Knowing when to stop…how many pairs of gloves?

So the blog call has returned and has been answered.  Marathon training has started again (well at the beginning of November) and as the runs get longer, so do the opportunities to ruminate on all things running.  I write when I come across something interesting which I find useful in my own approach to training and preparation for the Marathon and I think someone else will also find useful.  This could be because it offers some inspiration to get through the 20+ weeks required to get to an April Marathon, but also to help be prepared for some of the challenges that will come when running those 26.2 miles come race day.

This time I’m training for the Brighton Marathon on Sunday 6th April 2014.  It’s a return to an old stomping ground because Brighton was my very first Marathon.  It was also the first time the Marathon took place in Brighton.  All aspects of the event have come on leaps and bounds and the size of the event and prize money are now at their highest levels ever – 16,000 entries and a winners prize of £35k.

This means that ‘London by the sea’ now boasts one of the country’s largest Marathons, but also the 2nd largest prize pot outside of London’s Marathon.  I was privileged to run London last year (see blog entries below), but I’m seriously looking forward to my Brighton return this year.

I don’t think you ever forget your first Marathon and having run the course three times before this year I know it well – despite the slight route changes since 2009 – and the promise recently made by organisers to have reduced the hills for the 2014 incarnation has given me further hope of a personal best for the course (and therefore for the Marathon).

So what’s struck a chord in these first two weeks of training?

Well, counter intuitively it’s been knowing when to stop.  When to bail out of a training run.  Engage in a walk back to the start, whilst being passed by fellow trainees/runners and then fielding the questions at the end – “did you pull up?” etc etc.

This isn’t about those times (and I’ve had them on a couple of recent runs before Marathon training started) when you just want to stop, to walk, to rest, because you feel you can’t run anymore.  Everything seems to hurt, you feel there is no further effort you can give, and you succumb to this to stop and switch from running to walking.

What I’m talking about is different.  Very different.  You want to continue.  The run is going well.  You feel relatively in control, progress is being made, and you want to finish.  You even feel you could get a good time for the distance you’re aiming to cover.

Yet what is different is something perceptibly different.  An alternative set of messages your body is giving you about what is going on.  The trouble is these can easily be ignored, pushed aside as something ‘you can run through’.  “It’ll go away in a bit if I keep going. This is going well, I don’t want to stop.

I’ve written before about how the inner dialogue whilst running is something which comes to the fore usually in an effort to bring you to a grinding halt, to make you stop because it’s all hurting too much, there’s unfamiliar niggles/tweaks/grumbles (even all three all at the same time) – we’ve all heard it, and responded to it.  What’s interesting here is that it’s the complete opposite of these messages that you respond to by stopping ie. the dialogue is telling you to continue, but the best course of action is to stop.  So what was happening here?

The run was one involving some of our local hills (going round the ‘triangle’ (Priory Road, Park Road, Tottenham Lane) then up Uplands Road, twice, – brutal hill – and then round the ‘triangle’ again, with a chance to do a third Uplands ‘if you wanted!’.)  Euphemistically called the ‘sandwich run’, I was on a roll with this.  A smooth start and a good pace for the first lap I was going well when starting the descent to the bottom of the first climb.  By two thirds of the way uphill it was hurting in that serious effort, hard work kind of way.  However, in the final third a sharpish pain in my calf materialised, that got sharper on the way up even as I reached the top.

Here, turning round to complete the ‘recovery’ descent before beginning another climb I thought to myself “I can run through this, that’s what I’m telling myself…if I keep going I’ll be able to run it off”.

This dialogue continued as I began the second climb, but the sharp pain continued and woke me up to the fact that I would suffer far more, for longer if I continued a clear warning I risked an injured calf should I ‘run through it’, seek to ‘run it off’.

So 20 metres into the second climb I pulled up and walked back.  For this sandwich run, the meaty filling had got me.  I was annoyed and frustrated  as up to that point I was going well and had maintained a good pace, but I knew it ‘felt different’.  This was confirmed at the studio with the subsequent rolling and stretching showing some real discomfort.  However, with targeted rolling, stretching, the use of my daughter’s ‘cute’ dog hot water bottle and pyjama case – I was able to address a niggle rather than have to deal with a longer period out due to a more serious injury.

So within four days I was back out on the next long run with little effect, in spite of more wintery conditions after a positively balmy few months.  However as all winter runners know, this brings new dilemmas as the weather switches to herald rooting around to find the running gloves and hat to make the training run bearable in sub 5 degree temperatures.  And of course the reality that we put those gloves and hat away in a ‘safe place’ last spring.  This means we can’t find them and we make another purchase of gloves which immediately makes the ‘safe place’ obvious and we’re juggling three or even four pairs of gloves prior to each run.

However, we all know it’s not really that cold because our ‘only-wears-running-tights-when-its-minus-degrees’ training compadre is still wearing shorts and short sleeve shirt oblivious to our need for that additional clothing.  Maybe we need to be tougher, or are there further lessons in these discomforts, preparation for the major trials and tribulations that will come on race day?

So it is important to monitor these discomforts, weight them up, and know when to stop.


About Simon Tanner

Eight time marathon runner, having run Brighton x6 and London x2, finally got a London ballot place after 7 consecutive attempts. I try to write about things I'm going through / have gone through in training to help others attain their running goals, whatever the distance.
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One Response to Knowing when to stop…how many pairs of gloves?

  1. Denise says:

    Always great to read your blog Simon. It will be interesting to see how the inner dialogue goes over the next 20 weeks. Good luck. Am a bit gutted not to be joining you all this year. But there will be another I feel.

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