Monday, 29 March 2010

A bad run

55 days until my qualifying marathon.

12 years ago I trained for and ran the New York City marathon. It's the only other marathon I've done.

I remember vividly my first 20-mile training run. My partner followed me on her bike as I ran a loop along the Charles River in Boston, where we were living. I started slow and got slower as the miles continued. At the end, I was barely shuffling my feet. Old guys easily jogged passed. I was bonked. Utterly bonked.

Yesterday, Sunday, on my longest training run thusfar in the season, I did it again. OK, it wasn't quite as complete, but then I was only going for 16 miles.

It never felt right. I missed an hour of sleep the night before because the clocks went forward (in the UK this happens after the US, for some reason). I had some beer the night before, but nothing excessive. Two days earlier, I'd done a tough 10 miles in the hills with a friend, but then I'd rested the next day.

I started just before 10 a.m. (for my body, on old time, just before 9) after a full breakfast - coffee, muesli, and a danish. I ran into town, where I thought I might catch some running friend who sometimes get together on Sunday mornings to run. They weren't meeting this weekend, apparently, so I went up the the tow-path that is adjancent to a canal in the town. This runs for a long distance - 40 miles? - and is flat.

On my way out I headed into a stiff head-wind. I prefer to head out into the wind and then have it at my back on the return trip. I didn't carry any water or food; I thought I'd be running with my colleagues and that I'd stop at home for a drink before doing some additional miles.

My legs felt heavy and tired. I'd done a half-marathon race the weekend before, but I thought I was recovered. I trudged on, taking it slow.

Just before my turning around point my upper left leg began to be sore. When I began to head back the soreness began to affect the whole leg. Perhaps fighting the wind for over an hour had taken its toll. Whatever the reason, I was physically beat.

I was also starting to worry about water. I'd been out for over an hour and a half by this point. I stopped and asked a walker if there were any stores nearby. She said there was something, but it was a ways away from the canal.

I didn't want to extend the distance any more than I needed to, given that I was already tiring. Stupidly, I hadn't brought my phone. To get back home I'd either have to run or walk.

After a mile or two, the canal crossed a road and there was a sign with a local map. It showed a store nearby, and I went down the street to it. It was open, and I bought a sports drink. It tasted incredibly sweet.

Clutching my drink, I returned to the canal and kept plodding along. I thought that at the next mile marker I'd stop running and walk a bit. The object of the long run was to get used to running long miles, but I also didn't want to injure myself. I was beat.

However, I must have missed the marker, and so I continued running. It wasn't fast, it wasn't pretty, but it was running. As the distance to home shrank to around 3 miles, I figured I'd just push on. I was just over the 2 hour mark for the run thusfar.

Off the tow-path at last, I shuffled through the sunny woods on a path that runs along a river. Any descent, however, reminded my how sore my legs were.

Eventually I got to my neighbourhood, and at 2:31 to my house. I was shattered.

12 years ago, after my bad run, I'd bounced back by increasing my mid-week distances.

My confidence for this year's race has not been ruined, but this bad run has reminded me that I have lots more work to do. It's an endurance event, and I want to approach it as such, by building endurance.

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