Angels with Pink Faces

A new year and a new marathon training schedule shakes itself free of Christmas gluttony and arrives blinking on a fresh January Sunday morning. However many times you’ve done this, these early January sessions are always tough…. no, hideous, as you really pay for the festive excesses even if you have managed to be ‘good’ and get out on a few trots in your Santa-provided new running kit.

These runs prove difficult because these are the early signs of the kinds of distance you’ll be needing to cover to get round the marathon come spring. Today we were set the task of completing a 15-19k route with instructions for some to increase pace steadily over the route before a 2k warm down in the last section. Clear and simple perhaps, but your body and mind generally have other ideas biting back for the ‘marathon’ of excess you have put it through for the last few weeks. It is also interesting to note how many other runners are out and there seem to be large number of ‘sorry no’ London marathon training tops about today as those unsuccessful in the London Marathon ballot (see previous blog posts – the 1st I think) flaunt their lack of ballot success trotting round past us.

This celebration of ‘failure’ or weakness soon becomes a common theme in the post-run verbal dissection as almost all of the runners today highlight their own challenges from out on the route that morning. Whether it is the toughness of hill sections, the difficulties maintaining pacing, stitch, running too fast/slow, tiredness or the ever present internal voice of doom these early runs really do zoom in on the areas of weakness you may have been trying to hide from on previous running expeditions. It is also likely that some of the same or different elements will revisit you again later on in the training cycle.

Whilst our experience of these may seem like to some (even ourselves) to be Frank Boughesque masochistic tendencies they are actually very important pointers for structuring your training for the marathon in the Spring. Understanding what is causing these and the ways in which their impact can be mitigated are important ways of moving yourself forward to get to a point where the training run could (and there are far off aliens in another universe where this has occurred) perhaps become a pleasurable experience notwithstanding the joy that is Hornsey Rise.

So you can focus on your breakfast prior to running, how well you warmed up and stretched prior to the run, what your fluid and refuelling approach was, or wasn’t, how you worked your pacing and whether you managed it with a stopwatch or GPS watch, or what kit you may have forgotten to bring.

The key here is to identify these elements, get advice on solutions and implement these in your next training runs. Yes we’re preparing for a big event covering a significant distance but that is just one race which will throw up a whole load of issues during it that are more than likely to come up in the training runs that’ll take place over the next 15-16 weeks. Yes you’re preparing for the distance, and the physical and mental effort required completing it, but it is also about all the other things that will come up.

Running through tiredness and the ‘I can’t go on anymore’ feelings, the hunger, the feeling you just can’t run up another hill, or wondering why you seem to slow down so much on hills (guilty as charged), or the big one how the hell am I going to run the longer distance come the spring.

To put this in perspective the 19k today represents less than half of the distance you’ll need to cover on marathon day. It’s twice what you did today plus another 5k to complete the 42k expected of the marathon runner.

So it’s about perseverance, stretching yourself to test what you will need to prepare for when the race arrives. Mix up your training so it’s not all about the running, a bit of core strength, perhaps some Yoga or Pilates to give your body the all-round workout it needs, cos you’re going to need it over the next weeks because of the commitment you’ve made to run that 42k.

So resolve to push yourself each training session, then it’ll be pink faces all round and an angelic glow of self-satisfaction to bask in whilst you put those tired feet up to contemplate just how many helpings of roast dinner its polite to consume post run.

Who’s counting?


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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