running blog

Clive Whaley


My Home Town

Day 108 Marathon Training - 15 mins 'easy' - THE LAST TRAINING RUN

I was born in Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England and I am proud of those roots. However, for the last 26 years I have lived in or near Bridport in Dorset. That is actually much longer than I lived in Stockton and is nearly half my lifetime. So I am equally proud to call Bridport my home and to wear the vest of the town running club on London Marathon day.
It seemed appropriate on my final training run to do a celebratory lap of the town - a 'goodbye' Bridport and wish me luck you quirky, crazy, funny, lovely little old town. I also did it first thing in the morning to allow me the luxury of having South Street to myself.

It's funny that this should be a relatively 'urban' run compared to the fields, coastal paths and deserted valley roads that have been the 'training avenues' for most of my marathon preparation. But in comparison to London it is not remotely urban and I think there will be something like five times my home town population taking part in the run!
It felt odd to go running for only 15 minutes or approximately 2 miles and this last run was one of the shortest of my whole training programme. But I have stuck to my plan for the whole 16 weeks, so I might as well fit in this final little jog. Everything is feeling fine - apart from my left shoulder. I've got some annoying pain and discomfort in what they call the rotator cuff. It's not going to stop me running but it might hurt a bit and restrict my running style. It's just so frustrating to have this 'eleventh hour' problem, just when I thought I was going to arrive at the start line injury free. Another couple of days for it to heal up - we'll see.

I'lll end this last blog entry before the main event with a few summary stats from the training:

481 miles run
68 runs
22 speed or interval sessions
15 gym sessions
22 miles - longest run
1.2 miles - shortest run (stopped with knee pain)
3 injuries (lower back, right knee, left shoulder)
7 runs missed through injury
111 days from the first day of training to the London Marathon.

Here's to Day 111 being the best one of the lot …

The Long Run

Day 84 - Marathon Training - 22 miles 'easy'
Without a doubt this is the most significant milestone in my marathon training plan. I have completed week 12 of the 16 week programme. I have completed my longest run. And I was able to do it without any flare up of previous injuries - either back or knee related. It is a very satisfying feeling.

Don't get me wrong, it was no stroll in the park, and I finished feeling completely exhausted and with aches, pains, soreness and a slightly worrying light headedness. I think if I'd gone much further, I would have become a wobbly puppet-like creature that would not know what day it was; exactly the sort of creature I turned into in the latter stages of the 1986 London Marathon.

But I didn't. I did enough and got through what I planned to do. I even did a bit of macho 'pushing the pace' in the late stages. I did mile 20 in approx 7 mins 50. And that was after feeling completely weary and 'out of it' by about mile 13. In fact this long run was unusual in that the weariness did not just come on and stay there. After feeling bad at the half marathon stage, I actually felt a mini boost between about 15 and 17 miles and then again in the last mile or two. This is really encouraging. Although I couldn't have run much further or faster today, there are signs of strength in me old legs; and signs that the cumulative effect of the training is working.

What I have to remind myself is that this long run has come on the back of a pretty hard training week - so I went into it with tired legs. Also the terrain is much more difficult than the London course. Today I ran along shingle beaches, across uneven fields and then through a valley road that is rarely flat and has a few taxing climbs in it.

Yes, I ran again into the Bride Valley - what has become my favourite 'on the road' training ground. My beautiful 'streamlined' valley is a pleasure to run through but it can hardly compete with the 'flatness' of London. Another strength of this training ground - its devoid of people a lot of the time - is clearly a weakness when it comes to encouragement and motivation to 'cheer you on' to the finish. So if you take today's run - subtract the tired legs, subtract the hills and shingle - and then add fast, flat, firm surfaces and huge cheering crowds - and suddenly you have something that might turn out to be easy in comparison. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

It's a bit like saying that today's run was harder than the marathon itself, even though it was 4 miles shorter. But there is a plausible argument that doing today's epic on my own, when I already felt tired and sore, was a tougher ask than flowing with the mass human river of 40,000 souls in London on April 23rd.

Consumed on the run today: 1 litre of water, 3 energy gels, 1 crunchy peanut butter protein bar - Yum!
Weather - 14C, light/mod SE winds.
Wore sunglasses for first time in 2017.

Grizzly Baby

Day 69 - Marathon Training - Raced 9 miles of beach, hills and mud!
(The 'baby' version of The Grizzly - called The Cub)

Great day today. I did enter that most wonderful event called The Grizzly. Reluctantly but sensibly I did the 'cut down' or 'baby' version of the main event - otherwise known as The Cub. In other words I only went for 9 miles of shingle beach, vertical coastal climbs and muddy fields, instead of the full 20 mile version.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the official finish photo shows it. The fun and pleasure came from, not only getting round with the knee intact, but also from the great weather and the fantastic spirit associated with the event. I was also pleased to be on the first page of results - or 35th out of about 500 finishers (approx 85 mins 'chip time').

The Grizzly is held at Seaton in East Devon and this was its 30th anniversary. Somewhere in the region of 2,000 runners take part in the two races. It seems to be extremely well organised and has an army of hundreds of cheery volunteer marshalls, musicians and performers lining the route. At the bottom of one of the steeper climbs you find a makeshift sign labelled 'Stairway to Heaven' and as you start to climb you encounter a guy dressed as some sort of manic wizard. He was spouting dire warnings and flinging out spells and incantations. It was hilarious. The whole thing is just a smiley, feelgood event that gently warms you with it's positive mood. Mind you, that view might have been helped by the fact that I only did the shorter route. If I had done the 'full works' I suspect I wouldn't have been in a fit state to appreciate the generous welcome from spectators at the finish line.

Mindful of the problems I've had with my knee leading up to today, I decided to take advantage of a £5 charity massage from the East Devon Sports Injuries team. It was torture - far more painful than running the event - my quad muscles are so unbelievably tight - but I am sure it did me the world of good.

Knees in the Mist

Day 67 - Marathon Training - 40 mins steady

Back running today, just to test the knee. I did a 40 minute fairly steady run, mainly off road. It was wet and misty, not the most delightful of conditions but that didn't matter. The main thing was to see if my right knee was healed after the best part of 4 days rest - for me that's an eternity - but for the Captain Sensible Squad, that's nowhere near enough rest.

As a test it was a bit inconclusive. I wanted to fly round with no pain or discomfort whatsoever and get a much needed psychological boost from it but Hey … we all know life is never that simple. I have to admit that my knee is not healed. It was uncomfortable pretty much the whole way round. But, on the other hand, it was not in pain and it didn't get significantly worse whilst I was running.

The optimistic side of my brain is telling me that "I actually freed up my knee a bit by going out for a run. It's on the mend, no great harm done and in the next few days I will wonder what all the fuss was about."

The pessimistic side is saying, "it's still not good, you haven't rested it enough, you've probably set it back further and if you run that Grizzly event on Sunday, you will put yourself out of the London Marathon and might do some permanent damage."

Which one is true? I wish I knew.

I did see my old friend the Dorset Shaggy Flump again today. He had just had an argument with a sheep but still found time to impart some wisdom to me. I tried to pretend I was fit as a fiddle but he noticed a slight imbalance in my running style and said "I grant you the serenity to accept that your kneecap will always be at the front of your leg, the courage to bend it whenever you wish and the wisdom to know that when the sun goes down, it gets dark,"

It's Not Good

Day 63 - Marathon Training - stopped after 1 mile (meant to be 13 miles steady)

It's not good. I am really p*ssed off. Set off in good weather and optimistic spirit but after less than a mile I could feel soreness and discomfort in my right knee. Yesterday's recovery was too good to be true. I shouldn't have run on Sunday; the knee wasn't properly healed and now I have probably set it back further.

The only good thing is that I have been very cautious today. I stopped as soon as it started to feel bad and I came back and had a hot bath. Since then I have been on the phone to 2 different physiotherapy practices to try and get an appointment. The one that is just around the corner does not have an appointment for at least 2 weeks so I called another place in Dorchester and I am waiting for them to ring me back.

I am trying not to let this get me down. But it is. I'm going to end up missing at least another week's training and even then I will have to come back into it slowly, setting back a lot of the hard work I've done already. I am almost certainly going to have to drop out of The Grizzly - a tough 20 mile off road classic run this Sunday. I was really looking forward to running it and it would fit in well, being 6 weeks before London.

I just have to hope that a few more days rest and some physio treatment and advice will have me back in action soon.

Runner's Knee

Day 62 - Marathon Training - 50 mins (testing the knee)

Ever since Monday's 20 mile run until today, I have had pain in my right knee cap. It felt like I had walked into the sharp corner of a door and it was badly bruised. Going up and down stairs was particularly bad. I've been looking up references to "Runner's Knee" on the internet. (This from "Undoubtedly one of the most common running ailments, runner's knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), can hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined."

I carried on running, sticking blindly to my training programme for Tuesday and Wednesday - convincing myself that it wasn't that bad and also, once I got running, it did seem to feel a bit better. But Thursday and Friday it was really bad. On those days I was in London, visiting my eldest daughter, so it was easy to avoid any running (although I had been looking forward to the idea of a pre-marathon London run). However, I did a lot of walking in the capital and it didn't seem as though I was getting much rest. To be honest, I find several hours walking way more tiring than running.

In the end I tried to be partially sensible by taking 3 days off running and only getting back into it today. If I was REALLY sensible, given how bad my knee felt, I should probably have given it at least a week's complete rest. But there is this incredible compulsion to keep up the training programme, a fear of missing individual sessions - of falling behind with the whole thing.

Before going out for today's 'test run', I looked up material on the NHS Choices site, where it gives a set of useful knee strengthening exercises, so I did a few squats and leg raises - cautiously and gently - just to give myself a bit of confidence before setting off. I also want to learn a routine of these 'knee workouts' to incorporate on most running days from now on. I guess I'm hoping that this has been a warning to me to pay more attention to my ageing kneecaps and that with a bit more preventative work, I will actually emerge with much stronger knees.

I suppose it is no great surprise that, having run the best part of 20 miles on a hard road surface, for the first time in many years, my knees had something to say about it. I'm not entirely sure why it's only the right knee that's complaining but there you go.*

Anyway, the good news is, after 50 minutes or so of running on mainly soft surfaces today, it felt fine. That's great … but I can't help feeling cautious about it, suspicious almost. How come it was so bad a couple of days ago and now it seems almost completely healed? The real test will be tomorrow. If I wake and it has not become sore again and if I fit in a 13 mile road run, as scheduled, that will confirm that the panic is over and I'm back on track.

I've learnt a lesson though. I really do need to take care of my precious knobbly knees.

[* Since writing that, I've come across a potential explanation for the 'one sided' effect - from '' - "Runner's knee is … frequently caused by a thigh muscle imbalance, which can pull the kneecap out of alignment - and this imbalance can occasionally be caused by running on the side of a road where the camber can affect gait." This is a highly probable cause for what I've done.]

Mist Clearing

On Monday the mist lay thick around Bridport and West Bay and I walked … Yes, walked! … down to the coast and took a few photos of the mist soaked harbour.
The misty weather lingered a little on Tuesday but it's now Friday and the mist has gone. It's a bit like that with my back as well - the pain was still there in the early part of the week but it has gradually cleared and now feels so much better. And the misty, murky, mood that was fogging my brain has more or less gone too.

I walked on Monday, simply because I couldn't yet risk running, but I hoped the walk would free me up a bit and get the spinal joints and the muscles in the lower back moving in a productive way. It really seemed to help and although the weather was photographically dismal, I was starting to enjoy the exercise and the gradually increasing freedom of movement I seemed to be getting 'back there'. The photography became a challenge and the walk became a liberation. It was one of those days that proves the power of positive thinking.

When I got back from the walk, I dumped the camera at home and immediately went for a gentle run of 20 minutes or so on grass. I managed to do it without collapsing and without anything that could be called 'real pain to a real man', in my back. And so it has continued. Four miles the next day, mainly off-road and with a bit of climbing. On Wednesday I actually completed a gentle six miles, combining a pre-run on my own, with leading what we call the 'wellbeing group' at our club. It was good for me not just to be running again but coaching and encouraging others always injects an extra boost of motivation and confidence building. It's often quite a selfish process really, disguised as helping others.

The training programme this week deliberately calls for 'easing off' the effort and it has no 'speed work' or 'interval sessions', which is perfect for recovery from injury if I stick to it. But I can't help feeling that I have lost the best part of 2 weeks training effort now. (Actually weeks 3 and 4 of my 16 week programme.) I lost last week where I was supposed to be putting in 2 or 3 harder sessions and now this week is a 'recovery week' but I didn't do the hard week before it to recover from!

So there is that temptation, now that I'm feeling a touch better, to start pushing it a bit more, driven by a sense that I have 'dropped behind' on my programme. But you know what, I am sufficiently objective about it to realise that I've still got over 12 weeks to go and the risk of further pain and injury should override any feelings of 'Oh no, I've not done anywhere near enough training!'.

One of the biggest physical and psychological hurdles is the thought of going back in the Gym, as I more than half suspect that that was what caused my back problems in the first place. But I think I'm going to do it and just take it carefully. If I DO get back in the Gym and come out without any damage then that is going to do me the world of good. I will have put this back pain 'blip' behind me and will be feeling so much stronger in every sense of that word. I can see clearly now.

(Pic above: There was a cleat on the harbourside that reminded me so much of what my spinal joints felt like a few days ago.)

Down and Out


I have now had 5 days out from training with back pain. The hints I was getting on Monday and Tuesday were more than just a stiff back. I had obviously done some damage and the running was making it worse but I didn't realise (or didn't want to realise) until it was too late.

By the end of Tuesday and until today (Sunday) it has been like this … I experience a dull ache and sometimes sharp pain in my lower left back. It feels as though it is focused on the joint between the pelvis and the top of my bum. During the day the pain has been spreading to my head - giving me headaches. The pain, discomfort and stiffness is worst first thing in the morning. I can't bend forwards without resting my hands on my thighs. I have gradually gained more movement during the day and occasionally I have even tried about half a dozen jogging steps but the soreness and pain resounds right through the body. It is telling me DO NOT RUN!

On two evenings I have had hot baths, which have made me feel quite a bit better but on both occasions, the next morning - SLAM! - it's back where it was - stiff, painful and depressing. It definitely has affected my mood quite badly. Just when I was beginning to get into my stride, with my Marathon Training programme, I have been stopped in my tracks. I always feel bad when I let others down and on Wednesday, not only could I not do my own training run but I had to inform the local club that I couldn't coach that night - I was in pain and feeling really low (and to be honest it was the latter that was more disabling).

I suppose it shows how important this training is to me and also, unfortunately, shows that I am not as resilient or stoic as I used to be. Five days into this 'injury break' and after another relaxing hot bath, I can be a bit more philosophical about it but I know that this relatively minor set back, early on in my programme has hit me harder than it needs to. I think, and hope, that in a few days I will be back running again and the enforced rest will probably put an extra spring in my step for the first few days back. I will need to be a bit more cautious about the work I do in the Gym - I think that is the root cause. I don't want to cut out the strength exercises altogether but I might need to reduce the weights a bit and cut out some of the exercises, before I build each one back up again.

The last couple of days I have been doing stretches to promote recovery in the painful area. It's always difficult to strike the balance between 'rest' and 'active recovery'. You want to try and nudge it towards feeling better without risking further damage. Only time will tell if I've got it right.

In the meantime, my replacement running shoes have been delivered but I haven't even been motivated to try them on. Hey, now there's something to get excited about in a day or two when I start flying about the streets and footpaths of Bridport and West Bay again. Oh yes! it won't be long … I hope!