Taper Tantrums?

Hello all,

A quick update on how it’s all going with the taper at t-minus 9 days. Somewhat surreal is the answer!

Last week was a weird one as we were skiing so I was totally detached from the whole thing –  we were doing some moderately physical activity every day although nothing like the 13/15/17/20 mile runs I’d been doing in previous weeks; however the fact that we were busy and active every day kept the “maranoia” at bay.

Back into it this week with a fast 3 mile earlier in the week and today a 7 mile run / 3 mile walk-run combo (link here – note Garmin battery fail at the 7 mile mark so the finish line is at an odd place!) and feeling great right now.

So I’m very much ready for next week – not really nervous and definitely not apprehensive, just can’t wait to be there! The training really has paid off and 0-20 miles over a period of 7-8 months has been the way to do this.

Sponsorship wise, we are SO close to target now – over £2.5K with gift aid for this unique and dedicated Autism charity is not to be sneezed at but I KNOW we can smash this target and beyond.  Thank you so much to all the sponsors so far – and if you haven’t sponsored me, please do, it would really mean a lot for this amazing amazing charity and it would be fantastic to go into the Marathon knowing I’ve hit the target. Link here: SPONSOR ME!!

Thanks everyone for reading and for all your support – it really means a lot on this journey. Peace, love and happy Easter.


Let Taper Commence!

Firstly, thanks to all of you who have sponsored me in the past couple of weeks – your kind generousity has taken me 3/4 of the way to my target and I’m extremely grateful. You’ve seen in previous posts what an amazing charity we are all working for here and I’m happy and confident that every pound earned is going to a good cause.  If you haven’t sponsored me yet, please do so here – it would really spur me on during the marathon knowing that I’ve hit my target!

Talking of the Marathon… I’ve now hit the taper! For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t until I started this crazy scheme) the taper is a wonderful invention that comes at the end of a very cold, dark period of training and allows the trainee to recuperate, rest a little, allowing the muscles and the mind to heal and get strong again.

And man, do I need to heal. Sunday was the biggest run that I’ll do for this marathon: 19.5 recorded miles, but with warm up and warm down I hit the 20 miles required for training peak.

This was a very lovely 20 miles, I have to say. I had dropped Max off at Legoland where he was having fun with a friend then I parked in the centre of Windsor and embarked upon my big journey.

So long the river I plodded from Windsor up to Taplow past Bray and up to Maidenhead. All lovely areas with multi-million pound houses nestling smugly alongside the riverbank – many nice sights and lots of nature to behold. The sun was shining, the river was glistening and after 13 miles, my left knee was screaming. Note to self: get this checked out PDQ.

On the way back a brief stop at a petrol station in Maidenhead for lucozade and chocolate then off I staggered for the journey back. All in all a super slow time – I’m probably looking at a 6 hour marathon – but 20 miles is 20 miles (and nearly 45,000 steps according to my Garmin). And that makes 82.3 miles run in the past 4 weeks – plus over 13,000 calories burned (why have I not evaporated yet?).

So back to this tapering malarkey – yes, oh yes,  a great invention indeed! I now get to reduce my miles significantly – tapering from 20 miles downwards  over the next few weeks where I’ll be doing some short 4/5/10 mile runs in the weeks running up to the event. Deep joy.

And that event is a mere 25-ish days away. Am I looking forward to it? Yes I really am! The darkest days are over now – Sundays have been a total write-off for the 4-6 weeks for example, consisting of a run of up to 4 hours, a journey home, a little basking in the endorphin rush that running brings, a hot shower, some moping around in pain, some snoozing, some staggering around trying to achieve some sort of normality while one’s body just wants to shut down then, finally, collapsing into bed early. A couple of days of recovery (at work) the I’m off again for a couple of weekday morning runs before Sunday comes around again.

So the fact that I’m at the top of the mountain looking down is a good feeling – and as daunting as the 26 miles is, I’ve trained for it, I know it won’t be pretty but I know I’ll get through it…somehow.

The other thing: ironically, I feel the marathon training is actually now getting in the way of me getting healthy. Sounds weird but this journey has sort of taught me where I have been going wrong for 43 years in terms of health and exercise. But being knackered all the time due to marathon training now prevents me from doing decent moderate runs and eating healthily – I look forward to getting things back to a sensible level; everything in moderation as they say.

Onwards and upwards – and looking forward to getting my summmer bikini body on track…

Peace and love all!

Ambitious About Autism & Training Update

Hi All,

A quick update from the training and fundraising camp on this rainy Sunday.

Marathon Team Ambitious Meeting

Last Sunday was our big team meeting at the HQ of Ambitious About Autism, the Treehouse School in Muswell Hill; a really uplifting and interesting event.  Some of our co-members of the Team Ambitious marathon team were there and we got to share our stories – what a very inspiring and friendly bunch. From the guy (like me) who has a Son with Autism to the guy who works at the Treehouse college to a Special Needs teacher who is a multi-marathon runner to the very polite and friendly young man who has Autism himself and, like the rest of us, wants to give something back. Everyone had a story, everyone had some sort of connection with Autism and I commend the Ambitious team in choosing a really great bunch of people all of whom are extremely committed to the cause- we are all in touch on Facebook now which means another support group which helps. 

Secondly – we got to meet some of the amazing and massively dedicated staff members who not only have a huge pride in their organisation but were giving up their Sunday to corral us bunch around the school on their day off.  We thank them for a lovely tour and for being so engaging and enthusiastic with us.

Onto the tour – Treehouse School is a purpose-built school for kids with ASD; indeed the school has been designed with input from the children and experts alike and it shows. The school is light and airy with high ceilings and well laid-out rooms and corridors and despite being a Sunday one could feel a real energy in the place.  There is obvious input from the business and local community – Arsenal FC have some real presence in the place as do Capital Radio to name a couple of supporting organisations, both of them contributing to special therapeutic and business tuition areas. The school also has a strong patronage with prominent figures such as Nick Hornby and John Bercow being involved as parents and supporters.

The interesting thing is that as well as supporting mainstream academic subjects, there is a strong emphasis on giving the children life skills with facilities dedicated to cookery, business, art and science – students have shops, business enterprises and cafes that they run on and off-site.

Above all, a very very strong endorsement that I chose the right charity to run the 26 miles for – and now I am even more grateful that they chose me.

Learn more about Ambitious About Autism here and don’t forget to sponsor me here – with 7 weeks to go I am only 36% towards my target so need all the help I can get…..PLEASE! (but a big THANKS to all my sponsors so far!).

Training Update

What to say…. well it’s definitely getting tougher 🙂  Following the Hampton Court Half Marathon on the 22nd Feb I did the right thing and did a few easy runs this past week (well, a couple of easy runs and a very rain-sodden, muddy, dung-ridden cross-country 5 miles).

However back into the long runs with a bang today with a long, slow 15 mile run from Risborough to Thame and back. Managed to dodge the rain but I know I’m gonna ache in the morning. Going well but I need to up the pace as right now I’m looking at a 6 hour marathon;  although I said I wasn’t going for time, I’d like to do sub-5.5 hours if I can.

Again, 7 weeks to go and the pressure is on:

On the one hand, only 5 more miles to graduate up to in the ‘long’ training runs:

  • 16 miles this Sunday
  • 18 miles the following Sunday
  • 20 miles the Sunday after that
  • Then comes the taper…

On the other hand, with midweek runs that’s about 85 miles in the next few weeks… Easy eh… Hmm.

Peace and love – until next time.


Hampton Court Half Marathon

Hi Everyone,

Just under 8 weeks to go and things are well on track – however I’m about to enter the most intense part of training before taking a bit of a rest just before the marathon.

Forkgen half marathon After having done a couple of 10-milers in recent weeks, this Sunday I completed the Hampton Court Half Marathon, an important milestone in the training programme. Considering I hadn’t run more than a few miles before last August, 13 miles was quite a feat and an important psychological hurdle – I’m basically half way to the marathon now and that’s not a bad thing.

That said…

  • I was pretty slow; in the last 25% of runners without doubt.
  • Running over 10 miles in a competitive environment is very different from lone running on a known route. That meditative state, the saviour of many a long distant runner, doesn’t happen in a race like this, at least not for me. And despite telling myself I didn’t care about anyone else, I was still running mini races and making sure I looked good-ish on the course, in other words not much walking and certainly no stopping for a breather. This meant a lot of tension on the body and I’ve only just de-tensed today to be fair.
  • I’ve been running a lot of tracks and trails up to now; the streets of suburban SW London are very different and harder on the feet. I need to get on some streets, and perhaps time for some new trainers too.

But it was all good and the euphoria at finishing such a scenic, friendly and well organised race was amazing. Plus there was the added bonus of a nice chunky medal,  finisher’s t-shirt and a pretty respectable goodie bag abundant with protein based munchies and other freebies – always nice.

Now, onwards, increasing my long runs 10% each week until I hit 22.5 miles a few weeks before the marathon then I hit the taper – right in time for a week of skiing.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

Peace and love everyone – thanks for all the support, thanks to everyone who has so generously sponsored me so far and if you haven’t managed to sponsor me yet, the link is here. I’m off to a team day at Ambitious About Autism on Sunday and will report back here – but I just know they’re all so grateful for every penny, thank you!

Marathon Training Update

A very quick training update as things have moved on a bit in the couple of weeks since my last entry.

  • I’m now on my second 10 mile run; this evening I feel the warm ache of the legs after a plod up and down the Phoenix trail earlier today. Confession time: today should have been an 11 mile effort but a late night (early morning) at a friend’s birthday party (only one beer but it got refilled a few times) put me out of synch. We reap what we sow – and I can’t do that any more in the coming weeks; regardless I still improved on last week’s 10 mile run so not too bad.
  • Despite a dodgy start to the year (see previous blog) I’ve run 51.6 miles (83.04 KM) in the past 4 weeks so that’s quite nice.
  • I’m now ramping up 10% (ish) a week on the long runs and so next week 11.5 miles, the following week will be the Hampton Court Half Marathon which I’m very much ready for and looking forward to. This ramp up continues until tapering in April (thankfully when we will be away skiing).
  • I’m doing some smaller filler runs in week – and getting some reasonable increasing PBs on 5K runs now, although I probably should be running a bit longer in the week but time is a constant enemy!
  • Race number and chip etc through for Hampton court – so it’s really happening!

  • On the downside, I have a niggling ache in one of my toes which could be a metatarsal stress fracture (common running thing due to bad gait). I hope hope hope it’s just a bruise and will be watching it closely.

So mostly all good. A few of you have been asking where to sponsor me – here is the sponsor link. Many many thanks to those of you who have sponsored me (including a couple of random anonymous people – amazing!). Learn more about the very excellent charity Ambitious About Autism who I’m running for here.

I said it was a quick update – you dodged a bullet there…

Until next time, peace and love.

The highs and lows of winter training.

Hi All,

So I’m back in the saddle after an enforced 12 day training break. Holiday? I hear you ask. I wished…

Firstly, following a pretty good training effort over New Year, our youngest son Max came down with something called Stevens Johnson Syndrome on or around the 2nd Jan (have you Googled it yet? – yeah it really is that bad). 5 days / 4 nights in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, 2 nights each for myself and Mrs F, watching Max pumped full of antibiotics and fluids (1 IV in each arm), given oral antibiotics, painkillers, mouth washes and gels, various eye drops and topical skin treatments. He bounced back pretty quickly (amazing little dude that he is) but the road to full recovery is still being travelled and it has been a traumatic road.

Quick aside here: “NHS at breaking point”?

“Humanitarian Crisis in the NHS”?


We’ve now had a couple of brushes with Stoke Mandeville over the past year or so and I can’t speak highly enough of the service they offer. Top top doctors, consultants and – the lifeblood – Nurses, all with seemingly good morale and fantastic attitudes. Plentiful pharmaceuticals. Excellent in and out patient care with some really professional and well run clinics and clinicians. Clean wards. Good food. Even reasonable wifi. I cannot, repeat cannot, see where the problem is.

Okay so my kids are kids and were maybe prioritised due to age / type of illness. Maybe the paediatric provision at Stoke is different from the rest of the country. But, as with most things, I wouldn’t quite trust statistics.

Austerity measures have of course put more strain on the NHS, I get that (the best is yet to come people, remember we’re heading back to the 1970s again…). And I’m sure if you’re elderly and have had a fall or if you’re drunk and waiting a long time for a nasty wound to be stitched or if you’re obese and waiting for a nasty swelling to be looked at you’re going to a) be deemed low priority but b) significantly affect waiting time stats and c) you’ll make for some great stories in the press.

But it’s all these people who are helping to create the perfect storm here – an ageing, more obese, more reckless society coupled with massive budget cuts is going to skew figures. I’m not saying it’s right and I’m not saying I don’t sympathise with these groups – but needs must and when the good stuff is on ration then the most deserving will get to the front of the queue.

But, speaking personally, when we’ve found ourselves in massive need, when our hearts have been in our mouths with fear at our kids being sick, when these kids have needed urgent diagnosis and treatment – we’ve not been found wanting. And for those reasons I’m going to keep praising the NHS and I’m going to do my best to stay fit and healthy so that I give myself a better chance of not getting into any of those risk groups…

Anyway, sermon over, back to the story. So once Max got released it was time for me to get sick. As often happens, the adrenaline from the crisis wore off and so I then caught a cold. No training there either for a good few days.

On the plus side, once I did get back into things from the 17th onwards, I’ve made up for lost time. Although easing back into it, I’ve managed:

  • A 3mile / 5K comeback run on the 17th which despite being my first run in 12 days brought me an all time PB on the 5K. I must have been pleased to back! Just over 34 mins which is not fast, especially as I know people who are doing the same distance now in 19 mins (you know who you are!), but I’m happy.
  • Two 3mile city runs in Roermond (Netherlands, where our group head office is based and practically my second home).
  • A 7mile hill training run around Speen and environs; not fun or relaxing but necessary.
  • A 3.5 mile time bound run today (time bound as I couldn’t shift my carcass out of bed early enough.

Yes there have been some god-awful cold mornings but the cold brings great sunrises and some lovely crystalline vegetation. And that makes it all the more worth it.

Running into the sun

Ramping up now to the half marathon at the end of Feb via some long weekend runs – I’m nearly on 10 mile constant long runs now and ramping up so I’m well on target, and 13 miles is where I need to be for the end of Feb for the marathon training.

Onwards and upwards!

Peace and love,


Happy New Year / Post Christmas Training Update

Firstly wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2017 – and I really hope you all had a good Christmas!

Against all the odds, it has been a pretty good Christmas and New Year holiday period running-wise!  20 miles in the 7 final days of 2016 which included:

  • A nice 5 miler with Mrs F on boxing day.
  • A couple of smaller 3Mi filler runs.
  • A 9 miler yesterday.

I’m fully on track with both the half-marathon training plan and, importantly, the full marathon plan which is good. N.B. you’ll notice that I have moved into thinking in miles – an important change in thinking / estimating / planning when training for the 26.2 mile race.  It’s still taking a while to get over the fact that I am not running 5K runs or indeed 14K runs any more – but it’s important in terms of the ultimate goal and helps to keep things in perspective.

So, plans for January:

  • Get the holistic balance spot-on: food, carb levels, protein intake, fluids, sleep etc all contribute hugely to the balance. Basically a bit less alcohol and dead animals accompanied by cheese and carbs won’t go amiss.
  • This will lead to ongoing weight loss and an easier run (one hopes…).
  • More of the same in terms of running, keeping the plan going, upping the distances over the coming weeks – if you’re interested, you can monitor my progress on Strava here: https://www.strava.com/athletes/17886589.
  • Oh and of course the usual family and business madness,  plans and goals – we’ll fit those in somewhere during what will prove to be a super busy year methinks 🙂

Final thought:  I get asked a lot if I’m enjoying this journey and the answer is, largely, a big yes.  We’ve all been to Disneyland or Legoland or Thorpe Park; I don’t recall seeing people at those places with smiles of perpetual ecstasy on their faces despite having spent potentially thousands of pounds and having travelled hundreds or even thousands of miles to get there. Indeed, I recall at one point thinking, whilst walking around Disneyworld in Florida, how hot, miserable, flustered and generally downhearted people looked as they queued hours for a ride that would last minutes. However as humans we filter this all out and we remember the golden moments – and now I remember that trip as nothing but joyous.

Running is a bit like this. I drag my carcass out of bed when it’s -3 degrees, dark and frosty. I pull on my running clothes, have a protein shake and get in my car to drive somewhere that actually allows me to run more than a mile without having to climb stupid gradients. I get my iPhone cranked up, wait for the GPS to kick in on my Garmin watch, start plodding along the footpath – and it’s normally at this point I think “this is pretty much the armpit of life…”.

However, within 20 minutes, I am warmed up, I have found my pace, it’s getting light, the music (carefully selected) is flowing nicely. I’m drifting in and out of deep thought,  planning the day, enjoying the music, enjoying the cold air on my face as the dawn starts to creep over the horizon, I’m smelling the fields and the air, I’m almost at one with nature.  It’s at these times I have had moments of epiphany – where the road almost floats beneath my feet and I can forget where I am, where the miles just melt away. Within another 20 minutes, I may have finished and I’m basking in the warmth of the endorphins and the feeling of accomplishment at another few miles under my feet towards the ultimate goal; and at this point I’m happy that my watch is synching and my run is being shared on Strava for all to see.

This is why I can safely say, yes, I am enjoying the journey and can’t see a time when I won’t be doing this.

Again, peace and love to all, wishing you a great 2017, thanks for following me and don’t forget to sponsor me at some point in the next few months – this is what it’s all about of course 🙂

20 week plan in full effect 

Hi follower(s),

I’ve been conscious that this training blogging thing could be getting a bit mononotonous for everyone, I mean there’s only so much to write about running isn’t there?  But, got to keep on raising awareness about what I’m doing here so that we raise lots of lovely Benjamins for Ambitious About Autism so here goes another chapter.

Before I start though – a little recap on what this jolly wheeze is all about. As you probably know, I’m running the London Marathon 2017 for Ambitious About Autism, a charity who work to give young people with autism an education and a chance. They run various educational establishments and are a really nice, small, friendly bunch – I was really happy to work with them as I feel like the money will all go to a really good cause. Please sponsor me by clicking here – my target is £2K so I’ve got a way to go: http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=AndyForkgen.

So I’ve not blogged for a couple of weeks as it really has been business as usual in the main. I’m now in my 20 week plan,  doing several runs during the week and graduating up the distances at the weekend – today was a 12K (7.45 miles). A little slow today as I have had a few days off with a cold and only managed a 5K this week plus it was a bit cold and drizzly when I set out. However a reasonable 12K still with a respectable pace so I’m happy with  myself if a little achy – all on track for the 20 week mark.

I’ve also entered for a milestone race – the Hampton Court Half Marathon which is on Feb 19th.

Something to work towards!

That’s about it from me – I’ll blog again around Christmas at which point I’ll be battling with overeating, over drinking and dodgy training weather –  but I’m sure I’ll still be enjoying every minute of it.

Peace and love.


Andy’s Marathon Blog, 22 weeks to go. 

22 weeks to go and everything is on target. I’m covering over 20Ks every week – and I’ve now got a few good 10K runs under my belt. I’m also improving my 5K times with a good PB this weekend. So all good there. 

One thing about this running business is how quickly one becomes “a runner” and with that, the initial fears and hangups disappear and one gets into the comfort zone. A few things I’ve learned recently:

  • It’s okay to have a cheeky walk now and then. But as long as no one sees me (if I’m having a walk break and I see another runner, I soon get back to a jog…). 
  • It’s quite a sociable pastime – I’m always seeing fellow runners out plodding the same streets and tracks as I do and we’ll always offer a smile and a nod or a wave of the hand. 
  • Everyone looks pretty good when they’re out running. Except me, probably. 
  • I’m doing this for the achievement, not the time. But I’ll still religiously check my times, strive for PBs and will most definitely compare myself to others on Strava. 
  • I agonise now over whether I should be tracking everything in miles or KMs. Every marathon training plan talks miles but I love the achievement of “10Ks” or even a lowly 5. 7 miles and 3 miles just doesn’t sound as good…
  • Whenever I’m out on my car now and I see a runner, I have a good look at what they’re doing, what they’re wearing and I secretly want to be out running. 3/4 times a week just doesn’t seem to be enough now.  

Anyway that’s just a few things. I think it’s safe to say I have “the bug” which is a good thing. Now I just need to go out shopping and spend some more money on shiny running stuff… 

By the way, a reminder why I’m doing this and also why I’m boring you all with this blog: I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for the charity Ambitious About Autism. Lots more info in this post here but suffice to say it’s an amazing cause and I really really really hope you, dear reader, can sponsor me. Links are somewhere on this page.  

Peace and love. 

Bangalore Running Week

Or not as the case may be…

I travel to Bangalore pretty regularly but have never really considered it a great place for running due to the road congestion and conditions of pavements – and on double checking during this trip I was right. This visit I had training very much in my sights and had visions of coming across a nice park or a straight stretch of road to run on; no such luck. 

So it was good that I chose a hotel with a reasonable gym and two Precor running machines as these were a great fallback. 

View from the gym – trust me, this is actually quite a nice neighbourhood…
The only issue is I forgot how boring treadmill running is so whilst this week was not the disaster it could have been, it was not as good as other weeks. I also blame slightly rubbish a/c in the gym and a severely rubbish body clock – in 10 years of visiting India something I’ve never quite gotten the hang of. 

Things to be positive about this week:

1) I’ve managed just over 10Ks this week (all treadmill). 

2) And nearly 80Ks in the past 30 days. 

3) I ate petty well – small meals are the order of the day in India, always. 

4) And a great week of business and hiring new team members. 

Back to the full training schedule with some nice outdoor runs in the blisteringly cold UK this weekend onwards. 

Peace and love everyone.