This has been the toughest week of Berlin Marathon training so far, with three intense mid-week tempo and interval workouts on my training plan, followed by the longest weekend long run – the 20 miler!
Many marathon training plans, like mine, peak with a 20 mile long run around three weeks before race day, to be followed by the ‘taper’, a comparatively easier few weeks to ensure you reach race day feeling well rested and ready to go. The 20 mile run is therefore an ideal opportunity for a full dress rehearsal of race day, to make sure your shoes, clothes and accessories are all comfortable, and to give you time to tweak your nutrition and fuelling plan.
My marathon training long runs are normally just by myself, but honestly it can get rather wearisome plodding up and down the canal towpath with only my own company for hours on end. I decided to shake things up a bit and enter an organised race – the Draycote Water 20 miler!
This was the first time I had been to Draycote Water, a picturesque sailing lake just under two hours drive away in Warwickshire. Each lap of the reservoir is around 4.9 miles, so those of us completing the full 20 mile distance would need to run just over four laps, while other runners had chosen to stop after 10k or 10miles.
I quite enjoyed the format of the four-lap course, as things were a little different every time around. On lap one, the speedy 10k runners sprinted past right at the start, and by the second time around past the finish line I was starting to get lapped by the fastest 20 mile athletes. Lap three was definitely the hardest. The course was a lot more ‘undulating’ than I had expected, and my hips and knees were beginning to feel little twinges from the uneven road. By the third time across the finish line, a good proportion of runners had already finished, and it was quite tough to see them all there relaxing with medals around their necks as I gritted my teeth, and headed on up the hill for one final circuit of the lake.
The last lap had quite a different atmosphere. With only the slowest quarter of the field still out on the course, there was a new sense of camaraderie as we exchanged encouraging words with each other on the most challenging sections. My strategy had been to maintain a steady consistent pace the whole way round, and I was starting to see the benefits! To keep my focus going in the last few miles, I would set my sights on the runner in front, and steadily chase them down in a comically slow overtaking manoeuvre, before moving on to the next person.
I finished the 20 miles in 3hr 41 minutes, at a pretty consistent pace of 6:47 min/km. Exactly what I had hoped for, and fitting in nicely with my optimistic goal of a sub-5hr marathon! My shoes and outfit felt absolutely fine, and I’ve got a few good ideas for some minor tweaks to my fuelling plan. The race was just what I needed today, a real confidence boosting decent long run, in the closest to marathon conditions I could get. I’m now really looking forward to the next three weeks, a very welcome respite before the small matter of running the Berlin Marathon! I would definitely sign up for another 20 mile race if I ever find myself marathon training again the future!
You can read all about my training for the Berlin Marathon here, and my training for the London Marathon earlier this year here. I am running both of these races in support of the fantastic charity Spinal Research, and I am very close to reaching my fundraising target! I would be delighted if any of you would like to donate to my fundraising via my Just Giving page.