The long game

Posted on: 17 Mar 2017

It’s nearly time to start tapering ahead of Manchester, but before then I have one little challenge left to tackle. 

This Sunday is the Stafford Half Marathon, a race I’ve done for the last four years in a row and always thoroughly enjoyed.  It’s usually well supported, the course is a decent one and it’s proved to be a very good hunting ground for PBs (including my current one of just under 1hr 43). 

Not sure a PB is on the cards this weekend.  I’ll certainly give it a shot and obviously the marathon training is going to help.  But I also need to be sensible – can’t risk picking up any injuries before 2 April and wasting 16 weeks of hard graft.

Talking of training, I’ve had a hectic couple of weeks work-wise so haven’t found the time to update the blog before now.  But the miles have been done nevertheless, as have the cross training sessions, and overall I’m happy with my progress.

Two long runs in that time.  The first was supposed to be a 17 miler, except that things didn’t quite go according to plan.  Most of us will experience a few bad runs when completing a programme, I know it’s happened to me every time and Manchester has proved no exception.

It was just one of those runs where your body says ‘nah, no thanks – not today’.  It was an afternoon run rather than my usual morning jaunt.  Things were OK up until around eight miles, but I could feel the legs getting heavier and the pace dropping off.

I kept ploughing on until mile 12, but by then I could tell there was little chance of me getting this run back on track.  I was close enough to home to bailout – probably only a mile or so.  However, I decided to stick with it and just get more time on my feet, irrespective of whether or not that involved walking.

And so followed four very slow, very long and not particularly enjoyable run-walk miles, taking me to 16 for the day.  But the positive in all that is, of course, the fact that I kept going.  It reminded me of my Chester blow-up from the 2015 marathon at 21 miles.  That same feeling of exhaustion plus a distinct lack of motivation once you know your target time is in tatters.

You have to dig really deep in these situations, physically and mentally, and so any chance to put it to the test outside of a race day when it really matters is worth the extra effort.  Stuff the time, concentrate on the achievement.

I felt super groggy when I got home with my stomach churning.  However, an hour or so later it had pretty much passed and I fixed myself something to eat and rested up.  Come Monday morning – recovery run day – normality was restored and I got on with my next big task, to complete my highest ever weekly mileage and my longest single training run outside of an actual marathon.

Forty miles was the target – I ended up doing 41.5.  And the long run was going to be 22 – I actually made it to 23.1, just a mere 5k to go come race day!

Actually, the long run wasn’t strictly about mileage. This was more about staying out as long as possible and getting used to still pushing beyond three hours – the point where I’ve started seriously flagging in both my previous marathons.

So how did it go?  Very well, all things considered.  I say that because my pre-run prep wasn’t particularly text-book.  It was my brother’s birthday and so we all met for drinks and a takeaway curry.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Can’t see Martin Yelling recommending a curry as a night before meal, regardless of how many carbs might be in your rice.

Now I’m not that stupid.  I chose wisely and went very easy on the spice and avoided anything heavy with lots of sauce.  And one glass of wine was my limit, despite the temptation of a lot of cold bottles of niceness stashed in the fridge!

Anyway, we had a good night and I dutifully set my alarm for 5.30am so I’d have time for breakfast before running.  I set off very steadily, which is hard for me as I’m notorious for being a fast and impatient starter, only to suffer later in the final stages.  My pace actually stayed remarkably consistent for the first 15 miles, ranging from high 8s to low 9s. 

At one point, I reached Walsall Arboretum which is where my nearest Parkrun takes place.  They were busy setting up, but there were plenty of runners milling around which was nice to see – a few nods and smiles here and there, although they probably thought my oversized water bottle was a bit excessive if I was just warming up for a 5km dash!

Things slowed from 15 through to 20 and by this point I was starting to flag quite a bit.  I decided to take a short walk after 20 just to calm things down and get through a hilly section.  This was starting to feel like deja vu – I’m back at Chester or London and hitting that wretched wall…

But I knuckled down and got going again as the road mercifully flattened out.  Mile 21 was slow, however mile 22 was under 10 minutes.  Suddenly, I’m back on marathon pace.  It doesn’t feel easy, but equally I’m not blowing up.  Let’s try and hang on for another mile.

So I did, turned away from the road that would take me home and did a lap of the nearby nature reserve instead.  That was a little slower, but still solid.  Overall, 3hrs 41 minutes on my feet and still with a smidgen left in the tank at the end.

It wasn’t on pace for my 4 hour target, although that doesn’t bother me in the slightest because it was never my intention that day.  I’m just really happy to have been disciplined with my pacing for most of the run and at talking myself around to recover from the 20 mile wobble.

Bring on the big one.  Manchester, I am as ready as I’ll ever be!  Does anyone know if there are any good curry houses up there by the way?


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