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Marathon training: pushing through the doldrums

Its nearly four weeks since my last running update, although I have shared my experiences of some of Hull’s 2017 City of Culture events.  I’ve also just started a new job, which has perhaps left me a little distracted over recent weeks, and also a little short of time. Just about enough time to hit most of the targets in my marathon training plan, but not much else. Having achieved the major milestone of completing three marathons in three days a month ago, even the training has felt a little like treading water, with my next significant milestone (the Rotterdam marathon) still a month away.

Pilates is great for runners – but at 5am…?!

So yes, I’ve hit the running doldrums. Still training hard. But perhaps missing some direction and motivation. My spark has gone. I’m doing the sessions because I have to, not because I want to. The triple marathon weekend took more out of me than I realised, and it was a good couple of weeks before I felt like doing much more than the minimum (although a particularly quick and satisfying 11 miler got me over that). I also picked up a bit of a niggle in my knee that has lingered, adding to my frustration. And whilst I have persisted with my strengthening, conditioning and stretching exercises, it has all felt a bit of a chore.  5am pilates before the 6:30am train to London is not much fun!

We all go through phases like this, particularly when marathon training. And it’s quite right that life outside of running gets the attention it deserves. Especially when our nearest and dearest have to put up with so much from us (yes, they really do). The trick for me is to try and stay focused on the end game.  I will often get through some of my toughest training runs by visualising the closing stages of my target race (almost mile-by-mile), and imagining the feeling of crossing the finish line (usually with a PB!). It’s a great technique to try if you’re struggling to keep going on those long or difficult runs.

At the moment, my focus is slightly different. I’m not thinking about the finish line, I’m thinking about the start line. The focus for my winter and spring training is to ensure I reach the start line of the Brathay 10in10 in the best shape (fit, fast, strong and rested) I’ve ever been in. If I can do that, then I’ll increase my chances of surviving the following 10 days. So, it’s time to reconnect with what the 10in10 is all about, why I’m running it, and how (hopefully) my physical efforts over 10 days in May can help make positive impacts on the lives of others that will last a lifetime.

Before you all log-off in complete misery, I have to admit there have been some positive moments in recent weeks.  Having set a new 10 mile PB in January, I was thrilled to go a whole minute faster when I competed in the Snake Lane 10 at the end of February. One of my favourite races, it takes you through the winding lanes at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, with the challenge coming from the exposed nature of the course and, this year, the tail-end of Storm Doris.

The gang’s all here – KUHAC at Snake Lane 10

I was also privileged to co-host the weekly UKRunChat hour. It’s a fast and furious online forum, hosted on Twitter, where runners of all abilities chat about anything running related. It was hard work (my fingers have only just recovered) but really good fun, even if I did need to go for a run afterwards to recover! No matter what your running experience, there is always someone who can teach you something. And always someone who will benefit from your advice.

It has been great spending time with other runners: talking about targets, goals and memories of great runs; sharing what we wish we’d known before we ever ran a marathon; and cheering each other on at local races. Anyone who thinks running is a solitary sport couldn’t be more wrong. I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without the support and encouragement of so many club mates and running friends. So, thank you one and all.

Wow, I’m feeling more upbeat and positive all ready. See you at the start!

PS – big half-marathon PB this morning and a first ever running trophy (for 2nd place). Must be the positive thoughts…