When I mapped out my plan for 2021 I decided a practice race before the Manchester Marathon would be a good idea just to reacquaint myself with the old routine after close to two years away from racing. And very well it all went over at Wilmslow last month, but what I didn’t expect was to get a second bite at the cherry a fortnight later, with a last minute charity entry in the Great Manchester Half Marathon.
No matter how many virtual challenges I’ve taken part in over the past 18 months, even though some of them were amongst the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, there’s nothing quite like taking part in a real race with real people. The adrenaline on the day just isn’t there when you’re starting and finishing solo on your own drive.
So, after the longest break I’ve had from an actual event probably since I became a runner all the way back in 2007, it was nice to finally have something in the calendar: The Wilmslow Half Marathon 2021.
Last Sunday marked the halfway point of my third round of marathon training in 18 months, ideally this time with an actual race at the end of it.
Nine weeks down, nine to go. Over 450 miles in the bank already. So I thought I would be a good opportunity to report where I’m up to as I build up to what could be (but almost definitely won’t be) my final effort at the full distance.
I’ve not properly pushed myself at the full marathon distance since my massive 2016 effort, with Londons 2017 & 18 all being about savouring the day, and I was never going to attempt anything mad for my virtual one last October.
So now it’s time to see what I’ve still got in me. A real race with real people for the first time since late 2019, on the flattest marathon course in the country, an opportunity to aim for that PB and see what happens.
After a grim old 2020, I’ve spent most of this year trying to be generally quite optimistic about things. I’ve kept telling myself (and others) that better times hopefully on the way, and so it appeared to be. But then, right at the peak of my optimism as I received my first pint of Pfizer last week, a reminder that actually we still have a way to go.
An enforced week of isolation, and unlike the national lockdowns we’ve all lived through on and off since last March, an extra kick in the nuts as my own personal quarantine meant I was unable to even do one of the few things which helped me cope with all the shit last year: go for a run.
Every year since early 2017 I’ve had a pair of Mizuno Catalysts in my rotation as my daily trainer. I’ve bought four pairs over the years, carrying me – to date – 2323.5 miles.
As is often the way with the running shoes I grow to love, they’ve been discontinued now so this is my paen to the most dependable shoe I’ve ever owned. They don’t make them like this anymore.
There’s been no races so far in 2021, virtual or otherwise. One little challenge that did materialise though was one of those that came about more by chance than anything, and then as is often my way subsequently became something to obsess over for a bit.
That was until I eventually achieved it.
Anyone who’s read more than a couple of my blogs will know that I have a pretty familiar autumn routine, hitting one or two of the same races almost every year going as far back as 2008. This year things were a bit different but I’m still delighted with what I managed to achieve, including my first ever solo marathon two and a half years after the immortal “no more marathons”.
2020 has been the year of a few things. There’s the little matter of a global pandemic and everything surrounding it. It’s been a year of tragic, barely-imaginable loss and heartbreak. The year of lockdown, of not being able to visit any of our loved ones, our friends and family. The year of oh-so-many video calls, of virtual pub quizzes, of substituting sitting in the pub with your mates with sitting on your sofa and getting slowly inebriated while talking all over each other and trying to factor in a delay into the conversation. The year of working from home, of days of meetings over Zoom and Teams, feeling knackered at 5pm just by virtue of speaking into a camera for an entire day.
All of that, but also: it’s been The Year of the Run.
Apart from this little recap back in 2013, I rarely write about the shoes I actually use to run my runs in, which I guess is kinda odd since I’ve acquired quite a collection over the years.
All that’s changed now after around 150 miles in my New Favourite Shoes: the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2.0.