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Interview with paul the builder

joint ear knee asks: Thanks for all the support & advice :)

Thought experiment: Given your amazing sub 3 Marathon and background....If you didn't have any limitations on how much you could train between now and April 2014, what would you do and how quick do you think you would be capable of?!

paul the builder says: Great question – and well done on your fine marathon at Blackpool.
I’m going to assume you mean that the limits from work, home life etc. are removed, rather than being suddenly immune from all injury and indestructible too. I *do* think I could safely handle higher mileage than I’ve done so far, so I would work my way slowly up to 100-110mpw and I think that would probably be worth 10 minutes over the next 2 marathon cycles. So 2:45-2:50. But a big training base like that wouldn’t just disappear, so the *next* marathon after that could be a little faster still, even if the ‘life’ limits kept me to 60-70mpw again.
Johnny Blaze asks: Well deserved, Paul. What do you reckon is the one thing you've done that had the highest impact on your times?

paul the builder says: Cheers JB. *Apart* from listening to your words of wisdom post Dublin marathon 2008? http://www.fetcheveryone.com/gallery-showphoto.php?filename=2734_20928.jpg
I don’t think it’s rocket science, this game. The answer is run more, and stay (almost entirely) injury-free. That sounds like two things, but I don’t think it is really. Record-breaking mileage months, followed by low/zero months due to injury are not the way to go.
Firesac asks: Well donE mate, look forward to talking crap on a run soon.

paul the builder says: And I look forward to listening ;-)
STOOSH asks: I have quite a few questions but will only ask one...Have you always trained religiously to heart rate training or do you have some down time from it just to go out and run for sheer enjoyment??

paul the builder says: Ha! That question says as much about your view of HR training as it does about me…
I always (or at least > 99% of the time) wear the HRM/Garmin combo. And every time I put the trainers on, that run has a purpose. But sometimes, especially on holiday, or when still a long time away from a target race, that purpose is just to explore and enjoy and not watch what the HR does. Mind you, that probably still comes in at easy run effort/pace, because that’s the sort of run I enjoy :-)
DeeGee asks: Congratulations Paul. What's your favourite training session?

paul the builder says: The smart-arse answer is that all training sessions are such a short duration compared to the time after once it’s done, and so any session that has gone well has me feeling good afterwards. Even the ones that are hard work at the time.
But the straight-bat answer is probably a Sunday morning LSR, sometimes with company but more often some fine music and/or podcasts, just watching the miles tick by.
Windsor Wool asks: congrats PtB, well deserved. We all love your discipline in training, pacing, thread leadership, etc but having cracked the sub 3 multiple times now are you at all tempted to let it all hang out a bit, go through halfway in (let's say) 1:25 and see what happens?

paul the builder says: Yes, when I’m in 2:50 shape ;-)
But I know what you meant. I would say though that I think I *have* done that in the past. I’ve twice got to halfway in 89:xx going for sub-3 when I was really only good enough for around 3:05. And finished, grimly, hating myself, with 3:11 and 3:12. I can’t think of much of a justification for an aggressive first half split, apart from if you genuinely have no clue what shape you’re in and don’t mind if the race goes pear-shaped.
That all said, I just managed at VLM my tightest half-to-full conversion yet (double plus 11.5min, far from spectacular, but 1-2 min better than ‘usual’), probably as a result of the previous 12 months of increased volume. So I’ll adjust my target pace setting in future as a result of that.
Angus Clydesdale asks: Congrats Paul, great running and well done. Can you do me a price for an extension?

paul the builder says: Cheers. This type of question is going to come up quite a bit, isn’t it? I’d say (sharpens pencil) that you’re looking at £35k.
Ocelot Spleens asks: Well done, anyone who goes sub 3 is simply brilliant, anyway do you realise your profile picture makes you look like David Seaman, what a great keeper, are you a fan of his.

paul the builder says: Thanks WS, no, and no. I’m reluctant to change avatar, as it annoys me when other people do it. But I might have to now.
The Terminator asks: Congrats Paul, well deserved. What are your pre race, race and post race fuels of choice?

paul the builder says: Thanks Termo. I have a pretty forgiving digestive system, I think, so I can always make do with whatever the hotel has, or the local Spa if breakfast isn’t early enough. Typically it would be:
2 days before – eat plenty, including plenty of carb
1 day before – eat normal/sensible, hydrate plenty, and rare steak and chips the night before
Breakfast – muesli/similar cereal/porridge at 3hrs, banana & cereal bar 1hr before
Race – High5 gels x 4-5 (thin, can easily take without water), plus water to thirst (ends up being 500-750ml total usually)
Post race – Guinness ideally. I do struggle to eat for a few hours after a marathon, but I can normally get a Mars and a banana eaten, but it doesn’t really matter post-race, does it? You’ve trained for a few months for this, so do what the hell you like!
LouLou asks: Well done Paul. In your opinion, is it best to bank time in the first half of a marathon running eyeballs out or should we try and even pace? ;)

If you could run any marathon in the world where would it be?

paul the builder says: Hahahaha. I think even Stoosh has worked that one out now, hasn’t he?
I’d love to be able to take my Autumn marathon each year to a different city in Europe, and combine it with a week’s holiday exploring new places. We’ve done this once in Venice, and no disrespect to Dublin (which is a fine marathon), but I wish annual leave and finances allowed a bit of variety in Autumn – Prague, Stockholm, Budapest, Krakow, Florence, San Sebastian, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Reykjavik…. (*)
(*) Please don’t fmail to tell me some of these are in Spring, you get my point ;-)
BS asks: Very well deserved. What about a Tri? or an Ultra? You'd at least have to vary your pace in a tri as you wouldn't be able to swim, cycle and run at the same pace ;-)

paul the builder says: Cheers Barry. See you at a start line again soon.
My cycling might very well be at the same pace, I don’t think I’ve ridden a bike since I was a student. I’m happy in the water, but I don’t enjoy just churning out lengths. So I don’t really get the Tri thing at all to be honest.
I very much get the ultra thing though, and I’ll definitely dip my toe in that soon.
Nellers asks: If you could give one piece of advice to other runners would it be the same advice to newbies as to more experienced runners? What would it be? Why would you choose that?

paul the builder says: It would be to put in a massive sprint finish whenever you see a camera, so you can use it for your MOTM photo one day ;-) http://www.fetcheveryone.com/motm_interview.php?id=27282
The thing that really *got* me as a new runner was that every run didn’t have to be hard, and you didn’t have to try and beat previous times for certain loops etc. Which very quickly leads to no enjoyment, disillusionment, and dreading the next run. It’s OK to run easy, you’re much more likely to want to put the trainers on again tomorrow if you do.
And then join a club.
Bazoaxe asks: Very well deserved to the man who has helped so many to 3:15 and beyond. As arguably the best teacher on the thread, who do you believe has been the best student, who has taken on board the advice and made the progress ? Oh, and will I EVER break 3 hrs ?

paul the builder says: Interesting question, but I’m not sure I think of us in those terms. There’s plenty of different ways to train for and run 3:00-3:15, we’re a long way from the true sharp end. Folk have come at it from the 5k/10k end, or from ultras, some have done it on 20-30mpw, and others need 50-60mpw.
And Baz – do YOU believe you’ll break 3:00? Because that’s probably your answer.
padoir noir asks: Well deserved, Paul. You're not really a builder, sure you're not?

paul the builder says: You got me. And I’m not from Norn Iron either, as you know. Although I’m long enough here to understand most of you now (except the odd taximan). Keep ‘er lit.
Fat Dave asks: Congratulations. What's your name, and what do you do for a living?

paul the builder says: Hello Dave, I’m Paul. My twitter bio says: Runner, engineer, skeptic, occasionally argumentative sod, and not-a-builder.
Mrs Sunbed asks: Well deserved PTB!!! Least you won something unlike your football team :p

paul the builder says: Cheeky Mrs. SBA… or perhaps you need a password change to stop Wolves fans (Wolves!) logging on as you. :-)
I genuinely do believe that Suarez, Sturridge, and Coutinho could do some real damage next season. Let’s meet back here in a year and see if I was right.
B Rubble asks: Congratulations and well deserved Paul. Thanks for all of the brilliant advice, even though we don't always take it (what was I thinking of in 2009 trying to "catch up" lost time). Anyway marathon success vs training effort, weight mileage etc. Gaussian distribution, hypergeometric distribution or completely random?

paul the builder says: That question isn’t exactly going to draw a whole crowd of new runners to the 3:15 thread, is it? (except numbers dorks).
I’m going to not answer it, but instead give a big recommendation to anyone who likes to read more considered analysis of sports, especially endurance sports, to the Science of Sport blog: http://www.sportsscientists.com/.
These guys have been excellent on plenty of complex and contentious issues that regular media just doesn’t do justice to – hydration/electrolytes/cramps, Oscar Pistorious, pacing and fatigue, Caster Semenya, barefoot running.
HappyG(rrr) asks: Many congratulations and very well deserved. I'm going to say it one more time: thanks so much for your support and advice on sub 3:15 thread, you have been a real leader and have helped so many to achieve their goals, through advice and inspiration or gentle rebuke! Was brilliant to see you just after crossing the line at VLM. Really made achieving my goal all the more special to have you there to thank at that very moment! Anyway, is there a question coming anywhere in our lifetimes... sorry... right... errr... how about a history one? Where did running come from, for you - talented at school and just kept it going, or took it up later in adulthood? What do you get from it now and do you feel you'll just keep going forever with improving marathon times or would you change disciplines to triathlons (as others have asked), ultra running or :-O shockaroonie :-O stop running altogether? If you say yes, I won't believe you. Sorry for longest question ever. And thanks. Again! :-)G

paul the builder says: Cheers G. Everybody knew that you’d put a cracking few months of training together, but plenty of people have done that before and not delivered on the day. Under a fair bit of pressure (you’d been upfront about your goal for a long time) you got it all dead right.
I definitely wasn’t a runner at school – I was part of the sporty group of lads, so enjoyed football first, rugby later, but I wasn’t quick and hated those days when we had to do XC because of waterlogged or frozen pitches. I was a bad runner, trailing in pretty much last of the sporty kids. So no, definitely no natural talent for this, but running is a sport where dedication and patience can get you an awful long way.
I was 34 when I started this (Jan ’06, with 30 minutes made up of 9min jog, 1 min walk x 3), and I’m 41 now. I reckon I can keep chipping away at PBs for a few more years yet – which is what drives me on to keep going. I’m not sure what I’ll do once it’s obvious that I can’t set any new PBs any more.
BigChiefRunningBore asks: So I'm re-doing the bathroom, the sink and bath will flow out through one pipe, what size piping should I use?

paul the builder says: Depends. Will you, or any of your bathroom users, ever get a touch of the Randy Marshes?

Rodders asks: Congratulations PTB.

paul the builder says: Cheers Rodney. Catch you at a race very soon, I hope.
santababy asks: well done and well deserved Paul, i know how much you've helped HappyG achieve his sub3 and made him beleive in himself. In your opinion, could anyone train for sub3> is it all down to hard work or just genetics? Do you *have* to have a bit of talent there anyway? Is it best to work from bottom and get results that? ie- 5k upwards? oops, too many question? :)

paul the builder says: You do talk a lot! Has anyone ever mentioned that? Thanks.
There was a thread on these lines recently, following a NaomiP blog which mentioned a comment made by a bloke in her office who does sound like an awful eejit. But most of thread was about his eejit-ness, or what he might be able to run *right now*, rather than the more interesting point (to me) behind it.
Honestly? I *do* think that sub-3 is within reach for almost anybody (male, certainly), with no major health problems, and in their 20s/30s/40s. It might take a few years of dedication and training, but I don’t think any particular natural talent is needed for sub-3. You need to be smart about injury-prevention, be patient, and just keep plugging away. I don’t suppose that’s a hugely popular view, but MOTM isn’t a popularity contest. Eh? Oh. ;-)
CaniRuna asks: Congrats Paul and well deserved recognition. What techniques do you use to stay alert and focused on maintaining your steady pace in achieving your target marathon/race time?

paul the builder says: Hi Howard, and cheers. I’m not completely sure, to be honest – I’m a frequent watch-checker, for sure, so that’s one. Although I didn’t always use a Garmin, so only had mile splits to go off then, and was already a “steady” runner back then. I’m often conscious of my breathing rhythm – how many paces for inhale, how many for exhale, and I think that helps. Seeing who is around you, and identifying who is running well (and worth watching) and who isn’t (and should be ignored!) helps me too.
I like the idea of mantras etc. – but I normally forget them, or can’t keep them in mind for very long. I think I get more of a boost from trying to beat or equal what others have done (either here or in real life). I am a competitive sod, it’s fair to say.
Smout asks: Long deserved Congrats! :) Questions questions erm.... Given I think I already know your thoughts on a good bit of banked time preferably a PB half on the way to the full thing... I thought I'd try a proper question.... but couldn't think of one so here goes - If the 3:15 thread were to be known by another name what would it be?

paul the builder says: I don’t know!! I’m not a goatee-bearded creative marketing bollox type, I’m an engineer! I once wrote in a “creative writing” piece in an English lesson at school, “his nose was as long as a four foot stick”.
There’s lots of things that are great about the thread, but one thing I really like is that so many people come to it, get their 3:15/GFA/whatever, but then keep on improving. Some stick around, some don’t, either is fine. But all these time-focused training threads are really just steps on to the next level, and I think this one has a pretty good record. Which I’m sure you’re going to add to soon enough :-)
Sunbed Athlete asks: Nice one fella! You are very generous in giving out help which inspires people but who inspires you and what motivates you?

paul the builder says: Cheers K. As are you, if I may say. It’s a real boost when someone *much* faster takes an interest and encourages, and I know there’s a long list of folk who’ll thank you for that.
While I do love to watch sport played by the extravagantly gifted (McEnroe, Ballesteros, Messi, Ali, Guscott, Rocket Ronnie) – I’m much more affected by/connected to the guy with less natural talent, but an outstanding work ethic. England’s Rugby World Cup win in 2003 was built on decent players, but supremely dedicated, prepared, and with an iron will to win. And as I write, Jamie Carragher is about to play his last game for Liverpool – he’s my kind of hero.
DuncanG asks: Well done Paul. Have you ever had a bad marathon and if so, how did you get through it? (If not, can you just pretend?)

paul the builder says: Absolutely I have, twice, and I’m glad I have because you learn a lot from those. At least on the first I was able to keep running, although losing 10-12 minutes in the second half was a real painful experience. But VLM 2011 was horrible – reduced to walking for the first time in a marathon, and I was so angry I’d screwed up my first London marathon. I wished the crowds would all just feck off. But struggling on to the finish wasn’t the worst part – that was just something that had to be toughed out, even though all A, B and C target were long gone. Worse was not being sure over the next few months whether now I’d opened the box marked “sure go on, stop for a walk break…” and whether I’d be doing that every time it got tough again.
In those situations, you need the next one to go well, and get your confidence back.
Tigerlily asks: Well done and richly deserved! Here's a nursey question. What tactics do you use to gain the mental strength to perform as you do? Associative/dissociative/counting steps etc. I'm always interested to know what others are thinking when running!

paul the builder says: Thanks! I dissociate for at least 90% of training, and only really concentrate on the running if I’m doing a hard session. Otherwise it’s music/podcast on, and drift off and watch the world go by.
It’s different in a race – I’m focused on pace, on the road surface, on the best line, on runners around me, on my breathing, and on form too – staying tall and landing softly.
bree asks: Congratulations, paul - well deserved - and thank you for all your support.

My question is: How did you get to be so nice?

paul the builder says: I’m only nice on the internet. Be honest now, I’m an arsehole in real life....
Nelly asks: Congratulations Paul, well deserved indeed. As an ex-rugby player, where we were always told to "train hard to play hard", how did you end up as an advocate of HR training with it's train slow to race fast principal?

paul the builder says: That’s very true. Looking back, I always did struggle with the full-contact work in training, but relished it on match day. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t a very successful rugby player (that, and being too skinny).
dan. asks: Congrats Paul, well deserved. Always enjoy your support and encouragement on the sub-3.15 thread, and one day soon I will get there!! You do a lot of races on the road, but do you ever run off-road, and if not, why not?

paul the builder says: Cheers dan. I do go off-road, but not much. I had a spell of a couple of months last summer where I did my Sunday runs out on the hills, on very varied terrain, and I’m sure that it’s great for leg strength in the period before the marathon-specific work starts. I’ll likely do it again this summer.
But I’m not a big fan of racing off-road. I enjoy it, and it can be a great training session, but I like the concrete PB-setting goals of road running.
abdou asks: Nice one Paul. How Northern Irish are you now? (If you need to check, repeat out loud the phrase 'Hard Howard said his R's as hours)

paul the builder says: Almost entirely not at all. I’ve probably become even more English since moving over (9 years now!). I love my life, and I’m a very happy man – but I’ll never quite *get* life over here. Pretty much everybody here wants a quiet and peaceful life, will tell you they have friends from both communities, and are glad that many of the divisions are gone. But then they go and send their kids to a predominantly segregated education system, and vote for either an overtly Unionist or Nationalist party (well, > 85% do anyway). So many of the fundamental divisions are still here, and show little sign of disappearing.
The weather’s shite too ;-)
Lee Wren asks: what colour is the hat i'm wearing?

paul the builder says: Purple Helmet?
runningmumof3boys asks: congratulations....Lego or Megablocks?

paul the builder says: Lego, naturally. Although a football/tennis ball/golf ball against a wall occupied me for many more hours than anything else.
TnoP asks: Congrats Paul. You've improved your times rapidly over the last few years. What are your top 3 tips for getting faster?

paul the builder says: 1. Stay free of injury, or least significant ones
2. Run more easy miles
3. Be patient
(tip 2 might be different if you’re talking about 5km or shorter distance, but I’m assuming we’re not)
Westley asks: Congratulations Paul. Very well deserved. What's your key training session, if there's any such thing?

paul the builder says: Hey Westley, thank you. It’s taken a long while to get to the point where I can routinely include it once per week, but I think I get a tremendous boost from the double run-commute days that I do through the summer. Once per week, 12-13m each way. I’d be spending half that time sat in the car anyway, so it’s great bang-for-the-buck too.
And then away from the base-building / aerobic part of the schedule, the other one would be the tempo run. 4-6m, either continuous or split in to 2 or 3 parts, and to an effort level/HR. A subsequent raced HM normally comes out at +/- 5sec/mile of these continuous tempo runs.
Tizer asks: Congratulations mate. What one change do you reckon you'll need to make to take another chunk off your marathon time....and I'll stick it in my plan :-)

paul the builder says: Cheers Alan. You can’t just go copying my ideas, because I’ve got plenty of my ideas from following your log!
But – boringly – for now, I think my best medium-long term return will come from keeping up the reasonably high miles, and trying to add a few more where possible. When I can’t get any faster by running more, then that’s the time to look at the fine-tuning of the quality sessions.
Night-owl asks: Congrats Paul What would be your ideal training week (in a perfect world) be and any unfulfilled ambitions not filled yet?

paul the builder says: Currently, the ideal week before the marathon-specific stuff starts (so say 20 weeks down to 10 weeks out) would be:
M: 1hr easy
T: 10m sub-LT (or ‘steady’ if you prefer)
W: 1hr easy
Th: 2 x 12.5m run commute, easy pace
F: rest day
S: 10m sub-LT as Tuesday
S: 18m easy
So total 75-80mpw.

Then from week 10 until the taper, one of the 10m sub-LT runs edges up to marathon pace effort level, and the other becomes a tempo session. And the long run gets longer. That’s 3 days all getting tougher, but the easy days can get easier if they need to, since they’re controlled by HR.
I don’t race very frequently, but I’ll definitely want a raced Half Marathon 5-6 weeks out, and I might do 1 or 2 others (shorter) in lieu of tempo sessions if they fit in.

My ambitions are fairly fluid, since I never thought I’d come this far a few years ago. Sub-60 10m, sub-80 HM, and sub-2:50 look like the next arbitrary number-based goals. And away from the numbers, I think I might have the mentality and the base now to make a reasonable ultra-runner, but I’m not sure yet how or when to get in to that.
Tuppence asks: Congratulations - what is your favourite post training snack?

paul the builder says: Thanks! After a long run, I love to put the feet up that afternoon with a pint of tea with about 5 sugars. And I’ll eat for two most Sunday evenings because of the LSR earlier that day (I’m hungry, not pregnant). But after running every other day – I just shower, log run, and then eat my tea (dinner for southerners). The only time the biscuit barrel needs to fear for its life is in the 2-3 weeks post-marathon.
Hyperboy asks: Congrats Paul.Who would be your dream running partner and why????

paul the builder says: Probably someone to listen to and learn from. Arthur Lydiard, or John Walsh (better known as “Hadd”) would have been great, but they’re both six feet under now, so I’ll go for Alberto Salazar instead.
Argie asks: When you quote for a job do you work it out in terms of cost + salary + race entries?

paul the builder says: I’m going to ignore Argie (normally a pretty good policy) and thank everyone for nominating, voting, and asking questions. And even more so to Fetch for this place. Like owners and their pets who look similar, it seems that a website (and ragbag collection of users) is a very good reflection of its creator. Open, honest, reliable, friendly, GSOH (although occasionally could do with being a bit faster and a little less Welsh ;-)).
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