In his first ‘fast runners: class of 2018’ post, Tom Marshall shares advice for winter running blues and reflects on his own recent training and racing.

Snatch. What a movie. If you haven’t seen it, there are few movies I could praise higher. It’s right up there with Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects and The Jungle Book (the CGI version; don’t judge me).

Snatch is arguably best known for its quotes, and one of my personal favourite lines goes as follows, “Fish, Chips, Cup o’ tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary (curse word) Poppins”.

You would probably agree with me that during the winter, we do have it bad here in the UK and Ireland. Cold, wet, miserable, and worse of all, dark. Okay, Russia and Canada might have six foot of snow preventing them from actually getting out of their houses, but at least they have proper snow. None of this dark and wet slush that just ends up making your feet wet.

But for me, the thought of running on the pavements, dodging traffic and commuters, just isn’t that appealing. This is a stark contrast to British summers. Track season is in full swing, you can run off road in the beautiful trails, you can sit out in the sun and have a BBQ (occasionally). Bliss.

I’m not sure if there is an athlete alive who has made it through a British winter without an injury or illness. Chances are, you work alongside somebody whose exercise levels are nonexistent. With this, often comes a weaker immune system, and yep, colds. Lots, and lots of winter colds. You can’t avoid them… trust me, I’ve tried.

I can’t recall a winter season where I have made every single race that I had planned to run. Ordinarily, illnesses have prevented me from making the start line of a race or two, and occasionally there is the strained muscle from slipping on a patch of ice. Not forgetting spending the whole of a run unable to warm up due to the minus six temperatures.

And so you sit at home, drinking coffee, watching your third episode of The Chase before 12 pm, anxiously awaiting results of the numerous races around the UK to find a number of your rivals running phenomenal times. Personal bests galore.

As I sit here writing this, my colleague and training partner Ieuan Thomas ran 29:13 for 10k on the road. Am I jealous? Of course! Am I worried? No. You wouldn’t catch me running a 10k if my life depended on it. The slightly different situation to above as I’m thankfully not ill or injured. Instead, I’m racing on the weekend.

So here is how I deal with those winter blues, and here is where the title of this blog comes in; blissful ignorance. I watch training partners, rivals, and friends run quick times every winter, and I’m the first to congratulate them. I show huge respect towards them, and I genuinely hope that they continue that form into the summer season. There’s nothing I love more than seeing people run well.

But that’s where I end it. I don’t dwell on the times. I don’t over think their training. I don’t worry about being out ill for the week. I don’t stress about the season approaching. I don’t worry that a rival is doing 20 miles a week more than me. Instead, I refocus on my own personal goals, and carry on doing what works for me. Including trying to stay healthy.

So there is my advice for those winter running blues. We all get injured or ill. We all miss races. We all see rivals run sensational times. Just remember what your goals are, work on getting healthy, and refocus, even if that means targeting a new race.

Races and training

Last week’s training varied from an average week that is outlined below. This was because I was competing for Great Britain in the mixed relays at the Great Edinburgh XCountry. My last hard session was on the Tuesday (10 x 400). And Thursday and Friday were taper days (40 minutes on Thursday, 20 minutes on Friday).

Luckily, the race went extremely well as a team, and we took the victory after all running solid legs (and we were fortunate to have the great Laura Muir on the last leg).

A fantastic weekend all in all, with the most incredible crowd supporting you along the way. A difficult race personally (middle distance track athletes don’t always enjoy the mud as we tend to sink instead of glide), but I put everything into the leg, and enjoyed every second. Such a shame that Edinburgh won’t be hosting the event anymore.

My average week’s training over winter

Monday: 7 miles and weights

Tuesday: Longer session – this can vary from 3 x 2-mile reps on the road, to 10 x 1k reps on the road, to my last session on the indoor track of a 1600, 1200, 800, 400.

Wednesday: 7 miles and weights

Thursday: Hills followed by a 2-4 mile tempo – hills can vary from 10 x 30 seconds, to 2 minute reps, to a progressively shorter session i.e. 3 x 2 minutes, 4 x 1 minute, 5 x 30 seconds.

Friday: Rest or 7 miles and weights

Saturday: Varied session – sand dunes, offroad trail session, offroad hill session, grass reps, and the occasional quicker indoor track session i.e. 20 x 200 metres, or 10 x 400 metres.

Sunday: 12 miles – usually around 5.55 pace this year.

Tom Marshall is part of the ‘fast runners: class of 2018’ and will share his running journey every month throughout 2018. More information can be found here.