“Do I even like running, anyway?” That was my immediate question as I jolted awake to the sound of my 5.30am alarm. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s cold, it’s so dark it feels like the middle of the night and, from a sleepy daze, I’m yet again being called to gracelessly rise for a run.
To most of my friends, these are the actions of a madman. Running 10 miles before breakfast sounds like a macho boast but I’m under no illusions – it’s not the sort of thing the majority of people I know would ever want to do.
And there were a couple of weeks there where I was starting to see their point. After Gower, I had several minor niggles, an unrelated stomach bug and a severe and sudden lack of motivation. I should have seen it coming but, having never raced much before, I didn’t know what the flatness was. Every run was a sluggish affair that ended with a bad shin or ankle, my pace was off and I felt wiped out. I was repeating the same routes I’d done before and everything seemed, well, a little pointless. It didn’t take Robbie long to diagnose the problem, which he spotted expertly from the lack of usual enthusiasm in my training log. This was a typical case of the ‘Post Race Blues’.
It’s no wonder. I’d had a new and incredible focus on my running from Project Trail, with a great coach, appearances in Men’s Running every month, nutritional advice from Renee McGregor and a shared goal with a great bunch of lads. Officially, though, it all ended when I crossed that finish line in South Wales.
At these points in life, you have two choices. Option one: you can cave in to the negativity and accept that it’s all over. That would at least mean an easier life and I could always look back on the last few months as a time when my running reached its peak. Or, option two, you get motivated and make a new plan.
I’ve never been much of a one for an easy life! I asked Robbie if he’d continue to coach me, I started obsessively looking at races, I explored some new routes and, before I knew it, I’d got my head together with Mark (from Project Trail) and we’d rather ambitiously turned the next ‘plan’ into Project Ultra. The early morning running was back; my long rambling training diary entries were back and my insatiable gear habit was back (I figure you need more stuff if you’re running longer distances). In short, I’d mixed things up, moved on from the blues and everything was looking rosy.
I won’t lie, I still wake up questioning what the hell I’m doing getting up at 5.30am to go running in the dark. But the feeling doesn’t last very long. You see, the answer to that 5.30am alarm call question is always the same: I don’t like running. I love it.