Marathon training #4 – Tapering

In my last post I  reported on my maximum training point (28 km), but since then I’ve been ‘tapering’.

It seems that marathons are so exhausting that after a proper level of training it’s then a matter of ‘resting’ for nearly a month before the big day. I’ve found this principle quite different from my previous training for 10km or half-marathon when the maximum training is usually the week before the race.

Since my longest training run I’ve gradually reduced the ‘big’ run each week by about half an hour with my last run yesterday being about an hour. The good news was that an hour run these days seems fairly short and relatively easy.

I’ve been bugging everyone that I know who has run marathons for their advice and tips. Various useful things have been said but the one that everyone has mentioned is ‘don’t go too fast at the beginning’. I have a feeling that this is tougher than it sounds.

A couple of things I’ve heard recently I really like and aim to use. The first was from Ranaulph Fiennes on his ascent of Everest “tell yourself to ‘keep plodding’, the mountain never ends, just keep plodding, like a mantra”. Wise words. Another was from Andrea who said that half way in a marathon isn’t half way in effort. Treat 20 miles as half-way. I aim to keep both these things in mind.

Race plan
Considering this is my first marathon and it’s a bit of a journey into the unknown, I’ve found planning the race a bit tricky. As far as I can I’d like to take things fairly easy for at least the first 10 miles, maybe even up to half-way and then see how I feel.

I intend to have an energy gel every 5 miles (despite them tasting horrid) plus I’m going to walk through all of the water stations in an effort to actually drink the water. Even with walking I still found this tricky in the Hastings half-marathon but I think it’s worth a shot.

I realise now that we are only a week to go before the race that I’ve been incredibly imprecise with logging my run speeds and routes which is unusual for me. I generally always like to know my pace and distance, but this has been really hard for the marathon training. I’m now finding it really hard to know what sort of pace I should be doing and what time I should aiming for.

Time for wild predictions. Obviously my main goal is to finish. Secondly I really want to have got there without any significant amounts of walking. If I do manage to run all the way, then I should definitely be under 5 hours and under 4 hours 30 mins should be possible.

I’m feeling really nervous. I’ve been running regularly for years and taken part in numerous 10km and 21km races, but this is a real leap into the unknown and I’ve no idea what to expect. I’ve heard a lot about ‘the wall’ but when I’ve actually asked people about it their stories are all different. I guess I’ll be finding my own.

It’ll be an adventure and I dare say emotional.

Coffee of the month – Rwanda Kopabagaki

Here we go with the fourth installment of the ‘Coffee of the month‘ reviews, although I notice that I’m drinking enough coffee to do them slightly more often. Keeping with my plan to rotate around the coffee growing continents we are back at the beginning – Africa.

Rwanda Kopabagaki
Up to now, I’ve been getting my coffee from Has Bean but this month I got a bag from the Square Mile coffee company. One of their interesting quirks is that instead of the usual 250g bags they go for 350g. I did find this quantity a bit more useful, especially as I try various brewing methods for each coffee before I settle on a favourite.

One relatively significant problem I had while trying this coffee was a fairly substantial cold that severely reduced my power of smell and taste. This has turned out to be shame as it was only towards the end of the packet that my cold went and I got to fully appreciate this coffee.

So here it is, the verdict. Very nice. I could go on to say that it was smooth and approachable and was enormously more-some (something I wouldn’t always say even about coffees I adore). Not quite as light and effortless as many Kenyans I’ve had but in that region (geographically and in flavour). The Kenyan Kirgia I tried a few months back probably has the edge, but this was close.


As usual I gave this a few different brewing methods but was finding that the simple french press seemed to work best for me. I gave it a couple of goes in the aeropress and it was good, I’m just not sure that it was this coffee’s strength.

Raw Potato
The coffee site gave a warning of a potential defect to look out for with this coffee – raw potato. Not any actual raw potato you understand, just the smell. Apparently the coffee cherry is sometimes attacked by an insect and the consequence, which only comes out once ground, is the strong smell of raw potato. I was almost disappointed not to find this with any of my batch. Interesting though.

Coffee fact of the month
After Brazil the second largest producer of coffee in the world is in fact Vietnam. It’s mostly robusta beans, but still, it’s not a name synonymous with coffee.

Butterfly Jungle

Bored with running in my local neighbourhood I decided to take my marathon training to the west London parks; Hyde park, Green park and St.Jame’s park. It was a nice day so I asked the wife and nipper to come along too for some support and to carry some proper clothes for me to change into.

Butterfly Jungle exhibition
Butterfly Jungle exhibition

I finished my run by the Serpentine lido where my family were hanging out. It was a lovely day to be outdoors, nice sunshine but with a nice cooling breeze. After a picnic lunch we strolled down Exhibition road and stopped by the Natural History Museum. Having previously worked here I’d seen most of the inside. What I was interested in though was the new ‘Butterfly Jungle’ exhibition.

Butterfly Jungle exhibition
Butterfly Jungle exhibition

The exhibition itself sits on the east lawn in front of the museum in a kind of large tent. I have to admit at this point that it was smaller than I’d hoped and expected. We paid our £6 and after an attempt to persuade us to leave the buggy outside we entered.

First off, it’s pretty hot in there. Maybe not quite as hot as a real jungle, but it must have been close. Secondly and this was probably my unreasonable expectations but I’d been hoping for clouds of butterflies and moths. There were quite a few, but you did have to hunt them out a bit and a lot tended to hide in the corners out of reach.

Griping aside, the butterflies were pretty impressive and I was able to get a few decent shots of them. Many of the older children in there seemed quite impressed. The exhibition is split in two, half-way round it makes you go out of the tent to a little playground area (not sure what this had to do with butterflies) and then back in for the second half.

Butterfly Jungle exhibition
Butterfly Jungle exhibition

Despite the warnings to check yourself and be careful we did manage to let a butterfly out. Deborah felt very guilty. Rose (nearly 1) seemed vaguely interested by the whole thing, but probably no more than walking round a normal garden.

Overall, quite interesting but not amazing and I still don’t know why the playground was included, other than to make the entrance fee seem slightly more worth it if you have children of that age.

Marathon training #3 – Peak training

Well, that’s my longest training run in the bag. Will it be enough??

The half-marathon I ran in the last report gave me a real wake up call and I have to say I’ve taken things a lot more seriously since then. Each week I’ve manged three runs, two shortish ones and one long one at the weekends. I realise that my total weekly mileage is relatively low and I’m relying more than I should on the long run. My problem is just a real lack of any more time to do any more sessions.

The weekly long run in particular has steadily got longer in both time and distance, increasing by 20-30 minutes each week. This week I did my longest run (that I’ve ever done in my life so far) of 28km (17 miles) which took me about 2 hours 45 minutes. I’m relatively happy with my pace, it just remains to be seen whether I manage another 14 km on the day. I’m really hoping that my tapering and final rest week will be the difference in the extra energy that I’ll need.

On this run I carried a home made isotonic drink and had an energy gel about half way round, both of which I was very grateful for. If I’m honest I felt tired almost from the beginning and by 13km my legs felt spent but something in me just let me plod on. I didn’t try but I felt I had just the one steady pace that I could neither go faster or slower than. Weird, but that’s how it felt.

Considering that I was feeling very despondant last week on my chances of finishing, I feel a lot better about it now. Even with tapering I still have some long and potentially tough runs still to do, but hopefully I’m through the worst of it.

I put this time through a pace estimator and it tells me that I’m on for a finish time of 4 hours 13 minutes. If I got anywhere near that I’d be very happy.

Bring on Edinburgh!