Wednesday night is running club night – tempo run over 8k with 5k in the middle at 30 seconds faster than your 10k pace. I had a nightmare, bringing my long run of great runs to a shuddering halt. I bailed out about half way deciding to miss out the main tempo section and continue a slow run back. Why?
It all seemed too much, no power in the legs, a stuttering, stiff start to the run which didn’t pass at all. Wallop, back into that realm where the running is less than a pleasure, a pure struggle from beginning to end. This upset me after being on a roll for so long, it was a big shock. Despite what anybody said to me about diet, lack of sleep, doing too much I couldn’t get away from the fact that I HADN’T COMPLETED WHAT I SET OUT TO DO.
Walking back from the club I noticed how different I felt – real tiredness despite my belief I hadn’t really put too much effort in, and a wonder why I had bothered at all. What had I gained, if anything, by getting out there? This was how my self-perception of failure really played on my mind.
On the walk back all I seemed to see around me was runners everywhere. All of them seemingly gliding around, smooth as silk. Almost all doing some kind of Ali shuffle past me as they mocked me and my lack of capability that evening. I think everyone gets this. If you’ve run well you notice that that other runner could do with getting their knees up a bit more, not sure how they run in those trainers blah blah blah. A bad run? It’s completely different – look at them and how fast they are going, they’d leave me standing, I’m so unfit and why does everything hurt?
Wednesday evening was frustrating, beyond belief, but also a lesson to learn. Too much going on since running 23 miles at the weekend, plus Easter DIY, and a tough reassessment on Tuesday – phew even I feel tired after writing all that. This is also especially important in these weeks as we enter the taper period where it is important to reduce your mileage to allow as much recovery as possible so you’re in the best shape possible come race day. A longer version of an article on this (originally identified by Kevin Chamberlain) is great on the importance of this and you can read it here. However, what the article also outlines is how you are focussed on not losing the ‘edge’ you’ve built up in these last weeks of training, but at the same time being aware that doing too much in the taper can be seriously detrimental to your chances come race day. A vitally important balance to achieve.
So maybe Wednesday was my body also telling me to ease down and I do have to tone my excitement down about the long runs which I still get giddy about. The last long run is coming soon for me, on the 21st April, for others Brighton on 14th, Manchester on 28th April and these are the ones I know about. So good luck to all those I haven’t mentioned yet.
So where are we since my first blog on 26th October?
Yes it has been that long, and this is the 12 blog I’ve written in that time. Why not reprise the others I’ve written to see if there’s any further inspiration to take from what’s there? Alternatively maybe it’s put you off and you never want to read these things again.
Since 26th October, I’ve completed over 54 training runs (accounting for the watch being left at home or being uncharged) covering a total distance in excess of 724km. That’s far enough to get to Hamburg, Germany. In fact it felt like I was running there on Wednesday night, Vorsprung Durch Technik it was not.
I’ve learnt a tremendous amount in that time even though this is the fourth time I’ve trained for a marathon. In particular, how it does take a long time for your body to get used to what you want to put it through and how much your mind will fight your wishes. How difficult it is to come back from injury and again how those old ‘scars’ will reawaken your own fears that a return to being injured could be imminent.
More recently, it is also a worry that the Wednesday night experience could be repeated. That despite all this training I won’t get anywhere near my target time because I’ve lost that ‘edge’ I had before the ‘bad run’ on Wednesday night. This constant self-awareness of your own failings and fallibility is something which seems to dominate all my sporting endeavours.
In cricket, my batting has always been undermined by my own doubt in my own abilities to score lots of runs (though to be fair the scorecard very rarely lies) but what it is that is undoing me is the lack of self-belief in what I can achieve with application and hard work (an interesting parallel between two apparently unrelated sports: cricket and long distance running). This is where I’d got to before Wednesday and it was what drove me on the final tempo section of the long run last Sunday. I felt confident I could push on from 22km to complete that final section at race pace and that was what I managed, but that has only come after many weeks of training (23 weeks to be precise).
Despite this, it is amazing how fragile that new found confidence is and that after just one poor run I’m again doubting that I can complete this in my target time, all on the flimsiest of evidence. Yes it’ll be a challenge, but I’ve done much of the legwork despite being injured and ill around Christmas and New Year and I’m still here getting ready, after a short rest, to do another 19k on Sunday to get me beyond the 724km already banked and leave Hamburg behind me.
Physically it can be achieved. I know that because I’ve been in a similar position before but after a far shorter period of sustained training for both the last two marathons and still achieved personal bests, both times.
This time is different again with a longer training lead in to get me where I am today – ready for a Marathon in my home city, willing it to come along but somehow a little nervous that the training is going to finish and that what I have achieved so far is not all real. On the day there will be big crowds, many more runners than I’ve raced with before, perhaps the biggest race I’ll ever run in. But still there’s a little nagging doubt, cos I’m always one run from a bad one. All based on ONE bad experience.
But I know now that’s just that internal voice again – louder than ever – trying its best to persuade me that this is not the best thing I should be doing now and wouldn’t just a nice sit down (with that bizarre accompanying sigh that only seems to come on as you reach middle age) be a better thing to do.
Well no it’s not. I’ve thought about this for too long to not do my dammed best to get that target time, 3hrs 30mins. It’s in reach, despite recent tribulations and worries over race packs and paperwork, so I’m going for it. The bad run is done, now for the best taper possible and the best race I can deliver. Yours is there too, so keep the focus.
Onwards to race day…