Taking on the Long Runs (Road to Bournemouth week 24)

I’m a great fan of planning. It takes the decision making out of training, gives it direction and allows you to just get on with it, however, what I have found is it is very easy to write down gradually increasing numbers on a bit of paper, and much more challenging to translate these numbers into actual miles!

Initially the longer runs were incorporated into races, 10 miles at Maverick Surrey, a half marathon in Woking, a lapped race where I clocked up 18 miles, and physiologically this makes getting the distance done much easier. You are supported, there are water stations, there are other runners in the same boat as you, there are jelly babies, you are not alone! Tackling long runs on your own though is a whole different ball game.

Part of the problem came when I lost motivation and interest in such a long term plan at exactly the time when I should be ramping things up. I struggled to get out and run when I was supposed to and after a good start with a steady increase in distance week on week, it became sporadic, some weeks I was running what I was supposed to, and other weeks the distance was dropping instead of increasing.

Going well until July, then things get more sporadic!

Once we got to 6 weeks out I knew I had to get myself back on track, the long runs were going to be an important step in conditioning my body for the marathon distance to come and to practice some race day strategies for nutrition.

I set out a new plan to do three long runs, increasing each by 5 miles, then giving myself 3 weeks to taper back down. The first of these runs was a 10 mile run, and as mentioned in the week 21 blog It was awful, no energy, slow and painful. I walked an awful lot and it was incredibly disheartening. I was dreading the next weeks long run.

The next week it was 15 miles, but I planned this much better, thinking much more carefully about my nutrition. My week 22 blog was much more positive, and although I struggled towards the end, it had been a much better run.

Hasting Seafront during my 15 mile run

The next week I was supposed to be doing my last and longest long training run, instead I got sick! I was well enough by the end of the week to do my personal training session so I sought the advice of my PT as to weather I should move the 20 mile run to the following week or start to taper as planned. He did not tell me what I wanted to here, instead he said that as long as I did it early in the week, I should go ahead and run! Damn!!

I slept terribly the night before this run, I was genuinely dreading it and not at all sure how I would manage. My husband planned me a route that took me near to a few train stations in case I needed to bail out at any point, so I packed my flipbelt with gels, prepared my water bottle, checked my iPod and watch were charged up and headed out the door.

It was a beautiful day and the majority of my run was along the coast affording me gorgeous views out to sea, which was blue and as still as a pond. The sun was shining and the day was so warm that I had to stop and strip my base-layer off before continuing.

Beautiful Views

I took care not to start off too fast, and followed the same nutritional strategies as the week before. This worked well, my pace remained steady and I made it to the halfway point of 10 miles without much trouble. I turned around and started making my way back and actually sped up a bit along Bexhill seafront, a very different story to the last two runs.

Making it to half way

I did stop to walk a couple of times, but never for long, and my pace wasn’t dropping. I got back to Hastings with a little more to go, I took myself round the park to complete the last mile, spending more and more time glancing at my watch, willing it to beep off the last mile. Finally I was done, exhausted but elated, for the first time in a long time I actually believed this marathon was possible.

Once I uploaded my run to strava it showed that I had successfully kept a reasonably even pace throughout the whole run, without tailing off at the end, and that my average pace was actually faster than the previous two long runs, despite the increase in distance!

Strava data from the three long runs

Now it really is time to taper, I have a half marathon to run next weekend (some poor planning on my part) but my training runs are all set to be short. I can’t hand on heart say that I have loved this Marathon training. I’m not  sure I’ll want to do another one, but two weeks to go and this will all be over!

Week 24 Running Total: 50km