I’ve been reading the blogs of the fellow ballot winners with gloom. I wish Andy a speedy recovery and hope Chris bounces back after some rest. It is a reminder that marathon training puts quite a strain on the body. I honestly didn’t give myself great odds on getting this far, but the aches and pains haven’t got any worse, though I’ve been struck down with a cold yesterday. I’ll take that any day, hopefully it won’t last long. I had already psychologically factored in some unforeseen problem that prevents me training for a few days, and the rest might do me some good.
Since my last blog I’ve extended out my commute to a half marathon ‘Full Greenford’. Particularly in the morning these start out at an easy pace as my body warms up and my breakfast settles down, and then rather like an F1 car on race I progressively speed up. I did taper towards the end of the week to prepare for the Fleet Half Marathon.
I wasn’t expecting to be able to beat the time from the flatter Cambridge Half, particularly as it was a bit breezy, and wanted to enjoy the race, but still be competitive with club championship points at stake. I just don’t like putting pressure on myself to do well in a race, but would just see what happens rather than set a target. I thought it worth going out at 90 minute pace with the pacers, and lined up with other Eagles doing a similar strategy. My strategy disappeared as soon as we got going as there appeared to be thick crowd of people behind the pacers, and it seemed easier running in front. First time along the packed high street I heard the pacers snapping at my heels, slightly ahead of pace, and I pushed on with the wind behind me. We looped around for a second pass along the high street, when I passed Chris looking uncomfortable with his injuries, before heading out into the countryside on the big loop. The runners had thinned out now which was problem as the route turned upwind. As I passed Tom Easton at mile 8 (no, he was on cheer duty – I’m not that fast), he helpfully pointed that the pacers were only 200 metres behind, providing a useful motivational boost as the miles began to take their toll. Fortunately the last few miles were downwind, but then my Garmin started going haywire, so I couldn’t be sure how far away from the finish I was. I thought I was really struggling, but with the finish in site I managed surprising burst of speed. The children in the finishing area were very friendly and no delay at all picking up the bag. All in all a very well organised runners’ race. "From a runner's perspective the day went very well. The weather was a bit windy though...There was a good turnout and everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves." Sums it up nicely. So while it was the first half marathon I have run where I hadn’t run a PB on the 9th attempt, it was only a half a minute slower than my time at the Cambridge Half.
On Tuesday I took the shorter route home as I could feel a cold coming on, and arrived to find the final race day instructions. The 186 pages brought home to me this is a race on a different level to all the races I’ve run in. It is full of helpful advice, like this tip on page 140: Being passed by a giant banana, rhino or Elvis - This may happen. If it does, suck it up, keep moving, smile to yourself and carry on.
After a couple of rest days the cold wasn’t getting any better. Fortunately, after a bit of searching I finally found a website that suggested you could keeping running if all the symptoms were above the neck, and not only that, but it claimed in a trial of 30 people, half of whom were given a cold virus, running hadn’t statistically increased the duration of the cold symptoms. Who signs up for a trial like that? That was all the encouragement I needed to give a run down to the Old Deer Park on Saturday morning a go and tick off another Parkrun. It was a beautiful sunny early spring morning, but running with a stuffy head isn’t much fun. We were on the ‘B’ course due to the presence of the Moscow State Circus; three flat laps all on grass. It has a smaller turnout than the more well-known Parkrun in Richmond park, but has that friendly feel because of it. While the run was hard work, I didn’t feel any worse afterwards, so resolved to try a longer run on the Sunday morning, practising carrying and taking gels to see if they helped. On a previous long run I had put a couple of gels in the pocket on the back of my running shorts, only to find the small of my back was scratched raw when I showered afterwards. I took in a loop of Richmond park via Mortlake. It was sunny again, and a little windy, and the elements combined with my cold and the 17 miles really wiped me out and I needed a proper lie down afterwards.
I’ll take a cold over plantar fasciitis any day, and the timing could have been worse. Though it does make it hard to keep the training going, I had mentally prepared myself for something going wrong, and up to now everything had been going better than I had hoped. It is now less than 4 weeks to go, and I’ll soon be into the taper. I’ll keep you posted.