|At a Glance Profile|
Nickname: fat face
Strengths: When I put my mind to a task, I'll give it 100 per cent.
Most dreading: April 27 2009.
Favourite races: Helsby (Four Villages) Half-MarathonDid you know? I've been running for 25 years and I've still got all my own toenails.
• My RW profile
Weeks 13 - 14
Rob says: I started this fortnight with a dodgy ankle, but after resting up, I tested it tentatively on a long run. I really didn't want to miss a long run so close to race day, and my legs felt raring to go. Well, I sped past my opt-out halfway around the route, and even did the second half of the session much faster than the first! It's a huge relief - not only did my ankle feel fine, but I felt like I could have run a lot further.
I followed that up with a my best ever long run, and after a couple of well-deserved rest days I feel like a coiled spring - pumped up and ready to go. It's all systems go for April 26 now.
Steve says: Rob's had another pretty much perfect fortnight, including some excellent speedwork (800m and mile reps) and what Rob described as his best long run ever.
Apart from an ankle ache, Rob is in the shape of his life, and would have to do something drastically wrong between now and race day not to smash his PB.
At any other distance, you could guarantee that Rob will have a great run. However, marathons are not like shorter distances - months of hard work can go to waste with a bit of bad luck or pacing. Rob is determined not to be complacent or aim too high but a sub-4:00 time looks a sure bet.
Rob's Video Diary
Weeks 11 - 12
Rob says: The Fleet Half-Marathon (March 15) was my biggest test yet, but I did it in 1:41:31 - a PB by three and a half minutes and a replacement for my oldest PB. Pleased? You bet! I even managed to start slow and maintain my pace throughout, which is fantastic. I'm sure I could have gone faster, but I just didn't want to risk blowing up.
All the race-time predictors come up with crazy marathon targets based on my performance, but whatever they say, sub-4:00 is still my aim. In previous marathons, my speed has dropped off significantly as the race distance increases. I'm being cautious, even though I've trained a lot harder this year. There's still a lot of running left before I can be confident of a sub-4:00.
April 26 is getting close, and I've started to gather things together ready for the big day. I've bought new socks, and I've even got a set of lucky safety pins. I've used the same ones at my last two races and PB-ed both times!
Steve says: Rob has continued to make great progress. His performance at the Fleet Half-Marathon couldn't have gone much better - he smashed his personal best in a time that even suggests a 3:45 marathon is more likely than sub-4:00. Rob even felt he could have gone faster.
However, Rob has flattered to deceive in previous marathons after a good half-marathon performance so knows even a great result like that is less than half the story. He still needs to build up his endurance - he had a very encouraging long run last week and he has also clocked up some great speedwork too.
The only cloud on the horizon is that he has suffered an ankle pain, which he needs to keep under control. Overall though, another highly encouraging two weeks and Rob remains well on course for his target as he revels in being fitter than ever.
Weeks 9 - 10
Rob says: I PB-ed in my latest race - a five-miler last weekend. But although I'm chuffed with the result, I’m also annoyed by my lack of pacing. You’d think that after more than 25 years of running I’d have learnt to pace myself, but it seems not!
I’ve been under the weather recently – enough to have to miss runs, and my 17-mile run was a disaster. I'd run the route so many times before but it had never felt so tough. Strange how you can go from a great run to an awful one within a matter of days.
On a more positive note, I only ever used to run every other day - now I'm able to run four days in succession. If someone had told me that six months ago, I'd never have believed them!
Steve says: The major test so far for Rob comes this weekend when he runs the Fleet Half-Marathon (March 15).
He started the fortnight in style with a 20-second PB (35:53) in the London Heathside 5 which showed his speed is excellent. In fact, his time equates to a 3:27 marathon which shows how far his speed is ahead of his endurance.
He followed the race with a good speed session of 200m reps but there are always a few downs after the ups. Rob wasn't well, missed his Wednesday run and then struggled on his long run on the Friday. This wasn't really surprising - not only was he still under the weather but he struggled with hydration too.
Rob showed good control at the Lucozade Sport Flora London Marathon Workshop (or perhaps it was just fatigue) and resisted the temptation to run too fast. He then put in a good speed session early this week, managing to run each 1.5 mile rep faster than the last.
Rob still needs to work hard at his endurance, but overall his training is well on course.
Weeks 7 - 8
Rob says: My back is a long-standing problem - it can "go" for no reason and last week it did just that. After some pretty pathetic attempts to get up off the floor, I realised running would be out for a few days.
Once I got back into training, I did my last ever long run before work. 13 miles is officially my limit for how far I can run first thing and then function effectively at work! From now on, I shall be doing my long runs midweek.
I managed a great hillwork session too. I picked the worst hill in our area but to be honest - dare I say it - I didn't find it too hard. I don't know how much I got out of the session - for each effort my HR was only around 130-135. That would suggest there's plenty more in the tank - I just need Steve to coax it out of me!
It's strange how you can run well one day and badly on another, even if you don't really do anything differently. After my hill session, I went for an easy four miles and found it really hard work. The last couple of weeks have been odd - a recurring injury, some great runs, and then a surprisingly bad one to finish off the fortnight.
Steve says: Rob is still sailing through his training in style. His speed is excellent and he seems to reach the target paces in training without undue strain. If forced to make a criticism, it would be his inability to hold himself back sometimes although recently, he has been far more restrained.
The other area Rob needs to work on is his overall endurance. His half-marathon PB is 1:45, which would imply he could have achieved a sub-4:00 marathon a long time ago. However, Rob's ability to maintain his pace past 20 miles is what has held him back in the past. This year he is determined to put that right and build up the stamina to match his pace.
Over the next few weeks, Rob has some races to test his pacing and speed and give him confidence for the hard training ahead. His sub-4:00 still looks sure!
Weeks 4 - 6
Rob says: The last few weeks kicked off with a run of 11 soggy, undulating miles, which resulted in the worst jogger's nipple I've ever had. I even had to go straight to work afterwards! But, painful experience aside, I’m going to keep doing my sessions before work. I've had enough of running in the evenings – it's just too tiring!
My training for this marathon has been vastly different to the way I’ve done things before. For starters, for the first time in my life I'm actually following a schedule! For my last couple of marathons I ran two or three times a week, averaging 20 - 25 miles. Certainly not ideal marathon training – but what I did learn was how far I can push myself.
I’m still having issues with going too fast in training – at the track session I was keen to impress and ended up going way too fast. That’s something to focus on over the next few weeks.
Steve says: Rob is still well on course for a major revision in his target time. He has carried out all the significant sessions comfortably, and while he is doing nearly all his runs quicker than the schedule recommends, it's clear this is his natural pace and suggests he is a much better runner than his PB implies!
He ran the Watford Half-Marathon at the beginning on February and showed good control, avoiding the temptation to race at this early stage. He ran bang-on target pace and evenly throughout to clock a time of 1:53. The huge snowfall later that day slightly hampered his training the following week but the weather may have been a blessing in disguise - it allowed him to hold back for once.
There's a long way still to go but I do believe Rob couldn't wish to be in a stronger position than he is now.
Weeks 1 - 3
Rob says: I do like my food (and beer!) but I’m starting from a really strong position – I’m at my lightest for decades, and running as well as I ever have.
Before the 'official' schedule started, I worked on upping my mileage. I’ve never done five sessions a week before, but hopefully I can fit them in by running to and from work. Unfortunately, though, my job involves spending up to 10 hours on my feet, so 'rest' days sometimes don’t feel restful at all!
My main problem has been slowing down – my feet feel heavier, and it feels like harder work, but I know I have to make an effort otherwise I could injure myself or have trouble on longer runs later in the schedule.
Steve says: So far Rob has sailed through his first few weeks and is making it look very easy. He's done all the runs, and if he has a problem, it's in holding back a little on the slower parts of the runs.
I don't see his pacing at this early stage as too much of a problem - it seems he finds it hard to run slower than nine-minute miles. It may be more problematical when the mileage increases - going too fast at the wrong time would make it harder to run quicker when the schedule calls for it.
I don't want to trivialise the weeks ahead or make Rob complacent, but if he maintains his drive, enthusiasm and fitness, sub-4:00 should be a breeze! Hopefully this will be confirmed by his first races of 2009 in due course.
Rob says: I started running in 1982 when a notice appeared at college asking for volunteers to push a bed around the Manchester Marathon. My mates and I thought it would be a laugh, and it was – even when the bed wheels fell off in the first mile! It took us more than six hours in the end.
I eased up on the training for a while after, and then after not running a step for six months I entered another marathon as a drunken student bet. Five days later I ran a PB.
I’ve always been very sporty – I played a lot of badminton at school – and I’ve been running on and off for the past 25 years. I get such a buzz from it, and it helps keep me healthy too. It’s also kept me sane through some traumatic and life-changing incidents.
I've been an RW forumite for more than eight years, and I’ve met many real-life friends through the forums. Already there’s a great camaraderie among the six of us too – I’m sure we’re all going to bounce ideas off each other, which will be really exciting.
A recurring ankle has hampered my training in the past but I know that, with proper training and a goal to aim for, I can reach my marathon "Holy Grail" of sub-4:00.
Steve says: Rob has been running for 25 years but has still not reached his potential. His best marathon time is 4:14, but based on what I've seen of his basic speed, pace judgement and his enthusiasm, a sub-4:00 is well within his reach.
It should also be an advantage that Rob is one of the longest standing forumites and bound to have huge support on the forums.
However, he does need to work on the consistency of his training, his endurance and make sure he doesn't get injured. Occasionally this will mean missing sessions when he has a niggle to ensure it doesn't develop into a full-blown injury.