Injury – it happens to all of us

The one thing runners fear most is injury, followed closely by illness. It keeps you off your feet for an indefinite time and we’re notorious for shrugging it off, given our tolerances for high stress and pain.

On Tuesday, I became victim to some sort of foot problem that remains unidentified. The likely diagnosis is tendinitis, plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture (I really hope it isn’t this). The pain is dull and resides on the outer left edge of my left foot and seems to come and go as it pleases, with regular walking and running having no negative or positive effect on it. Massaging it provides instant relief, as does ibuprofen gel and tablets. I pray that it resolves itself by next weekend, when Dave and I tackle the Bath Half Marathon with our PB goal.

The injury has had one positive outcome by making me volunteer at the Cannon Hill Parkrun this week instead of racing. I’ve been having pangs of guilt recently where I’ve wanted to volunteer due to how regularly I run. Acting as a marshall, it was odd not running but enjoyable being able to view Parkrun from a different perspective. I think I did a pretty good job of marshalling and provided support for everybody on the return leg of the course.

Fingers crossed this is a momentary blip!

The mind is willing, the time available is not!

When I first discovered that I had successfully received a much sought after ballot place for the London Marathon, my emotions were all over the place. I was immediately filled with immense joy and also deep fear; fear of the unknown distance and I was brought right back to the time before I ran my first half marathon. I was confident that I at least had the ability to reach 16, maybe 17 miles from half marathon training alone and a good fitness base, but that still left 9 – 10 miles of unknown territory.

Fast forward several months and my long, steady runs have dramatically increased in distance. I’m now regularly churning out efforts of 18+ miles and my body feels fine afterwards, with only hunger as a sign that I had been out running at all. I am quietly confident that I will arrive at the start line in London, ready to go toe to toe with the 26.2 mile challenge ahead.

Now, just because my body is ready doesn’t mean it’s all been sunshine and daisies along the way. The long runs have been a huge tax on my time, especially on Sundays. Often taking more than 3 hours to complete, they leave little room for other things on Sundays and I’ve had to turn down invites to a number of things so that I can train. Friends and family have been very understanding of this, for which I am grateful. Having a strong support network is a huge boost to any runner; they’re there to humour our inane discussions about pacing strategies, nutrition merits and all the other facts that non-runners really have no benefit for. They come to support and cheer us on at our races, no matter how big or small. Most importantly, they understand that a superb performance on race day doesn’t just happen on race day; it’s down to all the lonely miles logged, come rain or shine, that gets us to where we are atthe start line. I do believe this upcoming London Marathon will be my first and potentially last for a long time because of the huge time-sink that it is. In many ways, this reinforces my thoughts that I’m geared more towards traning for and racing in half marathons, where the longest run you may complete to really perform well is 14, maybe 15 miles, taking just over 2 hours. Perhaps one day, I will return to the 26.2 mile distance, but for now London will be my only marathon.

So, with that out of the way, what else have I been up to in the world of running?

I failed to get a place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon ballot. Dom wrote a really good post about the flaws of the system here and is spot on about potentially paying twice for an entry place. I shall run in the Cardiff Half Marathon instead and finally slay the demon that nearly made me DNF back in 2011.

I’m strangely calm about the Bath Half Marathon, mainly because it is part of the bigger picture of London Marathon training. I’m looking forward to racing again and the target in Dave and my sights is a sub 1:40 finish, preferably sub 1:38 if at all possible. All signs are pointing to “yes” and all the variables I can control have been controlled. All that’s left is for race day to be cool and overcast, with impeccable pacing and we should be set.

Lastly, my longest period of going without a PB at Cannon Hill Parkrun came to an end on Saturday with a new course PB of 20:37, down from 20:53 way back in early December. I should really treat this as my official 5k PB because whilst I ran Cardiff Parkrun in 20:26, I’m dubious of the distance measurement on the day where my GPS logged only 3.04 miles.

Plenty of Spring events are coming up, so I wish everybody luck with the remaining training planned.

Progress

An overall progress report is due, me thinks.

Parkrun

I continue to attend my local Parkrun at Cannon Hill Park whenever possible, which is most weeks. After stripping away a massive 25 seconds from my 5k time immediately after the Great Birmingham Run (I’m not including Newport Parkrun), I thought I was starting to plateau again with a PB of only 1 second last week. This was put right at this week’s run when we were all asked to run without gadgets like GPS or music.

Running without digital aid was an odd, yet liberating experience. I normally run with GPS and check it every few seconds to make sure my pace is on target and also to reign myself in if I’m overdoing it in the early stages.

I had no idea whether I was doing well or not and could only base my pace on those around me. For a good portion of the race, I was running with 6 others in an elite runner formation like you often see in highly skilled races, sharing the effort of pace making but also carrying others along with you. I kept up with this for a while and the often-cited benefit of reduced mental and physical effort proved true, especially with a noticeable reduction in wind resistance. I moved on after a while because the overall pace felt too easy and a 5k should be run at around 85-95% effort.

During the later stages, I was more or less running on my own, though I could hear a runner close on my tail. At the gentle incline leading to the finish, she managed to overtake me and I simply didn’t have the mojo to kick any further with my pace so we simply maintained our positions to the end.

Crossing the line, I was none the wiser over my performance though felt I had put in a good effort and had an inkling that I had PBd by a few seconds. Lis’ early estimations based on her stopwatch had me clocked at 21:09; the result text and email that came in later that day had me PB with 21:08 so she wasn’t far off!

Dave also ran, with some injuries, and came in roughly a minute afterwards, which is a commendable achievement in itself. His development has been incredible recently with ability close to mine with only a few weeks of steady training versus my several months’ training it’s taken to get to where I am. We have tentatively agreed to do a training session after work once a week in our build up to the Bath half marathon with a target of 1:37/1:38 in our sights.

My goal right now with Parkrun is to get my 5k PB down to sub 20 minutes and beyond. I’m only a minute away right now, and based on my rate of progress this year, I’m approximately shaving a minute off for every 2 months of targeted training.

Marathon training

I’m beginning to concentrate more on my rough marathon training schedule. I’ve never traditionally stuck too closely to a plan, preferring the flexibility to make changes based on my own needs. My long runs are now at least 14 miles, looking to stabilise them between 15 – 18 miles, with an occasional 21+ mile run in the lead up to the London Marathon, hopefully once a month. I’m certain that these super long runs will improve and boost my running economy and efficiency, filtering down to my 5k and half marathon performances.

My weekday distance run hovers around 6 – 7 miles, helping to maintain fitness especially when tired from work and a weekday speed work session to keep cobwebs at bay. These two runs are normally run at 70 – 75% effort but feel harder due to reduced energy.