"At the end of April I’m planning to take part in the next Hamburg Marathon. After having completed the marathons in Munich and Berlin, as well as the Hamburg one two years ago, it’s time to run my fourth one. This time around, my aim is to finish in under four hours - last time I was just two minutes past the four-hour mark. To ensure I reach my goal, I’ve put together a completely personalised and structured training plan. I’d like to explain it to you in this post. I’ll be training three to four times a week and my most important runs will be the Fartlek or interval runs and the long runs at the weekend. I’ll do two of my long runs during the week, in the mornings before work. I’ll run at a relaxed pace for around 60 to 80 minutes. It’s especially difficult to convince myself to get out of bed early when it’s cold, but so far so good. As for Fartlek, one session loosely consists of a 10-minute warm-up run and then a bit of 1-2-1 - this means running very fast for, say, two minutes, doing a jogging break for 40 seconds and then another two minutes at a fast pace. To finish off, it’s a 10-minute cool-down. During these sessions, my fast pace is 4:40-4:50 min/km, my jogging break pace is 6 min/km. Of course, your own pace should be based on your running experience and fitness levels. Unfortunately, I’m having to also adjust my pace to the weather, as the running paths I use are partly iced over and quite slippery. If you have a free-to-access tartan track nearby, use it for interval training. When training for a marathon, it’s quite normal to do 1,000 or 2,000-metre sprints with a jogging break in between. It might be hard to motivate yourself to do these sessions, so just remember that this is the kind of training that will help you make the most progress. If you only ever run at a relaxed pace, you’ll never manage to speed up during a marathon. Just keep this thought in mind when you’re dreading interval training. It’s better to miss out on relaxed runs during the week than skip your fast ones. Long runs are just as important. I’ve got mine planned for the weekend. I’m going to start with a distance of 20 to 25 k, and run further and further every week. By increasing the distance every time you run, your body will soon get closer to being ready for the 41.195 k you’ll be covering on the day of the marathon. The longest run I’ve got planned is 32 to 34 k. Unfortunately, I’ve only managed to run up to 30 k so far, as my back has forced me to take a break from training. I’ve got lower back pain and can’t go for long runs for the time being. I still don’t know if I’ll manage to recover 100% before the marathon. For now, though, I’m opting for alternative sports activities, such as cycling and swimming. Thankfully there’s a static bike at my gym, so I’m training on that. I’ve also been doing abdominal and back exercises to strengthen my torso - as we runners know, having a strong upper body is essential. Strong and stable abdominal and back muscles ensure your upper body doesn’t drag down on your legs while you run. Ideally, runners should train this body area several times a week. Typical exercises include planks (forward-facing or sideways), crunches and bench lifts. Some yoga elements can also help you strengthen your core. I hope these exercises work for me and get rid of my back pain, so I can take part in the Hamburg Marathon next month. I’ve been wearing the adidas Adizero Boston 6 for all of my runs. It’s extremely light and moulds around your foot from the moment you put it on. The slim fit is perfect for my narrow feet, and the wide tongue doesn’t cause any pressure at all. I also love the design of the shoe - I’ve opted for the version with the black background and white stripes. The woven mesh material at the front of the shoe allows for a great range of motion and lets your foot breathe, which is just as important in cold temperatures as it is in warm ones. Apart from that, the Continental outsole provides a good grip, even when the ground’s a bit slippery. Being light and designed for neutral pronation, this shoe is ideal for fast runs and competitions. I’d love to wear this shoe for the marathon, but first I’ve got to test it over longer distances, i.e. over 30 k."