A good session on Tuesday and a good race on Sunday.
Monday: AM 11km easy / PM 12km easy (23)
Tuesday: AM 12km easy / PM road session: 3 sets of (mile / half mile) off 90s, 2x90s (28)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: 16km easy (16)
Friday: AM 16 easy / PM 9km easy (25)
Saturday: rest (0)
Sunday: Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run 10 mile, 1st in 52:55 (20)
Week total: 128km
Taken from my training log.
A good session on Saturday and a race midweek. Fairly happy with how training’s going.
Monday: 15km – easy out, quicker back with tailwind. (15)
Tuesday: AM 10km steady before work, PM 7km easy with Stephanie (17)
Wednesday: BMC 1200 – 3:22.33. Very windy. Last at 400, moved through. ~68,67,66. 10 min tempo after. (16)
Thursday: 20km easy (20)
Friday: 15km easy (15)
Saturday: 2×3200 alternating and tempo laps (70/83) with mile jog between: 10:14 and 10:13, 2km barefoot (18)
Sunday: 26km moderate – 1:45 (26)
Week total: 127km
I’ve done a couple of races recently. It’s been fun. Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon in my home town and last weekend some club-mates and I ran a local 20 mile race as a warm up for the London Marathon.
This race was notable for a few things. One was that I was happy with my time and that it confirmed that my training has been going well, and the other was that for the first time ever I received an email from another athlete taking part. It was sent via our club secretary; here is an excerpt.
I politely (and very slightly through gritted teeth) applauded those lapping me. Of the 7 or 8 who did lap me, the only one who acknowledged this was your representative, Ed Banks. And not only did he say thank you, he had the breath and good manners to wish me good luck as well.
Obviously it was a pleasure to receive such a kind email from a complete stranger, but it got me thinking and I felt compelled to reply. To paraphrase my response, I told her that although she admires those of us towards the front of races, the respect and admiration is certainly reciprocated. She probably cannot identify with my situation, nor can I with hers, but ultimately we are doing the same thing. Running. The only difference is that she is doing it for longer, and I have a huge amount of respect for this. I know that nearly everyone who starts a race is there to work hard, to graft, and to put themselves through large amounts of pain in the hope they will succeed. The sender of this email was out on the road for nearly 4 hours, far longer than I have ever run for in my life.
If anyone is the hero in this story it is her and not me.
I really like the 5k at the moment. I think it’s my new favourite distance.
Yesterday evening, Rich and I went down to Gloucester to run a road 5k that is renowned for producing fast times. The course is pancake-flat and has very few turns in it. His aim was to break 16:30. Mine was to run a personal best.
We thought that the one thing that could have slowed us down was not knowing the course but fortunately we got there early enough to be able to jog most of the course and see what it had in store. No nasty surprises there though. We entered the race, resisting our stomachs’ urges to can the race in favour of a chinese (the White Horse pub doubles up as a chinese restaurant) and made our way to the start. You know you’ve travelled a long way for a race when the organisers don’t recognise your club name.
After the entertainment provided by a very grumpy race official and a drunken man on a bike, the race got underway. The course had mile markers rather than k markers, which I always think is a strange way of marking the distance. Surely it is easier for competitors if the markers are for a fraction of the race distance. Two runners from Bristol and West went off fast at the front, followed by a pack of about 5. These guys were running at a quicker pace than I was comfortable with so I hung back, trusting my pace judgement after Tuesday’s 3 x 1 mile session at 5k pace. Rich tucked in behind me. The first mile marker was behind me before my watch showed 5 minutes. 4:58 on the clock. I was pleased with this as I felt I still had more to give.
As I suspected, the pack of 5 began to slow in the second mile, paying the price for some enthusiastic early pacing. I gradually reeled them in, trying not to rush things and wear myself out bridging the gap. When I got just behind the group I remembered what our club’s team manager for the road relays always says: when you catch someone up, go straight past them and don’t let them hang on to you. So I did. 9:56 for 2 miles.
This put me in third behind the two Bristol guys. One of them was clearly a class act and was pulling away for the win but the other was tiring. By this point, another runner from Cheltenham was shadowing me after surging out of the group behind. I chased down the Bristol athlete with about half a mile to go and the Cheltenham athlete went with me.
Looking at my watch as it displayed 13 minutes, I decided to launch my finishing kick early. We had come off the loop in the course and were back on the stretch of road we started on, running back towards the start/finish. I put in a surge, thinking it would be enough to break the Cheltenham athlete. But then with about 200 metres to go he came back at me, charging towards the line. I tried to respond but the hard running had taken its toll. I pushed on towards the line and was the third person to cross it. The timer shouted “31” as I did and I knew this meant 15:31, a new personal best; 15 seconds faster than I’ve run on the road and 5 seconds faster than I have on the track.
Rich crossed the line a few positions back in 16:26. He held his position well, and like me, achieved what he had set out to achieve.
It was worth the journey, and worth getting back at 10 o’clock on a week night for. A flat course is one thing, but having people to race against is another. The main attraction of this race was that we knew there would be lots of depth around our level. Our local parkrun is fairly quick but it is still hard to run fast there without people to race against. Perhaps we need to start venturing further afield to find races like this.
Yesterday evening I had a catch up with two of my closest running friends, the core of my training group and the guys I do several of my training sessions with every week. It was good fun. We sat in Mark’s living room, ate some pringles and popcorn, put our feet up and watched the full 3 hours of footage of the London Marathon. Ace.
Apart from our unanimous agreement that, amongst other things, Mary Keitany is a running goddess, Emmanuel Mutai is a machine from another planet, and that British men can’t run marathons, we were united in our view that none of us had really achieved what we had set out to at the start of our most recent marathon training cycle. First there was Mark, the evening’s host, who had got into great shape leading up to the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon (56km) in South Africa. He managed to run a 2:06 20 miler and a 16:12 5k in the two months leading up to the race and was well on course to break the 4 hour barrier and claim his first silver medal at the event. Illness in the weeks leading up to the race caused him to miss his target time, and he ran 4:17. Whilst this is a very respectable time for a hilly 35 mile race in the heat, Mark is the first to admit that he could have run quicker in different circumstances.
The second of the trio was Gracie, also afflicted by illness in the two weeks preceding his race, the London Marathon. A tough and strong willed man, he started the race despite not feeling 100% and began to struggle soon after the gun. To his great credit, he continued to the finish, running a time of 3:36, over half an hour slower than he had trained for. He had done the miles, done the sessions, but wasn’t able to cash in his banked mileage on the day.
Which leaves me. Readers of this blog will know that I had a bad day and didn’t even finish the London Marathon, having to be scraped off the pavement by a police officer somewhere in the Docklands. After four hard months of specific training, I don’t even have a marathon time to show for it. Not even a bad marathon time. No time.
Now it’s easy to view these setbacks as proof that our training was wrong, that we did the wrong work, that we were not adequately prepared to run the times we were claiming to be capable of. This might be true or it might not, but my personal view is that different forces were at play. Don’t worry; I’m not going to start making the classic mistake that losers make and start making excuses. I do feel, however that this was just a bad day. Well, three bad days.
What running teaches you is that you are not always going to be successful. You can have the perfect build up but still not deliver on the day. For every 5 great races you have, there will invariably be one stinker of a race, and it is more often that the one bad race of the six is the one that you remember the most. We spent a disproportionate amount of time reflecting on the bad things that happen, whilst forgetting to reflect on our successes. Arguably, this is what makes a successful athlete – the ability to learn from setbacks and build upon them. But I do feel that you must learn from the good as well as from the bad. Was it the mileage that helped you to that half marathon PB? Was it the hill sessions that gave you the strength to dig in on that last climb of the cross country race? Was it the extra rest day that you took the week before that helped you to the great 5k time?
This is one of the many ways in which running is a metaphor for life. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you do not achieve what you had hoped. Sometimes you are disappointed. Admittedly, it is the hard working and the fortunate who are disappointed the least, but everyone has a bad day sometimes. Mine was on April 17th, and I am going to learn from it.