This week was going to be a crucial one, following the downer that was last week’s long run. I needed to learn how to keep going with training and not let one bad run define my training experience and that of the marathon itself! Building yourself back up after a knock to your confidence is tough to do in only a couple of days, but time isn’t waiting for me and 23 April 2017 is hurtling towards me at full speed.
Tuesday was a 50 minute recovery run, which went fine apart from a terrible stitch that plagued me throughout. I started my run aiming to adopt a different approach to running. I told myself I would pay my running app no mind, and that I would just enjoy running for the liberating, miraculous act that it is. Being close enough to the Thames to run along it is also something to treasure, so I just soaked in the surroundings, paying attention to the ducks and geese on the river and to the beautiful architecture of the Old Royal Naval College. I felt so rejuvenated in terms of my outlook on running, that I resolved to tackle my recovery runs with the same attitude every time.
After that, I was gearing up for an interval run in a city I’d never visited before. Work took me to Leeds for 2 days and 1 night, and I asked around for good running routes. I was consistently told that the canal was the best place to run, so on Thursday morning, I laced up nice and early and set off to explore.
The run went something like this: 10 minutes easy run, (6 minutes tempo run, 2 minutes walk/recovery jog) x 4, 10 minutes easy run. Once again, I slightly dreaded this as I’m no good at intervals. However, the case really must be made for running through uncharted territory and how much it boosts your running. The novelty of the location combined with the early morning sun shimmering off the water made the run a breeze. Well, I say a breeze, but that’s in comparison to previous interval runs where I thought my heart would literally rip through my chest it was working so hard. Time simply flew by. Looking back, I think the interval made me slightly more optimistic for this week’s Sunday long run. The change of scenery did wonders for me and for my mood.
Saturday evening, I went to see An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre. Now, you may be thinking, “What does a musical have to do with running?” I’ve always firmly believed that dance is a sport, and I am in awe every time I watch professional dancers, of any genre of dance, perform. It boggles the mind how athleticism and control marry with artistry and a semblance of effortlessness, to create sheer magic. There is no doubt in my mind that dancers are athletes. The stamina required to train relentlessly, to give your all in every performance, day in and day out… It makes you realise that the human body is an incredible thing, and that so much of what dancers do applies to running as well!
I was on cloud nine after the musical, which was an absolute tour de force. Go and watch it! There’s a reason it has won 4 Tony awards. Here’s a taster (just imagine doing this 7 times per week, and as part of a wider show!)
Onto the long run…
During the week, it occurred to me that I had experienced that mysterious feeling of “hitting the wall” on last Sunday’s run. The time had come to look into fuelling during the run. Because of my IBS, I had always been fearful of energy gels, jellies and bars as they contain caffeine, fructose, and loads of other ingredients I am confident my tummy could not handle. I spoke with people at the London Marathon store on Bishopsgate to see if they had any experience, first-hand or otherwise, with GI issues on long runs and how to fuel adequately. I left the store with an energy gel, jelly blocks, and energy jelly beans to trial them and see what works best.
I set off today overwhelmed with apprehension about the fuelling and about the run itself. I opted for the jelly blocks to begin with, but had no idea how my gut would react to them. I did feel better and more hopeful than I did last week, though, so that was a plus.
I felt in control up until I had to cross the river at Waterloo Bridge in my third segment of 28 mins easy run + 2 mins walk (repeat 6 times), but with the quote from last week’s post on my mind, I kept moving forward by walking. By the time I reached Tower Bridge, I felt it was time to break out the jelly blocks. I knew I was going to hit the wall within 10-15 minutes. They had the texture of a Turkish delight – halfway between gummy sweet and jelly – and were sickly sweet. I was advised to take two blocks and to help them along with some water.
I braced myself for intense cramping and made a mental map of which toilets were on the route home. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the cramps never arrived! This spurred me on, and allowed me to focus on not giving up even though my knees were screaming at me to stop. If I ever felt like giving up, I would walk for a minute, then start jogging again.
Nearly 3 hours and 26.8 kilometres later, I flopped down on a bench outside my local supermarket, utterly spent. My head was racing not with thoughts about my run today, but about the run last week, and how defeated I felt then. After remembering that, I looked back at what I had just achieved, and felt like this whole week was a success in overcoming the bad run and the proverbial wall. The change in outlook, learning about fuelling during the run, discovering new places, the power of dance… It appears I have found the 4-part remedy to the bad run blues!
Next week’s long run will be the longest of the entire plan, and I intend to cover 20 miles. You will find me at the Marathon store stocking up on jelly blocks!