I recently coached Sarah in the build up to the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon. Here's how we worked together to get her a new personal best...
Congratulations on running the London marathon this year! Why did you decide to run London?
I ran Edinburgh marathon in 2014, which was my first. I just wanted to do one marathon to see if I could do it. My aim was to break 4 hours and I surprised myself by finishing in 3:40.50 which meant that I qualified for London under their Good For Age system. Everyone told me London was a special experience and something I simply couldn't say no to, so I signed up!
What was your goal for London?
To get a PB, so anything under 3:40. I felt the pressure after what I felt might have been a fluke performance in Edinburgh.
Is that why you decided to hire me to coach you?
Partly! Having a really busy job and a young child means that prioritising time to go running isn't always easy. I knew I had to focus on quality of each training session, not quantity or simply time spent running, I simply don't have enough time. So having a weekly one-to-one session made sure I did at least one good quality session every week. And having to report back on my week's runs made sure I actually did the other runs in the training plan!
How did you find those one-to-one sessions?
Really tough! I would never have pushed myself so hard on my own on those speed and hill workouts. I really felt I ran to my limit! But I always felt good afterwards and my parkrun time also improved which was great. I still don't like hill reps though!
That's okay, you don't have to like hill reps! Did training go to plan?
Overall, yes. One 20-mile training run didn't quite go as I'd hoped but the next one went well so I was fairly happy. I tried different ways to pace myself and your guidance was really important to learn how to do that.
What else did you learn during training?
I learnt there is much more to running than time on your feet. The pacing, the hydration, nutrition and race tactics all make the difference. The more I learnt about it the better I became and the more interesting it is too. The training sessions really worked together over time and I built up knowledge and improved steadily.
How was race day?
It's hard to put into words really, but it's true London marathon was really special. The start was tense and high energy, and I was freezing which didn't help my nerves. The first half was hard to concentrate on pace, the halfway mark at Tower Bridge was electric and from there on it really was the best experience!
The fact I trained well and I was totally prepared meant I could run steadily and comfortably throughout and finish relatively fresh. This meant I could soak up the atmosphere, hold my head up, look at crowds and scenery and really enjoy it!
What's next for you?
I want to get a fast time for 10k this summer and also improve my parkrun PB. I think I have the marathon bug now, so I am sure I will do it again one day. I'll have a little rest before then though!