Another fortnight closer to Valencia marathon and the big question is “does marathon pace ever start to feel easy?” Chasing sub 2:30 continues with plenty of miles and some big occasions.

It’s been a big two weeks. Really big. In terms of training, but also because I got to marry the wonderful Natalie White whilst surrounded by friends and family in the Chamonix valley. Not surprisingly that was a rest day, but my legs got a bit of a workout on the dance floor.

So how is life as a married man? Not much different really, just seems the volumes picked up a little in training and I don’t think that’s related.

Fitting training in around a big life event like a wedding wasn’t easy, but it was doable with a bit of planning. Coach Tom Craggs also front loaded the week a little as we knew it might be a little busy. The beer kilometre race on the Sunday was a good little interval workout too.

Enough about our wedding though, you’re here for some running chatter.

Should marathon pace feel easy?

The one thing that I’ve started to notice more and more is that my goal marathon pace of 5:40-43/mile still feels pretty tough. Running at that pace isn’t impossible, but it certainly doesn’t feel like my “marathon pace” yet.

So should marathon pace ever feel easy? If it felt like I could run 26.2 miles at that pace now, still six weeks out from race day, would my target be a little too soft?

With plenty of big sessions and key long runs to come, I’m certainly feeling fitter, but it isn’t the quality sessions that this comes through in, it’s the easy runs. Ticking over at a comfortable easy effort is suddenly getting a little quicker. That’s a good sign I hear.

The sessions are getting quicker, but feeling harder too. This is likely down to the fact I’m in a bulky part of my marathon training, otherwise referred to as ‘the grind’.

Wise words

There are plenty of people out there with better marathon experience than I so I reached out for advice. The wise words come in from all directions.

“With the volume of training you’re doing in the peak weeks nothing will feel easy” said 2:27 marathoner Paul Navesey. “Imagine you’re doing the last 20-25km of your marathon as you’ll be starting the race on fresh legs. You certainly shouldn’t have fresh legs now.”

“It’ll come, don’t worry” were the first thing 2:19 runner Carl Hardman said. “I remember going out for a five or six mile tempo early in the build up and being 10 seconds off marathon pace. I thought “how the f**k am I going to get around this marathon when I can’t even hit MP”. Then in one session it clicks and all is forgotten”. 

The coach just says that “little by little we’re nudging towards where we want to be” and that’s a key point.

There is no magical marathon session that gets you ready, but weeks and weeks, month and months of solid, consistent work get you to that start line ready. Patience is key.

A little help from my friends

In recent weeks I’ve been fortunate to have friends help out on some of these tougher sessions: Majell Backhausen, my wife Nats, Ben Riddell and Tom Payn have either kept me company, kept me honest or just shown me how fast a road runner can go. 

The power of the group is something that comes through a lot when reading about running fast. Whether it’s American colleges, the running community in Iten or just groups of runners working together across the UK, having others around to push you is a good thing. 

This is one of the reasons Valencia marathon was an easy choice for a goal marathon. The depth between 2:25-30 at the Spanish marathon is great, with 40 runners coming in in the five minute gap. This year 23 runners did the same at the much bigger London marathon. 

The goal is to use the groups around, with hopefully a bunch aiming for sub 2:30, to achieve my best on the day. Some people train well and race badly, but I’m definitely the other way round, finding a little something extra on race day.

So what is next

Coming up are some bigger weeks still, with key sessions and races mixed in with a few races. The Lausanne half marathon, Geneva 10k and Martigny’s seven kilometre night race are all good markers of where I’m at. They could be a good confidence boost if they go well, but good experience if not.

Not only will they be fun to race, but also good opportunities to practice race day build up.

Certainly for Lausanne I will prepare my food, rest and everything else in the same way I will for Valencia. Practicing these beforehand might make all the difference on the day.

With a track session of 3 x (1200,1200,400) done today, it’s another great one in the bank. My calves are even starting to get used to the faster work. Kind of.

This next fortnight sees more threshold and steady running built into big weeks. Fuelling and recovery will be really important. 

Hopefully that marathon pace feels easy for at least the first half of Valencia…

Robbie is sponsored by Odlo, Profeet Sports Lab and Precision Hydration. If you want to follow his training chasing sub 2:30 you can also see it here on Strava or the highs and lows of Twitter and Instagram.

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