Last week I felt a bit lost to be honest. A combination of illness, lack of sleep and jetlag really dented my confidence, limited my running and gave me cause to question whether I was capable of completing my marathon journey.
I think this shows just how easy it can be to lose motivation, to allow doubt to creep in and why the mental side of running is just so important, as important as the physical side. Maintaining motivation through the winter months to complete the training has seen me join a running club and really focus on meeting my weekly goals – then just one week where I failed to do any of these things and my confidence took a real knock. I have had to focus hard to get things back on track.
The good news is that this week, things have been much, much better. While I have still not completely got rid of my cough – it has not stopped me getting back into the rhythm of my training and pounding out the miles. The turning point really was last Sunday where, despite barely doing any runs last week, I made it out to do my long run. I had twelve miles on my plan, really did not look at my watch very much while I was out – other than to check distance – and I grinded out the run. It was slightly slower than my 10 minute mile pace that I am aiming for, but that was irrelevant. It was just about getting it done, banking the miles and putting last week behind me.
My work life involves a lot of travel and this week has been no exception, with a trip to Helsinki from Tuesday to Thursday. This kind of thing can run the risk of derailing any training schedule, but having made it out for the twelve mile run on Sunday, I decided to move my rest days around so rather than taking the day off on Monday, I went out to do the first of my three five mile runs on the plan this week.
I usually run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I knew that there was little chance I would be able to do this, so decided to change things up and run Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I think it is important to be flexible when planning your running week, and not being too fixated about having to run on specific days or at specific times. All of us are busy, so it is much more about fitting things in around our working and family lives to get it done.
The run on Monday was a real confidence booster, as I felt strong throughout, the pace did not feel too much – I had gone out to do a quick run – and I popped out five miles at nine minute mile pace. This is the pace we aim to run at the running club, so while I was not going to be able to run with them again this week because of my trip, I could at least console myself
with a run at that pace.
While the weather in the UK has begun to turn a bit milder, the mild weather had certainly not reached Helsinki at the start of the week, so with so much snow and ice around there was no chance of any outdoor running – we had snow on both Tuesday and Wednesday – so I resorted to the hotel gym to get my runs done. As I say, it is about a means to an end. It is about getting it done rather than missing out, and as I find treadmill running pretty dull it is always a good mental test to get through it.
The first run was pretty uneventful – but the second? Oh my god. I do not think I have sweated so much since my outdoor runs in Beijing last summer or my indoor gym sessions in Manila a few months previously. I became convinced that the gym had put the temperature up to sauna level because I was absolutely dripping by the time I had done just a couple of kilometres and the sweat just absolutely poured out of me for the rest of the run. Five miles should normally be a very straightforward run, but this one was a real test and a struggle to get through it without stopping. I guess it just goes to show that every run is different and what can be a breeze one day can be a real struggle the next, for no apparent reason. Anyway, it got done and that was the key thing, but by the time I got to Thursday, I was definitely in need of a rest day.
This weekend represents my final really long run before tapering – with twenty miles in the plan for Sunday. My current thinking is that I would prefer to run further than this, to give me more of an impression of what those final miles are going to be like and perhaps give me either a confidence boost or reality check about how am I going to feel through this period. I really struggled towards the end of the Stirling Marathon last year, so this time around I want to focus on getting to those last few miles in the best condition I can. That is why I am concentrating on my mantra of taking it easy all the way round, not pushing it too early, so I can get to twenty miles with the sure knowledge that I can manage that final six point two. I have also started to rationalise those closing miles in terms of how much running time I have left – for example, 10k to go is one hour’s worth of running, or 5k is thirty minutes left – and I know I can run for an hour or I can run for thirty minutes. I hope that makes sense.
I think a lot about finishing, about what those final miles will be like, but I also think a lot about the earlier parts of the race. I have looked a lot at the course and tried to picture how I will feel at various stages. I want to keep reminding myself about taking it easy, about not going too hard, about getting to those final miles feeling strong and able to push on at the end. This weekend will be another important step towards that ambition.
Three weeks to go.