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So I cooked up this challenge, 3 marathons in 3 days, circumnavigating the Isle of Wight. For more details go to the IW Marathon Trilogy page.

I was very interested in how it would feel running more than one marathon. I’d never run the day after a marathon, not even a mile. Would I be able to run a second? A third? Would it get easier? Time to find out.

I’d trained hard for this, see previous post. Jonny had put a demanding training schedule in place, that pushed my mileage up, and worked in some combinations of runs around some of the weekends, with 2 or 3 days in a row of medium to long runs.

From January through to a couple of weeks before the challenge, I managed to do at least 40 miles each week for 10 weeks in a row. That’s a lot for me, and put 2021 well on track to be my biggest mileage year by some way.

So, how did it go?

Marathon #1 – Objective here was to keep the pace steady, and keep something in the tank for days 2 and 3. It was a chilly morning as I set off with my mate Simon, fresh from his recent maiden ultra. We had support for the run from Simon’s mum and daughter, with a few pit stops for drinks and jelly babies.

With Simon after day 1, having just dunked our legs in the very cold sea!

This is a beautiful run around the north east coast of the Isle of Wight. We kept the pace steady, but, towards the end of the run I started to feel tired. This did not bode well for the days to come. We finished in about 4:50, not bad.

Headed home to start replenishing all those missing calories. Jumped in the bath for a soak, and then when I got out of the bath, I got a big clue to what went wrong today when I saw myself in the mirror! My bright red beacon of a face was looking back at me. I was pretty badly sunburnt, no wonder I was feeling wiped out!

Ate lots, drank more, convinced the wife to message my legs. Still felt rubbish, but brushed up on the route for tomorrow and then went to bed.

Marathon #2 – Woke up and felt wayyyy better 🙂

The mistake for day 2 was in the logistics department. Was meeting my mate Keith at the end of the run and driving to the start. Was late as I forgot the all important sun peak, and we underestimated how long it would take to drive back to the start, meaning we didn’t start running until 10:45am.

The run was a brute! 3000ft plus of elevation. The early stage in particular was very hilly through Shanklin and Ventnor, but eventually got to the long stretch of coastal path across the back of the Island.

Me and Keith were not rushing, the objective was to finish tomorrow, which Keith was also planning on doing. We took it easy, stopped and drank when we wanted, picked football teams to pass the time and relentlessly took the piss out of each other!

We had support today from Zoe (day 3 runner) and Steve, who turned up a couple of times with Coke and sweets, which were very welcome.

Eventually after a long day, we ran over Tennyson Down to the Needles and to the finish. Closer to 6 hours today, but we finished happy and feeling a lot better than day 1.

Off home to carry on eating and drinking. Sounds easy doesn’t it, but this was becoming a problem. 3,000 calories burnt on each marathon, plus 2,500 needed in a day anyway. I found that I just could not eat enough without getting indigestion. If I ever multi-day marathon again I’d have to re-think what I was eating.

Marathon #3 – The last leg. Felt OK at the start, and was looking forward to having more company today as it was Saturday. 4 of us started, me, Zoe, Keith and Petya. At halfway Petya dropped out, and Neil, Gareth and Carolyn joined us to make a perfect Covid safe team of 6.

We had fun on day 3, running around the north west part of the Island, along the coast and around the estuary at Newtown. Steve was popping up en route to top us up on Lucozade, Coke and flapjack.

It felt OK today. We did have some wobbles and minor sense of humour failures with 3 or 4 miles to go, but we soon picked up and headed to home for wine and chips!

All done, with day 2 and 3 buddies Keith and Zoe

So the job was done. Was it hard? Of course. As hard as I thought? Probably not. Lesson learned? Don’t forget the suncream. Hardest part? Eating enough calories. Does the body get used to running every day? Yes I think you do fall into a routine of plodding along.

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I don’t profess to be an expert in this topic, but can share my experiences. I was interested in running multiple marathons. I was in awe in people like Eddie Izzard and Ben Smith (401 marathons in 401 days) that run a marathon every day. I had never ran at all the day after a marathon, not even one mile. What would happen if I ran the day after a marathon?

I had arranged a ‘5 in 5’ event on the Isle of Wight in 2020, but of course that was not possible when Covid happened, so in 2021, I set a date for myself to run 3 marathons in 3 days, now I needed to train for it.

This is where I’d love to tell you about some clever training plan I cooked up, but truth be told, it was all taken care of for me by Jonny Mellor (JM Coaching). I agreed what the plan was in terms of the runs, and Jonny set about cooking up some training for me.

The key to this was mileage. The most I’ve run in a year is 1,200 miles, and at the point in 2021 of doing this challenge, I’m on pace to be on for 1,800 miles for the year, so it has got me out doing 50% more miles than I’ve ever run before.

Unsurprisingly, the training is about combinations of runs, and the plan gave me successive days of running 10 and 12 miles, then 10, 12, 14, another weekend might have a 10 and a 20 or 16 miles one days followed by a half marathon. All in preparation for running multiple days on tired legs.

Running lots of miles is hard of course, but having the input of Jonny kept motivation high. I know I couldn’t have kept getting out there if I’d cooked up the training plan myself.

I once asked a friend of mine who is a really talented runner how I could improve. He told me there is no point running 50 or 60 miles a week if it then means you run 10 or 15 miles the next week, you need to pick a target like 40 miles a week, and then stack the weeks up.

In my training for my multi event challenge, 40 miles became my benchmark, and from January through to March, I managed to run 40 miles each week for 10 weeks in a row. I’m hoping that will be the foundation of some good results.

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Goodwood Running Grand Prix, Dec 2020

I’ve sought improvement in my running, pretty much since I joined a running club. I’ve read books, followed running plans, written running plans, worked with personal trainers, taken supplements, changed shoes. You name it, if I thought it might take a minute off my marathon time, I tried it.

In 2020 I was struggling for motivation, the come down from doing a marathon each month in 2019 maybe. Then Covid and lockdown, and it really did fall apart.

After running a virtual marathon in June, badly, I decided it was time to venture into a field I had been fascinated by for some time, and that was the world of online coaching.

I made some enquiries and came up with two options. A very nice sounding lady who was put forward by one of the big online training companies, who confessed she wasn’t really a runner but was sure she could motivate me to get out there, or the choice of using JM Coaching, meaning my training would be dictated but Jonny Mellor, a marathon runner with a 2:10 marathon, an Olympic qualifying time. Decisions, decisions!

So my running was now appearing in an online diary for me, planned out by Jonny, and when you know your running data is being analysed by an elite runner that can run twice as fast as you, I found it really did motivate me to pull my finger out!

I had always prided myself on being able to build a decent training plan, but sticking exactly to the plan was another matter. This was different, with coach Jonny dishing out the plans, I was much more motivated to get out there, and soon found that I was clocking up 30 or 40 miles a week.

By the end of September I managed to get back under 4 hours with a 3:55 around the tarmac of Goodwood, and then a week later came maybe my best marathon run to date, not a PB, but 3:58 on the much more difficult Isle of Wight Marathon course in hideous wet and windy conditions.

Was really pleased with the progress, and with another marathon booked in December, it was time for another wave of training with JM Coaching.

December saw the cancellation of Portsmouth Coastal, but once again Goodwood on its motor circuit, closed to the public proved to be Covid proof.

Race day came, and it was cold, a good omen, like my previous PB, a cold day at a tarmac race circuit. Off we went from our socially distanced start, and like various marathons before, I set a consistent pace, and got to the halfway mark at pretty much exactly the same time as my previous PB.

Today’s run however would be different. Every marathon I run involves a slow down in the second half, but today I was able to maintain my form, and hold a very similar pace throughout. The result was getting home 6 minutes quicker than my PB, in 3:46. That’s 6 minutes all gained in the second half of the marathon.

So what’s the answer? Potions, lighter shoes, eating salt tablets, that last chocolate bar…. No. There’s only one answer to running better, and it’s the answer no runner wants to hear, it’s training harder. This year, through adversity, online coaching managed to motivate me to get out there more often and for longer. Thanks Jonny!

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50th Birthday virtual marathon

The start of 2020 saw a new challenge for me, I was going to get involved in an event involving 5 marathons in 5 days. So the year started off with me training towards that, although to be honest I wasn’t training hard enough.

Then of course, Covid-19 started to unfold, and everything changed.

Truth be told, I’d been struggling for motivation anyway, and when lockdown arrived, and half the country seemed to take up running, I gave up and decided it was time to take a break. It wasn’t like I was sat festering on the sofa, at the start of lockdown I’d started working helping out at the local hospital.

So a month on, and I wasn’t feeling great and knew that my break from running could not continue, I needed a challenge.

So here is my question for today… Is a virtual marathon a ‘proper’ marathon?

When virtual marathons popped up as lockdown relaxed a little, there was a lot of judgement about these events from the running community.

So what do I think? Each to their own is what I think. In these difficult times, if someone needs to motivation to run a virtual ‘race’, be it along the seafront or around their back garden, then go for it, whatever works.

I broke my lockdown slumber, by deciding to enter a virtual marathon with Phoenix Running. A company I’d run events with a few times, and I thought could do with my entry fee. I also decided to do this on my 50th birthday. I knew my 50th was going to slip past with little celebration, so sod it, lets make it a day to remember.

I entered an ‘event’, got the family to buy into in as my birthday wish and away we went. We parked our van on the cycle path, got a couple of running friends to join in (socially distanced of course), and off we went.

Backwards and forwards along the path with different running buddies and family members, on a warm sticky day, until eventually my watch said 26.2. I really suffered for that month off, as indicated by the 4:49 finish time.

So is that a proper marathon? Well there were no official timers, no other competitors and no pacers. However, I got off my backside and ran 26.2 miles, I got a medal, and for me it was a day to remember. I’m going to call that a marathon, but each to their own 🙂

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2019 medals
At last managed to make my 2019 medal rack!

So, I have been meaning to wrap up my year of marathons and not quite got round to it, to here is a little summary of how it went down.

I guess the headline is that I kind of finished it. I had intended to run one marathon each month, but due to injury, the schedule got juggled about, meaning I didn’t finish one in July, and had to skip August.

When it comes to injuries, you definitely need to take care of yourself and listen to you body, but my year proves it’s also partly down to luck. I got wacked in the knee by a cricket ball, which did some ligament damage on the outside of my knee.

After a painful DNF at the Space Race Marathon in July, and then a month off running, I managed to get back up to distance, help by a nice pair of Brooks Ghost, which are much more cushioned than my normal shoes, I think that really helped my knee.

So twelve marathons done, they are listed out on ‘The Marathons’ page. Stats wise that was 262 ish miles of actual marathon running, backed up by around 1000 miles of training. I did around 1,650 miles of travelling to those marathons, and Strava says the marathons burnt around 38,000 calories. That’s a lot of calories, but I have proved that you don’t need to get too skinny if you drink enough wine!

On the travel side of things a big thank you to Red Funnel, that helped enourmously towards my travel costs, which helped me in turn to help the charity more.

The most important stat though is the £3,500 raised for the NSPCC. That was quite hard, but was achieved but organising a cocktail party, a race night, a ‘Frolic’ run, a prize draw, and endlessly nagging everyone to donate (sorry!).

Overall, I absolutely loved the year of marathons. There was always something ahead to focus on, and doing one a month was not too many (compared to the people I met doing one a week!).

Lowpoints – getting injured, the mud on marathon #1, the massive sense of humour failure at the Yeovil Marathon, not being allowed to defer or anything useful by the Bath Two Tunnels organiser when I was injured, and the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon, though I still don’t understand why it was so hard!

Highlights – London for the NSPCC, running past Mo Farah at the Space Race, the 2 minute silence in the middle of the Remembrance Marathon, trips away to run marathons with mates, getting back to run another PB after my injury and the Portsmouth Coastal, yes it’s a highlight and a Lowlight, it’s that confusing. Best moment for me was finishing the Isle of Wight Marathon with my 96 year old Nan there 🙂

Of the marathons, I’d recommend all of them, but would have more reservations over the Yeovil one as I didn’t like the route that much. New Forest as I’m not a fan of running on gravel and there was quite a lot of it, and it was my first run back from injury. Favourites were London, Southampton, Bedford Motor Circuit and the Track Marathon (yes I mean it!).

Thanks for listening 🙂

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Finished with Step Brother Robert

So marathon number 12 finally arrived, at the end of a year that has flown by.  Sunday was the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon, a race that has mystified me in the past. Having now run it, it continues to be a mystery. How can a run so flat, feel so so difficult.

On Sunday that was definitely down to the underfoot conditions. It is a real mixture, but some areas were very muddy or immersed in water, and very slippery. We saw a few people go down in the mud.

I had agonised over shoe selection, and was left wishing I had a bit more grip. I ran this one with my step brother Rob. He is more used to triathlons these days, but this was his second full marathon.

Preparation was not good.  Training had been restricted due to a sore neck over the last month or so and the night before was a sleepless one, waiting for the 4:30am alarm. We set a steady pace, and all was going ok until we reached 21 miles.  Then the energy sapping effect of the mud hit home, and we struggled for the last 5 miles.

Crossing the finish line!

We got home in 4:36. Second slowest this year, but the job was done.
Reflecting on the 12 marathons, I have genuinely loved the experience. Yes it has thrown up some really challenging moments, but that was the point of doing this. It wasn’t supposed to be easy.

Would I recommend it to other runners, definitely! As long as you have a few marathons under your belt. It is a year where you always have a challenge waiting just around the corner.

Highlights for the year would have to feature the London marathon. Doing that for NSPCC was special, and it is the best marathon I have run in so many ways.  The 2 minute silence in the midst of the Remembrance marathon was also amazing.

From a performance point of view, I’m really chuffed to have got under 4 hours 4 times, and having shaved some time off my PB. (3:52 at Bedford running Grand Prix). Now onto the next challenge!

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1 kilo of awesome medal!

These last 2 marathons I’m treating a little less seriously if I’m honest. Was really pleased with the last marathon at Bedford, had trained really hard and clocked a decent PB. These 2, time to enjoy and get finished safely.

Next month, I’ll be going with friends and will probably do a little celebrating after, and am actually running it with my step brother.

For this trip up to Walton on Thames, I had a car full, with 5 friends joining me on a promise of a good laugh and an awesome medal. This was a Phoenix Running event, my fourth with them this year, although I hoped this one would bring better luck than my DNF at the Space Race in July. This one had exactly the same start location, but was longer laps in the other direction along the towpath by the Thames.

Although I was looking to enjoy this one, I wasn’t planning on running with anyone, so did think in my head that I’d start out at my normal sort of pace and if that took me close to 4 hours, then so be it.

So, race time, and a few things cropped up that made this run a little slower than I thought it might be, not that it was a big deal.

First up, it was a Phoenix event, which means an awesome snack table at Race HQ. From experience I know that on a Phoenix event, when the going gets tough, it’s very easy to hang around the aid station for a bit too long having a chat!

Second, normally these events are much smaller. I was surprised to find that 650 runners would be making their way down the towpath today, so it was quite congested at the start.

Third, the weeks of endless rain, meant that this usually compact towpath, in places had become a bit of a mudbath and once again I wished I owned some shoes with some tread!

Finally, I started the race with some real fun and games with the GPS on my watch. It is sad I know, but when I run well I am a slave to the time. I like to constantly monitor my pace versus how I’m feeling, set targets, have target paces for different sections of the run etc. When it went wrong right at the start, my brain wasn’t really interested in trying to hit paces. The GPS was so far out, that I told the running buddy I started with that I thought my watch had switched to metric. In fact it got worse than that and at one point my pace for the first mile was reading 1 minute 30 seconds, now that’s moving! Once the race was over, it appeared that after a few hundred metres, the GPS then moved my location about a mile north for a while.

All things considered, the run went well. It was a busy start, and we battled through the first mile or so trying to find a bit of clear ground to run in. The first few miles were in reality around 8:40 on average, and after a couple of miles, Zoe who had started out with me, decided that wasn’t a sensible pace and backed off a bit, leaving me to some solo running. On I plodded keeping the average just under 9s.

At 11am, so at about 1:30 into the run, it was time for the 2 minute silence. The marshalls had spread themselves out down the 3.3 mile course, and sounded their horns. 650 runners stopped in their tracks, wherever they stood, and for 2 minutes it felt like time stood still and we remembered. A few moments to remember those that made huge sacrifices, some the ultimate sacrifice, so that we might enjoy our freedom. Somehow, it almost feels silly, when you stand there and reflect on the truly heroic acts by all those men and women, at a moment when you are frittering away a Sunday running up and down a path. It was however, a very special moment, the highlight of today and one of the highlights of this whole year of running for me.

Running backwards and forwards, 4 laps, 8 lengths of the river path, is in someways quite boring. However, it has the big plus of seeing people run past, many times. I kept seeing my running buddies, so first up running supremo Bill from my club, he was flying. Next Mick, a good friend and a running lunatic, he has been on more of my marathons this year than anyone else, next month will be the 8th I believe. Next up is Zoe who I started out with on this run. Steve Hickman was next up, a true legend from our running club, about to complete marathon #162 for him. Then came Giorgio who was tackling today on minimal training, a 10 mile run I believe. Then came my friend Sarah, very special to see her out running, as she is the person who first got me to join a running club, so it’s really all her fault!

I kept seeing them on each lap, we shouted encouragement at each other, sometimes abuse, and it helped the miles tick by. Then after a couple of laps a surprise for everyone when another runner from the Isle of Wight, Jane Andrew, popped up to offer encouragement, then was lovely.

Then I was in for a real treat, thanks to some very fortunate timing. I had finished lap 3, grabbed a slurp on my Lucozade and was about to set off on my final lap, when none other than Bill Goozee, came streaking down the path to win the marathon!

After seeing Bill win, I trudged off to finish the final lap. The pace had dropped a bit, miles 23 onwards were all in the 10s. The legs had started to feel tired before halfway, I assume that was the impact of the sticky mud, so was happy to get through it. Finishing time was 4:10:08 once the 2 minute silence was knocked off. All things considered, I was pretty pleased with that. One ‘skill’ I have definitely learned this year, is how to just keep moving when things don’t feel so good, or when it feels like things are against you. In previous years these moments would definitely have turned into walking.

A good day out, with some great people.

11 down, 1 to go! Next stop Portsmouth Coastal on 22nd December.

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Marathon #10 took me to the Bedford Autodrome for another Running Grand Prix with the Running Through team.

This was the last of my ‘quick’ marathons this year, and I came into it feeling fit after a good showing at the Isle of Wight Marathon 3 weeks before.  I was hopeful that I could dip under the 4 hour mark for one last time this year.

So that was the game plan. I’d scripted in my head how my splits would look up to halfway and beyond. If I could do that, it would then be about holding it together in the back half to get home in 3 something.

I’d stayed overnight with friends, so an hour’s drive in the morning, and was grateful that the clocks had gone back an hour.  Conditions looked good with bright sunshine, but a chilly fresh start at about 4 degrees.

The format consists of a marathon, 20 mile, half marathon, 10k and 5k.  The runs all set off at different times and are filtered into the main course in a way that it does not cause too much congestion.  Good for the marathon, as the 150 entrants get the course to ourselves, then are gradually joined by more runners around the 3 mile circuit. Then it gets quieter towards the end.

My hopes of a 4 hour run got a boost when I bumped into Craig. He is running his own marathon challenge this year and I’d run with him in January and briefly at the New Forest, I knew the pacing would be good if I could stick with Craig.

Off we went, and we ran miles at around 8:15, 8:20, 8:30 throughout the first half, taking us through halfway at 1:51. About the same as when I ran my PB on the track in March, so a swift start.

I bid farewell to Craig as I stopped at my bag for drinks and to reload on gels. I also popped my headphones in and set about tackling the back half. Felt about as good as can be expected, and managed to maintain a decent pace. It wasn’t until mile 21 that the pace crept over 9 minutes for any mile.

At this point I knew I was well on pace for not just sub 4, but maybe a PB (3:56) if I could hold it all together. The last few miles were tough as always, but managed to keep plugging away and they were all in the 9s.

Got home in 3:52:17, so a 4 minute PB, very chuffed and a bit surprised with that.  A great event, and a day when things just seemed to click for me.
10 marathons done, one each in November and December and it will all be over!

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Getting my medal from a special supporter today!

This is my home marathon. It’s one of my favourite and least favourite marathons all rolled into one!

Why is it a favourite… well, it is local, it starts late. What other marathon can I stay in bed until 8am and then get up and casually get ready. Also, imagine a marathon where people you know continually pop up around the whole course, supporting and marshaling. A good example this year, was suffering a little bit on the back of the course, was between drink stops and needed water. There parked in a layby in the middle of nowhere was the hubby of a club mate “Alright Glen, you want some water?” – Perfect, thanks Deano! Throughout the course supporters would pop up, club mates would pop up cheering and offering sweets, it would really be a jolly day if it wasn’t for those 26.2 miles.

Now, the least favourite part. The course is varied and interesting, but is a bit of a pig. My Strava showed 1,500ft of climb, and what makes it worse, is that three of the more significant inclines are all queued up and waiting for you at the end of the run. Three decent hills, starting from 22 miles in, and the last one lasting for the whole of mile 24!

This was the third time I’ve run this course, and it does have a special place for me as it was my first marathon back in 2015. This year though it was extra special for personal reasons. Whilst I have been doing this marathon challenge, my Nan at the ripe old age of 96, has been having a tough time of it. My marathons have become a little tradition for us. She knows when I’m running one, and the next day I usually hobble in to visit her, show her the medal and tell her all about it. For this marathon though, she was able to attend, and give me the medal at the end. It was very special 🙂

I’m not usually an emotional type, but I did find the thought that she was there waiting for me to finish today, really did push me on a few times when I was struggling. I really felt in the zone for today’s run. Whether it was just a good day and everything clicked, or whether my Nan was a factor I don’t know.

I kicked off the run in usual sensible fashion, running the first mile in 7:55! Calmed down to a regular pace, and with some hills thrown in, passed halfway in 2 hours exactly. I was looking for a time today under 4:30, hoping for 4:15. I’d even written 9:43 on my arm, to remind me what the average pace per mile would be to hit 4:15 once my brain was mush and I coudn’t think straight.

The second half went well, and where I was expecting to really suffer, I found that I was regularly finding runners on the second half to try and catch up and get past.

Then came those 3 lovely hills. On each I did a little bit of run / walking. Running up long hills at the end of a marathon I know sends my heart rate stratospheric. The run / walking I found didn’t hurt my pace too much, I guess the running was quicker than if I’d just carried on stubbornly plodding.

Got to the top of the last hill, and knew that with a decent last mile I was under the 4:15, so pushed on finishing in 4:11:50, better than I thought was possible.

Finished with a gathering of family there to watch, including Nan, and of course with a good collection of Isle of Wight Road Runners who had now returned to base.

All in all a fantastic day, one of my favourites so far for the year 🙂