I always get a little restless in the build up to the start of something – I just want to get going straightaway. This is definitely the case with me and marathon training. I always meticulously plan each run- the where, the when, the kit, the playlist – for at least the first week as I like to feel like I’m starting on the right marathon running foot.
This hasn’t happened. However, I can’t pretend I regret the reasons why – a trip to Foligno in central Italy followed by a long weekend in Scotland to celebrate my Sister’s 21st. At least I definitely nailed the carb loading in Italy…I’ve roughly followed my schedule, but have made a few substitutions here and there.
In previous years I have at this stage launched into a summary of what my training included, with a breakdown of distance, pace etc. I might still do this from time to time, but I’ve generally speaking decided against this this year. In fact, I haven’t used FitSnap or posted a picture of my pace or Garmin since last July. There’s nothing wrong with sharing this information with people – mine is still out there by the very nature of Garmin Connect – but I had slipped into the bad habit of thinking that I had something to prove with each run. I was defining the success of my runs by how I compared to other people and my previous posts. I am a grown woman with a job and two GFA marathon times under my belt – the fact that I felt this way was clearly bonkers.
So, what I’m going to do instead is talk about my runs and describe what they were like. This means I’m instead going to be boring you all with details like I did 3.5 miles with my boyfriend in 32 MPH winds and thought I was going to be blown away, whereas in reality I just looked so minging I’m lucky I wasn’t dumped on the spot. Or I managed to go for a 4 mile steady run in Italy by myself without getting lost and instead just felt really great and comfortable – the gratuitous levels of pasta may have had something to do with that though.
The run I want to talk about this week is my long run as it was the one I enjoyed the most. It was 13 km (8 miles) at easy pace and I did three laps of Clapham Common plus a leg home and back. I also did it in the dark, having been celebrating the night before and after spending six hours on a train. Compared to running on the Chariots of Fire beach (West Sands, St Andrews), through olive groves in Foligno and with the NRC down at Mile End Stadium, this is not a particularly exciting or exhilarating run. However, it felt great. I managed to hit my easy pace and target heart rate pretty much bang on. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but running more slowly properly can be as hard as running faster. I also ran it without any music or even a podcast. It really felt like it was just me and the road (and reflective clothing and numerous lamp-posts – if you run in the dark by yourself then do it only if you don’t have another option, and if people know where you are and how long you will be, in a well lit area and in reflective clothing), and it felt good. A world away from negative splits, medals, PBs and energy gels – just running. If you feel a little exhausted and weary of what you’re doing, feeling like you need to push faster, bored of your playlists and constantly searching for better stimulus, then from time to time it’s good to stop, unplug and run to feel. I once read that listening to music in a stressful environment doesn’t distract you, but actually reduces your sense of personal space i.e. the distance away you can handle from being from you is shorter. This is definitely what I have found since I went music-free in the London Marathon last year. I thought listening to music would distract me from physical pain, but it actually just seemed to contain all the pain and negative thoughts that you get during a marathon within me. It focussed them rather than distracted from them. I still run with music from time to time, but I haven’t raced it with since March. It’s hard to make that break, but it’s been one of the best running decisions I’ve made.
I’m still interested in pushing myself and running PBs, but I want my race times to hopefully speak on my behalf. To this end, having run two marathons now I now feel like I’m in a better position to set an informed goal. This year I want to get a BQ (I’m currently 28 tantalising seconds off one) but my goal is to get as close to 3:30 as possible.
15 weeks to go until Edinburgh…