Richard says: My worst nightmare came true. I said at the start that it’d be awful to get all the way through and then pick up a bug, but what can you do? My resting heart rate was high all week, but I thought 3:10 might still be possible… It just went wrong. I was clocking mile splits and doing mental maths, but even when I readjusted my target I thought sub-3:15 is what I’m here to do, just bring it home. But I just got slower and slower. I felt really sick and my legs felt so heavy - it was the longest marathon I’ve ever done. People were shouting for me, but I couldn’t bring myself to wave back. It may not have been reciprocated but it was appreciated.
This was my last chance to run the marathon I wanted. My wife has been amazing - she's the one who allowed me to do all my training and make it fit in with family life - but it’s not fair to put us through it all over again. I have loved being part of the Super Six. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I've grabbed the opportunity with both hands and squeezed every last drop out of it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat and wouldn't change anything if I had my chance again.
Liz says: With two weeks to go before the marathon Richard clocked a 10K PB and looked on track for his sub-3:15 target. Richard had been so diligent over four amazing months of training, it looked like all he had to do was toe the line and a PB would be in the bag. Four days before the race alarm bells started to ring, as Richard noticed his resting heart rate was elevated. At the time both Richard and I tried to remain positive, and hoped it was nothing but nerves.
However, even in the first five miles Richard was not feeling on form and he struggled throughout the race.Despite having some massive lows and tough moments Richard pulled himself together to complete the marathon in a very respectable time, if slower than his goal time of sub-3:15. The marathon distance finds out any niggle, illness or lack of fitness, and unfortunately it seems Richard may have picked up a virus in race week.
There is nothing Richard could have done, it was out of his control and I am gutted for Richard. I know how hard he has worked and how tough it can be when things don’t go as well as planned or hoped. However, being a great marathon runner is about more than one race and Richard knows what he needs to do to prepare to the best of his ability. He can definitely run a great marathon in the future, and with patience and perseverance Richard’s day will come.
Emma says: Richard has seen the benefit of some key nutritional practices throughout his marathon journey, namely efficient carbohydrate and protein intake for effective recovery, and fuelling his long runs properly. I am confident that these will continue to have a positive influence on Richard’s training in the future. I know he is very grateful for all the support he has received and will continue to be a great advocate for good sports nutrition.
Weeks 14 - 15
Richard says: This fortnight saw the first time I dared to challenge what's written out for me on the plan – shocker! For various reasons I was free to run my local Parkrun. It was a flat 5K course compared to the hilly club one I normally do, but my time of 19:19 wasn’t the result I wanted. However, once I looked at my training diary I saw the highest week of training I've ever done! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I couldn't put my foot to the floor.
Once my taper started, everything began to fall into place. I even managed to bag a 10K PB at a local race! 3h05 has come back into view after a couple of weeks of "off-colour" performances by my standards. It’s good to see that they were simply down to either being under the weather or being tired from all the training. Looks like I'm coming to the boil nicely… If this recovery carries on as it is I'll be flying for London!
Liz says: Richard has had a great marathon journey. He has run more miles than ever before and maintained great consistency in his training. He has tackled the training like a real professional with determination, dedication – and great restraint at times. This restraint has enabled him to stop niggles and colds becoming real barriers to training. His dedication has meant he has controlled his pace, running easy when he needed to recover and fast when the sessions have specified. He has not got too excited and overdone things and together we have cleverly walked the marathon tightrope. Richard has developed a real ‘sixth sense’ for listening to his body, knowing when he is tired and when he is ready to really push hard.
Richard is really ready for the marathon. His confidence has grown and his training times have been coming down. A timely PB in a 10K race last weekend told us what we already knew - Richard is fit and ready to run his fastest marathon. The hard work has all been done and the money miles are firmly in the bank. Now he just needs to be patient, hold it together in the final week and do the business on the day itself. He needs to use his restraint and impeccable planning to execute his pacing, hydration and fuelling strategies on the day and I am confident Richard will be smiling (albeit with a grimace!) when he crosses that finish line.
Richard admits none of this would have been possible without the immense support of his wife who has made amazing efforts to create time in their family routine for Richard to squeeze in his extra miles. Thanks Mrs MM – we’ll do you proud. Now, it’s all down to MM to do what he’s trained to do. It’s all there.
Emma says: From the start of his campaign Richard has been very determined and disciplined to do everything ‘by the book’ especially with regard to nutrition. I have advised him to increase his carbohydrate intake in the days immediately preceding the marathon to a volume of at least 7g of carbohydrate per kg bodyweight per day. Richard is planning to reach this desired volume through three or four large carbohydrate-based meals supplemented with carbohydrate rich snacks.
Richard’s priorities this week remain to stay fit, injury free and focused on the task ahead and just tick over nicely. Next week Richard plans to post on his forum what he is eating each day, not only to seek feedback but also to provide what I’m sure will be a good example to his thread followers. With regard to use of product on marathon day the primary products he will be making use of are body fuel before and during the race and carbohydrate gels every three miles during the race. He is well practiced with this strategy and confident that as long as he is disciplined with his accompanying fluid intake his nutritional strategy will support his sub 3.15 target very well.
Weeks 12 - 13
Richard says: This fortnight I picked up some foot pain, diagnosed by my friendly physio as the peroneus brevis going into the 5th metatarsal, caused by worn-out shoes. I swapped my long run for a long bike ride, premiered some new shoes and rollered and rollered… and rollered. It's not nice to drop a long run at this stage but I have to be careful. I’ve only carded a zero on six days so I think I can drop a couple of days if it means I toe the line on April 25th. The foot pain meant I had an extended taper going into the Race Your Pace Half-Marathon, where I was aiming for 1:32.
Once I got into my stride I was passing people left, right and centre, but by the last lap I knew I’d missed 1:32. I clocked 1:33, which I’m quite happy with. Afterwards we worked out that my performance might have been caused by a virus that only showed itself when I put the foot to the floor - nice! But I’m back to where I should be now - suck it up and move on!
Liz says: Richard recently had a little knock to his very consistent build up, when a niggle in his foot forced him to take a few days’ rest. A trip to the physio and some TLC saw the niggle disappear - along with all the worries an injury brings with it. When you’re fitter than you’ve ever been and really in tune with your body, it’s natural to spot things that would normally pass by unnoticed. Despite this temporary blip Richard still has great confidence, having only missed ten days’ training in 12 weeks. It’s common to experience niggles, coughs and colds during a marathon build-up. Marathon training is a knife edge, and the closer the race gets the more you need to listen to your body and nip any problems in the bud.
Richard’s recent race at Dorney Lake did not go quite to plan. Richard likes to run to heart rate, so he stuck to target marathon heart rate but it felt harder than it should for the first few miles! But he soon settled into his running and clocked a great time, well within himself. I suspect Richard could well have been fighting a low grade virus, and with this in mind he is going to monitor how he feels closely over the next three weeks. Now is not the time to be taking risks. As the race draws closer, Richard has to simmer and focus on being healthy for race day.
Emma says: Richard has managed to keep a niggling foot injury at bay over the last two weeks, and has embarked on his last week of full-on training with enthusiasm and determination.
Despite describing his performance at the Race Your Pace Half-Marathon as ‘a blip in form’ Richard still achieved a solid performance whilst taking the opportunity to practice his race nutrition/hydration strategy. He has now given a lot of thought to specific race-day nutrition and hydration planning and even put it down on paper. This plan may evolve slightly over the next two weeks as Richard continues to refine his practice with gels and fluid intake during training. It is a great example to everyone on his thread and his firm belief in the value of correct nutritional practices is beginning to win over those more sceptical forumites!
Richard is looking forward to the taper period. His priorities will be to train well and keep injury- and illness-free with the support of a vitamin- and mineral-rich high carbohydrate diet.
Weeks 10 - 11
Richard says: Scarily there's only 3.5 weeks of meaningful training left before we start the taper. Doesn't sound much does it?! I think the more I get into this marathon lark the more I realise that simply getting to the start line injury- and illness-free is probably the biggest and hardest thing to achieve. I am becoming Howard Hughes-like now in my approach to germs. It must look like bizarre behaviour, but I can't cross the finish line if I don't make it to the start line!
As the weeks tick by it’s getting harder to bank the training – Sundays find me slumped on the sofa, floored by the mileage. I know I've only got this for another three weeks so it's okay, but I'll be glad when I go back to just running for pleasure and fitness rather than having to put all my spare time and energy into training. As long as I get the result I'm after at London then it will all be worth it.
Liz says: Richard’s training continues to progress without a blip. He clocked up an impressive 58 miles last week, along with a three minute PB in a 15 mile race. Richard’s pace was just nine seconds per mile outside his half-marathon PB –what a confidence boost! Bagging this impressive PB has given Richard real evidence that his training is translating into racing success, and that he is in great shape now we’ve got just six weeks to go.
Richard is coping well with the training load, despite noticing some fatigue after long runs, which have left him feeling a little flat for the rest of the day. But who doesn’t feel tired after a long run! It’ll be crucial for Richard to make sure his nutritional recovery strategies are working for him. This experience is very common at this stage of marathon training, and Richard should take heart - the last few long runs are in sight.
The next few weeks are all about holding on to form, fitness and focus. Richard needs to listen to his body closely, and maintain a careful balance between complacency and pushing too hard. Next on the agenda for Richard is the Race Your Pace Half-Marathon on March 28th where he is going to put his even-paced racing to the test.
Emma says: Richard is now feeling very confident about his ability to answer the varying nutritional needs of different length runs. He is realising it is not always easy to do everything ‘by the book’, but he is able to attribute feelings of, for example, post-run fatigue to inadequate recovery, realise where he went wrong and correct it next time.
There has been much discussion on Richard’s thread surrounding carbohydrate loading for long runs and race day. Richard is finding the recommendation to consume at least 7g carbohydrate per kg body weight per day quite a challenge. We have given him some sample meal ideas, with advice to eat small meals throughout the day and he has been practicing this with good results.
It is easy to see Richard is becoming increasingly aware of the time pressures his training volume is putting on work and family life, and like many runners is looking forward to the taper period and race day. Richard is also having to increase his calorie intake to sustain his training volume and intensity, and is managing to do this through high carbohydrate snacks and larger portions.
The natural tendency at this stage to worry about illness and injury is also affecting Richard’s mindset. He is taking measures to minimise his chances of this, and nutritionally if he eats plenty of vitamin- and mineral-rich fruit and vegetables it should help maintain a good immune function and protect him as far as possible.
Weeks 8 - 9
Richard says: I've clocked up two 18-milers and a 20-miler in the last three weeks which has been pleasingly consistent. Talking of consistency, since the training schedule started I've only had five days of complete rest from aerobic exercise... that sounds pretty good doesn't it? It's endurance that's playing on my mind now though. I know I've got the leg speed to run 3:15 - now I need to make sure I have the endurance to support this. I think the acid test starts at 20 miles into the marathon (and not a moment before) so it's all about getting to that point not having overcooked my pace by one second. The day in-day out repetition of my training and my current level of mileage are both proving a big success – I just need to make sure it stays this way!
Liz says: Richard continues on his consistent streak and is feeling really happy with the training he has under his belt. It is more than he has ever done since he started running and he's really noticing the improvements in his fitness. Above all, he is impressed with how he has managed to knock out six days of running each week for the last eight weeks. Consistency of training is key to a successful marathon and Richard has thus far been able to stay right on top of his training. He is incredibly disciplined and focused, he hasn't got carried away or pushed too hard, and he has faith in the running he is doing and his coaching (!). He's also being very patient with his approach to his long term marathon target, We're both hoping he is able to maintain this consistency - if he can, his 3:15 target could well be bettered.
Over the next couple of weeks, Richard is just going to keep plugging away and the Banbury 15 will really put his fitness to the test. Better than any improvements in fitness are the compliments Richard is receiving from his wife about his new well-defined legs! Running has other benefits after all!
Emma says: Richard's main achievement has been with regard to recovery. He now makes a conscious effort to maximise recovery, making great use of combining protein shakes with real foods. He admits he still needs to practice his drinking and fuelling strategy on his long runs to ensure it's efficient, but with plenty of time left before race day I'm confident he will achieve this. He needs to exercise discipline so going by set time intervals for his fluid and carbohydrate intake will help him focus.
Richard's focus is now beginning to shift to race-day specifics, including a carb-loading strategy for the days leading up to the marathon. He is beginning to plan exactly what he needs to eat (given his body weight) and how he can consume the appropriate amounts of each nutrient efficiently. He continues to offer great advice and set a good example on his training thread to motivate and engage others.
Weeks 6 - 7
Richard says: This fortnight didn't start well – I was under the weather with a cold. I took a couple of days off, and dosed up with paracetamol, throat lozenges and plenty of fruit! I don't like missing sessions, but the plan worked and I was rested and ready for my long run. I'm not sure if it was because of my increased training load, or just bad luck – with two young children I'd have been surprised to get through 16 weeks without anything going wrong at least once!
Now I'm back running again, it's just nice to tick the milestones off and see the miles rack up nicely. Progression, progression, progression!
Liz says: Richard continues on his consistent streak of running and has now banked his highest ever weekly mileage (55 miles). Consistent running makes a marathon and Richard has had just four days enforced rest in seven weeks. The miles he has built up have really started to ‘come through' - adaptations have taken place and he is really starting to motor. Richard feels like something has just clicked in the last week and he's started to notice some significant improvements in his fitness levels. These are exciting times but he also needs to remain cautious. It's very tempting when your fitness levels improve to keep the hammer down and do more, but the best strategy for continued consistency is to be patient and apply pressure slowly.
Richard thinks his consistency has been facilitated through the support network around him - his fellow forumites and the Runner's World and Lucozade Sport teams. The support has motivated him to work harder and more regularly than for any of his previous marathon build-ups. However, it's no good just stringing together lots of training: it's the racing that matters. Richard knows racing will be his true test of form so he is really looking forward to the Banbury 15 (March 14).
Emma says: One of Richard's strengths has become his ability to combine both Lucozade Sport products and "real" foods to reach his carbohydrate and protein requirements. He manages to do this whether at work, on the road, or at home - it's great to see the emphasis he is placing on effective nutrition. Richard has the Banbury 15 soon - he plans to use two or three gels in combination with water, supported as usual by a high-carb breakfast and appropriate recovery products. Following this, we will turn our attention to his marathon-day strategy so he has ample opportunity to practise on his long training runs.
Weeks 4 - 5
Richard says: These first weeks have been about getting used to the schedule, a variety of paces and phasing out the cycling to work in favour of running in and out. Although this schedule seems "lighter" than my previous ones, it is really working. I've just done my second fastest ever 10K time - as a training run - and I feel positive about the coming month. I am thriving on being told what to do and when - being lazy at heart, I love the fact that each day's planned out.
I've only got this one chance so I'm prepared to do everything it takes, whether that's sacrificing social events or gritting my teeth and getting on with it when training hurts - if Liz Yelling is your mentor you don't just give up do you?! So it's just train, rest, recover… train, rest, recover… repeat until marathon day!
Liz says: Richard has been riding high on a wave of enthusiasm since he became a Super Sixer. He's been consistently clocking up some great miles and finding out more about how to train more effectively. Richard feels the support and advice on the forums has also given him extra motivation to channel into his running.
After just four weeks of the most consistent training he has ever done, he is already seeing signs of being in great shape. He's recorded his second fastest 10K time over a hilly 6.2 miles. He feels that he's learnt more about the importance of fuel and hydration on his longer runs and is eager to continue to refine his strategies and put them in practice come race day. Previously he feels he's underestimated his nutrition and reckons that getting this right will be key in bagging his dream time of 3:05.
Richard is looking forward to the next training block and hopes to consistently bang out 50 miles a week to consolidate the gains he has already made. All Richard has to do is keep ticking over and suppress his desire to over reach. When things are going well it's easy to want to do more and stretch yourself, but the important thing is to know when and how to do this without toppling over the fine knife-edge of fitness on which marathon runners walk.
Emma says: Richard has continued to maintain his dedicated and comprehensive approach to his training which is really beginning to show results. Now he is running ten times a week, his diet needs to support this. Richard is preparing for his long runs with a high-carbohydrate breakfast and is also continuing to practice regularly with Body Fuel and gels. Last week we focused mainly on his recovery - a weakness highlighted by his food diary - and I talked him through the benefits of using a recovery shake or bar in combination with some extra carbohydrate.
Weeks 2 - 3
Richard says: Sometimes racing success can be nixed by stupid mistakes… I managed to head off to the Warwickshire XC champs without my spikes! Mrs MM had to drive over with my spikes and the kids in tow, and my clubmates have christened me Cinderella… It was nice to get let off the leash and race though. I pretty much nailed the schedule's pace and heart rate, and to almost get both pace and HR spot on in an off-road snowy XC race this early on makes me happy.
My tactics are changing for this marathon campaign. I used to run at a pace not fast enough to stress my system nor slow enough to provide any recovery. Now I'm trying to keep my pace down on slow runs and just bank the base miles. I intend to nail the speed sessions so I want plenty in my tank!
I'm ploughing through the sessions – after all, winter miles mean April 25th smiles! I'm up on where I have been in previous marathon campaigns and looking good.
Liz says: Being part of the Lucozade Sport Super Six has meant Richard has been incredibly motivated to train - recently he's been more consistent than ever in his training and has banked some solid miles. He is feeling good in his running. Despite Richard's immense excitement, he has been very controlled in his training, listening to my advice and putting it into action. He's determined to get it right this time and fulfil his potential to crack that 3:15 barrier. I've been really impressed with his commitment and dedication, but the marathon is a test of consistency and drive from start to finish. Let's hope the Matchstick man can keep his fire burning all the way to April 25!
Richard's biggest challenge so far has been to increase his range of pace, especially running slowly on certain days. This is a common mistake among runners - we don't have to go out and smash up the roads all the time! Being able to run slowly enables active recovery, reduces your chance of injury and helps build strength and stamina in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Slow running days are also allowing Richard to build his mileage without breaking down and help him to make the most of his faster-paced sessions. A small cold has hindered Richard's training over the last few days - hopefully, a few days rest will soon see it off.
Emma says: Although Richard is experienced in sports nutrition, as the volume and intensity of his training increases, we will be working together to identify his weaknesses. He has sent me a one-week food diary to help us assess if his macro-nutrient intake is sufficient and his long-run strategy is beneficial. I have yet to analyse his diary fully but at first glance, it seems Richard will need to increase his carbohydrate intake to sustain his training. His recovery practices are also far from ideal, and he has a tendency to snack in the evening. Part of my challenge will be devising a nutritional plan to fit in with his busy lifestyle but I'm sure some small changes will make big differences.
I have also advised Richard to keep his intake of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables high at all times - otherwise he may increase his body's reaction to a small bug from which he has been suffering recently. Regarding energy products, sports drink and carbo gels are proving especially necessary and effective for his weekly routine.
Richard says: I've been self-coached until now which has meant I've tended to get results by stacking in extra miles. However, Liz would prefer for me to rest up and then go gently with more "easy" miles than I'm used to. I find running slowly hard work so it'll be a challenge for Liz to rein me in!
Periodisation and rest periods don't usually tend to figure too highly with me, unless they're forced on me through work/holiday/illness. But if I could run my marathon PB self-coached on a three- or four-runs-per-week schedule then imagine what I can do with the backing of Liz Yelling, five or six days and the odd double! This will be my highest ever overall mileage for a marathon campaign and with that kind of "consistently consistent" mileage behind me (and the added pressure of my thread watching me) I'm feeling very confident of hitting my target ...
Liz says: Richard is a very consistent runner, typically clocking good mileage week after week all year round. However, marathon running is all about peaks and troughs and in order to race well it is also important to have quality rest planned into your training year. Having "down-time" between marathons helps ensure you stay sharp and motivated when it matters. Richard's most recent rest period was after last year's London Marathon so in order for him to reach his peak at the end of April, I suggested he take ten days of rest over Christmas before his focused marathon build-up. This gave him quality time with his family and will have re-freshed him mentally and physically for the challenge ahead.
Richard is getting to grips with the RW sub-3:15 schedule and familiarising himself with the paces the schedule suggests. He's now feeling ready and confident about the coming months and is looking forward to getting stuck into some good consistent running. Richard can already run fast and this marathon build-up is going to be all about juggling home, work and running commitments and trying different things to achieve the best results. I know Richard is committed - he's already dug out his spikes and been running off-road to combat the snow underfoot!
Emma says: Discussion on the topic of nutrition on Richards's training thread is just beginning to get going. We have identified pre-run hydration as something he can improve on - this is because he has found early runs into work have been at slightly-elevated heart rate, probably due to mild dehydration.
There has also been some debate regarding the "Aussie" method of carbo-loading. This has led us to look at Richards's daily intake of carbohydrate, which he admits he doesn't monitor closely. Keeping a food diary for one week will give us a good idea of where modifications can be made to support his training. We will also Include some pre- and post-run weigh-ins to monitor his fluid loss and help us perfect his hydration strategy. Currently, Richard documents a caffeine-free diet so the use of caffeine supplements could potentially benefit his racing – something to discuss over the weeks to come.
Richard says: I started running in 2005 when my daughter was born. Before then I was a keen cyclist, but it soon became clear that cycling and families don't mix. I took up running so I could stay fit, and it snowballed from there. I love running because I can fit it into my life - I only have an hour for lunch, but I can do a quality session in that time. It's the simplicity of it too - all you need is trainers, shorts and a T-shirt.
I wanted to run a marathon because I did a great half-marathon time and realised I might be capable of sub-3:15. But every marathon I've done so far (three in total), I've just missed it. This time, it's really important to me to prove to that an average guy with a young family can run a fast marathon.
I'm really looking forward to working with Liz. I was thrilled when I found out she'd be my mentor, and we've already chatted about running as a parent. I haven't really had anyone to talk to about running before, so it's absolutely diamond to have an Olympic athlete on hand! For Liz to analyse my gait, for example, and watch me run – it's absolute gold dust.
Liz says: Richard is busy man! Juggling family, work and training can sometimes be an issue even without trying to run a marathon (and a fast one at that!) and I know just how Richard feels. Family time is really important and being a father to two young children - his son being just three and a half months old - will be a key priority. Time will be of the essence and we will have to be creative with key sessions, make important runs matter and nail time-efficient, productive running.
Richard runs to and form work and manages to clock up an impressive 50 miles a week when in peak marathon training. Otherwise, he usually simmers at around 25 miles per week. His impressive goal of sub-3:15 is going to take some considered thinking on his part (and mine) as his goal has eluded him on several occasions previously. As you improve and achieve relative levels of personal excellence, it becomes much harder to nudge those final minutes and seconds and is about so much more than just running. Let's hope I can provide Richard with a few gems and nuggets for him to build into his plan to help him achieve his goal.
Emma says: Richard describes himself as "well clued up and well read" on the subject of sports nutrition. His busy lifestyle necessitates a well-planned training and nutritional strategy in order to be efficient with his time.
He is well-practiced in carbo-loading protocols and is already familiar with using gels but could still improve his recovery strategy. I would recommend he use a recovery product to facilitate this and maybe also experiments with caffeine to boost his performance.