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.