How I went from plodder to runner

You might wonder how does someone go from running 100 miles in the mountains to racing marathons on the road? The answer is pretty straight forward to be honest, I followed a simple but effective training plan where the training sessions were tailored to my heart rate zones which were identified by carrying out a lactate threshold test and not running to a set pace. The rest was down to a lot of hard work and commitment.

The first thing I did was recover properly, before regaining my base fitness. I then started logging the miles on the road before starting my training program. In the months between the Ultra Tour of the Lake District and Christmas I worked really hard, slowly building up my mileage and spending more time running in my threshold heart rate zone. This was the key zone used during my marathon build up to improve my strength and speed when running around my marathon pace. Running on the road is very different from trail running as it takes a lot more out of your body. This makes your choice of trainers very important, as they must be able to provide you with the support and cushioning you require. I visited The Lincolnshire Runner (running shop) to have my running gait analysed before choosing my first pair of road running trainers. This ensured that they were suitable for the amount of mileage I was about to carry out.

Surprisingly my coach, Dave Tune, set a training plan for me which included a higher weekly mileage than I had completed in preparation for the 100 mile race. This would give me the best chance possible of running a championship qualifying time of sub 2:45:00, for the London Marathon. The week before starting my 18 week build up for the Edinburgh Marathon I went to see Dave to have a Lactate Threshold Test. This identified where I was with my training and what the plan would have to include in order to allow me to run the time required. To give you an idea of the lactate my body produced at certain speeds I have included the table below, from my test report.

Pace min/mi Avg HR 1min intervals 1st LT test Avg HR 1min intervals Pre Edinburgh Blood Lactate (mmols) 1st test Blood Lactate (mmols) pre Edinburgh
9.30 124 bpm n/a 2.5 n/a
7.30 152 bpm n/a 3 n/a
7.00 n/a 150 bpm n/a 2.7
6.30 166 bpm 159 bpm 4.2 3.4
6.00 189 bpm 165 bpm 6.2 4.3
5.29 n/a 174 bpm n/a 9.5

The table shows the amount of lactate that my body produced at the different speeds that the treadmill was set at.  My training zones were then calculated based on the results recorded. Research shows that you can run a marathon with 4 mmols of lactate in your system. On my first test, this would have translated to 6.45 min/mile which indicated  2:57 marathon, over 10 minutes slower than I needed to be. I religiously stuck to the zones set for me and the adaptations that occurred within my body ensured that I managed to turn this around and that my old marathon pace became my new recovery speed. My new threshold pace was around 6:10 min/mile giving me a predicted time of around 2:41 so running a 2:42:27 wasn’t to far away from this. A lack of training in my tempo zone meant that as soon as the pace increased from 6.00 min/mile to 5:29 min/mile that my lactate levels doubled as my body wasn’t used to this kind of speed. In order to improve this I had to carry out specific speed sessions, which would decrease the times I recorded over shorter distances.

My training is pretty easy to understand as it is all based around heart rate and not speed.  There are  three different training zones that I use:

1. Recovery 144bpm – 158bpm 2. Threshold 159bpm – 169bpm 3. Tempo 170bpm -188bpm.

My training is built around running within these heart rates, depending on the type of training session required for that day. The purpose of the recovery zone is to flush the lactate out of my muscles that will have built up during a hard training session or when building up base miles. Threshold is the zone that I worked in for the bulk of my training as it was the HR zone that I would be able to sustain for the full marathon distance. The more efficient my body could become, the quicker I would be able to run whilst producing the same amount of lactic acid. Tempo was used for speed sessions or racing. During my training for Edinburgh I didn’t do any track work but tried to do a few speed session, which was reflected in my test results. I really struggled with this part of my training as I found it really hard to run hard enough when not in a race situation. These types of session were the icing on the cake and not worth sacrificing my threshold workouts for. Running in threshold was going to get me my target time, not killing myself chasing 5min/miles.

I was getting up at the crack of dawn to train and sometimes training late at night, basically whenever I could fit running into my day to day life. I was getting really tired and grumpy at times and this made me difficult to live with but my wife was brill thoughout this. I don’t know how my she puts up with me at times. I would complain I was tired but when she said don’t go for a run or have a lie in I would or say that I needed to get up to run 20miles.

One of the major weaknesses identified within my fitness tests was my flexibility, I couldn’t get close to touching my knees never mind my toes, so I was trying to do three or four conditioning and flexibility sessions a week in order to stay injury free and improve my running economics. I managed to improve my flexibility by 18cm on the sit and reach which is a massive improvement and dropping down to 7% body fat gives you a indication of how hard I was working in every area of my training to find every marginal gain.

Sit & Reach Test Weight
1st Test -8cm 10st 4lbs
Pre Edinburgh 10cm 9st 12lbs

Overall my body seemed to adapt really well to the new type of training and I was seeing some big improvements. We chose to do four build up race one 10mile running 58:34, one 10k running 34:29 and two half marathons where I ran 75:58 and 73:47. My times were all indicating I was on track to run well in Edinburgh but it wasn’t until a ran a 73:47 half marathon, three weeks before the marathon, that I was convinced I was good enough to ever achieve these sort of times. I went into my taper full of confidence knowing all I had to do know was stay injury free and not catch a cold. If I had a good run on the day we knew I was in the shape to run the London Marathon championship qualifying time of 2:45:00 which I did by a couple of minutes 2:42:27

Below is my day to day training plan

Day of week 18 weeks 17 weeks 16 weeks 15 weeks 14 weeks 13 weeks
Monday Recovery 8mi @ 7.14/mi Recovery 8mi @ 7.07/mi Recovery 8mi @ 7.02/mi Recovery 7mi @ 7.11/mi Recovery 8mi @ 7.05/mi Recovery 8mi @ 6.34/mi
Tuesday Threshold 9mi @ 6.48/mi Recovery 7mi @ 6.49/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.17/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.23/mi Recovery 8mi @ 6.43/mi Threshold 10mi @ 5.55/mi
Wednesday Recovery 7mi @ 7.07/mi Recovery 7mi @ 7.09 Recovery 5mi @ 6.46/mi Medium Threshold 13mi @ 6.31/mi Rest Day Threshold 10mi @ 5.52/mi
Thursday Recovery 7mi @ 6.44/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.18/mi Medium Threshold 12mi @ 6.21/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.09/mi Threshold 8mi @ 6.12/mi Tempo 11mi Hill Reps
Friday Rest Day Rest Day Tempo 9mi 2x10min + 1x5min Rest Day Recovery 6mi @ 7.02/mi Rest Day
Saturday Recovery 3mi @ 6.55/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.42/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.18/mi Tempo 11mi 8x4min off 2min Nationl XC 7.25mi @ 6.06/mi Medium Threshold 13mi @ 6.01/mi
Sunday Ferriby 10 0:58:34 @ 5.50/mi Long Threshold 18mi @ 6.36/mi Long Threshold 18mi @ 6.32/mi Long Threshold 18mi @ 6.26/mi Medium Threshold 14mi @ 6.34/mi Long Threshold 20mi @ 6.30/mi
Total Miles 49mi 60mi 73mi 73mi 55mi 71mi


Day of week 12 weeks 11 weeks 10 weeks 9 weeks 8 weeks 7 weeks
Monday Rest Day Recovery 8mi @ 6.52/mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.45/mi Recovery 7mi @ 6.46/mi Recovery 7mi @ 6.54/mi Recovery 9mi @ 6.32/mi
Tuesday Recovery 4mi @ 6.51/mi Rest Day Threshold 10mi @ 5.58/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.01/mi Recovery 6mi @ 7.12/mi Recovery 10mi @ 6.42/mi
Wednesday Recovery 7mi @ 6.27/mi am recovery 4mi @ 6.58/mi pm recovery 6mi @ 6.40/mi Threshold 10mi @ 5.53/mi Threshold 10mi @ 5.52/mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.24/mi Recovery 8mi @ 6.29/mi
Thursday Recovery 6mi @ 7.01/mi Recovery 7mi @ 6.45/mi Medium Threshold 14mi @ 5.58/mi Treadmill Progression Run 6.5mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.52/mi Threshold 9mi @ 6.15/mi
Friday Recovery 4mi @ 6.05/mi Recovery 5mi @ 7.05/mi Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Recovery 7mi @ 6.26/mi
Saturday Recovery 4mi @ 6.19/mi Threshold 8mi @ 6.01/mi 9mi 5k tempo 19:04 8mi 5k tempo 16:44 Recovery 5mi @ 8.20/mi Threshold 10mi @ 5.55/mi
Sunday Retford Half Marathon 75:58 Long Threshold 17mi @ 6.28/mi Long Threshold 20mi @ 6.12/mi Long Threshold 20mi @ 6.15/mi Lincoln 10k 34:34 Medium Threshold 15mi @ 6.08/mi
Total Miles 39mi 55mi 68mi 62mi 36mi 68mi


Day of week 6 weeks 5 weeks 4 weeks 3 weeks 2 weeks race week
Monday Tempo 8mi 5k effort 16:19 Threshold 10mi @ 6.12/mi Rest Day Rest Day Recovery 8mi @ 6.15/mi Recovery 5.4mi @ 6.46/mi
Tuesday Recovery 7mi @ 6.50/mi Recovery 8mi @ 6.28/mi 10mi Tempo 4×800 am recovery 4.3mi @ 6.59/mi pm recovery 6.6mi @ 6.27/mi Threshold 7.4mi @ 6.16/mi Recovery 4.5mi @ 6.24/mi
Wednesday Fell Run 9.5mi @ 8.34/mi Lactate Test 6mi Recovery 7mi @ 6.39/mi Recovery 6.5mi @ 6.44/mi Threshold 11mi @ 6.40/mi 4mi easy with 2x1mi reps
Thursday Rest Day Recovery 9mi @ 6.33/mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.39/mi Threshold 7.4mi @ 6.03/mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.35/mi Recovery 5.5mi @ 6.24/mi
Friday Long Threshold 24mmi @ 6.08/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.20/mi Recovery 6mi @ 6.38/mi Rest Day Recovery 6mi @ 6.40/mi Rest Day
Saturday Recovery 6mi @ 7.08/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.08/mi Recovery 4mi @ 6.24/mi Threshold 10mi @ 6.20/mi Rest Day 20 min easy running
Sunday Recovery 10mi @ 6.36/mi Recovery 12.5mi @ 7.15/mi North Lin Half Marathon 73:47 Recovery 10.4mi @ 6.31/mi Threshold 7mi @ 6.18/mi Edinburgh Marathon
Total Miles 64mi 70mi 47mi 49mi 46mi 23mi pre race


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