I got lots of advice from people before marathon training started. Advice from the uninitiated was tainted by concern for my mental health (Is there something missing in your life? Do you need more friends? Do you want me to take you to the pub?) but they were generally supportive.
Advice from running friends on the other hand was tainted by experience (Make sure you get lots of sleep – you’ll really need sleep to recover. What’s the course elevation profile like? Make sure you run your MP runs on similar terrain. Are you doing yoga yet? Pilates? Yogalates? Er… I just drank a latte… That won’t help your core.)
On the whole though, my running friends have been hugely supportive. It’s a big jump – half marathon to marathon – with a lot of runners agreeing that the marathon is more than just running two half marathons, both physically and mentally. Having built up endurance over my 3 years of running I was finally able to enter a half marathon this year and aim for speed rather than simply finishing, but training for this marathon feels like I’m a beginner all over again. As my long runs increase each one is my longest ever run, and as my mileage hikes up, each week is my highest ever mileage week. The accumulative effect that this increasing intensity has on my overall performance can’t be ignored – I’m freakin’ tired!
Of all the advice that I was given before training, there is one message that I received over and over again from running friends and from readers of this humble blog:
The training is the hardest part of the marathon experience.
I assume that the bearers of this advice do not for a moment mean to imply that running a marathon isn’t hard, but instead that the challenges lying within training are very different to the challenges that lie within the race itself and both are proper tough.
I’m starting to believe them.
My legs are so tired that holding tempo pace for 6 miles seems impossible and workouts I completed with ease in the Spring now feel like a real slog. I’m being sensible though and I’m focusing on even splits and perceived effort rather than being a slave to the GPS data bleeping at me. After all, on marathon day it’s just going to be me and my legs getting through it, so we may as well start co-operating now! Also, I’m allowing myself a little bit of slack as temperatures in London sky rocketed to the sweaty heights of 30 degrees – I love the sunshine, but I suck at running in it!
Anyway, marathon musings aside, this week’s training has actually been pretty successful and I had 3 Kapow Moments during separate, but awesome, training sessions. Don’t get me wrong the hard sessions have been hard, but they were totally worth it.
Monday: Mile relay race
There are some little known races in Battersea Park, South London, organised by the Sri Chinmoy club, that have a great reputation for being well run, small, fun and cheap. I had never got my arse into gear in time to attend one before, but one of my clubmates wanted to enter a team into their 3 x mile relay and as runners pulled out one by one with injuries and work commitments I knew I had to step up. After all, it’s not like I’m busy at the moment, is it?! (Less regular readers may not be aware of my, ahem… precarious employment status at present. My days are mostly spent writing job applications and running.)
I was actually pretty excited about the race. Marathon training monotony had set in and an all-guns-blazing dash in the park seemed like a fun idea. Also, as it was the day after my cycle ride to Whitstable it seemed far preferable to the 5 miles I had scheduled (don’t worry, I shuffled the schedule around… You thought I’d skip it, didn’t you? Oh, ye of little faith).
I’ve never run a mile race before and I had no idea how to approach it, so I went for a good, old-fashioned run fast and hang the fuck in there approach. I think I kind of hung in there. A couple of people over took me on my leg (second), but after the half way point the distance between us didn’t increase, so I guess I managed to stay quite steady. It was hard though – my knees didn’t seem to want to lift and my chest felt like it would burst! I have never felt pain in my lungs quite like it and it remained for a good 5 minutes after the race!
I was the slowest in my team, but that wasn’t a surprise because my two teammates are both cracking sportswomen with sub-45min 10K PBs. We still managed to claim 3rd place women’s team though, and I was very chuffed with my time of 6:39.
Tuesday: MP run and strength training
I had originally planned to run my MP runs with my club, but I decided to start running them alone so that I could concentrate better instead. I took an adventure route (i.e. I ventured into unknown parts of North London, just about avoided getting lost by following road signs near the North Circular and discovered a whole new route to Muswell Hill from Haringey) that was full of hills and bumps and with only a few road crossings. It took a couple of miles to settle into Dream Goal Marathon Pace (9:00/mile – this is subject to change), but once I found it I had my first Kapow Moment of the week. It was definitely a run, not a jog, and I was in there and feeling good. Some of my mile splits came in at over 10:00/mile, but I ignored the GPS bleeping at me as I conquered hills and made up time on the descents, finishing with an average pace of 9:05/mile. KAPOW!
Wednesday: Tempo run
(Planned 5 miles, dragged my sorry ass through 4 of them)
I didn’t feel too stiff or heavy when I set off, but something just felt awful about this run. I was 15 seconds/mile over target pace the whole way and by the time I bagged the fourth mile I had nothing left. It was an early, pre-breakfast run that I completed easily during half marathon training, but this week it was big, fat fail.
Thursday: Long run
It’s hard to not get bummed out by a bad run, isn’t it? I’ll admit that I dragged my heels a little in the morning before my long run. I think I would have sooner not gone than had another crappy experience, but I managed to suppress the little voices that say no and hit the road. And it was worth it.
After a series of long runs on the flat I decided to take on the hills and headed North into Enfield, looping through Hampstead Heath and finishing with a spontaneous mile at 8:45/mile – 15 seconds/mile faster than DGMP (Dream Goal Marathon Pace – still subject to change).
That’s how to stick it to a crappy tempo run, Red Head styleee…
Friday: Rest day and NTC workout
My knees were creaking. I did an NTC workout at home and a lot of stretching.
Saturday: Tempo run
No breakfast, soaring temperatures and 3 miles at tempo pace (I actually hit it this time) made for a very uncomfortable run. I’m pretty sure those gunning it at the front felt worse though!
I spent the afternoon watching the British Championship athletics and cheering runners from local clubs (go Enfield and Haringey!!) much to my housemates’ amusement. I also spotted a fake Chaser vest in the men’s 1500m – what club dares copy our stripes??!
I received an unexpected text message in the afternoon from a dear college friend. Me and my college friends are now scattered across the country, and a few are even scattered across the world, so when one found her way to London for a family shindig everything was put on hold for a night in the local.
Sunday: Hill running
(3 x 8 minutes continuous hill running; 3 minutes rest)
It turns out I can’t hold my drink anymore. I only had 4 pints, but woke up at 5.30am with a pounding head. Let’s put that down to the heat and dehydration though…
A couple of hours later (and several pints of water) I hit my local hill for this badass workout. There was not one part of it that I enjoyed, but that’s probably got more to do with the hangover than anything. No kapow, but I stuck at it and actually kind of surprised myself.
How has your week’s training gone? Are you enjoying the sunshine, or have you taken to running at night to avoid it? I might be joining you…