48 days until the London Marathon. I ran for 6:49 this week.
The 20-miler is a milestone in each training cycle. Once you reach 20, you are getting close to the end. For me, in this cycle, distances of 14 miles and beyond have been hard work. I've done these runs, but each has been a struggle. Is it my age?
In any event, I headed out this morning for my second attempt at a 20 mile run in this training cycle. My first attempt two weeks ago was a failure. This week, I'd trained with the thought of getting this long run done. I did 9 on Tuesday, 13 on Thursday, and a recovery 5 on Saturday. Lots of rest, some mid-week distance - I was all set.
I met S., a friend from the running club, at 9 a.m. It had been another stormy night, and the wind was still up, but at least it wasn't pouring yet.
I'd run a mile to reach our meeting place, and then together we started a 9 mile loop through the countryside and town. It was a hilly route, but because it was varied it seemed to pass quickly. S. is training for an Ironman, so I was interested in all the work he was doing. By comparison, a marathon seems small beer. I felt a little wave of tiredness at the end of the loop, but focussed on the Snickers bar I had stashed at the loop's start.
The plan was to run two of these 9-mile laps, and the first lap passed as we chatted. The wind was stronger now, and it was spitting out. S. was strong on the second loop, and I felt good as well at its start. We descended into town, and S. seemed to pick up the pace slightly - or I seemed to fade a bit. At 2 hours we'd done a bit more the 15 miles. As we ran through the woods nearing the end of the second loop, my legs were heavy, and I could not keep up with S. He was only a few meters ahead, and probably slowing so the gap wouldn't grow, but I couldn't close it. Now, the wind was howling, and seemed intent on keeping us from finishing the last meters of the loop.
But we finished it. I finished my Snickers, and we sheltered behind a tree as the heavens opened. Luckily, we each only had a downhill mile to do, though in different directions.
On my own, I jogged down the path back to town. Driven by the wind, the rain stung. My running trousers stuck to my legs. The water ran down them into my shoes, though these were already sodden. I slowed dramatically on the little climb near my house, and then strode out a touch for the last quarter mile.
And then it was done. 20 miles. I was soaked and cold, and my wife helped me peel off my gloves.
Later, after lunch and some time playing with the children, I took the inserts out of my running shoes, and stuffed the shoes with last week's newspaper.