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.
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.