#DreamRunDublin17 – 2 weeks to race day! We chat to Jonathan Little about his journey towards Dublin Marathon 2017!

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Special Feature:  #DreamRunDublin17 countdown to race day!

Today, Sunday 15th October 2017, marks the two week countdown to one of the biggest races on the European race calendar, an epic race in terms of Northern Ireland participation – that is of course the SSE Dublin City Marathon, which incorporates the AAI National Marathon Championships.

You’ll hopefully have been keeping up to date with the #DreamRunDublin17 project which we are involved in within Rio Olympian Paul Pollock? Paul is taking his first steps into coaching and has chosen a group of 10 athletes who he will help towards a sub 3-hour finish at the Dublin Marathon.

We decided – 10 weeks to go, 10 athletes in the group… so we’ll feature one athlete each week and ask them questions about the project, their training and their hopes and expectations going forward.

Our interviews so far have proved popular – they have provided an excellent insight into how the athletes have progressed; their open and honest answers have also allowed us to experience the highs and lows which have occurred throughout the process.  There has been a mixture of fantastic news and positive stories, and of course not avoiding the disappointment of losing two athletes through injury.

This week, we have the pleasure of chatting to Fermanagh man Jonathan Little – one of the things Jonathan talks about is the importance of structured training as opposed to ‘junk miles’ – it’s worth a read!

How do you feel training has been going since you joined the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

Generally training has been going well for the most part. I’ve really enjoyed all the weekly sessions Paul has given me. Unfortunately, injuries at key stages of the training have halted my progress. About 8 weeks in I slipped on a puddle and bruised a bone in my foot which put me out for a month.  It was a real setback as leading up to that I could feel the training starting to pay off and I was getting to see real progress with my running. I had just ran 19:00 in a parkrun which was 10 seconds outside my PB when it happened.  I have to say Paul was brilliant the whole time I was out and kept reminding me to trust in the training so far and to just focus on letting it heal and it wouldn’t be long before my fitness returned. So, I have kind of felt like I’ve been playing catch up ever since.

How has your training changed since joining the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

Immensely, I’ve really embraced the training. The one big change is the structure Paul has given me and the trust you need to put in it. Before starting this programme I was notorious for running junk miles thinking it was improving me. For example, I would do an interval session on the track and then when I got home would go out and do another 5 miles as I felt I hadn’t done enough on the track. Since I’ve reduced my miles and put more focus on the key sessions in the week I’ve definitely seen a drastic improvement in my running.  I have also have learnt to slow down on my recovery runs and treat them as recovery.

The focus is of course on getting that sub 3 hour finish time at the Dublin Marathon 2017, do you believe you can achieve this? Have things progressed the way you’d hoped?

Unfortunately, I’ve had to withdraw from the marathon due to injury. I have been troubled by a niggly injury since the end of August that wasn’t clearing up. I have been diagnosed with MTSS or shin splints as it is more commonly known. The Physio recommended that I take 4-6 weeks rest and that I should withdraw from the marathon.

As it was my goal from the start to run a sub 3 hour marathon and my chances of achieving that were gone with time missed training, I took the sensible decision to withdraw and focus on getting healthy.  I will have to wait another year to achieve the sub 3 but I will use the disappointment of missing out this year as my motivation for next year.

You’ve raced a few events whilst being part of the #DreamRunDublin team – What was your favourite event and why?

Would have to be the Brefni Challenge 10k which I ended up winning.  As I was just coming back from an injury Paul allowed me to run it as a 6 mile progressive tempo session. It was the first 10k that I’ve ran with a negative split and I always remember how strongly I finished.  I ran the last 2k at 3:50m/k pace when normally that is the part of the race that I struggle.  As I’m relatively new to running I learned a valuable lesson that day into how to treat a race and feel your way into it.  A lot of my races before then had been lost at the start by going out too fast.

What has been your highlight in terms of your own personal favourite performance since joining the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

I would say the parkrun for the first meet up.  I had never ran Victoria Park parkrun before and it was my first run since Rotterdam.  Running sub 3 at Dublin was a big goal of mine so to be coached by an Olympian to achieve it was like living the dream.

What has been your favourite training session since commencing training with the Paul Pollock and the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

It would definitely be the 5 x 2k splits with the paces set out by Paul is the one that sticks out in my mind. I remember working out the paces and then thinking there is no way I’m capable of doing this but if Paul thinks I can do it then I better get on with it.  The reason it was my favourite is because it was the one session that Paul set out that I didn’t think I was capable of doing. It had a 400m at 3:25m/k in it and I’d never ran that pace before in any sort of interval. But I had nothing to worry about as I went out and hit all my target paces.  It was the one session where I felt a real sense of accomplishment and that my training was finally coming good.

The atmosphere and camaraderie at the group training days is very clear – are you enjoying being part of the team?

Unfortunately, due to work commitments and injuries I haven’t been able to make them but it is definitely clear by the banter on the Whatsapp group that a real bond has developed between everyone. It is great to see as running is quite an individual sport but it has been great being part of a group sharing a common goal.

At this point, I just want to wish the rest of the team the best of luck for Dublin, and I will be there in my new role of support cheering you all on!  Enjoy the last few weeks of training before the fun starts on race day!

I’d like to thank Paul for the opportunity to take part in the DreamRunDublin project and his support the whole way through.  I haven’t made it easy for him – he had his work cut out with me.  Also thank you to Ryan for helping set this up, I think it is a great project you both have started.

What does the coach say!? … enter Paul Pollock:

Every runner is different. There is no doubt. Throughout the past few months, each of the DreamRun athletes has brought their own unique approach towards training to the project. They have their own individual levels of ability, their various life commitments and, when things go wrong with their running, different approaches to coping.

A number of weeks ago, Darren (Wallace) sadly had to withdraw from the project due to injury. Unfortunately, it is more bad news this week, as he will now be joined on the supporters’ bench by Johnny. While Darren suffered an acute injury to his knee, for Johnny, the process has been that little bit more cruel.

There is no doubt that Johnny has potential as a runner. There have been glimpses of a very good athlete shining through at certain moments. However, he has been plagued by injury since the beginning of the project and the lack of consistency has been his biggest hindrance. Just when we thought he had fully recovered and had strung together a number of good weeks training, shin splints struck. As days turned into weeks, the pain eased but running was not possible. And so, last week, Johnny made the tough decision that he would not be able to compete in Dublin.

In Darren’s case, running the marathon was no longer an option. In Johnny’s case however, there is a chance that he might physically be able to get round the distance, albeit in pain. That makes the decision to withdraw all that bit harder to make…but it is the right decision and the sensible choice. Johnny is still young and has plenty more marathons in him, if he wants. I have no doubt that with even the slightest bit of consistency, at least one of those marathons, will be run in a sub 3 hour time.