In October 2011 I completed my first marathon, the Loch Ness Marathon. Despite completing my training with no problems or pain, I had a race rife with injuries after I was rendered unable to run without severe ITB pain at 13 miles. I eventually crawled over the line in 5hrs 12 minutes and 2 seconds, which for me was around 40 minutes slower than I had planned to finish. The important thing was of course, that despite tremendous adversity I HAD finished, and was proud to join the marathon club – something that up until 5 months prior I had never even entertained the thought of.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live; I’ve never experienced pain like it and hopefully will never again. That race was the making of me and it was only in hitting absolute rock bottom that I realised how truly strong I could be. After finishing I knew immediately that I could do better of course, and it has never really been far from my mind since. My times have been steadily improving in all distances this year and it is now time to announce my Autumn goal race, which is the Moray Marathon.

There were several options available to me – I could have attempted Loch Ness for a second time but I really wanted to do a different course. I could have gone abroad, but I would be concerned about heat affecting my performance. There are plenty of options down South in England, but costs mount up and I don’t really have that much more money to spend on racing this year. It became clear that the Moray Marathon on the 2nd of September was ideal – close to home (about 2 hrs drive), cheap (£20!!) and a small race with less of the fuss and ceremony which accompany larger races. Don’t get me wrong – I love a big race, but this time I’m coming to race and that’s all I care about. I’m coming to race HARD.

I have some goals in mind, but I am not going to publish them on the blog. Obviously I’m capable of slicing a fair bit of time off my current PB and in theory any new PB is to be celebrated but I’m aiming big for this one. So far this year I’ve ‘accidentally’ PB’d in 5k and Half Marathon distances without really trying, and recently I’ve been constantly suprising myself with my pace on training runs so now it’s time to see what happens when I actually work hard.

Here’s a look at my training plan:

It’s loosely based on Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 with a few tweaks to accomodate life events. I am doing the Stonehaven Half Marathon in the week that he suggests a Half which is remarkable timing, and the only other race I’m doing is the Ythan Challenge this Sunday. After my injuries at Loch Ness I analysed everything about my training which possibly could have contributed to the problem – road camber, under-training, bad shoes… but the one thing which stuck in the back of my mind was the amount of races I did last summer. There were a couple of long runs which I replaced with Half Marathons such as Dundee and Dyce; I figured that running a hard 13 miles would balance out missing a few miles off my scheduled 16 or 18 mile runs. I do not believe that to be the case, especially in your first time tackling the distance when you’ve never run that far before. Your legs NEED the long runs, you need the time on your feet and such an important part of marathon training is building both the mental and physical strength which comes from ages by yourself on the road or trails.

So I received this confirmation in the mail last week and I couldn’t be more excited. I feel really strong right now having beasted out nearly two weeks of 6-day-a-week training and I’m really enjoying being back in beast mode. 10 weeks to go!

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Now – things are going to be a bit quiet around here for the next couple of weeks as I am away for work in Poland on tour with one of the choirs from the University. Straight after I am headed back to the West Highland Way Race to support my friend Vikki on her first attempt at the 95 mile distance. Last year I supported Mike, who was far too fast for me to join him in the final miles when he was allowed a support runner, but this year I will be running with Vikki for much of the second half of the race as she battles through a second night on the Way to earn her goblet. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my friends from the Scottish Ultramarathon ‘Family’ and being inspired once more to be the best possible runner I can be. It will be a weekend of incredible sporting achievement, mental endurance and triumph despite adversity. Bring It On!

I’m back at the end of June – take care of yourselves!