There is one month to go until I run in the Cardiff Half Marathon. I’m getting slightly apprehensive. This is mainly because for the last ten days I’ve had some kind of viral/cold illness. The whole family has had it so as well as being ill myself I’ve been caring for poorly children. It’s been rather exhausting and the only remedy was complete rest when I could.
Over the last few days I have felt better and it dawned on me this morning that as I was actually ok, I should really go for a run. I’d been up since 5am with baby and to be honest I really *really* didn’t feel like it. I was even tempted to go back to bed when my husband got up at 8am. However I had to go. Moping and thinking about it wasn’t going to help. To be honest I’ve found if I think about running too much and build it up I almost talk myself out of it and run badly. Kind of a reverse adrenalin effect if there is such a thing. So I gave myself a kick up the bum, husband gave me a few ‘you’ll be fine’s and I was off. I only did an easy 4 miler but it was enough to get me back in the training mindset. My legs felt fresh, obviously because I was rested but my chest did feel a bit tight at times. It was not a good run at all, which is what I expected. Hopefully I have run the cold out of my legs.
When I came home I moaned a bit to husband and I started to worry about being able to make it round the Cardiff Half course. I sat down and popped the TV on and there was the Great North Run coverage. I’d forgotten it was today. Just watching those people with all their fantastic stories was an inspiration. I realised that I made a commitment to do this Half Marathon and that’s what I’m going to do. All I’ve got to do is make it round in this, my first race in the new phase of my life. It’s my first race in a long time and the first since having my children. I just need to give myself a bit of a talking to. One month to go, plenty of time to fit in a bit more training. I can do this! I think.
On Saturday I headed out for a long run. It was always the plan to aim to do about 10 or 11 miles. After my poor run earlier in the week though I was nervous. However I had rested for two days and had slept well so when I got up in the morning with the boys I made up my mind I was going to go. I was staying with my parents in London and they were more than happy to look after the children. My mum asked me how long I’d be. Give me an hour and a half I said. She grimaced. Maybe even two I said out of earshot. My mum has always been nervous when I’ve gone out running.
I used the Women’s Running UK site to plot my route. 4 miles out to Bushy Park in West London, 3 miles round the park and 4 miles back. Off I went at 7.50am with only a cup of tea inside me. Probably not the best preparation for a long run, but I’m no Olympian so we won’t worry about that. I went out really gently, still feeling nervous about the task ahead of me. You know what though? I surprised myself. The two-day rest had done me the world of good, my head felt clear, no negative thoughts. As I got into my running I switched off. The weather was fine but not too warm so I didn’t feel too hot or stifled.
Before I knew it and less than 40 minutes into my run I was at Bushy Park. I made my way round the route used by the people who do Parkrun every week. I remember being impressed by the number of people running at that time of day on a Saturday. Not just runners, there were cyclists and families with their dogs. I made my way out of the park just as people were gathering to start Parkrun. As I ran out of the gate the international athlete Sonia O’ Sullivan ran into the park. She was so tall, gazelle like. I was this squat little jogger beside her. And I was on my way back, 7 miles done and feeling ok.
As I got closer and closer to home and the miles started ticking up to 7, 8, 9, my feet began to burn and I could feel blisters forming on my feet. My breathing was ok but my legs started to ache. I thought about the birth of my first child and how I struggled for over 24 hours in full-blown labour with no pain relief. This was nothing, this ache was but a blip compared to that experience. My resolve steadied and I found my concentration once more. I got closer to my parents house but then a thought occurred to me. To stop there would be 11 miles but I knew of a 2 mile loop. I could do that couldn’t I? Before I could argue with myself I was running past my parent’s house and on my way to totting up another 2 miles. During those last two miles I swerved and I could hardly lift my legs. It took all my concentration but with gritted teeth I made it back to my parent’s gate. The first thing I felt was a strong ache across my back. The elation I felt at having run the half marathon distance was fantastic and the pains I felt in different places all over my body didn’t matter. I was too afraid to sit down though, just in case I couldn’t stand up again. I crawled up stairs and into a cold bath. Oh the relief to feel the cold water over my hot, aching limbs. That evening I even managed to have a dance at a friend’s thirtieth birthday party.
I think I struggled through those last two miles because I didn’t like the thought of the unknown. I needed to know what it was like to run 13 miles, to run for 2 hours. Two days later the muscles are tighter and I have a bruised, black toenail but other than that I feel positive. I really do believe now that I can run this half marathon. I can go the distance. Roll on October!
Since I entered the Cardiff Half Marathon a few months ago I’ve gradually been increasing my distances and the frequency of my running. I’ve really been enjoying it and I love the sense of achievement I get when I come home after doing a long run. It’s all been going really well, I’ve managed some 7 mile and 8 mile runs and even a 10 and a half mile run. I’ve been feeling really positive and have managed to stay (touch wood) relatively niggle free. It’s not all been run, run, run though. I decided to give myself a week off to rest and recover so that I would go back fresh. However that turned into two weeks due to various circumstances so I felt a bit nervous returning to running this week. After all there’s only about 5 weeks to go until the big day.
So in efforts to push training forward I decided to do a Fartlek on Monday and a snappy, quick run on Tuesday. I felt bouncy and happy. Bit of plantar fascia pain but nothing else to speak of. Yesterday I spent most of the day in with Baby T doing chores and made up my mind in the morning that I would do an 8 mile run in the evening. Hubby came home to take over and off I went feeling positive.
I set off for my usual 4 mile loop and no more than 5 minutes into it I was shouted at by a group of lads in a car. This is where it seemed to go downhill. I felt rattled and from then on I was really negative. My legs felt heavy, I considered cutting my run to 4 miles, I slowed my pace. These negative thoughts were reflected in my run. I just didn’t feel good, none of the bounciness of the previous 2 days. Then a very unsettling thought occurred. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to finish the half marathon. This 8 mile run was going badly, I needed to find another 5 miles from somewhere to be able to finish the half marathon. Suddenly a fear set in and the whole challenge felt an awful lot more daunting than it had when I signed up.
Somehow I managed to finish the run and as I sat in the living room recovering I chatted to my husband, a qualified rugby coach, about where that run had seemed to go wrong. We talked about what had happened at the start of the run, acknowledged how I felt about it and discussed ways for me to deal with it in future. Slowly the negatives became positives. I had completed the goal of an 8 mile run that I had set myself. I hadn’t given in and turned back. I managed to run a bit faster than on my previous attempt. I had recovered after the run a lot more quickly than I had on previous long runs. Maybe I was tired after running the previous two days, something I hadn’t done before. Gradually the fear melted a little bit and I felt more positive about the run I had just done. Rest was prescribed for the next few days ready for a longer run on the weekend. The fear hasn’t gone completely though. Maybe a little bit of fear is good, but only enough to keep me motivated.