As I ticked off the first of a two week taper, the weather has offered a timely reminder as to the weeks of effort and many miles I have logged during this journey. Whereas I started training in July during the long, warm summer days, I now find myself lacing up in darkness, with the chilly morning air making my hands hide under long sleeves until I have warmed up enough for them to emerge. Marathon training is not easy; and I think I sometimes forget the commitment and drive it requires just to get to the start line. The Chicago start line is within touching distance now though, and I am beginning to focus more on the race - a mere 26.2 miles amongst the hundreds I have logged this year!
MONDAY: Body Pump class - my last strength session before the marathon.
TUESDAY: an easy 5 miles to start the week, just trying to flush out any of the remaining soreness from weight training and my final longer run on Sunday.
WEDNESDAY: today was a good run; my legs felt strong, my paces were pleasing and I enjoyed a catch up with my mid week running partner after we missed our run last week. Having someone to run with particularly during these colder, darker days is really motivating - 5:30am alarms can be easy to snooze otherwise! The first few of our 6.5 miles were quick, in the 7.40 min/mile region. We then had a long gradual hill to climb towards the end which slowed us a little; however I did make it to the top of this hill, whereas a few weeks back during my peak tiredness, I had to stop. A bit of a confidence booster!
THURSDAY: two 4.5 mile runs, both involving some speed work. I left my own interval run until today to coincide with some planned intervals at Run Cub later; I wanted today to be one of the final high intensity days before the marathon, so opted to double up rather than splitting the two runs. My solo intervals in the morning involved 10 x 400m, with a brief 100m recovery period. The recovery did feel short, but I hit some good splits with some low 7 min/mile reps in there. At Run Club I really messed up my watch again in terms of logging splits accurately (shock!), but I enjoyed some speedier stuff with friends, using them to push me rather than numbers on a screen.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: it was parkrun's 15th birthday today and in the lead up to the weekend they had published a video which summed up perfectly how this weekly 5k is about so much more than just the running. It rang so true to me; yes I love my running, but heading down to Lincoln parkrun virtually every week of the year is not about the miles for me - lets face it, I am motivated enough to log these myself! parkrun is about the friends I have made and the community I feel part of - it is my happy place. This week I wanted to run well, but also not push myself to the absolute max so close to the marathon. I logged a quick first mile and then eased off slightly for the second. When one of our regular Lincoln parkrun marshals told me I was in first female place this then became my goal; do not worry about a time, just focus on trying to enter that funnel first. My mind was set on this target, and therefore as I entered the final mile and another marshal informed me second female was just on my shoulder, I kicked for a very strong final mile. My female follower kept with me all the way, making me work hard and testing my mental resolve. I knew I had a kick left in my legs though, and I managed to create a few seconds cushion in the final sprint to finish first female. I turned in the finish funnel and extended a hand to the second lady, a face I now recognised from parkrun but had never really spoken to in length. We shook hands; she was thankful of me pushing her to a new PB, and I was equally as thankful for an enjoyable challenge. We chatted some more about running before finally remembering we still needed to scan! Community first - finish times second.
SUNDAY: a steady 10 miles in which I spent a large chunk of the time trying not to think about having to run another 16.2 miles further! It was an ok run; this final run a week out from the race is always hard trying to avoid the mental games!
A few taper miles now remain, along with a flight to Chicago; race week beckons...
The words to this blog have been whirring around in my head all week, and one of the reasons why I maintain this log of my running is sometimes just to help me get those thoughts written down. In the end I have finished with a part personal reflection/part log of my week of training.
The start of this week marked the beginning of my next cycle of marathon training – sixteen weeks until I take on another 26.2 miles, which will hopefully be my 10th marathon event. I will be very honest; at the onset of the week I sat contemplating another training block and I was not really sure how I felt about it. The past few weeks since completing the Brighton Marathon I have surprised myself. Despite a little wobble the week after the race, I have coped fine without a structured training plan in place, whereas in the past I have been lost, and this has often led to me feeling quite down.
The truth is, I have not needed marathon training to make me feel happy. This is massive progress for me and perhaps why I was not feeling that desperate longing to begin another training cycle, as I have been in the past. A few things have helped, and one of these in particular has been embracing the other non-running aspects of my life and finding a healthy way to balance still being a running mad individual with being able to celebrate friends’ birthdays, go to a concert, eat that massive ice cream sundae with my sister etc.
It is not just the past few weeks however where the change in me can be seen. Those who have been following my running adventures for a while now will probably not be surprised to read that last year was tough for me personally, and there were times I really was not in a good place mentally. I was pretty much relying on running to keep me going. I am pleased to say I feel a long way from that person right now - I still love my running! - but it feels somewhat like I am also free to feel and be truly me.
Unsurprisingly, I therefore have hopes for this block of training as well as goals for the marathon itself. My hope is to try keep a happy medium between enjoying my training and enjoying my life outside running. I believe it is possible – in fact, I know it is – I just need to learn to let it be possible. My goal for the race itself remains the same as with Brighton Marathon earlier this year – I will be PB hunting and aiming to edge closer to the 3.30 marker. This is a goal that still scares me, but one I will keep trying to strive towards, and my efforts at Brighton have not done anything to dampen my belief it might be possible one day. The journey begins…
MONDAY: a muggy double strength session with Strength and Conditioning followed by Body Pump.
TUESDAY: the lingering muggy air was eased slightly this morning with the welcoming feel of some light rain – much preferred for my first interval session in a few weeks. I ran 5 miles with 4 x 800m reps; I pushed hard and was happy to set benchmark rep splits of all under 7.20 min/mile.
WEDNESDAY: I found myself in the small, somewhat tucked away place of Yarnfield today for a conference with work. I had stayed here before, so had a rough running route in mind, but was still pleased I only had 4 miles on my plan to try map out. The run became a tempo session as my slight nervousness at running on unknown rural roads and then into a bit of an industrial estate meant I pushed the pace!
THURSDAY: a double run day with an easy 4 miles in the morning followed by 3 hilly miles at Run Club in the evening. I was Run Leader for this session and had set quite a tough hill challenge involving repeated figure of eight loops. I enjoyed seeing others draw on their determination to test themselves and realise what they could achieve and also got a good few hill reps in myself.
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: with possibly my favourite running event ahead on Sunday – Round Sheffield Run – I opted to volunteer at Lincoln parkrun today in the glorious sunshine. The sun tempted me out for an easy 3 miles of my own at lunchtime, and in the 25 degree heat I was pleased it was just a few miles!
SUNDAY: Round Sheffield Run – this is such a unique event I don’t think I can ever do it justice in writing (although I will try in a full blog soon!) A multi staged trail challenge, equating to nearly 12 miles of distance and featuring lot of hills along the way; it is not my regular thing, but maybe this is why I love it so much. The best part is being able to compete in the event as a pair and this was the 4th year I had ran with my friend at my side. This year’s event was possibly my favourite in terms of the simple fact we just had a great time running together and wonderful day out in all. Sat next to my friend in a deckchair whilst sipping a post run beer at the race village, it felt like I was setting a benchmark I needed for the weeks ahead – run hard, challenge myself and see what I can achieve, but take opportunities to relax, enjoy life and embrace those within it too.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...