Through the glass ceiling

What a glorious day out there today. For the first time in 2014, I woke up for the Sunday long run without dread. Where was the rain? The wind? The storms? Awoken by a stunning sunrise, and with the temperature approaching double figures already, suddenly, everything seemed right with the world. For once, I would not lose all feeling in my hands and feet after a few miles, or have to wring the precipitation from my shirt, hat and gloves while traipsing through Gorton, stuck miles from home. It would be running like it used to be; warm, bright, satisfying. Enjoyable, even. Five miles less than the last three Sunday 20-milers, what could possibly go wrong?

In the grand scheme of things, not a great deal. Such is the ludicrousness of some of the runs in weeks previous, this would actually be the shortest I have run on a Sunday for over a month and half. And as with that previous day back in January, this would be a practice half marathon, therefore aiming to break that previously impenetrable 90-minute barrier. A target that I had achieved once before, in 2009, and then taken years to get anywhere near again before finally shattering it on the streets of Liverpool twelve months ago.

A mile into today’s run though and it wasn’t going well. I had totally misjudged the 10-15 degree difference in temperature compared to last weekend. Accidentally opening with a stupidly quick opening mile, I was already thirsty, a bad sign. If you feel like you need a drink, it’s too late. You’re already dehydrated. I needed a drink, yet I had none. The sun was (comparatively) beating down, my mouth becoming ever drier. I was flagging. It turns out that despite considering myself a “runner” for around seven years now, covering thousands of miles and entering countless events, I am still more than capable of making really bloody obvious schoolboy errors.

Anyway, I got round the bugger this morning in the end, probably saved by the fact that I’d plotted a route through Wythenshawe Park and inadvertently stumbled across a Great Run Local and a stash of icy cold watery beverage.  With the team there kindly letting me grab a bottle, I powered through the last few miles and suddenly I was done, the half marathon chunk of the run down in 1:28:43. My second fastest ever.

I sit here now, weary, but proud. Extremely satisfied with my morning’s work, and mulling back to this time last year, a week before the Liverpool half marathon. I had set myself the challenge of the sub 1:30, but didn’t have any idea if I was capable of it any more. I figured I was over the hill, that 2009 effort as a 27 year old was now set in stone as I moved into my 30s. I’d failed on multiple occasions in the intervening years, but then, despite getting the race tactics completely wrong and getting stuck behind the entire field, I absolutely obliterated my PB and steamed home two minutes inside my target.

Suddenly, the goalposts had shifted. I did still have it in me; if I trained right, ate right and looked after myself a bit, I was still capable of doing something I managed half a decade ago, the ravages of time perhaps had yet to wreak their full havoc. Just like that, the unachievable became the routine. I waited four years to go under 1:30 and I’ve now done it four times since and twice in 2014 already. The hard work is paying off.

So how does this affect me looking forward to April 6th and a tilt at 3:05 over double the distance? No idea, in fairness. It’s obviously not a case of simply doubling the time and going bosh, there you go. I am pretty bloody sure I haven’t got a 2:56 marathon in me after all. They say to get under three hours you need to be able to run a 1:25 half, so I’m some way off from that. But, just taking that school of thought slightly further, is a 1:28 enough for a 3:05 and the cherished Good For Age time?

Who knows, but I haven’t got long to find out. Terrifyingly, there are now just four weeks left until it all happens for real. One more hellish week of BIG TRAINING (including, gulp, 22 miles a week today) and then a gradual taper, dialling back the mileage and laying off the booze as my body absorbs the punishment of the past 15 weeks. And then, who knows? Is the 3:05 doable? Will I be sat here in twelve months time having done it four times, thinking “what was the big deal worrying about that you nugget”? It’s just a case of how impenetrable the ceiling is, I guess.

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