May, then. How did we get here so quickly? Where the blazes is 2013 going? I cannot believe that we are five months in already, and it is already two since the Liverpool Half Marathon, the last time I was going through all this pre-race build up malarkey. Port Sunlight is looming; it’s the final few days and I’m putting the finishing touches to my preparation. I’ve got my race number. I’m checking myself for aches, sprains and general wear and tear. Sick of too much bloody running. The long, hard, sweaty weeks are all behind me now.
Well, not quite. Yes, it’s the final few days before the run, yes I’ve got my number and I’m finalising the details for the race, and yes I am sick of running. But training?
Let me explain. The first three months of 2013 were pretty hellish at times. There was, as you very well may be aware, a lot of running. Looking back, it was probably the hardest I have ever dedicated myself to a run, and I include the marathon in that. Now I know a bit of mileage is pretty much a pre-requisite of training for an event of any size or shape, unless you are one of the three people I saw walking within 100 metres of the start in Liverpool obviously. The trouble is though, I had gotten it in my massive stupid head that I simply had to beat my sub 1:30 target that time around, and with that I based my whole life around training, eating right, and generally looking after myself and thankfully, I was rewarded with a new PB which may very well stand for the rest of my life, such was the sheer magnitude with which I obliterated my previous best. A proud day.
As I touched on in my last post though this isn’t always the way it goes, and for the Port Sunlight 10k, which takes place this Sunday, it most definitely isn’t. Not even close. I haven’t set a training plan. I haven’t thought about pacing, race tactics, what I’m going to wear. I haven’t replaced my shoes. I haven’t been eating particularly well. I have had a couple of ridiculously boozy weekends. Most worrying of all though, I haven’t been running.
The figures speak for themselves. Just look at 2013 to date: In January, I went out and did 18 runs. In February, one more than that, despite the shorter month. March: 14, including the half marathon. April: seven. And May so far? Zero. Nada. Diddly squat. Bugger all. Right now, I should be relaxing, basking in the knowledge that I am ready for Sunday, hundreds of miles in my legs, and one eye on keeping every kilometre under the magic four-minute mark to hit a sub-40 time on race day. And yet, my last run was over a month ago on April 12th. I haven’t done a single weekend run since the half marathon on March 17th. And the eight runs that I have done since haven’t even been proper training, I was just running home from work. There have been no interval sessions, no fartlek training, no hills, no long slow Sundays. Just eight gentle jogs home from the office, through Ardwick with my work clothes in my rucksack. And that’s it. Done.
It’s the complete antithesis to the opening three months of the year, and with Sunday fast approaching I’m entering brave new territory here. Or extremely stupid, depending on your viewpoint. Never before I have I gone into a run with so little preparation, even Standalone last October I managed two or three runs before the big day. This time I will be going in totally unprepared and I have no idea what to expect.
I know what you’re probably thinking, and that’s that there’s still time to get a couple in before Sunday without knackering myself up too much for the race itself. After all, for Standalone I didn’t start training until a few days before the race, and that didn’t go too badly. The trouble is though, I’m not sure I can do even that this time. As it turns out, I’ve grown rather fond of a slightly faster form of exercise: riding my bike. Fed up with shitty hot, slow, Magic Buses, taking an hour to get home from work and paying £8.50 a week for the privilege, I have decided that getting to work in under 20 minutes under my own steam on my lovely racing bike is infinitely preferable. And l sure as hell ain’t going for a run after I get back from doing that. Weekday biathlons are most definitely not my thing.
The focus of my weekends has changed completely too, with a horrible long run on the Sunday following a quiet night in replaced by a gentle potter around some country lanes with a couple of friends and a few ales on the way, or a quick shuttle to the park for a kickabout in the sun (once). All very agreeable, but I’m not sure I can count any of it as any sort of training.
So that’s where I’m at as it stands. I like think that all the ridiculous running for the first 14 weeks of 2013 might stand me in some sort of decent stead for this Sunday, and anyway it’s not like I’ve been totally exercise free for the past two months while I’ve been gradually drifting away from running about. My stamina should be OK, even if I have been piling into the cake and ale a fair bit lately (not simultaneously). And one major advantage is that for once I have no aches or niggles; I’m the least-injured I think I have ever been going into a run.
What could be interesting though is seeing if my body has changed at all over the past few weeks, gradually becoming more accustomed to a less strenuous, rotational exercise motion, rather than relentlessly pounding concrete for hours on end. Maybe I’m talking utter drivel, I don’t know. I have noticed even just doing the quick run to and from work every day has become a damn sight easier though, pushing a much higher gear on the way home than I was a month ago (there’s no difference on the way into work – I have to go slowly so as possible to prevent being a sweaty mess until 11am). If my legs have started to become used to doing this though, is it at the detriment to my running? Have my muscles developed differently? Will my feet and joints be able to take a pounding round The Wirral in a few days time?
It’s a sense of the deep unknown really, and if it does go tits up on Sunday I’ve only got myself to blame. As I’ve hinted at in the past though, I don’t want to always have to base my entire life around running. Yea I like to go for it every so often, and I’m overjoyed when it pays off. It makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes though it’s nice to just enjoy life a bit more, to be a little more “normal”. More sociable, less dedicated, more easy going. I suppose there may be some sort of a happy medium between training the absolute living shit out of myself, and not doing anything at all, but perhaps that’s something to ponder for another day. It’s too bloody late now.