The Bristol half marathon is in 5 and 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 in late June/early July (I know it’s hard to remember heat given the Spring-like weather that we’ve been experiencing over more recent weeks….) but because of our busy 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 spent the whole time away eating brie and drinking red wine. This year we had a new tent with steel 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 when you’re on holiday. We had hired bikes and over the holiday managed 4 longish bikes rides down the coast, which were 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, handwash some Tshirts (I was getting desperate) and in the end Husband “suggested” that we drive to the Hypermarket as we needed supplies, and I could run back. It was a 5k distance and it seemed like a good idea. The area of France that we were in was riddled with cycle paths and it is very safe for runners and cyclists but as I was being 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 and high fibbed me which pepped me up and kept me going until I got back. However, my 5k time was it’s slowest for a year and I knew that when I got home from holiday, 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, Scottie. She is a faster runner than Hattie and I but genuinely seemed happy for the company and although she clearly could have gone faster, was happy to trundle. I had plotted a large circular route but around 8k my hip became very sore and I was worried and so cut the run short 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 really, really hurts whilst you are doing it, but it feels better the next day so it’s worth it. But this had 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 that 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 were 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 problems and I needed to do something drastic to strengthen them before the half marathon. I’d heard good things about and so downloaded two apps to keep my focussed and try to build my body strength – 30 days plank and squat challenge.
I’ve never done anything like this before and husband is doing the plank challenge with me. Planks are hardcore. 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. Hopefully it will help.
Last Saturday Hattie and I planned our longest ever run. 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 10 miles!) Lots of people, I am told, only train up to 10 miles prior to a half marathon any way so I was sure that this was 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 blasé in my preparation. So before last Saturday, I drank litres of water, didn’t eat any rubbish (well significantly 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 parkrun and Husband would 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 6.56am. I managed to get out without waking anyone up and went to my running buddies, Hattie and a lady I had not met before who was doing a virtual half marathon and had asked to come along. Of course, we said yes as the rules are always “the more the merrier as long as you are 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 11k of running 1km then walking a minute. I suspect that this will be the strategy I used for the half itself, followed by a final 5k of “oh my goodness, just keep going”. I used my gels and although they didn’t taste nice, I could 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 at this point and this km took 14 minutes, but we did it and kept going. As we entered Ashton Court, I was shocked that I actually felt ok. At this point, although my legs were 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. We hit the top of park run, (our route ended with the final 3.5k of 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 attend this park run, but it was quite funny as I was spotted by people who I know who were clearly confused by how I had got ahead of them. We plodded on and then suddenly and shockingly, I had run 10 miles. It was amazing.
What was most surprising was that I felt like I could had run further and the end of the run had felt easier than the beginning, which baffled me. As I laid down on the floor, I tried to process this. 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 because I don’t really feel like a runner. In fact, most of the time, even though I have written this diary blog for 18 months now, I feel like an imposter. But as I laid on the floor 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 at Little Stoke Parkrun, when I first ran 5k without walking for the first time EVER (documented in the entry entitled “Last but by no means least”). She recognised me and I was so pleased to see her that I 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 so I never got a chance to thank Sue for her unerring belief in me and enthusiasm on that very important day. I was very pleased to be able to rectify this and thank her for all that she had given me, which was belief. I need belief more than ever at the moment so I feel like it was fate that I saw her. ParkRun is brilliant. If you’ve never been, go. Walk 5k, you don’t have to run. It might change your life.
So 5 and a half weeks to go and we’re on course. But now, I need to keep going and importantly, not get injured.
Tomorrow is a 60 second plank and then next week is a 90 second plank. I think I would rather run 10 miles again that have to do a 90 second plank and I never thought I would say that!