There are less than three weeks to go until the gun goes off for the start of the Berkhamsted Half Marathon and the Five Mile Fun Run, and our group of local runners have reported very mixed fortunes in their training.
Two of them, Kelly and Alexis, are likely to drop down to the five miler, as their training for the longer distance hasn’t gone to plan, while the rest of the group are still on track for their 13.1-mile challenge.
Niggles, illnesses and doubts are normal at this time of year and at this distance out from race day: let’s hear what the runners themselves have to say.
This week, we focus to Kelly Du Buisson, a well-known Tring-based personal trainer and a sub-3.30 marathoner, and Jamie Marlow, a tree surgeon from Hemel Hempstead and one of the top distance runners in the borough, who’s training for a sub-1.18 half marathon.
Kelly: “So I think I’ve made the final decision to drop down to the five mile Fun Run instead of the half marathon.
“Unfortunately I’ve been struggling to get back into my rhythm and after the last two weeks, long runs have left me with a sore throat and headache that just tells me I’m not fit enough and I don’t want to push it and be ill again!
“Our final cross country league race in Milton Keynes was a good test, and I felt like I had a good run despite a few set backs (losing my shoe for one!) but today I’m sniffly and coldy. It’s very frustrating!.”
Jamie: “I’m down on miles this week - mainly because I had a mile ‘max effort’ session on the track (he completed the four-lap test in 5.01) and the last cross country race of the season on the Saturday (six miles).
“The effort has been there but the distances have dropped. I’m still feeling low on confidence and have not found the form yet of last year.
“Because the Berkhamsted Half will be a stepping stone towards the Reading Half in early April, the pressure is off a little, but I will still be training hard over the next three weeks to make sure I’m giving myself the best chance of getting close to my target time and a PB.”
Coach Rob Deane moved to allay their fears, saying: “All athletes, whatever their standard, face challenges in terms of health and confidence.
“Both Kelly and Jamie enjoyed great sucess last year, and the early part of this year has shown that the difference between being at your best and being below part is a small one.
“For Kelly, the half marathon is coming just a little too soon as she recovers from illness. Half the battle for any runner training for a major goal is to stay healthy during the build-up.
“Being illness and injury-free gives the runner the opportunity to put in the necessary work. It’s no guarantee of a good performance on the day, but staying healthy during training is half the battle.”
“Jamie is going along quite nicely in my opinion. Remembering that his main goal is in seven weeks’ time, not now, is sometimes difficult to remember.
“Doing good quality heavy training sessions now may have an adverse effect on competitive results in the short term - and this can affect confidence, which is the case with Jamie.
“He has to remember this and to trust in the plan. However, I’m sure things will improve in the very near future.”
And what did our other hardy runners have to say as the big day looms large?
Alexis: “Unfortunately I’m still injured. I’m going to physio again this week so I’ll just have to wait and see.
“After all the walking I did supporting my club at the cross country, my hip seems remarkably better, which is strange. I hope that means there’s light at the end of the tunnel!”
Jim: “My training’s going okay, but I can’t seem to get my pace where it should be - I’m still going too fast (sorry coach Rob)!
“I also had a calf twinge this week which stopped me training Thursday and running cross country for my club.
“Thankfully I did my long run in the week and my calf seems much better as I’ve just managed 30 miles on the bike pain free”.
Niamh: “I only managed seven minutes of my long run before having to stop because of a calf twinge - and I had a more painful twinge the next day.
“I’m gutted to have missed my much-needed long run on the weekend.”
Richard: “My training’s going fairly well and my pace seems to be about where it should be.
“But this week’s long run (12 miles), the day after racing cross country for my club, left me absolutely shattered – the last mile was pure pain.”
Rob S: I’ve had another busy week of training - we had a tough speed session on Tuesday, followed by a gentle run on Thursday night.
“The speed session must have been worth it as I had a good run in the Chiltern Cross Country at Milton Keynes – I improved my time on last year by around two minutes.
“The downside was I only managed six miles on Sunday instead of the planned 12 but with no more cross country races before the big day I am confident of getting the necessary miles in ahead of race day.”
Samantha: “Training and runs had been going well until I woke up with a calf twinge (no idea why) on the day of our cross country race and my legs felt so heavy.
“I felt really uncomfortable all the way around. Yet the next day they felt great and I managed a 10k PB. What a difference a day makes!”
Sign up for the Berko Half Marathon here: www.berkorun.com
But be quick, entries are selling out fast!