It is exactly two months today since I signed up for the Great North Run. Obviously, at that time, I had little idea how much of an impact Covid 19 would have had on all our lives. Since lockdown in particular, many other people have been trying to raise money for worthy causes as all organised charity events have been cancelled. So far, I have managed to raise around 80% of my initial objective and with just over four months until the scheduled event (possibly longer...), am amazed and grateful for all the support. If anyone reading does wish to contribute, my donation page can be found here: https://ukvirginmoneygiving.com/
Two months in, I have realised a number of things and have learnt so much, and it is time to pause and reflect upon what I have done so far, and what is still left to be done. Firstly for today, I have realised that all my blog entries have been done on the same day as a run, so adrenaline still pumping and no major aches and pains. Today is different as I am going to start with the run from yesterday, an early morning run and a run that I have done before. When I got up yesterday, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted a longer run than a quick 5k and even 8k wasn’t appealing, and as usual my competitive instinct kicked. Last weekend I ran up into Pendleton via Wiswell and back home via the edge of Clitheroe, Barrow and Whalley. Fitbit said this was 12.65km, but in reality I think it was nearer to 12km. Having adjusted stride length settings to allow for shorter strides on hills, I set off feeling pretty good. The Thai meal from the night before not causing any issues and I hit the 1km in 5.37, which is decent enough. From here, the hills begin and I made a conscious effort to push myself up the hills into Wiswell. I felt I was running more quickly than last week, but difficult to gauge from the splits as last week was slightly overestimated. The first real comparable was getting into Pendleton itself, bang on half an hour, about two minutes quicker than last week. The mapping tool I use clocks this at 5.4km, so considering this is largely uphill and two months ago, I couldn’t run 5k straight in 30 minutes, I’m feeling ok about this and hopeful of knocking some time off. Of course, the mental side of running kicks in, and as I head down to the bypass, I start to worry that I have pushed too hard and may run out of energy before the end. To overcome this fear, I take the second energy gel at around the 6k mark, hoping that the electrolytes will kick in to give me a boost for the last 2 or 3 k. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I didn’t feel any drop in energy levels, so that was a wise choice. The other decision made at this point was no looking at the clock for time comparison on pace. As I said, I had adjusted the stride length so even though I was faster, the pace per I had clocked in at 5:30, so maintaining that steady rhythm was fine. Competitive to the last, however, as I hit the 10k, I couldn’t resist a glance at the watch, 55 minutes, so I had run the last 5k in little over 25 minutes. Decent rate for me in a longer run. That left me with around 2k to go, and a time of 1:08:42 to beat. One thing for it, foot down...pedal to the metal and all that nonsense. This was fine through Whalley but at the end of King Street, the bridge over the river and next 300m are steep, brutal after 11.5k. The good news is the last 250m are downhill at about 8%. A sprint finish! A glance at the clock 1:04:17. As happy as I was with this, there was still time for a senior moment. Having paused the workout at this point, failure to click the chequered flag in the display and unpausing has given me 13 seconds (how long it took me to realise) of standing still and an official time of 1:04:30 on the display. I am amazed to have knocked more than four minutes off, but now worrying about what it will feel like tomorrow.
Well, now it is tomorrow...and every other longish run I have done, the day after has been difficult. Walking down stairs putting both feet on the same step and sedately moving. It’s the bottom of my foot, linked to calf and Achilles. Today it’s fine though, and I actually feel I could run again today! Not that I am going to, rest is so important in preventing injuries and that is one-off the main things I have learnt so far, along with:
1) Running with food inside me doesn’t work, unless it’s Flapjack (Pro2Go are ace)
2) I am not a machine, but am capable of more than I had previously realised. My age is not a barrier
3) On rest days, stretches, core work etc are vital, especially for areas with existing weakness
4) I enjoy running, but still find the first 2k difficult...why?
5) Being competitive is helpful, as I always want to improve
So what next? I fancy a big run again soon and going up over the Nick of Pendle into Sabden would give me a different challenge. 1 in 6 gradient up to 300m then a long downhill through Sabden and down towards Whalley. May just leave that one for a week or two....
In the meantime, I think that during lockdown staying on quieter routes is really important. Staying safe is number one priority. One longish run per week is enough for now, maybe with the odd little 5k thrown in to help maintain the increase in pace and to keep the fitness there. Sooner or later, I will plateau and hit the peak I what I can do and that’s fine. For now, though, I am enjoying the improvements.