It wasn’t that I started training too late that’s frustrating me as I sit here four days
before the race. It’s that I had reached 15lbs over my desired race weight and about 10lbs heavier than my previous marathon race weight. Every time I ran I felt worse: fat and slow.
Then one day in June I decided do some speed work and hey presto, I was a runner again; an overweight, lethargic, gimpy runner, but a “runner” nonetheless. It’s amazing how much different even a single proper ‘training’ session makes me feel versus just ‘jogging’ – a term I’ve acquired a snootiness about. I don’t jog, I run and train.
I re-upped with McMillan Running for another custom-made training plan shortly after that first speedwork training run. As soon as the spreadsheet came through I realised I should have paid for it sooner, because I was…excited. Yes, I really did use that word – of me – in connection with running training. Thing is with a good training plan is that it’s varied as well as challenging, and without both those things going on motivation is hard to come by. I realised as I pored over the plan that when I’m not being stretched I get bored, and when I’m bored I just stop doing whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing, no matter how much I’m supposed to or theoretically want to be doing it.
This plan was loaded with a bewildering array of runs: Easy, Long, Warmup, Recovery, Tempo, Strides, Fartlek, Tempo Interval, Cruise, Fast Finish, Yasso 800’s, Thirds Progression, DUSA Progression, Medium Long Run, Cooldown. And then after the marathon, Very Slow & Easy Run.
The first thing I looked for was how many SLR’s I had – 8 in 9 weeks. Bleurgh. Annihilating myself in an hour/hour-fifteen’s worth of sprints and tempo and such like feels kinda fulfilling, but during my first cycle of marathon training I spent the entire weeks dreading the impending SLR – especially once it got over about 16 miles.
Possibly my biggest problem with the SLR is down to where I live – in the Cayman Islands, just south-west of Cuba and about a waist-length dreadlock away from Jamaica. During winter (second half of November to first half of April), running is bearable until about 7am, but before that anything after 6.30am is seriously unpleasant and the temperature is rarely below 80F with humidity frequently over 75%. And I’m not a skinny little guy so that heat messes with me in a major way.
My longest run of this training cycle for example was 22 miles. To get that done by about 6.30 I needed to leave the house by 2.45am, which meant an alarm call of 2am. Which is dumb, because it means going to be really early the night before, failing to sleep very much, getting up, eating nothing, and then running for almost four hours. It wasn’t a huge shock therefore when I hit the wall at about 15 miles, as I had done on my 20 mile run also.
Hitting the wall, I have to say, is not a great deal of fun, speaking from my now burgeoning experience of the physiological event. I can start a run feeling just fine (although I didn’t – it had been a tiring few weeks even without training), and think for the first few miles that it’s going to be a good run. Then about 8 miles in I realise that I am in fact running quite a long way, by 12 miles my legs are asking whether they really have to do this, and at 15-16 miles they make it very clear that overtime rates had not been negotiated therefore they were not going to work.
During the 18-miler a few weeks before when I’d set off too late and was getting the sun four miles from the end, I even stopped to walk. Nothing wrong with that says Jeff Galloway. Unless of course walking isn’t part of the programme, and then it feels like failing a test and missing all the benefits of pushing through the misery barrier.
That’s the trouble with the misery barrier. I just want it to bungee me back to happiness but every time I hit it I convince myself I need to push it until it – and I – fall over.
And that’s effectively how my 22-miler ended a couple of weeks later. My hamstrings weren’t as tight as after the 20-miler so I wasn’t in as much pain, but I was done. As I hobbled into the front garden after my cooldown walk with our dog Sushi I just lay down in the foetal position, unable to take the six steps up into the house. Sushi licked my face and I didn’t move. Then the sprinklers came on. I still didn’t move.
But I had done 22 miles. So I still felt a bit fat, and a bit slow. But I’m definitely a runner.