One of my most cherished running possessions is a letter the late Chris Brasher wrote to me about 20 years ago where he emphasised the importance of speed work – given his status as a genuine legend of the running world, such advice is worth keeping in mind and I do, to this day. I’m currently running off-road most of the time as part of preparations for the Snowdonia Trail Marathon next month, but with the Bury Friday 5 this Friday it was a good opportunity for me to throw in a speed session on the track last night. It’s been about two and half months since my last track session and it’s funny how the little things take a bit of adjusting to – like stride, leg speed, arm movement – I felt a bit uncoordinated last night but on the plus side was pleased to feel comfortable and strong knocking out all 24 of the 200m reps between 32 and 34 seconds. It is a testament to all who do the Monday night sessions that they are accustomed to such short recoveries – 45 second recoveries is very short and so whilst it was a speed session, it did play to endurance strengths. I’ve often felt that holding on to speed is like a lifeline, once it goes you probably can’t get it back, whereas you have a much longer window to attain and retain mileage in the legs so this is perhaps a more important reason to throw some speed work into my training, over and above this Friday’s race. It was also a reminder, not that it was needed, how lucky I feel and hopefully the rest of the club also feel likewise that we have such a top quality athletics facility in what it basically a Suffolk market town, albeit a lovely one.
It continues to feel like a strange period of training at the moment – I’m not trying to run at every spare moment but equally I need to ensure I have done sufficient preparation so that I have no fear of failure come the mountain marathon. I feel maintaining what I’m currently doing is a happy medium, whilst still enjoying the weather with my family, birthdays etc and having to make less sacrifices than when I was training for London. I’ll knuckle down a bit more now in terms of diet and drink (not that I’m a big boozer but I did enjoy a few ciders last weekend!) with 5 weeks to until the big race – I tend to view the period between 5 weeks and 2 weeks before an endurance event as the prime training window so I’m ramping up my motivation and focus a little bit. This also means I’m focusing on short term goals – putting in a respectable performance this Friday and then stringing together three 2hour runs over the next three weekends (before thinking about the final two weeks taper, a little spin at the Ekiden relay and the race itself). I’ve managed to get out to Ickworth to do a couple of hill sessions in the evenings and I’ll be increasing these over the next few weeks – it’s the perfect playground for a hill session using the two grass hills adjacent to the walled garden, the long gravel track heading north the other side of the stream and the tarmac drive heading back up towards the church; I was hoping to also use the steepest grass hill in the field to the left of the drive but it’s currently fenced off for the lambs. I feel quite used to the warm weather at the moment but I am keeping in the back of my mind the very real prospect of running up in Snowdonia in rain, poor visibility and much cooler temperatures which are as likely to occur as the chance of warm sunny weather. It is at least an enjoyable problem unlike training for London, where you become accustomed to cold wet weather only to be scorched on race day without much chance of preparing for it. Anyway, I try not to be one of those Brits moaning when the weather’s hot and as I heard someone recently describe it: the current weather is what we crave when we head out in the dark, cold wet months of winter and this is absolutely true!