It’s fair to say this week’s Big Marathon Challenge training involved a lot of hard running. All four of the training runs were really tough in a number of different ways and, as I write this blog on Sunday afternoon, my body certainly knows it’s been quite a week.
It started with a rest day on Monday, which was very welcome after running a half marathon race. The first run of the week was then an easy 60 minutes along an old favourite route down one of Edinburgh’s many cycle pathways, on a cold Tuesday morning.
However, I soon realised that this was not going to be the relaxing run I had anticipated. Even after a few hundred metres, my legs were feeling very heavy and I wondered whether I had mistakenly put some weights in my running shoes! Maybe it was just my body telling me not to go pushing it too much, which I am sometimes inclined to do.
Anyway, this easy jog was far harder than I expected. The heaviness in the legs did wane a little, but as I hit mile five I managed to not get lulled into a false sense and kept my pace controlled until I finished the circular seven-mile route. This really reinforced to me the importance of recovery runs and how I need to control my natural impatience (I usually want to go as fast as possible on each run).
Wednesday was then cross-training day and for me my chosen activity is swimming. Now I’m not a great swimmer – as my family will testify – and my only style is breaststroke, but I really do enjoy it as an additional activity. I’m very fortunate to have a great gym with a large indoor and outdoor pool just round the corner from me, where I can swim up and down for 60 minutes or so.
Now, onto the threshold run. I’ve decided to do this type of training in the gym on the treadmill, so I can maintain a constant pace. The task is to run twenty minutes at threshold and then, after a two-minute recovery, carry out six repeats of two minutes at 10K pace. For the first part I set the treadmill pace at a 6:30min/mile per mile on a gradient of 1.5.
This is faster than my most recent average threshold pace outside of 6:45min/mile, but I am keen to see how I get on as well as allowing for the fact that treadmill running is a bit easier. With the music of the Clash in my ears – and their amazing album of ‘Give’m Enough Rope’ from nearly 40 years ago – I am soon into my stride.
I love it! The twenty minutes soon passes and I have completed five kilometres in the 20 minutes, which I am really pleased with. After a short break I start the two minute threshold runs and choose a pace of 6:15min/mile, and while hesitant about this faster pace initially, I quickly complete the six repeats with a 90-second recovery in between each.
It is a gentle warm down run back home from the gym after this, and I’m certainly feeling it. Another swim for sixty minutes or so on Friday and next up on Saturday morning is the ‘Kenyan Hills’ training – and the nervous feeling returns.
Will I be able to achieve a good continuous pace for the 10-minute session and repeat this three times? The early morning is crisp and bright; I have no excuse so focus on the job in hand. This is very much hard running as I try to maintain a threshold pace going up, and coming down, the various hills on my route.
It takes a lot of concentration to do this but mentally I remain focused as I try to ignore the aches running through my legs on the inclines. It does feel really great though, and after completing the three 10-minute blocks I am feeling really good about myself as I return home on a warm down run.
The week’s training finishes off with the long easy run as usual on the Sunday morning. My legs are a bit achy after the Kenyan Hills, but from what Ben – my personal trainer – has said, that is all part of the plan to building strength for a marathon.
So yes, this week had been all about hard running. I am hoping it will all pay off as I look at next week’s training plan, some of which will be happening in America. Bring it on USA!