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Marathon training at the triple: 3 marathons in 3 days

The question I’ve been asked most about running the 10in10 (apart from ‘why?’) is, ‘How do you train for something like that?’. It’s a great question, and it seems there is no single, or simple, answer. There aren’t any ready-made 10in10 plans lurking on the internet. And looking at previous 10in10ers only goes to prove that there are many different approaches to training. One thing they all have in common, however. Miles. Lots of miles.

As the 10in10 is so different from anything else I’ve attempted, I have been keen to test myself by running marathons over multiple days. My training weekend in the Lakes also reminded me just how hilly the Windermere course is, and so incorporating plenty of hills into my training has also been important. The last ten days have provided the opportunity to test both of these elements out. I have run my first fell race, and then completed 3 marathons in 3 days.

Aware of my need to run more hills, a fell running friend asked if I wanted to go and run the Wadsworth Trog with him. This 20 mile(ish) race, known locally as ‘The Beast’ is a ‘classic winter fell race taking place on the moorland north of Hebden Bridge. Navigational skill is required…with 3,650ft (1,110m) of ascent…the terrain is a mixture of technical paths and open fell’. I should, perhaps, have let this description sink in a little more before I signed-up and cheerily made the journey across to West Yorkshire on a dark and cold Saturday morning.

Tim running on the moors
Wrapped up warm for my first fell race

It was tough. Very tough. I was expecting to have time to take in the fantastic views of the moors and reservoirs on the edge of the Pennines, but found that for the first 8 miles I did little more than stare at the one metre of ground in front of my feet, so unsure was I with my footing. But, I did really enjoy myself. It was great to run on trails and paths, especially as I do so much of my running on the road. And as the runners thinned out there was time to appreciate the stunning surroundings, before I suddenly found myself on my own in the middle of the moor, a bit lost and having to add nearly ½ mile to get back to the track.

I had a great time, it was something a bit different and it was a really good test of my fitness. Not sure my trainers will ever be properly clean again however…

Fast forward a week and I’m ready for a whole new challenge. I’m in Gravesend to run three marathons in three days.  A chance to introduce my body and mind to the rigours and punishment of multi-day long-distance running. To try out kit and hydration, eating and sleeping, stretching and ice baths. And to do so without breaking myself. The races are a series of multi-lap loops of between 3-5 miles, depending on which day you’re running. They also have enough climbing in them to make it a decent work out too. So how did I get on…?

Day 1 – Pretty straightforward if I’m honest, despite the cold, sleet and snow. But then running one marathon in a day is nothing new to me! I did find the grind of seven laps a bit monotonous, which is a bit of a concern for the following days. Recovery all good, with an ice bath, plenty of stretching and a good feed at a local pub. How hard can this be? [3h44m]

Day 2 – Running-wise today went well. Very cold, but no snow. Five longer laps instead of yesterday’s seven helped with the boredom, as did having a bit of company early on. Legs just a little tired towards the end, but nothing to slow me down. Post-run was a little more difficult. I really struggled to find the motivation to eat and had to force feed myself (despite the mountains of stuff I’d brought with me). And by early evening the pain had set in – blister on my ‘bad’ toe, sore calf (very painful to roller) and the beginnings of runners knee. I might now be a double marathoner, but I’m a bit worried about tomorrow. [3h45m]

Day 3 – I did it. I’m a triple marathoner. Awoke to a very painful knee and calf. More painful massage settled the calf (I hoped) but there wasn’t a lot I could do with the knee. Back to the shorter, seven laps today, in breezy but bright conditions, and the first 12 miles were a real struggle. The knee was hurting so much that I really worried I might have to walk just to get round. But then the pain stopped, I found my rhythm, and ran the last 10 miles as quick as any I’d done over the three days. Nightmare journey home couldn’t take the gloss off my achievement. [3h52m].

Triple the marathons, triple the goodies

So there you have it. A big milestone in my 10in10 training has passed, with lots for me to take from it, but without raising new concerns or fears that I won’t be able to complete this crazy challenge. I am also extremely grateful for all the messages of encouragement and support I received.  From family, friends and those of you I’ve never met but who follow me on social media. You helped keep me positive, especially through the toughest times. Thank you one and all. I’ll need plenty more of that come May.

Now time for a few days rest, before lacing up the trainers once again. See you at the start…

With thanks to Calder Valley Fell Runners and Saxons, Vikings and Normans for putting on some great events.