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

Last Friday I did a strange thing: I went for a run with someone else.

I’ve written before about the solitary nature of my exercise habit. It’s a break from the relentless list of duties during a day: just get out the door and off you go, with no one in tow.

A run with Andy Nicol, however, was always part of my plan. The MD of digital transformation specialist Sputnik Digital had tackled the Seville Marathon only a few days previously, setting a PB despite not being able to train properly due to an injury.

Too nice to turn me down, he admitted during our six-mile jog: “You’re not supposed to do anything for a week after a marathon! Active recovery is best: stretch your legs, go for a walk, swim. 

“You’ve basically broken your muscles and they need to recover – it takes weeks for them to recover fully.”

Andy is a member of the Chorlton Runners on the outskirts of Manchester, where we went for our off-road run-cum-chat. Despite being a tiny suburb, the club has around 600 members. Several travelled to Spain just to support those who were taking part – and partake in a few cervezas, naturally.

So too did Andy, in fact. “We were in a nightclub on Thursday, drank heavily again on Friday – but we were good on Saturday… in bed for 9.30pm before the race!”

We happen upon a few other members, also out for a lunchtime trundle, and they exchange stories from Seville. “The best thing about being part of a club is you enter organised events, from local 10Ks to races such as this,” says Andy. “I’d be surprised if there aren’t 30 or 40 of us doing the Manchester Marathon [in April].”

Andy Nicol

Fabulous fuelling

Despite the alcoholic refreshments, Andy took fuelling for the race seriously. “You have to be disciplined with your hydration during a marathon. Drink every fuel stop: you only get a little mouthful in a cup anyway,” he advises.

“I had salt tablets the day before and took five gels with me. Your body has about an hour’s worth of carbs in it so you can do a 10K before you need to refuel. They say to take a gel every 20 minutes, and it takes 20 minutes to get into your body, so start thinking about taking a gel at 40 minutes.

“Two days before, instead of a balanced diet, go a bit more carby – pasta, pizza. Make sure you’ve got water and salt in your body – but don’t neck a litre of water on the morning of the race!

“I drink a can of Coke on the start line half an hour before. It’s got caffeine, water and, famously, a load of sugar!”

He says the sugar in the muscle is easiest for them to access, so that’s what the body starts using up first. “When it runs out of muscle sugar, it goes on to blood sugar. When you run out of blood sugar, it goes on to the liver – and when you run out of liver sugar, you’re bonked! Jelly legs. Done. 

“Make sure you keep refuelling. You’re going to run out of muscle sugar as there isn’t a lot of it, but you don’t want to start running your blood sugar down – if you take a gel only when you start to feel tired, you’re too late.”

American Civil War & the Cotton Famine

My long run followed on Sunday. Having asked to plan a 13-mile off-road loop from my house, it wasn’t long before I was in the hills. The trouble was, the second field I had to cross had about seven horses in it so I had to take a long diversion up through dense moorland and over a drystone wall before I could rejoin.

About eight miles in, having climbed above Healey Dell outside Rochdale, I realised the sun had sunk over the horizon. The race to get home before dark was on! Again, though, the route had me navigating actual moorland and twilight was descending as I hit the Rooley Moor Road.

It is believed that this road route dates back to medieval times. Part of the Pennine Bridleway and one of the highest roads in England – at an altitude of over 1500 feet – part of its length contains the Cotton Famine Road, built by unemployed mill workers during the American Civil War.

Each of the more than 300,000 stone setts was hewn from local quarries and laid by hand in order to receive poor relief. Despite the hardship caused by the lack of cotton coming into the mills, the Lancashire workers supported the abolition of slavery. 

My own hardship – a two-mile uphill slog along these setts before descending into Lee Quarry then on to home – pales in comparison. Yet it was my biggest challenge so far – and one I’m pleased to say I came through well.

Actually, my biggest challenge was lowering myself into a cold salt bath when I got home… this worked wonders for my muscles the next day!

Why running could be the secret to business success

Music & the ITB band

Mary Jane Greenhalgh, corporate relations counsel at Moneypenny, is also running the London Marathon this year. MJ ran London last October too.

“I learnt not to overtrain last time as otherwise I suffer with a painful ITB band on one side (pain in the knee caused by tissue rubbing against the bottom end of the femur thigh bone),” she says. “One long run a week and cross training in between suits me.

“I also used calf compression socks – this was an error as I hadn’t tested them before and I think they dug in and irritated my ITB band.”

On gels, she says: “I don’t like them, but if I don’t eat on the way round I feel dreadfully sick for 30 minutes after finishing – so they are worth it. I run with banana chips in my pockets and electrolyte melts, which taste a bit like Love Hearts.” Now we’re talking!

MJ adds: “The more tech I use the worse it is – I know I should use a watch to pace, but this stresses me out so I run on feel rather than watching the clock.”

Graham Barrett of Audere Communications runs without music to get that ‘clean break’ feel from being ‘always on’.

He also has advice for avoiding repetitious training runs: “I keep a spreadsheet of my runs! If I run the same routes, it becomes boring.”

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].

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