I may have been running for 20 years, but I’m still learning and this week has been full of lessons.
When I last wrote this blog, I’d just done my longest run since I became a mum 7 years ago and was considering myself pretty lucky to have completed it in one piece given I’d only had a few hours’ sleep and was fuelled solely by the previous evening’s blueberry gin, a far cry from my Long Run Eve Ritual of a massive helping of pasta and an early night. Not only that, but I’d been rushing around like crazy, trying to be in two places at once, doing all the usual mum things and squeezing in as much work as I could. “I can do this!” I thought. “All of it!”.
Turns out, this was pretty naive of me, and I’ve been paying for this cockiness for the last week. It may come as no surprise to you that despite my best efforts at pretending to the contrary, I am not 21 anymore. Nope. I’m a 37 year old mother of two, with a body that has had enough of being asked to do too many things at once.
“You want to train for a marathon,” it says, “well bloody well train for the marathon and stop pratting about with all the other stuff. Stop asking me to stay up late and rush around all day, I can’t do it all, you know”. Yikes.
As I wrote last week, my Garmin, ever the harbinger of doom, had fired a warning shot, telling me that my training status had fallen to “unproductive”, i.e. my fitness level had begun to decline, despite an increase in the amount I’d been training. And by mid-week, my body had decided enough was enough. I don’t think I’ve felt as tired since the boys were babies and I was literally up all night with them. Not only that, but I felt the familiar anxiety and irrational thoughts creeping in, the type that I know from previous experience starts to happen before a proper crash.
Basically, my body and mind clubbed together, had a little crisis meeting and issued me with an ultimatum. Either I start to take the rest and recovery they need to get me through the next 9 weeks of training, or they are going to make life very difficult for me.
I’d be an idiot not to take notice, so decided to put a plan in place. I’ve really tried to think more carefully about fuelling my runs and recovery with better nutrition this week, but the main feature was some seriously early nights and the rare sight of me on the sofa with my feet up, even if only for 10 minutes before school pick up, rather than chasing my tail trying to shoehorn in a few last minute jobs. Sure, the house is a little less tidy, the washing basket has been overflowing at times, I’ve said “no” a bit more than I would of an average week and I’ve had to fight the itchy fingers that I get when I know there’s an email sitting in my inbox to which I haven’t yet responded. But if this is what it’s going to take to get through to Edinburgh with my body and sanity in tact, so be it.
The training watch (with whom I am developing a love/hate relationship) smugly tells me my training status is now at “recovery”, which hopefully means I’m moving in the right direction. I definitely have more energy, but the biggest difference is in my mindset. Last week I was eye rolling at the very thought of another session, but this week, I’m absolutely raring to get out there and run.
Life loves chucking you a curveball, and the only problem is that I haven’t been able to stick 100% to the programme, as my eldest son has been poorly with some horrid virus for the last few days (bless him) and is currently off sick from school. So, that precious hour I usually snatch between my clients and school drop off/pick up just hasn’t materialised so far this week. Until normal service resumes, I’m running in the evenings. Yep, just like I did for my last marathon, when I had a full time job and no kids and the only time I could run during the week was after work. I’m the first to admit that this is frustrating, especially when I seem to have dealt with the lessons of last week. But, it’s also inevitable. I’ve said all along, I’m a mother first and runner second. If the children need me, then I have to be there. It was nigh on impossible that I was going to get through a 16 week training cycle for this marathon without either me or the children being unwell and this was always going to result in having to re-jig my plans.
I’m always telling my PT clients that they always need a plan B. Most of them are parents, and there are just too many variables involved when juggling a family, work and training so you always need to have in the back of your mind what you will do if it all goes to pot and, like me, you find yourself at home with a child who needs his mum for cuddles, along with an endless supply of fresh ice cubes for his sore throat and Premiership Years on repeat on the TV.
I said that this week had been a week of lessons, but please don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. I joined my lovely friend, Cat, for the end of her long run on Monday and it reminded me how much I love running without a specific goal in mind. Running just for the fun of being out in the fresh air, putting one foot in front of the other and having a catch up with your mate. It was truly one of the highlights of my week. I also got back out onto the trails again towards the end of the tough part of my training week, doing a 7 mile tempo run along one of my favourite routes. It was a pretty grey old day but it was late afternoon by the time I headed out and I saw literally dozens of rabbits grazing on the grass up on the hill near my house. Of course, they all scampered off into the hedgerows when they heard me coming, but it was really lovely to see them and it reminded me that spring is definitely on its way and with it some (hopefully) easier training conditions.
Sunday’s run was my longest yet at 16 miles, which, believe it or not, wasn’t too bad. And the sun was shining. It felt like a little reward for listening to my body and trying to make the changes I know deep down need to be made in order for me to get to the start line in one piece.
Next week is another 40+ mileage week, starting with some 200m reps, which owing to the sick child will need to be carried out under cover of darkness. Probably a good thing.