Week 13: Longest run and the taper begins

I finished off my running last week (Week 13 of marathon training) with a very short, easy run on Friday evening, and then a long run on Saturday morning. Friday’s run was good – I felt a lot better than I had on Thursday’s tempo/speed effort.

Saturday’s run involved an early start. I had to be out of bed by about 5.15am so that I’d have enough time to get everything ready and be running by 6am. To say it was difficult to get up is an understatement; but I managed it. I did leave the house five minutes or so later than intended.

My run started off tentatively. I had ankle pain again, and was worried that it was going to get so bad that I’d have to stop running. For the first mile or so I did a walk/run, which seemed to ease up the ankle a bit. Although the pain didn’t go away, it didn’t get worse, so I was able to complete my run.

I stayed in Bushy Park again. It was still very windy, and also rained a bit. I managed to keep up an easy but steady pace. I felt daunted by the distance, as it was going to be my longest run ever; but I tried a tactic of breaking it down into parkruns – so every 5km (3.1 miles), I would mark the time by taking a gel or drinking water, and then start the next 3.1 miles. This seemed to work well.

I got to the parkrun start for 9am, which I was pleased about, as I’d thought I was going to be late. I had done 17 miles at that point. I kept up my pace for (a very windy) parkrun, even increasing to 9-minute miles by the end. I stopped my watch at 20.1 miles, feeling tired but good. I never thought I’d be able to handle doing long runs three weeks in a row (I did 18 miles last weekend and the one before), but marathon training is definitely teaching me a lot about the amazing adaptability of the human body.

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Me with S, feeling pleased after we both ran 20 miles (separately).

I’m having a couple of days of rest now. My ankle is still sore, but I’m hoping that some stretching and strength exercises will help (and foam rolling, if I can bring myself to do it). I am glad that it’s now taper time and that all my runs from now until the Big Day are shorter ones. I might try and get in some faster paces too, ankle permitting.

20 days to go!!

Week 12 of marathon training: a windy week

It was very windy here last week, and it shows no signs of letting up at the moment. This has made running a lot harder. I haven’t attempted any of my Week 13 runs yet.  I’m very tempted to leave them until the wind dies down, even though that may not be until next week. I need to find some motivation from somewhere!

Last week I managed two mid-week runs – an easy 30 minutes on Tuesday and a tempo run on Thursday. Just like when I last updated, I’ve left it too long to remember much about these runs, but I think the ‘easy’ 30 minutes was actually pretty hard as I was still recovering from an 18-mile run two days before.

The tempo run was also hard, because of the weather, but also because I was tired and weary. I got up early and ran before work (always a challenge for me, but usually worth it!). I ran through Bushy Park – one mile to warm up, two miles at tempo pace, and then just short of a mile to cool down. The wind was pretty strong and I was running against it for some long stretches. The flat landscape of the park is beautiful, but also very exposed. This meant, anyway, that my pace was not as quick as I wanted it to be. Still, it was good to get another fairly decent run in the bag.

Saturday was parkrun day. I don’t remember it being that windy during the run, but it definitely was at the finish, as I remember standing around in it (and wanting to be somewhere warm instead!) The run itself was a pretty good one. I felt lacking in energy at first; but warmed up by around halfway and was able to do a strong finish.

My official time was 25:37 – exactly the same as last week. This meant that I gained the Groundhog Day badge for parkrun challenges (running the same time at the same parkrun location on two consecutive parkruns). Parkrun challenges is just a fun way to add a bit more interest to the weekly run (although some people do take it quite seriously!). There are loads of challenges, from running at parkruns beginning with all the letters of the alphabet, to running more than 100 runs in different locations (a.k.a. parkrun tourism).

Sunday’s run was a long one. I was planning to do around 20-21 miles as part of an informal event called Not the London Marathon, which was started 11 years ago as a way for runners to add some variety to their marathon training. It involves running laps of the old Bushy parkrun course, as many times as you want.

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Despite the wind, there was a good turnout for Not the London Marathon.

The plan is usually to have a picnic afterwards, but the weather has often prevented that. Last year there was snow and ice; another year it was hailstones. This year it was, of course, the wind. It was gusty to start with, but it was still possible to run and keep up a steady-ish pace. By the time I’d reached my sixth lap, though, the wind was incredibly strong, and I gave up trying to battle against it and had to walk a bit. I finished my run at 18.7 miles, which I was pleased with in those conditions. The park was actually closed for the rest of the day because of the risk of falling trees.

I had a sore hip during the run and it’s still not quite right now, so I’m going to try and be diligent about stretching and strength exercises this week (and maybe try and force myself out into the awful weather this evening to try a very gentle run).

26 days to go! (Wow.)

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!

Weeks 9 & 10 of marathon training: Update

Somehow it’s Wednesday and Week 10 of marathon training already, and I haven’t written about the last two runs of Week 9 yet. I hope the next six weeks don’t go so quickly. I feel like I still have a lot of training to squeeze in!

On Saturday I decided to get up early and get my long run out of the way. This wasn’t too difficult as I was wide awake at 4am. I’m not sure why – excitement about running, maybe?!

2019-02-16 06.34.04I left the house at 6.45, and ran to Bushy Park. It was lovely and quiet – practically empty, apart from a couple of dog-walkers. I ran one lap of the park fairly slowly (which works out at about 7 miles, when I run from home) and then a slightly shorter lap (about 6 miles), and arrived at the parkrun start a few minutes early. Not wanting to break up the run, I did a few laps back and forth alongside the Diana Fountain. When everyone set off, I joined in at the back of the pack.

I was feeling tired by then, but quite strong, and managed to pick up my pace to run parkrun at roughly marathon pace (dream marathon pace, anyway). When I stopped my watch at the finish line, I had run 16.4 miles – my longest run ever. I felt a little emotional, I think because I believed, perhaps for the first time, that I could actually run a marathon.

On Sunday, after Saturday’s efforts, I thought I would just do about 30 minutes around the block at a very easy pace. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I was glad to get out, but it became clear very quickly that my legs were very heavy and I was only going to do about 20 minutes (one lap of the block).

I plodded around and then went home and got ready to go for a pub lunch in Ashtead, where I was meeting S. and a load of running friends, many of whom were running to the pub from various different locations. We worked out that we ran a collective total of at least 154 miles on Sunday (although I brought the total down by cheating and getting my long run out of the way on Saturday).

Phew. So those were the final runs of Week 9. Yesterday evening I forced myself back out after getting home from work to do the first run of Week 10 – mile intervals. I was supposed to do these earlier in the training plan, but had ended up substituting it for something else.

This was my first attempt at mile intervals, and although it was hard and I pushed myself, I actually enjoyed it! I especially enjoyed the 400m cool-down between each interval, something you don’t get in a tempo run. I did three intervals and managed to do each mile at a faster pace than the last one.

I still have occasional pain in my ankle/calf and also my other calf, now, so I still need to be a bit careful; but generally, I feel strong and ready to tackle this last stretch. 46 days to go!

Miles run at the weekend: 18.4 / Types of run: Long and slow on Saturday; Short recovery on Sunday / Average pace: Saturday: 9:52-minute miles; Sunday: 10:48

Miles run yesterday: 5.4 / Type of run: Mile intervals / Average pace: 9:01 (with mile sections at 7:42-8:09) / Miles run this week: 5.4

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 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 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