5 things I learnt from London, and my Chicago Marathon training plan

“Failure is the opportunity  to begin again more intelligently”

A month on from this years London marathon, and to be honest, I’m still trying to unpick my emotions. There’s pride and happiness that I after years of ballot rejections, I actually ran London! Disappointment that I missed my sub 3.30 Boston qualifying goal. Frustration that 14 weeks of blood, sweat and tears weren’t reflected in my finishing time. And excitement that less than a year earlier, I would have been over the moon with 3 hours 44, showing me how far I have come. Ultimately though, I missed my big goal, so with Chicago marathon looming in October, I need a new plan.

When things go wrong, it’s easy to get caught up with finding external factors to blame. A badly timed stomach bug. The horrendously stressful and busy week at work. But now that 4 weeks have passed and I can look back more objectively, I realise that I have a great opportunity to make sure I learn from my experience and move forwards both wiser, and better equipped for my next attempt.

Chicago Marathon

For those who don’t know, the Chicago marathon is my next ‘A’ goal. And my first ever international marathon! I have just over 3 weeks to get my act together, cross train like a beast and sort out my back/knee niggles before we go again. And now I’m looking forwards rather than backwards, I’m excited again!

The changes

Having analysed my London cycle to within an inch of its life, here’s what I plan to change.

More easy miles

Am I the only one who is TERRIBLE at this? For my next cycle I’m introducing a Monday recovery run, which is new for me. But more importantly, when I look back at last cycle, I ran most of my easy miles far too fast. Not only does this increase fatigue, but I probably wasn’t gaining the aerobic benefits that I should have been.

My plan to overcome this is to start using my heart rate monitor, something I have yet to do. I’m hoping that will allow me to focus on being in the appropriate heart rate zone for my easy runs regardless of the pace.

Marathon specific sessions

Tuesdays are about to get a shake up. And the thought of them already give me butterflies! Although I plan to start with some track sessions to re-introduce some intervals. By week 10, these are going to become some sort of disgusting tempo/interval sandwich. I need to teach my legs to turn over quickly when they are already tired. Although tough, the intervals I did in the build up to London just didn’t feel long enough for marathon training.


Running 15 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace when you’re running 6 mile segments of a training run might feel like a confidence boost, but it serves zero purpose. It doesn’t teach you to run at marathon pace, and it’s not fast enough to be a tempo run either. I need to learn to run AT marathon pace.

When I look at my London splits, even without the stomach bug, I think I’d have crashed and burned from 20 miles. I went out too fast. 15-20 seconds faster the marathon pace isn’t sustainable for an actual marathon. Marathon pace sections of my long runs will, from now on, be AT marathon pace. Duh!


Blink and you missed my London taper. A combination of a slow start, and a late cold  meant that I felt like I was trying to catch up. In the end, I probably peaked 2 weeks too soon. By the time London arrived, I was overtrained and in need of a rest. It’s such a fine balance, but for my next cycle I’m going to revert back to traditional three week taper. 2 weeks worked for me when my volume was lower, but if I’m regularly clocking 50+ mile weeks, I definitely need to give myself longer.

Eating more!

I know some people would love to have this problem. I know, because my work colleagues are CONSTANTLY telling me. But Running 50 miles a week, as well as sustaining a high level of cross training makes a serious dent in your calorific intake. In order to recover quickly and be ready to go again, I need to put some thought into healthy, efficient but nutritious ways to refuel. I worked hard at this in the build up to London, but there’s definitely still room for improvement. How many more things can I add nut butter too?? Any suggestions greatly welcome!

So, anyway, when I put all of that together, here’s how my 16 week plan looks…

Although I’ve always programmed myself, I have no qualifications to back this up. I’m definitely not recommending this training programme, I’m simply sharing what I plan to do. Which may, or may not, differ greatly from what I actually end up doing! I plan my sessions using a combination of what I know works for me, backed up with the knowledge of physiology and training effects from my degree in physiotherapy. I also read A LOT around the current research and trends in marathon training. Since London, I’ve thought long and hard about exploring online coaching, but for now, I’m sticking with what I know.

We are currently 19 weeks out from the Chicago marathon, and whatever this next cycle brings, I’m armed with a plan, and ready to give it my all. And I’m under no illusions that I’ll have it all my way, but none the less, I’m excited to try. Hard.

We go again.

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