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How they train: Lily Partridge

Written by 
Published in Athletics
Tuesday, 14 November 2023 06:55
We hear from a marathon runner who is intent on making up for lost time after a lengthy injury absence

It reads a bit like a film plot. The year is 2018 and Lily Partridge runs a personal best of 2:29:24 to finish eighth in the London Marathon. Its the fastest time by a female British athlete that year and would have been good enough to rank in the top three for the previous three years.

Time stands still for Partridge, but the world around her changes. The year is now 2023 and the UK lead is 2:22:17. What was once good enough for top 20 on the British all-time list has now dropped to 28th. A once lauded performance still her best ever cast off into the archives.

I remember saying at one point that I felt like Id fallen into a coma and woken up in a different generation, says the 32-year-old. Theres just been such a jump [in marathon performances over that period].

For what its worth, her own behind-the-scenes story is equally compelling.

Partridge, who has represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the road, track and in cross country, will line up in Decembers Valencia Marathon after a lengthy return to fitness following surgery for Haglunds deformity (an abnormality of the bone and soft tissues in the foot) in 2021. Not one to shy away from competition, her last two years have included a busy race schedule and a necessary reality check.

Lily Partridge (Pete Langdown/Great Run)

I know some people wont race until theyre absolutely ready to go and firing on all cylinders, but in my head, I was like: That could be bloody ages, she laughs. If Id taken that approach I probably wouldnt have raced until this summer. To me that wasnt an option because I love racing and I get a lot from it. Obviously you want races to go well, but I felt quite realistic for a lot of the time about where I was at. My goal was just to get back enjoying it and to stay healthy.

Its been fun, but its also been quite hard because the goalposts of my fitness have been moving forward constantly. You think: Is today going to be the day when that move forward comes again?. Every time it feels a little bit like youre rolling the dice, like: Am I where Ive been for the last couple of weeks, or have I moved on again?. Its been quite fun to figure it out, but some of those races (Partridge highlights the Big Half as one in particular she got a little bit wrong) have been really painful.

Mo Farah with Lily Partridge and Ben Connor

Everything came together when she clocked 70:36 at the Copenhagen Half Marathon in September. The Alan Storey-coached athlete who has a lifetime best of 70:31 (2015) finished first British woman and second European in 18th overall, a reminder that she could still be competitive in the highest quality of fields.

Looking ahead to Valencia, Partridge is respectful of the improved depth and quality of marathon running in the UK since she last completed 26.2 miles. Personal motivation, however, comes from being back on a marathon start line healthy. For too long she felt like she was a spectator as her competitors went on to achieve bigger things.

Lily Partridge in 2018 (Mark Shearman)

When you run well, people often ask whats changed, but theres nothing [Ive changed], Ive just been healthy enough to be able to do the work that Ive been trying to do for the last couple of years, she says.

Id be lying if I said I wasnt going for the Olympic qualifying time [of 2:26:50] in Valencia. Im not not going for that time, but my focus is to execute the best race that I can on the day and thatll be what itll be. I feel like Im in a good place right now so I dont think that time is unrealistic, but my goal is to run the best race that I can run and hope that puts me in amongst it.

Lily Partridge (Mark Shearman)

Partridge who runs her own running coaching business (Team Elite Running) with her partner and Tokyo Olympian Ben Connor has been focused on rehabilitation and staying healthy since her surgery in 2021. She has progressively increased her long runs from earlier this summer and does physio exercises rather than gym workouts. I still feel like theres stuff I need to add in [to my training], she says, but theres no rush.

Monday: 10 miles and strides. If Im really tired after a big Sunday I might split that run into 2 x 5 miles, but its generally 10-11 miles of work.

Tuesday: (am) 6-10 miles of fartlek with efforts from 200m up to a mile, usually on the trails; (pm) four miles easy (6:30-7:30min/miles)

Wednesday: (am) 10 miles; (pm) four miles easy

Thursday: paced session on tarmac trail tempo-paced workout such as 4 x 2 miles or 10-mile tempo; (pm) four miles easy

Friday: (am) 10 miles; (pm) four miles easy

Saturday: Easy run such as 5-7 miles, then short hill efforts, then 2-3 miles to finish. We dont count it as a session, but its about getting the legs activated and getting some speed/power work in.

Sunday: long run 18-20 miles

READ MORE: AWs how they train series

Favourite session

Ive been really enjoying my fartlek/interval stuff over the summer, just because I dont ever look at pace on them. The trail that I use is a bit undulating, so the pace doesnt really mean anything. It feels nice, it feels like Im going back to doing what I did as a kid, just going along and smashing it for half an hour on soft ground.

Least favourite session

Its not that I dont enjoy them when I get out there, but evening runs especially when Ive had a tough morning session and Im tired  are probably my least favourite and hardest to get out the door for.

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