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 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 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 10 & 11 of marathon training: Recovery, race, recovery

Once again, another week has passed without an update. I’ve ticked off three more runs since last Wednesday, so I suppose I’ve just been getting on with it rather than stopping to analyse, which I think is a good thing.

Saturday’s run was a very easy 20 minutes around the block. I had treated myself to a lie-in, rather than my usual Saturday morning routine of going to parkrun. Turned out this was a good call. I realised just how much of my time lately has been taken up with running and related socialising. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I do need my alone time.

I definitely felt the benefits of an extra bit of rest, especially as on Sunday, I was running the Thorpe and Egham Half Marathon, along with S. and a group of friends. It was an early start: S. and I picked up two friends at 7.15am, and then went on to another friend’s house, where we arranged ourselves into three cars and drove to a car park about ten minutes’ walk from the race event village.

It was a really beautiful day: a bright, frosty morning, followed by blue skies and blazing sun. It was perfect running weather. I hadn’t really decided what sort of run I wanted to do – I had been so focused on the marathon that I hadn’t really thought about this race. In the training plan that I am sort-of-but-not-really following, it did say to aim for a fast half marathon in time of less than 1 hour 50 minutes. I wasn’t sure I was quite at that standard, but I did vaguely think I might be able to do around 1:51-1:52 – which would be a half marathon PB for me, by around four minutes.

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Not very far into the race – still smiling.

I set off a little too fast (getting carried away by the race adrenaline as usual), but reined myself in and slowed down to about an 8:30-8:40 pace. This felt fairly comfortable, so I stuck at that. Although the course was hillier than I had expected, and I did feel a bit tired at times, I managed to hold my pace until the end – something I hadn’t managed to achieve before in a half marathon (I have always slowed down in the last few miles). The big timer showed 1:53:56 when I crossed the finish line. I was very pleased with that – and even more pleased to learn that my chip time was 1:52:43.

I collected a pile of post-race goodies – medal, yellow t-shirt, flapjack, etc. – and joined 52647429_10158237798678047_4814764673616314368_nthe rest of the group for stretching, photos, and then lunch at an Italian restaurant. There were several PBs to celebrate, and it was also a friend’s birthday. All in all, a good team day out.

My legs felt quite sore on Monday (and still do now) so I was glad to have a rest day. Yesterday I went for a very easy four-mile run. A speed workout was on the plan, but my legs still weren’t up to much more than recovery pace, and I was okay with that. Tonight I need to do some proper stretching (and maybe foam rolling – eek) before the next batch of training runs.

39 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 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 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 8, run 1: One day at a time

I had an unexpected day at home yesterday. I used the opportunity to go for a run at lunchtime. The skies were grey and there was a chilly wind blowing. My mood wasn’t great, either, but I thought a run might help.

The first mile or so was fine, but I seemed to be riddled with indecision about what route to take. On the Strava GPS record of my run, there are a few comical squiggly lines where I started running one way, then turned back.

I ended up doing a tried-and-tested 5 km loop into Bushy Park and back. When I got into the park, my ankle/calf/soleus pain returned. This was confusing and disheartening, as over the weekend I’d run more than 17 miles with no issues at all. I stopped a few times to stretch my calf and make circles with my ankle. The pain then eased off; but returned again after running for a few minutes. Rinse, repeat.

As the pain eased off with stretching, I’m inclined to think it was caused by not stretching enough pre-run. I’m going to go with that, rather than risk sinking back into despair and taking several days off running again. Today, rather than running, I’ll stick to walking and stretching; and then tomorrow, I’ll try another run and see how that goes. One day at a time.

Miles run yesterday: 3.3 / Type of run: Easy / Average pace: 9:47 / Miles run this week: 3.3