The Bristol Half Marathon is in 5 and a half weeks’ time and I am feeling the pressure. Training over the summer is hideous. I really should have re-read my blog from last summer before signing up as I had clearly documented how hard it is running in the heat. It’s been hard. Not simply because of the temperatures of late June/early July (I know it’s hard to remember heat given the Spring weather we have been experiencing over more recent weeks) but because of our busy family social schedule that happens….every…single…year.
As soon as our daughters break up from school we go to France for 2 weeks and I leave with the determination to run every other day and not spend the whole time away eating brie and drinking wine. This year, we had a new tent which has heavy steel tent poles and I managed to strain my back putting it up and was in pain for 3 days – seriously you can’t make it up. Already my planned training regime was behind and the longer you go without a run, the easier it is not to bother, especially on holiday. We had hired bikes and over the holiday managed 4 longish bike rides down the coast which was good (cross training in theory, although I’m not sure that “family bike ride speed” counts as a cross training session, but I was happy to pretend to myself!)
But I did manage 3 runs whilst I was there. On one morning I got up and put my running kit on, full of good intentions, but then spent all morning making excuses not to go…there were jobs to be done, I needed to drink my coffee, finish my book, hand wash some T-shirts (I was getting desperate) and in the end Husband “suggested” that we drive to the Hypermarket as we needed supplies, and I run back. It was a 5k distance and it seemed like a good idea. The area of France we were in was riddled with cycle paths and it’s very safe for runners and cyclists but as I was dropped off I did have a slight panic about getting lost. However, I set off and as usual had plans about majestically running back and hopefully bagging a new personal best time too. Unfortunately the reality of the situation was that after a week of eating and drinking too much, the run was terrible. I started running and then the sun came out. So I quickly bargained with myself that I would run a km and then walk a minute. This worked for 3 km and then I felt sick so walked a bit more. At this point a “hilarious” French cyclist went past and heckled me “allez maman allez” (I was wearing my This Mum Runs T shirt) and I had a little cry. However, just around the corner was a bunch of teenage French kids who cheered me and high fived me which pepped me up and I managed to keep going until I got back. However, my 5k time was the slowest for over a year and so I knew when I got home, I would need to do better.
Once back in Blighty, I managed a couple of decent runs with Hattie which made me feel better. We did a couple more “exploring 10k runs” which were good and then we embarked on our longest run to date – we had planned a 14k run and another lady came with us, we’ll call her Scottie. She is a faster runner than Hattie and I but genuinely seemed happy for the company and although clearly could have gone faster seemed happy to trundle. All was going well. I had plotted a large circular route, starting and ending at the same spot but around 8k my hip became very sore and I was worried and so cut short the run to go home and torture my hip with a foam roller (which is where you literally “rolling pin” your legs – I don’t know what it does but it is absolute torture whilst you are doing it, but it feels better the next day, so it’s all worth it). But this knocked my confidence and I started to worry. My body was weak and I clearly wasn’t strong enough.
I booked a sports massage. I have never had a sports massage before and whilst I was aware that it wouldn’t be a relaxing experience with candles, nothing could prepare me for the pain that would follow. I really feel it is not overplaying it to say that it was comparable with childbirth. I held my breath and then used shallow panting to try not to pass out as the sports therapist ground her elbow into my buttocks and seemed to try and poke my ovaries out (there are tight muscles BEHIND my pelvis that she was trying to get to!) It hurt. But the day AFTER the next day, it felt better. But as before, weak glutes (bum muscles) were the root of the problem and I needed to do something drastic to strengthen them before the half marathon. I’d heard good things about and so downloaded 2 apps to keep me focussed and try to build my body strength – the 30 day plank and squat challenge.
I’ve never done anything like this before and husband is doing the plank challenge with me, along with a couple of online Mummy friends that I have known since I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. Planks are hard core. I’m up to being able to do 45 seconds twice, with a 45 second break in between. I’m also doing 50 squats a day too. They hurt but hopefully will help. They certainly can’t hurt.
Last Saturday Hattie and I planned our longest run ever. According to our training plan, we needed to be up to a 16km or 10 mile run (I don’t know which sounds worse, 16k or 10miles). Lots of people only train up to 10 miles anyway (I suspect I will need to run a bit further before that actual day in order to silence the doubting demons in my head) so I was sure that this would be a good milestone to aim for mentally as well as physically. I have also discovered, upon further analysis, that one of the reasons why some of my runs are really terrible is completely down to what I have eaten and drunk (or rather haven’t drunk) in the days running up to the run. You can’t rock up and run 10k + if you are dehydrated and I think I had become a little bit blasé in my preparation. So before last Saturday, I drank litres of water, didn’t eat any rubbish (well definitely less rubbish, it’s a work in progress) and also took a couple of rehydration drinks the day before so I was prepared. I also had ordered a new running belt which could accommodate some running gels (these are tubes of warm jelly – alas no vodka to be found inside – which give you energy during a longer run) and two small bottles to fill with water. I was ready. We had plotted a route from my house to Ashton Court and husband would come and collect us afterwards.
My alarm went off at 5.57am on Saturday morning to allow me time to eat and digest breakfast before I left the house at 6.55am. I managed to get out of the house without waking anyone up and went to meet my running buddies, Hattie and a lady I had not met before who was doing a virtual half marathon and has asked to come along. Of course we said yes, the more the merrier as long as happy to run at trundle pace. The first 7k felt ok. In fact they felt great and I was so relieved and happy. Of course, runs are always better with company and I know this helps, but my hips weren’t hurting, I didn’t feel like I was thirsty and we were making good time. Our strategy was planned for a 5k run, followed by a 10k run of running 1km and then walking a minute. I suspect that this will be strategy I use for the half itself, followed by a final 6k of “oh my goodness, just keep going!” I used my gels and although they don’t taste very nice, I can tolerate them. The gels are a strange thing. I take one and it’s like someone has changed my batteries. Suddenly my energy levels are renewed (for a bit anyway). We hit Nightingale Valley (which is very steep) and I walked the whole thing but I had planned for this so didn’t feel disheartened. We were at 12k in at this point and this km took 14 minutes, but we did it and kept going and we were nearly there. As we entered Ashton Court, I actually felt ok. At this point, although my legs felt tired, the battle was more in my head – I told myself to just keep going, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I did and it seemed to be working. We hit the top of the Park Run (our route ended with the final 3.5k of the park run, why wouldn’t we end our long run with people clapping and cheering?) and for a short time we were in the lead! Not for long of course as there are people who can run 5k in 18 minutes who go to AC park run, but it was quite funny as I was spotted by people I knew who were clearly confused by how I had got ahead of them. We plodded on and then I had run 10 miles. It was amazing. The most surprising thing was I felt like I could have run further which shocked me more. The end of the run had felt easier than the beginning of the run which confused me. As I laid down on the floor, I tried to process this fact. For the first time, ever, I actually believed that I could run a half marathon. TMR have a T-shirt that says “Runner” on the front, but I haven’t bought one becuase I don’t think that I could ever wear one as I don’t really feel like a runner. In fact most of the time, even though I write this blog, I feel like an imposter. But as I laid on the grass at Ashton Court I made myself a promise that when I finish the half, I will order myself one. Surely if I can run 13 miles, I have earned the right to wear a T shirt that says runner?
As I was leaving Ashton Court a lady called my name. It was Sue who was the tail runner (now called tail walkers) at Little Stoke Park Run when I first ran 5k without walking for the first time EVER (documented in Blog post “Last but by no means least”). She recognised me and I was so pleased to see her and gave her a hug. You meet people in your life and at the time, you don’t really realise the impact that they will have on you. That was the last time I ever ran Little Stoke Park run before the evil council shut it down and I didn’t get a chance to thank Sue for her unerring belief in me and enthusiasm. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to thank her finally on Saturday for all that she gave me – which was belief. I need belief more than ever at the moment and so I feel like it was fate that I saw her. Park Run is the brilliant. If you’ve never been, go. Walk 5k, you don’t have to run. It could change your life as it changed mine.
So 5 and a half weeks to go, we’re on course. But now, I need to keep going, and importantly not get injured.
Tomorrow is a 60 second plank and the week is a 90 second plank……I think I would rather run the 10 miles again than have to do a 90 second plank and I never thought I would say that?!