Civil unrest is a perfectly good excuse for not running

I had planned to do my tempo run at lunchtime today.  4 miles, said the schedule, and 4 miles on a weekday lunchtime normally means a pleasant trip down the Embankment and round St James’ Park, via Parliament Square.  Today though, Parliament Square and the surrounding streets looked like this:

On second thoughts, perhaps not. 

Of course, there are other routes I could have run from my office (although, as we are so close, all of them would have suffered to some extent from hordes of students making their way down to Westminster), and there is also always the treadmill.  But as it was I woke up this morning with a sore throat and the beginnings of the traditional pre-Christmas cold, and the students provided a perfect excuse to stay behind my desk and try to beat the cold off with the liberal application of lemsip and biscuits.  Hopefully I’ll get an early night and will be right as rain again tomorrow morning.  (I’d better be, because sore throats and Christmas carols do not mix well, and I like nothing better at this time of year than a good old carol service.  Fortunately, my firm does a rather good one at St Bride’s, and I’d be very annoyed to be in less than fine voice for it tomorrow.)

I do at least have some running to report, though there’s not much to say about it. Yesterday’s interval session on the treadmill was perfectly satisfactory, thank you.  It was 3 x 1200m at 11.2kph, which felt much much better than last time I did that session.  Really very straightforward, in fact.  I did some weights afterwards too.

Distance: 5.6km (3.5 miles), inc 3 x 1200m @ 11.2kph
Time: 31:34
Terrain: treadmill
Time of day: 6pm
Notable features: none, unless you count there only being one run in this post instead of two


The morning after the night before

The traditional wisdom has it that some level of abstinence from alcohol is necessary when training for a marathon.  It would be dangerous to get complacent about it, but so far it has to be said that big boozy nights out don’t seem to be having much of a detrimental effect on how well my long runs go.  This morning, in a minor departure from what was starting to become a Sunday long run tradition, I woke up neither late nor hungover.  Instead, I woke at 7am, still drunk.  And on a mate’s sofa, where we had passed out after watching Kevin Pietersen join the surreal Ashes party with a superlative unbeaten double ton.  In retrospect, that last bottle of Bollinger at 3.30am was probably unnecessary (the beverage chosen both to mark the milestone birthday we had earlier been out celebrating, and as an ironic nod to the Aussie fast bowler being smacked around the Adelaide Oval by KP).

All of which meant that even after three or four more hours sleep in my own bed, I expected to feel pretty rough as I set out for today’s eight miles.  But strangely, I didn’t.  Maybe I was energised by the glorious winter sun starting to sink in spectacular fashion below the bare treetops.  Maybe it was just excitement that a balmy temperature of 2 degrees meant there was no snow or ice left to drive me inside and onto the mind-numbing treadmill.  Maybe I was fuelled by the wonderful aromas of suckling pig and roasting chestnuts wafting across Hyde Park from the Winter Wonderland.  Whatever, these factors all combined to make me feel great about being outside, enjoying the festive atmosphere and doing something healthy and restorative after poisoning my poor body last night.

I took it reasonably easy, settled into a comfortable rhythm and felt at the end like I could happily have gone on for many more miles (which is just as well really).  There were two or three fast sprints to catch favourable traffic lights, and apart from a very weird spasm in my right buttock at around 3 miles – which felt very odd but didn’t seem to affect my running – nothing really grumbled.  I’ve no hint left of the hangover I deserve, although I won’t be imbibing any more alcohol at our local pub quiz tonight (unless we win – the prize is a bottle of champagne).  And to top it all off, I’ve returned home to find my wonderful flatmate busy in the kitchen making mince pies.  All in all a great result.

Distance:  8.00 miles
Time:  1:22:13
Route:  Hyde Park, Green Park
Weather:  wonderful winter sun(set)
Time of day:  3pm
Notable features:  yummy Christmas smells, both in the park and now in my flat!

Week 5
Total miles:  16.79
Cross-training:  spin class, weights after speed session, pilates class, swimming (1 mile), lots of drunken Saturday night dancing!


The snow arrived properly in London a couple of days ago, and I have been glad that I haven’t had to go out running in it.  Compared to other parts of the country the snowfall in town is paltry, but as of this morning enough had fallen and frozen over in West London to make the roads and pavements far too dangerous to run on without specialist gear.  Luckily, having sneaked in my tempo run on Monday morning and thus avoided the worst of the weather, the rest of my sessions until the weekend (a treadmill speed session and some gym and spin classes) are all capable of being done whilst safe and warm tucked up in the basement. 

I don’t normally bother blogging about my spin classes, but yesterday’s lunchtime class with Raj really tested my legs – so much so that I wondered how my quads would hold up with the tough speed session this evening.  Unlike my other spin instructors, Raj doesn’t go in for hill climbs and sprints much, and certainly not choreographing them to music.  He is more keen on brutal isolation work and jumps, which are a lot less fun (and maybe not such a great cardio workout) but probably more effective for building strength and muscle tone.  Today my thighs feel pretty sore, but gratifyingly rock solid too.  (I realise that’s just lactic acid, but every girl wants firm thighs, right?) 

What with the already-sore legs, and the session ahead involving 400m intervals at the fastest pace I will have to hit in this training programme, I was expecting today’s run to be tough.  And it is true that during my warm-up my poor quads did grumble loudly.  But once I had done the obligatory 800m warm up jog and hit the “increase speed” button to ramp it up to 12kph, suddenly it didn’t seem quite so hard.  The pace was tough, but 400m seemed to fly by much faster than last time I did a 400’s session (yes, I know that by definition it wasn’t really faster, but perception is everything!) and I found myself recovering between intervals very easily.  I had expected this week’s step-up from four to six intervals to hurt, but in fact I felt comfortable enough to really push on the last one and take the speed up to 13kph for the last 200m.  It’s interesting to see how much fitter I appear to have got over four weeks following this plan.  Very encouraging.

The weather forecast indicates that temperatures will start to get back above freezing over the weekend, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to get back outside for my eight-miler at some point during Saturday or Sunday.  I don’t think I could handle almost an hour and a half on a treadmill without going stir crazy.  Although, it’s good to know that at least I do have that nuclear option.  Over Christmas, with no handy treadmill, if I can’t get outside I won’t be able to go running at all.  That would be a disaster, especially since I have my first ten-miler planned for Christmas morning (post-presents, obviously).  This must be the first year I have ever sincerely hoped that it won’t be a White Christmas.  Bah, humbug!

Distance:  5.5km (3.44 miles), inc 6 x 400m at 12kph (or faster) off 300m @ 10kph recoveries
Time:  30.54
Terrain:  treadmill
Time of day:  5.30pm
Notable features:  quads that grumbled but did the job