How Phil ran the toughest marathon in England

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Phil is in his early forties, a bit overweight and unfit (his words), having previously played a lot of
football. He was embarrassed about his level of fitness, especially when playing with his children.

He initially joined a gym, but hated the atmosphere, and wasn’t sure what to do. His wife
suggested he train for the Couch to 5K programme, he started it and quite enjoyed it, but missed
the team spirit of football. His wife suggested he join a running club, but he felt intimidated.

When we set up a men’s only group, Phil became an enthusiastic member. Within three weeks
he’d completed his One Mile Challenge and then started working towards 5K. He did two
sessions a week with the club but started going out his own and increasing both his mileage and
speed. Phil said he was really getting hooked and found it was helping with his energy levels,
sleep and particularly his stress levels.

Unfortunately, his shins and calves started feeling uncomfortable so after a few weeks, he stopped
running altogether. When we found out the problem, we explained to Phil that while he was
getting a real endorphin buzz from running, his musculoskeletal system needed a bit of time to
catch up. We suggested he started walking immediately, then gradually start running again. We
also suggested some resistance training that could easily be done during his free time in front of
the TV.

For his birthday Phil’s wife treated him to a Runners MoT, during the analysis, we were able to
show him a few things that were holding him back, most of which he was unaware.
We went through and prioritised all the areas he needed to work on, gave him some homework
focusing on strength, technique and mobility. Things did not change overnight, but he gradually
felt more confident and while he had been experiencing backache on longer runs this now
disappeared as his core strengthened and he was taught how to activate his glutes.

As time went by, Phil worked his way up to a comfortable 10K in under an hour. He then decided
to enter a half marathon which he completed in Spring 2019, having experienced a few niggles
along the way and feeling uncomfortable in the latter stages of the race. He decided to reassess
the next phase of his training as he had decided to enter the Beachy Head Marathon, the hardest
marathon in the UK.

We provided Phil with some general training ideas and advice on nutrition. In the five months
leading up to the Marathon, Phil started following the bespoke training plan we had prepared
together based on his unique circumstances: work, family life, various engagements and trips
abroad. Together we worked on an achievable goal to finish in under 5 hours. Beachy Head is
exceptionally hilly and in October the weather is unpredictable. We spent a lot of time pacing
and he bought himself a GPS watch. We stressed the importance of running at an even pace to
conserve as much energy as possible during this arduous race.

Phil found the marathon plan useful because he knew exactly what to do every day, it took away
all the guesswork and meant that he did not have to think too much which helped with his
motivation, especially with all the hill training he needed to do to prepare his body. There were
times when he felt so good he wanted to do more training, run further or faster, but the plan
‘reigned him in’ and he took the rest days required. While some of his peers were experiencing
an injury, visiting physios and chiropractors and missing training he managed to train consistently
with only minor niggles.

As time went along we refined the plan, reduced the training volume every few weeks, so he could
rest, repair and consolidate his gains. We experimented with different types of fuel to use during
his Marathon until he found the gels and snacks which worked best for him.

At the end of week 16, Phil completed his final long run, a hilly 20 miler, the remaining 3 weeks
were spent tapering so that Phil was able to rest and prepare himself physically and mentally for
the race, he still trained at the same intensity but reduced the duration and frequency and added
in more rest days. He concentrated on good nutrition and hydration and getting plenty of sleep.
Phil arrived at the start of his marathon feeling fresh, he followed his plan for the day and though
the weather was quite brutal he stayed on track, kept to his pace and has given himself a 10
minute buffer finished strong in just under 5 hours.

After a few days rest, Phil was fully recovered and looking forward to his next challenge.

12 May, 2020

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