Tentative Steps

My foot is getting better day by day, but not quite as quickly as I would like it to.  I would be happy if this marathon was another month or two away, rather than next week.  I have got so out of the habit of running that I am actually starting to get used to not doing it.  Being lazier isn’t much fun, however, and it all reminds me of why I went running in the first place.  Now it is hard to motivate myself to do just a few miles, and I don’t know how I am ever going to run 26 of them.  I guess it is a normal part of maranoia to feel a bit unhealthy, but I really haven’t been very good with regards to that since the training regime fell apart.  It is too late to train now and I might benefit from having a decent rest.  The one thing that has cheered me up is that, the way things are going, I am hopeful that I will at least be able to get round.

Week 13 – 13 miles

I didn’t want to wait anymore to be able to run again so I put every effort into getting well enough to do so.  I rolled a frozen water bottle under the foot and stretched the calf as much as I could.  I stuck with the weekly routine of physio and needling.  The podiatrist raised the question of there being something different to plantar fasciitis when I told her about all my cracking and popping sensations and the location of the pain.  She said it could be bursitis instead.  I wondered if it was plantar but there was something else as well that I had done by continuing to run on it.  That would be more of a worry if that was the case.  All the physio could do was massage the calf, which was always a painful experience, and move the foot and ankle around.  He was pleased with how much better I was at lifting myself up on the foot and said I could go for a short run in another couple of days if it felt OK.  I didn’t really care if it felt OK; I was set on running no matter what, because I needed to know if I could attempt ten miles on Sunday.  Wednesday's dry needling left me a bit sore so I couldn't attempt the run until Friday.  I did three miles round the canal with my colleague Will at an easy pace.  A few minutes in I felt a twinge and, though that eased off, it didn't turn out to be as painless as I thought it would be.  I really enjoyed it though and I felt like I could have gone for longer. After nearly three weeks of no running, the buzz was amazing.

I was a bit sore soon after I finished the run.  The reaction is rather delayed, which means I'm allowed to start thinking things might not be so not be so bad for a while before my foot starts playing up.  Saturday, however, I felt so much better that I could almost forget about my issues.  It helped having the lovely weather to take my mind off things.  I turned up for the start of the Towpath Ten a little more confident that it wasn't a terrible idea.  It was already warm and pleasant at eight in the morning.  It was nice to be doing a race once more and to see some Eagle faces.  I hoped that my hangover would keep me from doing anything too ambitious: eight minute miles was the plan.  When we set off I found it difficult to go that slowly.  A bit of shin stiffness and some pain in the foot made the first few miles rather uncomfortable, but then my legs warmed up a bit.  I felt better when I hit the paved inland section coming back from Richmond.  My resolve to hold back had been steadily eroded by the many people overtaking me and I finally gave in when I encountered one of my pet hates of fellow runners: the guy that loudly and overenthusiastically thanks every marshal that he goes past.  The fact that he was suddenly less cheery when I sped away from him led weight to my long held suspicion that this is a deliberate tactic.  Now a good 40 seconds a mile faster than the runners around me, I overtook a lot of people and was having a lot more fun.  I finished in 1:13, rather quicker than my original intention and maybe faster than I should have gone.  The only immediate disappointment was the realisation that it was still too early in the day to go to the pub to celebrate.

The pain kicked in half an hour after I stopped and my elation at finishing the race turned to gloom when I couldn't walk properly anymore.  I still was unsure what this meant for me running a marathon in just two weeks time.  Yes I finished, but it felt difficult to do despite being way off my usual standard and I felt very uncomfortable afterwards.  My success depended on continued improvement in the next 14 days.

Week 14 - 8 miles

Monday I felt a lot better again.  If I hadn't, then it would have meant there was a serious problem.  This week, a sense of laziness really kicked in.  My determination to get the last minute training done at any cost had evaporated and I didn't feel remotely like a runner anymore.  Maybe it was nerves because the big day was looming ever closer, but I found myself thinking that I really had lost it after having to stop.  I hadn't exactly swapped the training for a healthy lifestyle and I am starting to regret that now.  But I guess that doesn't really matter because I only want to finish it now, and I won't listen to those that say I might surprise myself because, if I try to go too fast and it all falls apart, it won't surprise me at all.

Nothing new happened at the physio except that he advised me to have two days of rest after even the gentlest run.  Following this advice would severely reduce my opportunity to run even if I had the motivation for it.  This week's needling session was all of the fun of getting stabbed in the foot.  Slowly.  Previously, the pain had been bearable but this was genuinely unpleasant, especially when I knew that this was a larger bore needle going right down into the attachment point of the plantar fascii.  All this was seemingly not in vain, however, as I definitely felt better after it settled down.

I had all of two runs of four miles each.  I could have done longer for each if I had the time.  After stopping I had a long time to wait before I could go again and that severely limited my mileage, which was probably a good thing.  One thing that bothered me is how much even a walk of a few miles made my foot hurt to a comparable degree.  Saturday's run was more fun because I was at my dad's and I could go along the cliff top at Reculver and have the sea air around me.  I still had to get through an initial few minutes of discomfort before things got easier and that worried me slightly now that there was just a week more to go.

There isn't much left that I can do.  The couple of short runs that I will do this week won't tell me whether or not I am going to manage 26 miles next Sunday.  I can only go to the start line and hope that I have done enough, and also that I haven't ruined what all the hard work gave me.  It is difficult for me to stop wondering how the hell I am going to run a whole marathon when my foot still isn't happy about doing simple things.  I have to just try.  Quitting now just isn't an option.  I'll see you all on the other side.

The Waiting Game

This running blog once again contains no running unfortunately.  As such, there is not very much for me to write this time.  No running for means that there is not very much going on and that has been rather difficult.  I have come out of the permanent fatigue that I had when I was training but there has been no relief.  I cannot adjust back to the life that I had without it because I have the marathon looming ahead of me, now scarily close.  I couldn't feel less prepared for it at the moment.

Week 11 – No Miles

I don’t know what I did to myself at the Fleet Half that I hadn’t done before but my foot was not in a good way.  The subsequent days showed me that it was in no hurry to get better.  Tuesday I had my physio appointment at Move with Ben.  He confirmed my self-diagnosis of plantar fasciitis and gave me enough to be a little more optimistic about still doing this marathon.  He said, as mine was acute and came on in only a few weeks instead of the usual few months, there was hope that it would go again just as quickly.  He told me no running for another week, though.  I was happy enough with this for the first few days because even walking was a problem and I wasn’t daft enough to try.  My foot was well taped up and it eased some of the strain on it, but it made moving around a little awkward.  I felt some improvement over the next few days but then, on Friday, it suddenly started hurting enough to compromise my mobility once more.  All this left me rather down because it seemed like with every passing day the glimmer of hope for a quick recovery was fading.

On Saturday I went to see a podiatrist in Northfields.  Her opinion was that I should still be running slowly, but this was something I wasn’t comfortable with doing until I had at least seen the physio again.  She wondered if I was downplaying the severity of it and I think she had a point.  She said that my left foot was tilted slightly outwards, which is something I wasn’t aware of and didn’t think was an issue in the past.  I strongly suspected that this had happened recently from my continued running on a bad foot and it reinforced my opinion that I should wait until the pain subsided a bit more.

I did what a few people suggested and gave up not drinking.  There really didn't seem any point anymore if I couldn't run, and the prospect of a somewhat slower marathon than I had hoped for made getting healthier seem less important.  However, trying to forget about running and do other things was tough and the first week without it was not easy at all.

Week 12 - No Miles

I was really starting to miss the running and I noticed an excess of unburned energy that made me wish I could start again.  I didn't feel healed enough to try it yet, though.  I rode my bike more instead and, now that the days were longer and the towpath had dried, I could cycle home the long way along the canal.  The pain in my foot was easing gradually day by day, but not as quickly as I wanted.  Wednesday's visit to the physio didn't give me as much optimism as the previous appointment.  He said I wasn't ready to run yet, and any attempt to do so would put me back to square one.  Having the left calf massaged felt really unpleasant so there were clearly still a few problems there.  He said I could run again when I could do a one-footed calf raise fifteen times without pain.  Right then I couldn't even do a few without it hurting a fair amount afterwards, but I was determined to keep trying.  My foot continued to be taped up and I was getting used to that now. 

Wednesday I was back at the podiatrist for some dry needling.  It was something I hadn't been looking forward to but I hoped would help.  It is hard to comprehend how sticking a sharp object into the damaged areas would make things better.  It turned out that it didn't hurt as much as I had feared, even though it felt like the needles were going deep.  Straight after the therapy, my foot felt worse but I was told that might happen.  Then, the next day, once I had got up and moved around a bit, I noticed a significant improvement.  The pain was on average less than it was before, and it came and went instead of being constant.  Sometimes I could walk around and hardly notice any problem.  That wasn't all the time so I knew I still needed to be careful.  I took the tape off at the weekend and I felt like I no longer needed it.  I abandoned any plans I had to do too much exercise and had a lazy one instead.  I think I still needed to rest.

After two weeks not running, I feel like a slob.  It seems like I have lost a lot of fitness and I hope people are right when they tellme it's not true.  I managed to do fair bit of training before inevitably, once again, injuring myself and that is going to have to do because I won't be able to do much running before the marathon.  Even if I were able, it is now taper time so I can't wear myself out before the big day.  It's not going to feel quite right and it's not going to be fast, but I'm still determined to do this marathon.  I can't bear the thought of doing this all again next year.

Run Down & Not So Fleet Footed

Spring has come at last and I am grateful for the warmer and lighter days.  It is certainly good to put the long sleeved running tops away for hopefully the last time in a while.  But it hasn't improved the training experience quite like I was expecting it to.  The running has continued and I have been mostly hitting the required sessions and paces, but I haven't been feeling too well in more ways than one.  I've been really getting to know what plantar fasciitis is and it hasn't been pleasant.  It's not just the physical problems, though.  It seems to be taking its toll on me psychologically as well.  I seem fairly disengaged with the aspects of my life that aren't to do with running, and it's easy to think that there's not much there to be happy about.  But I'm just out of sorts because I'm tired.  I've been tired for so long now I've forgotten what it was like before.

Week 9 - 74 miles
It may be lighter and warmer with the coming of spring but it's easy to forget that it is not generally any drier.  On Monday, I found Wormwood Scrubs to be more of a swamp than ever and I managed to do what I had narrowly avoided the day before, which was to slip over and take a dive into a muddy puddle.  As I final touch, my glasses slowly slipped off my face and landed in the yucky stuff.  Running usually makes me feel better but it takes more of it now for me to get enough endorphins.  When I run twice in a day, I usually enjoy the second one more. 

This week I passed the 500 mile mark for the training. I was still a bit emotional and I found that the frustrations gave me a bit of a boost. I generally find that I run better when I've got something to worry about. Tuesday, I had more energy than ever to fly round the track and Wednesday's mid-paced run along the canal felt easy. On Thursday I took advantage of the extra sunlight to run a longer route home. This one goes along the canal and under the Hangar Lane junction, then through Pitshanger Park and past Perivale track before following the River Brent through the golf course and Bunny Park back to the canal. It makes a nice change from the backstreets of Acton and Ealing. I took the nine miles on as a progression run, but it was a bit of a challenge with subways and other things throwing my GPS out. The pacing wasn't as neat as my previous effort and I missed the negative split on the last mile, but I was happy with my speed overall, which was certainly the fastest I've gone with a backpack on.

I neglected to have my usual rest day on Friday because I've begun to find running to work to be less hassle than other ways of getting there.  This was probably a mistake, because, not only was I even more tired than usual at this time, my foot pain that had been building up throughout the week was now at an uncomfortable level.  The injury worry seemed to amplify my overall feeling of being completely burnt out, so I wasn't in a good place right then.  I needed to get my mojo back and getting some new running shoes seemed like a good place to start.  I'm way too ashamed to say how much time or how many miles my previous ones had done, but suffice to say it was rather longer than is recommended, and this may have contributed to my foot problem.  We took a worthwhile trip to Up and Running in East Sheen, and I felt better already just testing out some of what they had.  I went for some cheaper Brooks ones that seemed good but I had to also get a new pair of my usual Asics Gel Nimbus despite the hefty price because they felt obscenely comfortable.

Sunday's run was the one that had been bothering me. I was to do 10 miles slow then another 10 at marathon pace, which looked to me to be the toughest run of the whole training. I didn't want to try this on my own because the muddy paths and Sunday crowds of my usual haunts didn't lend themselves to the faster paces, and I'd got a bit bored of them anyway.  The organised run on this day happened to be the Finchley 20, which was my first 20-miler two years ago.  This got a bad rap from a lot of the Eagles that did it last year, but I didn't mind it before as I thought the four laps broke the distance down quite nicely.  The route was a bit on the boring side and it was drizzling most of the time but the miles somehow flew by.  My slow ten felt like a struggle because of my left foot and right shin but these eased off in time just like I hoped they would.  The second half’s speed up felt surprisingly OK.  I think I managed about 6:50 miles on average after losing a few seconds on the last couple of miles, and I finished in exactly the time I was supposed to.  I'm not sure that is quite three hour marathon pace if I allow for the over measuring but it is fairly close and it made me feel a bit more confident about my prospects.  It gave me some indication of how I would feel after the marathon as well, for I was sore and not very mobile for some time afterwards.  A sports massage in the evening confirmed what I had suspected about my left calf being at the centre of my problems.  It has started feeling more like some kind of root vegetable than a muscle.

Week 10 - 57 miles

With six weeks to go, I did what I said I was going to do at this point and quit drinking.  I decided that I was going to take it seriously enough to put my indulgences on hold for a while.  Having the Fleet Half Marathon at the end of the week, which I intended to run as fast as I could for the Welsh Castles Relay qualification, gave me a bit of extra incentive.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy but it would make the first beer after the marathon all the nicer.  I now no longer had any doubt that I did have plantar fasciitis and not just a sore foot.  I carried on in the hope that the taper time would allow things to heal.   I was optimistic that the change of shoes would improve things. The pain tended to go away a short time into my runs so I could still get my sessions done and enjoy them too.  It came back with a vengeance afterwards though.  I held off running on Monday until the journey home, and I foolishly went the long way.  My sole didn’t thank me for it afterwards and that forced me to have a rest day.  I tried to make up for it on Wednesday by running to work, doing a lunchtime training session and then running home again.  It didn’t seem to make things any worse.  Lunchtime’s run was my first attempt at a fartlek, where I did what I thought I was supposed to do and changed speed at irregular intervals.  It made the usual Little Venice canal run a bit more interesting by breaking it up into a serious of points and my overall pace wasn’t bad.  I suffered for it on Thursday though.  I still ran to work and had a slow one at lunchtime out of a sense of duty, despite being tired and hurting.  After that, I was glad to be resting until Sunday.  I kept up with the stretches and the ice and tried to will the collagen in my foot to bind itself back together.  

It seemed like resting for more than one day in a row was doing some good because I started to be able to walk normally again.  I wasn't feeling in great mental shape, though.  So much for the theory that quitting the booze would make me less emotional.  In fact, I found going out without drinking alcohol to be a real bummer.  I think I was feeling a bit of trepidation about the half marathon on Sunday.  The Fleet Half started at ideal time of 10:30 so it meant I didn't have to get up so early.  I realised when I was in the car that I had forgotten my race number for the first time ever and that wasn't the ideal start to the day.  Thankfully, when we got there, I managed to get a new number within seconds of asking.  Fleet seemed like a nice place but not as flat as we were all hoping.  I had no idea how fast I would be able to run but I thought I may as well go for it.  What could possibly go wrong?  My mile warmup didn't feel great because my left foot didn't appreciate me trying to run on it again, but I shot off at the start anyway.  I could tell early on that my shins weren't happy but I still managed the first couple of miles pretty fast.  It went downhill from there as the pain began to affect my stride and my pace steadily fell away.  At three miles or so we looped back through Fleet and that was my opportunity to stop.  I felt uncomfortable but all I could think of was how upset I would be if I pulled out then.  I ran round the rest of the course, through pleasant country lanes still with the gentle but annoyingly constant undulations.  The pain in my plantar overtook the one in my shins and that was the first time it really hampered me during a run.  I slowed down to my easy training pace and thankfully managed to keep at that, and I finished in 1:37, a total disappointment after all that expectation.  I went for the £10 massage afterwards and had a girl twang my poor shins repeatedly.  After that, my right foot hurt as well as my left and I had one moment when I literally couldn't walk.  I managed to make it back to the car but I knew I was going to be damaged for a while this time.

That run, the last of a fair few that I shouldn't have done, has hobbled me but it is nothing compared to the mental anguish.  I decided I wasn't too bothered about Welsh Castles anymore.  I might still scrape in with my 1:32 from Vicky Park and I might not.  What is awful is the thought that all this training might have been for nothing if I can't even run the marathon at the end of it.  I know I won't be able to run at all for most of the next week at least. I am seeing a physio on Tuesday and hopefully that will help.  I know my hopes of getting three hours or anything close to it are all but dashed now.  I need to just run it now and that's the only thing that matters, even if I don't do anything at all for the next five weeks then go round at only my slow training pace.  If I can still fulfil my ambition to run the London Marathon then I shouldn't be so despondent.

Getting into the Groove

The weeks are passing quicker now that the training seems like more of a routine.  I'm getting used to having even less time to relax at weekends than before, and going out for a run despite already being tired and sore has become easier to do.  I suppose I'm more motivated now, and it helps that I feel a lot fitter now than I did at the start of the year.  There have been more times when I feel like a runner, instead of just feeling uncomfortable.  I'm definitely enjoying it more now and feels less like it's getting in the way of the rest of my life.  For the most part, at least.

Week 7 - 81 miles

Despite still being hampered by some ankle strength issues, I more or less managed a full week of training this time.  Because I don't count the running to and from work when I follow the plan, and also maybe add a couple of miles here and there, this ended up being a high-mileage week. I wasn't worried about the 'extras' causing problems farther down the line because I was happy that I was hitting the runs that I was supposed to.  I did my usual cross country as a recovery on Monday.  Tuesday's track sessions was five lots of a mile and I found maintaining the target pace a lot easier than a few weeks ago.  Wednesday I did a slow half marathon along the canal.  I encountered the detour to pass the North Circular aqueduct but I found it provided a bit of variety without adding too much distance.  Thursday the plan said an eight mile progression run, which means starting off slow and getting faster each mile.  Negative splits have never been my forte and that is one of skills of a good marathon runner, but I totally nailed it.  It probably helped to have gales behind me for the second half.  The wind was so strong that the canal had waves on it.

I made parkrun on Saturday and decided to add a mile before and after.  I thought I had timed it about right to get  back to the start before the race began, but I was greeted by the always unwelcome sight of a few hundred runners coming in the opposite direction before I got there.  At least it removed the temptation to run it fast, so I started from the back of the field and paced it blind.  It just happened to be even splits and close to my target marathon pace so that seemed like some kind of result..

 

Sunday's long run was supposed to be 18 miles with the second half at marathon pace.  I chose a linear out-and-back route along the river in a westerly direction.  Nine miles got me as far as Kingston.  The section between Ham and Teddington Lock was a bit muddy but the rest of it was pleasant and the distance didn't drag at all.  For the faster return trip I soon realised I didn't have the legs for a straight 6:45 pace but I kept it close to that all the time I had a clear path.  I managed nearly seven fast miles before I felt something go in my groin when I tried to go too fast round the floating diversion on the canal. I really wasn't prepared to stop at 79 miles for the week so I slow-jogged the last two miles home.

Pains in familiar areas give me clear signals of when to ease off but it is more difficult for me to judge when it hurts in new places. I always thought it is fine as long as it's moving around, because that's just changes in one area spreading out to the muscles elsewhere. I admit that it has got a bit harder for me to judge when to scale it back now. 80 miles in a week may well be too much. Once again I have to remind myself what I said before I started, and it helps that I wrote it down. I said I wouldn't go too fast on a long run. I'm going to have to be very careful about trying that kind of thing again.

Week 8 – 64 miles

Soreness at the top of my left leg and also down under the heel persisted longer than I hoped.  Scaling things back was something I didn't have a lot of choice about at the start of the week because I had too much going on at work.  Perhaps mercifully, a lack of shorts prevented from running home on Monday.  I remembered a time when I had no kit and was so desperate to run that I went in just work trousers.  I'm glad I'm not that desperate these days.  I had a day of just jogging the commute and then got back to the track for some proper training on Wednesday.  It was the same 1000m with 200m recoveries that I struggled with before.  I managed all eight this time without even slowing.  My pains went away while I ran hard but came back worse whenever I slowed down again.  After the run home I wasn't walking too gracefully anymore.  I find that frequent baths are helpful to keep the tension at bay, so I soaked like I had never soaked before.  In the morning I stepped out of bed to find it still hurt to put weight on that foot.  I told myself I shouldn’t run but then felt bad about that.  Walking around made it feel a bit better so I decided to run to work and see how it was afterwards.  It was no worse so I went ahead with the half marathon lunchtime.  Each time, the pain in my foot was mostly going away after the first half mile, but it came back again after I ran.  I never really knew too much about plantar fasciitis but a quick search made me worry that this might be the issue.  Reading further into it made me concerned for my prospects of being able to do this marathon.  If I can’t go through with it after nearly running myself into the ground like I have done, then it would be more awful than I can imagine.

After two days’ rest, my pains had subsided in a way that gave me cause for some optimism.  I think it is a tight lower calf that has been causing my plantar issues, and stretching when I can and resting when I have to will hopefully fix that.  My enthusiasm for the Sunday long run could hardly be any less this time.  Having rather a lot to drink on Friday night and being a bit emotional as a consequence probably had something to do with that.  It was the possibility of a run making me feel more grounded that finally got me out the house.  The route sounded fun when I thought of it: getting the train to Maidenhead and then running home via the Jubilee River and Slough Arm of the canal.  I enjoy doing it by bike because there are hardly any roads involved, but that has generally been in better weather.  The Jubilee River section was fun enough because there was a bit of sun and I felt strong and energetic.  Then I hit the canal at Slough and had to cope with gales and rain and a towpath that had been churned up into a quagmire.  There has been works to improve the path but it seems to have had the opposite effect in the short term.  The distance clocked neatly at just over 20 miles when I got to home and I didn’t feel like doing the extra loop that I had thought about because I was fed up and bored already.  It didn’t feel too painful at first but it wiped out the rest of the day for me.  It made my head feel a little better but it knocked me off my feet.

I’m not too worried about doing marathon distance anymore but I don’t know if I will be able to manage it at anywhere near the pace I want.  When I do the long runs, I’m not sure I dare go too fast because I think there’s a high risk that I might get injured.  I feel good to start with but 20 plus miles still wears me down more than I feel like it should by now.  I don’t bother taking any gels or water and that might have something to do with why I end up so tired.  I started this last two weeks a lot happier about the progress of my training than I had been but doubts have crept in again about whether putting myself up to this is going to be worth it.  Now, once again, I am at the start of the week and so tired I can't think, but the running doesn’t stop even if I want it to. 

Staying Positive (Almost)

I am aware that I have not exactly been putting a positive spin on my training experience so far, despite getting a fair few miles under my belt and avoiding any serious damage to myself.  Maybe it is the time of year or maybe I really did make myself sick of it doing my half marathon challenge in 2016.  These last two weeks I have wavered on a couple of occasions.  The training regime seems incompatible with me going out to socialise and enjoy myself, so if I were taking it super seriously, I would lay off the booze from now.  But instead I find myself wondering if it’s the running that’s getting in the way of my enjoying life.  I need to focus on the goal at the end, getting to run the London Marathon and the amazing experience that I know that it will be.  That really is going to be the light at the end of the tunnel, because right now it still seems like a bit of a hard slog.  I know that this training will not be forever.  The weeks seem to be falling away quite quickly, the coming spring brings with it the prospect of the rest of training being a bit more pleasant, and I get ever closer to the blessed time when I can taper and relax.
 
Week 5 - 66 miles
 
The weeks always seem to start well and then get tougher.  It is always a nice surprise to discover that Monday’s sore legs have a bit more go in them than I expect.  I find that I have a bit too much energy sometimes and it is hard to keep at 8 minute miles when it's more fun to go nearer 7.  This is what happened on Wednesday when I ran what was supposed to be a shortish slow run both longer and faster than I should have done.  I enjoyed it but suffered a little afterwards.  After I ran to work on Thursday, the familiar pains around my hip told me I should abandon the plan for the fast lunchtime session.  I rested in preparation for the challenge to come.

Of all the things you can do during your training, a double race weekend probably isn't one of them.  It started off at Alexandra Palace, where I had some unfinished business with Met League cross-country.  Resolved to not repeat my slippery mistake of last time, I equipped myself with some brand new spike shoes, a bargain at £30 including two more sets of spikes.  I fitted the 15mm ones to make sure I had some grip.  Sharp as hell, they made the shoes into lethal weapons and I wondered if they were allowed on public transport.  Handy to keep around in case of burglars, I guess.  

The snow had stopped by the time I got to Ally Pally but it was still cold and gloomy, although nice to be with my fellow Eagles.  The five miles consisted of three laps, each a flat circuit apart from the big hill going up to the palace.  Half a mile in, I was bitterly regretting going to the pub the night before.  Just a couple of miles with the new spikes made me feel like I was going to sprain an ankle.  The shoes were now way too grippy for what I was expecting.  When I needed a bit of slide in the tight turns, I wasn't getting any at all.  I had to learn how to run in those things while I was racing.  I changed my technique a bit and it felt ok enough after that.  I was determined not to let Santry beat me this time but he passed me right before the finish, so I didn't even have that.  Still, I made a first team place this time and I contributed in a small way to the Eagles men winning Division Three. 

Sunday my plan said run a half marathon.  It didn't say run the cross country the day before though.  I had said to myself that I would not run any half marathons as part of this training: not after what happened last year.  Yet still I'm signed up for Fleet because of the Welsh Castles Relay qualification, and here I was in Vicky Park for the only half marathon that day that wasn't too much of a hassle to get to.  The organisers tried to get people enthusiastic but it's a difficult job in the wintertime.  I set off at marathon pace but it took less than a mile for my shins to make it known that they had other ideas.  All the ankle work of the day before had taken its toll. The four lap route was pleasant enough and I would have enjoyed it more if I had been in better shape.  The pain eased off like I hoped it would, but that wasn't until the halfway point.  After that, the going was easier but I could have sworn I was going faster than my Garmin was telling me.  I finished in just over 1:32: not what I had hoped for at all. As soon as I stopped, I was suddenly aware that my hands were so cold that I couldn't feel them, and my shins and right calf quickly seized up.  I had to hobble as quickly as I could out of there and back towards my bed.

Failing this test gave me a few doubts about how well the training was really going and whether I was going to be able to even attempt to run this marathon as fast as I wanted.  I had been telling myself that I had to try for sub 3, but that wasn't necessary my goal when I started all this.  I just need to do what I can and enjoy it.

Week 6 - 53 miles

There had to be at least one week where I had to be a bit less ambitious with my mileage and, because my ankle-related problems ended up persisting a while, this turned out to be one of them.  I started off trying though, although I was tired to begin with and got more tired from there.  Monday's cross-country was painful but successful and Tuesday I swapped in a long slow run, which I made sure I did slow enough this time.  I attempted the track on Wednesday and it turned out to be a killer session in more ways than one.  Twenty lots of 200m seemed to do wonders for my sprinting but it finished my legs off for the week.  I was just too knackered to do anything on Thursday and two days rest turned into three when parkrun got dropped as well.  Not running made me feel a bit more lively, at least.

I had only Sunday evening to get my long run in and redeem my mileage for the week.  It seemed appropriate to revisit my old favourite night route: passing all Piccadilly Line stations between home and Hammersmith and then going back along the north side Thames Path, which is lit apart from a couple of stretches where you need to be careful.  I added on a loop to circumnavigate Osterley Park and start with Osterley station.  The resting had brought on a bit of soreness but that subsided fairly quickly.  I found it fun to just run a route without knowing how long it would turn out to be; it was just like the old days.  I guessed it would be about 20 miles but I had already clocked seven by the time I passed Boston Manor.  I ended up running 23.  I let go of the pace in the last five miles so I could finish in one piece, and also avoid tripping along the dark canal.  I still managed an 8:01 pace overall, and running for more than three hours was just the training I knew I needed to last the marathon distance.  I don't need to tell you that it hurt after that.

I'm happy that there is only nine weeks to go now, including the taper.  Even though I'm less than halfway, it feels like I'm over the hump.  I look forward to the time when my legs will feel fresh again, and I hope they can do what I ask of them when I put them to the test.  I don't feel too daunted by the prospect of doing the marathon at the end of it because the training has challenged me enough.  I guess that is the whole point of it.
 

Run, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Why do I do this to myself?  It is a question I have been asked a few times lately.  People wonder why I need to run so much when it leaves me so tired all the time and often not as cheery as I could be.  I feel like I have a responsibility, and it is motivating in a way that I have to write about my training because I need to have some training to write about.  Just don't expect me to be jolly about it all the time.

Week 3 - 70 miles

I started my third training week feeling like I was getting back into the groove.  I started it off Monday with one of my favourite runs for training, though not one that's on any plans that I've seen.  I go from work along the canals to Primrose Hill, run up it three times as fast as I dare and then run back again.  Tuesday I was supposed to do track but I was on a course the other side of London and it seemed like the last thing I wanted to do afterwards.  One thing marathon training does is make me feel guilty for being tired.  Some outside force seemed to want to redress the balance, however.  On Wednesday, I ran to work on the most treacherous winter morning I have experienced, where the pavements were white with ice and I needed to watch my footing the whole way.  I realised near the end that I had left my wallet and home and I needed it for a work social event.  The only thing for it was to run home again lunchtime to get it.  On the homeward leg I was sweating with a hat and gloves on and then I was cold going the other way after I took them off.  It shows what difference covering up the extremities makes.  After that, I had money for the evening but it left me so shattered that I didn't enjoy it at all.  

It left me with a low on Thursday that I could only cure by running again.  I did my tempo route, happy that on the fast section I was getting back towards normality, if not quite good form yet.  Friday I was determined to get back the track session that I had missed.  I was tired before my run to work and even more tired afterwards, so I really had to force myself to do it.  The Linford Christie Stadium is conveniently near to work and I can do my warm up jogging there.  My training plan said to do 1000m reps but with only 200m recoveries.  That was not nice.  With not enough rest in between, each one steadily wore me down until I gave up after six.

Sunday I joined Harry, James L, Santry and Rob for a long run.  After all the races I did last year, I am now reluctant to get up early on a weekend for running.  I'm glad I did though, not least because it was timed well for the weather.  We went over Barnes Bridge and to Richmond Park, doing a loop back through the middle and bits of it I didn't know, then through Mortlake and along the river to Kew.  In Richmond Park there were a ton of runners, and the tracks are nice and soft for training at this time of year.  It was an enjoyable route and a great run.  It was good to have company.  It is a bit different running with others because you can't just fall into your own pace anymore.  Perhaps that is a better way of doing it, to improve your natural pace rather than rely on it.  It was 16.5 miles when we got back to Ealing Green and I could hardly not do the extra two to put my weekly total above 70, which happens to be the distance back home.  It felt good to get my first proper long run done, though I was feeling sore and thought I should take it a bit easier the next week.

Week 4 - 61 miles

The dull tiredness diminished and I started getting a bit antsier.  I preferred it the way it was before.  I upped my food intake with whatever rubbish I felt like eating and it made me a bit more energetic.  Eating a lot compelled me to run and vice versa, turning the whole thing into a real addiction that eclipsed my other vices.  At least I was starting to feel I had regained a bit of strength in my legs so it felt like it was going well.  

I like to start the week with a bit of cross-country on the Scrubs, which is getting muddier all the time.  I have found it enjoyable even on tired legs.  Tuesday is track, this week at the Linford Christie again, and I find the longer, more endurance-based marathon training sessions to be completely exhausting but beneficial.  Wednesday is longer, slower stuff to recover.  Thursday was time to try something quicker again, but I felt soreness around my right hip where I had my problems before.  My body was telling me no, but I still would have gone if it wasn’t for a colleague that wanted to go for a run with me, so I had a short gentle one instead.  The way I see it, doing the training properly isn’t following the plan to the letter, it’s knowing when to ease off.  I had got carried away and forgotten that.

It was time to test my parkrun chops after a long absence.  I was still mostly asleep when I got to Gunnersbury Park and the only thing motivating me to get round was the prospect of going back to bed.  I blew up after a mile or so, my shins screaming at me because I hadn’t warmed them up properly, but my hip felt fine.  I finished in 19:20, nowhere near a good time for me but OK I guess as the first one in a while.  For me, the only way to get fast at parkrun is to do parkruns.  The last run of another tiring week was my first 20 miler of the training.  I did it in a simple and boring way by running up the canal for 10 miles then going straight back again.  The canal is bleak at this time of year and a bit featureless at the best of times, so the miles felt really stretched out.  It was harder to keep the pace in the last quarter but I kept even splits.   I finished up shattered and hurting all over.   I had a sports massage afterwards that was as painful as anything.  All my muscles were stiff and sore, and it proved what I had suspected, that I had become tense physically as well as mentally.  If I’m going to stay injury-free, I need to keep my limbs loose, so I need more of the stretching for which I struggle to find the motivation.

The training so far has been difficult and draining but I get reward in thinking that I’m getting closer to being someone that can finish a marathon, and hopefully in a good time as well.  I'm not on as much of a downer now that I'm getting used to it.  I don’t want to let the club down, but I know I need to be careful.  In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have gone from zero miles to 70 in three weeks.  It feels a bit more fun when it’s a learning experience.

Running & The January Blues

To repeat what I said last time, this has really felt like starting from the beginning again.  I started off ill and unfit and also, unfortunately, still a bit injured.  Just from sitting on a plane I got the tightness down the inside of my leg that, when it really hits, makes it a challenge even getting out of bed.  Then there was the issue of motivation.  I had come from three weeks of mostly sunny tropical days to a cold, dark and dreary British winter.  I know from experience that this can be literally depressing.  I decided I had to run not only because I needed to try my best now I had signed up for this, but also because it seemed like to only thing I could do to escape the downer that I was in.

Week 1 - 25 miles
I was willingly enlisted by Santry to run in the Met League cross-country because I had always had something else on whenever he asked before and I felt like there was no excuse this time.  I happen to work right next to Wormwood Scrubs and beyond that I have the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, so I have plenty of options for lunchtime runs, which at least give me a bit of daylight.  I decided to ease myself back into running by doing some cross-country practice on my own where the soft ground would hopefully be better for my still-sore leg.  On the Monday of the week after should have started my 16 week training plan, I put my trail shoes on and did just one circuit of the Scrubs slowly.  It wasn’t as much of a quagmire as it usually is at this time of year.  On Tuesday I did two circuits, feeling slightly better.  I rested Wednesday because I didn’t want to overdo things.  Thursday I ran the 5.5 miles to work, which I am never speedy at because I take a backpack.  Friday lunchtime tried my 1/3.5/1 mile tempo run, except the fast section wasn’t very fast at all.  That might have had something to do with trying the night before to get back into something else I had missed out on over Christmas: drinking.
  Saturday came and it was cold and terrible.  There were little bits of snow on the ground in Trent Park.  It was at least in the afternoon but it still wasn't very warm.  The icy air sliced into my lungs while I gave the best I could muster for two laps and 8km through constant thick mud that didn't give me any traction at all.  I was only able to watch while countless other runners passed me.  My leg got sore but it wasn't too much of a problem.  I'm not going to blame my failure to invest in spikes; I just wasn't good enough.  I know that if Santry beats me, I've got a lot of work to do with my training.  It wasn't pleasant but it felt like just the shock I needed to show me how hard I needed to push it.

Sunday, the weather was miserable so I rested.  I wasn't that keen yet.

Week 2 - 52 miles
With my leg successfully tested, it was time to start putting some miles in.  The next Monday I did nine miles along the canal and also ran home.  Tuesday I ran to work despite feeling a little unsure about my leg again.  Stretching during my lunch break seemed to do me the world of good.  I still fail to stretch enough even though I know it can go really badly for me if I don't.  After work, I went to Osterley track to see if I felt OK enough to do the session that my training plan suggested.  I managed 4 x 1600m at almost the target pace.  My leg was fine but I was way underdressed and even at 6 or so it was so cold that the frost was already falling.  At the end I was pleased with my run but also frozen.  For Wednesday the training plan said run 8 miles.  I did not follow my training plan.  It says I should run pretty much every day and my body knows I shouldn't do that.  I need rest days and if it means filling in the miles on other days, then so be it.  A little groggy on Thursday, I did cross-country again and then just did the run commute on an icy Friday morning. Running to work seems like a slightly cheating way to get the mileage up.


 On a bright but bloody freezing weekend I was struggling to get out for my first Sunday long run.  It didn't help that it was supposedly still -3 at 9 o' clock.  I was feeling quite comfortable at home but I managed to get myself out at midday and I didn't regret it.  With long sleeves and gloves making it bearable, it was actually really pleasant.  I ran down the canal to the river, going west to Kew Bridge, along the other side to Richmond and then through Syon Park back towards home.  It turned out to be about half marathon distance; perhaps not as far as I should have gone, but it felt like enough.  I was energetic and kept a constant pace throughout.
I think it is definitely going OK so far.  I hope the rest of my training goes well because I am kind of on my own here.  If I had asked for a coach, I'm not sure I would have wanted to do what they told me.  The thing I'm going to do differently this time is always do long runs slowly.  Not getting injured is more important than getting close to the magic three hours.  I would definitely recommend avoiding alcohol but personally I'm enjoying my not-dry January too much.  There are much better months to give up drinking.

This Running Blog Does Not Feature Any Running...

Week 0 - No miles

I've done a fair bit of running in the last few years but I hope 2017 is going to be a new start in more ways than one. Winning a London Marathon place in the club ballot was the best Christmas present that I could have hoped for, and it will mean the fulfillment of one of my major running goals. I think this will give me my mojo back just when I need it. When it is done, I may never run a marathon again.  This time should be enough to tell me if I can ever achieve a sub three hour or if I should just let that go. I don't feel quite so bothered about that any more, anyway. Running doesn't consume me in quite the way that it used to.

I have always considered myself to be a little on the heavy side for a long distance runner and I think I would do pretty well if there were such a thing as weight grading. I knew that in the tropics there are many viruses and bacteria that help you lose weight quickly, so while in Sri Lanka I got one of each. The weight I lost from two days of not being able to eat at all plus a few more of having very little food is the equivalent of running a fair few miles I think. Having had both a viral respiratory infection and a high fever, I have been strongly advised not to start running for another week. I will be starting my training after a month off running.

The good news, for my training at least, is that I have neither the money nor the annual leave to go away anywhere in the next four months, or even to be able to do anything vaguely exciting enough to distract me from running. I have had trouble finding the dedication to put the necessary training into a marathon, which is probably why three out of four of them have been a disaster in one way or another. It definitely wasn't a good idea training for one at the same time as doing a half marathon challenge, for example. I don't think it's a coincidence that my only good marathon - which I actually won in 3:07- was after a summer when I had done no long races.

My training this time is going to be mostly boring, so I hope that I can find enough to blog about. It's going to be mostly solo runs, mostly local because I travelled way too much for races last year, and definitely no overstretching myself. What I can say is that I'm going to be as dedicated as I can be, and I'm going to give this one my best shot by doing it the proper way this time. I feel very privileged to be running such a big race on behalf of the club so I'm going do as well as I possibly can.

Good luck to my fellow ballot winners and to everyone else that will be training for a marathon in the next few months. Thanks very much to everyone in the club for making me feel like I really lucked out joining the Ealing Eagles. If I had not joined, I wouldn’t have signed up for even one marathon.

So, no running this week. Probably not much next week as well. It means I've got somewhere to

build myself up from.