Something isn’t right with my marathon training at the moment. To slightly misquote the late, great Eric Morecambe (and with a nod to the recently departed André Previn): I’m doing all the right runs, but not necessarily in the right order.
Things came to a head last week. I completed my weekly mileage, but only just. The backs of my legs were seriously stiff and painful and my energy levels at rock bottom. A nasty blister on my left foot wasn’t exactly helping either.
The whole point of a 16 week programme is to build up the mileage gradually, so why the swing from energised and motivated, to fed up and shattered?
I think I know the answer; it came to me while I was grinding out a not very pretty four miler. Circumstances are forcing me to condense my x4 weekly runs into too short a window.
By that I mean I struggle to run at the weekends because I’m on my own and have Izzy to look after. There’s Sunday nights once I’ve dropped her off, but does anyone seriously want to tackle a long slow marathon training run at 7pm on a Sunday night?!?
Therefore, to free up my weekends, I’m covering all my distances in the week, before or after work. That’s usually OK in the early stages of a programme, but at peak mileage it’s exhausting.
Take last week. I ran 35 miles across four days – nine on Tuesday, 22 on Thursday (split into two runs – 16 miles into work, then six from the train station going home) and finally four on Friday. And Wednesday wasn’t a rest day either, as I did core and weights work during the evening.
The week before – 27 miles in three consecutive weekdays, core work at home on the weekend.
Now this problem, and my attempted solution, isn’t new. I had to contend with it last year as well training for all four of my marathons. By and large, it worked then. But this year it just doesn’t seem to be suiting my body.
So for once, just once, I’m being sensible. I’ve taken a rest week. And by that, I mean a full week. Not a few days like I did in February when my hamstring was playing up.
My last run was last Friday. I won’t be out again until Tuesday next week, so it will actually end up being ten days off.
Already I feel better. A tad anxious about not training, but physically better. My legs seemed to have loosened up (I won’t know for sure until I resume running) and I’m definitely not feeling so run down (excuse the pun).
Perhaps it was down to me still feeling the after effects of that cold / aka man flu. Perhaps it was a delayed reaction to running hard at the Leicestershire half. Perhaps I’m just a year older with, quite literally, more miles on the clock!
Whatever the reason, I think a decent rest – even though it’s only six weeks out from the Brighton marathon – will prove a smart move.
Next up, the Stafford Half Marathon a week on Sunday. My plan says to do an 18 mile long run, but I’m skipping that for a fast half. Plus it lands on a Sunday (thank you grandparents for providing childcare), the more typical day for distance runs.
The week after should see me doing a 20. More likely I’ll make that 18(ish) and just go with how I feel. Probably a three hour time limit rather than set distance and I’ll try to stay disciplined and run slower than marathon pace, with enough rest time built in between outings.
It’s a tough game sometimes, this running lark. It just goes to show how much this community, and the experience of eight previous marathons, has taught me. You absolutely can overdo it in training and, particularly if you are time-chasing, there’s very little to gain on race day if you turn up fatigued.
Who cares if there are gaps in the training plan? Who cares if don’t cover the full training mileage?
The head rules, for a change! I’ll save ‘heart’ for when I really need it on 14 April.
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