Training journal | week 12 | Beachy head marathon


Back in 2012 just after the most uplifting and momentous three weeks of sport in London, I had a sort of momentous event of my own. I had an entry to the Berlin marathon.

Iconic, fast, flat and with entry easily secured in the days before ballots. Berlin was a wonderful weekend in a wonderful city. I could have happily moved out there. The marathon itself was everything you would expect from a world major. Seamless organisation, iconic route, weighty medal and wonderful marshals. It also turned out to be one of the most dramatic marathons I’ve ever done.

The race advertises a 6 hour 15 minute cut off. At the time, I was semi-trained, but a busy summer had put pay to a ‘perfect’ build up. In any respect, 6.15 was comfortably do-able and I arrived at the start with a plan and a happy countenance.

Berlin is a fast course, which invariably attracts fast runners. It was telling when the start pens were allocated in 15 minute sections between 2 hours 30 and 3 hours 30. Everyone running 4 hours plus were collated into the last pen. Which inevitably meant a starting position at the back of the race. I had also assumed the cut off related to chip time (ie the clock started when you crossed the start line). Wrong again, it was gun time and would occur at a specific time of day. 3.15pm to be precise.

The happy countenance slipped slightly. 

It took almost half an hour to cross the start line. Rather than 6 hours 15 minutes, I now had 5 hours 45 minutes to complete the route. A much more challenging proposal. I tried not to panic, sticking to the plan to run for 2 minutes, then walk for 1 minute – my traditional ‘blag it’ marathon approach. It worked beautifully for the half and I hit half way around 2 hours, 50 minutes. Still feeling good and very, very aware I had no ‘slippage’ room I kept going. It started to get uncomfortable around 16 miles, painful by 18 and around 22 miles in I was hanging and just wanted the whole thing to stop. 

I wondered what happened at the cut off. Would they adopt the Comrades Marathon approach and turn their backs while firing a gun to indicate the finish (unlikely). Or, would they be more Ironman, stop the clock and remove medals and finishers t-shirts from the finish (more likely). Would there be a chance to sneak in or would marshals stand across the line and resolutely prevent people from crossing the line. This was Germany, and Germans are renown for efficiency and discipline. I imagined there would be almost no chance to sneak past. 

So, I had no choice but to carry on and bury myself. Weeping gently as I made my way through the city centre. I watched folks who had already finished displaying their medal, chatting, laughing and drinking beer.

Bastards, the lot of them.  

Finally, gloriously, I turned the final left hand corner and stared up the wide avenue to the Brandenburg gate. It was a depressingly long run way.

It was going to be close.

I noticed marshals lining the approach with tape in their hands. They looked menacing and I feared the worst. I was now close enough to see the clock, I had less than 30 seconds to cross the line. I used every last ounce of strength I had and picked up the pace, crossing the line in 6 hours 14 minutes and 57 secs (chip time 5.48.37). 

I had made it. 

Approximately four weeks later I stood at the foot of Beachy Head for the start of the marathon. I stared up at the sharp climb from Bede’s Prep School, the race HQ. I had done this race before and knew what was coming and yet, the happy countenance was back. There were no impending cut offs in this event. At least none that would threaten a happy demeanour. The weather was good, visibility was clear and I had all bloody day to finish the race.

That race was one of the easiest races I’ve ever participated in. I embraced every hill, took in the amazing views and loved every single step.

Last Sunday G and I lined up again for what would hopefully be my seventh Beachy Head marathon finish. After nailing six finishes quite comfortably, the seventh has been a challenge.  For the last three years, illness, injury and plain old lack of bravado has meant we’ve transferred our marathon entries to the 10k. So, in truth, even starting at the start line donning a marathon number was a win.

We had no goal other than to enjoy ourselves and run for as long as we could. We were delighted to get to tea and buns at Mile 17 before getting the bus home. Although I was disappointed not to get to the end, this race is not the most important battle right now. Next year when we return for their 40th anniversary, we’ll get the job done.

My Beachy Head marathon 2012 experience always comes to mind when I line up at the start line of any race. A positive affirmation that even the hardest race can feel easy, depending on perspective and goal. That whole experience marries up quite nicely with the views of Matt Fitzgerald in his book, ‘How bad do you want it – mastering the psychology of mind over muscle’. In which he argues, that ease of perceived exertion is very strongly linked to success. Especially when athletes perform at a level higher than thought possible for their physiology.

We’re now a quarter of the way into the training. Most traditional Ironman training plans start around 30 weeks out. After a great 10 week training base, things are starting to feel easier and with that, we’re winning the war if not each individual battle. With 30 weeks to go, the real hard work starts now.

Training journal | week 10 + 11/41 | tenacious illness

Oh golly these last two weeks have been bloody frustrating. I’ve been hampered by a cold/breathing problems that just Will. Not. Go. Away.

This week is a story of glimpses of exhilaration and reasonable performance in between the lurgy.

Week 10 started off at a fair kilter. Recovery runs and rides to shake out the legs after the excitement of the week before. Jubilation was short lived as a fever and general feeling of meh hit Tuesday.

I shuffled sessions around to buy some recovery time then hit the garage for the brick ride/run on the Wednesday. After just 5 minutes on the bike I was heaving and sweating like a good ‘un. The only problem being my HR was languishing in Zone 1. I worked my ass off to try and get into the prescribed session, which I managed… just before giving up the brick run as a bad job. Calling it a day, I showered and headed to bed to try and get some recovery.

The rest of the week became an unscheduled rest break in the effort to get better. Nights were sweat fests and even more disconcerting, I’d developed what could only be described as a death rattle, loud enough to keep me awake and I’m sure, hampered any recovery. 

Feeling mildly better on Saturday we headed over to Woolacombe for a weekly dose of #Vitaminsea. I swear, I’m addicted to the place. The purpose of the trip was twofold. Firstly, to get in my scheduled long slow run (Beachy head marathon is looming people) and secondly, try out my new cheat sticks AKA hiking poles. (After literally years of envying walkers with cheat sticks at Beachy Head, I have finally succumbed – I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either).

Every week, G and I turn up at parkrun and try to convince ourselves and each other we are going to take it easy. We all know how that pans out right? Well this week, it was imperative that I did. I didn’t want to make myself worse. So, despite the almost perfect conditions, I walked sections I’d normally push through. I took scheduled walk breaks on the sand and resisted the urge to push on the last mile uphill sections. 

The result was really quite surprising, I finished in my second quickest time ever. Comfortably smashing my old PB that I’d been trying to beat for months. Testament to an improvement in fitness – woohoo, I’ll take that.

Once through the finish line procedure, G and I headed back to the car to pick up some water and my hiking poles and off we headed to Morte Point to carry on the run/walk. The poles were great and I’m looking forward to using them in anger.

The following day we headed back to the garage for another turbo set. I was struggling to breathe again and worked for every damn minute of the session before spending the rest of the day on the couch. Monday’s speed work was aborted. I was gutted. I (ahem) love 400m reps but couldn’t even catch my breath for at least 10 minutes after just one rep.

Tuesday was a rest day and then Wednesday, for the swim we had planned something special.

On arrival at Bude sea pool

Westward Ho! open water swimming group, in collaboration with Bude Open Water Swimmers (BOWS), had planned a night swim over at Bude sea pool. It was scheduled for 6.30pm kick off, just as it was getting dark but before high tide, due around 8pm. Although only around 35 miles away, Bude is a good hours drive and so G and I set off early to get there and make our introductions before getting in the water. 

We were there early and rather than wait, made out way to the agreed meeting point near the huts above the pool. I was really quite alarmed that the sea at this point was already smashing over the wall of the sea pool and that sea was really very rough. A lady saw us and waved us into the rather large concrete hut. She explained the spring tide was much bigger than expected and if we were to get in we needed to go now. Even if just for a bob around.

With the promised of tea after, we stripped off to swimming costumes and with no time to get into wetsuits, ran down the steps and eased ourselves into the water. It was cold but much warmer than I was expecting. The edges of the pool were indistinct. Big waves were rolling in off the sea and we were shunted and pushed about by the increase swell. We swam a little front crawl but mostly just tried to ride the buffeting. 

After about 10 minutes, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get out and instead would get swept out to sea. G and I made our way back to the steps, sometimes using the buoys (there as permanent ‘lane markers’ in the ‘quiet’ part of the pool) to pull myself along. Being careful not to get decapitated by them as the waves pushed and pulled.

We clambered out and walked up the steps to hot tea and chatter. It was a marvellous experience and worth the long drive for 15 minutes of sea therapy. 

Inevitably the fever and general feeling of being unwell returned on Thursday and once again, I shuffled sessions to take advantage of a scheduled rest day, bringing it forward.

We headed back to Woolacombe on Saturday for our long slow run. The forecast was wet, consolidating what has been a very wet week. We drove through some very heavy rain but fortunately managed to dodge the rain at the other end.

Instead of getting up early, G and I had succumbed to tea in bed and so there was no time for a quick half hour warm up before parkrun. We lined up for park run, a diminished field this week, and set off.

The first kilometre went quickly. I was at the back, the last of the runners, trying to take it easy and still keep up with the rear of the field. This time the sand was really soft, the easier conditions of late gone. The beach became a trudge with lots of walking. But, I was managing to keep my heart rate under control. This was new territory for these conditions. Even up the dune and the steady climb back to the finish. It was all just a bit easier.

In the end I clocked my third faster time over the course. But this one I was most happy with, as it had been an honest course. I’m more confident that despite feeling rubbish, the improvement in fitness is now measurable and tangible.

G and I garnered our breath then turned around to complete the course in the opposite direction. A different perspective is never a bad thing.

At time of writing, the death rattle and coughing are still unwelcome visitors. But hopefully, with an easier week this week, recovery will be strong in time for Beachy Head on Saturday.

Training journal | week 9/41 | breakthrough week

I came back to running in my late 20’s when I decided to join the police service and needed to prepare for the fitness test. After a few miserable weeks (where I insisted on channelled Paula Radcliffe for the first 100m – until I collapsed in a heap of heaving sweat), I learned the importance of pacing and fell back in love with it.

For the first few years I ran mostly on my own, until I landed a job in the training unit at Gypsy Hill police station in Lambeth. There I agreed to go out running with the wife of a colleague, who was returning to running after having a baby. After the first few runs where we constantly discussed pace (too fast, too slow?) We settled into a rhythm, improved and then joined the local running club.

During that time we established regular routes of varying lengths. In those days I lived in Sutton, a mostly uninspiring place to run and so I would travel to Ashtead to run on the common and the Surrey Hills to run in places my partner was more familiar with. As we tracked out our runs, invariably we would reach a fork in the path and she would ask, shall we take the easy or the hard path. I would always choose the hard path.

It wasn’t until some time later I realised a) that’s what we always did and b) taking the easy path was even an option. I figured that if you went long or hilly (the definition of hard in this example) there would always be more of a benefit later. ‘Hills are friends’ was a mantra long before I met the pirates and was introduced to the rules of training. Choosing the ‘easy’ path was never really an option.

These days, I find myself constantly choosing the easier option and wondering what happened to that fearless girl.

It came to a head a couple of weeks ago when I said here I didn’t believe the task I had set myself was achievable. Quite rightly that comment was questioned and I’m grateful to you all for doing so. I’ve spent the last week or so prodding, poking and analysing strategies to turn it around.

I’m currently following a training plan set by my coach, Jon from 4 Performance. It takes quite a lot of the decision making out of the training and provide accountability for any choices I do make. It also provides a ‘why’ for each session, something I’ve started to observe with more clarity. Understanding what the session is trying to achieve helps to piece together the bigger picture. Each session achieved also helps to build confidence in the end result. I guess the difficulty is that sometimes, the increments are so small, at first it’s difficult to see any progress.

So, this week has been one of those breakthrough weeks where progress has become a little more tangible. I felt it in my recovery run during the week. It’s hard to describe but it is there in the ease in breathing, the ability to vary pace ever so slightly, the ability to hold better posture.

The positivity was derailed slightly when I woke up Thursday feeling rotten and woolly headed, a dreaded cold. I took an impromptu rest day and shifted the sessions to Friday instead, which did have the effect of loading the weekend somewhat. But on Friday I felt a lot better, settled the swim session without drama and then after work headed to the garage for a loaded session on the turbo.

I could feel the session in my legs on Saturday morning, when I headed out for a long run. This session was split into three. An initial warm up along the undulating South West Coast Path out and back to Woolacombe before doing the parkrun then turning round and headed back down to the beach to Woolacombe Village to finish the session.

My legs felt strong on the downhill sections but on the up, golly they were leaden. Half an hour later, we were lining up to a much depleted parkrun turn out this week, despite being bolstered by around three quarters by tourists. They including the local running club from Ilfracoombe who had come to ‘take over’ the marshalling for the day. I’d already made my mind up to take it steady, conscious of a weights session scheduled later and bike ride the following day.

After a week of stormy weather, it became apparent that Woolacombe becomes an ‘easier’ course in the winter. The storm winds had blown quite a lot of the fine sand from the paths, leaving sand that was firmer and more compact underneath. It made for easier running through the undulating first mile before dropping onto the beach for the flattish section. This was also quite firm and pleasant to run on. I plodded along, trying to keep my heart rate under control, in preparation for the climb up the sand dune. Soon enough, I got there in good condition and in reasonable time, a PB was potentially on.

Ignoring my screaming quads, I heaved myself up and forced myself to ‘run’ some of the bits I would normally walk. We could have had a good debate about whether my run was actually a jog or even faster than regular walking but it didn’t matter. For once I had chosen the difficult path and since matching my PB a couple of weeks before, I knew every second counted. My breathing and heart rate went stratospheric. I carefully focussed on relaxing and trying to get both under control while trying to make progress. All the while dealing with voices in my head trying to chip in with their own views.

‘ This is NOT a good idea’, they said, ‘you’ve got weight training later and you agreed to take it easy’. I tried to counter with ‘I can postpone it to Sunday or do it with lighter weights’. But they would not be quiet until, with exasperation, I shouted ‘Now is NOT the time to have this discussion’. Thank God there was no one around me to hear, but it did the job and after that, all I could hear was my laboured breathing.

The route climbs pretty much all the way from the sand dune. It was with relief I got to the top of the made road and turned left for the final climb back to the finish. I didn’t dare look at my watch but instead focussed on watching the finish come into view around the bend and my slowing pace as the course kicked up one final time. I was definitely running out of steam.

I stopped my watch on crossing the line and then looked down. I’d smashed my personal best by over a minute and a half.

I took a few moments to scan my barcode, gather my breath and my husband who’d also ran a fabulous time. Then, we turned around to head back down the hill to complete the session.

Training journal | week 8/41

For a few weeks now I’ve been looking forward to this week. It contained a session called ‘Jon’s lactic burner’ which had caught my eye.

For years, G and I beasted ourselves in the Pedal Active shed of doom. A spin studio in Ashtead. We feasting on double and triple spin classes featuring threshold sets, hill and occasionally inadvertant maximum heart rate tests.

Nothing scares me on a static bike. I was looking forward to the challenge of facing up to a ‘tough’ cycle session. On paper, the session looked quite simple. After a good warm up it jumped into 15 sets of 30 seconds of effort (at full welly mode) followed by 30 seconds of recovery – then two ‘threshold’ sessions. One ten minutes long at medium effort and one eight minutes long at hard effort. Tasty but definitely doable.

So, I was a little grumpy that the few days before it I was fighting off a cold. Going into the session my head felt really woolly. Determined to get it done, I loaded some high RPM tunes up to Spotify, plugged in and settled down to get it done.

Well, I absolutely loved it. The 30 second efforts were mad and I started to feel them by about number 7 but, because they were so short it was easy to deal with them mentally. I suspected the same would not be said of the prolonged efforts coming later. Sure enough, half way through the first threshold set, I could feel a dead legged fatigue settling into my quads. It was nothing like the second that hit like a train and left me focusing on a spot on the van parked in front of me and counting down the minutes.

I finished the session sweating so much I couldn’t see, the floor swimming and with a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

So far so good for the week which saw G and I battling with the masses in the swimming pool the day before. The session was a good one, despite the mayhem of kids launching themselves at us, bloody breaststrokers swimming three abreast and chatting like they’d not seen each other in years (this is only a six lane pool) and determined breast stroke man, coming through regardless of who was in front of him.

I did manage to punch a bloke in the lane next to me – 2 for 2 in my last two swims – and then completed the session without further incident.

The week then eased up a bit as G and I had a half marathon scheduled in for the Sunday. Early Thursday morning, I waved goodbye to G and headed off to Surrey for work. Where I had a hot date planned with the girls on Friday and rough plan to head to Mole Valley Park Run on Saturday morning before driving home.

We had a great night out. I was staying up at work, which meant a bit of a walk home so I wore my loveliest comfy boots and headed from the pub at 10.30pm to catch the train from Epsom back to Ashtead. Almost immediately disaster struck and the boots started to rub. By the time I’d hobbled back to Ashtead, I was in considerable discomfort and horrified when taking my boots off to see two enormous blisters, one on each heel and covering most of the heel. I took myself off to bed and hoped they would go down overnight.

By next morning, they were sore and angry looking. I tried putting on my running shoes but they just put pressure on the blisters. I was really worried I’d run and they’d burst and I’d end up in a much worse situation. Driving on them was really painful too. I dithered for ages, then decided to drive straight home and complete the turbo session that had been scheduled for the day. Once that was done, I’d make a decision about the half marathon the following day.

The drive wasn’t too bad and I arrived one around 2pm, immediately got changed and on the bike before I could change my mind. The cycle shoes hurt but were not rubbing too much. Although, once off the bike, the blisters were now really hard with fluid and going black.

Blimey.

I swung between prodding and ignoring the blisters for the rest of the day. Neither action really helped, the blisters were resolute.

The next morning it was absolutely chucking it down. Flood warnings had been issued for bits of the route. There was little change in the blisters and I was worried about getting them wet and tearing. So, with a heavy heart we decided not to do the half and instead headed back to the garage to complete another turbo session. This time, an hours hard effort at threshold.

Not quite the end to the week we had planned and hopefully it will be situation normal in a day or two.

Meanwhile, the boots are in the garage with instructions to think about what they did!

Training journal|week 7/41

It was Sunday morning and G and I were on the Tarka trail just outside of Bideford. I was half way through my 3rd (of 6) 400m reps when the thought occurred to me.

I was running each rep at just under 10mm pace and it was feeling hard. I have too much of a gap to bridge and with only just over 30 weeks to go, not enough time to bridge it, to achieve a finish at Ironman Lanzarote next year.

G and I had made our way to the Tarka Trail for many reasons. It was traffic free; although busy, people generally headed in the same direction; a 400m course was already marked out (it must be a common place for the running clubs in the area to complete their speedwork sessions) and most importantly, it was flat.

I always figured I would need every minute available to me to complete the race. The cut off for the swim/bike is 11 hours and 30 minutes – a very generous time in comparison with other Mdot courses – and a total reflection of how hard the bike course is over the volcanic mountains. But, the overall finish cut off is still 17 hours. So even if I scrape in off the bike, I’d only have five and a half hours to do the marathon, an average of 12.35mm pace the whole way.

I always knew it was always going to be a big ask. But, I suppose on some level, I believed if I trained diligently and followed Jon’s program to the letter then it was possible that it could be done. This was a huge chunk of reality check. I felt a bit enhausted by it but not down hearted. I’m certainly not going to give up on the training and I suppose, as long as you’re making progress there is hope.

I completed the session as set and headed back home to do the hours turbo prescribed for the second session of the day. That session was completed without drama.

The day before, I’d had another lesson handed to me by Woolacombe parkrun. G and I headed out for a warm up run before the time trial. It was shorter than previous weeks and we were back with sufficient time to go to the loo and have a drink before lining up at the start. It had been a bit wet in the run up and the sand was hard packed. With fewer tourists than in previous weeks there was plenty of room to run. So, I pushed on the first mile onto the beach and then tried to keep a steady effort along the beach before turning back for the climb back up to the finish.

In the end, I overcooked the flat section and went into the dune climb with too high a heart rate. I couldn’t get my heart rate down and ended up walking a lot of the top section, missing out on a PB by 45 seconds in the end.

I was gutted, but it had been a good run anyway and I was really happy with it. We finished the morning off by heading into the sea for the last sea swim of the season. It was glorious and calm and the perfect way to cool down after a hard run.

Slowly, I’m starting to feel tangible improvements from the effects of the training. I’m more flexible and moving easier. I’m not in as much daily pain as I used to be. I feel stronger on the bike and run – able to inject surges and changes of pace in now, where before there was only moving and not moving and most importantly, I’m enjoying the routine of regular training.

Accountability (and discipline)

In a previous blog post I talked about consistency. It is universally acknowledged that consistency is the back bone of achievement. But there is another facet that helps to achieve consistency and that is accountability.

I’ve never quite been able to reconcile in head that people are so willing to neglect their own best interests in favour of just about anything.

Myself included.

I can’t speak for others but it’s frustrating just how willing I am to lie to myself (and believe those lies knowing them to be such), despite many of the trite quotes hurled my way. Although, a quick search of the internet reveals that many people apparently lie to themselves and not realise they’re doing it! Alas, I’ve never had the bliss of such ignorance.

So, when we talk about accountability, to be accountable to oneself should be top of the list, but sometimes it’s good to have a backup. I think that’s why I enjoyed lots of success with my goals when I had Pete to do the hard work for me. Having to sit opposite him each week and justify my decisions meant that I was much more likely to make good choices.  

Ditto having a coach now. I know Jon is checking in on a daily basis. As a result, I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that every time I upload a completed session it turns green. Finally, a use for my almost obsessional desire to please.

Accountability in the form of self-discipline reared its head on Saturday at parkrun. Occasionally at runs one would witness a poor child being coerced around a run course. And yes, I realise I’m on slightly dodgy ground here and yes I also realise not having kids makes me an reluctant expert.

But on Saturday I witnessed it twice. And I will be frank – it’s very uncomfortable to watch a child, clearly not enjoying themselves and in some cases visibly distressed – being dragged by one arm and shouted at to run quicker because ‘it’s what we do’. I wondered to myself whether for some, parkrun has replaced the dreaded school cross country runs of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Later, I heard that parent talk to a friend about how children had to be coerced. That behaviour was necessary because they were not yet adults who had learned discipline and could recognise the benefits of regular running. They were congratulating and self satisfied. I felt slightly nauseous and moved away so I couldn’t hear them.

But, it did get me thinking about discipline and accountability to ourselves and here we are now. 

One of the attributes I sadly lack is discipline. So, I was interested in an article published in the Farnham Street blog ‘brainfood’. You can see the whole article here.

In the article the author quotes Scott Peck, who in essence argues that people generally want an easy time of it, but in doing so they make life harder for themselves. That it is in the ’whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning.’ They further quote Benjamin Franklin who was more succinct ‘Those things that hurt, instruct.’  Which is the essence of my blog post earlier this week.

But hurting yourself isn’t enough. It needs to be accompanied by the desire to learn from the experience. I fear those kids mentioned above may only learn that running is not enjoyable and will walk away from the sport at their earliest convenience (no pun intended). While for those who wish to learn discipline. One may need to understand what the lesson is and why it is important. 

In the Farnham Street blog, they cite delayed gratification; accepting responsibility; dedication to reality and balancing as the four pillars to achieving discipline. So, don’t expect it immediately, accept that success or failure is in your hands, don’t lie to yourself and understand that flexibility is essential to achieving greatness. I would add one other, understand the why of what you are trying to do.

I’m working on all of those things but until I achieve them, I’ll carry on enjoying turning those sessions green. 

Training journal | week 6/41

you are stronger than youo think

I’ve learned over the years, there are times in any training program where it gets tough. Those are the times where you learn the most about yourself, your aptitude for discomfort and what makes you tick. Those lessons will ultimately get you round whatever challenge you have set for yourself.

It’s nearly always where you realise you are stronger than you think.

Years ago, I used to deliver marathon training seminars. Each time I would stand up in front of a group of fresh faced people and look them in the eye. They would stare back with a hint of terror glinting in their expression – as though they couldn’t believe this is what they had actually signed up for. Then I would tell them, truthfully, that they already had the capacity to finish the marathon, if they had enough of a reason to do it. That, if the life of a loved on depended on them completing it then, right there, right now, they could do it.

I expained that training is only a vehicle to make it hurt less and help them get a little quicker (if that was what they wanted). It also helped them get out of bed in a better state the next day. Other than that, it is generally about BELIEF. In essence about convincing your head it’s a good idea. There are exceptions of course – and I have seen those too. But fundamentally I stand by my comments.

woolacombe 14 sept 2019

On Saturday I had one of those runs. The schedule was the same as recent weeks. A ‘long’ 75 minute run followed by an open water swim. G and I had taken to getting to the parkrun early and setting off along the South West Coast path for an out and back before heading back to the start for the parkrun. Earlier this week however, G had answered a plea for marshals from the parkrun director and so he trotted off to find out his duties while I got myself ready.

In reality, you never really know how your legs are going to feel until you set off. But this day, I just could not shake off the dreaded dead leg feeling. It was only 100 yards or so to where G was receiveing his briefing – but it may as well have been a mile. G then joined me for 10 minutes before turning back to take up his post. The comparison to the previous week could not have been starker.

But I carried on and made it to my regular turn around point before heading back. It’s at times like this, you wonder how on earth you’re going to manage what is set out for you and so I fell back to doing what I know works. Breaking each section down minute by minute and focused on the extraordinary wildlife and views around me.

I got back to the start in time for a quick loo stop and joined the back of the group – much reduced from its usual summer numbers which have been swelled in recent weeks by tourists.

We set off down the hill and I living in the moment, just tried to enjoy being there, in the sunshine and fresh air, until I reached G at his marshal point, just over 2 miles in. There was much more room to run in than the last few weeks and I enjoyed the space to do my own thing. I accepted the walk breaks with joy rather than embarrassment and pushed on as best I could.

Seeing G was a highlight. He greeted me with a £10 note – telling me to take it so I could get coffee in case he was late back up to the finish line to meet me. My heart melted at his kindness. I said I would wait for him and pushed on through the last of the sand dunes, back to the paved climb that led to the finish.

And here’s my point I think. Sometimes measuring progress is difficult. But if you maintain consistency, even though it may be almost imperceptible, it will be there.

If you’d asked me at the time when I had got to G, I’d have told you it felt like I’d run 20 miles, not the five I’d clocked. In previous weeks when I’d run like this – the run would take me close to fifty minutes but today, I was surprised to clock just 46 minutes, only two minutes out from my PB.

The best bit was that was off the back of one of my best runs yet the day before. Which itself was a brick run after a speedwork session on the spin bike. It all adds up to fatigue in my legs – it’s bound to, that’s the point of it. To learn to keep going on tired legs. Because, lets face it, if and when I get off the bike in Lanzarote, my legs are not going to feel brand new and I’ll almost certainly have a challenge to get to the finish line within the cut off. This is mental training at its finest.

On the long cycle ride yesterday – I was completely drained and stuck to the made paths of the Tarka trail rather than try and do battle with Sunday drivers – I reflected on the week just gone. 13 sessions, over 10 hours 25 minutes. Lots of lessons revisited. Progress made in running particularly and while the 35 weeks to the race left doesn’t feel anywhere near enough, at least I’m still inching forward and it’s better than being where I was six weeks ago.