And so onto the now-customary pre-race blog, with the run looming into view. It’s now less than 48 hours now to go until I return to the streets of Liverpool for the first run there since 2011, and pretty much all the training is now behind me. Done. Complete. Finito. In the barn, as my old marathon trainer Jeff Gaudette used to say. 68 runs were scheduled, two remain; a Saturday warm up and then the race itself. Endgame.
Happily, I’m feeling a lot better going into this one than I have for a while, with many of the aches and strains of last year yet to rear their ugly heads. I do have a bit of a grumble in one foot, which to be honest does feel a bit serious, but it doesn’t seem to affect me too much while actually running so I am hoping Sunday won’t be an issue and then I can rest it for a bit after I’m done. It’s not surprising that I might have some issue or other really when I look back at the running I’ve been doing though. February was the big month, with over 127 miles covered (including a 47 mile week last week), and March has already seen my poor feet glide and stumble over a further 71.2. Dizzying numbers, but all essential if I am going to hit my target on Sunday.
All this extra running is beginning to have one or two extra side-effects though. First up, constant feelings of being absolutely shattered, pretty much all the time except for, bizarrely, while running. Maybe the adrenaline of the run staves off the emotions while actually out doing it, but on more than one occasion this past week I’ve got back, climbed the two flights of stairs to my flat, and then collapsed in a sweaty heap as soon as I have got in, feeling like I could spend the rest of the evening there, curled up on the foetal position whimpering and telling myself everything is going to be OK. Bedtime in the evening is now usually 10pm, and what I would give to be able to have an afternoon (and/or morning) siesta under my desk at work. Although two months into a new job perhaps that’s not the best idea I’ve ever had.
The other overriding feeling, which may or may not be a disadvantage depending on your point of view, is being absolutely and ravenously starving hungry, pretty much from the moment I first wake up to the minute before I nod off to sleep. As the weekly mileage have crept up approaching half a century, I’ve found that I need to shovel more and more into my massive gob to keep me well fuelled as I do it. Now I love a good slap up feed from time to time, but it’s starting to become an expensive habit. I’ve basically removed one costly vice (drinking) I’ve replaced it with another. Four or five meals a day is not uncommon, and I mean actual meals rather than snacks in between. Last Saturday I had two breakfasts, two lunches, a family dinner before an evening out and then half a pizza when I got back in at 11pm. And at no point did I feel like I was forcing that in – I was hungry every time.
The Thursday before that I had an eight mile fartlek session in store, the day after a six mile jog home. And I ate:
- A massive bowl of cereal for breakfast (around 1/3 of the box)
- Mid morning piece of cake and two flapjacks
- Midday sandwich
- Mushroom stroganoff and rice for lunch
- Mid-afternoon quadruple chocolate biscuits x2
- Pre-run bananas x2
- Post-run dinner consisting of four eggs (scrambled with spinach and cheese) served on three pieces of toast
- Quarter of an apricot and orange fruit loaf.
That is frankly obscene, writing it all down like that. The amount I am eating ashames me a bit, in many ways, but the trouble is it feels essential. Well, most of it. You can take the cakes and biscuits out (one of the perils of working in a large office, that), but the rest is fuel for the engine – rice, bread, bananas, eggs. An average run will burn around 800 calories according to my Runkeeper app, with some of the longer ones nearly double that. Now I don’t really know what any of that means but it sounds a lot, and it makes me hungry, so to the kitchen I go.
I don’t remember ploughing through quite as much food when training for the marathon a couple of years ago, but then I think I can safely say that this is the hardest I have ever trained for a run when I look back over the past three months. Yea the marathon had a few slightly longer runs, but I was never running six or seven times a week, and some of the sessions I have been running have been pretty brutal. I hope I never have to run another hilly interval session as long as I live. Although I probably will, let’s be honest.
All that mileage has served a purpose though, incorporating runs of varying pace, length and intensity. Short jogs, fast sprints, long, slow trundles and everything in between. It seems to be having the desired effect as most runs now seem a damn sight easier than a few weeks ago, and even last weekend’s monster 15 miler into the centre of Manchester and back via Chorlton really didn’t feel like that big of a deal at the time, apart from the general tedium. I have done a couple of comfortable 10 mile sessions at such a pace that I will beat my half marathon personal best if I can keep it up for another three miles, and all of a sudden I have a feeling of quiet confidence going into Sunday.
There is a lot that can still go wrong though. The weather is always a worry, with the last four miles along the Mersey riverfront being particularly exposed if it’s windy. There’s still plenty of time to pick up an injury by walking into something or falling over knowing my recent record. I have inadvertently been trying my best to injure myself this week by walking into an oven door, smacking my knee on a pub bench and going for a full-on stack across a wet bathroom floor, but as yet nothing has struck me down, touchwood. Oh, and finally, my new lighter, less supported running shoes could either be a stroke of genius or an absolute nightmare over the distance. The biggest worry I have at this stage though is having to go back to eating normal sized portions of food. But first: 13.1 miles.