Struggling with nerves before a long run

You’d think that after 2 marathons, my brain would have gotten over the whole ‘ok, you need to run quite a long way now’ thing.

Erm, or not.

I recently mapped out an A-to-B route for one of my long runs, which I’ll be doing the weekend after next. (I was originally going to do it this weekend, but decided to give the 16 miler another go instead, and use this one as my last long run before the taper). Mapped out like that, it looks like a flipping long way:

Long Run Route

It’s actually Hampton Court to Worplesdon/Guildford, so not the whole thing! About 18-20 miles if all goes well. So still pretty far. (It takes 30 mins by train, and having also cycled the route I know it’s not something to be taken lightly!)

But I’ve done 18 milers before. I’ve done 16 milers, 17 milers, and 2 full marathons. And I did alright.

So why am I freaking out about running that distance this time round?

This seems to happen every year. I sign up for a marathon, I get to the 16-mile point, and suddenly I start to get so many doubts and insecurities when faced with the distance.

Last year, I did my 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run, and crossed the finish line with a big grin, feeling strong and capable:

Kingston Breakfast Run 16m Finish Line

I think this year’s tendon injury has really set me back; not just physically, but mentally, too. My training started so well, with 5k and 10k PBs, and sub-10:00 miles for my 12 miler (unheard of for me!)

But each time I run, I worry about the niggle. I’m hyper aware of every ache and twinge, and I’m convinced it’s going to flare up again. I’m conscious of my bad running form, of my weak core and wobbly ankles and overpronation. And I’m starting to convince myself that I’m not strong enough to run long distance.

In previous years, I’ve hit tough patches in a long run and been able to power through them. This time round, I’m finding it harder and harder to stop myself from taking a walking break when it gets tough. I’m more sporadic, and feel like the mental side of things is letting me down.

My leg IS holding up ok, and I know that my body is capable of the distance. I’m faster than before, doing more cross training, and I’m progressing well. But I’m worried that I’ve psyched myself out – that I’ve lost the mental strength which has got me through those tough final miles in the past.

And without the mental strength, it almost doesn’t matter how much training I put in – I end up walking or stopping when I’ve still got energy in the tank and miles in my legs, and I could kick myself for wasting the long runs the way I’ve been doing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!?

– – –

Have you ever faced this problem? How did you snap yourself out of it?

… Anyone fancy running 18 miles through Surrey or London with me in a couple of weeks!?

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Barcelona Marathon Training: 7 weeks to go!

I’m not doing a weekly summary this time, because after last weekend’s dog drama I decided to give myself a week off to rest my leg. That means that my training basically consisted of the long run: 16 miles.

As you can probably tell from the photos below, the run started out with me worrying how long my tendon would cooperate for (and wondering whether I’d need to walk home at some point!), and ended with ALL THE HAPPY when I stopped my Garmin at 16.02 miles:

Barcelona Marathon Long Training Run

What a difference 16 miles can make…

Whilst I took a few breaks to reshuffle kit, have a drink, take a gel, stretch or just generally have a bit of a wobble (long distance running, all the LOLs), my moving time gave me a 10:24/mile average, and a 14 minute PB over last year’s 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run! (Though obviously my breaks were counted there, so I probably slightly cheated today).

I had a bit of a moment when I accidentally hit the ‘lap’ button (which I’d never even noticed before!) and then tried to fix the lap setting but ended up pausing the Garmin instead, losing nearly 1/4 of a mile. And being the stats fiend that I am, I obviously decided that the lost 1/4 mile didn’t count, and I had to make it up. So I technically ran about 16.25. (Grumble, grumble).

I had a moment of doubt after one of the bigger hills on the route, and turned to Twitter for some much-needed encouragement/a big kick up the backside:

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The #ukrunchat community certainly delivered, and gave me just the boost I needed. It was tough, it hurt, but my tendon behaved and I’m over the moon with my time!

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Just goes to show, sometimes your body is capable of far more than you think! 😀

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How was your week? Did you run this weekend?

A bit of winter running motivation

A few months ago, I signed up to the Runners World daily motivation emails – and there have been a few absolute gems. Unfortunately, I tend to read them and then just store them away; which means that by the time I need a bit of inspiration, I’ve completely forgotten them. So I decided to pull together a few of my favourites, and share them with you!

If – like me – you need a bit of a kick up the bum, a bit of a confidence boost, or just fancy a few happy thoughts for your next training run (especially at this time of year!) then take a read. And if you like these, then I’d definitely recommend signing up to the Runners World ‘Quote of the day’ emails – there’s pleeenty more where these came from 🙂

Running Motivation 1

Running Motivation 3

Running Motivation 4

Running Motivation 2

Running Motivation 5

Running Motivation 7

Running Motivation 6

Running Motivation 8

Running Motivation 10

– – –

How do you motivate yourself to get out there in the cold and the dark? Do you have any tips or tricks?

10 tips to help you stick to your marathon training plan

Marathon Training Plan

If you’ve signed up for a 2016 spring marathon, you’ll either have started training already, or very soon will do.

I’m a bit of a geek, so I love this bit. I love spreadsheets, and bright colours, and sparkly star stickers (gotta motivate yourself somehow, right!?) and calculating training paces and mileage and different running routes.

But  marathon training is nothing if not a learning experience (read: 16+ weeks of trial and error), and over the past 2 years there are a lot of things that have changed the way I structure my training and plan my race goals.

Hopefully you’ll find some of them useful – and if there are any other tips and tricks that you know of, I’d love to hear them 😀

 1) Prepare everything the night before

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to make me hit the snooze button, it’s waking up at 6am and realising that I forgot to sort out my running gear in advance. Stumbling around in the dark, half asleep, trying to find your socks/jacket/gloves? Ain’t nobody got time for that 😉 Instead, make sure your Garmin is charged, organise your kit, fuel, hydration and gadgets the night before – and even better, put your gym kit on the radiator before you go to bed. Toasty running gear is THE BEST.

2) Don’t just plan the time – plan the whole workout.

It’s all well and good telling yourself you’ll go to the gym at 6am, or you’ll run for an hour. But if there’s no specific goal/purpose for a training session, it’s all too easy to hit snooze and sleep right through it (or binge-watch Netflix, instead…) What do you want to achieve? Intervals, tempo run, strength session, marathon pace run? How far, how long, what pace, how many reps? Plan it out beforehand, so you don’t have to figure it out on the go.

3) Have breakfast ready.

Runger is real, people. And there’s nothing better than having a seriously tasty breakfast to reward yourself with after an early-morning workout (or an epic dinner, if you’re more of an evening person!) Whether that’s a smoothie, a big bowl of porridge, or eggs and bacon (NOM), you’d be surprised how much it can motivate you to keep going. Or maybe that’s just me – I do like my food 😀

4) Make yourself accountable.

Go with a friend, book a PT session or a class, stick that training plan up where your other half can see it, or tell your coworkers or family to nag you if you don’t go. If you’re going to get some slack for, well, slacking, you’re far less likely to do it! And we all know that whilst you might grumble a bit at the time, once you’re out there you’ll be glad for the hassle.

The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do. 

We all know there’s some truth to that little cliché…

5) Get into a routine!

Studies show that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That means that whilst it might feel like a great idea at the time, hitting the snooze button will just make it harder to get up for that next early workout. If you’re not a morning person, plan your workouts for the evening; but try and keep things consistent. If you always run at 7pm on a Tuesday, for example, eventually it’ll become a no-brainer – and you’ll be laced up and out the door before you know what’s hit you!

6) Be flexible.

It’s a given that there will be good days and bad days. Don’t be surprised or disheartened if you smash your PB one week, only to struggle at a slower pace the next. Marathon training is tough on your body, and the fatigue caused by building your mileage over the weeks and months can have an effect on your pace. Above all else, listen to your body. If you need to shorten a run, switch one for cross-training, or take a day off, do it. Trust me, tweaking the plan is much better than pushing through a niggle to hit your mileage goals. Life happens – roll with it 😉

7) Make the most of your rest days.

During my first round of marathon training, I assumed cross-training was the same as recovery, and continued to cycle commute almost every day. I soon learned the hard way that as far as my body is concerned, it’s definitely not! Regardless of your fitness levels, give yourself at least one day a week to rest and recover – and leave cross training for another day. Rest is just as important as every other session on your schedule, and you should treat it that way. It’s the time when your muscles repair and get stronger! Plan it into your schedule like any other session, and enjoy putting those feet up 😉 You earned it!

8) Set a realistic goal

I didn’t set a target time for my first marathon because, simply put, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to finish. But regardless of whether your goal is to get round comfortably, or nab that BQ, it’s important to be realistic. Because let’s face it, if you decide you want to run a sub-4 marathon but are really more comfortable running at 11:00/mile, you’re just going to feel down and demotivated (and probably injure yourself!) when you try and fail to hit the pace in training. If you’re not sure where to start, Runners World offers a great race time predictor, which gives you a target finishing time based on a recent race. (There’s also a training pace calculator, which you can use to tailor each of your sessions). Much better than picking an arbitrary time goal just because the entry form told you to!

It’s also a good idea to book a half marathon part way through your training, to test out your target marathon pace under race conditions.

9) Keep a training log

It’s easy to get into the habit of judging each session in isolation, but it’s important to remember that marathon training is a long process, and you won’t necessarily see progress day to day (or even week to week). Keeping a training log is a great way to get some perspective on the hard work you’re putting in. If you want a benchmark, you could use a session that you repeat on a regular basis (I do a weekly 5k, for example). Being able to look back over your training when you get to the big miles will remind you how far you’ve come – and also give you the confidence of knowing that you’re capable of much more than you’d expect!

10) Remember why you’re doing it.

When things get tough, there’s no better motivation than reminding yourself of why you signed up in the first place. Are you running for charity? To lose weight? In memory of someone special? Whatever it is, write your mantra down and stick it on the fridge, print it across the top of your plan, write it on your hand, and repeat it to yourself in those tough later stages. Trust me, running is 90% a mental effort, and having something positive and inspiring to repeat to yourself through the miles will give you just the boost you need.

Let’s do this marathon thing!

– – –

Are you training for a spring race? Which one?

Paris Marathon Training: Over half way!

(Well ok, technically I’ve still got weeks and weeks to go – but I’m over the 13.1 mark!)

The past couple of long runs have been a bit of a way off what I thought I’d be capable of by now. Lots of 12:00+ minute miles, heavy legs, aches, pains and grumbling.

As a result, I was quite nervous when I headed out this morning for 14 miles – I had no idea if my body would even cooperate over that sort of distance. But I figured I’d give it a go anyway (despite the SNOW as I left home!)

Miles 1-3 were uncomfortable, to say the least. I was supposed to do the first 10k as an out-and-back along the river path, but it was iced over, so I turned round and headed for my standard (hilly!) loop instead. My calves were extremely tight, and my legs were aching and heavy – I was really worried that I’d have to cut the run short. The weather went from snow, to sleet, to rain, to wind, to rain, to (finally) sunshine.

Miles 4-5 were better – after a few breaks to stretch out the niggles, my legs loosened up a bit and things started to settle. Still a bit tired and heavy, though.

I met my friend at 5 miles, as she wanted to run a 10k (I was supposed to do 7-8 before I met her, but thanks to the route change and various breaks I fell behind a little.) Chatting took my mind off the legs, and we settled into a comfortable pace quite quickly, which was nice. A runner passed us in the opposite direction at about 8 miles and my friend called out ‘HIGH FIVE, DUDE!’ (it worked), which made me laugh out loud. Just what you need on a long run! 🙂

It was at this point that I went to take one of my gels, only to realise it went out of date last June. Running fail. Luckily, by tweaking my route a little I could stop off at Sainsburys for CHOCOLATE at the 10 mile mark – obviously the most effective substitute 😉 This meant that this was the furthest I’d run since Brighton without a gel, and I was pretty impressed to find that I felt pretty comfortable from miles 6-10 without one! Peanut butter on toast for breakfast was clearly a good call.

14milesI counted my friend down to the end of her 10k, which was mile 11 for me – and she waved me off for the last 3. Those were a lot tougher than the rest, and I ended up taking a short walking break almost every half mile. At 13, I passed her (we were doing laps of the park – her walking, me running/jogging/shuffling) and she gave me a cheer, which was hilarious but brilliant 🙂 When I saw her next, I was 0.9 miles from the end and she jogged alongside me, with a ’14 miles! Yeah! You can do this!’ and a bit of a whoop and a cheer. Got quite a few looks for that, but it gave me the energy to pick up the pace for the last stretch! (Why can’t every run come with a cheer squad!?)

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my final mile was under 12:00 – a great sign, given that the last 2 were shorter runs and much slower. But it wasn’t until I got home and uploaded my run data that I realised just how much of an improvement this week was:

14m split

An average pace of 11:32 (30 seconds/mile off last week’s moving pace average, despite the breaks), and an average moving pace of 11:14!

I was even more excited to see that the average moving pace of FIVE of those miles was under 11:00, and only one was over 12:00!

I guess the hard work is finally starting to pay off 😀