Fifteen weeks ago, getting to this stage seemed impossible. I mean who was I kidding? Completing one, never mind two 20 mile runs? Ludicrous! But here I am, at the start of Week 16 and officially ‘tapering’. So. The training plan has done the job for me physically. I’m tired, drained in fact. I shuffle from one nap to the next, I’ve an awfy craving for salty food, but nothing hits the spot. Mentally I feel strong, but then again, I always have. I’m ever so slightly sad that all of this will soon be over. I’m also relieved. It’s like my life is on hold, I’m in some kind of self-inflicted masochistic limbo. Sentences start with ‘after the marathon I’ll…..’ and finish with ‘…once I’m home from Gent’
I booked my flights this week. There’s no refund if the marathon is cancelled. We’ll probably go regardless. I will run 26.2 miles, regardless.
Training Schedule – Week 15
- Mon – 5 miles easy
- Tues – Rest
- Wed – 5 miles pace
- Thurs – 5 miles easy
- Fri – Rest
- Sat – Rest
- Sun – 20 Miles Long Slow
At the start of the week I honestly couldn’t be bothered. I felt exhausted. I’m not sure why as my weekly mileage wasn’t especially high in week 14. Perhaps Smokies was harder than I gave it credit for. Either way, I was sticking with my commitment to volunteer at Flyers C25K programme, now in it’s ninth and final week. It was actually lovely to run alongside the group, who had by this point built up to running for 30 mins. Doreen was in my wee group and I was impressed that she ran the whole way while simultaneously chatting. I also caught up with Claire who was tentatively running on her healed broken toe. If you remember, she inspired me to write this blog. I’m so pleased to see that she’s back running, she’s been so kind and supportive during these last few months, even though it must be frustrating not being able to get out and run herself.
3 easy miles banked, I decided to quit while I was ahead.
By Wednesday I started to feel a bit more energised. I clocked up 10 hours sleep on Tuesday night, which seemed to have played a magical trick on my physiology. Mad dreams though. In one, I had a full on karate battle with a couple trying to break into my house. We ran along all the roofs of the houses in my street before the finale on top of Montrose steeple where, victorious, I sent them hurtling to their deaths. I checked that my Garmin had clocked the activity before heading home.
I ran a lovely 5 mile loop with Laura and Emily C, using a route that we had previously avoided as it generally involved a nasty westerly headwind. It was great to catch up with both, and Laura was running really well, having just recently recovered from whooping cough. Running in crisp sunshine, with light winds, quiet roads and good conversation was such a tonic. Then, in a spooky twist, my Garmin somehow discarded my run. Prophetic dream.
I decided to have another rest day on Thursday. Check me, taking some time to properly recover. Sadly, my dreams were of the garden variety.
Friday was busy with work, but I had a window in the afternoon to run the 5 training miles I missed on Thursday. I had a go at fartleking, intervals conveniently placed around some Strava segments. Four segments done (including one of the local BMX track – haha) and I bagged 3 ladies crowns, a 2nd place and a 400m PB. Not bad. It felt good to engage the fast-twitch muscle fibres.
Saturday was rest by proxy. Bound for Inverness with Laura and her Dad mid-morning, I was all set for Sunday’s 7 mile/half-marathon composite with a 3 hour drive to fill with quiet contemplation. As mentioned in Week 9, I had asked the oracle that is Running Friends Scotland whether this would be a good way to run 20 miles (albeit with a slight gap between runs). The response was mostly positive. I had already run 20 miles a couple of weeks ago so the split didn’t bother me too much. At the time of asking, a lovely runner from Giffnock messaged me to say she had a similar plan. Finola (what a lovely unusual name) is training for Manchester so we hatched a plan to run in the morning prior to the Inverness half and get our 7 miles in together.
Laura and I had a fine relaxed Saturday, visiting Laura’s Highland relatives and being fed and entertained throughout. Laura’s Auntie Morag, Uncle Iain and cousin Donald made sure we had a proper feed and comfy bed the night before, while her Dad (also Iain) made sure to tell everyone that I probably had coronavirus having recently returned from Milan. I played along, allowing him to savour the few seconds before his leg-pulling was revealed. I can confirm that even though I was a stranger, the legendary Highland hospitality was very much in evidence and I was treated like one of their own.
After a decent night’s sleep and a bowl of porridge, I was taxied by Morag to meet Finola. We had chatted over messenger and connected on Strava by this point, so I was confident I wasn’t meeting an axe-wielding murderer. It’s funny how you would think twice before meeting folk you’ve only chatted with online, but if they are a fellow runner, you don’t hesitate. Finola arranged to meet at 10am as she had a commitment to run the half marathon with a brilliant organisation called JAPES, who give people with mobility challenges the opportunity to participate in running events. We needed to be back a little earlier than originally planned which worked out great as we would be done by 11.30am leaving me an hour to catch Laura and drop off my bag before making our way to the start line.
The run was perfect really. A little windy on the way out, but we soon got chatting about our respective running journeys and upcoming marathons and the miles flew in. I was surprised to discover that Finola has only just recovered from a seriously broken wrist (that she sustained during a half marathon, at mile 11, but went on to complete anyway!) It made me think about all the hardships and back story that lots of runners must carry…and that she is nails! She started her marathon journey a year ago, and 6 months ago it looked sketchy. But here she is, 4 weeks to go and killing it! I wish her all the best for Manchester and hope to see her again at a race in the future. This was her and her team on Sunday.
Back at Inverness Sports Centre, I bumped into fellow Flyer Keith B and his partner Kirsty. He was looking fresh and ready to go…a PB to smash perhaps, but giving nothing away. I concluded that the route wasn’t especially hilly, the weather conditions good and his recent running form excellent, a PB was on the cards. Modest as ever, he shyly thanked me for my optimism, agreed we should try to grab a post race pint and I went off to find Laura.
Almost straight away, Laura and I were reunited and fought our way through the masses to grab a quick coffee and loo stop (this took an eternity but luckily we found some extra loos in the cafe upstairs). We were also treated to a pipe band. How uniquely Scottish!
Suitably full of beans (of the coffee variety), bag dropped and loos visited, we made our way down to the start line on Bught Road, which runs alongside River Ness. We nabbed a couple of photos, taken by some very friendly marshalls who put up with me in ‘could you do a landscape one, up a bit, down a bit….make sure you get the signs in…..thaaaaanks’ bossy photographer mode. A new Strava profile pic – win!
At 12.30, in the 1:50-2:10 pace group, we shuffled forward for a bit…then we were off, headed towards Inverness Castle. We passed the castle and looped back across the river at a nice 9:54 min/mile pace for the first mile. It was quite congested so we tucked in and enjoyed the atmosphere. Lots of spectators lined the streets for the next mile or so, then we started to spread out a little as we headed out of town along Dores Road. Picking up to an average 9:00 – 9:30 min/mile pace along some lovely woodland lined undulating roads, we turned left into a road along South Loch Ness trail around mile 4. After this, I pretty much lost all sense of direction so I just settled in and tried to keep to a half marathon pace of 9:40 for a few miles. Around mile 7, in a residential street, a bloke had taken it upon himself to set up a 5 piece drum kit and play some simple beats to the appreciative runners and spectators, while (his?) kids handed out sweets. On any other day, he’d have been sectioned. I wish I’d taken a photo, but I wasn’t quick enough!
By mile 8 or 9, I had to stop and do some foot taping maintenance. I had nearly fallen flat on my face on a narrow section of pavement, and twisted my foot a little. No damage done, but I felt my taping come away. It was congested with runners when I tripped, but you know, if it wasn’t for all the arms reaching out behind and in front of me, I would have fallen. Herd immunity. I’ll forever be grateful to those who instinctively reached out and saved me.
By mile 12 (technically mile 19) – we were back along the River Ness, retracing our route from earlier. Poor Laura really did have a job keeping me going. I’m pretty sure my moaning about my glutes hurting was testing her sanity. Mind you, she did have her bone conducting headphones on…maybe she just muted me. Somehow I made it through without breaking into a resigned walk, we spotted a cheery Keith and Kirsty headed for town, got a second wind, and picked up our pace towards the finish line, which is on a running track. Checking the finish time, which felt more like 2:15, we were chuffed to see it was actually only 2:06. I heard them announce Windy Wilson cross the finish line just before us (saw him after too, but he looked too knackered to approach for a selfie).
Then the highlight of my week happened. I picked up my medal and race t-shirt which wasn’t blue, grey, pink or a even a garish fluorescent eyesore. IT WAS BLACK. Those who know me will appreciate that a black race t shirt is something I’ve coveted since I started running. Better still, the design is funny and clever.
I’ll not pretend that doing the 20 miles was easy. It wasn’t, especially the final 2 or 3. But, as always when you finish a race, I felt elated to have completed them. I think I will hit the 20 mile wall in a few weeks. Time will tell if I have the inner fortitude to keep going.
Thanks for reading. Keith did smash his half marathon PB btw. He’ll not say too much I’m sure but Laura and I think he’s a star!