Softly does it

With the benefit of hindsight, I kinda I wish I’d thought out the title of last week’s blog a bit more. I should have chosen something a bit more appropriate to the subject matter I feel, and even more so now as I sit here writing this wanting to use that same title again, albeit on a very different subject. Yes, I am still cautiously optimistic with regards to Tottenham’s chances of a decent season after the opening quartet of matches, but now there is also a need for treading cautiously on the old running front too now as I begin to build up to a race again, for the first time in months, and with a distinct lack of running mileage in the old legs. Suddenly, I have just over a week until we do it all again. Sunday 7th September and the City of Salford 10k. Shit.

Much like this time last year, it’s been a very light summer with regards to the action by foot as I’ve fallen in love with the open road and my lovely racing machine. Yet again, I’ve flogged myself silly for a big running event during the first few months of the year, and then when it’s all over totally lost the motivation for running and moved onto two wheels instead. Summer evenings rattling around the country lanes of Cheshire at 20mph+, or struggling up a couple of meaty(ish) climbs at barely half that. Humming along on a 30-year-old steel framed racer heading for a beer garden. It’s all just so much more exciting and enjoyable than trudging up and down the same old stretches of pavement by foot, sweating and panting while getting abused by the friendly locals of South Manchester.

And the stats don’t lie. From January to the beginning of April, I ran 78 times, covering 670 miles. Which is absolutely bloody ridiculous, looking back. Since then, over a five month period, just 21 runs and a mere 70 miles. I was running nearly that on a weekly basis back in March (which again is, quite frankly, ridiculous). Less runs, and much, much shorter ones too, with the average mileage per run dropping from 8.6 down to just 3.3. And then since finishing the Mersey Tunnel 10k in June, it’s fallen completely by the wayside, with just four half-hearted 5ks after work in nearly three months, and that’s it. As such, I look towards next Sunday’s race with a sense of mild trepidation.

It’s not so much the run itself I’m worried about, but more the aftermath. After all, I’ve been here before and it hurt. The “10k without training” experiment last May was an utter folly; proving to myself at a stroke that while the speed doesn’t tail off quite as significantly as I might have expected, the stamina and basic conditioning definitely does. Those 42-odd minutes running around Port Sunlight battered my legs more than any other race I’d ever done before, and that includes the pair of marathons and trio of halves. I was still hobbling around heading into the following weekend, and all because I thought I was the big man and could run without practising.

So yeah, I probably need to do some sort of training this time. But it’s tiny baby steps I need to take so as to not totally bust myself up before raceday. Last time I had a gap like this, I tentatively went out for a run for the first time in over eleven weeks. And by tentatively I mean, I went out at flat out 10k pace, felt amazing for 200 yards, felt shocking before the first mile was out and in the end managed less than 5k, sweating, wheezing and (literally) nearly vomiting. The legs were trashed for a couple of days and then as soon as they were healed, I leapt straight into a hardcore 10k training programme for Standalone aiming for a sub-40. And lo and behold, within a couple of weeks my knee decided it would like to fall off (which it didn’t, thankfully). A rather “two-footed” return to action though I feel.

That was twelve months ago, although it was all very different back then. After a thieving scumbag had pinched my bike from me, that very first run felt entirely necessary. Running was suddenly my only exercise outlet. All I had left were my feet. And then I turned my attention towards Standalone. And then (me being me) I took it all A Bit Too Seriously, and it cost me, albeit with an ultimately glorious result. This time around, it’s a race where I’m just entering for the hell of it, a race that I’ve never done before. Somewhere new, somewhere exciting. OK, somewhere new anyway, and with the added bonus that six of my chums have decided to have a crack as well, even though I fear we all tread with some caution towards this one after looking at some of the reviews of last year’s event.

So without the pressure of a big result, a fast time or just the fact that if I don’t go and do a shitload of running then all that beer and cake will begin to catch up with me, it’s a much more cautious return to action. Trying to ensure I’m (a bit) prepared for the race (and most importantly, the aftermath) but without breaking myself before I’ve even got there. I’m looking forward to lining up with people I know for once, and then when it’s all done and dusted having a well-earned beer together and hopefully not being crippled for a week afterwards. After all, I need to be able to get back out on the bike.

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