2017: The year without a marathon

Enjoying the Devon country lanes…

When I pulled out of Vienna marathon back in the spring, I told myself that it was just a case of life getting in the way of my training, that it was just a temporary blip, that my motivation would come back soon enough. I told myself that I could start over in the summer, make the most of the sunshine, hit some of my time goals and finish with a sub-5 in Berlin to end the year.

But work got busy, that crazy heatwave happened, and somehow my motivation didn’t come back. I was struggling to even finish my 5ks, and my pace plummeted. For the first training cycle ever, I found myself dreading my long runs to the point of making excuses not to do them. And my carefully planned buffer of cut-back weeks dwindled, the mileage stayed low, and I found myself in complete denial of my September marathon as the weeks ticked by.

In theory, at this point I still have 3 more long runs on the schedule. I could still ramp up the mileage and make my way round those 26.2 miles in September. But the tough question I’ve had to ask myself recently is: ‘do you still want this?’

On paper, of course I do. I’ve been SO lucky to secure a Berlin ballot place and I feel awful at the idea of giving that up when there are others out there who would love my spot. I love marathons, I love the satisfaction of hitting those increasingly high miles on my weekend long runs, of feeling my body getting stronger, seeing the shorter runs get faster and faster. I love the atmosphere on race weekend; feeling like a bit of a celebrity wandering round a new city with my race bag, and with my bib and medal on race day.

But right now, at this point in time, I don’t want it enough.

It’s true what they say about 90% of marathon training being in the mind. Since mentally giving up (and that’s exactly what the issue has been) I’ve been struggling with not just motivation, but with the miles. I’ve found myself taking walking breaks on 5k recovery runs, and I’ve been struggling to get my pace back down into the 9s even over that distance. I haven’t been to parkrun all year. I’ve only hit double digits ONCE since my last half marathon back in the spring.

How running SHOULD make you feel.

I know that deep down, I still love the sport. I still want to get my sub-2 half, my sub-5 full, and to push myself on the shorter distances. I want to explore some more off road trails, to try new events and to work harder with my cross training, my running form, and to feel strong again.

In the past I’ve always seen a goal race as a way to motivate myself. Counting down the weeks has got me out the door, and having a plan gives my sessions a purpose, and smaller goals to hit along the way. But this year, for some reason each event I’ve done has only led to increasing worry, anxiety, and a lack of confidence in my fitness, my ability, and my commitment.

I’ve run 3 half marathons this year. Whilst yes, I managed to complete each one, I was left feeling flat at the finish line. I’ve always thought that a DNS was a sign of weakness, of giving up, of laziness… But this year, I’ve learnt that it’s far better for me personally than finishing for the sake of it. It’s not worth pushing through the miles when your heart isn’t in it.

So in short, I’ve decided to DNS Berlin. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to book a spring marathon – or any other races in the meantime – until I can get out of this rut and find that joy again. I need to build back my weekly routine, to finally look forward to those short mid-week runs, the cross-training sessions, and to building my mileage on the trails at the weekends.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of races in my diary next year. I just want to do them justice. And in the meantime, I’m still looking forward to a weekend in Berlin – and I’ll be cheering all of you lovely runners on from the sidelines!

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Have you ever DNS’d a big race? How did you feel?

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Race Review: Edinburgh Half Marathon 2017!

I’ve visited Edinburgh 3 times, and the first 2 times were cold and grey and damp. So when my friend suggested we head up to Scotland for the Edinburgh half marathon, I was expecting perfect running weather.

Instead, it was hot and sunny for the whole long weekend we were there for! What happened, Scotland!?

Catching our breath on Arthur’s Seat.

This was great for the first few days, when we hiked up Arthur’s Seat for the gorgeous views, visited the castle, wandered along the Royal Mile and Princes Street, popped up to the Observatory for some more panoramic photo opportunities and even visited the botanical gardens. It was glorious!

We tucked in to brilliant Scottish food, racked up miles and miles of walking each day, and had a brilliant time. Not the best half marathon preparation, to be fair (I rocked up to the start line with sunburn, a big blister and pretty tired legs!) but SO worth it.

The half started at 8am, so we got up nice and early and wandered down to the start on Regent Road. It was cool and sunny and the atmosphere was brilliant! We were staying less than a mile away, and we were through the bag drop and into our corral in no time at all.

Heading to our corral!

I was a little bit nervous, as I knew my training hadn’t gone very well (I’m not even going to fess up to my mileage in the month before the race) but I knew it was going to be a scenic and fairly flat route, and decided to go out and just make the most of it.

Half way through…

My friend had trained much better than me, so by 5 miles I made her leave me behind (very un-politely, sorry Amanda!!), and carried on alone. My Dad has always reminded me to ‘run your own race’, and I wholeheartedly agree! Amanda went on to finish nearly 20 minutes faster than me, so it was definitely the right decision 😉

I got to about 6 miles before the blister went (first time this has happened to me, and oh my days, I’m never going to forget my Compeed ever again!!) and the day was really beginning to warm up. I was definitely jealous of the tourists enjoying their ice-creams on the beach, and I was starting to struggle a bit.

The crowd support was a lot less than I’m used to, having been spoilt by big city marathons (looking at you, Brighton and Barcelona!), but there was some great camaraderie amongst the runners, which makes all the difference.

I usually hate out-and-backs in races, but in this one it worked brilliantly. I managed to spot Amanda for a high-five as I approached the turnaround point at 10.5 miles, whilst she was nearing the finish, and a mile or so later I watched the front marathon runners speed past on their way out – always SO COOL to watch, especially that close!

Such a great medal!

I’ll admit I took quite a few walking breaks in the second half, but I pushed myself for the last .1 and picked up the legs for a sprint finish. I felt a bit cheeky overtaking people in the last few metres, given that they’d probably worked a lot harder than me overall (I felt like a complete slacker), but I couldn’t help myself.

I absolutely loved this event, though it was a shame that the route left the city so quickly – it would have been nice to run through Edinburgh itself. But it was brilliantly organised, had a great atmosphere, and was definitely a good course for a PB attempt (on a cooler day!).

The only downside was the shuttle bus back to the start. The advertised ’15 minute’ walk took 30 minutes, and we then had to queue in the blazing sunshine for another 10 or so. The bus didn’t actually drop us back at the start, but 2-3 blocks away from Princes Street, which meant an additional walk that I hadn’t expected. Not a huge deal, but still a bit of a pain.

Regardless, I’ll definitely be back to run the half again!

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Have you ever run Edinburgh? What did you think?

 

Learning to love winter running

Bobble hats and hot chocolates make the freezing runs worth it!

I have a real love/hate relationship with winter in England. The days are shorter, it’s dark and cold and wet, and generally unpleasant! Truth be told, 9 times out of 10 I’d rather be at home in my pjs watching something on Netflix 😉

But there are also some really great aspects to keeping your training going through the winter – not least because you’ll enjoy the benefits in your spring races!

Here are 5 things that have been getting me out the door lately.

1 – It’s dark!

Whilst it’s a bit annoying having to avoid my off-road routes in the evenings, I can take comfort in the fact that nobody can see how red and sweaty and gross I get (I’ve actually had people ask me if I’m ok when I’m recovering from a big hill…) and I also get to wear my head torch! SO MUCH FUN.

2 – It’s cold!

Yep, I’m definitely a cold weather runner. Warm summer days are great, but my pace goes out the window and I really struggle. I’ll admit that I hate the first few minutes when it’s frosty outside, but I seem to always improve my speed in the cold, and it’s also an excuse to buy wear more layers!

3 – New Year’s Resolutions

So I’ve not set any resolutions of my own, but lots of my friends have. Luckily for me, most of them are fitness/diet/health related, which makes it far easier to persuade them to run with me 😀 Win/win!

4 – Brownie points

Cold, wet, windy miles count double, right? 😉 Either way, you can’t help but feel pretty smug running past all the pedestrians in your capris whilst they’re bundled up in coats, scarves and hats and muttering about how crazy you are. Or is that just me?

5 – All the treats!

I may or may not regularly bribe myself to run. Or, yknow, use my run as an excuse to treat myself! Coffee, a long hot shower, throwing on the onesie – they’re all brilliant after a freezing cold or drizzly run! 😀

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What motivates you to train at this time of year?

5 excuses I’ve used for not running recently – and why they’re rubbish!

My parents really know how to pose for a photo… 😀

Dude, where has this year gone!? How is it December? How is it CHRISTMAS next week?!

The past few months have flown by. I’ve been to Devon for some family time; to Nottingham to see some Uni friends; James and I went into London to see the Christmas lights and markets; I’ve been out and about to meetings and work events…

It’s been manic, and I’ve reached the point where running has slowly but steadily been nudged out of my schedule. Fail.

Next weekend, my marathon training plan will officially start (you didn’t think I’d defer Dublin and not have another one in the pipeline, did you!?) and I’m determined to finally get that sub-5. I’m also working towards a very (!) optimistic sub-2 half, which my little brother is helping me to prepare for. He’s even going to pace me on the day, so I really have no option but to make it happen! Gulp! (I mean, I can’t let him get a better time than me all the glory, right!?) 😀

I’ve decided that it’s time to ‘fess up to my rubbish excuses, and get myself back into a proper routine. Here are the five I use most, along with some counter-arguments that I need to use more! Who’s with me??

1. I don’t have time.

Uuugh, this old chestnut. Back in October, my daily commute went from 20 minutes each way to 1h20 each way. This means I now get up at 6h45 and get home between 6 and 7, and my days suddenly feel extreeemely short. But if there’s anything I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that there’s always a way to fit exercise into a work day – I just need to commit myself! Whether that’s getting up 30 minutes earlier (doable!), making the most of my lunch break or skipping an episode on Netflix in the evening, I definitely have time.

2. I’m tired.

With a longer commute, lots going on at work, busy weekends and preparing for Christmas, my energy levels are pretty low. But ironically, whilst running is the last thing I feel like doing, I’m guaranteed to feel better for it – more energised, more positive, and more productive. The tricky bit is just getting myself out the door!

3. I don’t have my kit.

Back when I was training for Barcelona, on busy days I would make sure that I had my running/gym gear with me from the minute I left the house in the morning. This meant that no matter how hectic the day got (having to be in the office early, last-minute meetings scheduled over lunch, finishing late), I knew that I could fit in some sort of workout at some point around my other commitments. Since the office move, I haven’t packed my gym kit into the car ONCE, always telling myself I’d just ‘run when I get home’. Famous last words…

4. There’s no shower/lockers/changing facilities.

The office move didn’t just mean a longer commute – it meant switching from a tiny office with a dozen people to a huge open-plan office with over a hundred (most of whom I don’t know, and wandering past them in sweaty lycra isn’t the best first impression!). Stupidly, I immediately used it as a reason to not work out at lunch – something that I used to LOVE doing. But I’ve hunted around and found a gym half a mile from the office, which means that showers and changing facilities are sorted! 😉

5. I’ve lost my fitness and it’s hard.

This is a vicious circle, and I’m sure we’ve all been there. You skip a couple of runs, and suddenly it’s been 2 weeks and you’ve not laced up your trainers once. Then you go out and try and run your usual pace, but it feels way harder than you remember. You don’t enjoy the run, and put it off for another 2 weeks – at which point it’s going to be EVEN HARDER. You’d think I’d have learnt my lesson by now – consistency (regardless of the distance or pace) is key!

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Are you finding it hard to keep yourself motivated? What are your excuses, and how do you get yourself out there?

Dublin Marathon: Decision Time

box-hill-walk

Gorgeous views from Box Hill last weekend!

I’ve drafted and re-drafted this post sooo many times, and then I dithered over whether or not I should even publish it. But here it is.

I have a habit of setting big goals, and putting quite a bit of pressure on myself to meet them. And I’m pretty hard on myself when things don’t go to plan.

So this decision was really hard.

A few weeks into my Dublin Marathon plan, I caught a nasty cold and was out of action for a couple of weeks. When I finally got back into my running shoes, things just… didn’t feel quite right. My breathing wouldn’t settle, my legs were heavy, and even the shorter ‘easy’ runs felt like a struggle.

I hate to say it, but I kind of fell out of love with running.

I blamed it on taking a break, I blamed it on the freakishly hot weather we’ve had, I blamed it on work… But what I eventually realised was that for whatever reason, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

I feel a bit crap admitting it, if I’m honest!

The thing is, when it comes to marathon training, it’s not enough to just tick off the sessions on your plan. As the long runs get longer, it’s that mental drive that will keep you going – pure stubbornness and determination. And somewhere along the line, I lost mine.

I love running. I love races, and I love big city marathons. Standing at the starting line of an event I always get butterflies, and crossing the finish line is the best feeling EVER.

But I think I need to listen to my body, and accept that maybe 2 marathons (plus that little hike across Exmoor…) are enough for me this year.

So I’ve decided to DNS Dublin, and postpone my sub-5 marathon attempt to 2017. I’m going to work towards a spring race, which means training will start again a little later this year.

I feel like a bit of a failure for giving up. But I’m not going to stop training completely – I’m going to get back into parkrun; I’m going to work on my swimming; I’ll be exploring more walk routes in the Surrey Hills (suggestions or company are both welcome!), and I’ll of course be spending some quality time with friends and family.

It’s time to take some of the pressure off, and get back into running for FUN, not for finish times.

Next month I’ll be heading down to Devon to join my lovely parents for the Great West Run. It’ll be my Dad’s first race since his accident last year, and I’m really looking forward to running it with him.

Dublin, I’ll see you next year.

Have you ever DNS’d or postponed a big race?