And round we go again. Marathon training has just started. My target this year is Manchester on 8th April 2018, the 9th iteration of my running adventure.
For others, it’s Brighton, London, or another race of the same, longer, or shorter, distance.
The familiarity of this starting again, I find strangely exciting. Though with the blog there remains the question of what can I possibly find to write about in this 43rd entry?
Well, my key aim is to broaden its appeal, so it applies to all those tackling their own physical activity challenges. It’ll do this by demonstrating just a few of the ways that getting out there on a Sunday morning brings a range of unexpected benefits and learning about yourself that have much wider applications than just getting you physically active. The blog will also help runners push through a training programme for a future race. Cos let’s face it, this is a long time commitment and there will be times when you’re wondering just what has possessed you to get up so early on a Sunday morning.
So why give up that cosy early Sunday morning bed? Why dedicate an hour, or more, for some form of physical activity rather than doing something else?
What possesses those that do it?
What’s the pay off? Why bother?
One of the critical aspects is that the long run – ie the one run that accounts for, or will account for around 80% of the total distance / time on your feet you’ll actually experience on race day – is the most important because it conditions you to be ready for that effort. Plus it rams down your throat exactly how far the race is going to be – whatever the distance.
This is something that can be galling, even scary, for the most experienced runner. I’ve lost count of the number of times the group of long runners I’ve been with have remarked at the end of a session just how tough it had proved to be, and that we need to do at least that distance again on race day. Cue general consternation that the repeating of that pace seems impossible and a real worry about whether you’ll then be able to sustain that for the further period of time come race day.
Funnily enough, your body usually concurs.
However, you must remember that the long run training is, as I wrote previously, “focussed on having your fastest and fittest race, not the fastest and fittest training” so be prepared to expect some bumps and jolts, some good, some bad, some downright terrible experiences along the way.
Some of the training runs will be terrible, others will be downright awful, with an odd one passable, perhaps.
There is nothing to be worried about. This is all part of the learning experience that is critical for preparing for the race. As much as learning about the physical effort required to complete the activity another, if not more important, dimension is the fact that you’re battling your own internal perspective on what you can/can’t achieve, and overcoming how that feels whilst you’re doing it.
Often during the ‘long’ runs this is the biggest challenge. Just overcoming your own internal dialogue on the need to stop, or the impossibility of the task ahead, irrespective of how much more of it there is to complete, is the key training learning being taken away. Understanding that this is just internal dialogue which can at any time seem the most insurmountable thing, or most persuasive argument to stop the activity you are doing is what this training is all about. Because without any doubt, it is an internal dialogue you will experience come race day, and you need to identify your strategies for overcoming it otherwise finishing the ‘race’ will finish you.
The long run is also about testing that new kit, your fuelling regime, the breakfast routine, or the warm up/stretching routine (just what might be practical and acceptable in a spacious gym might be less so in a crowded race pen).
The key with this endeavour is trying your best to enjoy it, learn as much as you can about yourself, whilst getting better at the running at the same time.
For me, I know I’ll learn more again, strangely there’s always a few nuggets, and if you get your refuelling regime right it’ll be the right nuggets.
In the spirit of sharing, I did learn today that the race ambassador for the Manchester Marathon this year is….Vassos Alexander.
Well there’s a thing.
Wonderful t’internet tells me he’s a sports reporter on the BBC and has written a “critically acclaimed” book on marathon running. Though a review or two suggests that it hasn’t pleased everyone as one reviewer wrote:
“This was advertised on Kindle as being by Chris Evans and Vassos Alexander. In fact only the foreword is by Chris Evans which was very disappointing.”
Perhaps they won’t be rushing for autographs come race day, but then if you prep right there’s no need for you to rush either.
Bring on Vassos.