Halfway to marathon day

With 8 weeks down and just 9 to go I am fast approaching the half way point of my marathon training schedule.

This week was pull-back week, where I only needed to run 4,4,5,13 miles.

Only going out three times during the week felt rather sneaky now that I’m getting accustomed to four weekday runs.

I took Monday as a rest day from running and instead just enjoyed my ballroom dancing class in the evening. It was such a great lesson – lots of fun as usual and I was feeling quite confident in my steps this week, which always puts me in a good mood. I was also actually letting my partners lead me, which I’m usually not terribly good at (or so I’ve been told!).

I went out on Tuesday lunchtime for what turned into a 6 mile route from Green Park to Battersea, along the south bank of the river to Westminster Bridge and back to the office.

On Wednesday my legs felt so heavy and tired for the first time in weeks. I still got out for my run, but only a short route, just under 4 miles, and was ready for it to be over by the end. It was quite disconcerting feeling so heavy and tired but I still felt pleased that I’d encouraged myself to go out and complete the route.

On Thursday, (despite an evening of delicious food, free-flowing wine and excellent company the evening before), I was back on running form. I went out with my friend Anna, who always puts me through my paces, and we ran just over 5 miles on a new route to London bridge. I felt great at the end and relieved not to have had a repeat of Wednesday’s tired legs.

Buoyed by the success of my run I also went for a lovely swim on Thursday evening. It was heaven travelling through the water, letting my limbs relax and stretch out.

Over the weekend R and I travelled up to Stratford-on-Avon to see ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ at the RSC. We planned a route for Sunday morning along the river and up along a greenway track, which extended just over 6 miles, before turning round and retracing our steps, 13 miles in total.

Although it was pretty chilly and there was freezing fog across the river when we started out, once we got going we soon warmed up. The first part of the route was pretty muddy, through fields and along woodland paths. Luckily, however, the ground was frozen, which meant that although uneven it wasn’t too bad underfoot. The body of the run along the greenway path was easy terrain, but by the time I reached the earlier muddy parts on the way back the ground had thawed and for about a kilometre, having found myself slipping and sliding all over the place, I resolved not to risk a broken ankle and walked a little. Luckily this was short-lived and the path re-entering Stratford was a little less slippery making it easier to pick up my pace again.

I finished in reasonable time and feeling pretty good. This is the fourth long run in a row now that has felt surprisingly fine. I am constantly amazed at my body getting used to the longer distances. Every time I go out for a long run I’m slightly terrified that I’ll suddenly regress and it will be a struggle again, but once I get going I think ‘it’s just one foot in front of the other’ and I let my feet fall to the rhythm of my breath and before I know it a whole load of kilometres have passed.

This rhythmic running and breathing is one of the many things that I’ve learnt over the past 8 weeks. If I’m feeling tired I just focus on my breath and keeping my feet in time with it and that distracts me from my fatigue.

I’ve also learned that good kit – a pair of gloves, a headband, a good base layer and a breathable jumper – goes a long way on winter runs. Discomfort from cold while running is a massively off-putting factor for many people (myself included) and knowing I’m going to be snuggly on my run is really important to me.

I’ve found that I can run in the morning (which I had previously hated). Providing that I’ve had a wash and cup of coffee to wake me up before I leave, morning runs aren’t actually all that bad as it turns out.

I’ve also discovered that I can run in the dark. Although previously I’d been put off by the post-work darkness I’ve stopped noticing it now and I actually really enjoy seeing the city all lit up in the darkness on my route along the river.

And that I can run my commute. The best discovery ever! Anything to avoid the Victoria and Northern lines in rush hour!

So while I’m plodding on through my marathon training plan, taking one kilometre at a time and still learning more about how I run and various strategies to keep myself going, I do wonder if I’ll be ready for marathon day in nine weeks time. While I certainly hope so I keep reminding myself while it’s important to improve it’s just as important to really enjoying the journey and for now I’m certainly doing that.

Happy running!

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