|At a Glance Profile
Nickname: Sue C
Running for: 3 years
No. of marathons: 2
Strengths: Motivation, endurance and a positive attitude
I suffer from nerves and that affects my race performance. I also don't know when to rest rather than run, and need to work on speed endurance.
Most looking forward to: Learning as much as I can from Liz, inspiring a few other busy working mums to believe that they can do it too and making my family proud.
Most dreading: Cutting back or, (please no) giving up wine!
Favourite races: longer distances, particularly marathons
Did you know? I used to teach the local rugby team Aerobics on Monday nights (possibly one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed in my life)
• My RW profile
as close to 3:15 as possible
Sue's Training Schedule | Sue's Food Diary Analysis | Sue's Training Thread | Sue's Race-Week Nutrition Strategy
Flora London Marathon: Race Day
Sue says: Unfortunately, I didn’t have a very good race but I’m not upset - I’ve had a fantastic journey and there will always be other races.
I knew from Mile 3 that things weren’t going well. I was trying to hold 3:20 pace for the first 5K but my legs weren’t working properly, and I really suffered in the heat. I’d covered myself in sun cream but found myself taking on water at nearly every drinks station to try and stay hydrated. I was even pouring water on my wrists and thighs (as Liz had suggested) to try and cool down too.
I really backed off my pace from then on, but never managed to get back on track. My hamstring was hurting and there was just nothing in my legs. Even concentrating on my effort levels (rather than pace) - it just felt hard all the way round.
If I’m honest, there weren’t any particular highlights during the race but it’s not about taking one race result away from the experience – it’s about building on everything I’ve learnt over the past few months. I’ve had some great results during my warm-up races and a wonderful experience throughout.
The forums have been amazing – people have posted so many lovely comments on my thread, especially last week. I’ve been trying to reply to everyone who’s posted regardless of their target time – after all, I said from the outset that I wanted my journey to inspire as many people as possible. And they’ve really inspired me with all their kindness and support.
I will achieve my marathon target soon, I’ve no doubt about it – today just wasn’t my day.
Sue's Video Diary
Weeks 13 - 14
Sue says: This fortnight I knocked another two and a half minutes off my half-marathon PB at the Reading Half-Marathon. This means I've knocked three and a half minutes off my time since Liz started working her magic. And I didn't feel nervous at all - it just wasn't an issue.
Not so great was how terrible I felt all the way round. A pace that felt effortless two weeks ago felt like a huge slog. I knew after the first mile that it was going to be one of those days and I just buckled down and grimly held on for the next 12 miles.
It's all making me wonder whether my 3:15 target is too optimistic. The marathon is a distance that requires realistic planning, and a 1:34 half-marathon just doesn't seem speedy enough. Whatever happens though, I've had such a brilliant time over the last few months. I've achieved times I never thought possible. I want to run up the Mall on April 26 with a smile on my face - if that costs me a minute or two then that's fine. This won't be my last marathon and it won't be my fastest either, so I just want to work hard and enjoy it!
Liz says: Despite running a huge PB at the Reading Half-Marathon Sue felt a little disappointed as she did not feel as great as she had hoped. However, after a quick "debrief" - and once Sue had put her race in perspective - she understood that she was running on tired legs. This was partly her fault and she learnt a valuable lesson that will help her perform better next time around. By running too hard in a training run the week before, Sue took too much from her body and struggled to recover in time to race optimally. But that’s what build-up races are for - make your mistakes, learn and move forward as a runner so you perform when it’s important.
Beware the greedy runner. When feeling good it’s easy to push and push, but a failure to listen amid the excitement can lead to fatigue, below-par performances or injury and illness. It's better to hold back and simmer. Don’t overreach at this stage in your training. With only a few weeks to go you cannot get any fitter. The miles are in the bank so save your effort for race day!
Sue also learnt a lot at Reading with regards to running in a crowd and conserving energy. She found she was weaving in and out of people at the start and ran much further than the half-marathon distance. The key when things get busy is to stay calm, let the race open out then work into your pace, pattern and stride. This is vital at the start of the marathon.
Despite Sue’s disappointment, she is still feeling very excited about racing in London. She knows she is fit and that she has trained very consistently. This is half the battle with marathon training. Consistency is key - isolated stellar workouts don’t make a great marathon finish. Sue’s long run last weekend gave her great confidence in her ability to go the distance. Now she just needs to bank all the positives from the past few months and draw confidence from what she has achieved so far. By revisiting these positives over the next few weeks, Sue will be able to hold onto a positive frame of mind and keep focused on race day.
I am very excited about how both Sue and Meg will perform in this year’s Flora London Marathon. Without wishing to put pressure on either of them, if they can get through the next few weeks injury- and illness-free then it won't be case of whether they meet their target times but rather by how much will they beat them! This confidence is a testament to their personal commitment and motivation during this tough training phase. I am very proud of them both and of what they have achieved so far. Roll on April 26 - I might not be racing with them physically, but mentally I’ll be with them every step of the way!
Weeks 11 - 12
Sue says: I had a fantastic race to kick off the fortnight. Not only was I first in my category and seventh lady, but I also took another minute off my 10-mile PB! I felt really strong throughout and had plenty in the tank at the end which bodes well for the Reading Half-Marathon (March 29).
I'm obviously pleased to get another PB, but I'm more pleased with how I approached this race. I was calm and never doubted that I would run well. There's definitely more to come from this campaign and my running career. I can't stop smiling - I'm really getting somewhere and it feels great!
Having a lower-mileage week has done me the power of good both physically and mentally, and now I'm raring to go again.
Liz says: Sue has had a really good run in the last 10 weeks. She has had some really consistent training and some fantastic races, racking up a selection of PBs over both the 10-mile and half-marathon distance. Sue has a really solid foundation now that will see her through to race day.
Last weekend's 10-mile race was significant for Sue. She managed to implement her mental strategies to good effect and keep those race-day nerves in control. This enabled her to perform to her full potential rather than letting her nerves hold her back.
Sue now needs to keep practising her mental strategies so she is able to call upon them when she needs them most: April 26. She now has one last test - the Reading Half-Marathon where she is aiming for yet another PB, and keeping a strong head!
Sue is becoming a professional in her training, ticking all the small boxes that make a huge difference in day-to-day performance and recovery. She is keeping on top of her hydration and recovery strategies and is feeling on top of her training. Now she just just needs to simmer, and not get greedy with her running.
This stage of marathon training is a dangerous time, when people typically overreach in their running because race day is approaching and they think more is better. This can lead to illness and injury. When you are running well, you are better to hold your form by simmering and being sensible with all aspects of your training.
Weeks 9 - 10
Sue says: I've missed my usual ‘zip’ recently - my training times have been a little slower but thankfully not enough to give me cause for concern. I find that I can run for two hours and hardly be fatigued but make me do two miles at threshold pace and I am in bed by 8pm with a warm drink!
Overall though, my training is going really well. I've felt a touch tired during a few sessions but all my long runs have been solid. I am doing my best, training as hard as I can and am still committed to the cause 100%!
My next two races will give me a better indication of how close to 3:15 I can get. My goal for my next race - rather than a time goal - is to run relaxed, calm and strong throughout. It'll also give me a chance to test out my strategies for dealing with the negative thoughts that sometimes creep into my head on race day.
Liz says: Sue has been training very hard over the last few weeks, so it's no surprise that she has had some tough days out on the road. Struggling with the odd day of fatigue is quite common during marathon training. Sue needs to ensure she is refuelling and hydrating properly after her sessions - this will help with her recovery.
The odd bout of tiredness aside, Sue has still managed to crack out some impressive sessions. Sue might feel as though her pace has plateau-ed but this is common - an increase in your training load makes it harder to keep increasing your pace. Once Sue has tapered, her pace is sure to spring back again. She just needs to be patient and have faith in the training she has done.
Despite a stagnation in pace, Sue has noticed she is much stronger in her running and finds she is able to deal with the tougher sessions more easily. She is also getting used to how her different paces feel.
Sue is still working on her self-belief and various strategies to overcome negative thoughts during a race. We have a strategy in place for this weekend and are going to test it in a 10-mile race.
Sue is busy juggling family, work and her running and is being very creative with her time. She has welcomed this week as a taper into her 10-mile race, as it has given her a chance to recover and draw breath before the next couple of weeks of hard training.
Weeks 7 - 8
Sue says: Some kind of virus and then half-term have made the logistics of training pretty tough but I was determined to get the sessions done come hell or high water!
Once things got back to normal, I had some great runs. It wasn't that long ago my steady pace used to start with a 9, so it's great to see more miles starting with a 7!
I had a 10-mile race last week, but despite progressing well with my positive thinking recently, I got horrendously nervous. On the day, it was a race of two halves. I ran a PB (which was great) but the first four miles of the race were a nightmare. I let my nerves get the better of me and soon became so miserable I couldn't imagine running another six miles. Thankfully I turned it around - once I concentrated on the end result, I became calmer, my breathing settled down, my legs felt strong and I felt like I could hold my pace to the finish and even further.
I'll definitely learn from the experience - I might be a few steps away from losing my pre-race nerves completely, but I've got more time and more races before April 26 to practice.
Liz says: Sue has handled the training well and her body is holding up to the challenges that the schedule is providing her. She has been pushing her workload with the increased intensity - something she has lacked form her previous marathon build-ups.
The variety in the schedule is helping to keep Sue mentally fresh. She feels each session is progressing well and that she is able to tackle each paced run with the confidence that she is able to complete it.
Sue has been addressing her weakness and has been working very hard on her "can do" attitude and thinking strategies. She is aware that her nerves have let her down in the past and she is keen to address these. Her biggest challenge came last weekend during her 10-mile race. She struggled to hold her nerves together until halfway when she managed to get a grip of her negative thoughts and turn things around.
This was a great turning point for Sue and helped her to see that she is capable of running well and controlling her nerves rather than letting her nerves control her. The key will be to keep using the techniques that work so there are no surprises on race day.
Sue knows that she still has some work to do but is feeling more confident that she is on track for her marathon goal.
Weeks 4 - 6
Sue says: Taking stock, I can honestly say that I'm not as tired overall as I thought I would be at this stage in my training. That's not to say I think I could run faster - I'm running at the right paces for me. But in terms of doing the sessions and recovering, I've been pleasantly surprised with how my legs have responded. I am still feeling fresh and energetic, and am enjoying training more than I ever have done.
Whatever the weather's thrown at me, I've completed all my sessions. Some of them have been tough but rather than give up, I've worked hard to give myself a kick up the backside and push on. By doing this, I'm able to take so much more from the session, including the mental strength to cope with similar feelings in the future.
At the moment, I am confident and positive. I can only do my very best in the training and on April 26. If that translates as a 3:15 marathon then fantastic, but if not then I couldn't have done more!
Liz says: Sue has managed to get some really consistent training under her belt despite the weather. She has had some solid, uninterrupted running. Her paced sessions have been going well and these are helping to give Sue more self-belief in her ability to run close to 3:15.
Over the last week, Sue has been feeling sluggish and less motivated than usual. This can be quite common during marathon training. However, she has been sensible, knocked her pace down slightly, and in the last few days she has found her bounce again. Expect to have lulls in your training energy, provided they don't continue for weeks. They are usually short-lived and a sign your body is catching up and adapting to the training loads.
Weeks 1 - 3
Sue says: I’m feeling good – I’m hitting my target paces and including core stability work seems to be making a big difference, I’ve had some strong race performances and my pre-race nerves are much better. I’ve also got motivational quotes stuck to my fridge!
I’m finding bringing my mileage down strange (I’ve never done so little running!) but the schedule includes lots of quality sessions. Personally, I would never have done so much speedwork, but I am keeping an open mind, and ready to give it 100% for the next 16 weeks. I’m nervous, excited, intrigued about trying a different approach, and very impatient to get cracking!
Liz says: Over the last three weeks Sue has been building a base from which to build higher mileage over the next 12 weeks. She has found the introduction of faster-paced sessions has more than compensated for her reduced mileage.
She has been responding well to a varied schedule, and together we are building her confidence in her ability to tolerate her marathon pace for longer periods of time.
Sue has been feeling strong in her running. We have started to look closely at some key recovery strategies for hard sessions and long runs. She has backed this up with a personal best in the Brass Monkey Half-Marathon where I asked Sue to race comfortably at marathon pace.
Mentally Sue has noticed a huge difference in her approach, from a self-confessed negative thinker into 'almost' believing she can achieve her goals. The next few weeks of training - along with some positive-thinking strategies - will help Sue really 'know' she can achieve her goals. Positive thinking has really helped Sue deal with her pre-race nerves too - she tells me nerves did not affect her performance in her last two races.
Sue says: Three years ago, I teamed up with some friends to do a Race for Life. We all had small children and our aim was just to get fit and raise some money at the same time. My friends all gave up after the race but I’d been bitten by the bug – right away I started wondering whether I could run further.
I spent a year pottering around, running three or four times a week and using my runs as quality "me-time" away from the children. I love the freedom of running – as a busy, working mum, I might not be able to commit to a regular aerobics class, but I can pull on my trainers and go for a run whenever I have time. Sometimes I manage to train with my club, Rothwell Harriers, too, but never as often as I’d like.
I ran my first marathon in 2007 (Lochaber) and finished in 3:32. I was really proud of myself as I’d trained really hard. A year later, I ran the Flora London Marathon but paced the middle section wrongly and was disappointed to finish in 3:30. I’m not sure whether aiming for 3:15 in April is realistic, but it’s definitely my long-term goal. For now, I’ll settle with as far under 3:30 as possible!
I’m really looking forward to working with Liz – it was the opportunity to learn from someone with her level of experience that inspired me to enter the competition in the first place. And I do hope that by proving I can do this, someone reading my training diary might be inspired to do the same.
Liz says: Sue has been running for three years and has already clocked a very impressive time of 3:30 in the Flora London Marathon last year. But the race did not go perfectly and she knows she has more to give in her marathon running. Now Sue wants to find out how to train smarter and ultimately accomplish her dream goal of running a 3:15 marathon.
She currently runs six times a week with Saturday as a rest day so she can spend some quality time with her family.
Sue is a very positive and motivated person who finds it easy to haul herself out of bed in the early hours to run.
Her physical strengths are her endurance and her ability to withstand a good weekly mileage of around 60 miles per week. Sue also has a smooth and efficient running style. This is great for energy-saving economical running that a marathon demands.
To run 3:15 is a big ask in anyone’s books. Yet I believe if things go well for Sue she has every chance of attaining this. Sue will need to keep on track with her training, tick the other boxes that running sub-3:15 demands and successfully manage to integrate an appropriate workload with her family and work life.
I’d like to be able to help Sue understand her target marathon pace, really get to grips with what it feels like, and ways to practice this in her training. Sue is so motivated it will be a case of holding her back at times and making sure she makes time to recover and adapt to her training loads so she can have better quality sessions where she has more energy and pace.
Over the next 16 weeks Sue can expect to build on her mileage and put in some specific marathon paced running into some of her faster sessions. We will also look at how Sue can maximise recovery between her key sessions.