Monthly Archives: October 2012

Frank’s freaky training

It’s a little bit like unwrapping a hotly anticipated present. Suddenly, in dates and numbers and miles, it’s all there, laid out in little boxes. It’s the training plan for your next running event. You work out if your birthday/wedding anniversary/weekend laying on the beach coincides with a long run. You picture yourself getting back from work on certain days with the fire in your belly to get your trainers on and get out in the dark/fog/rain/wind. You feel smug that you have all those miles ahead of you, while you know friends who will just be sitting on the couch. You know that by doing your training programme properly, as it says, you will get through all those miles with mainly smiles.

When Maria and I were training for our first marathon together, it was great. Our plans were very similar and we hit the long run targets at the same time. As we progressed and a normal midweek run would be 7 or 8 miles, we then started to laugh when things tapered down and we had to run 4 miles. 4 miles? That’s now nothing!

But you need those shorter runs. They help to build speed. They keep you fit. They hopefully reduce your chances of injury. There’s something very satisfying about having run many miles at the weekend and getting up on Monday knowing you’ve only got maybe a third or half of that. You deserve it after a long slog. And you breeze through it knowing you can and have gone further.

So, to my surprise I found out the training plan of Maria’s dad yesterday. They are both preparing for the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in Texas on the same day I’ll be doing the Behobia in Spain. Frank is also a runner and great supporter of our running events. But his training programme seems bonkers. He’s running three days a week and adding a mile each time he runs. So one week it could be 3 miles, followed by 4 miles and then 5 miles. The next week he starts with 6 miles and so on. Is it just me, or does this seem gruelling physically as well as mentally?

Psychologically, when you have a bad, long run, the next shorter run puts you at ease. If you read a post I wrote a while back on a terrible 8-miler we had one weekend, the fact that I had just 4 miles to run on the Monday helped. If my next run had been 9 miles, I think all the pain would have been in my mind. Starting the week with a shorter run also gives you back your confidence to go towards the next long run at the weekend having built up to it properly. It’s a clean slate when it’s gone a bit wrong and it means it is a lot easier to get back in the saddle.

Of course, runners are all different and different things work for different people. I’ve also done things with my training that have raised eyebrows (and not in a good way) But we all have a way of justifying it to ourselves and making a pact with our body. And if our body responds well, who is to say what’s wrong?

After all, it’s you and your body that’s going to get you to the finishing line, no matter how you got it to the start.

For information on the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in San Antonio, please click:

Charity running

There’s a little booklet that comes with the November edition of Runners’ World UK about running for charity: the dos, the don’ts, the motivations, the pitfalls and people’s stories. It’s a nice little book to get your head round if you’ve never thought about doing a running event for a charity before. But there’s a JustGiving advert in the middle of it, which says: Running is tough. Raising money is the easy bit. And to some extent I disagree.

I love entering events and for the majority of challenges I have raised money for a charity. I agree that it can give you drive and purpose. And it’s a way that the non-runners in your life can be part of the experience. The two main charities I have helped have been really supportive: the MS Trust and Pelican Cancer. I have also done quite a few of Cancer Research UK’s runs over the years. It’s a good feeling to be on the long start line with hundreds of other runners wanting to do their bit, try their hardest, push their own boundaries for a good cause.

However, once you get the running and raising money bug, you’ll realise that the money doesn’t always come in so readily as it did at that first big challenge. If people knew you when you were a non-runner, knowing a 5km would push you to your very limits, of course they will inspire you to keep going and donate for the cause. But after doing marathons, after running across volcanoes, after swimming and writing challenges, how can you then do a charity 5km and expect to get the same kind of monetary motivation as before? You can’t. It’s that ‘charity fatigue’ that they talk about in the booklet.

But some clever athlete has come up with a nice idea to keep the funds rolling in as well as giving your givers something back in return. is a fundraising site where your donators pledge £3 to guess your finish time in the event, with £2.50 plus gift aid going to your charity and 50p going into the winnings pot. It’s something fun, different and means your wallet weary friends and family don’t have to pledge big donations if they don’t want to in order to help you reach your targets. And they are even more part of the experience – they have a vested interest, let’s say, in getting you out there training, whatever the weather (unless someone bets on the DNF option: Did Not Finish!)

I think it’s a great idea. Check out the website here Although my next running event in four weeks’ time won’t be for charity, I’m going to give Guess2Give first dibs on my next charity challenge. Hopefully, some of those fabulous friends and family who don’t think twice about digging in their pockets for me and my charity will also get something back… depending on their faith in me and my  finishing time of course!