Thames Valley star Tracy sees time tumble in London

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Thames Valley star Tracy sees time tumble in London

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Thames Valley athlete, Tracy Barlow, crossed the line to complete her sixth successive London Marathon last month. Running up The Mall, Tracy finished as the fourth-fastest British woman, topping the club championship field, in an impressive time of 2.33.20

Rewind five years and the nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, inspired by the infectious street carnival atmosphere, was fitting training for her charity place in the 2010 London Marathon around erratic shift work. That year, Tracy finished in the respectable time of 3.52.59, one hour and nineteen minutes slower than her 2016 effort.

Add that stat to the eight minute improvement of her 10k time (her PB is now 35.14) and a sixteen minute bettering of her half marathon best (now down to 74.24) and the transformation has been remarkable.

Tracy began her career as an athlete in high school with the belief that she would enjoy more success as a sprinter. It wasn’t until university that she upped the distance as a way of keeping fit.

‘I would go out for a 30 minute run a few times a week, which eventually built up to about an hour.’

Soon after joining the sprints group at TVH in 2008, Tracy was coaxed into running cross country to help bolster the numbers.

‘At the beginning of marathon training, Tracy’s mileage averages at 75 miles per week, increasing week on week to 90-95 miles per week as the race approaches’

‘I found I wasn’t too bad at it and actually quite enjoyed it. I had entered the Paris Half Marathon in 2010 so I moved across to the distance group to be able to do more endurance type training.’

Following that move, the times began to tumble.

Fast forward again and Tracy’s sights are set minutes quicker. A recent change in job and relocation to Winchester to be closer to her training group allowed Tracy to accommodate training better and plan her lead up to London with her coach, Nick Anderson.

‘We sit together at the start of the marathon season and plan what races will suit my training and what fits in where.

‘Training itself is a mix of speed sessions on the track with the group at Winchester and solo off-road threshold runs, interspersed with a lot of relaxed easy paced running and the occasional tempo run or hill session.’

At the beginning of marathon training, Tracy’s mileage averages at 75 miles per week, increasing week on week to 90-95 miles per week as the race approaches.

‘Running over Tower Bridge the cheers were so loud, I’ve never experienced anything like it’

‘I train around 10-11 times per week with four days being double training days and Friday as a rest or short easy run day.

‘My longest run was done out in Portugal when I was warm weather training which was 23 miles in total. Normally my long runs vary between 19-21 miles with some marathon paced efforts thrown into them.’

And this year, Anderson’s meticulously planned training schedule set out Tracy’s taper to begin two weeks from race day.

‘Three weeks out from the London Marathon I was still running 75 miles. During the taper I was still training between 9-10 times per week but the intensity of the sessions is reduced and they are shorter in distance.’

Anderson’s coaching methodology seems simple – train with quality and quantity and achieve results. This proved to be the case for Tracy as, pacing it perfectly (3.38/km average), she ran a four second negative split in the capital.

‘I knew I was in 2.33 shape. I set off aiming to not get carried away and go off too quick. Everyone is full of energy and pushing the pace so I had to keep myself in check and not go with them and pay the price later on.

‘I passed Georgie Bruinvels around mile 7 and then started hearing cheers from the crowd say “first lady”. Running over Tower Bridge the cheers were so loud, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I did find things tough around mile 10 and again around mile 15-16, I was feeling a bit sick and wasn’t sure if I could carry on.

‘Somehow I made it to mile 20 by just taking each mile as it came. Nick was there and shouted to me that I was looking strong and “it’s on”. This was my cue to ignore my watch and race the final 6 miles, chasing down each vest that I could see in front of me.’

‘Considering her race-on-race average improvement of fifteen minutes in the marathon so far, sub-2.30 could well be on the cards this autumn’

After some welcome time off training to catch up with friends, the plan for summer is to represent her club in the 5000m at the European Club Cup in Portugal at the end of May and work on her speed over the shorter distances.

Following a brief cameo on the track, Tracy plans to return to the roads with the Swansea Half at the end of June before building up again to an autumn marathon.

Considering her race-on-race average improvement of fifteen minutes in the marathon so far, sub-2.30 could well be on the cards this autumn.

Words by Hannah Viner
This article appears in the third edition of Left Spike from May 2016