It started so well. Each of my three four-mile easy runs this week were lovely, even the traditional Tuesday horror was heavenly due to beautiful, cheery sunshine, inspiring a zen-like pace. Being sunny may not sound like such a big deal, gentle reader, but you may be surprised to learn that since the new year began, I have enjoyed running in the sunshine on only four occasions. Considering I have been running four times a week, that’s pretty miserable.
With those three simple runs under my belt, I felt more than confident tackling my long Sunday run of 12 miles. After all, I’d run 12 before and I knew it wouldn’t be as hard as the near-death experience that was my 15 miler last week. How wrong I was. I started really slowly, my pace felt OK, but again when I got past the ten mile mark, my strength seemed to disappear. Maybe I should start taking more gels or sweets with me on these long runs. Maybe I should be eating more carbs the day before. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone out for a 13th birthday party at ten p.m. the previous night and ended it by dancing Gangnam Style with a load of parents who should’ve known better. Either way, I’ve got to re-think my strategy for next week’s 16 miler.
One thing I won’t be doing, however, is running in the Nikes above. These faithful friends helped to kickstart my running life back in May, led me around the Norwich half marathon and have been good companions on runs of all shapes and sizes since. But they’re old and causing me pain, so off to the great road in the sky they go – they shall run no more.
Sorry, I seem to have something in my eye…
Surprisingly, after the previous Sunday’s gruelling 12 mile run, my first three training runs this week (all easy four milers) went really well, even Thursday’s horrible one with lots of hills. I was going to run on Friday, but I forgot my socks (much to the amusement of my running colleagues). So I had to fit in a seven a.m. run on Saturday, the day we went to Cambridge for Mrs K’s deferred birthday shopping extravaganza. I was a bit worried about being on my feet all day as Sunday was my long run, a scary 15 miles. When I ran the Norwich Half Marathon last November, the day before I just stayed indoors and stuffed my face full of carbs. But I figured that I was a stronger runner now and a day on my feet plus the early four-miler wouldn’t be a problem. Plus we did have a huge afternoon tea and I had a big plate of pasta when we got home.
Still I had to admit I was anxious when I got up the next day. Setting off in a fog Sherlock Holmes would have felt at home in, I started steady as I ran the six miles into Norwich. I decided to reverse my planned route, making it longer before I headed back, but allowing me to tackle hills on the inward journey while I was still fresh. All was going well until fatigue reared its ugly head at mile nine, just before I began the homeward leg. I thought “Oh no, I’ve still got six miles yet!”, but I kept it steady and knowing I was heading back gave me a nice psychological boost. However, that boost had burst by mile 12, my threshold from last week. My running had become a stagger, my thoughts alternating between “I’ve got to stop” and “Keep going or you’ll never know if you can do it”. As I carried on the long straight road home, my stagger turned into a shuffle, but I still kept going. The last two miles were run on Jelly Babies and willpower. My sore back, hips and feet were all complaining loudly as I turned the corner on the last road. When I finally reached Castle Kirkendall, and fell through the front door, a red-faced pile of sweat held together by running tights, I imagined I could hear the sound of rapturous applause. But it wasn’t applause, it was the dishwasher.
Mrs K dispensed chocolate milk and glasses of water while I uploaded the run and tried very hard not to cry. It was easily the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and I’ve been to a Madonna concert.
PS. Incredibly, I actually ran my fastest 10k during this run.
This week’s training conditions have been a mix of sun, gloom, rain and ice. Sunny Tuesday’s run became wet Wednesday’s run due to pressure of work and I ran the following day too, adding an extra two miles after deciding to run into work with a rucksack. Setting off at 7.30am, I discovered Norwich had been glazed in ice as the previous nights snow had melted, then frozen. It was really tiring as I couldn’t run properly, tip-toeing over the ice and flapping my arms like a bird running around corners to make sure I didn’t fall over. Stopping at the curb for traffic was a challenge too. But I made it, and by some miracle didn’t fall over.
The weekend’s running began with Saturday’s beautiful, sunny, windless five miler where I was able to achieve a normal pace and just enjoy being out and doing it. By contrast, Sunday’s wet gloomfest was a hard 12 miler, my longest training run yet. I ran to the University of East Anglia the long way, twice around the lake (nice and muddy), then back the way I came. Around the lake I saw one particular dog walker three times. On the second time he smiled and said “You must be a glutton for punishment”. The next time I saw him I panted “Last lap. Then five miles home” which won another smile from him and really lifted my spirits. I realised then that running around people is more motivating (even if they don’t speak to you) then my long runs in empty country lanes where all I have for company is the sound of my breathing, drumming of my feet and my juice bottle. My pace was a bit slower than I imagined (two hours, eight minutes – I blame the hills) but it was faster than my pace for the Norwich Half Marathon. And I wasn’t loaded with carbs as I was for that, which was encouraging. I was also pleased by my continuing lack of injury, but I am worried about coping with the ever increasing milage. Still, once upon a time, I couldn’t run three miles without stopping, so I must be doing something right.
Last week’s training was another week of progress. After a typically un-enjoyable run on Tuesday (my Tuesday runs are like that for some reason), my six mile run into work on Thursday was much better as the snow had disappeared which improved conditions and meant I didn’t have to run in the traffic. And like last Thursday, I ran with a rucksack on my back to show the world how tough I am, but it just gave everyone another chance to see how much a man can sweat – The Human Fountain, anyone? Saturday’s five and a half miler had me wheezing up the hills, but on the home stretch I realised I was running a lot stronger than usual and could have gone on for longer, a nice surprise. And Sunday’s dreaded ten miler (9.88 if you’re being picky or Nike+) was likewise much stronger although a bit painful coming back – weather-wise it was better than last week as it stayed dry and the wind wasn’t as strong.
All of the above has restored my confidence – I know I’m hardly the best runner in the world, but my lack of injuries and my stronger performance on the weekend has started to convince me that I might just be able to run this flippin’ marathon.