Post M-word limbo

It’s now just over three weeks since Hannover Marathon. I’m still in a post-race limbo. I’ve done several short, easy runs since then. I’ve had some knee pains which oddly seem to turn up on every other run and feel like faint echoes of the last few miles of the marathon.

Today, I ran six miles, which felt hard, even though the pace was easy. It is baffling that three weeks ago, I ran (okay, ran-walked-hobbled) that same distance after already having run 20 miles. I also watched some of the London Marathon on TV. For the first time, I felt like I knew how the runners’ legs were feeling when they crossed the finish line. A noble club to be a new member of.

Right now, I feel like my fitness has disappeared. I am trying not to think about this too much. I am hoping that if I keep plugging away, gradually bringing back some faster and longer runs, the fitness will return without me realising. One day, it’ll just be there again, and I’ll greet it like an old friend (“Oh! Hi, Fitness! Great to see you again”).

In other news, I have ‘given back to the community’ in the last few weeks. Instead of running the usual 5k parkrun on Saturday mornings, I volunteered. In the last few years, I have run parkrun so much that I accidentally forgot to volunteer. Last Saturday and the one before, I was a marshal.

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A ‘giving back to the community’ selfie

Last week was a cushy assignment. The weather was beautifully sunny. I bagged the first marshalling point where all the runners/walkers charge/stroll up the path and are all gone in the space of about five minutes, signalling the end of the marshalling duty.

The second one, yesterday, was less cushy but arguably more rewarding. It was windy and cold. After a short while, I could no longer feel my toes. I was stationed at a turn around 1.5k from the end of the run, where the field thins out considerably so there is a long gap between the first and last participants. The first speedy runners came through at about 9.10am; the last ones at around 9.50am. My fellow marshal and I clapped and offered words of encouragement. We received many ‘Thank you marshals’, waves, high-fives, and a selfie with an Australian parkrun tourist. I felt tired but thoroughly cheered by the end of it. It was refreshing to experience the weekly run from a different angle.

This week coming, I am, in theory, getting back into training again for the few shorter races (two relays and a 10k) I have coming up in May and June. I’m not feeling massively geared up for it at the moment, but, as I told myself on today’s run: just focus on the steps you’re doing and don’t worry about anything else. Sorted. 

Week 13: My only friend

When I last wrote, the main issue seemed to be the wind. And it’s still extremely windy. I have come to believe that wind is my least favourite weather condition to run in (although any sort of extreme – biting cold; searing heat – is obviously not pleasant).

Wind, however, makes it so much harder. I’m reminded of that scene from The Mighty Boosh in which Howard claims that the wind is his only friend, to which the wind replies, “I hate yoooou.” (I’ve just realised that episode is now 15 years old. Perhaps we’ll gloss over that.)

I took two days’ rest at the beginning of this week, although I wish I’d braved the weather and done a recovery run on Tuesday, as my legs have felt stiff since Sunday’s challenging long run (it was really windy – did I mention that?) I did run yesterday – a one-mile jog to the park, then two miles at slightly slower than ideal marathon pace, then a jog home. It is nice that the evenings are getting lighter. This means I can run in the park after work instead of sticking to the local streets.

I also ran yesterday evening. I jogged to the park again, then pushed myself by running for 3.5 miles at tempo pace, with some faster sections. I had planned to do 3 x 1 mile with recoveries in between, but messed up the interval setting on my watch. I think it turned out for the best, though, as I enjoyed doing a more random, run-by-feel workout. I also had to slow down several times for herds of deer crossing the path (not an unusual event in Bushy Park).

I am worried about continuing discomfort in my right hip, and calf issues in my left leg. I am also not really following a training plan any more, except as a rough guide, so I feel that I’m making it up as I go along at the moment. This is a little unsettling, but I think, with only three weeks to go, that it is probably okay. I need to listen to my body rather than pushing on regardless simply because a workout is ‘in the plan’.

23 days to go!

Week 11 of marathon training: Building up

I’ve managed to cram in four runs since I last wrote. The first of these was a tempo run last Thursday evening. I don’t have any strong memories of this, so I’m assuming it was a reasonable run. I did a mile warm up, three miles at tempo pace, and a mile cool down. I do recall now, actually, having to stop and walk for a bit after the third tempo mile, as I was feeling tired and had pain in my side – so, perhaps unsurprisingly, I probably wasn’t quite recovered from the previous Sunday’s half marathon.

I don’t normally run on Fridays, but last Friday I decided to run home from work. I took the shortest route (after walking for a bit to warm up), which worked out at 2.6 miles. Again, I have no strong memories of this (this is why I should update more regularly), but I managed to get myself home so mission accomplished, I guess.

Saturday was parkrun, which is more memorable (running with 1400 other people helps with that). It was a grey day and muddy underfoot from rain on Friday, but it was also mild. I had planned to do an easy run, but on the day I felt like I could get away with running a bit quicker. I started at a steady pace, then sped up for the last half and felt strong. My watch time was 25:38. I’m pleased that what not long ago would have been a very hard run for me is now a lot more manageable. It’s good to be reminded sometimes of how much progress I’ve made.

2019-03-03 07.47.37Sunday’s run was the grand finale of Week 11. As with all my long runs, I felt apprehensive about it. The weather was rubbish: wet and very windy, but also still mild, which makes it hard to dress because you want to be protected from the elements, but also not get too hot. In the end I went for my favourite pink running jacket with a short-sleeved t-shirt underneath, and long tights. I did get quite warm, but was also glad to have a barrier against the wind.

When I started running, I felt lacking in energy and had really tight lower calves, to the extent that I had to run/walk for the first mile. I contemplated cutting the run short and going home, but eventually my calves felt better and I was able to keep running.

My intention was to run for three hours and ten minutes. I stuck to Bushy Park and did three laps. On some stretches, I was running against the wind, which was trying, to say the least. I took a short break to go to the toilets, and a couple of very short walking breaks to take gels or drink water, but for the most part, I stuck to an easy pace of around 9:30-10:30-minute-miles.

Right up until I reached the two-hour mark, I continuously doubted whether I would be able to make it to three hours; but after I’d gone beyond that, it started to feel achievable. I finally stopped my watch at 3 hours and 8 minutes – a couple of minutes early; but I’d covered 18.3 miles and felt that that justified calling it a day.

So, that was my longest run so far in the bag (longest not only literally, but also figuratively). I didn’t feel emotional at all (unlike during the 16-miler of two weeks ago), but I am pleased that I have been able to cover that distance at a good pace, and that I am still in one piece. I felt tired afterwards, but my legs felt strangely good yesterday (a rest day).

Despite the fact that my body is feeling okay, mentally I could do with a break. However, it’s now Week 12. This week and next week involve some more tough training before a three-week taper and then the Big Day, so I can’t really rest just yet. I know, though, that recovery is equally as important as training. I need to remember to schedule in some proper relaxation (something I definitely need to get better at).

33 days to go!

Week 8, runs 3 & 4: The halfway point

Yesterday I combined my long run with parkrun. I’ve decided to increase the distance of my long run every other week rather than every week, and this week I thought I would try a cutback run of about 10 miles.

I thought I might try to do this ‘shorter’ run at a quicker pace than I normally do longer distances, but when I set out, I didn’t feel great. I was tired and also queasy for some reason, so I ran slower than intended.

I did my usual loop of Bushy Park (as I’m still paranoid about my ankle/calf pain, and therefore wary of unfamiliar routes). At around the five or six mile point, I somehow started to feel better and as if I could pick up the pace, so I did.

I ran just over seven miles before the start of parkrun. I got to the start a little early and the Run Director was still giving the briefing. Not wanting to interrupt my run, I did a few laps back and forth alongside the Diana Fountain, and then joined in the run as soon as it started.

Conditions weren’t brilliant: it was muddy and slippery in places, and there was a strong wind; but I managed to keep up the pace and finish strongly. My parkrun time was 27:27. My overall run time was about 1 hour 35, with a second-best-ever 10-mile time of 1 hour 32. I’m very pleased with that effort. (And although my ankle/calf pain started playing up during parkrun, it thankfully remained a background nuisance and didn’t stop me running. Yay.)

Today’s run was a bit of a treat, relatively speaking: just three miles at a slow pace. I plodded along in the drizzle, into Bushy Park again. I met S., who was just finishing a fast half marathon training run. We then met some friends at a nice café we hadn’t been to before, and I had a large cooked breakfast that wasn’t really justified by the morning’s gentle activity, but I’ve decided that it was a postponed breakfast from more-deserving Saturday.

So, it’s the end of Week 8, which means I’m already half way through my training for Hannover Marathon. It hasn’t quite gone to plan, especially after Week 6 (when I also started this blog – coincidence?); but this week I’ve started to get back on track again. I’m feeling more positive about the next eight weeks (and also really, really ready for spring).

Miles run this weekend: 13.2 (10.2 on Saturday + 3 on Sunday) / Types of run: Long and steady on Saturday; short recovery on Sunday / Average paces: 9:12-minute miles on Saturday (9:30 progressing to about 8:40); 10:17 on Sunday / Miles run this week: 21

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