Panic stations. It’s less than 10 weeks until the Edinburgh Half Marathon, and I’ve not really done much training. I’ve done a lot of spinning and written a book, but running has not been happening.
So this morning, I went onto the Edinburgh website and changed my predicted race time. When I entered, I was determined to break one hour 30, but that was last year when I was still running. There’s no way I can do that in 10 weeks, and I didn’t fancy lining up on the start next to all the super speedy runners. Instead, Continue reading →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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.’
I took this photo late afternoon, when it was just starting to cloud over and get dark.
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 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.’
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.’
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.
The Robin Hood Half Marathon in Nottingham is known for being one of the fastest and most popular autumn races in the country. If you’re looking for a personal best then this course almost guarantees it.
After setting PBs at two half marathons in the spring, I’d got closer to breaking the one hour 40 minutes barrier but hadn’t quite managed it. With a full summer of training I felt sure I would be able to smash it. Even if I ran one hour 39 that would suffice. I just wanted thirty-something.
So my summer training began. The long runs, short runs, hills runs, tempo runs and speed sessions were all done with Nottingham in mind.
Everything was going well. I felt strong. I was quietly confident. A few weeks before the race I smashed my 10k PB. I was delighted. I couldn’t wait to get on the start line at Nottingham. This had to be the right time to break the barrier.
Unfortunately, the autumn germs began circulating and I became ill with a chest infection. Then my iron deficiency started causing problems. I soldiered on. I took antibiotics and ate spinach and broccoli in abundance. To make matters worse, Chris was struck down with man flu. We wondered if we’d even be able to make the start. Should we still race? Should we pick another half marathon? One minute we were going to run the next we weren’t running. Then at the last minute we decided to do it.
As always, the doubt was my downfall. I’d lost my focus. I didn’t prepare as I normally would. In fact, our preparations were something of a shambles.
‘We’ll have to set off early,’ Chris said the night before.
‘Why?’ I asked tucking into my chocolate pot (dark chocolate for iron of course).
‘It starts at 9:30am.’
The drive to Nottingham takes an hour and half. We needed to be in the race village at 8:30am and it was a 25 minute walk from the car park to the start. We needed to set off at 6.45am at the latest, which meant getting up before we’d gone to bed. All this would have been fine had we not had various pets to contend with on race morning. I dashed off to feed the horses while Chris walked and fed the dogs. Things took longer than planned. We were 30 minutes late setting off.
‘We’re cutting it a bit fine,’ Chris said as we sped out of the village.
‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘The car park and roads don’t close until 8.50am so we’ll be fine.’
Chris didn’t look so sure.
‘Don’t panic,’ I said. ‘I know a shortcut.’
Having lived and worked in Nottingham I thought I knew the area quite well, but as it turns out, I don’t. Things started to go wrong when I couldn’t remember if it was junction 26 or 25 that we needed to take. We took 25.
‘I don’t recognise any of these roads,’ I said. ‘It must have been the 26 turnoff!’
We had a tense few minutes until we realised that the road we were travelling on was going to Nottingham. We’d get there. It would be fine. It was 8.40am and just as we were signalling to take a road leading to the car park an official jumped out in front of us brandishing traffic cones.
‘The road’s closing,’ he said.
I was slightly annoyed that the race organisers were closing things ahead of schedule.
‘It’s only a few minutes,’ Chris said. But actually those precious minutes would have made all the difference.
The official told us we needed to go back to the roundabout, which involved more queuing, and head three miles the other way following a diversion.
If only I hadn’t got my junction numbers muddled we would have got there a few minutes earlier, parked and walked to the start in good time. Instead it was 8.50am and we were still crawling along.
As we came into Nottingham I became nostalgic at seeing the Queen’s Medical Centre where I used to work. In my excitement I seemed to lose all sense of direction and we ended up in a church car park. I jumped out and asked a policeman for directions. It was 9am.
‘Can we run to the start?’ I asked.
‘Too far,’ he said.
‘How far is far?’
I really didn’t want to run three miles and then take part in a half marathon, so we went back the way we’d come. When we spotted a sign for the car park, I cheered. We could see where we needed to be, but the traffic just wasn’t moving. At 9.14am Chris confirmed my suspicions.
‘We’re going to miss the race!’
After all my training and hard work, months of putting myself through pain just to break one hour 40, I wasn’t even going to start.
Surprisingly, I felt calm. There was absolutely nothing I could do and it wasn’t like it was the Olympic final.
We parked the car at 9.35am, five minutes late, and began a mad sprint to the start. That first mile and half were the quickest of the day. A few people clapped us as we came down what would be the last mile of the race.
‘Are you the winners?’ someone shouted.
We arrived at the start gasping, tired and hot. In retrospect, it wasn’t the ideal warm up for a half marathon event. What we should have done is got back in the car and gone for a big breakfast, but when you’re in race mode it’s hard to see sense.
With around 17,000 runners taking part in the half marathon and marathon not everyone had crossed the start line. We joined Fred Flintstone and Robin Hood at the back of the field and off we went.
With thousands of runners to pass I was never going to get the time I wanted. But I was going to try. It was stop and start all the way. I weaved in and out of the crowd, jumped on and off pavements, but to no avail.
Despite my disappointment at not breaking the barrier, I was delighted when I crossed the line in 1.41.56, a PB by three seconds which meant 10 points for my club championship.
‘You cut that a bit fine,’ Chris said. ‘But at least it’s not a wasted day.’
It wasn’t. There’s always a sense of achievement after finishing a half marathon. It was just a very strange day and there’s still the problem of breaking that one hour 40 barrier.