I decided I wanted to try and step up my mileage this week. So I went for a lunchtime 5k on Wednesday with some colleagues – which was hilarious, and saw us trudging through inches of mud, climbing over fences, shimmying around deep puddles on the river path (as well as botching together a makeshift bridge with a log) and saying ‘hi’ to a goat! The sun was shining, it was dry and the wind stayed low. Great fun! It’s so nice to just head on out without a time, distance or even a route in mind. We just decided to follow the river, and had an absolute blast. It wasn’t a fast run, but it was definitely one of my favourites!
That evening I then ran home with a friend, before adding on another few loops around Guildford to bring the day to 13 miles. We went slowly and took walking breaks, but it was the furthest she had run this year and her last long run before we tackle Surrey Half next weekend, and it went great! Though I did wonder what I’d gotten myself into when she insisted on a sprint finish ..
Today I had 16 miles on the schedule, but as I hadn’t run further than 13.5 miles yet this year I was a bit nervous. As with Wednesday, I didn’t pick a specific route – I just decided to head out towards Woking, and see how I felt. The weather was lovely to begin with; sunny, cold and a slight breeze. I ran to Woking, up around the park, and back down to Old Woking before heading out to Send. Somehow, every time I run out towards Woking I end up with a headwind for nearly the whole way back. I kind of thought I’d escaped it today, as the wind was blowing from the side, but by the time I got to Woking Park it had picked up and I was running right into it.
I got a short stretch with the wind behind me as I headed back from Send to Old Woking (after running into the wind uphill ..) but from that point all the way back to Guildford it was a definite struggle. I made a quick pit stop at Sainsburys at about 11 miles to grab a bottle of water (I’d finished my sports drink by that point, as I thought I would, but hadn’t wanted to lug 2 bottles around with me from the start) which I poured into my sports bottle, spilling half a gel down myself in the process .. Not my finest moment!
Luckily I brought along 3 gels, so I opened the third and took a bit with some water before heading back towards Guildford – into the wind. Not fun! I took it slowly, as the route was fairly hilly, but my knees, ankles and lower back were still feeling good so I tried to keep myself going. About half way back I had to inch around a huge fallen tree on the path – someone had trimmed it enough to clear the road, but decided to forego cutting another foot or so off to clear the footpath. Sigh. I ended up taking a few walking breaks on the hills, as the headwind was really tiring me out. It’s amazing how much the weather can affect a run! Even when I got running again it felt like I was going at a snail’s pace. My hamstrings and ITBs/hips kept tightening up so I paused a few times to stretch out. Sorry to anyone who was behind me at that point! I didn’t notice anyone, but you never know ..
When I got back to Guildford, I checked the Garmin and it was showing just over 15 miles. As I got closer to home, I realised that I’d end on just over 16 – close to my furthest run from last year. I decided to loop round the block, and got to 16.6 – I had planned on finishing on 16.5, but misjudged the distance – so I ran up and down the road along from my building a few times (past a couple of really bemused runners who had stopped for a chat at one end) and finally finished at my front door at 17.11 miles – my furthest ever run by about a mile, and averaging a moving pace of over 10 seconds a mile faster! I don’t know whether it was the fatigue, or the aches, or the relief of finishing but I teared up a little in the lift.
Last year I had so much trouble during my training – in the end I managed a 14-miler and 1 awful 16-miler before my knees got so bad that I had to pull out of Brighton completely. Getting to 17 miles (just over!) has boosted my confidence SO much, and made me realise that I might actually manage to get to the start line this time round. I’m planning on doing an 18-miler and then finishing on a 19-miler before tapering, and for the first time this year, I’m feeling really positive about it all. Getting to the start line means SO much to me, and to miss out a second time round because of injury or lack of fitness would be really hard. Whilst I’m seeing progress, and my pace is improving – check out the last 6 miles! – I’m not even thinking about a potential finishing time any more. I’ve realised that it’s not about how fast I finish – it’s simply that I finish.
I’m loving the journey, and I’m looking forward to the marathon. I must admit I’m pretty nervous about it – I can’t imagine adding another 9 miles onto today’s run! But as we all know, it’s not meant to be easy ..