This week is lockdown week number 'who even knows anymore' and also another Bank Holiday weekend - really another one!? Perhaps more importantly, this week has also been Mental Health Awareness Week, which considering what collectively we have all been through in recent times, is probably more appropriate than ever. My work created a week long feature of articles and support, ending with final tips from our own members of staff on how we have been maintaining our mental well-being during lockdown. It did not take me long to think of mine, aside from being able to keep working (even if working from home drives me mad some days!) it has been running, and my friends and family who have helped me cope with the challenges presented. Running has always been key for my mental health, but perhaps more than ever it has mattered so much these last weeks in giving me freedom, a chance to feel a small sense of normality and an essence of control, and to simply feel like me.
MONDAY: exercise classes with Run Your Marks, who somehow read my mind and incorporated some upper body exercises, which hurt but felt great at the same time!
TUESDAY: the weather started to warm up today, but getting out fairly early meant I was able to enjoy a steady 6 miles mainly at sub 8 min/mile pace. My 'normal' work schedule would see me setting off to run between 5:30-6am in the morning, but during lockdown it has been more like 7:30-8am - which will have to change as the temperature ramps up!
WEDNESDAY: today the temperature did indeed ramp up, and it was already nearly 18 degrees as I headed out to run. I knew I needed to keep this an easy run as I am not acclimatised to pushing myself in the heat yet. I ran a 10k at about 8:30 min/mile pace, but it felt a tougher; I was just so warm! I will adapt better, but these first runs are always a bit of a shock to the system, especially when the temperature suddenly changes.
THURSDAY: I made myself get out the door earlier today as I wanted to do some intervals and it was still fairly warm. I opted for 10 x 200m reps with a minute recovery in between, and whilst it did not feel like I was flying along as sometimes it can during speed work, I actually logged some good times, including a couple of sub 6 min/mile paced reps.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: this weekend was windy - again. In fact it was very windy today, perhaps not the same gale force levels we saw back in February, but enough to not even make me consider attempting to push myself for an all out 5k along an exposed river. Instead my 'not Lincoln parkrun' was my city centre hillier route which I managed an unofficial course PB on. Not a bad alternative!
SUNDAY: when I woke this morning I was pleased the wind had died down a little, although it was definitely still present. I tried to plan a half marathon route which would not be too exposed, but in reality I knew that it was still going to be windy wherever I ran! In fact it seemed like I had a headwind for virtually 10 miles of my run, with the final 3 offering some shelter/tailwind. Why is it always the case that headwind seems far more apparent!? Despite the conditions I actually ran fairly well; I did not focus on my pace, but after finishing was pleased to see it had ranged between either just under or just over 8:20 min/mile.
Next week I have a couple of arranged socially distanced runs with friends which I am looking forward too - actual plans during 2020! Combining running and friendship I know will be excellent for my mental health too.
This should have been a summary of week ten of my journey to the London Marathon, but instead I find myself reflecting on what is a very strange and uncertain time for the world. No one's lives are being unaffected by the spread of the Coronavirus, and as this week progressed, I knew the chances of the London Marathon happening were fading by the second. To be honest I am glad it has now been postponed; and postponed is the key word for me. A cancellation would have been devastating for myself and others, especially those who have longed to complete the London Marathon for many years. It was also starting to become a very anxious time waiting for announcements on the race, and every time someone mentioned the virus I felt my own anxiety levels rise, waiting to hear what the latest development had been and how it would affect me. Lastly, it was also the right decision to postpone the race for the well being of all; I would have not wanted to take part under such uncertainty and under the fear of putting others at risk; it would have tainted the experience.
Friday 13th March was a tough day for the news to hit as many Spring marathons were also postponed on this day. In fact marathons seem to fall like dominoes and I found myself messaging a lot of my friends throughout the afternoon as each of our respective races announced their postponement. I had not even had the chance to see the decision had been made on the London Marathon myself, as friends and family messaged me the news. Although not the best news to be passing on to me, I was touched at people's care that they knew this would mean something to me, and that they also had a desire to check I was ok.
So am I ok? The truthful answer is yes; in marathon terms I am totally fine with the news. To be honest, how well I am coping with the fact my main focus in life has suddenly removed is a really big thing for me; had this happened maybe last year I think I would have slipped into a very sad place very quickly. It is a testament to how I have progressed personally these past months. I am sad of course about a few things, mainly being unable to share what would have been the next six weeks of training with my Run Club friends. I have honestly loved my last ten weeks of training, my own solo training runs and my recent running adventures with friends, and I do not feel my efforts have been wasted at all - I am developing as a runner but also have made a lot of happy memories along the way. I am also sad I will not be able to cheer my friends on at their own Spring marathons, and in particular we had planned to go on mass to spectate at Manchester where a large number of Run Club members were due to be running. Hopefully we may still be able to in Autumn. I am also sad for my friends, especially those who had their first ever marathon lined up - none of them are disputing the decisions which have been made, but there are still emotions they are feeling which they are entitled to have. I have tried to be there for people and offer as much positivity and words of encouragement and support. I would have needed those a while back.
So where does this leave me? I will be taking up my place for the rearranged London Marathon date in October, and I am very pleased my fellow Run Cub friend who was also due to run London can also make the new date. I was looking forward to a race weekend together, and now it has just been shifted back a few months. In terms of training, I feel like at the moment until things become clearer in the world, there will be no races and I will not seek anything either. My next booked event is a local half marathon at the start of May, followed by a 20 mile trail event which we have entered as a group from Run Club later in the month. Therefore I have a need to keep some distance within my training, but I will undoubtedly scale back a little, especially without the drive of my big goal race.
Personally, the uncertainty in the world across the next few weeks does scare me a little. Forget marathon training, but I do need to be able to run for my personal well being, and the thought of any form of 'lockdown' and being house bound is something I fear. Since Friday, I have also been instructed by my work that I must work from home for the next three weeks, and have to cancel virtually all face to face meetings and events I had planned. It was tough walking home on Friday having lost my marathon and what felt like losing my job; I love running and I love my job, so it was a double whammy almost. I also live by myself and it feels quite lonely to think of being at home for that length of time. I am being honest about how I feel with people though, and have already had offers from friends to join them for runs in the week so I can at least see and talk to some people! Its a very weird time, and I completely appreciate the need to try and protect vulnerable people in particular, but I do also want to try safeguard my own health and happiness as much as possible, especially after working so hard to feel good again.
Anyway, enough 'virus talk' - I feel I need to sign off London Marathon training (part 1!) with a bit of what I achieved this week, as I most certainly did not give up!
MONDAY: Body Pump class
TUESDAY: a tough session of 7 miles with 3 x 1.5 mile reps - a mile and a half is a long way to push the pace and it certainly asked a lot of me!
WEDNESDAY: after a very long day at work on Tuesday and a tough run, I was grateful of 'just' 5 steady miles today, although was shocked to see these averaged 8.15 min/mile and still felt comfortable.
THURSDAY: a double run day with 8 morning miles at easy pace, followed by a precise 3.6 miles later during a continuous hill based session I led at Run Club.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: a very pleasing morning at Lincoln parkrun, as not only did I get to share my happy place with some of my colleagues and friends from work, but I also ran a sub 21 minute time (20:53!) and finished as first female, feeling strong and possibly running off Friday 13th's frustrations.
SUNDAY: I was due to be running Ashby 20 today with a few friends from Run Club, however it was cancelled, and I instead I found myself heading out for a solo 20 miles of my own. The organisers of Ashby 20 had set up a virtual Facebook group encouraging people to log their own 20 miles, and to be honest that was enough of a challenge and incentive for me. I could not quite motivate myself enough to push the pace like a race, but I was pleased to see that I held 8:30 min/miles quite consistently throughout. There were a few slower miles in there, which directly correlated with when my motivation started to waiver, meaning my end average pace did end up at 8:40 min/mile, but it was my commitment that impress me the most.
What a week... and I do not fully know what the future weeks will hold. I do know I am going to try and keep as positive as possible, and reach out to others if I feel I am struggling. The offer of my time and support will also be there to anyone out there too. Keep safe and keep running x
2019 – the end of a year and the end of a decade. In the past ten years so much has changed for me, but the biggest impact on my life has been running. In 2009 I had never ran a race before and only took part in running as part of playing and training for football; now ten years on and I have 70 race medals hung from my medal board in my home, have travelled the world to complete marathons, and cannot imagine a weekend passing without attending parkrun. I am a runner; it defines me and has enhanced my confidence in myself, my body and opened my life to a whole community of people and friends. I cannot imagine life without running now.
2019 itself had a lot to live up to running wise after 2018 was a year in which I set PBs at every distance and achieved more than I ever could imagine. However, if I am honest 2018 was tough personally; it tested me, knocked me down a few times and for periods left my feeling quite sad and lost. Running was a times intertwined with this, simply because my personal life and running life cross over quite closely. I knew this year I had to be ready to make some changes and also accept change – which I am not always keen to do! By far the biggest change I made was to take the step and join a running club – Lincs S&C Run Club. I never thought I wanted to be part of a running club, however I was wrong. This group has given me a network buddies to run with during the week, friends to attend races with, people to be inspired by and push myself alongside, and being a run leader has ignited my coaching passion again. I want to thank my Sports Therapist for encouraging me to get involved with this group; through our chats over the massage bed I think she knew what I was missing from my running, and suggested I get involved with her and others in setting up this new club. My Sports Therapist also encouraged me to meet up with another one of her coaches for some runs, and this year Tom has become my Wednesday morning 6am run buddy and given me a mid-week training boost many a time.
It has not always been easy though; by June/July personally I truly felt like I had everything falling into place again, only for my happiness to be rocked slightly. I wobbled in the lead up to my Chicago Marathon in October, things changed in my life again which made me doubt myself, and this also transferred into my running a little. I lost confidence in myself and personally I had to come to terms with the fact I had also lost people I cared very much about from my life. The last few months though I have been rebuilding myself again; its not easy to admit that you have become detached from people you once felt so close to, but sometimes you have to accept it in order to restore your peace. Sounds deep - but it is true.
Back to the running, and whilst the PBs have not been as extensive as in 2018, its been another memorable year running wise as I have revisited favourite races and experienced new challenges.
Leicestershire Half Marathon - 1:35:23
I started the year on a high with an unexpected PB at Leicestershire Half Marathon. It was one of those days when my body and mind were all in sync, and despite pushing hard, running seemed effortless. I can still recall feeling such a surge of power in my body as I ran a 7 min/mile split to finish 13.1 miles – I think this amazed me just as much as the PB!
Cambridge Half Marathon - 1:37:49
On a miserable, grey race day, I battled hard at Cambridge Half Marathon for another sub 1:40 time. In the midst of marathon training I was tired heading into this event and I definitely did not feel that effortless running that I experienced in Leicester! I was spurred on by my parents’ support though and it is always great to share my running with them.
Ashby 20 - 2:43:22
This was an event I had heard much about but had never taken part in, so I was really pleased to get a chance to run it this year. I loved it and ran so strongly; it has to be one of my best performances of the year. I averaged 8:10 min/mile across a hilly course and it gave me such confidence in my marathon training.
Lincoln 10k - 55:01
With my hometown event falling a week before the marathon I had been training so hard for, I knew I did not want to race the 10k, however I also did not want to miss it either. I was therefore so pleased to be able to pace my friend on the day to a new PB; it saved my legs but also allowed me to embrace the event in a different light. I ran with such a smile and still remember the joyful hug we shared at the end and being able to share my friend’s moment of triumph.
Brighton Marathon - 3:43:38
I gave everything across these 26.2 miles – I had trained so well and knew I had to be willing to take a risk to get the ultimate reward I wanted. I ran bravely, and whilst the course was tougher than I anticipated, it was the brutal headwind in the final few miles along the seafront which saw my PB dream slip from my grasp. I was not disappointed however, just very drained!
North Lincolnshire Half Marathon -1:41:02
My efforts at Brighton Marathon hit my body hard and this race was very much an event for the mind rather than for any specific finish time. I ran consistently and happily though and this helped to restore faith in my body as well as being able to enjoy a race day experience with friends.
Woodhall Spa 10k - 45:11
I enjoyed this event, which is very popular in the local running scene, just not really for running reasons! It’s a lovely social race, but this year it was just too warm and my body too sore to actually be able to enjoy racing it properly. I struggled running and I could not wait for it to be over from early on – but these experiences make you stronger eventually.
Round Sheffield Run - 1:43:50
I love this race, although I feel I need to stop shouting about it as it is becoming so popular now! It is my annual venture into trial running, and the multi staged aspect of the event presents such a unique and different challenge. I always run Round Sheffield Run with my friend as a pair, and this year it was one of the rare times we ran together in any form; this fact makes me sad, but also means this was an extra special year to remember.
Sleaford 10k - 44:22
A Friday night spent running with friends and finishing with a banquet of cake – why had I never taken part in Sleaford 10k before?! This 10k is another popular local event and now I know why. In very windy conditions I ran strongly and thoroughly enjoyed the course, even managing to grab myself a little trophy for finishing second female overall.
Newark Half Marathon - 1:38:52
Held just two days after Sleaford 10k and with a mixed bag of weather to contend with, I was exceptionally happy to log another solid half marathon time again in Newark and go sub 1:40. With marathon training well underway again it was a good marker of my fitness.
Newton's Fraction Half Marathon - 1:43:36
This race formed part of my marathon training, and although I had never taken part in it before, I had heard much about the big hills which formed part of the course. The hills were indeed testing, but my legs felt strong to their challenge, even if I lacked a bit of speed, and I felt my time was a fair reflection of the event.
Chicago Marathon - 3:49:50
I find it hard to pick a favourite race from this year as all have been special for very different reasons, however travelling to Chicago on my own to complete my 10th marathon is probably the feat I am most proud of. It scared me, but I did it; and as a few people have pointed out to me since, it actually took great courage to undertake this particular running adventure. A personal and highly memorable marathon.
Doncaster 10k - 42:42
This year saw me complete a hat trick of 10k PBs at this event. I did not feel in shape for a PB at all, with my post marathon running mainly consisting of steady and easy runs. However, on the day the strength in my body amazed me, and the support I got from sharing the event with many friends from my Run Club and beyond was fantastic and really spurred me on.
Santa Fun Run, Lincoln
Signing off the racing year by successfully defending my Lincoln Santa Run title – I mean what more could I want..!
My parkrun running tally continues to rise as I attend my beloved home Lincoln parkrun event each week, along with new tourism visits notched up at Scunthorpe, Croxteth Hall and York, and other parkrun events revisited at Clumber Park, Normanby Hall, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. Perhaps most significantly I proudly completed my 25th volunteering milestone this year, and sign off 2019 on 31 volunteer stints and 157 parkruns. It is safe to say both these tallies will only rise next year and in the decade ahead.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...