I definitely jinxed it last week. Smugly signing off with “well I’ve got nothing to train for have I?” was asking for trouble, it really was. I thought I was done for the year, all the heavy stuff behind me for now. No more tempo runs. No more long, slow Sundays. No more bloody hilly interval sessions. Just a two or three gentle jogs home from work a week to keep the legs ticking over while thinking about what to do in 2014.
Well that didn’t last long, did it? Last week was nearly 30 miles, including runs on both Saturday and Sunday which made up nearly half of that figure, the first time I have run on a weekend since Standalone over six weeks ago. Three weeknight runs, including a couple of 10ks. When I’ve finished writing this, I will be off for a ten mile effort, the furthest I have run since September. But why? Why start all that rubbish again? Why not just spend the rest of the year enjoying my weekends again? Re-acquainting myself with friends, family and a normal social life? Instead of running for hours on end in the freezing drizzle at 9am on a Sunday morning?
Unfortunately, the answer is “because I have to”. Well, I don’t have to per se. No-one is forcing me to do it. There’s no gun to my head. But, despite not actually having an entry in for anything at all in 2014, I thought it best to have a quick check when I needed to start getting myself ready for a tentatively pencilled in early April marathon and the absolute horror set in when I realised that a typical 18 week training plan starts on…ready for it? The second of December. Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Way to kill the mood, kicking me in the nutsack as I sat basking in the glory and basically winding down for the year. Not only does training officially start in like, two days time, I suddenly realised that I need to actually make sure I am ready for it, hence last week’s exertions. Otherwise, I’ll be going from around 13 miles a week (all slow jogs home from work with my clothes in my bag) to 39 in the first week, 47 the week after, 50 the week after that, and a maximum of 61.5 miles in March. The last time I threw myself straight into a training programme when I wasn’t ready for it, my knee decided to feel like it was falling off. Could really do with that not happening this time.
Another horrifying thought is the fact that for the first time ever I will supposedly be training over the Christmas period. Since getting into all this utter nonsense back in 2008, I have usually built up to an event in spring as a means to blow away the Christmas excesses and give myself something to aim for in the new year. But it’s only ever been 10ks and half marathons with much shorter build up periods, twelve weeks usually being the longest. With this programme being half as long as that again, and the race coming much earlier than anticipated, it looks like becoming a rather depressing new experience. The plan I’ve devised actually has runs scheduled for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. Realistically, I’ll probably sack most of those off – after all, Christmas Eve back home is the biggest drinking day of the year and the thought of running five miles through Biggleswade town centre the morning after instead of opening presents, eating chocolate and generally feeling like utter crap until lunchtime after does not exactly fill me with festive joy. Last year I was sick like a dog on Christmas morning when my nan decided to tell me in great detail about the salmon Christmas dinner she had eaten at 5am thanks to her slightly eccentric body clock, so I would rate my chances of getting that one done as somewhere between “extremely unlikely” and “no fucking chance”. Similarly, a Boxing Day run with 8lbs of Christmas Dinner sat in the belly will almost definitely end in a horrific manner and no-one needs to see that.
Nevertheless, I would imagine I will probably end up doing quite a few of the sessions scheduled in over the two week festive period. Not all. But most. Why take it all so seriously at this stage though? After all, I’ve been here before. I can miss the odd session here and there without feeling guilty, can’t I? Or even a whole week so early in, surely? I did last time, spending large chunks of my summer of marathon training away boozing at festivals and stag dos in Somerset, Suffolk and Brighton. The training plan itself was a fortnight shorter, and I started it late anyway. And then a little over three months later and I got round the bastard at first attempt without stopping. Apart from when I fell over in front of EVERYONE, ahem. But the important thing was I bloody did it all, so surely I can enjoy a nice long break with my friends and family, stuffing my face with what I want and generally letting myself go for a bit?
Yes and no, really. If I just want to finish and “enjoy” the day – yes. Probably. Although I had a few months off running over the summer, I’ve generally kept myself in pretty good nick this year, with two big periods of training sitting either side of my little cycling odyssey. I have a fairly decent base already and plenty of time to build up the stamina ahead of April. But, and this is the big but, I have a bit of a target in mind now. I want to do the London Marathon. Don’t ask me why, I just do. I always have. It’s been an ambition since I was about nine, when my uncle and cousin both did it in the early 90’s and I saw them on the tele. Short of raising two grand for charity though, 2014 is not an option so the following year is now officially in my sights. Of course I’ll chuck a ballot entry in again, and yet again have to rely on the wheel landing on me, and more than likely get the dreaded SORRY! magazine in October as my dreams are shattered for another year. Or, I could take matters into my own hands and bloody earn it.
It’s pretty bloody straightforward. Run a marathon in under 185 minutes and I’m in. That’s it. Simple as that, right? Well, obviously not. If it were that easy everyone would be in. I’m guessing it already started to get a bit too achievable as they cruelly reduced the time by five minutes last year, which must have been absolutely dreadful for all those poor buggers that aimed for 3:10 only to find it wasn’t good enough. But the point is, there is a glimmer of opportunity.
So sod it. I’m gonna have a bash. It’s a massively long shot, trying to shave nearly 15 minutes off a PB. My one and only attempt at the marathon distance was pretty much at the limit and I came home four minutes outside my target on the day, which was 10 minutes slower than what I am aiming for in April. It’s a big ask, a ridiculous target. But conversely, it’s nice once again to have something to aim for, however improbable. I’m up for it, I think. I just never in a million years expected I would already be back training already before the year was even out.
Merry fucking Christmas.