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It's not the years, it's the mileage

Now Indiana Jones wasn’t talking about Marathon training when he said that, but he may as well have been. At this stage in Marathon training (seven weeks to go next weekend – yikes!) you just have to get those long runs in, at least three of 15 miles or more and a minimum of 20 miles for the longest run, according to most sources.

Two weeks ago I did 13 miles, getting over that significant half-marathon hurdle. It hurt like hell but I was so proud of myself for getting round it! I use Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method so I take one-minute walking breaks in my long runs, every five minutes when needed, but I run longer when I’m on a roll or a nice downhill stretch!

The next week was a drop-back in mileage, so instead of a long run I went to my running club. It turns out the Marathon training has done more for my speed than the speedwork has done for my Marathon training! I’ve moved from the back of the slow pack to the front of the middle pack. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it put the joy back into my running after a hard slog, especially with the sunshine and all the snowdrops and crocuses coming out in the park!

This week I was due to do a 15 miler. Thirteen miles took me 2 hours 50, and that was skipping over treacherous icy patches, so I was banking on a little over three hours. I had a great deal of drinking planned on Saturday around the important Wales/England Six Nations rugby match, so I thought I’d better get my run out of the way on Saturday morning rather than wait until Sunday as usual!

The problem was Friday was payday, and I got an unexpected invite out. It turns out four pints of lager and a chicken kebab does not equal carbo-loading! “Saving myself” for Saturday was an unmitigated disaster. I’d made sure I was properly hydrated, but the disturbed sleep and improper fuel really hit me hard (though they did contribute to a highly successful pre-run “lucky poo” which other runners will understand!).

I started slow and just got slower, seeing myself as a stately galleon gliding through the sunlit spring morn. I walked a bit less than usual as I was having a good time and didn’t stop my watch for my two pit-stops, as would be the case during a race. I have add-on bits of route I know by heart, so when I got to near my front door after two hours I did two of my half-hour staples to make it the full three hours. I didn’t track mileage by this point as I’d completely run out of time to run.

I looked at my CardioTrainer app on my phone and I’d done… 11.4 miles. I averaged a 15:07 minute pace, in other words a fast walk. What the hell, I’d run more than 4/5 of that by time, and more by distance!

Now the fuelling was obviously a big failure. As well as the night before, I was having an energy gel every hour, so I only had two for the whole run. It wasn’t enough, I returned home faint with hunger.

I have a good excuse for some of the slowness, which was losing GPS signal for a few minutes here and there and using my toilet breaks for a stretch and text check. The rest was speed.

Now, if you read my last blog entry you’ll know I suffered a lot of muscular pain after my 13 miler. This time I had none. Nothing. Nada. What I had was pain in my joints, specifically my hips and ankles. My lower back was a bit clicky too, but that’s improved a lot with the core work I added to my routine. The reason? I was going too slowly. I barely used my muscles to propel myself along, so my joints got a real beating, and my hips suffered from “middle-aged runner’s waddle” when I should have been gliding!

More lessons learned. I’ll give myself a clear booze-free run and proper fuelling next week when I’m due to do 16 miles, and I’ll make sure I do that distance, however long it takes. I’ll go a bit quicker which will test my lungs and muscles, but will give my hips a break. After all, that’s why I do speedwork mid-week and at my running club.

Most importantly, I’ll obey the mileage. I’ll keep an eye on it throughout to keep my pace respectable and make sure my walk breaks are power-walks, not strolls. Finally I’ll hammer out those 16 miles however long it takes.

Because when I wake up feeling 90 years old and like I’ll never get through this Marathon, or that I won’t even meet my previous horrendous time, ill and injured, of 7 hours 13, I have to remind myself:

“It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

Do as I say, not as I do

I've a nasty habit of doling out a lot of running advice. I wish I'd listen to it once in a while!

Two days after my 13 miler, my longest run to date in my Marathon training, and I'm in agony. My calf muscles are throbbing like the first time I ever ran a step, my quads are a-quiver as I walk down stairs and my hips are clicking like castanets. It's all my own fault, I know exactly what I did wrong!

1. Increasing mileage too fast.

Whatever running I manage to squeeze in during the week, I make it a point to ensure I at least do the long run as prescribed by Hal Higdon's "Novice Supreme" training programme. Except the last two weeks. I didn't even get outside last weekend and settled for an hour's plod on the dreadmill when my running club was called off because of heavy snow. Well, it's too boring to go for longer, right? At Berryspeed and mincing over the icy patches it took me two hours 50 to go 13 miles. My previous longest had been 90 minutes. A bit more than a 10% increase, right?

2. No proper warm-up.

Well, it was cold. I knew I'd feel hot quickly, so I only had a base layer and a light running jacket on. Problem was I was too cold to do my walk/jog warm up and dynamic stretching over the first 10 minutes so I just went straight into it. I figured it wouldn't matter as I was going so slow...

3. Unexpected hills.

We do hill sprints at my running club, but I tend to avoid them on my long runs. This one went so far I had to seek out a new route.  It was waaaay hilly.

4. No cool down.

I was desperate for the loo when I stumbled in the door and ran straight to the bathroom without a good five-minute walk to show that lactic acid the door.

5. No stretch.

After that I was starving like Hank Marvin so headed straight for the kitchen to make peanut butter on toast and a cuppa. Then I ran a bath and poured a glass of wine to drink while relaxing in it. Well, a hot bath must be as good as a stretch, right? Despite the agony I suffered not long ago in my Achilles and plantar fasciitis I've just shaken off, both of which can be exacerbated by tight calves.

6. No supplements.

I've got very limited amounts of cartilage. I used to take cod liver oil and joint supplements (glucosamine and chondriotin) but stopped to save money as I'd stopped getting joint pain, clickiness and stiffness. Duh, maybe it was because of the supplements, or from not normally working out for more than an hour.

I did do one thing right though, I think I've hit nutrition Nirvana. Double Oat So Simple porridge for breakfast with honey, a cup of tea and a glass of water. Zero carb electrolyte water additive in the running bottle, sip every 15 minutes. Energy gel every hour.

Learn from my mistakes. Do as I say, not as I do!

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