performances you'll just need to do more running specific VO2 max type sessions.

    Also re MP runs, tempo paces, etc. in my experience it gets that bit easier trying to gauge correct paces to work at as the improvement curve flattens out a bit.  (Hope that's not too negative way of looking at it!)  So for next time you can build on this, incorporating more MP runs at what will hopefully be a quicker pace.

    *Maybe I'm biased but I reckon VLM is a positive split-type course, what with the downhill but in the 3rd mile, so a minute positive split looks spot-on to me.  (Better than my 3 mins +ve split, but I'm not complaining!  image)

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    Great info. will have to study it in more detail when my legs have recovered.

    After just sneaking under 3hrs on Sunday I spent most of the afternoon explaining to people why I am not going to aim for going much faster as I didnt have any more time to train. Looling at this it shows it can be possible on a not too rediculous mileage. I know we areall different but ths has given me food for thought for my goals in 2014.

  • Thanks SG, Phil and Millsy - I heard Millsy and PP had great runs.

    PP - yes - I hear you on the VO2 side. I need to pluck up courage to get out my comfort zone and head off to SG's thread at some point for some 5k and 10k training talk and advice.

    DF3 - I like the fact that the rower is not all about legs. There is quite a bit of core and a little bit of upper body that helps  with overall conditioning. I kept off the cross trainer as I wanted my cross training to be off my feet. 

    For the rowing I did a real mix of cardio and interval VO2 stuff initially. As time progressed all the quality sessions were focused on the running with the rower being used for little more than recovery type rows which is where the mileage tapered down. Half marathon on a rower is a long session though!

  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭

    Thanks Also-ran.  Very, very interesting even for me who is nowhere near sub-3!

    As a matter of interest, do you have a view on how your weight impacts your pace?  Is there a "cut-over" where you feel too light, for example, and how did you figure out the ideal weight?  Or was it more simple than that - i.e., was it more along the lines of lighter must equal faster?

    Also, when carb loading, what does 630g per day (if I read that correctly?) look like for you in terms of meals through those 2 days?

  • David Falconer 3 wrote (see)
    Anyway 2:47 ...... not bad ...... but did you stop at any point?


    Not answering that incase another thread decends into chaos - you bad man.image

  • Big_G - my weight stabilised at about 65 Kg after the diet/walking stage, and it pretty much stayed that way when I started running and scoffing a lot more. I ran one race lighter, but that was a result of a virus and not a good weight loss method!

    I have a very high carb content in my diet on a normal day, but even so I found the carb loading, which I had never tried before, a little bit of a challenge come the Saturday. I was relieved to ease off a little

    On a normal day I can easily eat a bowl of porrige made up with 120g oats plus skimmed milk. I was horrified to hear people talking about 60g oats!!

    Again a normal day I often eat 1 carton Covent Garden soup plus half a 400g breadmaker loaf.

    So breakfast plus lunch was close to 300g carbs. Add in a pasta dinner, a maltloaf, cereal bar, some fruit ...   and 630g came up very quickly.

    I did listen to an interview on Marathon Talk with Tim Noakes on Carbohydrate Resistant people. He is supposed to be issuing a new edition of Lore of Running with amended nutrition chapters. For now I am firmly convinced I am very tolerant of carbohydrates! I forget the full context of the interview, but reckon I benefited from carbloading.

  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭
    Also-ran wrote (see)

    Thanks SG, Phil and Millsy - I heard Millsy and PP had great runs.

    PP - yes - I hear you on the VO2 side. I need to pluck up courage to get out my comfort zone and head off to SG's thread at some point for some 5k and 10k training talk and advice.


    No courage needed old son. I think you'd comfortably hold your own. You've certainly got a quicker marathon on record then me image

  • Also Ran

    That's not a bad performance, son.

    How much of it do you put down to the time spent lurking on social runner websites, and how much to that novel concept: sheer bloody hard work over an extended period?

    Oh yeah, how far was it?

  • Cheers Guys. 26.2 Blisters as it was apparently 'The' marathon image .


  • Top reading there AR. What strikes me is how quickly you've come on and what a great conversion you've got. Sky's the limit!

    Bearing in mind we were within a minute or two of each other at Abo, currently my shorter distance PBs are surprisingly slightly better than yours ( not for long though methinks) it looks like an even more impressive showing

    Did you carry on doing most of your sessions on the mill?
  • PoacherPoacher ✭✭✭
    It has to be said AR that you must also have a level of natural ability that many others can only dream about. The reason you weren't recognisable at first in the the pub was cos for a 2.47 chap you looked fresh as a daisy, and neither covered in blood nor bandages for a change...a really stonking effort.

    Agree entirely about running for fun and to an extent seeing how sessions turn out, but it must be very rare to become that fast that soon on such an approach.

    Also - apart from the running, doesn't all that rowing take an inordinate amount of time? How many hours a week were you devoting to exercise at the peak?
  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    Yeah AR, some of us have to work hard for our times image

  • Frazer - I stuck with the treadmill for a few progressive MLR's, and all the thresholds and intervals. I did my treadmill tour of Maidenhead, and ended up with a gym where the interval speed and recovery speed could be set with the touch of a button, reasonable aircon, and marathon mode so no time limits on the session. I did one 20 miler on a treadmill after my little mishap - done it but never again! Now my local track is drying out I will go down there soon. I remember seeing some of your interval times and thinking I am way off that pace.

    Poacher - it was strange to see you without your dress on! The rowing time was pretty much the equivalent of running. I treated myself to a Concept 2 machine last year, and working from home was able to squeeze in short rows at lunch, and sometimes did doubles in a day with a morning run and lunchtime or evening row.
  • SG - it must be tough image
  • Huh! Call that a race report!

    AR- I know what you mean, the P&D plans can become a bit of a slog but for me the increase in mileage has improved my running.

    That's a decent amount of 20+ LR you've done, how was the recovery on the legs after all the long runs on the lower mileage and was a tough session followed by a rowing day?

    I really thought you had gone off way too fast, based on our similar HM times, and I feared you'd blow a gasket later on. No chance of that though, did you row up the embankment?

    Well done again, that really was a great performance.
  • Also-ran - thanks for taking the time to post this, it's much appreciated.  As I mentioned on the other thread I always struggle with endurance/stamina at some point in the last 4 miles of a marathon, but can already begin to see the changes I need to make from what you've posted.  More weekly miles overall and more 20+ mile runs in training would be a good place to start! Thanks again for the info. and congratulations on achieving a time that I can only dream about!!

Sign In or Register to comment.