Trial by trail

Posted on: 26 Jun 2018

Decision made.  I will be doing a summer marathon, it will be in a forest and I will be doing laps.  Four of them.

OK, so the whole lap thing sucks, but everything else stacks up.  The date (5 August) gives me plenty of recovery and prep time for Snowdon and I can get there – the Forest of Dean – without having to book a hotel the night before.

The course is described as ‘light trail’ as well as ‘flat and family friendly’.  And the profile backs it up, with a maximum low to high point elevation of around 100 metres over each 10k-ish lap. 

I’ve also looked at some photos and video footage.  The surfaces seem fine, being mainly tarmac or dirt paths with a few wooden bridges to cross.  No need to invest in any trail shoes then, my bank manager will be pleased.

Called the somewhat predictable ‘Forest Trail Race’, this is a replacement run for the now cancelled Gloucester City Marathon.  There will also be a 10k, half marathon and kids’ run all on the same day.  With a bit of luck that might result in some decent support around the start and finish area, but I’m fairly resigned to the fact it will get lonely out in the depths of the forest as I circle the route for the umpteenth time.

I’m still excited though and will be going into the event with some very solid training miles under my belt.  Long runs are now up to 16 miles and I’ve been doing them early morning as a way of getting into work, with average mile splits of around 8m40s.  To get home, I’ve done distances of up to five additional miles to and from railway stations and, when combined, this then ticks off another days’ worth of training.

Last week that meant 21 miles in a day (albeit with recovery time at the office in-between).  It has proved to be pretty tiring and I’ll probably knock that strategy on the head now as the long runs get that bit longer.

Two days  a week are being given over to weights and core work at home so I can try and toughen my body up a bit and be more resilient during the latter stages of the marathon, especially the final 10k where I have an unenviable track record of blowing up.

While this may not be a road race, I’m still hopeful I can manage a decent time and improve on Manchester in April.  A realistic target is around the 4hr15 mark which, if I can manage it, would be my second fastest 26.2. 

Anything quicker would, of course, be a huge bonus and get me closer to my PB and ultimate four hour goal.  However, I won’t go out aggressively chasing such a time. 

Now being August there is every chance this could end up being a hot day and in that case fast times are pretty much out of the window anyway.  At least a decent chunk of my training has been done in warm weather.  And with a heatwave currently pushing the mercury up to around 30 degrees outside, this week’s 17 mile long run is going to give me a proper test for sure.

There are six weeks to go before race day and three before I start tapering.  Here’s to a successful sixth marathon – let’s hope my venture into the woods ends up being more Forrest Gump than Blair Witch!

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