The Aftermarathon

The title of this post is taken from The Competitive Runner’s Handbook. I bought a second hand copy of this recently and have been dipping in and out and enjoying how thorough and level-headed it is. My other half, S., made fun of me having a dated-looking book on the bedside table (it was published in 1999), but little does he know that the principles in it are timeless. In fact, most of the more recent articles I read online seem to be based on foundations from this book. So there.

It’s just over three weeks since I ran Abingdon Marathon, so technically I’m still in the Aftermarathon phase (the handbook suggests that you shouldn’t race again for four weeks after doing a marathon). I’ve actually run quite a lot in the last few weeks. I took five whole days off running after the marathon, even though I didn’t feel too bad. I then did a pretty good parkrun on the Saturday, and a pretty bad four-mile run the day after that.

As well as a few easy-ish mid-week runs in the 3-6 mile range, I also took part in the Winter Ballbuster duathlon on Box Hill, Surrey, as part of a relay team. Unfortunately the event was called off after the first run because of awful weather (there were very strong winds and it would have been too dangerous to cycle).

However, I was doing the first run and I was allowed to finish. It was eight miles, with much of the first half downhill, and the last few miles very much uphill. I was pleased that while I wasn’t fast, I kept a nice steady pace throughout and made it up the hill despite the slashing rain and gusty winds.

This weekend just gone, I was away in Manchester for a friend’s wedding. S. and I managed to squeeze in a parkrun on Saturday morning. We ran there and back for a total of 11 miles. The parkrun itself wasn’t that enjoyable because it was very crowded in the first mile, and because of deep mud and puddles (hi, winter running!). Still, I’m glad that we got the run in and we had a really nice breakfast at the hotel afterwards and a lovely time at the wedding.

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Delicious post-run breakfast 🙂

I’m starting to feel impatient about getting back into running. I’m going to try and do some speed running this week, but will ease myself in gently. I’m looking forward to having the energy to do more tempo and speed runs now that I don’t have to do 16+ mile runs every week. Here’s to not marathon training! Cheers *raises teacup*.

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