You can read the first nine weeks of Jonathan’s marathon training journey via links further down – and support his chosen charity DEBRA, at this page.

I’ve changed my long run to Tuesdays. 

It’s the only day where I don’t have commitments to coach kids’ football or play football myself, and which isn’t Friday (too much work to do) or the weekend (football again and family).

So this week I had no excuses to prepare properly – and prepare I did:

Tickhydrated in days before

Tick enough sleep (well-slept might be pushing it)

Tick electrolyte-enhanced water ingested

Tick plenty of carbs

Tick running belt acquired to hold my first ever gels

Tick runners’ yoga

I was planning to head over the hills to Edenfield, double back on the road to Rawtenstall then head up the long slow climb on cycle paths to Bacup. My longest run to date – 15 miles – with the first half scrambling up and down moorland paths.

I then looked out the window to check the weather – and the blizzards were back. The hills were white! (they’re somewhere above the house below):


I worked on for one… two… three hours before the sky quickly cleared to reveal a dazzling winter sun.

Pulling on my trusty Sealskinz gloves and bobble hat, Mrs Symcox stopped me: “You won’t need that, you’ll just get hot. It’ll be clear now all afternoon.”

Fast-forward half an hour: there I was, fighting up the long winding climb to Rooley Moor Road in a huge snowstorm – the kind where you have to stop every few metres to turn your freezing face away from the biting wind. If you get through this, nothing will stop you, lad.

Get through it I did – thanks in part to sterling distraction work from my mate Kambi’s Crate 808 podcast – and the weather calmed for a time.

Past Cragg Quarry; first gel (quite tasty, in a disgusting sugar slime kind of way); a couple of electrolyte tablets; careful negotiation of cows. I felt good.

By the time I’d descended into Edenfield and sucked down a second gel, my legs were saying something different. How could I have seven more miles to go? And why is the second half of every flipping run uphill?

You just have to keep moving. One foot in front of the other. I’ve never run more slowly in my life. By the final mile, a solid climb, I was full-on daydreaming.

But I’d done it. Three hours of arduous terrain and climbing. It can’t be that far off four hours of road running, can it?

Shy bairns get nowt (and other leadership lessons from my mum)

Ich bin ein Berliner

In the coming weeks we’ll be getting into the science – including why I’m supporting the EB charity DEBRA – but this week I want to highlight the story of my fellow Yorkshireman Dominic Pollard, director of City Road Communications, also recently got into long-distance running.

“I’ve always enjoyed running since my late teens, but rarely would go much over 10km in distance,” he says. 

“In 2019 a friend suggested we do the Berlin marathon and make a holiday of it at the same time. I love the city, and I was keen to have a challenge to train towards, forcing me to increase my running.

“My abiding memory of Berlin was that the overall race experience was quite stressful. Going to register, pick up your tags and pack the day before; and then queuing and waiting around before being able to cross the start line. It was all a bit draining.

“The most difficult part was the sheer number of people. It was one of the largest in the world by number of participants. And having never done a marathon before, I was put quite far back on the starting grid – with the people expecting to finish in four or five hours. So, I had to spend most of the marathon weaving between people to try and find a pack running at a similar pace.”

He adds: “I always assumed it would be a one-off – a box to tick and then revert to my regular 10km jogs again. But when that same friend said he was signing up to run the inaugural Leeds marathon, I got the itch to do it again.”

This doesn’t sound promising…

“I find running to be hugely important to my mental health. When I am running regularly, I work better, sleep better, and enjoy food and drink more knowing – in my head at least – that I’ve earned it,” Dom continues. “Having a marathon looming over you can be a little stressful; but it’s the kick up the arse needed to squeeze in more runs, and to go out for longer than you otherwise would.”

I can identify with that. Indeed, I find that my body demands food to replace the nutrients it has lost: that Brie-and-Serrano ham panini on Tuesday afternoon was the best I’ve ever tasted!

“As for the training for the Leeds marathon, the most difficult has certainly been finding time to train,” Doms then says. “Since completing the Berlin marathon, my wife and I have had two children. And marathon training is time consuming. I cannot wake up on a weekend and go for a three-hour jog.”


“Instead, I have started running home from work – about 12km – several times a week. It’s a great way to get the miles in, and takes the same amount of time as if I was using public transport. 

“Plus, the revelation has been wearing a backpack for those regular runs – it means then when I do find the time to do a longer run on a weekend without wearing a backpack, I feel great; going up hills, picking up the tempo and going out for longer distances all feels so much easier when you’re no long carrying those extra kilograms on your back!”

A business without PR is nothing – just ask Bill Gates & David Brent

The final stretch

I’m now five weeks out from race day. So what does Dom advise for my final approach?

“When getting towards the business-end of the training programme, I try to replicate what I will do on race day. From the breakfast; the time you set off; the intervals at which you take fluids and gels on boards… I want to mirror what I will do on the marathon, probably up to a distance of 35km a couple of times.”

And the more he runs, the less tech he uses. 

“I no longer monitor my heartbeat. I use Map My Run to track my runs, but I have turned off updates so I don’t get a voice in my ears telling me every time I complete a certain distance. I find it helps you focus a bit more on what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling good, you can lift the pace; if you’re going at a slower tempo than you expected to, then it’s probably because you’re having an off day, and that’s fine. 

“Without an app barking at you throughout a run, you do what feels right rather than running to a set goal. Certainly for the longer tempo runs, I find this approach far more enjoyable.”

My trainers are getting a bit ragged now – not helped by all those winter mud swamps in the hills.

“For me, the most important bit of gear is the shoes,” says Dom. “Having done many miles in old, worn out or quite cheap trainers, I have learnt the hard way that a great pair of running shoes makes a huge difference.”

Over the next few weeks this column will include advice from experts in areas such as nutrition, training performance and psychology – and naturally tech will be running through it all. If you have an anecdotal or expert contribution to make – or know someone who does – get in touch at [email protected].

You can sponsor Jonathan’s London Marathon run, supporting his chosen charity DEBRA, at this page.

Week 1: How hard can the London Marathon be?

Week 2: Running in the snow (& Peaky Blinders)

Week 3: Beer helps you to recover!

Week 4: Top of the pods… & Muhammad Ali

Week 5 & 6: From Saudi Arabia to Shawforth

Week 7: The Yorkshire terrier

Week 8: A chat with the Chorlton Runners

Week 9: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail