Running report, 25 June-2 July

After my recovery run last Monday, I took a couple of rest days because I was feeling under the weather and not sleeping well. I slept better on Wednesday night, and did an easy 4-miler through the park on Thursday lunchtime. It was sunny and warm, but also really windy.

I took another rest day on Friday. Saturday was parkrun day. S. and I cycled there and back, which is our new way of getting to parkrun since I got my bike. I prefer it to driving there because it’s less stressful – there’s no getting stuck in traffic or worrying about not being able to park; and, of course, it’s better for the environment. Bushy parkrun is a popular event, attracting over 1,000 runners each week, often from far afield. While this is a great thing, it also means that on Saturday mornings there are lots of cars coming into the park and vying for parking spaces. It feels good to be able to lessen that impact a little.

I did a decent run, anyway, although I slowed after the first mile. It was a hot day – already around 22 degrees at 9am.

On Sunday it was slightly cooler and cloudier. I ran down through the park and along the the towpath; then back through the park. I finished at a nice new brunch place for California-style eggs benedict and a latte (and much-needed ice-cold water).  It was still warm, and nice enough to sit outside. I ran 9.86 miles before brunch; and then 1.53 miles home with S., so a total of 11.39 miles for the day.

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This was taken in Bushy Park last summer. Definitely need to snap some new photos!

Yesterday I took another rest day. This morning I did an easy 5k – the first run in my training plan for Abingdon Marathon. I wasn’t feeling great so kept the pace really slow. It was already warm; but thankfully not unbearably so (Saturday was definitely too warm).

I’m still feeling under the weather, and currently not super-motivated to get stuck into marathon training. I think it’s important to take each day as it comes, and not push myself if I don’t feel up to it. I know that running can often help me feel better, so I’ll keep that in mind too; but I also need to be aware that it is a fine balance.

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 14: Hindsight is a wonderful thing

This week has been busy and stressful. I’ve fit in five runs, and most of them have felt rubbish. After last Saturday’s 20-miler (and then a busy weekend travelling to visit various different family members), I’ve felt tired and achy.

This week was meant to be the first week of tapering for the marathon, and although I have dropped my overall weekly mileage slightly, I don’t feel that it’s been a restful week. Some of this is due to decisions I made about my runs – I think I probably ran some of them too hard.

Tuesday’s run was an easy four miles into Bushy Park and back. For some reason I tried to run a little quicker than easy pace once I’d done a mile warm-up; but my legs wisely stopped me from persisting with that, and I dropped back to an easy pace again. It was a strange evening – lots of dark cloud and barely anyone around, even though there had been loads of runners in the park when I ran on the previous Tuesday evening.

On Thursday I was at home, although I had lots to do. I managed to get out for a 20-minute run around the block in the late morning. I remember feeling okay for this, and I picked up the pace in the second half.

On Friday I had a full-on morning and early afternoon. I was itching for all the various events to be over so that I could get out and run, and blow away the cobwebs. I was free to do this around mid-afternoon. I ran through Bushy again – a 7-mile loop. Once again, I felt tired, but still tried to push the pace. I managed to do marathon pace for one mile in the middle, but then dropped back again. I think, with hindsight, I should have done a shorter and easier run.

This was followed by parkrun on Saturday (my weekly 5k fix). Although I didn’t feel amazing for this run, it wasn’t too bad. I started off conservatively at a 9:10 pace, then did a progressive run, finishing around 8:30-8:10 pace. I felt like there was little power in my legs, but I had no aches or pains and felt reasonably comfortable. My official time was 27:26.

This morning was my final run of Week 14. It is a beautiful day today. It started off chilly, but is now cool and sunny – a perfect spring day and great running weather. Once again, though, even though I wasn’t feeling great, I tried to push myself. I did three miles at an easy pace (in a busy Bushy Park) and then picked it up to slightly faster than marathon pace for six miles. This felt so hard, much harder than it should have; but I forced myself to keep it up. When I finally hit the 9-mile mark, I eased off and jogged/walked two miles home. I felt broken: I had an aching back and hips, and my legs were not happy.

This week my aim was to get in some marathon-pace miles. My thinking was that because I wouldn’t be doing any very long runs, I could do the shorter runs at a quicker pace. And I got this done, but I think I should have listened to my body and kept it all easy. I should also have remembered that stress elsewhere in my life has an impact, and that the body doesn’t distinguish between running-stress and life-stress.

Well, what’s done is done. Next week I’m going to do a proper taper: mostly short, easy runs, and much less overall weekly mileage. I am in real need of some proper recovery now.

14 days to go!

Week 9, runs 1 & 2: The cautious approach

It’s a little scary that it’s already Week 9 of marathon training. There’s really not long left now (51 days, as the giant countdown calendar to the right of this screen tells me), and I still have the hardest runs yet to come.

I’ve decided not to attempt a speed run until next week (I’m being super-cautious about my ankle/calf). On Tuesday, I ran home from work, with a full, heavy rucksack (and a back-to-front t-shirt, which I didn’t realise until I got home, somehow). I felt quite good, at least at first; but by the end I was tired and had shoulder ache from my bag.

I took Wednesday as a rest day, mainly because I was so tired. I haven’t slept well this week. On Wednesday I also ended up walking home from work for an hour in the cold (because of transport issues, not out of choice). I didn’t feel much like running after that.

On Thursday, I managed to squeeze in a tempo run after work. It was a lot milder than it has been (today is positively springlike). I was apprehensive about doing a harder run, but it actually went well. On my last tempo run I didn’t manage to hit my preferred pace (and found it extremely hard), but on this one I did, and then some (and actually felt quite good).

My heart rate was very high, which suggests I’m not back to the fitness level I was at before I took five days off (which is a little disheartening – does it really take that short a time to lose it?!) Still, I’m glad that my cautious approach in the last few weeks seems to be paying off. My ankle/calf pain was nowhere to be found this week.

Types of run: Tuesday: Easy, although added weight made it not-that-easy; Thursday: Tempo / Average pace: Tuesday: 10:04; Thursday: 8:55, with tempo section at 8:18-8:27 / Miles run this week: 8.5

Week 7: Regaining momentum

After I had to cut short my long run at the end of Week 6, I took five days off running. What I had thought was ankle or Achilles pain actually seemed to be in my lower calf (possibly the soleus muscle). I spent a couple of days limping around and feeling sorry for myself. I also carried out the RICE method: in the evenings I lay on the sofa with my leg elevated and ice on it (or rather, an old bag of frozen peas that we keep for such occasions), and ordered some fancy compression socks.

By Wednesday, the pain was less severe. I walked home from work (which takes about an hour), hoping it would help my mood, but mostly I was annoyed by the freezing cold weather and the fact that my calf still hurt a bit. I started putting heat on it (aka a hot water bottle with a lovely fluffy cover), and also stretched and did some strength exercises.

I was feeling spectacularly cranky by Friday. I wondered if I would ever run again. I was poring over my training plan, trying to analyse what went wrong, and if I should adjust the plan for the weeks ahead. I wondered if I should run at all at the weekend.

On Saturday, I decided at the last minute that I would try and do parkrun. The temperature was below zero. I almost slipped over when I got out of the car, because the car park had become a sheet of ice. After a perilous walk over to the starting area, and joining in some celebrations for a friend’s 500th parkrun(!), I ran 5 km with 1200 or so others. There were some icy parts on the course, but marshals were around to ensure no one slipped over. I kept my pace easy. Finishing that run, and with no calf pain, boosted my mood.

I had the rest of Saturday to feel a growing apprehension about Sunday’s long run. Eventually I told myself: if you can get this done, it’ll have the effect of a much-needed mental boost.

2019-02-03 08.15.23I set out to do around 14 miles. I stayed in Bushy Park, so that I wouldn’t have the added stress of thinking about a route. It was a beautiful morning: frosty and sunny. I ran alone, with an audiobook on earphones (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in case you’re interested). The distance felt daunting to me, so I decided to split it into two sections: eight miles, then six.

This seemed to work well. Once I’d got to eight miles, I felt as if I could go on for six more, and that I even felt good enough to speed up. Although my legs were feeling tired for the last few miles, I finished strongly. I met friends for a cup of tea, feeling pleased with myself for getting that run done.

So, Week 7 involved a steep climb from the doldrums back into the heady realms of positive thinking. Today I have a sore hip, but I’m feeling more confident about going ahead with the (slightly revised) training plan, and glad that I have regained some momentum.

Miles run last week: 17.6 (3.1 on Saturday + 14.5 on Sunday)

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