Training for the Edinburgh Marathon has started in earnest this week, and as I type, I’ve just completed week 1. Hooray! Only the 15 left to go then…..
No winter training blog would be complete without the obligatory weather chat and it has to be said that this week, it has been utterly shocking at times. It has hammered it down with rain, there have been high winds and on two of my runs I got completely soaked. What is it they say? There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing? Well, yesterday, I failed to notice the looming black clouds, as about 5 minutes into my run, sans running jacket, it absolutely bucketed down. GREAT. I felt like a total fool with all the people in their cars driving past me on their way to the shops, snug and dry. Which got me thinking about how much my running attire has improved over the years.
Pretty much exactly 20 years ago, I started running. Well, to be fair, it was more like a shuffle, and I could barely run from one lamppost to the next in the beginning, but that’s another story (and we all have to start somewhere, right?). Well, as I wasn’t entirely sure that I was going to enjoy this running caper and, owing to the fact that I was 17 at the time and thus being paid the princely sum of £3.22 an hour for my part-time job (is it weird that I remember the hourly rates for all my part time jobs?) cash was precious. So, to begin with I ran in a really baggy Ellesse tracksuit. It had zips at the hems, you know, so you could get it on and off over your trainers without taking them off – what a BONUS. Except, really, it was a total bonus, as I didn’t own a sports bra back in the day either, so was sporting a most heinous “unitard” under said tracksuit, which I’d purchased to go to an aerobics class with my mum. If you aren’t familiar with the unitard, google it. I gather they’re having something of a resurgence, but in my case, the words “never again” spring to mind. Footwear wise, those early miles were all sponsored by my trusty Reebok Classics. To be fair, the vast majority of my runs were under the cover of darkness, so being a fitness fashion pariah wasn’t really much of an issue back then, but I’m pretty sure this combo cannot have been comfortable or helpful to my fledgling running performances.
Anyway, back to this week’s training. One of the things I really struggle with is pacing. You’d think I’d have nailed this over the last couple of decades, but no. I’m a person who tends to run very much by feel, probably because we didn’t have sports watches which can track everything from our pace to our heart rate to whether we had a good night’s sleep (which for me the answer is sadly seldom a yes!). Oh no, in the beginning, it was just me and my vintage black Casio (which I think possibly belonged to my brother, so technically wasn’t even mine) so gauging how far or fast I ran was based a lot on how I felt and what time I’d set off/returned to the safe haven of my parents’ driveway, according to the Casio.
A big part of marathon training is building “an aerobic base”, which, in very basic terms, means being able to run at a comfortable pace for a long time. The mainstay of marathon training is the weekly long run, and there are also a fair amount of other “easy paced” runs thrown in, to activate the energy systems and muscular fibres which you’ll be using most on race day and to get you used to spending large amounts of time on your feet. Trouble is, I don’t know how to do “easy pace”. Turns out, I’m rather competitive with myself (who knew?!) and when I know I can, hypothetically speaking, go faster, then I do. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, per se, really I need to differentiate between my 10k pace and my marathon pace and build that solid aerobic base, as let’s face it, that is going to be absolutely key to getting my butt around the 26.2 miles! So, I’ve been paying more attention to my pace and trying to keep it steady this week, which has led a war between me and my running watch as it keeps buzzing at me like an angry wasp to tell me to either slow down, speed up, or that I’m hitting target pace, which of course I then congratulate myself on before promptly speeding up again. Sigh.
Now, in my job, I know I’m lucky in that I am invariably in an environment where I can run and also I can fairly easily carve out time in my working week to train. Last time I trained for a marathon (11 years ago) I was working long hours in an office, so lots of my runs were done late at night or early in the morning. I did not, however, have children. As it turns out, children and marathon training are a different kind of challenge. I mean, when does one have time to recover with two energetic kids to amuse who want you to race them in the park?
Also, if you’re lucky enough to get some time to yourself, just when you think about getting out the foam roller, you suddenly remember that you need to source a costume for your child’s school’s “Great Fire of London Wow Day” and instead spend the following hour googling “What did King Charles II look like?” Before deciding that actually, this is all getting rather complicated and some old clothes and a loaf of bread will do and he can be the 17th Century Firestarter himself, Thomas Farriner. Job done.
Anyway, for a while now, my eldest has been asking whether he can come out training with me. So, on Sunday, despite the piddling rain, we donned our jackets and out we headed. My long run for this week wasn’t really that long (8 miles) but clearly that is way too far for a little chap who has only just turned 7, so we agreed (despite his protestations that he could “do at least half my long run”, he would do 3 miles with me, I’d drop him at home and then head off for the remaining miles on my tod. Little did I know that he had secretly squirrelled some of his birthday money in his jacket pocket and announced when we were halfway down the road that he was going to treat me to a coffee when we got to 2 miles. Ah, bless him, he knows his way to his mother’s heart! It did get me thinking that despite how hard I often find being a mum, every now and again, the kids surprise me and make me so happy and bursting with love that I think I might pop. As it turns out, we had a thoroughly pleasant run and natter, in spite of the headwind and being blasted in the face with rain.
It definitely made my day running with him and I’m now thinking about how I can squeeze in some more runs with the kids as part of my training as it would be great to keep them involved. Marathon training takes up an awful lot of time and I’m keen that both the boys continue to see it as a Good Thing rather than something which takes me away from them.
Looking ahead to Week 2, notwithstanding that I’ve mostly written this blimmin’ plan myself (the original template courtesy of the mighty Runners’ World), I fear I might have lulled myself into a false sense of security with the easy, breezy miles of Week 1. Week 2 looks a different matter altogether with the introduction of some tough speed work. Then of course we have the looming spectre of half term, when I’m going to need to get REALLY creative with my training, or start going out running at 5.30am. Wish me luck.
You can follow what I get up to this week and my marathon training progress over on Instagram.