There are milestones in marathon training that signal, to me, different stages of the cycle. I have always regarded as anything over fifteen miles as counting as “big miles”. This week I am back in the big miles.
Fifteen miles is a great milestone to get past. It represents a step up from the half marathon distance and it also is when you get to the point in a marathon race where it is not unreasonable to begin counting down to the finish rather than counting up from the start.
But it also represents something else. That realisation that, despite how great a distance fifteen miles is, there are still more than eleven miles to go to get to the marathon finish line. A marathon is a SERIOUSLY long way.
But every week brings new challenges and this is just another one. The good thing was, when I planned my route, two of my friends offered to join me for parts of it. There is something very special about running with other people when you are going up the distance ladder, so I was really grateful for the company of Jeanette (who joined me for most of the run) and Cara (who did a 10k loop) for this week’s fifteen mile extravaganza.
The company of others is a great way to distract you from the various moods and stages you go through on a long run. The easy early miles give way to the “just ticking them off” middle miles and then the hard graft as you push yourself beyond what you have previously achieved to reach the latest target distance. That was what this run really felt like.
The final few miles felt really hard. I had been monitoring our pace throughout the run, trying to keep it easy (ish), but it was not until I got back home later that I realised that through the later miles we actually began to speed up. This would probably explain why I felt so grim as I got to miles twelve and thirteen! Ironically once I got past that, I did feel much better and by the time we reached fifteen I was much more in the groove than I had been.
“work on my fueling strategy”
I also think I need to work on my fueling strategy a bit more. I am trying to lose a bit of weight just now, and I think this may be having an impact as I get to the longer distances. I am not really dieting as such, I have just cut out the morning cakes and biscuits which I would have as part of my work from home routine, and I am watching my portion sizes a bit more. I also have been avoiding beer since New Year, though as I have a few social events in February, I will be having a beer or two over the next few weeks.
In previous marathon training cycles, I have actually put weight on, as it is very easy to eat everything in the house as you are training pretty hard, but I want to drop a few more pounds as every pound you cart around a marathon course counts. At this stage, I plan to stick to the “no cakes and biscuit” routine at least through February and see how I feel then.
“want to try out other approaches”
But perhaps I need to fuel a bit more and drink a bit more the day before my long runs to ensure I do not run out of gas. I am also now running with a gel and also with a protein bar of some kind to eat on the way round. Marathon training is all about getting prepared for the big day and trying different things out, this is simply another thing to keep working at. I know what has worked for me before, but I want to try out other approaches, so that when I get to the start line, I know precisely what my strategy is going to be.
It has actually been a strong and positive week for me. Tough in many ways, but good in many others, and another one to build on. As I wrote about last week, when you are in the midst of a marathon training programme and am struggling a bit, it is all about holding onto positives and focusing on that.
This week I returned to leading the JogScotland 10k group for the first time since I got injured back in early January. I was very nervous about taking the group out, unsure of how I would cope with the faster pace over the longer distance, but I got through it ok. Not perfect, more of a struggle in some parts than I would have liked, but I got it done. I also went to the usual hill reps session, which was pretty brutal, for two reasons. The first was the session itself.
But hill reps just are hard, right? Twenty minutes of up and down to test your heart, lungs, legs and head. Buckle up big boy, knuckle down and get them done. But what was especially tough this week was that the location of the reps meant that after I had done that. I then had this to enjoy on the mile and a bit run back home.
So, as you can imagine, this was not the greatest way to conclude a reps session, but I got through it (mostly) and, a bit like the 10k group leading, it is all about making progress. Every run counts, and these ones where I am pushing myself count for a lot.
This week also saw the end of January, where I finished up with a running total of one hundred and twelve miles. Given at the start of the month I was toiling to run five miles at a time, I am really pleased with this final total. Now it is a case, in February, of building on that and taking the big miles a step further. Next week will be a step back to a half, and then it will move on to seventeen, to eighteen. It is daunting, but it is part of the process. Ten weeks to go.