VLM2017 – A 10K PB (39.34) and none the wiser as to what to target on race day

With just 2 weeks to go until the big day, I am still none the wiser as to whether I will go for sub-3 or stick to the original plan of sub-3.05 and a ‘Good For Age’ (GFA) time. For those without a calculator to hand, the difference is 11 seconds per mile – on the face of it, it doesn’t sound a lot, but over 26.2 miles running 11 seconds per mile faster is significant and likely to have me feeling considerably different at mile 20 (the point where the proverbial ‘Wall’ tends to strike).

The reason for my continued indecision is the conflicting predictions from my runs to this point. From a racing perspective, my half marathon in 1.26 predicts a 3.01 marathon finish (close enough!), whereas my recent 5K (19.07) and 10K (39.34) races predict times around the 3.05 mark. In truth, these calculators are dangerous and the best predictors are based on previous marathon training/racing experience and pacing during long runs, in particular those ran at marathon pace (MP). This is where I start to believe that running sub-3 is possible. I’ve come away from every long run achieving my target pace and the recent Fleet HM that I used as a MP race, running 5 miles before (including 1 @ MP) and then the 13.1 @ MP felt comfortable. As this was on tired legs, I finished believing that I could keep this going for the full 26.2 miles.

So here lies the dilemma. As this is likely to be my last marathon for a while, do I aim for a GFA time and achieve a recognition that I never thought was possible, or do I push myself to the absolute limit in search of the iconic sub-3 and can say that I have a 2 hour something marathon but risk blowing up big and finishing outside 3.05, something that I feel my training deserves. The other important thing to note is that 3.05 is not a given as this is marathon running after all. There are also external factors that are uncontrollable, most notably highlighted today at the many marathons across Europe where the mini heat wave made it nearly impossible (perhaps, just impossible) for people to achieve their main goal.

Ultimately, I want to enjoy the run and whatever I target will partly be based on how this will make me feel during and after the race. I have 2 weeks of relatively low mileage (32 next week and 22 in the week prior the race) and my body is definitely in need of the taper (taper being the period leading up to the marathon where you reduce your mileage to ensure that you are as fresh as possible on race day). This week was technically a taper week, but with a 10K race and 16 miles on tired legs in today’s heat it hasn’t felt too different to any of the previous weeks.

I’m going to try and relax over the next couple of weeks, but that’s unlikely – let the Maranoia begin!!

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VLM2017 – Weeks 11 – 14

I’m going to keep my latest blog entry short (very short), partly because I am still debating in my head whether to go for Sub-3.05 or Sub-3.00 and partly because I’m shattered, but feel that an entry is long overdue. So here it is, pics and stats from the past 4 weeks:

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VLM2017 – Clapham Chasers – Riverside 20 (5th March 2017)

Race report I wrote for my running club – Ealing Eagles

One of the advantages of running a spring marathon, over running one in the autumn, is the abundance of 20 mile marathon training runs that are available. There are so many in fact, that you have the option to be a bit picky and choose the one(s) that you enjoy the most and best fit within your training plan.

I ran the Clapham Chasers – Thames Riverside 20 back in 2015 in the build up to the Manchester Marathon and it was a no brainer for me to use this as one of my 20 mile runs in preparation for VLM2017 for a number of reasons.

On the face of it, the event doesn’t sound particularly exciting! It starts at 8am in the morning, involves a not particularly exciting route, running up and down the Thames (a large part of which is the clubrun route), there is no finisher t-shirt or medal and it costs £22.

And for all of these reasons I was depicting a pretty negative attitude towards running this year in the days leading up to the race. And with the forecasted heavy rain I was close to not getting out of bed at all. At this point I should apologise to everyone that had to ensure my grumpy demeanour on route on Sunday morning. To my defence the rain was coming in side-ways and we had little to no shelter in the race village.

The good thing is that once the race started, I remembered why I had signed up in the first place. Being a club-run event, the organisation is excellent – they know what runners want and need, focus on getting these things in place and don’t worry about all the pointless frills and spills.

The pace groups are what really set this race apart from the other marathon training runs. With 2 Clapham Chasers assigned to each group (7.00, 7.30, 8.00, 8.30 and 9.00mm), being set off at 2 minute intervals to avoid congestion, there is a really relaxed feel and a non-race vibe, with the first few miles spent getting to know different runners and sharing the various ups and downs of marathon training. Not everyone, including me, sticks to the pace group for the entire 20 miles (although many do) as the flat nature of the route provides a perfect opportunity for a progression run or even running part of the race at marathon pace. Again, by chatting to the other runners, you can often find someone who has a similar race plan and therefore can provide company for most of the run.

On top of pacing, the Chaser Marshalls are brilliant. They are situated and regular interval points, many of which double up as water/Gatorade stations and their enthusiasm and professionalism is probably only bettered by us Eagles. And considering the biblical weather we were experiencing at times on Sunday, it was even more impressive.

I mentioned earlier that the route was a bit of a negative. However, the out and back nature of the course means that you get to see all of the other runners on route and as the faster runners cheer you on the way out, you get to reciprocate this with the runners that are slower than you on the way back. And as there is always a decent number of Eagles running, this provides regular boosts just at the time you need it and is often shortly followed by those on the Sunday clubrun. In fact, there is a great buzz all round on this date as the event coincides with a rowing regatta, so the Thames get lined with supporters up and down the boat houses.

I also mentioned the lack of medal, but personally I’m not bothered about getting a medal for something that isn’t a race. The important thing after 20 miles is that you get well fed and with one of the most impressive goody bags around, courtesy of Holland and Barrett – not to mention the large selection of homemade cakes waiting for you – what’s not to like!

Overall it was a great day and the sun even came out for the second half of the run.

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VLM2017 – Thorpe Park Half Marathon PB: 1.26.05

3 weeks since my last update and I’ve reached a peak weekly mileage of 55 miles, ran a 15 mile long run on a stag weekend in Vegas and have a shiny new PB at the Thorpe Park Half Marathon.

Let’s start with the peak weekly mileage. Despite the achievement, the 55 miles were largely uneventful. It started with a poor Lactate Threshold (LT) session (which I blamed on tired legs from the Watford Half Marathon), a couple of recovery runs and a medium long run of 12 miles. The final run on Sunday of 20 miles was also of relative importance. Ok, yes a 20 mile run is still a very long run and I hit the paces I wanted to despite the ongoing niggles in my left knee but it’s not a session that I’m likely to highlight as a key run during my post marathon analysis.

Moving on the Stag weekend in Vegas! When I initially started planning my marathon training plan I contemplated starting a week early and sacking off running altogether during this week. So far the plan has taken me to Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the US – so the Vegas trip wasn’t going to be the only disruption; however it was the only trip that would involve copious amounts of drinking over a 5 day period. The week did coincide with a taper week so I manned up, kept this week in my plan and packed my running gear.

I’ve had a bit of practice running whilst hangover / still drunk from the night before. My first ever 10K took place after an 8 pint drinking session and I also ran a half marathon a couple of years back after a drinking session that had only finished about 5 hours previously. I had 3 runs planned whilst I was in Vegas, a couple of short recovery runs and a 15 mile long run. The recoveries were fine, although required significant weaving in and out of the early risers and Vegas insomniacs! I was trying to think of a polite way of describing some of the individuals that I experienced when running around Vegas early in the morning. I came up with a few other adjectives, but think I’ll stick with insomniacs for now.

The 15 mile run was a different experience altogether. I’d done some research on running in Vegas prior to going to out there and pretty much every review said that the best place to run in Vegas, was outside of Vegas. I was therefore left with the option of getting a return taxi for around $100 to an area called Red Rock Canyon or braving the monotony of the Las Vegas suburbia. Having left most of my money on the Blackjack and Crabs table the night before, I decided to go with the later. And yes, it was horrendous. It felt like I was running past the same house, same road and crossing the same traffic lights time and time again. On top of that, we were experiencing the fringes of one of the worse storms to hit the region in decades and a years’ worth of rainfall was falling in Vegas in just a few days. Wasn’t quite what I expected for a run in the desert! I actually felt quite good once the run had finished and it had the added benefit of keeping me out of the casinos, bars and diners for a few hours at least.

Finally my PB. So back from Vegas and feeling a little bit worse for wear, the focus for this week shifted purely to the Thorpe Park Half Marathon at the end of the week. I’ve always used the half marathon in my marathon training plan as a key indicator for my progress and having not race for the first 10 weeks of this plan, this was going to be a key race for me to predict and ultimately set my final goal for London. Despite Vegas I was feeling pretty confident going into the half. The start of the previous week ‘prior to travelling out the US’ I had my best LT session of the plan so far. I did 10 miles with 7 @ LT, averaging 6.29 minute miles (mm) for each of the LT miles. I took this week relatively easy, although I didn’t want to taper to much as I was concerned about losing fitness, especially as the mileage the week before was also slightly cut back. I squeezed in a Vo2max session at the track and also an 8 mile GA run with strides, either side of the usual recovery runs and still felt sufficiently fresh come the start of the race on Sunday.

Thorpe Park Half Marathon was a new race and therefore a bit of a gamble for my key warm up race for London. I picked it for a couple of reasons – mainly because it fitted in perfectly with my marathon plan, but also because it claimed to be a flat and fast course, although experience has taught me that unless a course is very hilly it will always claim to be flat and fast. I think they are justified in calling this course flat though and it definitely has PB potential – as I was fortunate to find out. A few other runners commented post-race about the hills that they failed to advertise – yes there were 3 tricky inclines to navigate but it’s almost impossible to find 13.1 miles of completely flat roads and the overall elevation was less than 200 feet, which is comparable to other ‘flat’ half marathons that I’ve done in the past. The race organisation overall was very good, they could have had a few more toilets but volunteers were plentiful, the route well thought out and there were sufficient water stops on the course. We were also rewarded with a technical t-shirt at the finish and a good selection of drinks and snacks for the post-race recovery. The only negative was the medal that had a section cut off, which it later transpired was because they had failed to secure Thorpe Park branding permission from the Merlin group. In all honesty, I hadn’t even noticed it until it had been pointed out on social media.

I’ve almost forgot to mention my time. Well, the plan was to run at 6.35mm to achieve something around 1 hour 26 minutes and 30 seconds. I had a stretch goal of sub-1.26 but didn’t want to push it too much, with the risk of blowing up later on in the race. And despite the 3 hills and occasional periods of running directly into the remains of Storm Doris, my pace stayed bang on target for the majority of the race. I think my average pace overall was either 6.36 or 6.37mm from mile 2 onwards until mile 11. With 2 miles to go in a half marathon I usually pick up the pace if my legs are feeling good and yesterday was no different. My legs didn’t feel completely fresh (I had just ran 11 miles quicker then I’d ever run before!), but I did have enough to run a 6.31mm and 6.24mm, with a strong finish bringing me in for a 1.26.05. I was ecstatic; this was easily inside my target time and very close to my stretch goal. On top of this, I came 95th out of a field of almost 4,000. The reality of running progress over the past few years hit me when around mile 10, one of the spectators shouted ‘well done front runners’.

The question now is what does this mean for my goal time? This is probably the strongest evidence yet that sub-3 hours for London could be possible and I believe that it’s doable. I still need to get through 8 weeks injury free and considering I have five, 50 + mile weeks back to back now, that it definitely not a fore gone conclusion. I then need to decide whether I’m prepared to risk not achieving a Good For Age time. Experts say that for every minute that someone runs the first half of a marathon faster than what is achievable, they lose 2 minutes in the 2nd half. The fine line between success and failure!

Either way, I’m 10 weeks in and I’m in a good place – just not taking anything for granted.

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Coverage in The Sun and Sun Online – 5th July 2016

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James Linney wanted to try every Olympic sport after witnessing the London Games in 2012.

AFTER being massively inspired by the London 2012 Olympics, 34-year-old James Linney set himself the challenge of trying every single olympic sport by the time the Rio games began in 2016.

Since that early pledge he’s tried it all; track cycling, swimming, shooting, canoeing, equestrian sports – as well as trampolining and gymnastics.

His latest challenge is to run the Great Newham London Run in July and although he wasn’t initially inspired by the thought of running James now loves it and can’t wait for his latest feat.

Natasha Harding spoke to James, 34 who lives in London with his wife Rhian, who’s 29 about running, training and trying things he never thought he would.

James, who works in marketing says: “I was totally inspired when watching the London 2012 Olympics. I managed to get loads of tickets and went to the athletics stadium on two occasions (including the last day when Mo Farah won the 5,000m), and it was incredible. “When the Games finished I wasn’t sure what to do with myself – so I came up with the idea of trying to participate in every Olympic sport by Rio 2016.”

Although he’d always been active, James wasn’t doing as much exercise as he used to before he started the challenge and had put on weight so worked on his fitness levels by taking up running again. Since since 2012 he’s lost three stone and feels fitter than ever.

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“I thought, not only is this an exciting challenge, but in four years I will be able to watch every sport and fully appreciate the skills and athleticism involved.”

He says: “I feel so proud of everything I’ve achieved and love the way I feel. I’ve always done lots of team sports in my life but things that involve agility and balance such as gymnastics have really challenged me – but strangely I’ve enjoyed that.

“I didn’t ever think I’d run a marathon because I didn’t think it would be my thing but I absolutely love running now. I love the freedom and flexibility of it – and you always feel better after a run, no matter what.”

James joined the Ealing Eagles running club which has 500 members and goes out with them twice a week. He explains: “Joining a running club was really important and it’s kept me focused and going forward.”

After trying so many different sports James finds it hard to choose a favourite as he’s learnt different skills from them all. He says: “As a single, one-off event, track cycling (completed at the Olympic Velodrome) was definitely the most fun that I’ve done but I’ve also loved learning to dive as I had never even been able to dive in from the side of the pool, but by the end of the course I was completing hurdle dives, back dives and diving off the 5m board.”

james_03James is also doing the Great North Run in September and is viewing the Great Newham London Run as part of his training plan and isn’t too focused on the time that he completes the race in.

He’s running the race with his wife and two friends so would be happy to complete the 10k in just under an hour.

He says: “My wife has really got into running now and we train together twice a week now which is lovely. It’s been really inspirational for both of us and I think that finishing the run in the Olympic Stadium will be fitting for everything I’ve done over the last four years.

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James Linney is on his marks for the Great London Newham run this month

“The main thing for me has to be the personal accomplishment. I am proud of what I’ve achieved and the money that I have raised for Charity, in particular Get Kids Going. I feel passionately about

children exercising more regularly and to support disabled children get into sport, means a lot to me.

And James still has more fitness goals and says: “Running is my number one sport these days, but I also plan to do more triathlons from next year and with more time, I’d love to get into rowing. “On an ad hoc basis I’ll most probably continue trampoline and horse riding.”

THE Great Newham London Run 10km and Family Run 2km takes place at the former Olympic Stadium on July 17.

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Modern Pentathlon

After successfully negotiating my horse ‘Buddy’ over a minor fence today at Hewshott Farm Stables, I am now able to say that I’ve completed every discipline of the Modern Pentathlon and in doing soon, I have displayed the ultimate test of fitness, courage and skill. (quote: pentathlongb)

Modern Pentathlon

  • Fencing (completed 23rd Aug, 2013)
  • Swimming (completed 23rd Mar, 2013)
  • Pistol Shooting (completed 2nd Dec, 2012)
  • Cross-Country Run (completed 26th Oct, 2014)
  • Show jumping (completed 14th May, 2016)
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Netball

Taking part in every Olympic sport clearly isn’t enough of a challenge for me, so this evening I decided to go for a Commonwealth games sport, Netball.

We’ve entered a Mixed Netball league in Acton. I’ve played a couple of times before and I do actually really enjoy it. I switched between Center and Goal Attack. My fitness is definitely up to it, however, I’m going to need a bit more composure over the coming weeks.

MyGoldCoast2018CommonwealthGamesChallenge has a certain ring to it!!

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