Saturday, 23 February 2013

Marathon Training: Week 1

After my first ever marathon experience at Windermere last May I knew it was likely that I'd be signing up again this year (though I do have a hazy memory of swearing to myself that I'd never put myself through it again at around mile 20...oh well), so just before Christmas I joined the Vegetarian Cycling and AC and took advantage of the earlybird entries offer for the marathon - bargain! The marathon is put on by the Brathay Trust, and starts and finishes in the grounds of the wonderful Brathay Hall by Lake Windermere in the Lake District; in my view there is no better place on Earth to experience the utter agony and self-doubt of the marathon runner. Everything was in place for a steady trek upwards to the necessary fitness levels, until I was advised by my doctor just after Christmas to take six weeks' rest from my running schedule, with a rather tortuous prescription of no more than 10 miles a week. That's a third of the running fun I normally aim for!

But finally, after 6 weeks of drastically reduced running, I've started training for the big race on May 19th, and have set a 13-week schedule to get me around the 26.2 mile course as comfortably as possible. I'm not too fussed about improving on last year's time (though sub 4:30 would be a nice-to-have) but I really want a more comfortable experience this time - I want to feel a bit less broken at mile 24 if nothing else!

Surprisingly, I've had absolutely no problem getting back into the swing of things, helped in part by an ache that has grown steadily since early January with every passing runner I see. Last Sunday I was eager to get back out there, and though I felt heavy and tired it was more heavenly than I even remember it being. I've missed running, and my enthusiasm in the first week of marathon training couldn't have been higher!

I've made a few changes to my schedule from last year, and am giving myself one extra day off in the week where I'm taking a resistance class in the gym instead (regular squats and lunges have improved my PB almost effortlessly - I'm all up for more of the same). To make up the miles I'm trying a new approach, as suggested by my super speedy colleagues at Up & Running, whereby I do a speed session in the morning and then a more gentle run in the evening, thus increasing distance while also allowing me to have a bit more rest - perfect!

My total mileage for this week was supposed to be 33 miles, but came in at 38 thanks to a spontaneous running date with Daniel on Friday evening. I did two resistance classes (one of which involved a 'team game' (ha!) to see who could hold the plank the longest. I WON out of all the 12 women there!), one interval session and one hill session. My long run on Sunday was a nice muddy affair, taking in York's surrounding countryside which seemed to be empty of all humankind: I love feeling like the only person on the Earth when I'm out on a running adventure. It was only a 9-miler to ease me back into distance running, but I felt it big time, probably due in part to the drinking I'd been doing the night before - fun but not clever.

One week in and I'm loving it, and I can't wait for my 15-miler tomorrow morning though I'm sure it will be tough after such a long break. The last 15-miler I did was on 27th December with my Dad, and it was freezing and quite unpleasant in those last few miles. I have no doubt that tomorrow will be similar. One thing I'd forgotten from last year is what hungry work running is: a few hours after breakfast and I feel as if I've started to digest my brain, my blood feels starved of sugar from my eyeballs to my toenails, and I raid the kitchen like a madwoman trying to find something - anything - that will satisfy my cravings. So I've filled this week's virtual shopping trolley with yogurt, milk, granola, malt loaf and bags and bags of fruit to try and combat these sudden hunger breakdowns with a healthy feast rather than a sugar-packed bowl of kid's cereals. I'd prefer it if crashing and burning weren't par for the course, but at the same time I have a rather lovely white dress to wear in September, and the last thing I want to be doing is dieting before the big day. As my friend and running partner Jess observed on our Tuesday run, rather than running to eat, why not eat to run?!

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