For any of you who started using Strava back in January 2017, as part of #grtwrunuary and have kept on using it, now you can see your entire year of sport…
Want to see what your year looked like? Visit http://2017.strava.com
Want to see what your year looked like? Visit http://2017.strava.com
For many of us with our sights set on a Spring marathon, we’re already twenty weeks away from our goal race but how do you find the right training plan for YOU?
Generic plans off the internet and magazines
There are thousands of them all over the internet, printed in magazines, handed out my charities that you may be raising money for but, which one is good? All training plans are generic and we hazard a guess that 85% of them will have been written by men, who don’t have to juggle multiple responsibilities such as work, family, kids and everything else. Regardless of gender, few take into account running history, how many miles you are currently running NOW (i..e your running base), your lifestyle, or work/life commitments. Recognise this FIRST so that you can acknowledge in advance that it will feel like a clunky fit. It is.
If you go down this route here’s what we recommend
There are numerous training apps on the market, including Runner’s World’s MyRunPlan, and Training Peaks where you can pay for a plan, which again is generic, but it loads to a calendar as an app on your phone. It’s easy to log in, see what the run is, do it, and mark it off as done. The calendar will reward you by turning green once you’ve completed. Fail to do the session and you get a red square. Training Peak plans are good because you can see clearly what you’ve got to do but suffers the same problems of any of the generic plans that you get anywhere else – except you’ve paid for it.
Personalised training plans
Many running coaches, ourselves included, will write training plans specifically for you. We tend to send you an in-depth questionnaire, followed by a chat on the phone and then we deliver a training plan, specific to your goals, your current fitness, life-work balance. The advantage is that it’s exactly for you. The cons are that if you get injured, fall ill, etc, the plan does not change to accommodate this in the same way as anything generic doesn’t. However, with it being written specifically for you in the first place, the likelihood of injury occurring due to a plan that does not reflect your specific running history is minimal.
Mentoring & Coaching
If you can afford it, and you want to run a marathon and enjoy it, race mentoring is the gold service for any runner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in achieving a certain goal time or simply want to achieve a sense of satisfaction with each training session you do, not just the final ‘race’ goal. We charge £100 per month (some companies charge more, some less) but it means you have a personalised plan that can adapt and change week by week, according to how your training is going or the unforeseeable life events that can derail your training for a week or so, leaving you unsure how to proceed.
Plus, wherever you live in the world, your training is tracked via Strava or Garmin so we know what you’re doing – or not doing. It helps to hold you accountable and to help you feel like you’re achieving something with each session, because this method if training is so closely matched to helping to challenge and progress you as an individual; if you’ve ever struggled with a generic plan, you’ll appreciate how frustrating or disappointing it can be when you’re following something too easy or too hard. Where we differ with our plans is that we have a holistic approach, recognising the many elements must be balanced when you’re a woman training for a marathon juggling multiple tasks.
THE most important thing, no matter which option you choose is to start thinking about it from about 20-24 weeks away from your marathon goal. And follow a 16 week plan as an absolute minimum.
There’s a reason why you’ll often see female runners perform better than men at ultras, and that’s because we pace ourselves like tortoises and not hares. My 100 mile PB is faster than some of my male friends who are sub 3 hour marathon runners, and that’s all down to pacing. I tell coaching clients that they should get to the halfway point of a 100 mile race feeling like their race hasn’t even started; do this and in the second half, you’ll tortoise picking off all those hares who have gone off too fast.
Don’t be afraid to take walking breaks in ultras; even the elites walk at times. On a hilly course, you’ll get natural walking breaks on steep up hills; on a flat course, I always take a short walking break every 30 or 60 minutes which uses different leg muscles and refreshes my running legs. However, when I say walk, I mean ‘power hike’ and not a Saturday afternoon amble round the shops! (anyone who has taken Sunday runs with us will be familiar with our ‘Be in control of that walk – stride it don’t slump it).
After pacing, the second biggest mistake I see people make in ultra marathons is not getting their nutrition right. My rule of thumb is to start eating after 30 minutes and eat little and often from there onwards. People often make the mistake of waiting until they’re hungry before they start eating, but this means they’re going to be in a calorie deficit and will be trying to play catch-up all day. I aim for a minimum of 200 calories per hour and I get this from a combination of Mountain Fuel Extreme Energy drinks, Longhaul food pouches, GU Stroopwafels and 32GI Sports Chews. However, one size doesn’t fit all, so test out different things in training and find what works for you. And whatever you do, don’t try anything new on race day…..I’ve done that and it wasn’t pretty!
Things might go wrong in ultras. You can train and prepare, but there may be things that are outside your control on race day, such as adverse weather conditions, stomach issues, blisters and more. In an ultra marathon, everything is exemplified. So however much the temptation is to wait until the next aid station, where you can, deal with things straight away.
I ran the CCC (100k mountain race in the Alps) this summer and as I was climbing up to the highest point, the weather turned and I was subject to strong winds, freezing rain and snow. I wanted to keep moving and the last thing I wanted to do was stop and get my warm top, waterproof jacket and gloves out of my rucksack on the side of a freezing cold mountain, but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be cold, wet and potentially hypothermic by the next aid station.
Sometimes everything ticks along perfectly, and other times, curveballs get thrown at us. As in life, the most successful ultra runners are those who deal the best with what ultras throw at them when things go wrong. I’ve had races which have gone like a dream and I’ve finished on the podium, and I’ve had races which have fallen apart and I’ve had to slog out a finish. In the latter, the easiest option would have been to quit. However, sometimes the races which go wrong and we have to slog it out to the finish are the ones we learn the most from, and the ones we end up ultimately the most proud of.
If you live in Brighton and Hove and run regularly, you may have noticed a little red cart on the seafront of late. Look a little bit closer, and you may be aware that there is often someone sleeping in there, cooking, reading or just generally keeping warm. That woman is the inspirational Rosie Swale Pope, MBE, the only person in history, man or woman, to have undertaken an epic solo, unsupported run around our world.
It took five years and 20,000 miles and as she told me this morning on Hove seafront, she slept in conditions of minus 46 degrees in some places and faced extreme dangers – but through it all, she learned lots and met so many amazing people.
She’s currently staying on the seafront in Brighton and Hove, where she spends her time writing a new book – and training for her next adventure, running solo from Brighton to Berlin. Of course, we asked if she’d like some company on the run ….
In the day and age of Instagram and YouTube runners, Rosie Swale is a true original – and is a role model for all us Girls who Run the World.
Her tip for getting your feet warm if you’re about to go out running and are on an adventure? ‘Boil some water, fill up a small plastic bottle and put them in your trainers and socks to warm them up before you go out running.’
Remember, look around you when you run, say hi to other female runners, explore not just your location but the people within it – you never know who you might meet.
For more information about Rosie visit http://rosieswalepope.co.uk. Her book, Just a Little Run Around the World, £7.48, Amazon.co.uk.
Next year, we’ll be bringing you podcasts from ordinary female runners who have done extraordinary things – along with online workshops which will help you learn new techniques from heart rate training to mastering mental techniques to improve your running and your racing.