(Regular readers, this is the last one, I promise!)
Two days before I was due to go on holiday, I got the message – “How do you feel about running a half marathon?”
“Apathetic,” was my reply. I have problems with running for the sake of running, running that isn’t chasing a ball of some sort or a necessity when I’m late for eating baked goods.
The day after that initial message, I got a second one. It was a screenshot of an entry confirmation. Having got that, I decided I’d enter too, and then go to bed and go snowboarding for a week the day after.
When I arrived back home a week later, I had 6 weeks to go from a level of no steady state running for as long as I could remember to prepare myself for 13.1 miles. Here’s what I learnt.
- The most important thing to state is that it’s amazing what the body is capable of. I lost a week of my training plan to a hamstring strain / injury (they simply wouldn’t allow me to straighten my legs for days), but by the end of my 6 weeks, post-race, I had actually run two half marathons. That’s four weeks of training to run 13.1 miles. I’m not the world’s fittest person, I have a problem with my back, my leg muscles are stupidly tight, but nor am I too bad. So if this is something you fancy doing and you think you might be able to but aren’t sure, my advice would be to go for it.
- My training plan was focussed purely on covering distance. That was my goal. I thought about timing once or twice, but never at an occasion where I would do hill runs or sprint splits to work on pace. I’m still happy with that in the time frame I had.
- My gut feeling is that this wasn’t long enough preparation though. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s getting the job done. I felt that it put a lot of unnecessary strain on my body. I think that I would rather have run my furthest training run two weeks before the race. I don’t have the experience to say whether this affected my performance on the day, bit I think I carried fatigue in to the race and that isn’t beneficial.
- With that in mind, there are two things I don’t get from the training plans I read online. I saw some plans saying that the furthest to run in training was as little as 8 miles, but that’s only 2/3 distance. I couldn’t have done a 5 mile jump in one go. Nor do I understand how people can train for full marathons doing this sort of distance and more week after week!
- Recovery is key. Listen to your body, sleep, warm up, cool down, eat well.
- Listen to your body, but don’t always listen to your head. The number of times I got home from work and it was cold outside and the last thing I wanted to do was put on my trainers and pound the pavements… I could sit inside, with the heating on, watching the TV. I could go out with friends Push and drive yourself. Get it done.
- I was surprised how emotional I got when running shoulder to shoulder with people running for a cause. I ran for a cause, and I chose to ask for sponsorship because, at the time, I wouldn’t do this for fun and didn’t want to do it for anything other than a challenge. It wasn’t something I enjoyed. When you see people supporting dementia charities, or cancer charities… They’re putting themselves through the ringer for a cause that they believe in. I have a new perspective on this.
- I didn’t enjoy running. I’m still not sure I do. I spoke to a man called Ian as I was doing the race. He loved his hobby, and he was passionate and he had a smile on his face. He guaranteed me that I’d get hooked on the sport. The aspect that I’ve grown to like is the challenge. I didn’t enjoy the last few miles of my race. There were times that I saw the medical support with their spare chairs and I thought to myself that I could just stop right there. However, I sit here typing this with a half marathon time of 1:40:15 against my name. Those 15 seconds are bothering me, and have the potential to be my next challenge. This isn’t now about just getting it done; it’s about how it’s done and getting better.
The big thing about this journey for me has been the challenge. There was a goal and there was a plan, but what I’ve learnt in a far more real sense is that a goal and a plan, even a plan being worked on and progressed, is so greatly assisted by the right motivation. It’s like being in a job that provides neither the job satisfaction nor the financial remuneration to make it tolerable so will not be done properly, or a relationship that exists purely for the relationship and not to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve learnt to ask “why” and then to ask it again. Once you get there, the “how” is just a reflection of how badly you want it.