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 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

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

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

 

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

Week 6, run 1: Not a morning person

This week is a stressful one for various reasons. I sometimes find it challenging to fit my weekday running around other commitments, especially as my other commitments are rigid, and especially in winter, when it is usually dark at the times I have available to run. I would love to have a more flexible schedule, and, partly thanks to running, I’m starting to think more seriously about how I can achieve that.

Anyway. As my weekday runs for marathon training have become longer and more challenging, I’ve been thinking about how I can mix it up, such as with different routes and running at different times. There is a running track near where I work. I haven’t used it yet, as I find it difficult to get away from my conviction that it is for proper runners, and I am not one. However, it would be useful to do a weekday speed session there, as I could just go over straight after work, and not have to worry about an early morning or late evening run. And, of course, a track is a perfect setting for speed work.

I was planning to be brave and use the track this week, but because of other things going on, I’ve changed my plans a little. Today is usually a speed day, but I swapped it with tomorrow’s slow run. I ran early this morning, as I saw that sleet is forecast for this evening. Although it was dark and very cold, I appreciated the peacefulness of the streets, and I felt energised after running at a gentle recovery pace.

When I run in the early morning, I always enjoy it and tell myself I should do it more, even though I see myself as not-a-morning-person. I don’t have a lot of time in the mornings and it takes me a while after waking up to become human, so I often leave running to the evening. This is okay, but my motivation to run usually declines as the day goes on, and it does involve some effort to get out of the door again once I’ve arrived home.

Anyway, week 6, run 1 is done. And, as I suggested in my last post, I am feeling a little better today than I was yesterday (and running definitely helped with this).

Miles run today: 4.3 / Type of run: Recovery / Average pace: 10:16 minute-miles / Miles run this week: 4.3