Lucozade Sport Super Six: Helen (sub-4:30)

At a Glance Profile

Nickname: Wotsit
Age: 33
Running for: 2 years
No. of marathons: 1

PBs:
Half-Marathon 2:13
Marathon 5:08:28

Strengths: An obsession with training plans, statistics and following instructions.

Weaknesses:
Making my legs go as fast as I want them too. And chocolate.

Most looking forward to: Everything!I'm particularly looking forward to getting some direction about how to improve my speed - I've only ever tried to go further, not faster.

Most dreading: Not being able to do it. I'm surprised every time I manage to run a bit further or faster, meet a target or get out running on a cold, rainy night. In the back of my mind I never really believe I'll be able to do it.

Favourite races: London Marathon, definitely. I grinned like a lunatic all the way round the course last year.

Did you know? I'm married to a Double Ironman, I love making jam and chutney in my spare time, and I'm currently studying for my fifth degree!

• My RW profile

Goal: sub-4:30
Finish Time: 4:46:24

Helen's Training Schedule | Helen's Food Diary Analysis | Helen's Training Thread | Helen's Race-Week Nutrition Strategy

Flora London Marathon: Race Day

Helen says: I've knocked 22 minutes off my marathon PB today, yippee!

I really struggled with the heat today, much more than I was expecting. I spent the whole week telling myself it wasn’t going to be hot, and even it if was it wouldn’t matter. But when it came down to it, I just couldn’t stay hydrated enough. The more I drank, the more sick I felt – it became difficult to balance how much I should drink with the risk it would make me run slower.

It was really congested at the start and I got quite cross with people in front of me. At around Mile 10, I was only about a minute down on marathon pace which was fine – I was planning to pick up the pace at Mile 20 in any case. But suddenly, everything ground to a halt. The road narrowed and everybody seemed to be walking. By the time I reached the next mile marker, I was four minutes down. I knew I wouldn’t be able to claw it back. I picked up the pace for the next couple of miles but everyone still kept on bunching together which was really frustrating.

I took a caffeine gel at Mile 17 and that made a real difference. I also started spotting people too – people from the forums, including some of the Pirates. People kept on shouting “Come on, Wotsit!’ which was really lovely to hear.

I’d lost my running partner at about Mile 9 – I kept trying to wiggle through gaps and I assume I went through a gap which then closed so we got separated.  It was really energy sapping. I didn’t notice all the barging last year – perhaps it was because I was going slower.

My marathon highlight is always Tower Bridge. After a dull stretch where nothing happens, suddenly you turn a corner and it’s fabulous!

At Mile 25, I had a couple of seconds walking and told myself "Right, I will not walk during the last mile." I ran down the finish with a huge smile on my face – I had my hands in the air and even remembered to leave a small gap in front so nobody else got in my photo!

The amount of stuff I’ve learnt over the past few months is mind-blowing. My training is completely different to how it would have been before. I have proper structure and I’ve even discovered I quite like running at threshold.

I’m going to focus on shorter distances for a while, but then I imagine that’s what most people say after running a marathon! I've still got my sights on a sub-2:00 half-marathon and I may let my husband have a turn too – he’s been brilliant throughout my journey.

The forums have been really lovely. The number of emails I had from people last week telling me how much they’ve loved following the thread and that they were rooting for me – I’ve felt so well-supported from start to finish.


Helen's Video Diary


Weeks 13 - 14

Helen says: Sometimes it feels like all I do is run, work and sleep - bring on the taper!

I've had some more great runs and successfully ran 2:39 at the Human Race Kingston Breakfast Run 16 (April 5). Even when I needed to be kicked out of the door by my husband, it felt great and I struggled to keep my pace down! I was supposed to run marathon pace, but despite being faster than that, it actually felt easy.

It's fabulous to also have my longest run out of the way, and what a run it was. 18 miles, 2200ft of climbing and the last five miles were below marathon pace!

Despite all these lovely results, I'm sticking to my target time. My goal has always been 4:29:59. I want to enjoy every minute of the marathon, and I'd rather hit 4:29 and be able to put in a sprint finish than be greedy, set off at an unsustainable pace and have to drag myself round the end.

Nick says: Helen had a brilliant run at the Human Race Kingston Breakfast Run 16 (April 5). She felt controlled throughout and ran well inside her expected time. She also hit marathon pace with comfort for the second eight-mile lap.

Now it’s time for Helen to enjoy her taper. Her energy levels are good but she does need to take care not to pick up any germs from her kids, so she arrives on the start line healthy and fit.

Helen and I will be talking more about her pace and targets the week before the marathon but all in all, things have gone really well.


Weeks 11 - 12

Helen says: At the start of the fortnight, my focus was the adidas Flora London Half-Marathon (March 15). Having suffered with nerves in previous races, I devoted some time to visualisation exercises - even if talking to myself did seem a bit odd!

Just before the race, I came down with an upset stomach. Not ideal, but I was determined to race as best I could. This (along with bad congestion for most of the race) meant I had to abandon my original target and just hope to get as close to 2:00 as possible. The result? 2:04 - nine minutes off my previous marathon! Apparently, this translates to 4:15 in the marathon. Yes please!

Bugs, tiredness and a duff long run aside, I'm feeling really positive about the next six weeks. The finish line is in sight now, and I keep daydreaming how amazing it will feel to cross the finish line in London!

Nick says: Helen's had another good two weeks, though she was pretty tired after her wonderful performance in the adidas Flora London Half-Marathon. We changed her training week after the race to include more recovery running but even last weekend, she was still quite tired for her long run. That said, she did brilliantly to still complete the distance sensibly. Helen's fatigue is a classic sign of running a good half-marathon - you can still feel tired for up to 10 days after.

This week, Helen's felt much better and been able to pick up the training. We're now focusing on her last two long runs (this weekend and next) and perhaps doing the Human Race Kingston Breakfast Run 16 if time and family commitments allow. Everything's going well - Helen's still in a happy place, but it's important to respect the tiredness.


Weeks 9 - 10

Helen says: What I’ve achieved over the last eight weeks blows me away slightly. Now I look at hills with no fear, my fastest mile splits start with an 8, and I only have a pound left to lose.

After my 10K PB, I found training really hard. Why can’t I push my body without it pushing back and making me ill? I have the adidas Flora London Half-Marathon on Sunday (March 15) and I want to go all out, but I don’t want to get ill again. During the 10K I psyched myself out and doubted myself, and had to talk myself out of it. At Silverstone I’m going to think positively right from the start and try to have more faith in myself and my body.

I must remember - Silverstone is just a stepping stone. My goal is the marathon.

Nick says: Helen's training has continued to go really well. She worked really hard in the session on the Lucozade Sport Flora London Marathon Workshop then took her Sunday run very easily.

Her focus this weekend is the adidas Flora London Half-Marathon. She is secretly confident and optimistic about what she can achieve - provided the little people go to bed on time and Helen gets enough sleep, I'm hopeful she'll run a really good PB - somewhere between 2:00 and 2:10. Laps of a motor circuit make Silverstone an exposed course but conditions look good so everything should come together on the day.

She now needs to deal with the pressure of racing and focus on enjoying the experience.


Weeks 7 - 8

Helen says: I've been hitting all my target times and paces recently, and for one particular hour-long session, my average pace was 10:18 - spot on for a 4:30 marathon!

I've relaxed my diet a bit recently - to make sure I've got enough energy to run - so my weight has been static for a few weeks. I think at this stage in marathon training it's actually really hard to lose weight - this time last year, I actually put on weight in the form of muscle.

Last week was the big one - my first 10K. I was so nervous - I've hardly raced, and I've never entered a race where I knew I could cover the distance, so pace has never been an issue. I didn't want to disappoint everyone by putting in a rubbish time. My goal was 56 minutes, and I did it in 53:11. I'm thrilled! I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead in a whole new way now.

Nick says: Helen ran her first 10K in Bourton-on-the-water (February 22) and ran three minutes quicker than planned. This is a wonderful result and a testimony to all her hard work and focus so far. We had hoped for a 56-minute debut but 53 minutes it was! Helen's result was particularly pleasing as much of her training has been relaxed running and threshold effort - she hasn't really run at any harder effort levels yet. Our aim was to try and run the whole race at her threshold feel and it worked.

This week has been tough though. Helen has been tired and the family have had to take priority in her battle for energy and time. We have replaced sessions with recovery runs and hope to get back to a good long run this weekend. There is a sore throat trying to join us in the background but hopefully this will fade away with a couple of good nights sleep. Helen is more than on target. A great effort and well done!


Weeks 4 - 6

Helen says: In the last few weeks, I've been reminded how much I enjoy running with other people - when I'm out on my own, it's so much harder to keep going and keep up the pace. I'm a morning runner, and after having to reschedule a long run I also learned the hard way how much I hate running in the evening - I'm never missing a long run again if it means doing it at night!

Last week I conked out halfway through a hard session. The whole experience taught me a lot about listening to my body, when to push myself and when to rest. Luckily all the lovely people on my thread rallied round, and I realised that perhaps the best part of being in the Lucozade Sport Super Six is just having everyone's support - to praise me during the good times, and help me through the bad.

Overall, I'm really happy with how my training's going. After years of dodging exercise it's wonderful - and surprising - to push my body and discover that it will actually do the things I want it to!

Nick says: Helen had a minor energy blip ten days ago and sensibly backed off during a hard session. Instead, she headed home after her warm-up. After the initial panic this setback caused, Helen rested and then produced her best long run so far. She thought she was running easily and much slower than marathon pace. Imagine her surprise then, when she downloaded the data from her Garmin only to find she had run at marathon pace accidently and it felt easy!

Helen continues to train really well and is a total inspiration to many. She now has a slight cold and is sensibly either reducing her runs to recovery effort (30 - 40 minutes) or taking extra rest days. This will soon pass and she is sure to bounce back easily.


Weeks 1 - 3

Helen says: I’m trying to be more measured – properly planning meals, making time to run, sticking to a routine, and not chickening out on speedwork! It’s my build-up race times that are my main concern, funnily enough. I’m a bit of a one-speed wonder, and the thought of a sub-4:30 marathon seems much less scary to me than a 53:00 10K.

I’m ready to work hard and excited about the coming months. I’m proud of my weight loss, and have noticed how much more energy I have and how much faster I’m running. I must remember - food is fuel!

Nick says: Helen just seems to be having so much fun! I’m hopeful she can meet her target of 4:30 - all the early signs are positive. Helen has started to feel stronger in her threshold sessions and the long runs are building quietly. She openly admits that she has even more energy and is still losing weight gradually.

Over the next couple weeks we will continue to build these key areas and runs will also include more marathon-pace work. Marathon pace can seem a little daunting this early in a plan and I want Helen to run how she feels, and not worry too much about the correct pace just yet. Our training day this Saturday (January 24) should seem easy as it will be on the flat. Helen lives on a hill so every run can seem tough if she's not careful about her route and effort!

Keep up the good work Helen, we are all very proud of your progress.


About Helen

Helen says: My two children were my motivation for taking up running – I was tired of finding myself out of breath and flustered running around after them, so decided to do something to boost my fitness.

When I started – on a treadmill in the privacy of my garage – I could only manage 20 seconds at a time. But I persevered, and as soon as I could run a mile, I ventured outside. Since then, I’ve never looked back. Next to giving birth to healthy babies, running has been the most empowering thing I’ve done. And that’s from a girl who did her best to avoid cross-country at school!

I persuaded some friends (also new mothers) to join me for a Race for Life – I promised them that if they came running with me, they’d get smaller bottoms! Then, during our training, my friends suddenly revealed a lifelong ambition to run the Flora London Marathon. I agreed to join them – reluctantly – and as it turned out, I was the only one to get a place in the ballot! The experience was absolutely amazing. I grinned for the full 26.2 miles, and as soon as I could see the finish line, I knew I wanted to do it all again.

I’ve never trained towards improving time, only distance. Juggling my career and the children means I can only run three times a week, but I’m 100 per cent up for the challenge and excited to find out how I can get faster.

Nick says: Helen is an extremely busy working mum. She highlights her greatest running strength as perseverance and her favorite type of running is getting out on a cold, sunny day and running along country lanes with her friends. Her biggest hates are interval training and running hills.

Helen has taught herself to train by reading lots of programmes and is currently able to realistically run three times a week and do a Pilates class for conditioning. She may be able to up this to four times a week at best.

Previously, Helen's training has included a Saturday or Sunday run with her friends and club (long run), a Monday run with friends of about five miles, Pilates on a Wednesday and a four- mile run on Thursday, maybe including some intervals or again chatting with friends - depending on life's stresses.

Helen is a funny, bouncy character who has a massive enthusiasm for life. I have set Helen simple goals relating to her training up to the start of January. She is building her long runs up to 60 - 90 minutes of relaxed effort and is completing two other runs during the week of 30 - 45 minutes each. One of these runs will soon include some five-minute blocks of threshold running.