Andy Greenleaf runs for the Serpentine Running Club and our friends at Team Freespeed (who snagged 3 podium finishes at Kona last year). Andy ran an epic 02:25:17 in the London Marathon last weekend, placing 52nd overall. We caught up with him a few days into his recovery to ask him how he balances the demands of training with a full time job (He's a Business Developer at Swiss private bank Julius Baer when he's not pounding the pavement) and to score some performance tips for the rest of the community...
Andy, congrats on another awesome London Marathon time. In your race report, you said the race had “given [you] plenty to think about what went right and what could do with some tweaking in the build up”. It’s been a few days now, what do you think went right and where can you improve?
Well, race day was a bit chilly, so I was glad that I turned up in a few layers; I had a hoodie and hat on! This meant that I started nice and warmed up and I felt pretty good going in.
The plan was to do the half in 69:40, like last year. I tend to think that the first half at London tends to be quicker, you have the down hill section at mile 3 and you’re usually still with a group. I did the first few miles at a pace of about 05:20. The group I was with pushed on at mile 4, but I just didn’t feel it, so I didn’t try to force it, I’ve learned that you need to run within yourself and not push it, so I kept at an even pace. I was generally pleased that I didn’t go off too hard.
In terms of what I could have done better, I could have done with doing some longer training runs at marathon pace or even a little bit faster. Maybe the first 10 miles at 06:00-06:30 minute per mile pace, with the last 8 miles at marathon pace. There’s a group of us that train down at Battersea Park. Martin Rush came and talked to us a while back and outlined a potential marathon training plan which involved 20-25km sessions, at marathon pace. The reps are generally longer at 4-7km in length run at marathon pace, with recovery between reps of about 1km run at just slower than marathon pace.
How long does it take to recover from a sub 02:30:00 marathon?
My legs are usually in pieces after London. Last year I raced a 10k a few weeks after London and my legs were pretty fatigued. Then I ran another a week or so later and they felt much better and 4 weeks later I ran my quickest time for 10k in 4 years! In general, my recovery takes 3-5 weeks. This week I’ve been swimming most days since the race, and some light running just to keep the impact on my legs low.
How did get into long distance running, and then make the move into triathlon?
I started running at 11, my father was a runner and he signed me up for the local club. I wasn’t really near the front of the field in my teams, I just did it for the enjoyment. I stopped racing at around 17-18 because of the usual teenage distractions, but I picked it up again at uni, where I joined the running club. That was really interesting as I got to to see how some of the guys who had raced at higher levels, for England etc, trained and what struck me was the variety of sessions that they did.I did my first marathon at 23, in 02:45.
To be honest I didn’t run a lot of miles, but I always ran them hard. That’s definetely not a great way to train, you plateau pretty soon. I joined Serpentine Club and started training with the marathon group in Battersea, and that group has gradually brought their times down over time through more structured training.
In terms of how I got into triathlon, I did them for fun at uni but I wasn’t much of a cyclist. I made a pact with a group of five mates that we’d do an Ironman by 2010 and, sure enough, we did Nice in 2010, where I clocked in at 10:09 and missing the sub-10 mark by those nine minutes really created a sense of unfinished business!
In 2013, someone told me that the ITU Age Group Championships were being held in Hyde Park, so thought I’d have a crack at that next. I entered Chester Triathlon as it was a qualifier, but my cycling was abysmal, so I didn’t qualify! But, I had the bug and didn’t want to give up so I did Liverpool Triathlon a few months later.
I’d realised I needed to do a lot of training on the bike if I was going to have a chance to qualify, I think I ended up doing about 1000 miles in the following two months. I eventually came 6th in my ITU age group category and I just got more keen on cycling and more competitive in tri from there really.
How do you balance a full time job with training?
About 50-60% of my training is running to and from work and I usually run between 80-90 miles per week. For the rest I just have to be really disciplined with my time. I don’t like to miss my Tuesday and Thursday sessions, so I leave work on time and just accept that I’m committing that full evening to my workout.
Getting in the miles on the bike is only possible if you get up early. I do 05:30 starts when I’m cycling. Training with mates helps with that and Richmond in the sun is pretty motivational - I’m definetely a fair weather cyclist - as is just being outside when most of the rest of the week I’m in the City.
Do you do anything differently when training in hot environments?
I try to go away for 1 week a year to get some focused training in. The actual training doesn’t vary too much when I’m away though as it’s already pretty heavy at home. For me, the main benefit of a warm weather camp, and just being away, is the downtime. Getting more sleep and maybe doing some strength and conditional work, thats the real benefit. The heat doesn’t seem to bother me too much, as long as I take in small amounts of fluids and electrolytes regularly, I’m generally fine.
How do you stay hydrated during a race?
To be honest I mostly just sip water as I found through your Sweat Test that my sweat sodium concentration is fairly low, as is my sweat rate and that tallies with the fact I’ve never really had any major issues with hydration. I struggle with gels towards the end of races.
Onwards to Kona. What’s your target there?
To finish as high as possible! One thing I’m going to do as I build up to Kona is to increase the length of my weekend rides. It’s my first Kona, but the team did really well there last year, so I’m hoping to continue that…