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 8, run 2: February is the cruellest month

Yesterday, after the longest day ever, I went back out into the dark and cold to run. I wore too many layers and got too hot (I seem to have trouble wearing the right amount of clothes for my winter runs – I either end up boiling hot or numb with cold).

I didn’t really know what type of run I was going to do, as I feel like I am still gradually getting back into training after taking almost a week off. I ran a mile easy, and felt okay, so sped up a little to do two miles at a steady pace (which is around my ideal marathon pace, or maybe a bit quicker). I then cooled down for another mile or so.

My ankle/calf was okay until 3.5 miles in, when it started playing up again. I stopped to stretch a few times, and, just like on Tuesday’s run, the pain would ease off and then return.

I’m glad that this time I was able to run for longer before the pain started; but I really need to step up my stretching and strength exercises if I want to have a chance of getting through the rest of this training without hobbling all the way.

On another note, I have always found that February is one of the worst months of the year for me (and probably many people) mood-wise. Some days, or most days, can be a real struggle. When I reduced the amount I exercised last week, I noticed a huge drop in my mood. Yesterday, after several days of only clocking up around 7,000 steps, I managed to do 18,000 (including my run and a long walk at lunchtime), and I noticed a phenomenal improvement in my mood last night and today. I also slept like a baby for the first time in a while.

I know exercise is not a magic pill and to say it cures everything is naive and oversimplifying, but sometimes I forget how much difference it can make, even if it’s just making myself go for a quick walk.

Miles run yesterday: 4.4 / Type of run: Steady / Average pace: 9:30 minute-miles, with steady section at 8:56-9:08 / Miles run this week: 7.7

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 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