This morning I ran 12.65 miles in 45 minutes and 57 seconds. I’m pretty pleased with that.
When my mapmyrun app on my phone first told me I’d run a mile in 3 minutes and 16 seconds I confess to a doubting its veracity for a second. “Mind you,” I then considered, “I did rest my hamstring instead of running yesterday, maybe that was just the extra push I needed towards running the fastest mile of all time by nearly half a minute?”
I was quite surprised I managed to maintain the pace over the full 12.65 miles, but the voice of the app kept telling me so every 3-4 minutes so it must be true!
The map of my run looks a bit weird, though.
There is a world out there that only I know about. While people are sleeping, just after the sun comes up, when the grass is still heavy with dew, there is a land waiting to be discovered.
At 7am on Friday morning I wasn’t switching off my alarm in North London, or heading back from a grey run around the Holloway Road. I was pulling on my trainers 100 miles away, ready to head out through the suburbs into the Georgian streets of a small market town.
Seventies’ semis quickly gave way to cobbled back-streets, then water meadows. A spaniel emerged from the riverbank, shaking sparkling droplets from his coat. Up past the station and my old school walls, out of town and through the lodge gates to the Park.
I stopped to stretch by the cricket pitch and raised my eyes above the path. I took in May blossom, cow parsley, horse chestnuts in flower, pollen floating in the rays of the sun. A flock of sheep, newly shorn, ignored me.
I ran 6 miles before breakfast just to run down this avenue of trees.
I stopped at the top of the avenue, turned and caught my breath. It was a moment of complete happiness.
This is why I run. I remember now. I may not be able to find this world every morning in North London, but I know it’s out there, waiting for me.
Don’t worry, I’m not feeling joyful, jubilant or joyful about the Jubilee. I’m still feeling flat about running and about life in general, don’t fret.
This morning, though, I was determined that I would find something to write about on my run. It was supposed to be a sunny day, after months of cold grey mornings, and I looked forward to talking of blue skies and hope. It wasn’t. The gloves were off, at least, but the clouds remained.
2.5 miles had passed before a smile threatened my lips. Midway through my run I have to spend five minutes crossing the Holloway Road. It’s one of my least favourite things to do. I hate stopping for anything, but particularly for leering van drivers at 6.30am. There are three crossings to wait for and their timings are staggered to cause maximum irritation to pedestrians. Waiting, I lose all motivation to run and start dreaming of breakfast.
This morning, though, after a new personal best slowest crossing yet, I was greeted by this splendid sight in the window of Vivien of Holloway. What joy! If anything could make me a royalist, this dress would do it. With sash, naturally. And maybe a small tiara?
I don’t much feel like writing about running at the moment. I do feel like running, but I haven’t been able to do much.
I took the week off work to recover from the marathon and catch up on sleep and country walks. It should have been lovely. It was okay. My legs felt steamrollered on the Monday with sore quads, calves and hamstrings. I contemplated taking an entire week off running, but by Thursday I was desperate to get out of the house. I didn’t really think through the consequences of taking a week off last week. What is the thing I like to do most on holiday? Run.
I managed to jog for 2 miles on Thursday, then a 4 mile trot on Friday, but neither was exactly enjoyable. This morning I managed 5 miles in 8 minute miles. My body is probably back to normal. My mind isn’t doing so well.
No doubt this is the inevitable, predictable, post-race blues. I was surprised to have them, and am reluctant to write about them, when everything went so well. This sort of thing is hardly going to inspire any runners to break their personal bests, when all I’ll allow myself is a couple of days of the glow before the doubts set in.
Even two days after the race, the achievement didn’t seem that impressive. I read other race reports of people running sub-3 hours and felt deflated. How do you make yourself feel better about running when you can’t go running?
On a positive note (yes please!), I did get a lovely trophy for my third place – it’s a glass paperweight with a flying pig inside it – I’ll post a picture of it for your edification later.
Me: feel good about myself after running a 3:30 marathon? Pigs might fly.
I ran the North Dorset Village Marathon in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds! It was a GOOD DAY. I don’t often write long posts but I can feel one coming on now. If you would like a summary, just read this and look at the pictures: 10 miles of joy, 9 miles of doubt, 4 miles of arrogance, 3 miles of pain, 0.2 miles of relief.
10 Miles of Joy
What a lovely race. 400 people and their friends warming up in a school hall, with bacon butties for the supporters, enough portaloos, and a handbell for a starting gun. No chip timing, no queueing, no crowds.
As soon as we started running the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time in a month. Everyone was smiling. I tried not to worry about sunblock. The next 9 miles were perfect – good pacing (just under 8 minute miles) and good conversation with two people who had just run the London marathon. There was a sharp hill at 8 miles, but it was much shorter than the hills of Crouch End and I conquered it with ease.
At 10 miles some friends were going to be waiting, and I was really looking forward to seeing them. I waved like a mad woman and felt really excited. It was going so well!
9 Miles of Doubt
Running away from my friends, I felt like a switch had been flicked. Not in my body – that felt fine – but in my brain. I didn’t know if I was going to see anyone again until the end, which was still 16 miles away. I had pulled away from the London marathoners and was pretty much on my own now. The lanes were quiet and flat. There were cows, horses, pigs and lambs for company, but they weren’t doing much for my motivation. I spied a buzzard soaring overhead. Maybe I could stop and go for a nice Sunday walk in the sunshine?
I was getting distracted from the matter in hand. My times were creeping up. I went through 13 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, 2 minutes faster than planned, and I was gaining 15 seconds a mile. I was restless. I needed to take control, so I decided on two things – to start listening to music to calm me down, and to split the race up into sections from here on out.
I decided to run three races; a 5 miler to 18 miles, trying to slow my pace down; a four miler from 18-22, taking it easy over the hills I knew were coming then; and a final four miler from 22- 26, hopefully a bit faster if I was feeling fresh.
4 Miles of Arrogance
It worked. I had got to 18 miles feeling good, better than on my long training runs. There was a lovely flat mile from 18-19 and I was thinking that the penultimate four mile section would be a doddle. Then came the hills. I knew they were coming, they weren’t that high or long, they were just there. I attacked them, probably a bit too hard, but I was feeling so good. It was great to pass people on the way up and I got a bit addicted to doing it.
At this point, someone told me I was “fourth lady”. I ignored the use of the word “lady”, and started dreaming of glory. I could totally catch that third woman! On a rare straight section, I caught sight of her. It was on.
3 Miles of Pain
I had been thinking that the final section would be one of the easiest. It looked flat on the course profile, what could possibly go wrong? I forgot that this was a marathon. Marathons hurt. Bodies are not supposed to run 26.2 miles as if it were a walk in the park. They are hard.
Once I passed the 23 mile marker, another switch was flicked. This time it was in my legs, and I couldn’t do anything to control it. Throughout the race I’d been conscious of my hamstrings and calves. At 23 miles they hurt, but they were a mere twinge compared to the pain party going on in my quads. The lactic acid was squeezing through them like lemons in a juicer.
It wasn’t like any pain I’ve experienced before in running. It made me feel sick, like I might faint. I grimaced. I shouted to myself. I turned up the power ballads really really loud. I kept running. I crept up slowly on the third place woman, and edged past her apologetically. It wasn’t the triumph I had hoped it would be. We were fellow sufferers.
The feeling came and went in waves. I hoped that if I ran through a terrible patch, a good patch would replace it. The last mile was a whole bad patch, however, and I have never been so grateful to see the number “26″ in my life.
0.2 Miles of Relief
Supporters lined the track for the last 0.2 miles. I’m really glad they did or I’m not sure I could have kept running. I knew I was going to to make it home in under 3 hours 30 and the temptation to walk was really, really strong.
I didn’t walk. I half ran, half stumbled over the finish line and bumbled incoherently to Mr N about how hard it had been. He was gleeful, and it was infectious. The memory of the last 3 miles was fading. I know that by this time next week I’ll have forgotten about it completely.
This is the joy of marathon running – the pain is part of the joy. What would be the point of running 26.2 miles if it didn’t hurt a bit? Who would be impressed by that, and what would we be proving?
Another joy of marathon running is below. Nothing tastes sweeter than a post-race pint.
5 miles run on Monday, marathon pace.
4 miles run on Wednesday, easy pace.
3 miles jogged this morning.
2 tons of pasta to eat tomorrow.
1 race to run on Sunday.
( I tried to find a clip to put here of the scene in Wayne’s World where they do the countdown but don’t say two or one, but I couldn’t find one. Denied.)
Phantom niggles = Figgles.
The Figgles are figments of your imagination made flesh. Lying in bed, you feel shooting pains in your left thigh. Climbing the stairs, your ankles feel weak and spongey. Sitting at your desk, your right hamstring feels really tight. You stand up to stretch and something clicks in your neck. Oh God, you’ve broken your spine!
This is nothing compared to what happens when you put your trainers on.
Have my legs always felt this heavy? My knees are grating. Are they grating? Now they’re clicking. I’m wheezing! I’m actually wheezing! Oh God, I can’t even run 2 miles, how can I run 26.2?
This morning I ran 4 miles and it felt like 54. I stopped for a wheeze/stretch/panic attack at every traffic light. Sunday cannot come soon enough.