You can read the first four weeks of Jonathan’s marathon training journey via links further down.

I’ve realised that training for a marathon is easy when you live in the countryside.

With miles of paths and trails to pound, you can plot a route of any length with little trouble.

More on that further down… for I began week 5 of my prep for London with a trip to a very different environment in Saudi Arabia.

My first time in the Middle East – for the LEAP tech conference – was eye-opening in many ways. For one, the conference centre itself was absolutely huge, having attracted hundreds of internationally-renowned speakers and thousands of businesses – from startups to the American tech giants – showcasing the latest technology. Look out for interviews with key figures from UK startups, Gulf businesses and smart city pioneers in the coming weeks.

LEAP conference, Saudi Arabia

The capital Riyadh is a mix of traditional buildings and Western skyscrapers, with cafes serving traditional spiced arabica coffee on the same street as Dunkin’ Donuts. The American influence extends to the cars on the road, as well as entertainment: our guide for the week, Noura, recently went to an Imagine Dragons gig. We introduced her to Oasis: watching Riyadh slip by to Wonderwall ranks among the strangest moments of my recent life!

Saudi remains a conservative state, but is gradually opening up. Alcohol is still illegal – we drank Coke with every meal – but several local people spoke of a natural transition towards freedoms we take for granted in the West. When a stage behind us at LEAP began blasting out music, one entrepreneur remarked: “That wasn’t allowed five years ago. This is a really interesting time to visit… come back in a few years and you won’t believe the changes that are coming.”

Noura showed us around several historic sites. The clay-and-mudbrick Masmak Fortress is a fascinating museum showcasing the three eras of the Saudi state.

Masmak Fortress, Saudi Arabia

We also looked around Souk al-Zal, an artisan market where you can buy everything from rugs to scimitars and scented wood, which the locals use to perfume their headscarves; not to mention a catapult to entertain a 10-year-old lad back home in Lancashire!

Souk al-Zal, Saudi Arabia

Most impressive of all was Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 15th Century. The former capital, it was destroyed by the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s and lay in ruin for more than 100 years before it was resettled by Bedouin nomads. Subsequently re-established as a city by the government, the former royal palace there is now a stunning open-air museum.

Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

Our final evening of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine was at the modern Boulevard City entertainment complex, overlooking a lake with water fountains dancing to music both traditional and Western. Noura insisted that I buy my wife some fine perfume on the way out!

Boulevard City, Saudi Arabia

As for the training… I tried to put in a few miles on the treadmill in the hotel gym, but quickly became bored despite videos of beach running and Tom and Jerry cartoons. Far more interesting to do a few lengths of the pool and sweat out the lamb shoulder in the sauna!

I was only home for a day before we headed to the Lake District for a belated family birthday celebration. I slotted in a run along Windermere but the Garmin – giving an assessment of my performance condition partway through – could tell I’d shared a few ales with my dad the night before.

Back into the regular Lancashire training groove, I tried out to find a new local long route. The website allows you to narrow your search by bike, foot or road; by distance; and add other parameters such as a loop.

Someone had plotted a 10-mile hike in the hills above Britannia and Shawforth which seemed perfect – so once I’d downloaded the geographic GPX file to my watch, out I set.

Typically in a situation such as this, I would run or bike for miles until I hit civilisation then figure out how to get home. In the South of France last summer with no water and my tee-shirt tied round my sunburned head, I was rescued by a couple on a cycling trip from the Netherlands… no one was surprised.

But with the GPS map on my wrist, I navigated the wild route easily and ensured I was back in time to make my lad’s football training. Discussing running with one of the other dads, a keen fell runner, he told me: “My cousin does ultras – and says there’s no point unless you do 50 miles!”

From Saudi hospitality to Lancashire grit…

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