Diary of an aspiring half -marathon runner - week ten.

1. To run at least twice, covering 15 miles
2. Longer run = 9-11 miles

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always find the midweek evening training sessions much harder than the Saturday morning ones.  I’ve tried to tweak them so they suit me better – for instance, I now start earlier so that I pretty much run straight after work (so no danger of sitting down when I get home & then staying on the sofa for the rest of the evening!) which also means I have the chance to get home & cook a proper meal afterwards without it getting too late to eat (so therefore resorting to a takeaway).  Despite the tweaks, its always a struggle – I guess I’m tired from working all day, and hungry (as I tend not to eat much after lunchtime as I can’t train on a full stomach – tried it once – NEVER AGAIN!!).

This week however, I bucked that trend!  My Wednesday evening run was really strong!  It was a bit cooler than it has been of late which no doubt helped, and we ran a flatter route this week which I’m sure played its part.  Our focus for this week now that we’re getting closer to the main event is to try to pay a bit more attention to pace.  Until now, our pace has been a bit all over the place, ranging from sub 9-minute miles (downhill of course!) to 13½ to 14 minute miles (uphill) and everywhere in between.  So we set ourselves a challenge – our aim is to pace ourselves at 11½ whenever we’re running – we’ll still take the odd walking break when we face steeper inclines, but we’ll try to keep the pace constant regardless of whether we’re running flat, downhill or uphill.  Hopefully that should put us somewhere in the region of 12 minutes per mile overall.

Thanks to the Garmin, we could keep track on the pace although it did take a little while (and lot of clock watching) to settle into the right pace, but once we were there, it wasn’t too difficult to keep it consistent.  It was hard to reign it in when running downhill – I’m so used to taking advantage of a downhill and running faster to make up for the slower speeds uphill, but I did just about manage to keep it under control.  It was equally as hard pushing yourself to keep the same speed when running uphill as again, I’m used to taking it easier on the inclines – but it wasn’t impossible on the shorter stretches, especially when you remember to use your arms!  I remember Sam & Jane drilling it into us last year in the beginners course (use those arms ladies!) and it honestly does make a difference!

5.3 miles later and we’d averaged 12.04 minutes per mile across the distance so we were pretty much bang on!  And to top it off, I didn’t feel as exhausted as I normally do midweek!  Bonus!

SLJ Long Distance running course

Saturday was a chance to run with SLJ again as the distance this week was on par with what I needed to do – due to holidays & stuff I started my training schedule earlier so my distances haven’t been tying up with what Helen & SLJ have been doing with their earlier/longer Saturday runs until now.  It was an away run at Tonbridge as well so nice to have a change of scenery & catch up with some of the girls that I haven’t seen for a while! 

Not my best run to be honest. I’d badly stubbed my toe the night before & cracked the nail bed halfway down so it was black & blue, bleeding & still very sore.  Then we got caught in that horrendous traffic en-route due to an accident on A21, and to top it off the weather was unexpectedly glorious (I’d been expecting chilly & overcast so wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked – no sun-cream & I didn’t freeze my water-bottles like usual either, so luke-warm water – YUK!!).  From the off it was clear that I’m much slower than everyone else, which had me worried from the start that I was going to hold everyone up.  After trying to keep up for the first mile or so, and giving myself a stitch in the process I decided to forget about everyone else & focus on me, my pace, my running like I’ve been taught, and I had the SLJ mantra firmly in mind “nobody gets left behind” so I knew I didn’t need to worry on that score – especially as Helen is so good about running between us all, making sure we know the route etc.. so, sure I might finish later than everyone else, but they would be there waiting for me & cheering me on as I finished! 

This was definitely better, the stitch went and I tried to carry on where I’d left off on Wednesday night by keeping to a constant pace of 11½ minutes per mile.  However, those who know me well will know that I’m not very good on my own.  One of the things I love most about SLJ is the people.  I love the constant chatter & gossip that generally takes place on an SLJ run – even if I don’t have the energy/breath to join in the conversation myself, simply hearing it go on around me makes me feel part of something, and it spurs me on. Also, seeing other red faces, hearing laboured breathing and the odd grumble about the route or the hills or the temperature or how the legs don’t want to cooperate today give me the reassurance that I’m not the odd one out, that It’s not as effortless for everyone else as they sometimes make it look. That keeps me going – if they can do it, so can I.  I can’t give up if they don’t! 

But for much of today I didn’t have that – also by 5 miles the throbbing in my poorly toe had really ratcheted up a few notches, it was well & truly making itself known and it just continued to get worse with each stride.  But I soldiered on.  By now I was running totally alone & at one point I couldn’t even see the others ahead in the distance – which was really disheartening, I needed a bit of inspiration to get me through.  So I thought about Anna, and the reason I’m doing this in the first place and she kept me going.

Finally, the wonderful sight of Barden Lake was in front of me again and I knew I was on the home stretch – I finally had some company again too as Maria had waited for me & together we made our way back to the park where the others were waiting for us, cheering us along those final few yards!  Unfortunately I didn’t quite hit the distance I’d have liked as we came in just under 9 miles.  I’d like to have gotten more but by this time my toe was seriously complaining – imagine an old-school cartoon where someone has just dropped an ACME anvil onto their foot & you’ll have a pretty good picture of what I mean!  I’ve been referring to it as “comedy toe” ever since!  

Just a quick addition – I’m on holiday for next two weekends now so there will be no blog from me next week – but I got another midweek run in again last night.  You’ll all be pleased to hear my toe has started to heal nicely & behaved itself – no comedy toe this time! But I really wanted to share that we did the same route as last week (5.3 miles)  – albeit this week it was much warmer (the car said it was 29degrees when I parked!) and we finished in the exact same time, with the exact same average pace again as last week.  It looks like the plan to keep the pace constant is working