Copenhagen Marathon Phase 2 “Hard Slog” Complete

Copenhagen Marathon Phase 2 “Hard Slog” Complete

I have split my marathon training into several phases (, and on Saturday I finished the nine week phase I had named the “hard slog”. Called so because it was scheduled to be 5 runs per week with a recovery week every 3 weeks. As it happened, it was too much of a hard slog, and after the first three weeks of the phase I had missed one of the weekly runs twice. I suffered from not recovering sufficiently, and spent quite a bit of time aching, both on the runs and when just sitting still in the sofa.

Surprisingly (to me), it wasn’t the fact that I had to do a short 5 km on Sundays following the Saturday long run that did me in. It was the 3 consecutive days on Tues-Wed-Thur that left me exhausted and unable to recover in time for Saturday.

Something had to change. It’s ok when the plan calls for extra will power, but it’s not ok when it becomes a burden and the joy disappears. So from the fourth week of the phase onwards I dropped one of the short runs and reduced my weekly volume by 5 km. This meant I was back to running Mon-Wed-Thur-Sat, and with 3 recovery days per week it got me through the second part of the phase. But after another three weeks I decided to drop the remaining short 5 km on the recovery weeks. So at the end I was doing 4 runs including one long on the normal weeks, and on recovery weeks I was doing only 3 runs and the long run was reduced in length.

The adjustments seem to have worked. On my first marathon training 18 months ago there was a 30 km route around where I lived that wrecked my mojo and motivation. I remember cutting it short and, despite that, limping home hurting and aching. I never fully recovered, and my training suffered for a month after that. So this time around I ran the same route for the two last long runs, and both times finished as planned and with a smile on my face. It was hard work, particularly last Saturday, but I think long distance running is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical, and it was important to prove to myself that this time I am strong enough to do it, and that I’m not at risk of burning out again. Objective accomplished.

As always there are some runs that stand out when you think back over a period of time. For this phase the highlights were definitely when we had a week’s break on sunny Madeira (it was raining and snowing back home, yehaw!) and I got to run along small mountain roads and next to the ocean, before coming back to the hotel and recovering with a beer by the pool. Hills, scenery, sun. Can’t beat that for a motivational boost!

Back home in Blighty I’ve managed to turn several of the long runs into a bit of an adventure. I’ve explored the Yorkshire Wolds, run alongside rivers, and even managed to jog on top of the York city walls. A couple of times my partner has dropped me off at a suitable starting point for a run and then met me 3-4 hours later in a gym with nice hot showers.

The attached (somewhat crowded) graph shows the weekly longest run against target (green bars / line), the total weekly distance against target (orange bars / line) and the cumulative total distance (red).

The next phase is 6 weeks, and the long runs are beginning to get longer. They are planned to be 32, 34 and 36 km, and the mid-week “sorta kinda long” run is up to half marathon distance by now. I am conscious that I’m at risk of over extending myself, so if the going gets too tough I’m ready to reduce the level of ambition slightly. In exchange for the very long runs, I get a recovery week every 2nd week, so I’m hoping this will keep the injury risk at a manageable level. Still haven’t decided whether the recovery weeks will be 3 or 4 runs per week; I’ll judge that by how I feel week by week.

Race day is exactly 2 months away today. I feel positive and optimistic that as long as I can stick to the plan, it will be an enjoyable day and a great race.

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30 Replies

  • Awesome, you're working so hard! You'll smash it!! And you've answered my question about long runs :) I'm glad you remembered to factor in joy <3

  • ... also, "Hard Slog" - great title, love it!

  • I find it way to easy to get caught up in the metrics and the distances and times, but if there's no joy, then there's no point :)

  • That's all really interesting to read. Don't think I'll ever get to marathon level but some of what you say is very transferable. Especially about the joy! :)

  • I think the thoughts and the battles we fight with ourselves are the same regardless of whether it's 10 km, HM or a marathon. Come to think of it, they're pretty much the same fears and doubts and aspirations as we all had doing c25k, with the main difference beeing the number of other people doing it simultaneously and therefore the amount of daily reinforcement.

  • Very true. I am running my first HM this week and I can relate to everything you write.

  • Oooh, is it already this week?! Exciting! I look forward to hear how it goes :)

  • Oh, good luck with your HM! You will be fab! 🙂

  • Great stuff, Tomas. You can't beat a Powerpoint slide.

    I have to say though, at least from where I am sitting, your "Extension" phase could well be renamed "Harder Slog" 😈

  • Sometimes I wonder how we made do before Excel and Powerpoint. Probably perfectly well, given all the timesaving of not fiddling presentations :)

    You're right, there is a risk that the increasingly long runs will turn into "harder slog". On the plus side, I'm scheduling recovery weeks every 2nd week rather than every 3rd, and I'm going to keep the non-long runs at the level they're at now, so the average weekly increase will be 1 km per week rather than the current 2 km.

    That said, it's easy to just nudge the volume up as long as it's in Excel, it somehow gets a lot harder when it's out there in the country side with the rubber hitting the road. And the thought of a 4.5 hr training run does worry me a bit. All I can do is to try to be aware of any escalating pains and aches and be ready to scale back if need be.

  • Wow Tomas, that's amazing, we'll done you, I applaud the dedication and determination you have. It's a key point about the 'joy' isn't it, when I was training for my HM, I was begining to lose the 'joy', but I think that was a combination of training through the winter, some dodgy off road tracks that sometimes you just didn't feel like it, and all the lovely mind games.....

    I'd definitely do the HM again, and now I know I can do it, know what to expect and how to manage the training........for the next one 😄

    Hope your plan continues to go well, you stay well and get to that start line!


  • Thanks Madge. Totally agree with you re joy, and I think you're spot on. Being honest, running in crap weather is NOT fun. Running on crap surfaces (compared to what one likes to run on) is not fun. Going out time and time again on a non-fun run because we "have to" can make it heard to keep the focus on all the joyful reasons we embarked on the journey in the first place.

    Of course, it's not long till we have summer time with long evenings and drier paths, and the lambs are already busy adding loveliness to the countryside. So here's to running joy... and to your next HM :)

  • It's really interesting to read this, and see your fab graphic! My son is training for the Paris marathon (his first) and has encountered some of the same problems as you. I think that a plan is a great idea as a starting point, but as you say, it has to be a bit flexible otherwise you end up injured, fed up and not achieving your goals. It sounds like you are well on the way to achieving your own goals - good luck!

  • Thank you, and I hope your son does great in Paris. Fully agree with you about flexibility, even if it is oh-so-tempting to just put your head down and ignore common sense until it is too late.

  • I am full of admiration! It wasn't really until I read your previous post about your marathon training that I realised how much work it actually involves...

    I doubt I will ever run a marathon, mainly because of the time it requires, but never say never...

  • Thank you, and never say never, Iben :) It's a great excuse to get out there and spend a lot of time training.

  • Fantastic stuff, I was just wondering yesterday how the plan was progressing. I'm most impressed with your planning, and also your ability to change the plan without losing direction. So pleased it's going well for you. xx

  • Thank you Curly. I think (hope) that the multiple changes to the plan is what helps me keep the focus on the bigger picture, namely to get the long runs in, and to be cautious enough so that tomorrow's run is never in serious jeopardy.

  • The recovery time between runs would concern me too Tomas. We need it! It must be an age thing 🙂 It looks and sounds like you have it all going on Tomas. Love your chart 😀

    Good luck with the rest of the training. Hang in there 🙂

  • Yup, we do. I might try to increase the frequency again in six months' time, but for now I shall stick to what I know is manageable for my old bones. Thank you for the good wishes... only six weeks till taper, I'll hang in! :)

  • Great planning! I can't remember if you've already told ushow you structure the different phases. If uou haven't already, would you? It's very likely that I'll be running my first proper marathon next spring.

  • There's a long boring post about the structure here:

    I'm sure it's not the bees' knees, but it seems to work for me. I'd love to read your thoughts about your plan as well when you get to it.

    You mention "next spring", wasn't there also something about a relaxed Christmas marathon?

  • That's right about the Christmas marathon - I only consider it a warmup to the real event. I expect to make my proper debut at London 2018 - I've already contacted a Norwegian sports tour organizer, and they say I'll get a place, but final confirmation is pending, so we'll see if it actually happens.

  • Tomas, your plan is a work of art! You are quite clearly, hugely committed and working incredibly hard, but equally, you are being reactive to the impact of all the 'hard slogs'(!) on your body. I think you are going to go in to this race so prepared, both mentally and physically, and wish you lots of luck with the rest of your training! 🙂 I also love that you have labelled 'man flu' on the chart too!!😀

  • Are you saying that man flu 😰 is not 'a thing'?

  • Not at all! In the name of equality, I think I may have had it myself occasionally!😉

  • Hmmm. OK. ;)

  • It is extremely rare -- but common Man-flu has been known to afflict the female of the species.

  • I really like your approach and how your plan has the elasticity to flex according to how you are doing. I find the biggest drain on me is when my weekly mileage ups so I change what I do in the week if I'm doing a long run on Sunday so the weekly stays the same ( if that makes sense??). Looks like you are completely on track- well done!!

  • Hmm - no marathons for me - nor marathon training! I have decided that I would need to be divorced to do this (again!!) . No!!!

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