I have been working hard for months. I am ready. Let’s get this done.
In order to look forward, sometimes it is important to look back. It is not about dwelling in the past, it is about reassurance. It’s about taking confidence in how far I have come and what I have already done. It has taken almost five months of work to get to this point. What I need to do now is to finish things off.
Barcelona was a marathon I chose almost by accident. After rejections from the ballot for both London and a half marathon in New York, I was looking for a race relatively early in the year so I had begun training really without knowing exactly which race I was going to end up doing. Edinburgh was in my thoughts but is not until the end of May. I could have done Stirling again, but I wanted another challenge and also a race I could just enter, without all of the uncertainty of hanging around waiting for the luck of the draw.
I guess the run that convinced me I was capable of doing another marathon was actually also in Spain. When I was working in Madrid in October, one of my friends was marathon training and asked if I could join him for at least part of his twenty mile (thirty two kilometre) final long run. I thought I could get up to half marathon distance then leave him to it, but the fact that I stuck it out and got through the whole thing really gave me the confidence I needed to sign up for the marathon challenge once more. And though I enjoyed running in Madrid, I saw that the marathon there (on the same day as London and Stirling) would be pretty hilly so I ruled it out.
After that run I began to get in the habit of a long run at weekends. I also joined a local running club – JogScotland – and that proved to be a great decision. Twice a week, running at a good pace between six and a half and seven miles, in addition to anything else I was doing, it really helped my build my weekly mileage. I was also lucky that through November to the end of January my work did not take me away too much so I was able to very closely follow the training plan I followed. This involved running five days a week and focusing on mileage rather than just time on my feet.
The miles gradually built. In November I went more than one hundred miles in a month for the first time. In December I went even further, almost making it to one hundred and fifty miles before illness around Christmas stopped my progress for a few days. In January, things peaked at almost one hundred and seventy five miles. Though I use Strava, I still enjoy filling out my online training record that I started with Great Run, and this week I have gone back to review my training through these months. I found it a real confidence boost to recognise how much work I have done. All those greens, all those days where I got out and got it done.
After January, my mileage has come down slightly, with February being back to around one hundred and twenty five miles, partly due to another bout of illness, partly due to the start of tapering and, of course, it is a shorter month. But February also saw my longest run in the training programme of slightly more than twenty four miles; another major confidence boost. In my training I have run more than twenty miles four times. My plan for my race is to get to twenty miles in the best shape I can for the final push to twenty six point two.
Since that twenty four mile run, I have stuck religously to my training plan and have been winding down the miles and tapering. That meant a couple of runs last week. On Saturday morning I headed for my local Parkrun, which I ran with my friend Billy for the first time. I really enjoy running with company, I think because so much of my training is done on my own, and Saturday was the most beautiful day for some miles at Aberdeen beach.
Sunday was an eight mile run and I followed the same routine I have done for months now. Alarm set at 5.55am, up for breakfast, back to bed for half an hour or so, then out the door just before 7am. For the first time in months, it was light when I went out. I recall back in December and January where it was dark for around first ninety minutes of some of my runs so this was a real pleasure. Of course, with only eight miles to do, I was back home by 8.20am, a real contrast to the usual arrival time of between 10am and 11.15am depending on the distance. But I want to give tapering a good try this time around and while it is driving me slightly crazy by not running much, I definitely feel very well rested and strong when I have gone out this week.
After Sunday, it was only a couple of short runs during the week – of three and two miles respectively – just to keep my legs ticking over. I have been studying the weather forecast for Barcelona pretty closely recently (current forecast is sunny, gentle breeze and 18C) so knowing that I am in for a warm race I thought it was quite appropriate that my last run at home was on a dark, dank, wet night. This is what winter training for a spring marathon is all about.
And with that run done, there is very little left for me to do other than get to Barcelona. I have a short run, another couple of miles, planned for Saturday morning in Barcelona itself and then just the small matter of the actual race on Sunday morning. But while I have been reflecting this week I also found myself looking forward and signing up for two more races this year and a challenge in May.
One of the races will be with one my friends, as we have signed up to run the Chester Half Marathon in May. This will be my friend’s first half, so I am excited to help him round for that. In May I had already signed up for the Aberdeen 10k, so I decided that as I will be doing some significant mileage that I would also sign up to support the Miles for Mind Campaign being supported by the clothing group RUNR. This raises awareness of mental health issues during May and raises month for the mental health charity, Mind, so my miles that month will have a greater significance than just the races. I know how much better mentally I feel – as well as physically – from running regularly.
And the second race I signed up for is something really unusual. I travel a lot with work and spend a lot of time flying from Aberdeen Airport, so I have signed up to do the Runway Run. This is a nighttime race on the runway itself, and I am going to do it with my daughter. This is something I am really looking forward to in June. However, I also think part of the reason I have signed up to these challenges is about giving me something else to think about this week. It is so easy to be consumed totally about the upcoming marathon when it is only a few days away.
It is a weird feeling in the immediate run up to a marathon. It is very easy to begin to panic, to change your plans, to deviate from the things you have done over the months to get to this point. It is also the period where every tweak or twinge can feel like a near fatal injury and checking the weather forecast becomes frighteningly frequent (though I have come to realise that there is little point checking the forecast for Barcelona as basically every day is warm and sunny!!).
Naturally I am excited about running in such a great city with so many fantastic sights along the route, but I am also nervous about what lies ahead as the marathon is such a tough challenge. But I have done the work. I have done the training. I am in really good shape, much better shape physically and mentally much better prepared for what I am going to face than I was before the Stirling Marathon last year.
So all of that bodes well. But I am also realistic. I need to stick to my race plan, not get carried away on these easy, early miles and not go off too fast, buoyed by the crowds on the streets. I have to run my race. The race I have spent months preparing for. The race where I have also run in Madrid, in Orlando, in Helsinki and other cities where work has taken me. The race I have ran so many miles around Aberdeen in rain, in wind, in sleet and snow, in freezing fog, in the dark, in the cold and sometimes in the sunshine in preparation for this one day. All the hills around my house that I have run up and down. And all of that just to get me to the start line. To prepare me for the challenge that lies ahead.
I am ready. Let’s get this done.