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.