Since my last blog and my simultaneous decision to end any form of marathon training, things have felt good. I am not missing the structure of marathon training and I am certainty not doubting my decision not to have any involvement in a virtual London Marathon and/or attempt a new Good For Age time.
Mentally it feels like a hanging weight has been lifted; I pretty much know where I stand now in terms of the rest of this year, and although I am waiting on an email from the London Marathon to confirm what will happen with my 2020 place, I am not wasting any energy worrying about what that outcome may be. Physically, my body already feels better for a drop in mileage too. It has made me realise how much pain the tendinitis that my Sports Therapist had recently diagnosed as developing in my left knee has been causing me, mainly when not running. Recently when driving my car and my leg being stuck in a fixed, bent position it was becoming extremely uncomfortable and was seeing me finish even short journeys ready to literally jump out the car and straighten my leg. This week I drove from York to Lincoln without any pain whatsoever.
In York I had been staying with my sister and her boyfriend for a few days, and my parents also came up to stay, so I was able to see them for the first time since Christmas. The timing of my little trip away could not have fallen more perfectly really; with the marathon plan torn up I was able to really enjoy some time out of my lock down routine and also to switch off. I still ran most days with my sister and her boyfriend (it is so great having family who also love to run!) but there was no pressure to get up and squeeze 20 miles in before joining the days activities. We are still an active family though, so we walked lots of miles and I even went on a bike ride for the first time in many years! We cycled 24 miles and although I have absolutely no cycling gear (my backside was a little saddle sore sat on a rock hard saddle in flimsy running shorts!), was borrowing my sister's second hand bike, and got a puncture a mile from home whilst cycling up a hill - I really enjoyed it!
At times whilst away I was almost able to forget the ongoing impact of Covid-19. In fact some areas of my life are beginning to shift slowly back towards normality. I am still working predominantly from home, although can go into my workplace/office now if there is a need to - these little breaks from my kitchen table are very much welcomed. Our Run Club is now meeting in slightly larger numbers and we even have a track session planned for next week.
Perhaps most surprisingly for 2020, I also have an actual race - the Normanby 10k - taking place in two weeks time. This is an event I have absolutely zero expectations for in terms of my own performance but simply want to experience a race day feeling again with friends and also support Curly's Athletes, who I know through our joint involvement in the Lincoln City Half Marathon. I trust that the Curly's team will be doing all that can to deliver a safe but enjoyable event.
Running wise I am simply going to do what I feel like in the weeks ahead; I know I need to keep my mileage a little more conservative for a few more weeks, and I actually feel quite inclined to do some shorter, sharper runs for a change - I can get myself 5k ready for the long awaited return of parkrun! I am also going to be a little more relaxed with blogging - not stopping! - but without 'training' as such to report on I am simply going to write when I feel like it.
I feel comfortable with my next steps, and my biggest hope is that things also keep progressing forward more generally in the world and society.
There are several things 2020/lockdown/Covid has taught me, but in running terms it has been the realisation that I purely love running, the act of going for a run, which is even better when you get to share this with others (oh how I miss you parkrun!) I have not missed racing as such, but instead the shared experience, journey, enjoyment, achievement etc. of running these adventures with others. I have reflected on this a lot since the London Marathon news was (finally) delivered this week and we now know for definite that there will be no 2020 race happening.
Since the news broke late on Thursday I have been through a real spectrum of emotions. It felt different to back in March when, as the news came that the race was being postponed, I felt sad even though I knew it was the right decision. At the time I was really enjoying my training and was looking forward to sharing the event with friends from my Run Club. I did not instantly feel sad this time though, simply relieved. Although I had been training for the new October date, I did not think the race should be held nor did I want it to take place this year. Consequently I was growing to slightly resent my training plan in recent weeks; I felt almost a slave to it when I had no reason to be.
I still feel frustrated with how the London Marathon have handled things; I feel they have almost been ignorant to the commitment of marathon training and, more importantly, to the pandemic. Although they say it, sadly I do not believe they have always had runners’ best interest in mind. Apparently they had been investigating some Bluetooth technology which runners would use during the race and which would be able to log data about who they came into 2 metre contact with across 26.2 miles. This all sounds potentially very useful going forward, but let’s face it, the Government cannot even master a decent track and trace system, so what chance did the London Marathon have of nailing this in a matter of weeks? Its something they should be exploring, but they needed to be realistic it was not possible to master, practice and ensure it was reliable in time for October.
After my initial relief at hearing the race was cancelled for 2020, and then an almost renewed respect that they had decided to hold the event in October 2021, which seems a very sensible call based on the current situation, things quickly spiralled. On the surface level social media (which another frustration of mine is that this comms was released before runners received an official email – surely it should have been the other way round?) it appeared all runners would be offered a place in the 2021 event. However, as I delved deeper into the FAQs, here the uncertainty arose…
Considering we have spent the vast majority of this year attempting to following often vague and difficult to understand guidelines about how to live our lives, you would think the London Marathon would have learnt to make things straightforward and simple – but no. Some sections of the FAQs were more straightforward, however in relation to my area of concern – Good For Age qualification – it was unclear. Have a look at the guidance yourself and see what you think - but I am pretty sure because the qualifying time I submitted was from September 2018 this means, in order to be eligible to run in 2021, I must take part in the virtual race on October 4th and I must also run another Good For Age time during this virtual run. If not, my place will only be valid for 2023. On reading this I will admit my gut reaction was to feel upset, I could almost feel myself wanting to cry. I had worked so hard to run a qualifying time and it had been a massive goal of mine to achieve this feat, and yet London Marathon were now almost seeming to disregard it. The 2020 race was also the first option I had to use my qualification time (I was too late for the 2019 event) and therefore it seemed unfair that I was being pushed back to five years after the qualifying time was ran.
Trying to swallow my feelings, I then spent time thinking more about the virtual race. How could I run 26.2 miles around Lincoln, on my own and, more importantly, fast? It would be Good For Age or bust... I was pondering routes, how I would manage aid stations, and how much more training I needed to do… Late Thursday night my mind was buzzing, including thinking about how on earth the London Marathon were going to police these virtual runs and ensure no cheating took place to log quick qualifying times. I am still unsure why they feel this should even be an option to qualify virtually when all the other World Marathon majors have omitted this from their virtual events. I was also fretting about the fact the London Marathon are not due to send an email out until September (more waiting) to confirm each runner’s individual options for rolling over their place – so if I have to do this virtual run do I need to keep training? Surely I need to if I am going to have to try run a Good For Age time?!
Fast forward to this weekend and my slightly more logical thinking has helped me make a more rational decision about the London Marathon. Firstly, I have no interest in virtual events, and personally would not feel that running 26.2 miles around Lincoln warrants a prestigious London Marathon medal. Secondly, the amount of pressure this virtual marathon would put on me is too much – a finish time is not the only reason why I run marathons and yet this virtual run would be all about the clock. On the day if I failed to run the time I needed how would that make me feel? Thirdly, I feel I need a break from training for a marathon, it has been a physically and mentally long year and my body has had no real rest period. I saw my Sports Therapist this week had have been told I have slight tendinitis developing in my left knee – it is a warning sign and I need to take this chance to ease off mileage a little. Lastly, and going back to my starting point, racing is not just why I run and any form of ‘London Marathon’ during 2020 would be going against all that lockdown had taught me.
So, my decision now leaves me awaiting my email in September to learn if I will be given an option to run in October 2021 or if I will be pushed back until April 2023. I don’t want to read I have to run in 2023, but I cannot change it, and to be honest I am tired of the London Marathon playing with my emotions and maybe a break away from the event will be good? There are other marathons to run and experiences to be had out there too.
This means 2020 will be my first year without a marathon since 2014, and I am ok with it. I have gained a lot more this year than the races I have lost. This last week has emphasised this as I enjoyed numerous runs with Run Club/friends, some easy paced runs, some pushing harder, some exploring new places, and on Sunday felt fully free to enjoy a lovely long run with no pressure. I am no longer training but back to running, and whilst I have some small events still booked in for later in the year, I will look (hopefully!) forward to these days as chances to share experiences with friends again and just run happy.
My marathon adventures will undoubtedly return in 2021, I still have many ventures I want to complete, and I am also determined I will run the London Marathon one day as a Good For Age qualifier.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...