Last Saturday I laughed at my physio.
He was asking how many days off running I would take after my ‘marathon’ on Sunday. In between reminding him several times that it was a half marathon, not a marathon (he’s a cricketer, not a runner. Can’t get the staff) I confidently reassured him that I would be back to training on Tuesday at the track, that really a half marathon was not that far, and that I would be fine.
This is what marathon training does to you. Sunday’s half in Maidenhead was the 10th time I have completed the distance competitively, along with goodness knows how many lots of 13 mile training runs I’ve done. During marathon training 13 miles is the long run on a cutback week, because your long runs are usually 16, 18 or 20 miles. So in your overconfident little head 13 miles becomes ‘just’ 13 miles, which is really stupid because it’s still a bloody long way.
Safe to say my physio had the last laugh.
The race itself went really well on Sunday. My arse-itis behaved itself and I managed to stick to my goals and cross the line in a 5 minute PB of 2:07:02, which was somewhere between my ‘could’ and ‘might’ targets. I was really happy with that result and felt proud that for perhaps the first time I could consider that I had actually raced a half marathon.
But I seriously underestimated what that effort would take out of me. I was wiped out for the rest of Sunday afternoon. Absolutely knackered. Despite rolling and icing everything thoroughly I got bad DOMS the next day, but I was still determined I would make it to the track on Tuesday night.
I went to the track, but after about 800m of half-hearted plodding my coach and I decided that it just wasn’t worth it. Much of the DOMS had subsided but my bursitis was really painful and I’d got sharp nerve type pains pinging down my right quads and both calves. We decided to leave it til Thursday and then try a lower impact hills workout to see how I was doing.
I’m alternating between keeping calm and taking each training session as it comes, and being quite scared about what’s happened this week.
Sunday really showed me what the difference is between running and racing when it comes to big distances. OK, I have completed 9 previous half marathons in terms of getting round the distance, but this was really my first successful half marathon race. I have never run that fast for that far before, so it was bound to make an impact.
What I’m trying not to do is panic at this stage. My worry is that my hoped-for marathon pace for New York is only 20 or 30 seconds per mile slower than my pace on Sunday….but it’s twice as far. The Maidenhead Half has suddenly thrown into sharp relief quite how much of a challenge I have set myself by aiming to get round this thing in under 4:30:00.
Thankfully hills last night actually went well; I did a 4 mile session with 6 hill repeats and kept it all very even and steady. I still had some twinges, but overall I felt ok and it seemed to loosen me up a bit. It was also encouraging to think about the fact that my body was capable of completing 6 tough hill repeats despite being tired and achey, because that shows that by body is strong enough to cope with what I’m asking it to do. I also paced it well, and I paced Sunday’s race well, so I’m getting better technically as well.
I guess the point is that as an average person with, let’s face it, not exactly years and years of distance running experience, I can’t expect to feel incredible and athletic all the time. That’s not really the point. The point is being strong enough to keep going even when you feel rubbish, and to take the positives where you can find them.
I’m still determined to keep pushing for the magic target of sub 4:30, even if I need to be a bit kinder to myself along the way. If racing a marathon instead of running it is going to be more difficult than I thought that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up.
It just means that maybe the rewards and sense of what I will have achieved will be all the greater for it.