Here are some words from Josh Griffiths, who we supported during his training for the IAAF World Championship Marathon last week, about his experience from the holding camp through to the rest of the Athletics that he saw.
The location of the British Athletics holding camp ahead of the 2017 World Championships was in Paris, located specifically in the district of Bercy. Athletes would spend 9 days each at this camp before travelling to London, 3 days before their given event. This allowed athletes to focus on nothing other than the championships for 12 days prior to their event with British Athletics controlling media requests and any other potential distractions.
I did most of my training in Paris in a Parc du bois Vincennes. This was an enormous park located in South East Paris filled with trails, roads and even 3 athletics tracks, it was a near perfect location for any distance athlete. My training was predominantly done on roads, I prefer this as this is the surface I race on, however I did do some recovery runs on trail to lessen the impact on my legs, whilst also doing my last session on the track as it allowed a controlled environment with little external factors such as dogs, road surface and other people in the rest of the park.
I never like to taper too much as I feel slightly sluggish when I do, however in order to peak for any race, a taper is necessary. Subsequent to the completion of my final ‘long run’ 7 days out from the race, I eased back the miles whilst maintaining intensity in order to feel fresh on race day. The taper went about as well as I could have hoped and I was ready to head to London feeling good after completing my final session 4 days before race day. This session is not stressful in the slightest, merely some 1km marathon pace efforts with a generous recovery.
My diet in Paris was good, I was able to eat similarly to the way I normally eat and food was served in a buffet fashion at the hotel in a room dedicated to the team. I would eat 3 meals per day; a light breakfast made up of fruit and yogurt, a good size portion of lunch consumed immediately after morning training, followed by a good size portion of dinner consumed immediately after afternoon training. In each meal I always look for a good source of carbohydrate and protein, accompanied by a selection of vegetables and salad.
Another benefit of being at a training camp is that apart from eating and training, there isn’t too much else to do. This allows us to maximise recovery. There was a great team of masseurs available to help us recover and prepare for each session. In addition, I spent a lot of time in the athlete lounge, playing PlayStation and just generally relaxing the body. This was then followed by a good night sleep every night which I believe is the most effective tool for recovery.
The atmosphere in the holding camp was very relaxed but also very professional. This was particularly evident at the track where athletes put the final pieces of their preparation together with the support of the British Athletics coaching team. I believe the holding camp definitely helped my performance by removing the nerves and allowing me to focus and relax in a very supportive and collective environment. It was also great to see everyone interact with one another, and everyone was also really supportive of one another.
3 days Before the Race
I travelled to London 3 days before my race via Eurostar. This was really easy for the athletes as everything had already been sorted, again removing any stress and just allowing everyone to focus on the task ahead. Once we arrived in London, we checked into the hotel feeling fresh and ready to go. Almost immediately after arriving I was asked to perform an anti-doping test, whilst these may seem inconvenient at the time, I’m really glad that the authorities are carrying out such tests as there is no place for cheats in this or any sport.
My training in London was very light and just consisted of a few runs down the Embankment each day prior to my event. The training at this stage is not looking for any improvements, instead just maintaining my routine and ‘keeping the legs ticking over’ as I like to say. My diet in London was similar to that of Paris but with more of a focus on consuming carbohydrates this time as this is where I get my energy from when trying to complete 26.2 miles as quickly as possible.
Sunday the 6th of August 2017, finally race day was here. Today was the day the last 3 months of training had been for and the day I had been dreaming of since I was 14. Despite not getting much sleep the night before, I was raring to go when my 6am alarm sounded. I went downstairs to the food hall and consumed my pre-race meal of choice; salmon and rice, I accompany this with a carbohydrate drink, after consuming both, I eat and drink nothing other than water until the gun sounds.
I like to spend around an hour warming up for my races, I begin this with a two mile jog, followed by some stretching and drills. This helps loosen and stiffness in my legs and prepares my muscles for the task ahead. After this part of the warm-up, I was called into the call-room where we received our shoe transponders and final kit checks, once this has been completed, we were allowed onto the course to complete the final part of our own individual warm-up routines.
At around three minutes prior to the beginning of the race, we were all called up to the start line, some pushed their way to the front whilst others were more cautious and remained at the back of the field. As this was my first World Championship and eager not to start too quickly, I started towards the back of the field. This was a wise choice because after the initial 200m sprint at the beginning of the race where everyone is eager to get a good position the race settled down and I was able to find myself in the main group without expending any unnecessary energy.
The race started at a pretty slow pace given the calibre of athletes in the field, I went through the 5km split in 16:02, 7 seconds off the lead but still in the main group. The next 15km ticked by without much incident as I went through the halfway split just over 68 minutes and around 68th position. I knew that in the second half of the race, the tough course would take its toll on athletes and people would come back to me. During the next lap I picked up around 10 positions. At the 30km mark I was beginning to tire but I could see that everyone else was feeling the same way and I was still passing people. I got to the 35km mark and was now really hurting but I just tried to enjoy the experience and support as much as possible and use it to carry me around the final 7km. Despite slowing, I was able to pass 29 people in the second half of the race and achieved a position of 39th crossing the finish line.
My first World Championship ended in a 39th position. Despite not running a personal best (near impossible on that course), I was happy with my result as it wasn’t that long ago I was finishing 39th in British only races. Whilst I am happy with my result, I am also coming away from these championships; motivated and hungry to improve on my performance. Now that I have had a taste of a World Championship, I want to stay at this level and push on to achieve greater success.
After the race, I wanted to chill out a little and let both my mind and body relax a little. That night I went out for a pizza with some great company, it felt great to finally be able to relax after pushing myself hard for the last 3 months. The following day Callum Hawkins, who I would like to add ran an outstanding race, were at the Olympic Stadium at 7am to fulfil our media duties, once completed, I was back to the role I was expecting to play this summer where I was just a fan of athletics. I attended the stadium every night after my race, supporting the team and getting inspired by the performances they were putting in. My favourite event was probably the Mens 4x100m relay as it was great to see all the work they had put in in Paris pay off.
In my downtime, I took some recovery from running by going swimming a couple of times and used the time to meet some of my friends who had come up to London. I was also able to consume some foods which I normally don’t in the week after the race. I feel that this period of recovery and down time is vital to any athlete after training for and completing their goal race, regardless of the result. If you have applied yourself and given the preparation and race your maximal effort then you really can’t ask for much more, therefore after all of that focus, it is important to treat yourself and enjoy life before refocussing for the next goal.