After months of marathon training it has been good to go running just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
You work for five months to achieve a goal. You meet your target. You do the best you can and know that in that race you could have given nothing more. Then what?
I guess at another scale, this is a dilemma many people face. including people who are far more serious about their running than I am. But the truth is, while I am still very much on a high from my Barcelona Marathon run, I need to set myself another target. I need to have something to aim for or else I fear that everything I have done to get myself fit is at risk of slipping away.
Now please do not get me wrong. I am not about to sign up to do a triathlon or to aim for an ultra marathon or anything like that (total kudos to everyone who does) but while I have spent the past ten days or so very much basking in the aftermath of the run in the Catalonian capital, I have also felt the need to refocus, to remind myself of other running targets I have this year and most of all, to get back out running.
The week after the race I had hoped for a relaxing week at work, but that did not work out and I had a bunch of travel around Europe. This week has been no different from a travel point of view, but I have at least managed to make it back out for a few runs. And you know what, it feels great.
I have found it difficult, after long races, to work out what is an appropriate time to rest up before running again. While on the one hand, my body definitely needed a rest after the build up to the race itself, I have had to wrestle with the nagging feeling that my fitness is just slipping away with every passing day when I did not lace up my trainers and head out for a run.
I realise this is stupid. There is no way that five months of maintaining a running programme building up to a marathon is suddenly going to disappear, but after running five days a week for so long, to then go a whole six days without doing anything did make me feel like a bit of a slob.
By the end of last week my legs felt fine again, and I think the sports massage I had the day after the race has definitely helped aid a swift recovery from the exertion of Barcelona. I decided then to return to Parkrun last weekend – and as friends from my local JogScotland group were volunteering at the Parkrun at Ellon, near Aberdeen I felt it would be a good re-introduction to go back there. It was great to see everyone, as I had not been at the running group for a few weeks prior to the race due to work commitments and people’s response to my completion of the marathon has been really heartwarming. I should also add that I love this time of year, when you can see people who have worked so hard over the winter then come into race season and achieve or exceed their targets. It is such a great feeling to celebrate everyone’s success.
I had gone to the run with the full intention of taking things really easy, but that lasted about four hundred metres, before the competitive gene kicked in and I began to push myself through the run. Now I was not going full out, but even I was pleasantly surprised at registering a time of 25.52 for the run. Not bad for a guy who still had a few Barcelona miles kicking through his legs.
After that it was back on the road with a trip to Paris and Ljubljana with work. In Paris I did what I always do in Paris, I went out for a run and got lost. Now this is really stupid, because the route in Paris from the hotel near our office and the Arc De Triomphe is basically a straight line, but I still totally failed to find my way there. And more importantly, find my way back.
I did make it up to the Arc, and I got a couple of nice pics with the Eiffel Tower in the background, but my return journey could not have been much worse.
The best thing about the runs though – both in Ellon and Paris – was how much I loved being back out again. I think when you run as often as I was running, training for a specific goal, it can be difficult to remember that simple enjoyment about running. Just being out, getting in some miles, enjoying the sights, spending time out and about, was fabulous this week. And although I do have upcoming events, they are still a bit far away for serious training so everything now is just for the joy of running.
Another joy of running from the past year has also been running with friends, and this week I managed to run with another while on a work trip to Ljubljana in Slovenia. It is so great to run with others – even though some of my friends profess to being reluctant to run with me now BECAUSE I have run two marathons. The reality is that I love running with friends, regardless of how fast or slow they are, because when I run with them it is not about pace. It is about being together and enjoying their company while running. The feeling of running with someone you know well through a lovely city like Ljubljana is just fantastic.
While these miles were nice and gentle, I also made a return to the running group from JogScotland this week. I am so grateful to the contribution everyone there made to my training programme, but I knew, having not been there for a while, that the first run back might hurt a bit!!
We run around six and a half miles in just about an hour, but the area around where we live is so hilly, it is always a challenging route – certainly far more hilly than the entire Barcelona marathon. But that is part of the fun of it. To challenge yourself and to encourage others. People have been so kind in their reaction to me doing the marathon, that it was a pleasure to meet some new people and encourage them through the tough parts of the run. Trust me, I found it tough too!!
To finish, let’s turn back to targets. My next race is around seven weeks away – a 10k in Aberdeen – and I plan to go for a PB at this race. It is a flat course and a race I have done for the past few years, but I need to work on my speed in order to beat my previous best time. The only problem is that work is going to intervene and for most of the next three weeks I am going to be away from home. Fitting in the training around our work and personal lives is something we all have to deal with.
Thank goodness it is something I enjoy doing.