Coach notes

Harriers Coach Dave Waddington shares some Marathon training thoughts…

After having a marathon plan request for 20 to 25 miles a week it reminded me of that some people maybe need to get an appreciation of the commitment required to take on a marathon. The accompanying schedule is a recommendation from a well known training book on the number of weekly training miles that are suggested for race distances from 5k to marathon. It shows the number of miles per week that would generally be expected from beginners to elite runners.

If any members would like any guidance or race training plans please ask one of the coaches who will be glad to provide guidance.




Blackpool Marathon 2013 – Garys report

I woke up at 6 am and was already feeling the nerves. My stomach was turning which is a first. Probably due to recent PBs at 10k, 15k and half marathon distances, along with a good set of training behind me, a week away in Cyprus to recharge, and a trip to DR Herbs for some acupuncture / back and neck massage after tweaking them Friday.
I also had to get back to the DW to watch Wigan v Wakefield, I felt some pressure to perform.
Mel was doing her support role (and its probably a good job that Julie, Jackie et-al were not there to pull out a kit to encourage her to run). We arrived at the car park 1 hr 15 mins before the start. Plenty of time I though but then saw the queue for the Ticket machine! I left Mel, as she was supporting, in the queue and picked up my number from Bloomfield Road. Nerves were really kicking in and as a result I want to the loo no fewer than 5 times in 45 mins. (Incidentally this is a new pre-race PB for toilet trips).
Eventually it was time to go to the start and find Darren and Barry. 
I arrived at the start and due to it being a narrow funnel went close to the start. This didn’t do my nerves any good as everyone around me was talking about sub 3 hr 30 runs! 
After a dodgy DJ set, a speech from Ron Hill and the all clear from the Police on the Promenade, the race began.
Darren disappeared into the distance and as predicted with me starting near the front, I spent the first 4 miles watching people pass me as I settled into a steady 9 min mile pace, give or take. This continued until mile 11. Mel was constantly popping up at regular intervals like a Tabloid journalist to take pictures of me.
After the first turn around and run down to complete lap 1, my pace picked up due to the half marathoners eyeing the finish. It dragged me along and my pace quickened to 8 min 35 or so miles. Happy with my pace, I ploughed on. From here until mile 21 along the coast and lower path I overtook runner after runner after runner. It also helped Barry joining me at mile 14 for a few mins for a pep talk of: “You look fine, your running well!” 
Also it helped seeing Darren passing on the other side of the road waving. And no forgetting the other half of Team Wane egging me on at regular intervals of the course. 
So I hit the turn around and then the fun really started. We went up an incline to the top path of the promenade and I felt a wobble in my thighs. Then at mile 22 near the water station after a swift left and tight right, along with the the paths camber, my legs became jelly and my rhythm went. My mins per mile dropped to 9 mins 30. At mile 25 it dropped further to 9 mins 48 and I was struggling with the demons setting in. Luckily, the crowds were thicker on the section and lots of clapping and whooping inspired me to pick it up again and finish at my original pace.
The final 100m was a great run in into the stadium in front of rows of cheering spectators. So, Marathon finished in a time of 3 hrs 54 mins and 52 secs, a new PB by 36 mins. However, I was hanging onto the hoardings after the finish line trying not to throw up onto the Blackpool FC pitch in front of a few hundred onlookers. However, the medal was well earned. I even managed to get to the DW just 15 mins late to see Wigan Warriors beat Wakefield ( even though I was fighting back the impulse to throw up on a 6 year old in front of us and his parents) and then home after to see Lactics earn a last gasp draw at QPR.
All in all a great day.
A massive thanks to Mel for turning up and cheering me on, and Darren got his cheers too, being photographer and waiting around for 4 hours for me. Next up, a 5k to complete the PB collection. Should be able to manage a sub 22 min run, shouldn’t I? 

Manchester Marathon – Daves Full Report

After a few days to rest and recover, Dave has been able to put together a full report on his heroics in Manchester at the weekend:

The Greater Manchester marathon will certainly live long in my memory!

We had been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast all week, with strong winds and heavy rain forecast for Sunday, and rather pleasant conditions for the days either side. Given the forecasters track record, and inspired by a comment on the BBC to “watch this space”, I remained optimistic that the weather front would come through early, be delayed, or just deviate around Manchester. My worst suspicions were confirmed, however, when we pulled up at Sally’s house at 7.00 to be greeted by the first drops of rain; exactly on cue! 

Sally’s friends from Trafford soon arrived and there was some discussion about what we should be wearing. Having been coached in the Eccles and Waddington cross country school over the winter months, there was no decision to be made – vest and shorts were the order of the day, with the concession of a pair of “Magic” gloves. Sally was similarly adopting a minimalistic approach and so there was no way I was being shown up by a girl. Jayne meanwhile was kitting up for her duty on the bike as my mobile feeding station. 

We left in plenty of time to walk the mile and a half to the “Race Village” and arrived to a scene which had a tinge of Glastonbury about it; mud, rain, people in wellies! Everyone was loathe to get changed until the last minute which resulted in the now well reported chaos of the baggage drop; literally in this case! I abandoned Jayne with my bag and trudged to the start line in my Wigan MBC bin bag. A quick “relief” in direct contravention to the instruction not to use a “handy bush or tree” (only a non-runner could come up with that rule!), and I was climbing over the barriers to line-up with the sub-3 hour crowd. Another ominous sign was that Sean McMyler (who runs all year round in shorts) was wearing a tee-shirt over his vest and thought that he might keep it on for the first few miles. Everywhere I looked people were shivering and their teeth chattering. This really was worse than the cross country in Barrow! 

Now everyone has a pre-race strategy and I’m no different. I’d spent weeks saying that I was going to aim for 7 min miling. Then a few days earlier I noticed that there was going to be a 3 hour pacer, and I thought it might be an idea to hang on to him for as long as I could. This was seeming an even better bet now that the wind was gusting, since I could tuck in with the crowd. The 3 hour man was identifiable with a huge sail on his back – how on earth was he going to run with that in these winds? A few words from Ron and Darren and we’re off. I cross the line, set my Garmin going, check my pace for a few hundred yards and look up to see the man with the sail disappearing into the distance. Well there goes that plan! Undaunted, I settled into a nice steady 6.50 pace with a small group of runners. 

Old Trafford soon came and went, then we had a strange “about turn” around a cone and headed out of the industrial area and into the waiting crowds. I must say straightaway that the support around the course on that day was the best I have ever seen. People stood in the wind, rain and cold for hours on end and cheered the runners on. It was in these first few miles when I heard a father remark to his children that “These are the fast runners coming by”. And yes, he meant us – talk about a confidence builder! 

I had taken a couple of gels with me in one of those annoying gel belts, and was now looking for Jayne so that I could get rid of the thing and get my next gel. One blessing of the cold weather was that those “Tropical” gels which generally taste like wallpaper paste when warm, were actually quite palatable; or had I lost it already? A couple of false sightings (one an old man on a road bike who I had vigorously waved to from a hundred yards away), and then Jayne appeared on her faithful Trek with another tropical delight. “How’s it going?”. “Fine, just taking it easy”, I answer for the benefit of any runners who might be listening for signs of weakness. 

The first half of the course breezed by. Water stations, crowds, rain, a nasty little hill or two and then I’m over the timing mat in a highly satisfactory split of 1:29:45. This is where the fun really started. Fortunately, my study of the anticipated weather conditions had prepared me for turning into the rather strong winds, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

A deviation into Dunham Massey saw the race take on a multi-terrain feel as we initially picked our way round puddles, only to abandon this strategy and run straight through them, cross country style. Being in the first couple of hundred runners this part of the course hadn’t yet degenerated into the quagmire that it was to later become. Out on the road again, another gel form Jayne and head down up to Partington. 

By now the field had thinned out and the few of us who were together were trying to shelter behind the others. What would have been a lovely stretch of countryside running in warm spring sunshine became a fairly lonesome battle, and by now I had totally lost all feeling in my hands. One of the advantages of having your name printed on your race number is that you get lots of encouragement from the crowds. Unfortunately, you get used to people shouting your name and miss seeing people who you actually know. This almost happened as I was approaching the Rope and Anchor feed station. A couple looking remarkably like Dave Waddington and Jacqui Jones, and someone unmistakably sounding like Julie Platt were handing out gels! Despite shouting my name, I didn’t realise who it was until I was nearly upon them. What a welcome boost their encouragement gave me though. Up the road and more familiar faces in Mark Rogers and Kev Edwards who frightened the living daylights out of me as he leapt from under a tree at the side of the road. 

With 18 miles done and the worst of the weather still to come, you could see the race start to take its toll. I wasn’t going great but I passed runner after runner. Some had already resorted to walking, others were going at little more than a jog. I brought to mind a pre-race text that I had received from that greatly experienced marathon runner Barry Abram, to keep going when it gets tough, and I just got on with it.

The 20 mile mat nailed, on through Carrington and a left turn along the most exposed part of the course. At this point, it decided to hail and my legs seemed to go as cold as my hands. Whatever was “magic” about my gloves had long since been forgotten, as they seemed to be doing nothing but act as a sponge to the cold rain. I had declined another gel from Jayne, but said that I would have one of the Jelly Babies that Phil Derbyshire had sent for me. You cannot imagine how my spirits dropped when she told me that she had lost them. It was worse than knocking your pint over and there being a six deep queue at the bar. Absolutely gutted!

But the Marathon God who had abandoned Graham looked down on me, as Jayne realised that she hadn’t lost them afterall. The bag had burst and they had ended up in the lining of her water proof trousers! She managed to rescue six of the little blighters and offered one to me now. Unfortunately my hands were totally numb so I asked her to put it into my mouth for me. What a performance that was! 

One of the less good ideas of this race (and possibly others) was that if you signed up for a pacing group, you wore your pace time on your back. With 4 miles to go, there was now a number of runners appearing with 3:00 on their shirts. As any runner knows, your strength feeds off others (unfortunate) weakness, and these 3:00ers now became targets to keep me going. Into the last mile, even more encouragement from the brilliant crowds and a dawning sense of what an achievement it was to complete this race. Me and two other lads got together at this point, had an “It’s a Knockout” moment as we were directed through the underpass, but then we resurfaced and could hear the announcer and knew that the end was near. A last “sprint” to the line as I heard my name and that of Wigan Harriers over the tannoy, and my watch was stopped in a little under 3:07. I decided that I would settle for that! 

Foil blanket on to save me from hypothermia ( and I am serious about that!), medal round neck, banana pushed in to hand and off to find Jayne and my bag. I could write another chapter about what was to follow – as could many other people – but just two final words of thanks. First to Maria Lowe, who peeled my banana for me, when my fingers wouldn’t work, and hers were only in marginally better order. And finally, to Jayne who supported me on her bike all day in absolutely atrocious conditions and got soaked to the skin herself. Her pièce de résistance involved untying my trainer laces with her teeth because neither of us had any feeling in our fingers!!! 

You may do the Manchester marathon in the future, but I am sure (hope) that you will never have to do it in those conditions. A race I will never forget.

Manchester Marathon 2012 – Grahams Report

The first time I ran a marathon the famously grey and drizzly city of Edinburgh was blessed with a 30 degree heatwave leaving swathes of lycra clad casualties strewn across the city suffering from heatstroke and sunburn. Combined with my lack of training and abence of natural ability, the stupendously hot conditions led to a time I wasn’t particularly pleased with, although I remained happy to have finished without a trip to A and E.

For my second attempt at 26.2 I chose Manchester, and the Gods of Marathon thought it would be ironic and amusing to test out the other end of the weather scale with artic temperatures and a rain storm of bilbical proportions. As I arrived at Longford Park at 7.15am I was met with a shower of hail and a gale that quickly had me digging through my post race bag to add an extra layer to the 2 tops I had decided would probably be enough to run in. As luck would have it, I had donned a rubbish old pair of running tights to wear until the start when I planned on ditching them  and running in my shorts. Those rubbish tights, (Crane – £6 from Aldi and too big for me), are still in my possesion and having saved me from frostbite I have become so fond of them I may keep them forever!

The realization began to spread amongst those runners huddled under trees or sheltering in the toilets that this wasn’t just going to be a bit wet and a bit nippy. As the Trees of Longford Park bent double in the gale, and rain squals lashed the park, the thought of taking off pre-race fleeces and coats filled us with dismay. It was weather you wouldn’t take a dog out in! It was weather I wouldnt take my mother in law out in.

The start line huddle provided a little bit of warmth in the same way those penguins in the Artic take it in turns to be on the outside whilst the others shelter together in the middle. We could probably have done without Ron Hill regaling us with tales of past victories and delaying the start as the 5,500 asembled souls desperately wanted to start running to generate a little heat! At a couple of minutes past 9 Ron had run out of stories and we were off up the road and splashing our way past Old Trafford.

I had attached myself to the 3:45 pacer group with the intention of steady 8:35 pace until at least half way. My marathon pace was a little quicker than this, but I was determined not to make the usual mistake of going off too fast and paying for it in the second half. One quick pee stop later and I was going too fast to catch back up with the pacer! At this stage the weather was bad but not horrific. The wind was generally at our backs so that although soaked to the skin we were able to keep body temperatures high enough for this just to be thoroughly uncomfortable.

The general consensus amongst those chatting was that nobody minded a bit of rain, (this was Manchester after all), but the sleet and hail was a bit uncalled for! The first few miles the spectators seemed to be suffering more than the runners as they cheerfully clapped us on wrapped up like polar explorers. I got a boost at about 3 miles in when I passed Maria Lowe who was energentically picking out the club vests and shouting support to everyone who went past. Her husband Shaun was probably blasting through 5 miles with Dave Collins at the point I passed her at 3!

Throughout the route the people of Manchester were out in numbers making a fabulous racket in support. They crowded into bus shelters banging wooden spoons in cooking pots, whistling and yelling and cheering. As we trotted past one particular bus stop packed with noisy supporters, the guy next to me made me chuckle with, “they’ll be a while waiting for that bus…” My own support began at 10 miles on the road into Altrincham where a couple of work colleagues, (Pat and Chris), were waiting for me. It really does help to break the race down from an overwhelming 26.2 miles into smaller chunks with milestones like friends and familly waiting at points on the way. I had been looking forward to spotting these two for a couple of miles and it was a delight to spot their fab banner:: ” Go Graham – theres a pie in it for you!”

A quick systems check and I realized that with only 10 miles gone I wasn’t feeling as comfortable and easy as I would have hoped to at this point. I wasnt exactly struggling but the effort required to run in the now blustery winds was taking more out of the tank than expected. Altrincham gave a huge boost to the spirits with hundreds upon hundreds packed into the town centre making as much noise as I have ever heard at a football match. It was a real shiver down the spine moment to run through this wall of energy, particularly when I spotted a big Wigan Harriers banner waved by my main support crew in the form of my old Ma!

Any boost from the crowds in Altrincham was quickly used up ans the nasty secret of this race came next: someone had sneaked a small mountain into Altrincham. The long, twisting horrible climb out of the town went on for ever! This may be a pretty flat course all told, but thats a serious bit of hill on the way through 13 miles! As I crossed the timing mats around 1:52 I was still bang on target for my 3:45 finish but I had an idea that things may begin to slip.

The weather was getting worse with the drizzle turning to proper rain and the gusts building so that on occasion they were strong enough to blow me sideways. Runners all around were hunkering down and starting to “dig in”. This also happened to coincide with a ramble through a part of Dunham Massey that I am sure is quite picturesque and pastoral in anything but a monsoon. At mile 15 of this marathon the meandering track through the park was now a flooded quagmire of ankle deep puddles, tree roots and mud. Running cross country at this point was very very difficult!

Things were to get tougher though. Just through Dunham Massey the route turned north, and for the first time we realized the full power of the wind as we began to head directly into it. At some point in a Marathon even the fastest or most experienced runners needs to slog their way through a tough patch, dig deep inside themselves and find that bit of steel and determination that marks out a long distance runner from just a runner. This low point usually happens at around 19 to 21 miles and is something you can prepare and ready yourself for. Just past mile 15 that low point arrived with a gale force wind that ripped across miles of open countryside, slamming rain and sleet into the quaking bodies of tiring runners.

It now became less of a race and more a matter of slogging it out and keeping going against the elements. My body temperature leaked away quickly. My hands had cramped up into claws and went from a stinging redness to bloated white sausages. I have been out on the Fells in Cumbria in some nasty conditions, but I’d usually have my full hill walking kit on to protect me. It was a different proposition to face those elements in a couple of layers of running kit and lycra. I felt very exposed and very very cold.

Like a mirage in a desert the water station at 16 miles came into view and my spirirts were suddenly lifted by the unmistakable sound of Julie Platts voice roaring out my name, accompanied by an unreasonably cheerful looking Dave Waddington. It is incredible how much your spirit can be lifted by a face you know and as I neared the aid station I was truly boosted by the club. What brought a real smile to my face was the fact that the Harriers couldnt just stand around and offer support to the passing runners: they had to take control of the aid staion, and pitch in with handing out water and gels and encouraging all the passing runners!

I was due to pass my Mum at 17.5 miles and this became the next target to focus on with the thought that she had with her my lightweight Montane running jacket. If I could just keep going, I could grab the jacket and hope to trap a little warmth.The rowdy pocket of supporters stood out in the storm at 17.5 miles were a fabulous tonic, but Mum wasn’t amongst them, (it turns out later that she was actually there but I didnt spot her). My spirits really flagged with the knowledge that the next point we had arranged was mile 21, which seemed more distant than the moon.

From here to the 21 mile mark was probably the toughest physical experience of my life. The cold was down to the bone causing shivers even when running. My hands were useless and the quads had tightened up so that every footfall was met with with a jolt of pain up the outside of my legs. Calf cramps began to come and go and mentally I began to struggle: beset with thoughts of walking, or if I could take the shame of bailing out and recording an DNF at 19 miles. For anyone who did want to give up the main problem was that we were in the middle of nowhere with not a building, shelter or race official for miles around so pretty much the only option was to keep running. I’m not sure what would have happened if I could have got myself inside a McDonalds or a pub to shelter in…..

20 miles came and went and that mile marker has always given me a mental boost. Its a big figure that means you have broken the back of the big miles and its just an ordainary 10k to go! I passed a lady with a sign reading “be brave” which seemed wonderfully appropriate at the time. Then a huge cramp bit the inside of my hamstring and I was staggering about the course like a drunk. I came to a wobbly halt as the cramp eased, and another runner patted me on the back and said “come on lad we’re not stopping here…”

There is always a good cameraderie in a marathon, but the horrendous conditions united those suffering it together even more than usual. That runner got me going again, and a mile or two further down the road I was able to return the favour when I came across the same guy walking.

“Come on mate – we are finishing this you and me…” and he laughed and broke into a painful trot again.

Mile 21 and at the last second I spotted my Mum, and more importantly that beautiful orange Montane jacket! I grabbed it and carried on down the road bouyed by the idea that once I got this on I would be warm and bullet proof and safe the race would be easy. Then I had to stop and ask a spectator to zip it up for me as my fingers didnt work!

The coat really did insulate me against the weather to enough of a degree that I managed to forget about the rain and concentrate instead on the agony from my legs! The countdown through 22 and 23 miles brough the finish ever closer but it still seemed such a long way off. I had long since dropped off the back of the 3:45 pacer, but the 4 hour crew hadn’t passed me yet. There was still hope of getting home in under the magic 4 hour mark. At 24.5 I stumbled and had to stop to prevent myself from falling, whereupon another runner suddenly appeared and said, “come on we’ll just walk to mile 25 from here.”

“Cant – got to finish under 4 hours”, I replied.

“No chance of that now” said the voice of doom, “just walk with me and we can run from mile 25.”

Runners are usually a pretty positive bunch but I seemed to have just attracted my very own mood hoover. It was as though all those negative thoughts in my head had just taken on human form just to drag me down! I looked at my watch and worked out I had about 16 minutes for 1.7 miles, and that I needed to get away from Mr Negative.

I broke into a trot again an kept going all the way to the point whre the route went under the subway, and agonizingly back up the other side. Whoever decided we needed that with half a mile to go is evil! I managed to run up the out ramp, but as I turned back onto the road my legs sort of gave way and I eneded up on my knees. I tried to get up but the legs went again and I was on all fours. A spectator grabbed my arm and began to lift me asking was I ok: “been better” I mumbled and somehow I was running again… but really running now – really properly dragging something up from somewhere and actually running down the hill towards the finish!

A lady marshall shouted outthere were 50 metres to go and a glance at my watch showed 3:59 something and before I knew it I was sprinting hell for leather down the finish tunnel, arms raised roaring like a lunatic. I crossed the timing mats and found myself on my knees holding onto the barrier for support utterly elated that the pain was over but with legs that no longer performed any useful finction! A marshall hoisted me up and walked me up the tunnel and sorted me out with a space blanket and an energy drink and I was soon on my way clutching the most precious medal of my collection!

My official chip time was 4:00:06. Before the race I would have told anyone that I was ready for a 3:45, but that the primary goal was sub 4 and anything over that I would be very upset with. I totally take that back! Given the conditions I still cant believe that I ran that race in 4 hours and I’m pretty damn chuffed with that! I dont think I could have put any more effort into the run and have no regrets that I could have tried harder or dug deeper. On a better day I’m sure I could have run a 3:45 but thats for the next marathon. Right now I’m just happy to be warm and dry and that I gave my best on the day.

The weather outside is predeicted to be 18c today…. great isnt it?