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.”