There are many skills which you need to train for a marathon: bloody mindedness, a low pain threshold, map reading, a disregard for your social life, perhaps even being good at running. I have reached the conclusion, though, that time management and schedule juggling is the most important of them all. I used to think this was something I was rather good at, but lately it has all gone to pot. The trouble is that there aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the training schedule. Just look:
No running for 24 hours after a massage. No hard sessions on consecutive days. Run four times per week. Complete rest the day after a long run. Long runs at least seven days apart. Add 10% every week. But no more than 10%. Don’t forget your strength training. And your yoga. And your physio exercises. Get seven hours of sleep every day. Don’t run on a full stomach. Don’t run on an empty stomach. Don’t run hungover. Don’t drink after running. Don’t run on a niggle. Don’t forget your rest days. But don’t forget that the more you run, the quicker you be. Average marathon runners do 60km per week! Mo Farah does 225km per week. Don’t get behind! Don’t injure yourself! Oh, and don’t forget to spend sixty hours of your precious marathon training time at work!!
I think that last bit is the clincher really – work schedules aren’t designed to fit around marathon training. I know that everyone has this problem (except people who don’t work/study/have a family to care for, but most of those are either sick or lazy and therefore won’t be running marathons) but my work schedule is particularly bad as I work different days (or nights) each week and I get up at 4.30am and get home at 8pm and consider it an achievement if I go for a 45 minute plod round the pavements between shifts.
Anyway, the point of all this was that today was my long run day and I really wasn’t feeling it. I was really tired after doing 10km fast on Friday and a hilly parkrun yesterday, but I didn’t have any other time this week to do them. I thought a lie in might help so I went back to bed after breakfast and started my run at 11am. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of breaking the “always get a good night’s sleep” rule I was now breaking the “don’t run on an empty stomach rule”, since after 10km of my run my stomach started asking for lunch. The call of a runner’s stomach cannot be ignored; I was suffering from the dreaded Runger, which I can only liken to the sensation of smoking some very strong cannabis, not eating for a week and then being tied up in the kitchen of Domino’s Pizza. I was already going slowly (partly deliberately and partly because I was tired and not in the mood) and I was getting steadily slower to the point where I was in danger of going backwards. I’d had my Gu gels but I find they’re only enough to keep you going, not to actually combat an attack of Runger.
Fortunately, I was just coming up to the Timber Lodge café in the Olympic Park so I nipped inside and bought the first things that caught my fancy: a slice of carrot cake the size of my head and a bottle of orange fizzy pop. They came to nearly seven pounds. I don’t even like cake normally. I knew they were likely to make me sick. I simply did not give one jot about any of those things. But I did think, as I tucked into my cake, that I’d have to admit to this on my blog and that one day a publisher might come along and turn these posts into a book entitled “How Not To Train For A Marathon”.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the effect of the cake was to perk me right up for the next kilometre or so, then settle heavily on my stomach and make me feel a bit sleepy. I shuffled around the Olympic Park a few times, gradually losing enthusiasm and the will to live, then found myself inexplicably drawn towards Westfield Shopping Centre. By the time I reached the entrance, I was on 18.75km. The run was supposed to be 20km but I felt that all I had to gain from completing the remaining 1.25km was a painful and embarrassing death. I retreated to Primark, where I bought myself a nice Prussian Blue hoodie that is about five sizes too big for me, and a purple spiky ball that I was inexplicably drawn to because I was a bit delirious and the queue was taking too long. I thought it might be nice to have it as a souvenir of my run. Why would I want a souvenir of such a fucking awful run? I don’t know.
I went to catch the 158 bus home and the other people at the bus stop were giving me really funny looks. I realised that they probably thought I was some kind of drug addict, wearing seasonally inappropriate clothing, a hoody with all the tags still attached, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot to avoid cramps, cradling a purple spiky ball like a pet and smelling like a rancid sock. I didn’t really care.
However, suddenly through all the pain, suffering, woe and inappropriate carrot cake consumption of this Long Run, I realised – I have now completed my last long run before Barcelona! I was so busy feeling tired and hungry that I had failed to notice that nothing hurt and that I had not injured myself! I only have a few gentle runs of 10km or less before I fly out, and there’s very little chance that I will injure myself on one of those – it’s the long ones that do it. So, it’s official: I will at least be starting the 2018 Barcelona Half. Whether I will finish ahead of the coche de cierre is another thing – I know I can make the distance, and I know I can make the required pace (and faster) over 10km, but whether I can put the two together remains to be seen. But I do at least feel like I have a good chance of making the grade. Also, whatever happens I get a holiday!