A tale of two marathons, and the cross-training involved



This summer I led treks around the Mont Blanc Circuit with Korean and American clients as part of my job, utilising my qualification as an International Mountain Leader. Putting up with stroppy clients at times, the benefits of paid hotel trips around a beautiful area with great weather far outweighed the negatives.

Before and during the breaks between the treks, I did a couple of classic cycle climbs in the Pyrenees (Col de Marie-Blanque, Col du Port), up Mont Ventoux and in the Alps (Col du Aravis, Colombiere). I climbed a few Via Ferratas and ate well..sometimes too much cheese, bread and chocolate but..hey, it was France!

In one break, the photo here, after the completion of a trek, I ran the Vertical Km (there are many but I believe this is the original) 1000m of ascent up out of Chamonix. I think that 55 mins was a good time..the record is about 38 minutes I think.  Walking cols up to 2500m on a regular basis seems to have helped, maybe with the altitude training.

I came to the UK in September with about 50 miles running training under my belt since Offas Dyke. My mates had all booked on the Purbeck Marathon months ago. I had joined them, after I couldn’t get a place at the Snowdonia Marathon, which was my only other marathon event, 30 years ago.

Purbeck September 18th

All my younger guys had dropped out for one reason or another…injury, not enough training. Not enough training? I was about to find out what that was like.  I wanted to know what walking training at altitude could do.  Purbeck is 27 miles and off road with about 1000m of ascent. It was a sunny day on  September 18th, very mild.  I took on water from the first point, and ran well over the first few miles, slowly picking up the pace despite having to stop at many stiles.  I felt good..it was continually up and down until the last half when the bigger hills started and I really began to feel it.  Lots of old ladies giving out jam butties and flapjacks, that’s what I remember. I didn’t let too many people past and felt I timed it well…the hardest marathon in the UK it is billed as…4 hrs 55. Happy enough.  I had run once for 2 hours back in the UK the week before to see if I could run. 2 days after my last trek when I was walking 6 hrs per day (see relevance and thoughts later!)

Lovely views over the Purbeck Hills and South Coast.  I had a great massage after and even climbed/deep water soloed the next day.

Snowdonia October 29th

After booking on the Purbeck, a place at Snowdonia was offered to me as it was 30 years since I did it in 3hrs 25 as a 21 year old. 6 weeks recovery and tapering…so I was told. What’s all that about? 30 years ago I was told to do a long run only one week before and eat no carbs until the pasta dinner the night before. Now I was being told to run a long run 3 weeks before then taper..isn’t that something you light a fire with?  And now its all about protein straight after training.

I managed a longish, slowish run 3 weeks before over the Black Mountains, then I did the odd run to keep on my feet, with a couple of hill and tempo sessions , the last tempo at Luctonians 9 days before.  I ran twice in the week before, about 5 miles each, easy with some hills…the last one 2 days before Snowdonia.

I used to live in Llanberis and was happy to be back..very beautiful. The hilly route is supposed to be the hardest in the UK! I certainly found it harder than Purbeck.  I was 2 hrs for the first half but my legs went somewhere else in the second.  I was never out of breath at all on the last hills but the legs…and the people passing me! Walking, almost crawling Home in 4hrs 39. Not my finest moment but happy enough. Stacey put in a storming performance (documented elsewhere on these pages) and you can still see it all on S4C on iplayer for while yet if we want to get a team inspired for next year…all entries go in a few hours, 1st January.

So..what did I do right? Or wrong? I took on plenty of gels..water..isotonic…Had I recovered from Purbeck? Did that help or hinder me? Should I have ran more in those intervening 6 weeks? Had I lost my altitude fitness? I just don’t know what I should have done…run more or less, it’s all so confusing! Any advice out there?

I think in essence that time on the legs trekking and cycling helped but there is no substitute for running. But I was being told to taper? Did Joss Naylor taper every day just before he went out fell running every day? I don’t think so. What to do now? I want to keep up my long running fitness but if I run in 3 weeks time for 20 miles, have I recovered enough? If I don’t run that distance in 3 weeks, will I lose that fitness?

Thanks for reading my ramblings

Confusingly yours.


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