Monday, 12 October 2015

Stepping up to a challenge

Up the road and down the lane at the start of what felt like my first 'real' LSR. Not as early a start as I'd intended but still just early enough to catch some of the dawn mist over the fields.

It seems a bit daft to say yesterday's run felt like my first LSR- I ran a lovely 17 miles the previous week and there was the 16 miles or so in the Peak District. In fact each of my last three long runs has been further than the one before. But yesterday was different because I'd set myself the challenge of completing 20 continuous miles. The realisation that it's just over 2 months to the Portsmouth marathon and 3 of those weekends will be taken up with racing 13.1 miles made me panic a little bit. The fear of the unknown, not having a clue whether I can actually run that kind of distance.

20 miles felt like a significant distance to cover. I know so many people say that the first 20 miles of a marathon are easy, it's the last 10k that are the challenge, but I wanted to know what it feels like to run that far. Racing a half, I can't imagine continuing for another 3 miles let alone 13.1 so I wanted to know at what point I might begin to hurt or start imagining I can't run further.

On the previous LSR I remember really feeling sore and stiff around 13 miles in. Glutes and hip flexors just felt so tight and it was an effort to pick up my legs and move. It panicked me a bit at the time- I know in the past I've not been good a spotting when to run through discomfort and when to stop. But I ran through it and it eased although I was feeling slow and tired by the end. This time I didn't really feel bad except for the first mile or so when I could have sworn my shoes were filled with lead and my feet and legs were made of slabs of concrete, and then at about mile 18 when I was just exhausted. It felt like I'd really slowed down but actually by then I had settled into the pace I should have been keeping to all along which was around 8:50 min/mile.

That 18 mile point was where running became truly meditative. It was necessary to retreat into my head and simply be in each moment- keeping the legs turning over, focussing on form and each moment. It was hard. The fatigue and discomfort that trigger that meditative state also fight it for attention and it's not easy to ignore. It's where the doubt creeps in and feeds on the unknown- can I keep going? How am I going to get through the next mile, then the one after that? But I did it, even though I was all used up by the end and couldn't have run another mile.

Still standing after 20 miles. Unfortunately still 2 miles from home- it was a long and chilly walk back!

So to have completed 20 miles relatively unscathed feels good. It feels even better to know I did it on tired legs- it was never a good idea to have done hill reps the day before but it was a case of needs must. And karate training was mostly on kiba dachi which although great for strengthening the legs is also a killer so again not ideal pre-LSR work. Today I'm sore and walking like a cowboy,  but now I know that next LSR I can run further, that it'll be ok.

This week is easy though as I'm racing at the Great West Run half on Sunday. Look out for me if you're there, and please find it in your heart to make a small donation to support my chosen charity.

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