Monday 23 May 2011

How many miles???

I've just been reviewing my training schedule for the rest of the year, looking at what I've already run, and what the plan shows me doing, and added up the final column...which shows total miles per week.  

For 2011, my schedule has me running, including training and races: 1,316 miles!

Bloody hell, that seems like an incredibly long way! Had a look on a map and it's like running from London to Rome!

But we shall see what happens. So far, I'm only at 351 miles so would have 965 miles left to run in just over 7 months so not sure how realistic that is, but then I did say I wanted to work harder for the rest of this year.

Whether I achieve what my plan anticipates, or not, it is quite astonishing to me that I am even contemplating running this sort of distance. When I think that in my early 20s, I was so incredibly overweight, unfit and unhealthy, I'm so happy to be reaching the end of my 20s as an entirely different person :)

Starting again

Well, it's been five weeks since the London Marathon, and two weeks since the Halstead Marathon.  To recover and relax from all the effort, Francis and I have been on holiday, travelling around Tuscany, in the north west of Italy.  We had a fabulous time, and although we went walking pretty much every day, either in the beautiful countryside or up and down the steep streets of gorgeous medieval towns...I haven't actually done any running.  After the two marathons in three weeks I do think my knees, my hips and my body in general, deserved the rest!  I'm a bit concerned about having lost fitness, but I definitely do feel better for the break, and am now excited about getting out and pounding the pavements again!

My next race is in three weeks - the Southend Half Marathon - and my next full marathon, the Kent Coastal,  is 16 weeks away, so it's time to start training.  I had a decent 19 mile ride yesterday on my lovely new road bike, to try and get my heart and lungs accustomed to a bit of hard work for a change, and am now set to get back to the running.

So, as I'm starting a new training schedule, I'm going to aim to really try and improve the quality of my runs.  Far too often over the last year, I spent my weeks approaching every run in the same way - the same route at the same pace, just varying the distances - and I know that it stops me from really improving.  I've got an achievable plan laid out and am determined to stick to the variations of speedwork, tempo, long and recovery runs and I really must try to throw in a bit of cross training for good measure, especially now I've rediscovered my love of riding my road bike.  I still have my gym membership too - I'm not sure I'm ever going to get back through that door, but recognise that I need to include some weights in my training plan to help with various weaknesses - I think that maybe one target too far at the moment though ;)

However, I do realise that putting in more hard work and finding a bit more dedication is the only way I'm going to achieve my sub 2hr and sub 4hr30min targets and although it will take a bit of extra determination on those days where I really can't be bothered to do my speedwork, I do need to step up to the mark. I may call myself a runner these days, but now I need to start training like one too!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Why I loved the Halstead Marathon

I doubt I'll be able to convey just how great a race the Halstead and Essex Marathon is and what a special experience running it, was for me.  But I'll try...

I entered it on a bit of a whim, just three weeks after a disappointing London Marathon, and I was really nervous about how I was going to get on - to be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it.  How wrong I's the only time I've ever crossed a finish line and felt myself tearing up...even thinking about it now I feel a bit choked.  It was such a fantastic day.

Listed below are some particularly good things about this race, but the real reason I enjoyed it so much was that there was such a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone.  Other runners actually talked to me around the course! It's very, very rarely happened before.  It was a revelation.  People encouraged each other, stopped to make sure everything was ok when someone fell over, chatted to strangers, and really helped each other get round. The running community that I feel such a part of online, actually existed in real life at this race!  Not to sound too melodramatic, but I really felt accepted - this is really who I am, a marathon runner and this is where I belong.

Anyway, the marshals were superb too, the locals were lovely, and the other runners were just amazing - I even ran and chatted with someone else, on and off, for a good few miles which absolutely made my day - I've never run with anyone before and it made all the difference. I wish I knew who she was so I could thank her properly!

So - the specifics.  If you're thinking about running Halstead, this is why you should:
  •  Lots of dedicated parking literally just one minute from the HQ, which was also where the start & finish line was.  So easy!
  • Personalised drink drop-off so you can pick up your bottle at the water stations around the course, just like a professional - a very slick operation that means you don't even have to slow down to collect it!
  • A couple of water stations had sponges - a godsend on a hot day
  • The most staggeringly beautiful countryside with few, if any, cars around much of the route
  • The hills - they are hard, but they are do-able- it makes finishing all the more satisfying!
  • Truly wonderful support from the locals - one family even set up their own extra water station at the top of a particularly hefty hill!  Even the children seemed to be genuinely encouraging - lovely
  • Fantastic, enthusiastic marshals, who really did seem to be on form the whole way round, not one I could fault.  By turns they clapped me, cheered my number, and generally made me feel good about how I was doing.
  • Benches by the finish line that you could collapse onto if needed (which I did).
  • Perfect big medal, given out by the Mayor
  • A great goody bag at the end with a varied selection of food and drink - banana, apple, water, sports drink, jaffa cakes, chocolate bar, healthy's like they'd put it together with me in mind - as well as a new water bottle and t-shirt.
  • Massages and showers available afterwards if you wanted them
  • Chip timing, always a bonus
  • I was even pleased with a couple of the race photos that were taken, which I duly bought :)
So, yes, there were hills, and yes, the water was in cups not bottles, but there was so much about this race that was so incredibly well done, the organisation was so slick, and the people so remarkable, that I will definitely be back next year.  This has become my favourite race, and although no medal will ever be quite as special as the first marathon medal I got, this medal is a very close second, because running Halstead was absolutely wonderful.

P.S - I got a PB too which am sure adds something to my enthusiasm.  4hrs 47mins.  Really pleased with that :D

Sunday 8 May 2011

The Halstead Marathon is fabulous!

I had the most amazing day at the Halstead Marathon - it's the best race I've been to for many reasons, and I will blog about them all tomorrow when I've woken up a bit ;)

It is horrendously hilly, and it was warm today, particularly the first half when it was bright sunshine too, but I came home (according to my Garmin, below) in 4hrs 47mins.

If you ever get the chance to run this race, you should. It's awesome! :D

Wednesday 4 May 2011

I don't think I know what I'm doing

Well, just four days left until the Halstead Marathon...and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a bit scared!

I really don't know if I'm ready or not, if my body has recovered enough from London yet, if I've done enough training in between the two marathons...if I even know what I'm doing running two so close together when sometimes I don't even feel fit enough to walk up an escalator in a tube station and I start asking myself if I'm really a marathon runner?! Oh, and I'm really nervous about running a hilly course - that's going to be an entirely different experience to the three (very flat!) London marathons that I've done before.  Self-doubt is seriously kicking in, and although I'm trying to ignore it, it's definitely in the back of my mind, and is making me worry about the dreaded "DNF".

As part of my preparations, I went for a sports massage yesterday which was suitably painful, and will hopefully set me up well for Sunday, and I've had a look at the weather - apparently it's going to be raining which although not ideal will be much better than beating sunshine! I'm not too happy with my trainers, but sure they'll get me round...and the only other thing I need to do now is to try and get myself in the right frame of mind, as at the moment, it's my positivity and confidence that's missing...and as we all know, the psychological battle around a marathon course is as important as the physical one!

I did have a lovely boost yesterday though - I received an amazingly generous sponsorship donation of £290 which brought me up to the £1,000 mark, raised for Elephant Family.  Raising that sort of money really does make the whole thing a bit more worthwhile :)

So, I have a final run of 4 miles to do tonight, and will do an easy couple of miles on Saturday and then all that's left is to have a successful run on Sunday!  Against my better judgement, I'm going to start off at a 4hr 30min pace as I did in London, and just see how I get on.  Fingers crossed and wish me luck!