THE Great North Run takes place six weeks today. The clock is ticking. I’m not sure I will be fit enough to challenge my personal best (1 hr 36), but I am confident I’ll be able to survive the race and raise some money for Action for Children.
If you’d asked me yesterday, I would not have had any confidence, but this morning’s long run has gone well. It’s given me a boost. Training has been a bit hit and miss lately, and with the race only weeks away, I really need to get down to some hard work.
This morning I turned into Superwoman. I did some work, sorted the dogs and horses, did some washing and cleaning, and then ran 13.1 miles in precisely one hour, forty-seven minutes and five seconds, all before lunch. I was rather proud of myself.
I wanted to get out early to avoid the midday sun. The first six miles I ran on the road, at a good pace, throwing in a fast mile at my target race pace of 6.55. This was awful. It almost killed me. I could feel my asthmatic lungs tightening. I had to stop to breathe, but stopping seems to make the asthma worse, so I soon started again, plodding, mouth open, gasping for air. It’s not a pretty sight!
The target pace mile did worry me. If I can’t manage one mile at that pace without coughing and spluttering, thirteen will be impossible. I decided that the best strategy is to rethink my target race pace. 7.10 would be more realistic. My lungs would be happier. I could even go slower. Why not make it 7.55 or 8.55? Then at least, I’ll have a good day. There are a few decisions to make about my target pace, but I have some time, not much, but enough.
For the second part of my run, the sun was so hot that I needed to get some shade. I went to the Trans Pennine Trail, which is overgrown with nettles and trees, but pleasant nonetheless. There were a few walkers and dogs about, the kind of dogs that get out of your way only to zoom in to trip you up at the last moment. Had it not been for that Schnauzer, I’m sure I could have managed another 6.55. As if! On my penultimate mile, I tried to get my body to go faster, but it said no. No! No! No! It gave me 7.30 instead, and then the Schnauzer incident slowed me to 7.50.
The good news is that by running 13.1 miles in training, I know that I can, one way or another, complete the Great North Run.
I was even pleased with my time today, 1:46, but then Chris got back from his run and had to out-do me.
‘I’ve done 15 miles in one hour, 49,’ he said.
‘Shame on you,’ I said. ‘That makes my run look rubbish.’
‘But think back to what you used to do! How many times did you struggle to break two hours? Now you run much faster than that in training.’
Chris is right. For a few years, I struggled to break two hours for the half marathon distance. I lost count of the times I was just seconds over: 2 hours 25 seconds, 2 hours 19 seconds, 2 hours 17 seconds. I didn’t think it would ever come, but it did (eventually).
Perhaps the same will happen with the 6.55 mile pace. It may not happen in six weeks, but hopefully, fingers crossed, it won’t be far away.