Long term readers (often called sufferers) of this blog, will know that I’m a runner. I started running many years ago when I was in the military, (motivated/pursued by a rather large training sergeant), and sort of stuck with it ever since.
Those that know me will confirm that I’m not one of those tall, sleek gazelles you see gliding round Safa Park. No, I’m another type. The short, middle-aged plodder whose legs and arms are swinging furiously but doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. At least anywhere fast. Probably won’t be at the back of the field, but certainly nowhere near the front. A walking testament that a bit of training, a tube of Deep Heat and a lot of elasticated bandage, can go a long way.
The highlight of my running calendar is the Dubai Marathon. No, my friend, not the 10k, (for that is NOT a marathon, it IS a 10k), I train for what is often called in these parts ‘the full 42’. It’s a major commitment, it probably makes no sense, but running half and/or full marathons is actually quite addictive.
So, to prove to other middle-aged plodders out there, be they male or female, that long distance running is not only achievable, it’s also really rewarding, I’m going to post some info about my programme, my progress and a few words of wisdom on the subject.
If you’re training for an event you need a programme, and the programme must be obeyed. Stick to this mantra and you’ll not go far wrong.
I say this as someone who hates routine and recognises that for some people, the idea of committing to a programme makes their naughty rebellious side come out. The side of them that sticks two fingers up at anything that looks like authority. If this sounds familiar and you’d prefer something a bit more freestyle, that’s fine too, though you’re at greater risk of failing on race-day because you didn’t prepare properly.
For me, a programme sets a weekly goal which is aligned to my race objective and keeps me motivated when I’m totally pissed off and want to jack it in. It all comes down to breaking a big scary objective into small bite size chunks.
The structure of my typical programme keeps a few principles in mind:
1. Run four times a week. I’ve seen programmes for beginners that mandate training six times a week. I think this is absolute nonsense. You will get bored, you are far more likely to get injured and where the hell are you going to find the time? For beginners and intermediate runners, four days a week is fine.
2. A hard session is followed by a day off.
3. Mix shorter intervals and longer interval sessions with steady runs and longer endurance building runs.
4. Weekly distance and long runs increase gradually, with a few ‘step back’ weeks to motivate and help recuperation.
5. 50% of weekly distance covered in the long weekend run.
Sticking to a schedule as closely as you can is important, but it’s also pretty important to have a life as well. There will be weeks where you just can’t squeeze your sessions in; don’t sweat it too much, the most important thing is to hit the long weekend runs and at least one session during the week.
If you miss a couple of weeks training because you’re ill or injured, no worries, you can always catch up. If you miss two weeks because you can’t be bothered, honestly, you may as well jack it in now – it’s probably not for you.
Here’s one I prepared earlier.
Here’s my schedule for the marathon which is at the end of January. As you can (hopefully) see, it contains all the elements described above. I’ve also adjusted it a little to do a couple of half marathons on the way, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain.
The running thing has been progressing reasonably well, all things considered. The “all things considered” is of course that I’m too old, too short and too knackered to be on the road in the first place. The main issue this year has been injuries, nothing major, but plenty of disruption and I guess a strong indication that I’m soon destined for the rigours of crown green bowling.
The injury problems started back in summer, with ligament damage to an ankle sustained during my annual game of suicide squash with Kinski. Not a big deal I thought at the time, but in the end it’s taken months to get it back to something resembling normal. The dodgy ankle was followed by a small calf tear, then a strained hamstring and finally ‘runners knee’. I could mention the massive bruise on the thigh after a collision with a concrete plant pot, but that was so stupid and self inflicted I can’t bring myself to include it. I’m a total wreck.
However, help has been at hand in the form of ‘Thor’, my physio from the excellent Ortho Sports Clinic on Jumeirah Beach road. Thor has pushed, pulled, stuck needles and strapped up all the bits that have been on the point of falling off, and somehow kept me on the road. A gentleman, a legend and a viking warrior practicing physiotherapy in Dubai. Who’d have thought?
I love it when a plan comes together
Here’s the list of the Km I’ve covered so far and the times where I’ve been injured. The big block of red in August & September is where I took some time off in an attempt to recuperate before the programme officially commenced in October. Once it was clear that wasn’t working, I learned how to strap myself up and hobbled on from there!
Week 6 and 10 was where I had half marathons booked, one in Abu Dhabi, the other on Dubai creek. As you can see, being injured for 4 days prior to Abu Dhabi was hardly ideal preparation, but damn it, I’d paid 150 dhs, so I was going to run that race no matter what. I did however decide that I wouldn’t monitor my time during the race as my goal of finishing under 2 hours was unachievable due to my injuries.
Man it was hot. That’s all I remember. It was hot. Oh, and I totally got my pacing wrong and nearly died with about 6km to go. What a laugh that was. Did I mention it was hot? Man that last 6k was hot, with no shade.
Anyway, despite, the heat, the lack of shade, the inadequate training and totally blowing my beads from a timing point of view, I surprised myself to come in at 2 hours 2 mins. My GPS watch reckoned the course was 300m short, but who trusts those things anyway?
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