New York Marathon 2010: The Whole Story – Training Days

The Decision  

January 2010: My friend, Steve, has said he’s running NY again this year. Last time was fantastic, but do I want to do it again? Hmmm…  

Reasons For  

  • It’s a great experience
  • I know I can do it
  • I want to better my last time
  • It’ll be cool to share and chat about it for years to come
  • I’m one marathon ahead of Steve, so I can’t let him equalise!

Reasons Against  

  • Been there, done that
  • It’s not cheap
  • I’ve a few holidays planned this year, which might get in the way
  • It’s damn hard work and needs commitment to do the training
  • Last time, I beat Steve by 48 seconds (I’ve milked it ever since). I’d almost like to retire on that note! What if he beats me this time?

I look at the options and think about it. No reason to pull the trigger just yet.  

April: I decide to go for it. What the hell. I could do with another challenge and to get fit again.  

Training Begins  

April: A few, short, ad-hoc runs, but nothing serious. Got plenty of months to do it properly.  

May: Hardly anything. Ongoing groin problems are starting to worry me. Have to constantly tell people that it is an old footy injury and has absolutely nothing to do with my girlfriend…  

June: The World Cup dominates the month, especially my trip to South Africa. Spend more time on the golf course than on the road. Slip into a mini-depression at England’s performance.  

Muscles and Brussels  

July: OK, now it’s time to start properly. I dig out my old schedule. I research lots of schedules, different methods of training. Go long? Go fast? Go often? I faff around for a few weeks deciding, before realising that it might be a good idea if I went out and actually start running. I start my schedule and take it easy. Thigh, knee and groin all complain a little, but I’m starting to get used to running regularly again. Even a long weekend trip to Brussels doesn’t stop my training as I am disciplined enough to put in a stint on the treadmill there (once I’d translated the buttons).  

Got to Get it Off My Chest  

August: Damn common colds! Why haven’t we cured them yet? They’re pointless and annoying, and now that it’s gone down to my chest I cannot run. Still, I’ve put in a good cycle of runs early part of the month, so I’ll just rest like a good boy and wait until I can go back out.  

I’m Welywn There – Give me Moor!  

September: A few runs  – including my first race in nearly 2 years in Welwyn – make it to a separate post:  

I finish the month with two significant runs: first, the Moor Park 10K…  

This is great training as I want to get faster and it’s a chance to beat my 10K record and maybe get under 50 minutes. Prospects don’t look too good, though, as the rain starts to come down. Still, if my girl’s gonna make an effort to stand here in the wet to watch, then maybe I better turn it on. I start strong from the back, gaining confidence overtaking many people as we do a couple of laps around the field. I want to keep a good pace, so I constantly keep an eye my watch. It’s going well until…what the hell’s this? A golf course? And a long slope? My legs go all heavy and suddenly I can see the records drifting away from me. Must continue. The downhill is a welcome relief, and I’ve survived the possibility of a rogue hook from the 7th hole. I run past the place where Steve got married and where I delivered the best man speech of legends. Pride drives me on. After recent longer runs, 10K seems quite short, and I start to push it. I laugh in the rain and almost sprint past a few people as we enter the field again. Come on Andy – go a bit faster but don’t go too early. Wait for it…Wait for it…Now give it all you’ve got!!! I go for the line like there’s no tomorrow. Strong and oozing the last remaining bit of energy I turn the corner to see the clock still in the 49th minute! I take the glory, the records and a wet hug. If I can run like this for longer, under 4 hours will be mine…  

Character Test  

My schedule says run 16 miles today. It’s grey, wet and uninviting out there. Bugger. Still, what’s the point in training for something if you don’t prepare in all sorts of different weather? It could rain on the day in New York so I need to be sure I can go long even when soaked. Oh well, here goes my longest run since ’08…  

I’m glad I invested a lot of quality Vaseline time before I went out. It’s only been a few miles but I’m soaked through, trudging round my home town on a Friday afternoon. Everyone has vanished – if it weren’t for the cars spraying slowly down the road I’d have sworn aliens had come down and zapped everyone else. Perhaps they thought I was done for anyway. I have no idea what is sweat and what is rain, but everything from my running top to my socks are weighed down with liquid.  

I celebrate getting into double figures, telling myself that 6 miles to go is just 10K, and I can do that in my sleep. A few more laps round the lake…13.1 miles…a half marathon! Just keep going…  

I think I’m going mad. I’m clearly laughing in the rain now, loving it. My legs are just on auto pilot and I’m ploughing on, smiling. The ducks look at me strangely.  

15 miles and gravity is not my friend. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d swear I was going backwards. A small slope, but to a sodden mess with screaming muscles it feels like Everest. Regroup, Andy. Get over it, start again then speed up. Keep up the pace. Reach your goal. I turn towards home.  

I’m nearly there. Home is almost within sight and the watch says 15.90. Ha! Think you can beat me, world? Think the rain will make me quit? You never heard of Andy Males? Pah! You stick your 16 miles as I’m gonna do it. Just let me get to my warm shower…  

Life’s a Beach  

October: You would think that the best time to book a 2-week holiday to a paradise island where you can relax on white beaches, laze in pools and generally do nothing all day is ideal for after a marathon, right? Well, I’ve decided to do it in reverse and go to the Maldives one month before the big race. This is partly due to the timing of my girlfriend’s (Shell)  birthday, but I can’t say I’m annoyed at the prospect of missing two weeks of the cold and wet of home to do my training. We’ve picked one of the bigger islands which has a gym, and enough dirt track to actually do some of the smaller runs outside. Time for the first stint in the gym…  

This is not what I planned. Some silly rule over no sand in the gym means I can’t run there in my trainers I’ve just arrived in. Oh well, I’ll try a few laps of the island. It can’t be that hot in the morning, surely? A couple of miles later, I stop and ring out my vest. I’ve never sweated so much in my life. What’s more, I’m sun-burnt, with clear white lines from my vest. In terms of fashion, it’s an epic fail.  

Time for the big one: 18 miles. This is the peak of my training, the furthest I’m gonna go. I can’t possibly do that sort of mileage outside here – I’d either be reduced to a prune, burnt to a crisp or get dizzy running that many times round the island. So, the air-conditioned gym and the treadmill it is. Can it be done? I have Shell on hand ready to supply me with towels, water, gels, Lucozade, and I have cheesy MTV hits and a mirror to study my form. Let’s do it…  

60 minutes in and I’m finding it tough. Air conditioned? Right now I feel like I’m in a sauna. Towels are running out and I look a mess. The treadmill display defies all logic, warping time. Counting up, I feel like I’ve got a lifetime left. It cuts out at 60, whereby I have to reset, giving me a few seconds of vital respite. Here we go again from zero…  

1 hr 58 and I’m praying for the next reset. My upper right leg is very stiff and I’m not sure how much further I can go on for. Mentally, I’m being drained. I’ve done over 12 miles and keeping a good pace, but how can I go on to 18?  

2hrs 10 and I’m all but gone. The stop button taunts me. It wants me to press its red, shiny loveliness. My brain wants me to press it. My legs are sending telegrams to my brain saying “STOP!” No, don’t do it, Andy. Do it! Press it! NO! YES! STOP! Continue!! STOP! Arrghhh! My arm raises high and goes to hit it. NO! Resist! I somehow drop my arm again. I’m in total turmoil, as my legs pound on and on, various counters proudly displaying my misery. STOP! NO! STOP! NOOOOOO! NOOOOO!!!!!!! Hello? This is Andy’s Emergency Breakdown Service. We have evidence to believe the reasoning side of his brain has shut down and is not taking the necessary action. We will now take control. The message to press the button is made by the part of my brain I did not know existed until now. SLAM! My hand slaps against its square face. I’m done, spent. Willpower is zero. 14 miles and I’ve quit for the first time. Gutted. So gutted. Brain melted and I feel so disappointed.  

Too Little, Too Late?  

November: Training’s all but complete- but have I done enough? A steady increase in mileage and pace has led me to be confident, but have I done sufficient long runs? With a 16 mile maximum, and only 6 runs in double figures, it looks like once again I’m gonna be at that start line not knowing whether I can achieve my goals.  

Comparison of miles from NY 2008 and 2010
Comparison of miles trained for NY 2008 and 2010

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