Every so often a run comes along that really reminds you just how tough running can be. Whether it was starting too fast, not being warmed up properly or just the effects of a few days running catching up on me, last Sunday was just one of those days. But it also showed how far my running has come.
After a quick 10k on Thursday, then a Parkrun on Saturday which was basically a 2.5km run into the teeth of a gale followed by a 2.5km run with virtually no wind behind, I set out on Sunday to do between eight and eleven miles.
Having run half marathon distance the previous weekend, I felt pretty confident that this would be a straightforward run with little drama. I had not even really worked out a route that I would run, though I had an overall idea of where I would go.
The first couple of miles were almost entirely downhill – pretty standard run for me out of my house – but there were some sharp hills that began to bite quite early on. As I knew I had to face the big hills at the end of my run on the way back this was not a particularly good sign.
I do not know what it was, but for some reason in those early miles I just could not get settled. Whether it was the hills that kept interrupting my rhythm or just the effects of the previous few days I really still do not know, but it was a bit of a battle just to get through them.
As I got towards the fifth mile my route flattened out and I worked out roughly where I was going to run towards before turning to head back to the house, though I had not figured out what distance this would be in total. As I headed towards the harbour area of Aberdeen the route really flattened out and I began to feel ok – not perfect but at least reasonably comfortable.
As I headed along the beach I realised that my run was going to be a bit further than I had planned, more than eleven miles as opposed to the eight to ten that I had planned, but that should still have been ok. However, almost every step of those final three miles was a slog. Thankfully the wind of the previous day had abated along the beach so that part was straightforward but as I headed on to the steady climb to get me back home, my legs felt heavy and I really had to push myself to get the run done. It was a huge relief to make it back to the house, get inside and get something to eat.
Almost exactly a year ago, I had a similar run – of around twelve miles – where I really struggled. This was during the build up to my marathon training and the impact of that run was so much that I took some advice, and actually took a complete break from training for a week. I really doubted at that point whether I would ever be able to complete the marathon distance, so much did that run knock my confidence.
For anyone who is embarking on their training journey for any distance, there will definitely be times where you question your ability to get to the finish. I know I had many of those thoughts ahead of every race I have done where the distance was increasing – from 5k to 10k, from 10k to half marathon and from half to full marathon. Last year, this was my crisis point. Rest was what I needed then.
This year, my reaction to the run has been completely different. In reality, I was really pleased that I had forced myself through it. There was no wallowing about how bad it had been, how tough it was, why was I doing it. It was much more about putting that run behind me and moving on. Experience has taught me that, and this is something that you simply cannot teach. You just need to suffer a bit to know how to handle it I guess. It is not a pleasant way to find out about yourself, but running has that ability. I believe that marathon training taught me how much I could endure, how much I could put up with, and that my ability to tolerate the challenge was far greater than I had ever thought possible.
I had planned originally to have a rest day on Monday, but I did not. I got up, got out and did my usual 5k route. I took it quite easy, was not worried about the time, but just went out and got it done firm in the belief that I could do it. This was such a contrast and really told me, again, how far I have come. I know I bang on about this, but I really do believe that there are so many benefits in taking a step back and reflecting on the progress you have made.
Then on Tuesday I went out with the running group on what could only really be described as a filthy night. When I left the house it was already torrential, though it stopped briefly when we started but then during the run it poured with rain, we had to run full on into a strong headwind for large parts of the route, the rain then mixed in a bit of sleet, and of course we had an uphill finish to look forward to it. But all of that was ok. It was fine.
Trust me, it felt better when I was finished than it felt during it, let’s not kid ourselves here, but this is, I guess, one of the reasons for joining the group. It would have been so easy on Tuesday night to look outside, see the weather and sack off the run, but by being with the group that gave me that extra bit of motivation to do it. I also feel I am seeing some early benefits, as we ran more than 10k at a good pace, a quicker pace than I would run if I was running alone. This will definitely help my overall speed endurance, plus it is really good to be running with others, having a bit of a chat, and encouraging each other along the way.
So while last year at this point I would likely to be dwelling on how hard Sunday was, I found myself running a quick 10k. I recognise that I am now in a much better place to rationalise each run, focus on the positives from them and carry on. One bad run does not make me a bad runner. It must be having an impact because on Thursday night, in the pouring rain, I headed out for a fast 5k. My family think I am nuts, I think I am just addicted, but it is a positive addiction that benefits me both physically and mentally.
Talking of being addicted, this week I have also signed up for a few challenges. Firstly, I have signed up to the Run Up to Christmas Challenge in aid of the mental health charity Mind. This is a challenge to run a certain distance through December so I am setting out to do a total of 50k during this period. Then I have also signed up to the two big races that happen in Aberdeen each year – the Baker Hughes 10k at the start of May and the Great Aberdeen Run Half Marathon at the end of August. At the end of next week I should also find out if I have been successful in my ballot entry for the New York Half Marathon. Once I know the result of that, then I think I will plan out my other races for 2019.
Fingers crossed for New York success!