Twelve months on

Happy new year everyone. It’s good to be back. Or is it? It doesn’t feel very good to be back. It’s cold. It’s damp. It’s dark. Those icy cold mornings that take your breath away as you first head out the door, slipping and sliding across the glittery pathways and frozen puddles. Atlantic storms giving even the smallest of jogs home from work that “been for a spin in the washing machine” feeling. Always running in the bloody dark. The joys of winter training, eh.

Except – there’s not actually that much training going on at the moment. Which is a tad unusual for this time of year. Not to mention a tad concerning since Tuesday just gone marked three months to the day until my next race. What race is that you say? Oh yes, just the little matter of my latest and possibly last tilt at 26.2 miles: The London Marathon.

I still can’t quite believe I’m writing that. The London bloody marathon. London baby! For the first time in my life I actually have a golden ticket, a place on that hallowed startline. My scrawny legs and massive face will at long, long last be lining up with 40,000 others in one of the biggest marathons in the world. It is almost inevitable I will fall over in front of a TV audience of millions.

Anyone who has read this blog over the years will be aware of my annual struggle to get into London, dropping my ballot entry in every April and then inevitably getting the dreaded SORRY! magazine in the post six months later, dashing my hopes and dreams for another year. I’ve been turned down by charities. London HQ have moved the goalposts seemingly to ensure I couldn’t qualify – no more guaranteed entry on the fifth application, reducing the “good for age” time down to 3:05. But, finally, this year, I’m in. I’m there. They couldn’t stop me forever.

So you’d think that, after all that struggle to get there, I’d be doing that cherished place justice, wouldn’t you? Lots of lovely training. Plenty of practice. Get myself in the best possible shape so I don’t embarrass myself horribly after bleating for two decades about wanting to be there. Well, yes and no. Mostly no, in fact.

First of all, I’ve been a bit busy yea? It’s a bloody ridiculous commitment a marathon. I’ve written so many times in the past how much it takes over your entire life the full 26.2 mile effort, and I remember swearing blind after my first in 2011 that never again would I put myself through all that absolute nonsense. We all know how that panned out, but at least finally now I should be able to draw a line under it all once I’ve finally got a London done and dusted. But anyway, it’s basically a shitload of running to get yourself ready for it. At least a couple of hours every Sunday morning along with three or four shorter ones in the week, and so far I just haven’t had the time to dedicate to it yet with all the wedding planning and honeymooning and all that.

I’ve had a bit of illness here and there as well which is most unlike me. Work’s been a bit mad. The weather has been really quite shit at times. Most of all though, for some reason, I just think I’m lacking the motivation to actually get out and run. It’s weird. I’ve written in the past how I need something behind me pushing me towards a marathon to actually make sure I get out and get the training done, a strong motivation to make me feel like all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it. Last year and back in 2011 it was the All Of The Fundraising. In 2014 it was the (failed) target of a good for age time to try and qualify for this here London. Such was the level of commitment I put into last year I actually finally hit that GFA time as well as hitting the initial fundraising target, which was a nice bonus but the trouble is it’s led to all this bloody nonsense. A spring marathon in consecutive years for the first time in my life, and I think at this stage I’m perhaps just feeling a little jaded by it all and can’t seem to motivate myself to actually do any running.

Let’s compare and contrast shall we? Last weekend is a good example. Almost exactly a year ago I left a celebratory birthday weekend in Glasgow early to come home and run 21 miles (with a quick unscheduled pit stop at the Heald Green Beefeater, ahem) in the middle of a 63 mile week, the biggest ever week of running in my entire life. This year, I woke up just before midday on Sunday, popped over for a roast with the in-laws and then went for an evening stroll and a couple of beers in a new beer cafe which has recently sprung up pleasantly close to my flat. I didn’t go for my first run of 2017 until 24th January. By that stage in 2016, I had been out eighteen times and run 200 miles, including that disastrous 21 mile post Glasgow effort.

It’s all a bit worrying. I feel like I should be worried. And yet I’m strangely calm about it all at this stage. Yes perhaps if with a month before raceday I’ve had another three weeks off the training and my Sunday long run is still only just into double figures then it’ll probably be time to start panicking a bit, but for now I’m oddly relaxed about the whole thing. The last two races of 2016 I did “just enough” training instead of flogging my guts out like usual, and then spent the races themselves trying to savour them as best I could, taking in the sights and sounds and not getting worked up about any sort of time target, even stopping for a beer at mile 10 of the Great North Run. Somehow this approach to training resulted in my second fastest half marathon ever for October’s extremely soggy inaugural Manchester Half Marathon but I digress. The important thing is for possibly one of the first times in my life, with the exception of a couple of Standalone 10ks, I’m not thinking about the time at all.

This one is about the being there. Realising a life’s ambition. Round the Cutty Sark, over Tower Bridge, finishing on The Mall. All of the sights and landmarks of the London town with thousands of spectators clapping and cheering us on. If I see someone I know I’ll probably pause and say hello. I might even stop for a beer at the MNDA cheer point outside a pub at the 21 mile mark. I’ve worked so hard over the past decade to finally get to London I’m sure as hell going to make the most of it while I’m there. It must be over two thirds of my life ago since I saw my uncle and cousin on TV plodding round the famous course and decided “one day, that’ll be me”. And finally, in just under three months’ time, it will be. Suppose I’d better go and get some bloody training in.

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