One month to go! Big run looms large as our group keep up the hard work

Samantha Sullivan and Rob Salt leading the training group up New Road in BerkhamstedSamantha Sullivan and Rob Salt leading the training group up New Road in Berkhamsted
Samantha Sullivan and Rob Salt leading the training group up New Road in Berkhamsted
The Berkhamsted Half Marathon looms ever closer and our group of eight runners '“ representing a cross-section of the local running fraternity '“ are experiencing the usual host of concerns that face any competitor a month before the big day.

The cold, wet weather, niggles of pain here and there, and the challenge of getting out of bed early on a weekend for that much-needed long run are only a few of the hurdles our runners are dealing with as they go about their busy lives.

This week, we speak to Samantha – a mum of two who runs her own osteopath practice – and Rob, a banking executive with two grown-up children. Both report that their training is going close to plan, putting them in a strong position to achieve their target of going under 1h45 for the 13.1-mile race.

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Samantha said: “My long run for the week was planned as 10 miles, but after consulting coach Rob, he gave me the go-ahead to run a 12-mile training run.

“This was the most mileage I’d done since October so I inevitably found the last mile or so quite hard going, particularly on the muddy canal paths.

“Although I felt pretty good straight after the run, my right knee became painful and stiff later that evening, probably from sliding around on the mud, but being an osteopath I was able to self diagnose that it was nothing serious.

After some ice and a rest from running for a few days it was still slightly painful before my interval session on Tuesday, but I thought I’d see how it went and luckily it seemed to ease off with the running.

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Rob added: “I managed to keep to coach Rob’s training schedule this week, with the exception of the hills session to ease the work on my hamstring and – fingers crossed – it has been okay.

“Last week included a six-mile tempo run, a challenging 5km parkrun at South Oxhey and a steady 10 miler on Sunday – my longest run in about 30 years – taking the total miles in January to around 90.

“There’s been no let-up in the training schedule this week with another 25-odd miles to do. I’m managing to fit in the runs so far but the weather isn’t helping much, so I’m getting used to being wet and cold, but I’m sure it is worth it!”

Coach Rob commented that “both Sam and Rob are progressing nicely. They both have to face the challenge of fitting in training in around family and work commitments – plus it is hard sometimes to get out and do the training when the weather is awful.

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“This is where having the motivation of a goal such as running a personal best can help.

“We are still in the peak phase of training with long runs but now the emphasis is changing by introducing more race-pace work.

“Sam also has the Welwyn 10k coming up which comes at a nice time in that it will introduce a little racing which helps break the monotony of training.”

The rest of the group are also working hard while facing hurdles on their way to the start line – not least Alexis, who has been sidelined with a hip injury for the past couple of weeks.

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Hopefully she’ll be able to start running again which will give us some time to get ready for the big day and her first half marathon.

Alexis explained that she hasn’t run for over 10 days now. “I saw a physio on Friday and I hope to be running again within the next couple of weeks,” she said. “I’m still hopeful I’ll be at the start line.”

Jim said he had recovered from his illness and was “feeling like I’ve had a good weeks training. I felt really strong on my 12-mile long run on Sunday which was set by coach Rob, but had real problems sticking to the slower pace he has specified.

“I had a chat with him this week about it for some guidance. However, other than a small niggle in my hip, training seems to be back on track and going well.”

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Niamh added: “Training has been going well this week – my legs have felt like dead weights since the Fred Hughes 10-miler in January, so I hope I didn’t peak too early!

Richard said: “My training has gone a bit better this week. I’ve been running at my target pace in most of my sessions so I’m a bit more positive now.

“It’s quite hard when you have to get out there in the stormy weather but it’s worth it when you think of the end goal.”

Kelly, who was struck down with a bad bout of flu, said that she is “much better and will be returning to training this week although it will be a lighter load than most people’s plan, I have been assured!

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“I did a very steady 5k yesterday which was hard. I’ve got a 10-mile route planned for the weekend which will really be the key in deciding if I’m going to be fit in time.”

Jamie said this week was “much like last week. I’ve had to mix up my training to fit in with life. I’m not sure if it’s doing my any favours but you have got to do what you have got to do.”

>> To sign up for the Berko Half Marathon, please visit