As ever more ludicrous Black Friday offers peppered my inbox, the end of the first week of official long run training was coming to an end. With it was the beginning of a further cycle of months of effort to prepare this body and mind for my target long run – the Brighton Marathon on 9th April 2016, only 19 weeks away.
What is it that will be experienced in those weeks of preparation, and what inevitable changes will it bring?
The first thing to appreciate is the obsession your running training will become. Whether you enjoy it, or not, the whole process of long run training will bring some kind of obsessive focus upon how your weekly programme of training, particularly the long runs, will fit into your regular life and what planning and project management will be required to make that fit happen. It is likely that your obsession will come to dominate the planning of your life ensuring a focus around often fitting your life around the training schedule you are working to. So Saturday nights will often be tinged with the need to be prepared for your long run on Sunday and the fact that may well curtail party attendance or alcohol quaffing. It’s also the case that slowly but surely you’ll start planning your meals around these long runs so that you’re putting in the right fuels. Trouble is you’ll often find a combination that supports a longer run on a Sunday and then seek to stick to that, so the meals become rather samey but you feel well set for your long run whilst others in your family get crushed by the tedium of yet another Spaghetti Bolognese for Saturday evening meal. This will then extend to your breakfast routine pre-race as all the ‘books’ on marathon training reiterate the importance of trying out your planned race day routine during your training so as to avoid any stomach related nasty surprises come race day. Whilst perfectly sensible, this is another part of the obsession and you can see how it starts to become ever more pervasive.
A big change will also come in the stuff you do whilst lying down in your lounge. Pre training much of this lying down will have involved the TV and not much else. Now you will be making space for new ‘tools of the trade’ involving a foam roller, variety of balls, yoga mat, a large rubber band, a range of diagrams on stretching routines, articles on injury prevention and strengthening routines, running magazines, running kit catalogues, running shoe brochures – you get the picture.
Now you’ll be spending vast amounts of time rolling, stretching, manipulating, rubbing, sighing, panting, moaning, gasping and getting in the way of the telly (“You’re not made of glass”) in the pursuit of relief from the aches and pains that will inevitably follow your descent into an obsessive. You will wonder why you didn’t do this before, marvel at how much time it all seems to take, and how you possibly can fit it into your busy life, and how it does feel worse if you don’t do it, but if it just didn’t take up so much time it would be so much better. Doing all the above in front of the telly will also radically alter your TV viewing habits as some kinds of programmes are eminently suitable for prone watching – cooking, wildlife, quiz shows; whilst others are clearly not, particularly anything involving subtitles and especially Scando-Noir involving grisly murder, as key moments will often coincide with manoeuvres designed to bring relief, but also ensure the key subtitles are not within line of sight. Leading to increasingly fraught exchanges along the lines of:
“What did he say?”
“It was on the screen”
“I couldn’t see it as it says here I’ve got to get my knee here and my thigh there so I was facing the wrong way”
“Ok” through gritted teeth, “So he said why do you live in the caravan in the forest on your own and the other women said it was because it used to be owned by her grandfather before the terrible tractor accident that her family still blame on the local Doctor.”
“Ah ok, and why is he carrying the plastic sheeting again……oooooooo that hamstring is tight but I’ve got this great new stretch now and I can feel it easing. Isn’t the telly a bit loud now?”
Your living abode will become a kit breeding centre. One or two tops and shorts, and a few pairs of running socks will begin multiplying, evolving into a range of different varieties of the same item, long sleeve, short sleeve, three quarter length sleeve, hi-vis, zippy, no zip, compression, hooded, gloves, hats, warm tops, very warm tops, pre and post-race tops, training kit, race kit, new running shoes.
Kit whoredom beckons as will the identification of a drawer or cupboard specifically for the kit. Laundry routines will be peppered with a range of items of technical clothing, whilst shoe storage will being to be overrun but new and older running shoes alike.
Obsessive purchase of the right running shoes will also enter the lexicon. You’ll become obsessed by their fit, the level of cushioning, do the colour match your running kit, how long before you should replace them, what’s the best way to tie the damn things, can I ‘lock’ my foot into them, how much do they weigh, and even, will they make me run faster?
In-run refuelling options will become part of your vocabulary. Gels, shotbloks, with caffeine, without caffeine, all in a variety of over designed pouches will be picked up by your running obsessive radar. Hydration is critical, but is again delivered in a variety of ways and you’ll find yourself agonising over hand-held bottle options, or hydration pouches carried in small specifically designed rucksacks with tubes and demand release valves, and other bits of plastic that drop off at a moment’s notice. Plain water, a pinch of salt, other ‘electrolytes’, other concoctions to fill it with. To use in training and nowhere else, or take with you on race day? All further queries to be posed to yourself as the training progresses.
Then there is the running watch options…..
And then the look on your loved one’s faces as they see your obsession over take you, seeing the kit multiply, stretching their necks to see the TV, ignoring the cries “yes that’s the spot, what a stretch”, to ask “and what’s for tea on Saturday?”