Training for a Spring marathon brings with it all sorts of issues. As a father of two small children, time is a very precious commodity. This is particularly true in the dark wintery days of January. January is a very blue month. Short days and long nights make Mo a dull boy.
A marathon runner often finds that they must make selfish decisions. I often spend the first few kilometres of a run with a pang of guilt. This guilt comes in two shades. I worry about whatever duty has been abandoned to get out and pound the pavement. There is always a job that needs doing in our house. Could this time be better spent playing with the girls? In an hour of play, there could be a Lego pile up with several injured parties that require immediate medical attention (more often than not, this will involve forcing them face first into a tub of Play Dough). Or, if you’re unlucky, 10 minutes playing with Play Dough until you realise that three quarters of the yellow has disappeared and will not be making a reappearance for at least another hour (depending on the rate of digestion).
If you happen to be a man, there is no doubt that the division of labour is going to take a severe swing in your partner’s direction. God only knows how running mums do it! If you’re a man reading this you are probably waiting for me to provide some excuses for this, but I’m afraid they don’t exist. Sorry. My only attempt to readdress this balance is to suggest that although it is me running the marathon this is a ‘Team Effort’. FYI, it is best to leave out the air quotation marks when presenting this idea.
Joking aside, this is absolutely true. My wife has to listen to me go on about all matters relating to running. When I leave the house for two or more hours for the long run on Sundays, she picks up the slack. She is like the support team on an Ultra. Masseur, nutritionist, chiropodist and psychologist. It is safe to say that without her, I would not be able to run a marathon. After Manchester I think I will let her wear the medal for a day or two.
Since starting the Big Marathon Challenge the mileage has been slowly ramping up. During January, I ran the most I’ve ever done over a month (170km). To some this is just a drop in the ocean, but for me this raised further issues. My work schedule has forced me to move runs around. Sometimes resulting in a three-day streak of 5am runs. On week three I briefly fell out of love with running. It kept nagging when I missed a day. Running was making me feel pangs of guilt! I would drive past what seemed like hundreds of DEDICATED runners, putting in their miles. The feeling would only subside when I laced up and hit the road. What I had not accounted for is the level of exhaustion you can feel with this level of running.
Then the sun came out and I went along to the second Big Marathon Challenge day at Battersea Park. A new hope arose in me. Charlie and James laid down some positivity to cushion my weary gait. I had some quality time with Ben. He literally worked on lifting me (well my knees at least). But as I soon realised, hope can only carry you so far. You need to fuel well to run well. More accurately, you need to fuel well to run well and then fuel well.
February will be the month I dedicate to fuelling well. We have another Big Marathon Challenge day coming up where we will have the chance to discuss this with a nutritionist. I have started making my own energy bars that I have branded the SubFour™.