About 3 years ago, after a serious good for age attempt where I achieved a time of 3:46:40 marathon while needing 3:50 to qualify for London, I was convinced I had reached my ultimate goal. Getting a good for age qualification had consumed me for a few years and I had run marathons 9 weeks apart trying to reach my ultimate objective – to run the London Marathon. Anyway, on April 7th 2019 at Manchester, I did it. I worked with my coach who had devised a great plan for me and got the time I needed… or so I thought.
I went away that summer and started training for my first ultra, waiting for that confirmation to drop in my inbox. To my utter dismay the email came in and began with “unfortunately”. It turns out several FV40s had also qualified with times quicker than me and I missed out by 55 seconds. “I am never ever, ever, EVER running a road marathon again” were the next words out of my mouth.
I was absolutely gutted. I had worked so hard to achieve the goal – I had run hundreds of miles, got up at stupid o’clock to fit them in around work, ran in all weathers and was convinced I had done it. To say I had lost my motivation to try again was an understatement.
Falling in Love with Trail Running
Over the course of the next few months, I fell in love with the trails and ultrarunning and didn’t care anymore about marathons or any other road distances for that matter. I had a new found passion for trail running and a head full of dreams and road running was like the ex that had cheated on me. It was going to be binned off and I didn’t want anything more to do with it.
Ultra running and trail running became my new hobby. I was hooked on the trails, the local countryside, the wildlife, the views and the feeling of being out for hours on end training for whatever ultra we had signed up to. I loved trail running – so much so I created this website so we could help others fall in love with it. Going from trail to road running again seemed a highly unlikely prospect for me.
And Then Injury Strikes
That was all well and good until my running companion went and got himself injured. This was almost as bad as me being injured. He was the navigator, the one that knew all the trails and the one that would listen to me waffle on for hours and laugh at me when I fell over. All of a sudden off road running on my own for hours every Sunday lost its appeal and I started to be concerned about being a lone woman on the local trails without any company. It just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t sure what I would do – run shorter off road distances maybe in areas that I was familiar with?
I know (lightbulb moment), I’ll run another road marathon while he recovers. I’ve got loads of miles in my legs, they tell me I’m stronger… I can do this. Besides having turned 45, GFA was now 3:53 and not 3:50. All I needed to do was the same again and I could get that London place. So that’s what happened. I started to train for a road marathon. I had 16 weeks and a plan! I needed new road shoes first though! It had been ages since I’d invested in any. I ended up investing in a couple of pairs of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, I even got a little bit excited for a while – new shoes right?
I Had Forgotten How Hard/Boring Road Running is
Man alive – I had forgotten how hard road running is. It’s just running on flat surfaces on pavements and roads. You can’t stop to climb over a stile or look at a pretty view and you can’t eat at regular intervals. What kind of running is this? 18 miles – 20 miles – 22 miles – OMG I’m bored, my feet hurt, my toenail. There is no wildlife apart from an urban fox as sunrise and the odd cat here and there. The noise of traffic, crossing roads, waiting for cars. Yep… I had forgotten just how hard and monotonous it could be.
Please don’t get me wrong – I am not dissing anyone that road runs – I’m doing it aren’t I and I have respect for anyone that runs!!! However, I am not my usual happy self. Road running feels more like I am going through the motions a bit. I am just ticking miles off a plan. I am grateful to be able to run but I do feel like trail running is my therapy and that the road miles just don’t do the same.
I think the thing I’ve found the hardest is keeping my heart rate low. My legs can go on for miles but they don’t like maintaining a pace for too long and my toes certainly do not like the constant bashing they get. Where are the gates and stiles, the food breaks, the hill walks? I even miss the mud!
Long Runs on the Road
I had a howler of a 20 mile long run last week where I was convinced I would never be able to do a marathon at 9 minute mile pace let alone my target pace of 8:30. I’m sure that’s the maranoia but at 12 miles on a sunny afternoon feeling constantly thirsty the next 8 may as well have been 28! Anyway shuffling through the last few miles I finally did it.
Then came the big one. The 22 mile run – the one I always do 4 weeks out from a marathon. It has to be a good run or the demons start creeping in. The 22 mile for me is about keeping a steady pace with minimal stops. I don’t add on goal marathon pace sections. I just aim for a minute slower than marathon pace and for a steady non-stop run. I did it – 9:21 pace for 22 miles – I was even able to speed up a little at the end and still felt OK. To say I felt good was an understatement which I am sure was a mixture of relief and excitement.
3 weeks from Race Day
I am now a little over 3 weeks from race day. The plan now is to reduce the mileage down to 15 then 13 and finally 10 and trust in the taper process making sure I get to the start line un-injured. Am I ready? I should be but who knows what will happen? All I can do now is get to the start line in one piece. Oh, and my plan for after? I have booked Butcombe 56 miler as my favourite running companion is on the road to recovery so it will soon be time to get back out on the trails again with maybe a break to train for London if my plan comes together! Hurrah.
In the meantime, I will run my next long run on Sunday then sit with my feet up watching everyone running the London marathon, tracking my running friends that have worked so hard, being inspired to reach that goal! And of course, there will be a blog when I have finished and perhaps a marathon taper blog that examines every niggle, sniffle, bad dreams and everything else that comes during those last few weeks. Wish me luck!!!
A great read Sheryl, I enjoyed that! I have every faith you’ll get your marathon goal time and GFA in a few weeks time, and can’t wait to see how the day goes for you!