Digested read: Running feels hard at the moment. Marathon training is taking its toll. Fortunately I have Smiley Paces and I have parkrun. What more could anyone ask for to help them through their running wobbles! It’ll be fine, probably. Even if it isn’t it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things and there will still be parkrun the following Saturday and cake eating opportunities aplenty on the horizon ahead. Thank you Smiley Buddies you are all wonder women. Awesome as well as FGRs. Hurrah!
Mahooosive running wobbles today, for the past few days to be honest. And I am not only referring to my midriff which wobbles most spectacularly when I run. Point of information dear reader – in my experience it is a complete myth that marathon training will bring to you weight loss along with existential angst, au contraire. I’ve put on a significant amount of weight partly because of being rungry to a greater extent than the calories I’ve burned, but more particularly because I’m an emotional eater, and training for a marathon, well, turns out it’s really hard, and for me, something of an emotional roller coaster. It is the emotional wobbles that have been especially pronounced these week. Mind games setting in along with doubts.
So, I am told at this stage in training it is normal to doubt yourself, your body is under stress. With six weeks to go OH MY GAWD, SIX WEEKS! KILL ME NOW! There is still much training to cram in and much to lose as well as much to gain. Too little time to make much headway in terms of fitness (it’s really four weeks max and a two week taper), but plenty of time to blow everything with injury or over training or narcissistic melt down. My problems have been building for a while, snow and ice have played havoc with my training plan, such as it was, and do you know what, even though the Beast from the East has affected much of the UK, they aren’t going to postpone the start date of the marathon by two weeks to compensate? I know, outrageous. Then I had a really terrible long run last week, wrong nutrition, felt ill, got cold and dehydrated and then spent the next two days completely wiped out. I actually took to my bed and googled ‘is it normal to feel exhausted after a long run’, ‘heart attack early symptoms’, ‘what was I thinking?’, ‘marathon over training’, ‘marathon not trained enough’, ‘seriously, how many miles?’, ‘anaemia and running’, ‘marathon training fatigue‘ etc. You get the idea I’m sure. Looking on the bright side, the alarming google advice in relation to the above search terms probably elevated my heart rate sufficiently to provide me with a significant work out despite my inertia. On the whole, my findings were terrifying, and not helpful, probably not even accurate or applicable to me either.
Some training plans are saying that your ‘long run’ should be about 20% of your total mileage, but that would mean as I increased my long runs I’d be doing a massive % increase on my weekly mileage and doing 100 miles a week by the time I got up to a 20 mile run, and I don’t have the numeracy skills to work it out for a 22 mile run. Just as well. That can’t be right, surely? So I have been fretting about my mileage being too low. Then I wonder if I should force myself out even if I’m feeling rubbish, but then I remind myself that there’s a difference between tired, can’t be bothered and it’s raining and the total grey-faced white-gummed wipe out that I’ve been experiencing over the past few days, and on balance, it isn’t worth it. I’m not an elite runner, I only want to get round, and actually, I don’t think that kind of mileage is either realistic or sensible for a relatively newbie middle-aged runner, that way injury and exhaustion lies, surely. Plus, I knew when I set out to do my 17 mile run last week I wasn’t feeling great, and I think I’ve paid the price. I am in the process of writing a misery memoir blog post about that even now, you can
enjoy be dragged down by reading that account later, when I finally finish it. Even so, whatever the intellectual, objective rationalisation of what I’m feeling, it’s not great, hence the wobbles. I’ve felt completely drained since the 17 miler, and a bit unsure about how to move on from it. Have a break? Do more? Do less? Aaaaaargh. I’ll never be a runner, my running is getting worse and harder with this marathon malarkey not better. I thought by now my inner athlete would have burst out, that I’d be chomping sprouting mung beans and buying progressively smaller pairs of running bottoms whilst dolling out unsolicited running advice to lesser mortals who hadn’t yet got a marathon in their sights. On reflection, I was probably delusional right from the start. I’m exhausted, my body is battered, my morale low, I am never running again. Not ever.
Even so, today was a double Smiley Paces challenge. Firstly, Bakewell parkrun the first of the Smiley Champs runs for this year, and secondly a Smiletastic challenge, creating a solstice flyby. Wouldn’t want to let my team mates down. Aaaaaargh all over again. Fear of missing out… and you know what they say ‘I really regret that run said NO-ONE EVER!’
The Smiley Champs series, is basically your best four performances out of a possible six runs in events throughout the year. They are chosen to be as inclusive as possible, taking in a parkrun like today, a shortish fell race, an off-road event with a choice of distances e.g. Dig Deep series that kind of thing. I am never going to be a speed merchant, so don’t take part in the champs in any expectation of glory, but I do go in expectation of being able to bathe in collective Smiley loveliness; to get to be in a Smiley team shot and; last but by no means least; in the confident expectation that there will be cake. What is a running club without communal catering? Quite. And if someone is going to go to all that trouble of combining their 50th parkrun with the Smiley Champs call out to hail to Bakewell parkrun, it would be rude not to go and ingest/inhale such sweetmeats as are offered up by way of recognition and appreciation and as an expression of mutual support.
Anyway, here are the Smiley Champs races for this year, 2018, in case dear reader you fancy coming along and shouting ‘Go Smiley‘ at any of us as we pass. Or throw sweetmeats, that goes down well too, as a minimum offer up a high-five. We like them also. Just so you know. All and any support, we’ll take it. You’ll feel great, everyone’s a winner!
Like Lady Macbeth, I lost the capacity to sleep years ago (though unlike her I don’t recall being an accessory to regicide) so was awake by 4.00 a.m. anyway. The rain was pounding down on my attic window, this was not the plan. I lay in the dark, checking out how I felt. Yep, felt like my body had been completely steam-rolled and head was spinning. What to do. What will I do if I feel like this on marathon day? I have always maintained, sometimes to my cost, that you can always push out a parkrun. Maybe I should test that theory today. If I didn’t get out and give it a go, I’d probably regret it right? Plus, wouldn’t want to let my Smiletastic buddies down… Nobody ever regrets a parkrun, ever, no-one ever regrets a parkrun ever, never ever, repeat, repeat, ad infinitum repeat…
There’s always a first time though, isn’t there… Speaking of which, some Smileys who’d promised to turn out today were to be first timers at parkrun, can you imagine that? Passing through the gateway to all that fun for the first time, it will be like entering Narnia for them, I should turn out to see that…
So, despite rain, and fog, and it being distinctly chilly although not actually arctic conditions, I had my porridge and I ventured out. It was a misty run out to Hassop Station Cafe where the parkrun meets on the Monsal Trail. I was a bit apprehensive driving over, there was a lot of standing water on the roads, and I had a white van driving right up my arse which wasn’t good. Still, I wasn’t going to be intimidated into aquaplaning off the road, intimidated yes, but not so much as to change my driving, though I did pull over where I could to let him pass.
I arrived about 8.45, and to my amazement, there was space in the car park despite a couple of spaces being out of action because of snow! I know, I thought it had all gone by now. There were a couple of handy – and crazily clean portaloos on hand, but many gathering Smilies had assembled in the gift shop, where there was much browsing of mother’s day cards going on in pre-parkrun preambles. There was also much Smiley meeting and greeting, and it was lovely to see not just fellow dragonflies (Smiletastic challenge team mates) but loads of other Smilies I’ve not seen all winter really. It was an impressive turn out.
We collectively lurked inside, sheltering from the rain that was pretty much torrential, until a call went up for us to assemble at the start. I kept my coat on. I was not alone. We trotted down the path a short way and there was a collective run briefing. I did not have my camera with me, but fortunately Smiley selfie queen did, so captured the scene… nice and casual we Smilies aren’t we. Can you see the ladybirds? Plague proportions I tell you, plague… There is a hungover grasshopper in shot too, see if you can work out which one she is. Also, at least one celebrity who doesn’t wish to be identified, her prerogative, respect the right of all parkrunners to participate in their own way.
This was my first time at Bakewell parkun – it’s a relatively new one, with this being only its eighth run. Normally they get around a hundred or so runners, this week the numbers swelled to some 150, Smiley Paces runners contributed largely to that rise, but there were also a fair few Steel City Striders in evidence, I think maybe they are still preoccupied with their annual parkrun cup challenge, but I’m not sure…
It is a run that is fairly light on marshals, the run director gave a cheery briefing. Hands for first timers – loads of us; any milestones? Yep, at least two fifties, yay! I liked the briefing, high points included the observation that sub 20 minute runners should move to the front (there was not a stampede to reposition ourselves) and the observation that there was a tail walker (a super smiley no less) so if you saw her ahead of you, you were to shout ‘slow down!’ at her, which is a good point well made. The official Bakewell parkrun course description blah de blah states:
Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station
and that’s indeed exactly what it is! Look:
Down the compact trail of the old railway line. It was however very puddled – running water across the path in places which I hadn’t expected – this would be seriously icey if the temperature dropped below zero – and had a noticeable camber, which is slightly weird, in that I didn’t notice it at all when I ran this part of the Monsal trail the other week, but then again, that day I had it all to myself.
The briefing was short and to the point, and pretty soon a cry went up and we were awf. As predicted I found it hard. My energy levels are completely depleted. I struggled even though it is a straight out and back route. Weirdly though, I found it harder running this with other runners, it was sort of like being in a traffic jam as you couldn’t see much other than the back of the runner in front, and it was hard to judge distance travelled as landmarks aren’t that obvious on this route, especially for a first time. It was however a friendly cohort, and for faster runners you could definitely go for a quick time if that was your bag. Also, as an out and back route, it was quite nice to see and acknowledge returning runners – basically the whole field in my case – as they ran back as I was running out. Lots of mutual support, high fives, cheery ‘hellos’ and good to see familiar faces I hadn’t been able to spot in the pre-run mingling. Whether they were as thrilled to see me as I was them is a moot point, perhaps the mantra ‘don’t ask don’t tell‘ has its place in some contexts after all.
I love Smilies, all were indeed smiling as they rushed by.
The turning point was just beyond a bridge, there were two marshals to cheer you round. There was one pleasant surprise here (well, three if you count seeing each of the two marshals as well 🙂 ), in that a solitary white cone positioned in front of the marshal was the turnaround point. This gave me a significant psychological boost, as I’d imagined the marshal was a human cone and I’d have to run round him, by running in front of him instead I saved a good 2 metres on that run.
Heading back, it felt tough, but a cheery Smiley as back marker shouted some encouragement as she was still heading out. Ironically, our March challenge for Smiletastic is to run a Royal Flush – progressively faster miles over a long run. My splits for this run showed I got progressively slower instead. I tried very hard to put this in perspective, I’ve been feeling ill, I was 50:50 about coming anyway, it doesn’t matter at least I came, but I am all over the place mentally at the moment. Who am I trying to kid I can run a marathon if I’m struggling to maintain a pace at a parkrun? This can’t be right?
Eventually though, the end was in sight, a cheery Smiley with such perfect form that she is often wheeled out as the face of woodrun jogged out to run in with me. As I reached the finish, there was a great wall of Smilies who gave a roar of cheers as i ran in. That was most splendid! I felt like a super star. Sometimes it’s worth being a slow finisher as although oftentimes it means you miss the post run group photo because everyone has gone home, on this occasion it meant basically everyone else was already back and forming a cheer leading crowd to will you in. I even did a (for me) sprint finish, so maybe my body wasn’t as broken as I thought. Mind over matter indeed….
Super efficient funnel managers whizzed me through to the scanner. I had a replacement barcode as one of theirs has gone walkabout, and it didn’t scan straightaway. I’m barcode scanning at Graves Junior tomorrow, hope the rain doesn’t interfere with the process too much there. The responsibility, the stress!
Thank you Bakewell parkrun marshals for the warmth of your welcome, the wit of your run briefing and the slickness of your logistics.
A couple more Smilies were cheered in
And then it was to the important business of garnering Smiley team photos once the tail marker had made it through:
Naturally, we didn’t limit ourselves to just the one shot. We had to have all possible variants of smiley configurations. Dragonflies, bees (genius action shot there, brilliantly choreographed by a very capable photographer who was that now? Oh yes, I remember! Me! Genius me!), grasshoppers, milestone 50th run – plus a few posing with the ‘caution runners‘ sign, because that’s what we are. Oh yes! Go us!
Running is great, gotta love parkrun!
So then cake was calling – I’d espied it earlier, it looked like this:
You might think that amount of cake would be daunting, but don’t underestimate the collective ability of a Smiley team to get a job done! We focus, we can deliver!
As I was about to head back to the cafe, much excitement. As the parkrun marshals worked their magic making all trace of the parkrun disappear for another week. A previously anonymous Smiley came across to introduce herself. She’s been injured for
ever ages, but we’ve met on the interweb so it was grand she came to say hello! Hope you are running free again soon injured Smiley, but meantime, thanks for keeping Bakewell parkrun show on the road as a hi-viz hero. Big virtual high-five coming right atya from here! Til next time…
Next stop, cafe, and queue for latte. By my good fortune – perhaps less so for the Smiley I was alongside – I was sited next to a fellow London marathon runner for 2018. She is a much, much more experienced and faster runner than I, so I was astonished to hear she too has been struggling a bit with fatigue in her training. Not that I’d wish these levels of exhaustion on anyone, but maybe it is just ‘normal’ at this stage. Interestingly, like me, she finds her legs feel strong and her aerobic capacity is fine, it’s literally ‘just’ a sense of extreme weariness, maybe this is the mental battle.
I also got to nab another experienced Smiley who was fantastically supportive and encouraging too as I lamented my lack of progress. She pointed out that actually, because of the cumulative build up of training miles there is also cumulative fatigue, so it is relatively usual (even is scary) to feel like I’m slower now than I was when I started, because you/ I/ we are making increasing demands on more and more fatigued bodies. The benefits will only really be reaped post the taper – assuming training has gone to plan. These next 2-3 weeks are indeed the big mile weeks, and so some wobble is inevitable. Anyway, thank you all smilies in general and those in particular for casting your pearls of wisdom and encouragement my way. It is appreciated. Smiley Champs series is apt for us all, because all Smilies are Champions. Even those who didn’t make the shindig today. One of those was being a hi-viz hero elsewhere. Also champion. Hurrah. Top Dog for the day, I think Regal Smiley may fear her top dog position more generally is under threat. It isn’t of course, because there’s room for all. Some can do the loving eyes routine a bit better than others it’s true, but all are super-talented, unique and valued in their own way. New beginnings for you both. Bravo. Let the new adventures in life begin, there will be no looking back.
It’s a weird thing this marathon training malarkey, because inevitably a lot of the training is on my own, and the run itself will be – apart from the other 49,999 other runners out there on the route of course – but I don’t think I’d have even made it to this point without the support of my running club buddies, parkrun buddies and virtual supporters I’ve picked up along the way. I have to remember it’s supposed to be a challenge and it’s also supposed to be fun. Of course I want to get round, but it is only a run, it’s not life and death, if I don’t it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, what matters is that I give it my best shot and, in the words of the best advice I’ve had re running my first/ one and only marathon ‘remember to enjoy it’. It will be an extraordinary day. If I get round I get bragging rights on top, if I don’t I still get anecdotes and free tube travel in London for marathon day, as long as I’m still wearing my number and it hasn’t been washed away by my tears on the day. Not a bad return on two years of angst really is it?
Is it? Don’t you think? Tube travel is really expensive. And I don’t make a habit of running any distance up to 26.2 miles just to get around, so it can add up.
Lattes were drunk, cake was eaten and then it was running round two. The Spring Equinox Smiletastic challenge. But that’s another story….
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.