Great Bentley: Unconventional training schedule proves winning formula for marathon runner Jo

Jo Stephenson from Stowmarket Striders giving tips on how to prepare and compete in a marathon.

Jo Stephenson from Stowmarket Striders giving tips on how to prepare and compete in a marathon. - Credit: Archant

MARATHON runner Jo Stephenson dragged herself out of bed at an unsociable hour on Sunday morning, ready to face the Great Bentley Half Marathon.

She said: “At 7.30am I was sitting having my porridge (good pre-run fodder) listening to the wind and rain, knowing it was going to be cold too, thinking that I’ve softened over the years and actually all I wanted to do is climb back into bed.

“However I was taking part in the Great Bentley Half Marathon, I’d paid my entry fee and I was designated driver for friends running it too, so I knew I really ought to just toughen up and get it done.”

The race was part of her marathon training schedule, an unorthodox plan that the mum-of-two is trialing alongside other members of the Stowmarket Striders,

Following the plan, Jo went for a nine-minute mile pace.

“It’s always good to work a few races into a training plan; it helps get you used to the big day - your A race,” she said.

“My running partners and I were laughing during the week that it’s “only 13 miles” this weekend; last week it was a 20 mile run.

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“The mileage on the plan for the weekly long runs so far has been 13, 13, 15, 17, 20, 18, 20 miles.”

Before setting out on Sunday’s half, she said: “Today marks the end of eight-weeks training and by the end of the race, including all the other training runs during the week I have run a total of 220 miles.

“A typical more traditional training plan would have started at a six-mile long run at the end of the first week and would have gradually increased by a mile or two over the weeks to be at about 14 miles this week.”

Jo, who is training for the Brighton Marathon, her third marathon race, added: “The plan I have decided to experiment with this time is called the FIRST 3 + 2.

“That’s three runs a week made up of two good quality speed sessions and 1 long run, all performed at a calculated pace, and at least 2 cross training sessions which are structured spin cycle or rowing machine sessions.

“Also thrown in there are some muscle strengthening exercises and some good stretching. I also use a foam roller constantly, which is a substitute for a sports massage. However I would really recommend a sports massage several times during the training and already have a massage booked for the day after the marathon.”

Going back to Great Bentley, Jo, who has been successfully treated for cancer twice, concluded: “So after standing on the start line in freezing temperatures and strong winds, wondering what on earth I was doing there, I am really happy to report that I had a really good race.

“Not a personal best, but the best race I’ve had since finishing all my treatment and done at a pace that I really didn’t think I had in me anymore and I felt comfortable doing it. A really good confidence booster.

“And to top the week off with another cause for celebration, I was really pleased to find out I have managed to secure a place on the very first RideLondon-Surrey 100 mile cycle challenge. Training for that will start as soon as the marathon is over.”

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