Run Up To Christmas 2018

What a great challenge this was!  A brilliant way to round off a year full of running.  The idea of the challenge is to set a target distance (50km, 100km, etc) and log those miles and kilometers in your own time between 1st and 25th of December.  I set a target of 150km (about 93 miles) which was high considering the distance on my runs had tailed off somewhat following the Oxford Half Marathon in early October.  I managed to get off to a good start with a medium and a long run on the first weekend in December clocking up nearly 26km (16 miles).  The following weekend did not follow suit.  It started with some Parkrun tourism in Cardiff which was a really enjoyable course and I had a good run at it but after that the focusing switched to socialising and then ‘holiday’ mode as I stayed over in the Brecon Beacons and ended up drinking more wine than expected so didn’t manage to get the trainers on on the Sunday morning.

Cardiff Parkrun Finish Selfie

The following weekend I took myself down to the Ridgeway for some trail running practice.  That was such an amazing morning.  The forecast had been for rain but it was beautifully clear, crisp winter morning and I managed 8 miles of very enjoyable but challenging running (and photographing!).  A few less than originally planned but definitely  enough of a workout for the legs.

 

Although still managing to get some shorter runs logged on the weekdays I ended up getting towards the final weekend before Christmas with around 50km still to run.  That’s a marathon (26.2) plus just less than 5 miles.  Make or break time.  The organisers of the challenge are really flexible so at this point I had the option to call it quits, claim a medal based on having run 100km already and donate any extra to another runner falling short, or keep going.  I decided to keep going and just see if I could do it.  Saturday, after having taught classes and before going to get my nails done I squeezed a 6 mile session in.  Then on Sunday, suffering a horrible hangover from work drinks the night before I somehow jogged 7 miles.  On the Monday, thankfully no work so I had time, and had recovered enough, for a 13.5 mile slog up to Oxford and back.  I was gearing up to have a double run day and finish off the final 4 miles that evening but after seeing a message pop up that Christmas Day runs could be included in the total decided to save that for the morning.  A shorter, faster push to finish the distance.  Repeatedly refreshing Strava until the total for the month to date showed 151km.  I actually did it!  Now it’s time to relax and enjoy Christmas!

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Post-Marathon Re-Focus

In the first couple of weeks post-marathon – brimming with renewed enthusiasm for running and training ‘properly’ this time – I kept my runs to short distances of 3-4 miles and focused on going out regularly and consistently.  I also took the opportunity to do some non-running sessions to give me some different movements to play with.  Getting to another instructor’s class has is also helpful in giving my brain a break and allowing me to concentrate more on what my body is doing.  In the first week I went to a yoga class where, happily, the instructor was in need of some de-stressing so it was a lovely gentle stretchy twisty class that really helped revive the legs.

Something I noticed during excessive Instagram browsing was that a lot of other runners seemed to be running marathons really close together or ramping the milage back up again much more quickly than I was.  My competitive streak is almost non-existent but it is there and was triggered by this so that I started looking at whether an autumn marathon this year would be possible.  New Forest being a particularly appealing option for location and not overlapping too closely with the already booked Oxford Half Marathon.  On reflection I decided against.  Races are not that cheap to enter, especially the longer distances and factoring in travel times and taking time off work (yep, Sunday classes).  This gives me loads of time to focus on building up the intensity and distance of my training sessions gradually without the pressure aiming to be at a certain level in a short amount of time.  Also, for me, I think the excitement of a race might fade with frequency so spacing them out gives me something to really look forward to.

May’s training went really, really well.  I ticked all the planned sessions off as scheduled.  This included 7.5 mile ‘pace’ session, a steady but fast tempo run to increase speed and endurance, and a 10 mile ‘comfortable’ session also for endurance but at an easier sustainable pace.  The pace session was on such a hot, humid day and I was determined to challenge myself with it and ended up feeling really queasy for a few hours afterwards which has never really happened before.  Based on that I’ll aim to get future runs done earlier in the day when possible.  The 10 miler felt great, there is a magic moment in the longer runs where I zone out and running feels endless but in a weirdly good way.  Then stopping feels disruptive somehow.  Really looking forward to more of those and pleased to find that now, at the end of the month, I am still as excited and motivated to train as at the start.

Hello, June! Let’s see what you’ve got for me…

2018 Training Plans

Over the past couple of years a lot of my focus and physical energy has been on gaining new fitness instructing qualifications (e.g. BodyPump, BodyCombat) but with all that starting to tick along nicely I decided it was time to set a different challenge and revisit what got me really into fitness in the first place – running.  Having run several 10ks and a few half marathons it felt time to move up to full marathon distance.  26.2 miles.  Twenty six point two MILES. Yikes.

I entered Brighton Marathon with a WWF charity place and set myself up with a training plan.  [I use my.asics.com for this and would recommend to site to anyone looking for guidance on how to structure their running training.]   When the longer training runs started to appear on the calendar I struggled with them a lot more than I’d imagined in various ways.  For example, fitting it in the weekend around a social life, and then needing energy to have recovered enough for work, not knowing quite how to layer up effectively against the freezing cold.   The couple of snowy weekends we had limited how far I was able to run when I was supposed to be increasing mileage and throughout the couple of months leading up to marathon day (15 April) I swore I would not be putting myself through any of this ever again and couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

Once the tapering phase, reduced mileage and reduced weights in BodyPump, kicked in I started to be able to look forward to a trip to Brighton and was determined to enjoy the whole experience as much as possible.  In hindsight I must have been more anxious about being able to actually complete the thing than I realised.  When it actually came around I had an absolutely brilliant day.  Getting up, fed, and on my way to the start line was relatively stress free, given I was in an unfamiliar place, and from there it was easy: dump the bag, queue up, and just… run.  The running almost continuously for five hours was about as hard as I’d expected, certainly not too much worse, and at times even felt really good.  Crossing the line was emotional.  I realised that I hadn’t been convinced I would be able to finish.  But I did.  I did it.

After the event I slept so well – a combination of the physical activity and the release of the stress of having been worrying about it – that the next day and for the rest of the week I somehow felt so much better, more motivated calmer, and more ‘myself’ than I have done for a very long time.  Perhaps, ever.  So of course I immediately started researching other marathons.  Less than a month after swearing “never again”.

In the last month since the event I have briefly entertained the idea of attempting an autumn marathon this year but decided to hold off until I can take more time to build up to it more gradually.  Post-marathon running volumes are comparatively low, doing 3-5 miles per session rather than the 7 milers and 13-16s that I had worked up to beforehand.  The next big focus for me now is to run the Oxford Half Marathon in October which will my fifth go at this event.  High on the sense of achievement from Brighton I’m looking for a personal best – to beat my 2014 time of 1:48:40.  This will mean I need to be to be around 45 seconds faster per mile (for the 13.1 miles).  So, the focus for training over the summer will need to include practicing speed work as well as building back up to longer distance runs.

To help keep me focused and on track with this, and in the hope that my readers might find it inspiring or at least interesting, I will be sharing my training progress and thoughts on the process here on this blog.  Watch this space!

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