Roll forward four and a half months from the Berlin Marathon and a lot has happened. I’ve got a new job (part of the reason why I haven’t posted since October!), five races have come and gone, one bout of (man) flu and I have a newly acquired knee injury. None of these events have been particularly positive but yet somehow, I’m in the shape of my life with 10 weeks to go until the London Marathon.
I’m beginning to learn that there is little point in running races early in your training cycle to remind you how far off the pace you are! Yes, you can gain race sharpness but I can get equal training benefit from pounding the lonely cycle paths of Winchester as I can travelling 3+ hours to find a high-quality race somewhere in the UK.
Leeds Abbey Dash was one of those wasted trips. Seven hours of driving and an overnight stay just to find out that, yes I am almost a minute off of PB 10km pace (I finished in 34’35). On the plus side, I did trial the legendary Kipchoge smile which allegedly relaxes the body. So I spent a good portion of the race smirking at random strangers. I think Leeds will be happy not to have me back for a while!
A week later and I was dusting off my spikes and running cross-country for the first time since school days, at Butser Hill Petersfield in the Hampshire League. It turned out to be more fell running than cross-country. The hills were so steep they decided to park an ambulance at the top! My performance was fairly average. Runners who chose to walk up the slopes while I ran still ended up beating me! I finished in 91st.
I put a lot of things right a month or so later at the South of the Thames Championship Race and ended up running well from start to finish. Finishing in 56th and first Winchester athlete home, I felt like a runner again! Training was also going very well. Fitness gains were coming easy – I reckon this is partly down to the consistency of yet another year of marathon training – your body remembers. And I think each year, you learn to work a little bit harder. I even got my coach excited with the speed of one of my fartlek sessions. He said I was training at the level of a 31’30 10km runner (my PB is 33’50) – time to keep my feet on the ground!
Then a ‘vicious’ strain of man flu struck. I felt pretty naff for two weeks which hampered my chances of running a PB at the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid on NYE and then the Telford 10km a week later. I ran 34’45 in Madrid and then guess what? Yep, 34’45 in Telford. I’m nothing if not consistent!
It is all very individual and I’ve found that there isn’t much point in doing races in the early build-up to your target race if they’re just for fitness gain. I can train hard enough without relying on races to push myself. In the latter stages of the build-up, I find races are a good indicator of how my training has gone and give me a better sense of the pace I can set out at on the big day. But until then, I’ve found it’s best to quietly get on with it. Perhaps except the highlight of my 2017-18 season so far – the Winchester Santa Dash!
Five weeks on and I’ve put in some good training and have started looking after myself a little better. I have no problem eating lots, it’s just what I choose to eat! Unfortunately a few weeks back I picked up an injury to my right knee – Patellofemoral Joint Syndrome or “runners knee” (I’ll go into the avoidance of this in a future blog). This has come from a strength imbalance in my right glutes which I’m now addressing. In the meantime, it’s painkillers and ice whilst I stubbornly continue training at the same levels.
I’m now fresh out of an England Athletics marathon training weekend so I’m feeling very inspired as I approach a busy period of racing – Bramley 20 miler tomorrow, Wokingham Half (Sun 18th) and Trafford 10km (Mar 4th). Then onto the Reading Half on 18th March. I’m also going out to Portugal in early April for 10 days to train with a leading Team GB runner and a few others which is very exciting.
So it’s time to capitalise on my fitness which has seemed to develop despite the setbacks. And hopefully all of this excitement is enough to get me through this wretched knee injury!
In the next blog, I want to share with you what I took from a recent lecture on nutrition and running at the training weekend. There is so much to be gained from eating the right things straight after a run! I’ll also share some advice on winter running gear and my personal crib sheet of things to remember before the gun goes in a 5km/10km/half-marathon race. Until then!