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This is the marathon training and fundraising blog of Georgina Spenceley. Watch this space for news of my training, inevitable injuries, and my fundraising events and achievements.

Posts Tagged: Harlow Running Club


Another week passes me by. Where is the time going?

The first thing I’m going to update you on is my fundraising, as after all that is a big reason as to why I’m doing all of this! I’m now £380 towards my target of £1000, which I’m really happy with… nearly halfway there! I still have a few fundraising events to come, so hopefully those will generate a bit more towards that elusive goal. If this blog has at all entertained you, please consider making a donation to my JustGiving page – it really would make such a difference and no amount is too small.

Now on to training - my lesson from this week’s marathon training is that if I shut up I can run a lot faster… I know, it’s a novel idea! More about this on Saturday’s briefing :)

The week panned out like this:

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 4 x 1600m

Wednesday: REST

Thursday: 60 mins at pace

Friday: REST

Saturday: 13M solo

Sunday: 20 min recovery run and a gentle cycle

I should have done some light cross training on Monday, but didn’t have time to fit it in as I had dinner plans with my lovely friend Vicky. As this was a rest/easy day anyway it’s not too much of a problem that I missed it so I’m not going to worry myself over it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not usually a fan of interval sessions, so the idea of doing mile repeats on Tuesday was a bit of a drag, but I’m so motivated for running generally at the moment that I went out there with my game face on and worked hard. Keeping myself at around 180bpm (my version of about 85% max HR) I did my first four laps of the track for interval number one and then stopped to walk around and recover, then repeated this another three times. I felt really good and found it fairly easy to settle into the proper pace to achieve the appropriate heart rate on each rep. I had to focus on counting in for three and out for four to control my breathing so I know I was at the right intensity. Overall I averaged out at 7:27 min/mile which I was really pleased with, and they were all fairly evenly paced.

Thursday runs at the HRC during marathon season are usually tempo runs, starting with a mile warm-up, then running at tempo pace for X number of miles, followed by a mile cool-down; but Sally wanted me to treat this as a pacing session and to start off at my target marathon pace from the off. My first mile was a bit slower than planned as I tried to get past the group who were doing their warm-up, and then each subsequent mile was too quick! I averaged out at 8:25 min/mile overall, so not too far off the 8:36 pace I’m aiming for – but the point was to try to keep each mile evenly paced out at the target pace and looking at my Garmin splits I kind of failed there! Hopefully, in time, I’ll become used to the pace and be able to run it on autopilot – which Sally says is the point of these sessions.

So this brings us to the weekend. Sunday was Harlow Running Club’s turn to host the Cross Country League that we’re part of and, having not wanted to risk injury, I decided to marshall rather than run, which meant that I needed to do my long run on Saturday as I wouldn’t have had time before or after the Cross Country. I mapped a route out near my mum’s home town of Sutton, near Ely, and drove up on Saturday morning after fuelling both myself and my car (porridge for me, unleaded for the car!). With only my iPod shuffle to accompany me I set out on the run a little later than planned, and was a little worried that I might overheat with the layers I’d put on, but despite the sunshine it was still very cold. And this is where the “talk less, run faster” theory came in to play: Usually on my long runs I have some company, in the form of Wendy or Laura, or both. So having set out on my own and looking more at HR as a target than pace, I realised that I was running around 20-30 seconds per mile faster than when I am nattering away with friends… who knew gossiping took so much energy?! There were a couple of “eeek” moments when the oncoming traffic travelling towards me at ~60mph didn’t see me until the last minute (look where you’re going Mr Ford Mondeo, not at the heron flying overhead – you know who you are!!) and I’m sure that’s a plausible explanation for some of the peaks in my HR, but the run went by without incident. Around the 10 mile mark I realised that I might actually be on pace to finish my 13M in under 2 hours, and against my better judgement I picked up the pace again for the last mile, following the second of the hills I had to climb, and sure enough I finished in 1:59:05. Ahh, done :)

XC day! I arrived at the running club around 9:30 am ready for instructions and it was really buzzing – lots of runners from Harlow Running Club, Ware Joggers, Saffron Striders and Bishops Stortford all ready and raring to go. I walked over to my marshalling position and waited for the first of the runners to reach me. I was roughly half a mile in to the route, which would double back and become half a mile from the finish. It was a very cold day, and my fingers and toes were becoming steadily number! The runners all did really well, and Harlow ladies finished 3rd, while the HRC men came 1st! HRC are 2nd overall in the league, with just one more race to go. Well done Harlow!

After my marshalling duties I set out on my 20 min recovery run that was scheduled. Not really much to report here, it was an “easy” run, but my legs were more tired that I’d thought. It was good to flush them out with a bit of gentle running, though, and they felt much looser afterwards.

I ended the week with a leisurely bike ride with Wendy – we were on a mission to go and get some cake, earning it on the way! I haven’t got access to my bike at the moment, so I used one of Wendy’s – a road bike, no less! It was my first experience of riding a road bike and I was actually a little nervous – the teeny tiny tyres and the low handle bars were very new to me and I also hadn’t used clip-in pedals for a long time… since falling off my bike (twice) at Thetford Forest visitor centre with my boyfriend, much to the amusement of him and everyone else around! Still, the height of the saddle meant I could still put my foot to the ground, so I felt fairly safe. It was a really nice ride, and the pit stop for tea and a slice of really tasty fruit cake was a lovely half-way point. I will definitely have to get myself some thicker socks and gloves for these things though as yet again they were numbing up. I really should try to get out cycling more often.

So that’s it – my week in marathon talk – overall it’s been another really positive week and I’m really enjoying my training. I hope you’re enjoying reading about it!


It’s official, marathon training is well and truly under way! I’m down to 14 weeks to go already and it feels like only a little while ago I was saying “18 weeks to go”… I’m sure the 15th April is going to creep up on me veeery quickly!

This week consisted of:

Monday: 25 mins espinner, 10 mins rowing then strengthening exercises.

Tuesday: 4x800m

Wednesday: 30 mins yoga

Thursday: 3M HRC tempo run

Friday: REST

Saturday: hill reps

Sunday: 12M with Wendy and Laura

See, I told you I’d get some cross-training in!

I felt a little silly on Tuesday’s session as I went along to club even though I was going to be doing a different session to them. They were doing 400s with 2 mins recovery, whilst I had recovery jogs between my 800s – it was a little tough to see everyone stopped when I was still going round and round the track! I was supposed to keep each rep to about 4:15 but got a bit carried away and did my first one in 3:42… oops! I tried to hold back a bit for the remaining three reps and ran them each in around 4mins. I was pretty pleased with the session though because I felt strong. Sally has since told me that my reps suggest that my target marathon pace is likely to be sustainable so woohoo to that!!

On Wednesday I tried out a “Yoga Made Easy” book that I picked up. I thought it would be a good way to stretch out in a less boring way, and also want to try to work on my balance and core strength anyway. I only did about half an hour as it’s hard to do the poses for the right amount of time without an instructor there to tell you what to do. Next time I’ll put on some music and make a proper session of it.

My next run was probably my favourite of the week – I love tempo runs… call me crazy! This was with the running club and we started off with a mile warm-up then accelerated to tempo pace. I ran with Laura the whole way and we managed to keep a strong pace for the whole three miles, with an average of 8:12 min/mile. My HR was pretty much spot on what it was supposed to be for the session. We finished off with a mile back to the club, but I carried on with another HRCer to top it up to 50mins so we could flush out the legs a bit. I don’t know why, but tempos are the sessions I look forward to the most at the moment, maybe it’s my new-found faster pace!

Now onto the dreaded hill work! I couldn’t seem to think of any hills in my local town, especially ones that weren’t dark and gloomy, but thanks to some suggestions from Wendy and also Darren I found what I thought would be a suitable hill and I ran to it for my warm up. I realised after the first rep that the hill wasn’t quite as long as it should have been – Sally wanted me to run up for ~60 secs, but it only took 45-50 so was a bit short. I checked my heart rate and decided that it was probably going to be ok as I was reaching over the 180bpm that was prescribed. Another seven reps later and I was done and ready for a steady jog home. It was a really tough session and at the top of each hill I wondered if I was ever going to breath normally again but by the time I got home and showered I felt absolutely fine. I know that hills are going to be good for me so I will plough through these sessions and maybe, just maybe, I will one day come to love hill running!

On to Sunday, the final run of the week. I have to admit I was a little concerned when I woke up and got out of bed to realise my ankle was pretty sore. It’s taken a bit of a battering the last few weeks so I can’t blame it for feeling achy, but I really could do without getting injured. I put my ankle support on, had my porridge and started on my way. Wendy, Laura and I all had different distances to cover in our plans this week but we managed to figure out that if I ran to meet Laura, and then we ran to Wendy’s, did a seven mile loop from there and then ran back again we would each get our distances in – seven for Wendy, 10 for Laura and 12 for me. It’s also a really good way of breaking up a long run so it doesn’t feel so, well … long! By the time we were about three miles in my ankle had started to ease off a bit and we had set a nice pace of between 9 and 10 min/mile. This was my first run experimenting with energy gels and after an hour I proceeded to try to open my first one. Note to SiS – you really should make those buggers easier to open! Juggling a bottle of water and trying to tear the top off a sachet of gel seemingly made of rubber all whilst trying not to fall over is not an easy feat! Still, what were teeth made for huh? I eventually got in to my little pocket of energy goodness and gulped it down with a pleasant surprise at the taste and consistency. I have to say – the struggle to open was worth it when I still felt full of energy towards the end of my run. I had three of the four that Sally told me to take with me but I think that was enough for me as the porridge had kept me pretty full for the first hour. So having dropped Wendy and Laura off at their relevant checkpoints I carried on home to finish with 12.3M under my belt in just less than two hours. Not bad going.

Post-run I stretched out quite a bit today, and boy did I need it! My ankle has started to ache again, but I’ve got active recovery tomorrow, and have been using the ibuprofen gel again this afternoon and evening. I will also pick up some kinesiology tape and start to strap it up for a bit more support. Fingers crossed it holds out as if it doesn’t improve I’m probably going to have to take a week off and I’m not quite sure I’d know what to do with myself!


Ah, Christmas! Who doesn’t love it?! It’s a time for giving, spending time with family and friends, overindulging in tasty food and drink, and of course some marathon base building!

Unfortunately for me, if it’s not one thing, it’s another and I started the week feeling a little bit of tenderness in my right ankle, on the inside. It’s a similar pain to that I’ve felt before elsewhere and I strongly suspect tendonitis. I can feel where the cause of issue is coming from (posterior tibialis, running up the back of the tibia, but inserting in around the medial malleolus), so will be careful to do some self-massage when I can (or when I remember!) and with a bit of ibuprofen gel hopefully it won’t get any worse.

The first training session of the week was speedwork with the HRC. It was the last session before Christmas and as such the actual work part of the session was short and sweet – a grand total of six minutes, no less! We then followed that with a few relays with a Christmas version of the old egg and spoon race, the egg being replaced with Maltesers. Thanks Roy for organising the fun!

Wednesday I got in a morning run before starting my working day from home. It was cold, wet and a little windy and I really didn’t feel too sprightly but I cracked on with it anyway. My lack of enthusiasm for the run wasn’t helped when I found myself having to negotiate a little Westie trying to gnaw the shoelaces on my brand new trainers! I’ll let it off seeing as it was cute (I’m a bit of a sucker for a dog!). Still, I managed to push out five miles, although it wasn’t quite the “easy” run I had aimed for!

My next session of the week was Thursday’s HRC training. I started off quite carefully, wanting to make up a bit for the not-so-easy run the day before, but by about halfway I was feeling easier and picked up the pace with a fellow HRC runner. We got chatting about marathon training and I think it got us both a bit hyped up and we finished with a nice strong pace.

Fridays are a regular rest day for me, and in good Christmas spirit Darren and I watched a film to get us in the mood for the weekend… the Muppet Christmas Carol! Time well spent I think!

Time for the long run. Over the last few weeks my long weekend runs have resulted in me feeling wiped out and full of headache for the rest of the day and I was getting pretty fed up of feeling lousy so I decided to try to be more prepared and start the morning off with a cereal bar, banana and a big glass of water as my pre-run snack, where previously I had either eaten and drank nothing, or just had a banana on its own. It seemed to work a bit - not only did the run feel much more comfortable, but I had more energy for the rest of the day, although I did have a slight headache. The run itself was good, I don’t think Laura appreciated my route-planning when we reached the muddy off road sections (I hadn’t quite realised how much rain there had been the last day or so when I’d planned the route!) but we ploughed on through and by the time we got back to the road we only had just over two miles left to go, and we even pulled out the energy to do a nice little sprint finish over the last 50m or so. We covered 10.4 miles in 1:40:50, giving us an average pace of 9:42, which is pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the long run pace range I am supposed to be aiming for.

After the run I fuelled up with a nice protein-filled breakfast and then got ready to make the journey back home to my mum’s house for Christmas. Lovely jubbly :)

Iiiit’s Chriiiistmas!! I’ve decided that a smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagel washed down with Bucks Fizz is the perfect pre-run fuel, as after having a nice breakfast with mum, Darren, Tom and Lottie I headed out for a quick three miler and I felt pretty damned good! It was much warmer than I’d expected so I probably should have opted for only one layer, but I completed my recovery run with a nice negative split.

Christmas day running seems to be a bit of a debated topic, with a lot of people saying it should be the one day of the year when you can forget about training. But I really like it! You pull on your trainers on Christmas day and head out the door to the quietest roads you will ever see in daylight hours; it’s lovely! And anyone you do see as you pound the pavements instinctively warms you with a “Happy Christmas”. For me though, the other added benefit is the feeling that you can have a little bit less guilt about all the delicious food you are about to shovel (and shovel I did!!). So there’s my argument for Christmas day running, and I’ll stand by it!

Here is the obligatory Garmin data for each of my runs:

Monday: REST

Tuesday: Speedwork, HRC

Wednesday: 5M solo

Thursday: 6.5M HRC

Friday: REST

Saturday: 10.4M run with Laura

Sunday: 3M solo (Christmas day!)

One thing I have just realised from looking at this week’s training is that I really should get in a bit of cross training as I haven’t done anything other than run this week and that’s not ideal for someone trying to avoid injury. Must try harder!!

Whoops, I like to talk don’t I?!

Oh and for anyone who doesn’t know, the other reindeers are: Dasher, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen ;)


This week’s training didn’t really start as planned. With my knee feeling a little bit knackered on Monday’s run I decided to rest it on Tuesday by doing a spinning class instead of a run – only my second week of a five run target and I’d already dropped one of them! Still, the spinning class was great (thanks Natalie!) and I still got my bit of cardio in to keep my pulmonary fitness up so it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Sessions this week were:

Monday:  3M solo

Tuesday: 1 hour spin class plus stretching

Wednesday: REST

Thursday: 8.4M HRC run

Friday: REST

Saturday: 3.8M solo

Sunday: 9M with Wendy and Laura

This means I clocked up a total of 24.32 miles this week, so I’m still slightly up on last week’s total of 23.42 miles, spread across five days.

I think the active rest followed by a rest day on Wednesday really helped because I felt fighting fit on Thursday and having decided to do 7 miles with the HRC I then changed my mind halfway round and joined the 8 milers. I’m glad I did as I felt really good afterwards and even managed to natter all the way round the second half.

We had our Harlow Running Club Christmas Party on Friday night at the Manor of Groves hotel. Needless to say it was a fun night, plenty of food and even more dancing! It’s always a laugh with the HRC bunch and I’m looking forward to the presentation evening in February.

Saturday was a recovery run before an hour of leg-pulverising by the lovely Nicola Court! The massage was well needed, but very sore – I had to laugh out loud just to be able to bear the “discomfort” of the ITB release and then she even stuck in a few acupuncture needles for good measure. Luckily, it seems as though the pain I was getting in my knee was from ITB tightness, not collateral ligament damage so that should be quicker and easier to remedy. It’s unusual for me as I normally get ITB pain manifest in my hip, but it is more common in the knee. Nicola reminded me that I’m actually up on miles compared to a lot of people who will be starting their training plans soon, if they haven’t already, and that I can afford to take it easy if necessary so I left feeling positive.

To end the week Wendy, Laura and I headed out at 8am on this cold, frosty day to push out a solid 9 miler. We made it round at 10:17 min/mile, which is exactly at the top of the range that the McMillan Running Calculator reckons I should be hitting for long training runs for a 3:50 marathon. And to top it off my knee felt pretty much ok, just a slight hint of tightness there. Considering Nicola said it may actually feel worse the day or so immediately after a deep massage I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

All’s well that ends well.


No, this isn’t the new binary!

Since having my marathon place confirmed I have had my head firmly in the digital world of the internet trying to figure out which of the many, many training plans I should follow to get me marathon fit.

The biggest question when looking at all of these plans seems to be “how many times a week do you want to drag your sorry ass out in the cold to pound the pavements?” and this question has been troubling me for a couple of reasons:

  1. you are more likely to get a “good” time if you follow a five-runs-per-week plan; however…
  2. you are more likely to get through training injury free if you follow a three-runs-per-week plan

Being someone who is quite injury prone, my gut tells me to go for the safe option and run three quality (hopefully!) sessions a week. But, the competitive person in me is telling me to aim for sub four hours… ooooh, wouldn’t that be nice?! What would be reeeeaaally nice would be to get the “good for age” time of 3:50 or below, but now I just think I’m being silly!

This month’s Runner’s World has further tempted me to aim high – I came out with a score of 20 on their “Marathon Training Plan Generator” quiz, which is pretty much slap bang in the middle of the “break 4:00” result… surely this is a sign that I should just go for it?  

Having pondered over my options for a few days now I think my gut is probably right, and technically there should be no reason why I can’t achieve a sub4, as it shall now be abbreviated, with three runs a week. If I put the legwork in, (no pun intended!) I should be able to get there, shouldn’t I? In fact, the training plan that Runner’s World offers in this month’s magazine for a sub4 even suggests cutting back and doing three runs a week instead in order to sidestep injury.

So that’s that. I think I’ve convinced myself. Until further notice, I shall be running three times per week.

Harlow Running Club follows the Runner’s World FIRST marathon schedule, which is a simple three-runs-per-week schedule, so I will stick to that for the time-being and see how I’m getting on. If I don’t feel like I’m improving then I’ll try to add in one or two short, easy runs to build on my base.

I’ve also decided to do the Great Bentley and Silverstone half marathons and the Surrey Spitfire 20 mile race as checkpoints along the way to see how my training is going. According to the Runner’s World Garmin-ready plan below I should be aiming for a sub 1:50 half mara, and a sub 50 min 10k in order to be on target for my sub4 goal.

But if I don’t get sub4, what does it matter? To be honest, I really would just like to finish. And just like the Bruce Lee quote says below, sometimes it’s good to have a goal just as something to keep you motivated. Talk about inspiration :)