Marathon Training week 7

This week began in the city of Antigua, Guatemala and ended in an entirely different country, in the village of Guatape in Colombia. And I managed three runs!!!

Run 1 – the long one took place around the shores of Lake Atitlan. Imagine a volcanic lake, hills rising steeply up from the water’s edge, twisty, turny, dusty roads and paths in between villages lining the water’s edge and you have Lake Atitlan. I think I’ll blog about the run itself in more detail just in case anyone else heading to Lake Atitlan who wants to run would find it useful! But I ended up doing 3 laps that were just under 4 miles each. Ridiculously hilly, with the heat rising constantly, my run saw 830m of altitude ascent in the 18km. It was very slow at 6.49/km (there were some hills that I just found so steep I had to walk up) but it was challenging both for the ascents and the heat so despite the slow pace it certainly wasn’t easy!

Run 2 – the interval run. When I arrived at my second hotel at Lake Atitlan, Casa del Mundo, just outside Jaibalito, my immediate thought was “hmmm steps workout!”. The hotel is built into the hillside overlooking the lake and I had to climb up hundreds of steps to reach reception and then what felt like hundreds more to get to my room! 

So the next morning I was up early and I headed out for my run, beginning with a short warm-up of walking down the stairs to the lake (I don’t usually run down stairs, my knee is weak enough as it is and I have a huge fear of tumbling head over heels and doing myself some real damage!) and along the lake-side towards the tiny village of Jaibalito (really just one path, no roads) before returning to the hotel. 

Then I set about my steps workout. I was aiming for 30 second intervals so set my watch and started running. I reached a platform at reception after about 26 seconds, from where I would have to run along flat ground to the next set of steps so I decided that would be the perfect distance for my intervals. I ran up those steps six times with a minute’s rest in between (a bit more if someone was coming down the steps when I wanted to start again) and didn’t slow at all – in fact most of my intervals ended up being a few seconds faster as I grew more confident in the uneven steps and the turns. It was a great anaerobic workout as I was really panting for breath with aching legs by the end of each interval!

Run 3 – the tempo run. Again, this was certainly a tempo run in terms of effort even if my speed didn’t quite show that! By Sunday morning I was in Guatape, a small village about two hours outside Medellin in Colombia. I was staying in a little hotel about 2 miles out of town so decided I would just run into town and back again.

Oh my it was hard. Firstly, it was hot already (I really need to start getting up before 7 but I’m on holiday!) but it wasn’t actually too hot, for a change. The main thing that made this run really difficult was the altitude. To give you an example, some of the highest ski resorts in the Alps are at 1800m. At its lowest point, my run was above that and it rose to around 1920 at its highest point – with 102m of climbing as well! I could really feel it in my chest.

My plan had been to run into town, have some breakfast, and then run back, but by the time i arrived the place I had heard served the best coffee in Guatape wasn’t yet open, so I wandered around town for a little bit longer before finding somewhere else for a coffee and empananda. Thus fueled – the empanada was delicious and the whole thing only cost about 40p – I set out to run back! 

Cross-training – I started the week in San Marcos, on the shores of Lake Atitlan, which is known for its yoga classes and I managed to attend two classes which were fantastic – especially as there was only two of us for the first class! I had some good advice on how to do headstands as well so I am going to start really working on those.

I swam twice around Lake Atitlan although the first was a very short swim and both involved a bit of breast stroke. It was very windy for my first swim and there were a lot of tree roots I could see under the water that I didn’t want to get tangled up in! I think it would have been different had I been swimming with someone else but by myself I just wanted to be really careful. Plus, I managed to lose my swimming goggles in Mexico and so had to buy a pair at the supermarket. I thought I had picked the most expensive pair on sale but when I came to actually buy them they cost less than 50p… They let a lot of water in and fog up constantly! So that hampered my swimming slightly, especially in the lake.

I also did a few strength and conditioning workouts for a total of 7 and a half hours this week.

Best marathon training eat – I am struggling to remember all the things I have eaten this week as I have had such a busy week! In one week I have been in Antigua and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and Medellin and Guatape, Colombia. That’s a lot of meals! However I think my favourite (now I cast my mind back) was from El Fogado in Guatape, where I had a traditional Guatapean dish – fried trout (fished from the lake right outside the restaurant), with black beans, fried egg, avocado, fried banana, arepas and salad! Kind of like a Colombian version of fish and chips with baked beans.

Something fun that was nothing to do with running – I LOVED San Marcos in Guatemala. It’s a tiny little laid-back hippy village, where I spent a few days happily wandering its narrow, pedestrian streets, spending hours over meals, lying in the sun and enjoying some good yoga classes. It was great and I would love to go back!

Marathon training inspiration – some kind of quote in relation to adversity making us stronger has been rolling around in my head these past few days. No exact words, but more just the ideas. Running while travelling has certainly been more difficult than I naively thought and this week in particular, with dangerous roads, ridiculous hills, high altitude and lots of travelling days. I have to just keep thinking of all the strength in the bank that each run is giving me and hope that while they are not quite the prescribed paces and distances, the extent to which the conditions are SO much harder than they will be at Brighton Marathon means that each run is worth more than it may seem.

Plus, in the spirit of testing that, I have entered a half marathon in my home town of Portsmouth the week after I get back! That will be a good test of how training has gone :/!!! 



  1. I know your pain! When we head down to Georgia for vacation we take our bikes and climb lots of hills and a couple of mountains… Here are home we’re something like 700′ above sea level… Pm vacation we’re better than 2,000 higher. By the time I adjust it’s almost time to go home (but I fly when we do get back, for about a week or two).

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