So as I reflect on week 3 of training for Edinburgh Marathon I can’t help but smile. This week has been a week fuelled with emotion from anger to laughter, wide smiles to tears; it has been tough however running has been my salvation. I have been challenged to the point of breaking recently but through support of those closest to me and a bit of mental toughness I have managed to get through the other side. A week that could have potentially sunk me turned out to be the most successful week out on the roads I’ve had training since I started running back in 2014.
This is the second attempt I’ve had at writing this week’s entry as I’ve decided to change direction from what I initially planned. After a few weeks of fighting off the negatives I’m being positive, I’m celebrating the week’s success.
For this years training cycle I stepped up the impetus I have gone from 4 runs a week for last years training to 5 runs this year as I have a plan, a goal which I feel is reachable. I follow the free marathon plans from Virgin Money for the London Marathon and even though I resent the way the London Marathon is drawn and filled I do find the training plans are a great guide. For Liverpool rock and roll marathon in 2015 I used the beginner plan, my goal was 3:59:59 and I crossed the line in 3:50:24. For Vienna Marathon in 2016 I used the intermediate plan as a guide. My goal for this was to beat my dad’s best ever 26.2 time of 3:39:40 which I not only beat comfortably I also smashed my own previous PB by near enough 25 minutes crossing the finish in 3:25:26. Not one to stand still and rest on achievements I wanted to give myself the best opportunity of breaking my 26.2 PB again this time in Edinburgh, Berlin or both!! With this in mind I decided I was stepping up to using the advanced marathon plan for my 2017 races.
As I stand just shy of 5 foot 6inches and now weighing around 11 stone 9 I am not built for running long distances fast, I’m built for explosive power over 10/20 yards . This power was beneficial when I was a fresh faced 16 year old lad living the dream and playing football as a YTS apprentice at my home town club, a premier league football club. I was athletic but never a runner, I was determined and left all I had out on the pitch, a trait I have taken into my long distance running. Team mates hated preseason in my football days however I always secretly loved it. In the long distance running sessions I was always in the top 3 finishers, not because I was one of the top 3 runners but because my heart would push me on when everything else gave up, I was determined. I’m not saying others weren’t I’m just saying they weren’t as determined as me! So fast forward to 2017 and 22 years later I am still taking that determination into my running and striving to be the best I can be. Some people run to finish and I have massive respect for anyone who runs but I am now in the realms of running to finish as quick as I can.
This week started with what should have been a rest day however due to the fact I rested on Sunday I decided I would do my threshold/hill run around the streets of where I work. You don’t have to look too far for hills around Bolton so this made sense. 55 minutes of easy running, threshold running and hill repeats saw me cover 7 miles at an average pace of 7:53 minutes per mile. It hurt as Bolton is not flat but I felt brilliant and it set me up for a tough 4 days without a rest.
If I thought the success of Monday couldn’t be topped I was wrong. Tuesday was planned to be a steady 40 minutes. Now the only criticism I have at the moment of my running is my discipline at times however in my defence I think I have broken through a plateau from my last serious training cycle. I am now comfortable at cruising along around 7:20-7:30 minutes per mile and I am running strong which I can’t quite put my finger on. I am slightly heavier than I was in the lead up to Vienna last year but I am more efficient, I’m carting more weight but running quicker, a strange one but I am not complaining. Tuesdays steady saw me cover 5.8 miles at a pace of 6:54 minutes per mile…I found a pace, sat at it and really enjoyed going sub 7 minutes per mile.
Wednesday – Today was a day of high emotion as it was to be the day we laid to rest my grandma. The plan was 50 minutes steady but due to my head space not being great and also time being pushed I managed a reasonably quick 5k around the local streets of home. It gave me a bit of a release and some thinking time on my own to gather my thoughts for what was to be an emotional day. I don’t remember much of the run however one thing that made me smile was my running picture. Throughout my running journey I have taken pictures, I have documented my progress and I have found it has helped to see the pictures back when I have been struggling for motivation. So when I decided to sign up for Instagram in May 2016 I did with the thought of documenting my runs in a public forum and connecting with likeminded people. This has been great for me I’ve have taken enjoyment in taking pictures of my runs, micro blogging about them and seeing others inspirational stories so with that in mind I decided Wednesdays picture would be a bit different. One of my sons favourite tv programmes is Peter Rabbit who Mr McGregor chases through a cabbage patch well in honour of my son, my driving force, Wednesdays picture saw me become Peter Rabbit!!! A bit of fun and a distraction from what was to be a tough afternoon.
Thursday – A workman like performance for a threshold session saw tired legs and me ready for a rest. I enjoyed getting out on the road and releasing some of the frustrations I felt from the previous day. A tired body not helped by a skin full of beer the day before. As my run ended I just so happened to do my stretches to cool down in a no ball games area…I promise there were no ball games being partaken in…I was simply stretching my groins…
With Friday a designated rest day and to be honest one well received but I had one eye on my weekend long run the day after. I set my alarm for 5:30am on Saturday and got an early night ready for my third 75 minutes long run. I have extended a 17 week training plan to give me some slippage time in case anything unexpected happens.
I have been running 10 miles recently in around 74 minutes so I knew 10 miles was to be the target for my longest run of the week. So as I set out at 5:45am to run another 10 mile I changed my route but one I know from my last training cycle. For the first 2 miles on Saturday the cold weather was biting even for me who was layered up to the eyeballs but I ploughed on and soon I’d found a pace and was enjoying it. The route I’d chosen for saturdays run was by no means flat with a big hill around the 3.5 mile mark and a gradual climb from around 6 to 10 miles. As the run progressed and the miles fell I began to realise I was running well 8.4 miles in an hour and my 10 miles is going to finish well before my 75 minutes allotted time!! Brilliant. So as my Garmin buzzed to symbolise 10 miles ran I was chuffed to see I’d got round in a time of 1:11:39!! Wow!! not one mile under 7:16 minutes and averaging 7:10 minutes per mile. This was pivotal, this was massive as I’d made it into double figures of a training run, feeling strong, feeling as if I could go on and all in a great time. Now I’m not naive to think if I run 10 miles at 7:10 per mile can be sustained over 26.2 however to reach my goal time this year I need to be running around 7:20 minutes per mile. Saturday shows me I have it in me, it’s possible but I mustn’t become complacent. As I sat on a bench at the end of my run at 7am I couldn’t help but smile and be satisfied, a job well done.
Sunday – As I head out the door on Sunday morning for the second Threshold/hill repeat run of the week I was sitting at 31.6 miles ran in the week. I knew what I had planned would bank me around 6 miles However this would leave me on 37.6 miles…my OCD senses started to twitch!! I decided I’d extend the threshold parts of my run, still incoprate some hills but I’d get to 8.4 miles so as to take my weeks total to 40 miles. That wasn’t to happen as I ended up banking 9 miles and running 40.6 miles for the week. I enjoyed the leg stretch, I was able to release some frustrations and I also had a chat whilst running side by side with a fellow runner who was out for 3 hours as he was training for a triathlon. My legs were tired at the end of the hill repeats but I was the most satisfied I’ve been after this weeks running than I’ve ever been.
This week has been difficult, I’ve used the adversity to find opportunity but most of all I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time alone out on the road. Bring on week 4 of training…