Week 6, run 5: Finding my limits

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well my marathon training has been going, especially considering that I have increased my mileage a lot. It was always in the back of my mind, though, that I needed to be careful and not get carried away, or I could set myself back.

The training plan said 13 miles for today’s long slow run, but as my running had been going well, I was going to go for 14. I felt a strong urge to stay in bed this morning, but I didn’t listen to myself. All I was thinking was that I had to get this 14 miles done, because it was on the plan.

My other half, S., drove us to Bushy Park where we were meeting a friend. S. went to do his long run (18 miles) and I ran with our friend, H., who has been keeping me company on some of my long runs in the last few weeks. The weather was pretty awful: there was a nasty cold wind; although the sun did come out and the rain held off until later.

We followed a slightly hilly and at times muddy and slippery route through Richmond Park. I’m not used to hills at the moment, but I seemed to tackle them okay. We ran down to Kingston and along the towpath, where I started getting pain just to the left of my ankle. I thought it might ease off, especially after I stopped to stretch; but it got worse and worse until I had to stop and walk. We ran for eight miles; then walked the last two (with some bits of jogging purely to try and keep warm).

The run seemed like a failure to me. My ankle felt really sore, and it felt like my marathon training had gone the drain. I thought: well, here it is. I was waiting for it all to fall apart, and now it has.

In reality, though, it wasn’t that bad a run. Even with the walking miles included, it was still an 11:10 pace overall, and 10 miles is not a bad distance (and I have run the same number of miles this week as I did last week – my highest ever weekly mileage). And, in a way, I am glad that I have this pain, because it’s made me stop and reassess how the plan is going: whether it is right for me, and not whether I can mould myself to it and carry it out at all costs.

I have had a similar ankle pain before, and I think it is to do with referred pain from elsewhere rather than the ankle itself. This means easing off from running and concentrating on strengthening and stretching the rest of my body; and also giving myself a bit of a mental break. I pushed myself on some hard runs this week, even though I was already stressed and fatigued not only from running, but for other reasons.

Right now, my plan is to take each day as it comes, and to listen to myself. And, really, one failed (not really failed) run in six weeks of training is not that big a deal. Onwards and upwards.

Miles run today: 10.43 / Average pace: 11:10 minute-miles / Type of run: Long and slow / Miles run this week: 30.2

Week 6, run 4: How many times can you say ‘parkrun’?

It’s finally the weekend, which means for me, these days, mornings spent running and then having extended breakfasts with running friends. Saturday morning is for parkrun (yes, with a small ‘p’). I’ve been doing it now for over four years. I had some extended breaks from it due to injuries, but now I go every week unless I have something else on (and if I’m away somewhere, I’ll always see if there is a parkrun nearby so I can get my weekly fix).

For those not in the know, parkrun is a 5 km run, free to take part in. You register and print out a barcode, which is scanned at the end and your time is recorded. Parkrun started in 2004 with 13 people in Bushy Park, which also happens to be the location of my nearest parkrun. Now, over 1000 people regularly do parkrun there, with close to 1500 for the last few weeks. There are now parkruns all over the world. (I swear I’m not taking part in a competition to see how many times I can write ‘parkrun’ in a paragraph, but if I were, I’d probably win. Parkrun.)

The marathon training plan I’m following says to do a parkrun or a three-mile easy run on Saturdays, so that’s worked out quite well. Today, after a hard week and also feeling a little under the weather, I decided to take it easy. I jogged to the park from home. There are many routes I could take. I chose a shorter one – about two-and-a-half miles. I then did a nice steady parkrun, although got a little carried away at the end and went for a sprint finish, which I sort of regretted afterwards.

Then I made my way to the Pheasantry Café, which can get extremely busy, especially in winter when you can’t sit outside; but it’s always good to have a hot cup of tea with my other half (who was volunteering as a marshal today – it takes around 50-60 volunteers to put the event on every week) and our friends. It’s always one of the highlights of my week, and it’s great to be able to include something different from the grind of solo mid-week runs as part of my training.

Miles run today: 5.6 (warm up 2.5 + parkrun 3.1) / Average pace: 10:29 for warm up; 8:46 for parkrun / Type of run: Easy and then steady/tempo / Miles run this week: 19.8

 

Week 6, run 3: The wood for the trees

This has continued to be a challenging week, and I’m even more glad than usual that it’s Friday. I am also glad that I’ve managed to get in my three mid-week runs, even though the two key runs (speed and tempo) didn’t go as well as I would have liked.

I squeezed in my tempo run yesterday evening, after getting home from work. It was very cold, and dark, and I didn’t much feel like going out again; but I guess the running habit is so ingrained in me now that somehow I got out of the door. I ran a mile to warm up, and then three miles at tempo pace. I found this really hard, and I was slower than I wanted to be, perhaps because I’d done my speed run on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, and my legs were still suffering a bit. I was then supposed to run a mile to cool down, but I cut this short in my haste to get back home and into the warm.

Right now, I’m finding it hard to see the wood for the trees. Life is proving difficult and all-consuming at times, and it’s easy to get caught up in that and forget about marathon training, and I sometimes wonder why I’m even doing it. I am hoping, though, that if I keep putting in the work anyway, even if I don’t feel I’m achieving much at the time, it will all add up. I am hoping it means that I will get out of this thicket and be in a good place on the starting line in ten weeks’ time.

Miles run yesterday: 4.4 / Average pace: 9:09 minute-miles (with tempo section at about 8:30-8:40 pace) / Miles run this week: 14.1

Week 6, run 2: Running into the wind

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to run at lunchtime, which meant in daylight. Unheard of! I’d had a crappy morning, though, and wasn’t sure I could face doing the planned interval session. In the end, I (and my other half) told myself: just do it. Run the crap out of your system (although hopefully not literally).

I headed for a small local park which has a nice triangular shape with long, straight paths, ideal for intervals (although it can get busy with dog walkers). I started with a one-mile jog to warm up, and then did the planned session: two minutes fast followed by two-minute recoveries, repeated eight times, with a one-mile jog to cool down.

Normally the interval sessions in the training plan I’m following are measured by distance, not time; but this one was meant to be a hill session (run two minutes up hill and then jog back). As it’s hard for me to get to a big enough hill during the week, I’ve decided to replace the hill sessions with intervals on the flat.

I don’t think I pushed myself as much as I could, but I still tried fairly hard. There was a ferocious cold wind blowing against me much of the time, so I’ll use that as my excuse. I was wrapped up in two long-sleeved layers, a hat, gloves and buff (and tights, of course); but I had a numb face and streaming eyes and nose. The hot shower and cup of tea afterwards were very welcome (and necessary). The weather has been pretty brutal this week.

Today I’m supposed to be doing a tempo run. I chickened out of doing it this morning (I mean, I’ve already done one early-morning run this week. I can’t possibly do another!) so I need to get out and do it this evening. It was probably a good idea to give myself a bit more recovery time after yesterday’s run, as normally I don’t do two hard runs two days in a row. It’s still very cold, and I’m also feeling a bit under the weather, so I’m not looking forward to it. Roll on spring.

Miles run yesterday: 5.3 / Average pace: 9:36 minute-miles (interval sections around 7:30-7:45 pace) / Type of run: Speed / Miles run this week: 9.6

Week 6, run 1: Not a morning person

This week is a stressful one for various reasons. I sometimes find it challenging to fit my weekday running around other commitments, especially as my other commitments are rigid, and especially in winter, when it is usually dark at the times I have available to run. I would love to have a more flexible schedule, and, partly thanks to running, I’m starting to think more seriously about how I can achieve that.

Anyway. As my weekday runs for marathon training have become longer and more challenging, I’ve been thinking about how I can mix it up, such as with different routes and running at different times. There is a running track near where I work. I haven’t used it yet, as I find it difficult to get away from my conviction that it is for proper runners, and I am not one. However, it would be useful to do a weekday speed session there, as I could just go over straight after work, and not have to worry about an early morning or late evening run. And, of course, a track is a perfect setting for speed work.

I was planning to be brave and use the track this week, but because of other things going on, I’ve changed my plans a little. Today is usually a speed day, but I swapped it with tomorrow’s slow run. I ran early this morning, as I saw that sleet is forecast for this evening. Although it was dark and very cold, I appreciated the peacefulness of the streets, and I felt energised after running at a gentle recovery pace.

When I run in the early morning, I always enjoy it and tell myself I should do it more, even though I see myself as not-a-morning-person. I don’t have a lot of time in the mornings and it takes me a while after waking up to become human, so I often leave running to the evening. This is okay, but my motivation to run usually declines as the day goes on, and it does involve some effort to get out of the door again once I’ve arrived home.

Anyway, week 6, run 1 is done. And, as I suggested in my last post, I am feeling a little better today than I was yesterday (and running definitely helped with this).

Miles run today: 4.3 / Type of run: Recovery / Average pace: 10:16 minute-miles / Miles run this week: 4.3

 

Hannover Marathon training: the dawn of week 6

I am currently training for my first marathon – Hannover in April. I chose this one rather than one in the UK because I went there in April last year with a group of running friends, some of whom did the marathon (others did the half marathon). I was part of a five-person relay team. I ran the third leg, which was about five miles long. I enjoyed this so much that I thought Hannover would be a good place to do a first marathon – it was flat, and there seemed to be lots of space, and the weather was sunny and gorgeous after what had felt like months of bleak, cold UK winter.

Of course, I have no idea what the weather will be like this time, and 26.2 miles is a tad further than five. Nevertheless, having the memory of last year’s positive experience to draw on, however rose-tinted it may be, is proving to be very helpful at the moment.

I have just completed week five of a Runner’s World training plan. There are 11 weeks to go, and although so far my body has handled the increased training load quite well, there is still a lot to come, and I am a little apprehensive. This is uncharted territory for me. I try to be sensible with stretching and doing strength exercises, but, to be honest, I, like many others, find these dark winter months really sap my general energy levels and can also affect my mental health. Some days the hardest demons to conquer are the mental ones.

So far, I have completed all my training runs; but I do my three mid-week runs alone and it has been difficult on occasion to motivate myself. I have tweaked the plan slightly in the last few weeks so that I do fewer miles in the week and more at the weekend, when I tend to run with others (or at least meet them afterwards). I don’t know if this is a sensible approach or not, being the marathon newbie that I am; but I figured that if I do the same overall weekly mileage as stated in the plan, I should be okay.

Anyway. Today is a non-running day, and, frankly, the mental demons have been raging. I can only hope that they’ll get bored and disappear and that tomorrow, a running day, will dawn bright and shiny new.