With the main bulk of training done, the Eden Marathon is looming (quite large) on the horizon. To say I am getting a little bit nervous is an understatement. I do however have form for a pre-race fret. I don’t think I have ever gone into any race, even races where I have trained really well and smashed out PBs, feeling confident or completely ready.
Since straining my calf, right at the beginning of this process, the training has steadily improved, and I have now run more in this calendar year than any other – with three months to spare. In fact I have run further in the 30 days of September than I did in the 365 days of 2012 or 2014. I should probably point out at this point that I have never been a high mileage runner. This steady progress recently culminated in a, slightly disappointing, 19.5 mile run (disappointed as I had aimed for 20 miles and by the time I stopped and realised, I wasn’t starting again). This was my last long run before the training plan drops down to shorter progressive and fast finish runs as I begin to taper. What surprised me, was how much I enjoyed the long run and also how much easier it was than I was expecting. When I say ‘easier’ I don’t mean easy, just not as bowl devastatingly hideous as I was anticipating. I was also really pleased by the pace, without having to try and force it I was quicker on this run than the second 10km run on my ‘double day’ earlier in the week. I guess this means that the training plan is working and the results are beginning to show out on the road.
Do I commit to it with an out and back, or go for multiple shorter loops for the longest of my long runs? Go all in with an out and back and I could come unstuck a fair way from home, or do I run laps past my house giving myself the chance, or temptation, to bail-out early. Decision made, and I headed out before sunrise for an out and back towards the commons on the edge of Dartmoor, to the north of Plymouth. This route uses a disused railway line, and although it was up hill all the way out it was only on a slight gradient – is that cheating? The advantage of this, as a justification, is that there is no stopping for traffic, no micro recovering; you just have to keep on keeping on. It’s also much prettier than running around a city. The hardest part of this run, apart from getting up at 6 on a Saturday, was a stretch of about a mile along a main road back into Plymouth; it wasn’t so much the traffic – which had picked up by the time I got back – but the lack of features. I found it really hard to stay focused and keep my rhythm with no features. It’s a regular issue I have, which includes running across a suspension bridge over the River Tamar, but it really seemed to drag (and drag). Once I got back to more variety, both visual and topography, I began to feel it again. What is weird is that during this part of the run I was actually running quicker than the average pace for the run.
Earlier this week I received an email with my digital race info and then my race numbers in the post, which really brought home how close this marathon is, so close I can see the whites of its demonic eyes. As I reflect on my preparation, and begin to turn my attention to racing rather than training, I am in surprisingly confident mood. First and foremost I am confident it is going to hurt, at times a lot. I am also confident that I can finish, and I am also hopeful that I can do so within my original target. But whatever the result from the marathon, I’ll have learnt something – even if it is I can’t run a marathon.