Edinburgh Half Marathon: Weeks three to five

I HAVE to admit that I’ve not really been committing heart and soul to my training. I’ve been doing a five-week short story course and faffing about writing my book instead, so running has been done if and when I’ve had chance.

Some training has occurred though, just not the kind of training that gets results. The type of training I’ve been doing is called fannying about, which achieves nothing. So, it’s time to stop fannying about, get my arse in gear and get some hard work done.

But before I begin, I thought I’d better confess to what training has looked like so far. Here is my training from 22 January to 11 February.  Continue reading

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Going into meltdown after the GNR

AFTER the Great North Run, my body has gone into meltdown. During the race, I developed a blood blister on my foot, which is still throbbing eight days later.

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Then the day after the race, I developed a huge cold sore on my face. To anyone lucky enough to have escaped life without a cold sore, let me explain how truly horrible they are. Cold sores are small blisters that appear around the mouth or lips. They start with a tingling sensation and then start itching and burning. Little blisters form then crust over, so that when you smile, they crack and bleed. I told you! Nasty things!

Whenever I get a cold sore, my mum always responds the same way. ‘You’re run down.’ She’ll say. ‘You’re doing too much.’

She has a point. I usually get a cold sore when I’m not feeling one hundred percent well. I have never had one as a result of running a half marathon, but when you Continue reading

A great weekend at the Great North Run, even if the pacing wasn’t quite perfect

I did it! I took part in the world’s biggest half marathon, raising money for Action for Children.

It was a fantastic day. The atmosphere was amazing, with thousands of people running for charity or in memory of loved ones. I couldn’t help but be inspired.

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Our Great North Run weekend started on Saturday afternoon. We Continue reading

Good night, Vienna. Good morning, Newcastle

Good night, Vienna. Good morning, Newcastle

THE Great North Run is only days away. I was hoping to report that my last few weeks of training had been a great success, but I can’t. They’ve been a disaster.

I’ve been ill, not at death’s door or anything, but I’ve not been well enough to run. I tried. For a few days I went about my normal training routine, until last Friday when a tough mile rep session set me back so much I had to Continue reading

Great North Run – three weeks to go

THE Great North Run is only three weeks away, so now’s the time to start thinking of my race day plans.

I have a running vest, kindly supplied by Action for Children. I need to start wearing this for some of my runs.

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I have a race number and race day information, which I need to read.

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I have several pairs of trainers so need to decide whether I’m racing in my Adidas Boost or On Cloud. If it’s the Clouds, I’ll need to buy a new pair.

I also need to decide what my target pace will be. If my current training’s anything to go by this could be anything from 6.40 to 9 minute mile pace.

I’m starting to get a bit nervous. It’s a long time since I last raced the half marathon distance. Training has been difficult. For the past few weeks I’ve been Continue reading

Thinking of a marathon

AFTER months of training in the cold and dark winter months, spring could finally have arrived.

The sun is shining, the sky a brilliant blue, and although there is still a chill in the air it is much warmer than it has been.

My run today was an off-road 12 miler in the Yorkshire countryside. Most of my winter training is done in the dark, which means I stay on the road. It was fantastic to be out running in daylight and off-road. For me, this really does mark the end of winter and the start of spring.

This is one of my favourite times of year. The extra daylight makes so much difference to training, to everything really. I always feel more positive in spring. I get a feeling that anything is possible. I really got that feeling today. In fact, a few miles into the run when I was relaxing and letting my mind drift, well, I started thinking about marathons.

This rarely happens. I’m not a marathon runner. This is what I tell myself. This is what I tell other people. Say NO to marathons should be my mantra.

I’ve done two marathons in my life. One in 2006. One in 2009. I survived both, but it was messy, very messy. The training was all wrong.  I didn’t really know what I was doing. The first one took six hours (45 minutes queuing for the loo), the second five hours 19 minutes.

Since then, I’ve focused on getting faster, and decided to avoid marathons. When anyone mentions the M word,  the barrier goes up. Say No to marathons. It’s a long way. It involves doing a lot of long runs, and long runs aren’t really my thing.

But today, as I was running through the woods and enjoying myself in the sunshine, I actually thought that maybe I could run another marathon, and run it well. Anything’s possible.

I could learn to love my long run. I could get into the right mindset. I might even enjoy it. If I did an autumn marathon it would be lovely to train through the summer months.

‘When’s the New York marathon?’ I asked Chris.

‘It’s late on. November. It’s always cold.’

I pictured myself running through Manhattan, over the bridges, through Central Park. If someone had given me an entry form today, I would have signed up, no messing.

But could I run a marathon?

‘You could do it.’ It was as though Chris was reading my mind. ‘You could.’

He’s right. I could. With spring here, and a long summer to come, maybe it’s time to put the doubts to one side, to believe in myself.

‘Do you want to run a marathon?’ Chris asked.

‘I’ll think about it.’

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I took this photo late afternoon, when it was just starting to cloud over and get dark.

 

 

 

 

Learning to love the long-distance run

Out of all the runs I do every week it’s the long run that I struggle with the most. In fact, there are times when I dread it for days.

Even though my long run is at a much slower pace than most of my other runs, I find it incredibly tiring. To keep going mile after mile at a consistent pace and to fight the urge to stop when your body is hurting requires both physical and mental strength. I like the challenge, but the feeling of exhaustion can be overwhelming, so overwhelming that it often wipes me out for the rest of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the feeling of accomplishment you always get when you’ve finished a long run. And if I didn’t have a million and one energy-zapping things to do after the run, like mucking-out the horses or walking the dogs, I’m sure I would enjoy them a lot more.

Chris Dam flask 2014

Chris at the 2014 Dam Flask relay

Chris is well aware of how much I dread my long run. I’ve told him often enough. Unlike me, Chris loves to get out for his long run and is quite happy to run for mile after mile on his own in all weathers. That’s why he’s tackled the marathon distance and why he’s taking on his first ultra this year. 

‘It’s about the challenge,’ he says. ‘Pushing yourself to run for longer distances. It’s the one thing where you can really test your strength and speed. It’s the run where all your other training comes into play, and you can see improvement. And because we race long distances they’re really important.’

He’s right. Most of our races for the next few months are ten miles and half marathon distance. I have to do a long run. I won’t miss one, but I will complain about it. My complaining over the past few weeks has been getting out of hand. I’ve complained to Chris. I’ve complained to my friends in my training group. I’ve complained to my non-running family who say – shock horror – ‘well don’t do it then.’

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Running on my own at last year’s North Lincolnshire Half Marathon

Not doing a weekly long run is not an option, so I decided that instead of channelling all my energy into hating and complaining and grumbling about my run, I would learn to love it.

I’ve been introducing ways to make it more fun. I’ve included tempo miles, fartlek, off-road runs, and hills in my long run. The good thing is that my strategies are starting to work. My mind-set, albeit slowly, is beginning to change. I decided that it’s all about being positive, setting challenges and rewarding yourself.

Last weekend I set the challenge of running a half marathon in training. It wasn’t an unrealistic challenge as I’ve slowly been increasing the length of my runs. Sunday is usually the day for my long run, but I knew I’d spend all weekend thinking about it. Instead I ran first thing Saturday morning.

The sun was shining. Chris was running with me. We’d planned the route. We’d got gels and water. We were ready.

I was determined to enjoy it.

‘I’m definitely going to enjoy this,’ I told Chris. ‘I’m learning to love my long run.’

Norton 9 2015

With Chris at the Norton 9 2015

The route was a combination of road, trail and woodland in some lovely Yorkshire countryside. It was a fairly flat route which started along the canal taking us from Old Royston to the West Yorkshire village of Walton. We then headed into Sandal and Newmillerdam Country Park where we did a lap of the dam. A steep climb followed until we reached the Trans Pennine Trail for the last three miles.

We ran 13.5 miles going through a half marathon in 1 hour 54. Although the pace was steady, it was consistent and I felt strong. It was only in the last mile that I felt tired and started to complain.

‘I’m tired,’ I said to Chris ‘I’m struggling.’

‘Nearly there,’ he said and he seemed to speed up as though he wanted the run and the complaining to end.

‘Will you slow down?’ I said.

It’s rare I do my long run with Chris. It’s not because I hate spending time with him or anything like that. It’s because if I’m with Chris I’m more likely to complain. I’m more likely to stop.

If I’m on my own or with friends I never complain. Instead I dig in and push myself, often encouraging others. But with Chris it’s different. I think it’s because he’s a faster runner than me, so my eyeballs-out pace is Chris’ jog. And he’ll usually say something annoying like, ‘Push on,’ when in actual fact I am PUSHING all I can and couldn’t possibly PUSH any more. But I do enjoy running and spending time with Chris, which is why I asked him if he’d come with me on my Saturday half-marathon challenge.

It was actually a lovely run and my complaining was limited to the last mile. I was pleased we did it. Afterwards we had a relaxing afternoon watching the tennis and eating chocolate, probably a bit too much chocolate (minstrels and maltesers). But it’s all about rewarding yourself for achieving something. Having run 13.5 miles I decided I had a lot to feel pleased about.