Ramping up the running again







It’s been a while since I did a blog on running, but as the copy of Runner’s World in which I have a cameo appearance just arrived, it seemed a good week to… wait… I’m in Runner’s World! Woohoo! Brief intermission for a jig around the house…

Right. Got that out of my system. My little bit is below. Don’t think it counts as my fifteen minutes of fame though.

It’s that time of year where I need to commit to my running goals for next year. For a spring marathon, I have six to seven months from now, which is more than plenty of time to build back up nice and gently and get back into the rhythm again. And it’s long enough since the last marathon to be able to be ruthlessly honest about what worked and what didn’t in the last one, rather than worry about (euphemism for blame) things that were out of my control. The only question in my mind is what I will do differently next time in preparation. And the fact that I’m starting there means that I have already made the conceptual commitment to have another go at the marathon next year. I’ve just enjoyed a few months of easing back a little, having the odd day off from running when something else came up. Like life. And family. And a holiday.

I tend to be quite tired at the end of a marathon. In the sense of can’t really walk for an hour afterwards, lie shivering on the ground tired. Everybody else seems to be fine afterwards. I think it’s just me. But it does mean that staying local is a really nice thing when your family descends on you afterwards and treats you like the babbling, incapacitated wreck that you have become. Edinburgh it is, then. And I know the course well enough now to know where the mentally hard parts are. That would be about miles 20 to 26 then…

Now for the honesty section, which morphs into the what to do differently this time part.

It was very windy last year, ridiculously so. But even it had been totally calm, I would not have hit my target time. I sensed that at about mile 18 because the same thing happened as in training. My pace dropped by ten seconds a mile and I couldn’t get my target pace back again without pushing too hard to be sustainable. And then my legs started to cramp. It was just too fast for my legs to do the full distance at that speed. It is also no consolation at all to know that around 99% of the other runners are behind you and will stay there. I wanted to go faster.

So, I’m running a lot more hills right now to strengthen my legs for those last few miles so it becomes a mental rather than entirely physical challenge next time round. And because I have a reason for running up and down hills, I’m quite enjoying it, seeing how much more I can do each week. It helps that we have this great big hill called Arthur’s Seat in the middle of Edinburgh. I’m getting to know the curves of the road and the relative inclines quite well now. And I take heart when I overtake the same person three times as I run my loops up and down. I’m hoping to see the difference when my training plan has me running fast uphill repeats in a few month’s time. Think 1-2 minutes at a time, done 8 to 12 times in a session, at around the pace you would sprint a 10k race. That will be the first test of how much stronger my legs are this year. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it, though. Last year they about killed me.

And the second element is simply speed. The way to run faster is to run faster. It’s also a lot of fun seeing how much you can push yourself in training when there’s nobody else around and you can just enjoy the feeling. I’ve picked up speed in the last year which seems to have stuck so I go further, faster, in a 60 minute session. That means that the jump on race day from the pace I’m trotting along normally is a lot lower than last time, when the difference was just too large.

My goal for next year is not just to get as close to a 2:40 time as I can, but to run the whole race well. None of this cramping nonsense. At that point, I can stop with marathons and start doing longer, but slower, distances. But first I have to crack the marathon properly. And I will continue to hope for a calm day. Cool, bit of drizzle, that will be lovely thanks.


Runner's World

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