Berlin Marathon

An interview with father, partner, professional and marathon runner Travis Stevens post his Berlin Marathon performance.

For this month’s blog we have interviewed Trav Stevens, a member of the RevoPT community. Not only is Trav a long distance runner, but he works full time, is a young dad and partner to Jayne another member of the community here at RevoPT.

In this blog we see what happens behind the scenes for a young family to and what it takes to be able to continually participate in marathons across the world and compete at such a high level.

We are super proud of Trav’s efforts during the Berlin marathon and we look forward to seeing what the futures holds.

Trav, this is marathon number 8 for you, tell us how this build was different to any that you have done before?

Yep, Berlin was number 8. Three of the six ‘World Major Total’ completed so far. I’ve done Boston in 2013, Tokyo in 2015. 3 more to go.

As for the build, nothing changed in terms of the method to what I’ve done previously. I basically pulled out my 12-week program from Tokyo 2015 where I did my Personal Best time of 2:54. Following on I’ve had a 3 year break.

The only thing I changed in lead up to that 12-week program was running longer on my slow long runs for at least a 20 week period to get my body used to the distance and time in legs again.

The major difference in preparation was not having a chance to run another marathon event for 2016/17 season as my son was born Feb 2016. So, it was going to be a bit of an unknown as I was training very solidly before he came into the world.

Now I run with a pram as part of training and it works out well. It’s added strength and resistance and I get to make a morning of it with Joshua at a park run for example.

What challenges had you faced in the lead up to Berlin? How did you overcome them?

Like other marathon stories, there are always challenges along the way, the biggest ones included;

  • almost a 3 year lay off between marathons, therefore having to build my endurance up again, followed by regaining speed endurance
  • not increasing my training load too quickly
  • not knowing how my body would react to strength training twice as week plus running 5-6 days a week at the same time
  • pacing myself correctly for the marathon
  • not being able to make it to the Crosbie Crew’s (my running group) training speed session and therefore training for the majority on my own

What made you decide to tackle Berlin over many other marathon choices?

I have completed two world marathon majors so my partner Jayne said ‘I think it’s about time you got back into marathon training’ (as she knows how much I love it).

(World Marathon Majors is a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon.)

I narrowed it down to Berlin or New York then decided on Berlin. From there I applied once the lottery opened and was lucky enough to gain entry that way.

I want to run all 6 majors by the time I’m 40 years old (I turn 35 this December) 3 down, 3 to go (London, New York and Chicago).

In the lead up to Berlin you incorporated Strength and Conditioning into your weekly program, how do you think that contributed to your success?

I found it helped hugely with recovery for me as it’s been a long time between endurance events.

Session to session and day by day recovery was enhanced and I didn’t dread some running sessions once the big kilometre weeks hit in my program as I knew the strength was there to help me complete those runs.

I’ve suffered chronic calf tightness in past marathon preps and it never eventuated in this preparation. I feel a lot stronger in the muscle fibres.

I completed my strength work via online programming as it was more efficient for me being a parent. Plus, it meant I could train from home and when it suited me.

What do you enjoy most about running?  What keeps you coming back for more?

There a few reasons, the main ones being;

  • the health benefits
  • getting outdoors
  • very time efficient sport, can put my runners on and go from my front door, even more so as a parent now I can take the pram out
  • encouraging and positive environment of athletes
  • the physical and mental challenge of running at speed over an endurance event
  • finding out how far can I push myself
  • that I can include my son Joshua in my training with the pram

You created your own running plan; how did you find this? What did you learn from doing it this way?

For my 1st marathon I just used a free mobile app and used that as my plan.

After that I decided the only way to improve more was to join a running club. I googled running clubs in Melbourne and came across the Crosbie Crew. From then I have used their training template but had made slight adjustments to make it work for me.

The key take outs are including 1x speed/endurance session per week, 1x goal marathon pace/tempo session a week, include absorption (recovery) runs, mid-week long run and a Sunday long run. For me this resulted in an 80/20 training method.

80% slow, 20% marathon pace or faster.

Who is on your ‘team’ that you would like to acknowledge?

My team includes;

Firstly Jayne (my partner) “team work makes the dream work”

It’s a big juggle to get all my training in. Jayne is very understanding with the time requirements plus recovery and I can’t thank her enough!

My mum and sister Erin looking after Josh when they could so I could get training in if I was stuck for time.

Tim Crosbie, my coach puts in a huge amount of time into the crew and recreational running in Australia has been there a as quality sounding board over the years.

Yourself, JLB have been great with strength programming, very understanding with how my body was reacting to different exercises and adjustments were made accordingly. 

What advice would you say to any Dad out there who might be thinking of running his first marathon?

My advice would be;

  • be flexible with your training plan
  • get 7-9 hours sleep a night
  • running big k’s in past preparations I would always get the flu in my taper weeks, I invested in a sports nutritionist who found I wasn’t eating enough. Ever since then, I have never been ill through a prep. So, nutrition is paramount.
  • find a gel brand that works for your stomach and practice using them during your long runs
  • ensure you have the time required (part time effort will end in part time result) planning and mapping out the months required with your wife/partner/family
  • goal setting – finishing, pacing correctly, time orientated or not?
  • find yourself a massage therapist/osteopath
  • purchase a foam roller and spikey ball
  • rotate runners with two pairs (small things become the big things)
  • there is no substitute for time on the legs
  • mix up the surfaces you train on
  • slow increments in training volume, 10-15 percent increase in volume per week
  • once a month have an absorption week reduced volume and intensity
  • complete a couple of half marathons in the lead up over a 6 month in lead up

How do you juggle the many hats you wear; Dad, partner, son, not to mention work all into your week?

Nothing is ever perfect, being a parent, my training regime has evolved. I think of it as a guide then plan. Things such as a sick child, sleepless nights are out of my control.

Missing a session or two won’t destroy your whole preparation! Training big volume, it’s always trial and error with balance so work out what best for your situation.

My 1st priority is always my family then try to fit in running in around that.

I’ve made sacrifices to be able to do the training, for example I must be willing to train early before work or late at night. I have even run to work and run home as part of training at times as well as train during my lunch breaks.

The take home message is overall it’s about finding balance and something that will suit you and your circumstances.

We hope this has given you a bit of an insight into what it takes to fit in training for one of the worlds biggest marathons into an already packed schedule. Thanks so much for sharing your experience of Berlin with us Trav and all the best for your preparation ticking off those next big three!