EM marathon: Phil Sesemann relies on heat chambers, thermometer pills and chocolate milk to combat the heat


As England suffers another heatwave, there has been a sight to behold along the canal path linking Leeds to Liverpool in recent weeks. Phil Sesemann routinely hops along while fully clad in a long-sleeved tracksuit, hoodie and beanie.

But it’s this grueling training in such sweltering conditions that has formed a key piece of the puzzle that consists of marathon training and a shot at glory at Monday’s European Championships.

Flaming times are usually associated when the world’s best runners tackle 42.2 kilometers in Germany and Eliud Kipchoge set his world record (2:01:39) four years ago in Berlin. But the blurring leg speed shouldn’t be the deciding factor in Munich in mid-August. Instead, the medals appear to be decided by fierce competition, resilience, and who conjured up and executed the perfect strategy.

Sesemann, the first Briton to cross the finish line in 2:12:58 on his debut in last year’s London Marathon, is starting his second career marathon. The 29-year-old NHS doctor, a late bloomer for distance and a professional in sport, is now enjoying the opportunity to compete as a full-time athlete. With no stone left unturned on the way to Munich, there will be a whirlwind for seven weeks before the TCS London Marathon kicks off.

“The training went well, my fitness is good, so is the refueling and I have no problems,” says Sesemann, assessing his chances before admitting that there is some “fear” of facing those chaotic aid stations mid-race to approach.

“If things go my way I don’t know where I might finish, I might be up front with challenging, that’s how I see it. Enjoy the race side of it, which I’ve aimed for a time at other marathons, this one Sometimes the time is irrelevant, it’s about the position.

“I definitely want to be the first Brit but it’s a team event. I’ll see who looks good, follow them, track moves. So unless someone does something crazy, I’ll try to come forward and be there as long as possible.

“Competition is the goal. I would rather win in 2:20 than finish 10th in 2:10 or even second in 2:10. It’s going to be a strong field, there are guys, top European marathoners, who see Munich as the destination of the year. The quality will be high.

“When I’m there close to the front, I’ll get the most out of myself psychologically. It’s risky to sit and wait for people to come down, you can catch up and get a high position, but if you want to see what you’re really capable of you have to put it on the line and take a risk or two. “

Sesemann will don a British vest for the third time, alongside a six-man men’s team that also includes Mohamud Aadan, Luke Caldwell, Ben Connor, Andrew Davies and Andrew Heyes. Representing his country at a major championship was one of Sesemann’s two career goals written down many years ago. The second, Chris McGeorge’s record in the 1500m at Blackheath and Bromley (3:39.41), may be out of reach now that his best (3:40.93) was set four years ago.

Tanzania’s Failuna Matanga douses herself with water during the Commonwealth Games Marathon

(AFP via Getty)

Instead, Sesemann has found joy in riding a distance more than 28 times longer, embracing the psychological test as much as the physical stress he puts on his body. He knows his ambition will leave him vulnerable when he has to endure temperatures in excess of 25C, but there is excitement after completing a carefully crafted plan with coach Andrew Henderson. From spending a month at altitude in the idyllic French town of Font Romeu, to running in a warming chamber at Leeds Beckett University or multi-shift across Yorkshire, this was no ordinary marathon block.

“The training demands a lot and puts additional strain on the body,” explains Sesemann. “We did a round of testing prior to Font Romeu where I took thermometer gastrointestinal pills to track my core body temperature during high heat exposure sessions.

“When I came back, we ran tests and drafted the training protocol. I did one run a week in the heat chamber on the treadmill. We have this up to 40C. And on Wednesday I ran and then jumped into a cryospa, a hot bath. We constantly measure heart rate and temperature, pre- and post-exercise rate to calculate sweat rate.

“But without access, I’m doing layered runs with lots of clothing, it’s just as awful as it looks and it’s a real drain.”

Recovery is obviously crucial, as Sesemann routinely loses up to 3kg of water per hour through sweat – compared to Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton typically loses 5kg over a 90-minute grand prix.

There’s one comforting aspect that both amateur and elite runners share: chocolate milk. It’s proven to be Sesemann’s secret ingredient, consuming “gallons of the stuff” over agonizing 120-mile weeks of training.

But with just a few days left, real optimism reigns now as Sesemann, who will ride in the Adidas Adios Pro 3 cleats, has been posting some remarkable numbers over the past few weeks. He recalls a 20 x 1k session at altitude, run as 1k up, 1k down, which averaged splits of 3:22 and 3:02.9 while holding back. The same session two weeks later back in Leeds then produced around 3:14 and 2:53. Another confidence boost came quickly when completing 4 x 4 miles with a mile float on the well-known bike path while averaging 4:58 per mile for the entire run.

Monday’s result will largely determine the effectiveness of what was unorthodox for Sesemann, both in training and in life in general, which included sleeping in a high-altitude tent. But the meticulous approach makes him content and ready to find out what he’s capable of.

“The response was really good,” sums up Sesemann. “We had a 50 percent increase in sweat rate in just one week, which is really good exposure and prepared me for Munich as much as possible. You need to find a balance and not deal with the added stress of training for a marathon. But hopefully we did it right.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/athletics/phil-sesemann-european-championship-marathon-b2143347.html EM marathon: Phil Sesemann relies on heat chambers, thermometer pills and chocolate milk to combat the heat

Fry Electronics Team

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