photo from 2011
By Ben Johnson
After racing the London marathon last year and having a great race, I was looking forward to returning this year. I really enjoyed the challenge of building up to one big race but after finishing Uni last summer it had been much harder to fit training in on my own whilst working long hours at a new job down in London.
I'd done a couple of 10+ days in a row easily adding up to over 70 hours in some weeks but I'd still stuck to getting the training in I wanted. On some days, this had to involve going to the track at 8pm after work without eating since lunchtime or fitting in a 20miler before going to work from 11am-9pm on a sunday. this was far from Ideal but probablyhelped to make me a bit mentally stronger!
I'd had some decent training and races in November and December last year and I started the year feeling pretty strong and full of confidence. the first few weeks of the year were going well and I was determined to stick to my training managing solid weeks of 65-70miles with some good sessions geared towards the cross country. Unfortunately I had a setback in early february where I strained my groin when out in the snow and found myself in a lot of discomfort when running. I'd tried the odd run along with various strengthening excersises but only managed a total of 60 miles over the course of 3 weeks which was far from what I'd have liked.
I finally got back into running pain free by the last week in February. This left around 8 weeks to get into shape for the marathon so I knew I couldn't afford any more setbacks. I'd been selected to run the inter-counties Cross country in early March and had really wanted a strong performance but wasn't confident after just 2 weeks of pain free running. I managed 2 70+mile weeks before the Intercounties and managed to improve by a handful of places on last year with a very slight improvement on my time for the same course but still at this point was doubting I could get fit enough for the marathon.
I decided to go for it with my training for the next few weeks and I went to go to a friend of mine, Charlie Sharpe for some extra advice. Charlie is a fully qualified personal trainer who is making some amazing progress on the Ultra running scene (check out his blog here... http://charlie-sharpe.blogspot.co.uk/
I wanted someone who understood runners and would be able to give me some exercises to get stronger, reduce the chance of a relapse of my injury and also some advice on how I could lose a bit of weight safely in a short timespan. I built in a circuit of exercises on a couple of my easy days which helped me to build strength in all of my key muscles without leaving me too tired to train and i managed the next three weeks of 82, 87 and 84miles. Some days of training left me exhausted with the toughest days consisting of a 5mile run at 6 in the morning before 9-10 hours at work followed by 13miles in the evening (finishing at Marathon pace).
I stuck with a typical weeks training as follows, which was quite similar to how i'd trained last year...
Monday - easy 7miles ( running home from work) + strength circuit (20-30mins)
Tuesday - 5miles am/ Track session Pm this would be something like 8x800 at below 5kpace (75sec recovery), or a mixed session like 1mile, 12x400, 1mile
Wednesday - relaxed 8-9miles (running home from work)
thursday - 5milesam/ 13miles including a good section of upto 8miles around marathon pace
friday rest/ some core exercises
Sat 5mile easy run to start, Parkrun (5km), 5mile easy home
Sunday - upto 22miles with a 2 or 3 mile section at marathon pace near the end
I quickly started to gain strength and with 3 weeks to go to London I started to feel like I could give the marathon a good go. I ran a 10k at the start of my taper where I improved my pb to 33:07. the race was tough,I set off at 3:12/km which was a little fast considring it was just 5days after a tough 22mile training run and I was fading towards the end of the race but I felt confident that I was in better shape than last year.
I tapered down, reducing my mileage to 75% 2weeks before, 50% 1week before then just about 25% the week upto the marathon. Conditions on the day were just about perfect so I knew I had no excuses for not running well.
I set off feeling good and had to really hold back from running too quick as the fantastic support from the crowds spurred me on. I knew the 3rd mile was downhill so wasn't too worried that my first 5k came in a little quick at 17:43 then 35:53 at 10km (which would have been a 10km pb about 18months ago!). I passed through halfway in 1:16:15 feeling fairly strong then I tried to push on from there. The quickest part of my race came between 25 and 30km where I managed a 17:41 5k split and I started to believe that sub 2:32 might be on the cards.
Unfortunately I had to work much harder in the last 10k to keep a good pace going and felt like I had a real battle to hang on. Despite slowing down a bit, I managed to keep passing a good number of runners towards the finish. The noise from the crowds all along the Embankment, past Big Ben and into The Mall were incredible. I had a good battle with 2 other guys in the last 200m but I knew I didnt have much left. Still, I was made up that I’d managed to improve by a couple of minutes on last year’s time to finish in 2:33:43.
Johnson, Ben R (GBR) 2.33.43
Whilst I might have run better If I'd been more conservative with my pace, I have no regrets that I didn't give it a good shot and Hopefully I'll have more time to train and I'll be back next year for a crack at taking another chunk off my time! I'm sure that 2:30 is possible with the right preparation. Strangely, this year I don't feel as sore as last year so either i'm getting used to it or I didn't try hard enough.
Well done to all the other runners out on Sunday, In particular Paul who's hard work paid off to smash his 3:15 target with a 3:12 for a good for age place as well as Rob who it was great to see back in style with a 2:53 after his long road back from injury!
Editors Note; these photos are from 2011 and Ben would like it known that he is now leaner and meaner than depicted here, hopefully I can update these photos soon! .
I'm from Mere Brow, near southport but living down in London now and working for 9 months at the aquatics centre for the olympics. I started running for Southport Waterloo in July 2009 while I was working on a placement in Liverpool. I'd done a couple of half marathons before that as more of a funrunner but I've had some great support from a load of the southport waterloo members since I joined them.
RicksRunning writes; Thanks once again for a great report Ben.
I look forward to seeing you 'BREAK-THROUGH' the 2.30 barrier in the near future!