With eight days to go to my first attempt at running a marathon, it is fair to say that I am panicked by the concept, in a calm let-me-not-think-about-it-too-much-or-I’ll-freak-out kind of way. I have never run over 25km, as my 30km and 35km planned training runs were never able to happen, so my body simply has no experience on which to gauge what 42.2kms is going to feel like. It is now too late to increase my speed or fitness, both of which are dramatically below the levels I had hoped for when I entered the Amsterdam Marathon six months ago. Of course at that point I had no idea of the series of disasters and periods of poor health that lay ahead – I was buoyant after just completing my second Half Marathon in Reading, and confident that my training plan over the summer would leave me in great shape for a good first-marathon time.
Ah, how different my outlook on life is now. After limping through my fourth half marathon, Run to the Beat, two weeks ago in my slowest ever time of 2 hours 5 minutes (the first I have run in over 2 hours, and a dramatic drop from my Edinburgh Half Marathon time of 01:51:44 in May), I know that I am in for a new level of pain next weekend. I know too that it is not sensible, on a physical level, to push through with this plan with so little preparation – but psychologically, in the midst of all the loss, pain and confusion, it feels more imperative than ever.
This morning I shrugged these worries aside and went for a gentle 40-minute run on a new route – instead of climbing off the train at London Bridge as usual, I went one stop further to Waterloo East, because I thought it would be refreshing to get a different perspective on London whilst making my way to work in Islington, and because I thought you might like to see some morning run photographs from me that aren’t of Tower Bridge for a change!
Unfortunately the dramatic sunrise pinks faded from the sky whilst I was on the train, but the new route was a definite success and will be joining my regular repertoire.
I cannot get fitter in the next week, but I can learn some lessons from past experience and try to ensure that my body at least remembers what the motion of running feels like and most importantly becomes a little more flexible again, as shortened, tight hamstrings were the most crippling thing two weeks ago after a month almost entirely off the road. I will not let myself worry about time, or hope to meet any goals, as I usually do – I will merely chug along slowly, and aim to finish (though I can hear the stubborn little voices inside me clamour, ‘4 1/2 hours may be out of reach now, but under 5 would be nice!’). A good friend and inspirational runner passed on an excellent marathon tip she was in turn given by an experienced runner: “If you’re feeling good, slow down; if you’re feeling really good, slow down more. Keep control of your speed until 35 k’s. If you can push then, then go for it. 35 k’s is in many people’s experience when the wheels fall off, and you pay the price for a fast start.” Fast is not something that is going to feature in my race this time around, but slowing down is sure to be in there…
So, dear friends, wish me the best of luck – I shall write to you in my head, and imagine your support, when I am at my lowest ebb and in need of inspiration. Any tips and suggestions for race day from the runners amongst you most welcome!