Countdown: 6 days to go!

And so into the final week.  This time next week, I should be hobbling around the office basking in the self-satisfied knowledge that I am a London Marathon finisher.  That is, assuming nothing stupid happens between now and then.  I had a momentary panic this morning after going flying on some kind of kitchen grease spilled across the pavement on Fetter Lane.  I landed quite hard on one knee, which is now sporting a neat graze and a big bruise reminiscent of the school playground, but (fingers crossed) I don’t appear to have done any real damage.  Even my dented pride was restored when another chap also slid spectacularly to the ground just seconds after I did.  Well, misery does love company!

But back to the training.  As per my last post, I have been trying to get some hot weather runs in just in case the current summery spell continues into next weekend (although forecasts at the moment are more encouraging).  To that end, I headed out on Wednesday lunchtime for a quick jog along the last 2.5 miles of the actual marathon course (and back via Northumberland Avenue).  I made sure to really notice my surroundings and try and imagine how different they will look on Sunday lined with thousands of spectators.  I’m not sure my imagination really did it justice.  I did particularly notice one lady on Birdcage Walk though, who can’t have been much older than me but who was shuffling along very slowly with the help of a frame.  I told myself to remember her when I am in pain in those last few miles and remind myself again how lucky I am to be able to contemplate running the marathon at all.

The 2.5 miles to Buckingham Palace and the Mall took me about 22 minutes  (not being sure exactly where on the Mall the finish line will be I couldn’t be more precise).  It’ll be hugely interesting to see how long they take me on Sunday – safe to say that it’ll be longer than that!  It was a hot lunchtime to be out and about, and I did feel the heat slowing me a bit, but I was pleased to find that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

The same was true on Sunday morning when I went out for the last long run. 10 miles, Putney to Barnes.  Again baking hot, but with a perfect breeze that cooled but didn’t slow me down.  There were loads of obvious marathon runners out in their charity vests for a final dress rehearsal, and I made sure to give each of them a particularly encouraging smile.  Maybe my boring black vest and shorts didn’t inspire similar sentiments, because none of them smiled back except for one beaming grin from a blonde girl in a Breakthrough Breast Cancer vest.  I hope she does well on Sunday.

I was really pleased with the 10 miles.  The heat didn’t bother me at all (I slowed to have some water at every bridge, so roughly every 2.5 miles), I felt strong and comfortable and had to deliberately slow myself down at times to keep to a gentle 10.30 min pace, getting home on target in 1:44:49.  After the disappointing long runs of recent weeks it was a relief to feel back on form.  Even better to look back to where I started from and realise how much I’ve already achieved: I can now run 10 miles in 20 degree heat with ease, which would have been pretty unthinkable six months ago. 

All that’s left to do now is sort out logistics for Sunday morning, get to the Expo (hopefully on Wednesday evening) and stock up the fridge.  Oh, and actually run the marathon.  Bring it on!

Stats (Sunday)
Distance:  10.0 miles
Time: 01:44:49
Weather:  hot midday sunshine, 20 degrees
Route:  river, Putney to Barnes loop
Notable features:  ITV1 were filming the Britain’s Got Talent London auditions at the Hammersmith Apollo, so I got to run past TV cameras, guys in drag and tutus, and loads of very weird costumes.  So pretty much just like the marathon then!

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Warmer weather

I didn’t quite recover my steely determination over the weekend as hoped, but things are obviously picking up again because despite another long run fail I am feeling more positive. 

On Saturday morning I dutifully headed out into the Warwickshire countryside, fuelled by a couple of rather tasty danish pastries.  (It wasn’t my first choice of breakfast but it was all my parents had apart from toast – which gives me stitch – but it turned out to be surprisingly effective as pre-run sustenance.  Ideally I’d have eaten them a tad earlier as they sat in my stomach a bit, but no stitch, and no running out of energy either.  Good to know, especially as I do love a danish pastry.)

I think its fair to say that after the long cold winter we’ve just had, everyone has noticed and revelled in the resurgence of good weather lately, but we runners are particularly atuned to the turning of the seasons.  Especially those of us foolhardy enough to battle through the winter training for a spring marathon; we have spent hours trudging through the snow and the ice and the wind and the rain, so even more than most we notice the little things that tell us that spring is definitely with us once more.  When I last did this run only six weeks ago, the world was still hibernating and the air was heavy with rain.  This time, birds were singing, lambs were gambolling, and daffodils lined every road.  Even after heavy rain in the early morning the pretty little villages I ran through just glistened in the sunshine.  I felt so pleased to be out and about and running.  Despite the grey-looking photo (turns out I still had the protective plastic over the lens of my new blackberry), I even got suntan lines during my two hours out on the road. 

It didn’t all go according to plan though – despite my joy at being alive and running in the countryside my mental strength was still a bit lacking.  I did well for the first five or six miles, and was strong through seven and eight, but the nasty stretch down the Straight Mile did for my willpower.  However nice a day it might be, it’s never fun trying to run down a single carriage A-road with no footpath (and no verge to jump onto) with cars whizzing past you at up to 70 miles per hour.  At the start of the mile I was already feeling fatigued and negative.  By the end of it the slightest of grumbles from my sometime dodgy knee was enough to convince me that the remaining 5 miles (most of which would have been downhill, a particular knee irritant) were just not worth the risk of it flaring up so close to race day.  So I did what any self-respecting 30 year old would do – I called my Mum to come and pick me up.

Despite a somewhat foolhardy night out in a nice bar followed by a not-at-all-nice Chelsea club, I managed to limit myself on the alcohol front that evening and made it to my Pilates class for the first time in ages on Sunday.  I have missed Pilates – just one session makes you feel instantly so much stronger and leaner.  (Plus my instructor commented on how trim I was looking which is always pleasing!)  And having spent an hour focusing on my posture and core, I realised that the limp on one side which I have been cultivating for weeks is starting to go now, so I feel justified in having taken it pretty easy these last couple of weeks.  

Physically, I’m now feeling in good shape and hope I still will be in 11 days time.  Mentally, I definitely need to work on the willpower and determination, although I’m told by everyone that the atmosphere and the crowds will be an immeasurable boost on the day.  I certainly hope so!

Only a couple of final hurdles to go now before the big day.  Tomorrow is forecast to be 21 degrees in London, which is both wonderful and worrying.  I’m all for the sun usually (can’t wait to hit that Cuban beach on the 25th!) but I simply can’t run in it – if temperatures are anything like that on the 17th I’ll really struggle, especially since all the training has been in cold cold weather to date.  I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can at least train, so tomorrow the plan is to head out into the midday sun for a jog taking in the last 2.5 miles of the marathon course.  It’ll only be 40 minutes instead of 4 hours and 40 minutes but at least it’ll give me a reminder of running in the heat, just in case.  In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if everyone could keep their fingers crossed/say some prayers/do a little dance for the 17th to be a nice sunny day with seasonal temperatures of around the 11 degree mark.  Thanks!

Stats
Distance:  about 10.5 miles
Time: 01:50:28
Route:  Warwickshire loop, with the end bit cut off
Weather:  spring
Notable features:  daffodils and tan lines

Taper (or running out of steam)

I fear that I may have peaked too soon.  Since the 20 mile run the other week, I have been feeling far less motivated about running, and even training more generally.  The taper period has started now, so I deliberately took it easy last week in an attempt to help my poorly quad recover from whatever it is that is ailing it.  It did appear to help – my first-thing-in-the-morning limp is less pronounced – but the general apathy that has come with the tail-off has taken me by surprise.

Admittedly, work has been busy, but since my last post ten days ago I have only managed the following in terms of training:

Wednesday evening: short gym session on the rower, cross-trainer and free weights;
Thursday morning: Spin and Tone session (unfortunately the toning session focused on the same upper body muscles as my own workout the night before, so it was a struggle);
Friday:  30 minute yoga/pilates class;
Sunday late afternoon:  ten mile run/walk; and
Tuesday evening: a 5k interval session on the treadmill. 

All of which is OK for what it’s worth but is much less than I had intended.  The plan was for the long run on Sunday (a whole week after my last run) to be 16 miles rather than 10, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I dithered all day and am pretty sure that if it hadn’t been such a glorious day outside I wouldn’t have gone at all.  I decided to do a river loop between Barnes and Putney, and had it not been warm and sunny I would have turned towards home when I got back to Hammersmith Bridge at 5.5 miles rather than continuing on along the south bank.  But even though I resolved to keep going, it was with the promise to myself that provided I covered the 10 miles one way or another, I could just walk it and enjoy being outside in the lovely spring weather instead of pushing on through.  I did run bits of it but got a nasty stitch two and a half miles from home and just meandered my way back from there.  Hardly gritted determination to succeed at all costs.

Yesterday’s treadmill session was more of the same.  My schedule suggested 7 x 800m intervals, which I thought was optimistic even before I started and so I resolved to do six.  I did three reasonably happily, but without my iPod and with the gym hot and sticky I was tired of it after just three.  In the end I did manage to push on for a fourth and made a point of making it faster (flat out sprinting the last 200m), but it was really just a lame attempt to justify quitting before I was done.  Rubbish really.

I’ve also deliberately slept through 2 morning spin classes so far this week, which isn’t great.  I’m hoping it’ll be third time lucky tomorrow.

Lots of people are asking me now whether I’m excited or nervous and how the training is going – all I can tell them is that I just want to get it over and done with now.  I know its common to feel strange and frustrated during a taper period but I don’t feel like I want to get out and run, I just feel apathetic and want it to be over.  Anyone else felt like this?

The plan for the weekend is to go home to Warwickshire tomorrow night for a brief Mother’s Day visit, and head out Saturday morning for the same 15.25 miler that I did back in February.  The good thing about that is that really there’s no turning back once you’re committed to that run, and I’ll have my parents to kick me out of the door in the morning, so I’m hoping to get my mojo back that way.  Fingers crossed anyway.

PS.  I’ve been invited to a Cheesefest the Friday night before the marathon, which is exactly as it sounds – a bunch of friends and lots and lots of lovely cheese.  A wonderful idea as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not sure whether the timing is so great.  Any thoughts on the possible implications of cheese overdose 36 hours before a marathon greatly appreciated!

Stats (2 runs)
Distance:  10 miles; 5k
Time: not sure; 00:29:26
Terrain:  river path; treadmill
Time of day:  late afternoon; evening
Weather:  wall to wall sunshine;  just walls, no windows
Notable features:  lethargy, grumpiness and not finishing the job

Final push

This week the final instructions and registration form arrived on my doormat, informing me that on the day I will be marathon runner number 52610!  It’s all starting to feel very real and very close now.  In some ways, that’s a bit scary, but for the most part I’m just glad that the punishment I am putting my body through at the moment is nearly over – I am fed up of limping around the office.

The final instructions were the impetus I needed to step up the fundraising drive this week, so I finally got round to sending out emails to friends, family and colleagues, and putting a link to my Virgin Money Giving page on Facebook.  I’m delighted to find that people are really rising to the occasion and being incredibly generous; so much so that I’m already almost at my target total.  Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me so far – I really appreciate it and your money is going to a great cause.

Having sorted the fundraising, there was just one last thing to tick off, and it was the big one: the 20 mile long run.  I was extremely lucky to wake yesterday to a truly glorious spring day: wall to wall sunshine and blue skies, and yet a bit of a chill in the air to keep me cool on the move.  I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious start to a big challenge.  (Well, the start of it could have gone a little bit better – my dodgy right leg was playing up a bit and the first couple of miles were run with a distinct limp on that side.  But recent runs have taught me that once I get going I seem to even out so I pushed on through it and by the time I reached Richmond Park I was into my stride. )

The really long run is supposed to be practice for the big day, so there were a few things that I wanted to try out on this one.  Kit first: I wore my Oxfam vest to see whether it was comfortable to run in, and learnt that it chafes under the arms so I won’t be wearing that on the day.  Fortunately Oxfam have also sent a bamboo T-shirt which I tried out last week and is much more comfortable.  I also tried some supposed “proper” running socks which gave me my first blisters (very impressive, but fortunately not painful), so again I think I’ll be sticking with the old cotton, completely non-technical, socks that have seen me comfortably through the rest of the training.

I also tried a strategy of having a short break every 10K to eat some Haribo and have a drink – taking my time and walking briskly as I did so.  This strategy worked well and gave me a welcome boost each time, but is a bit costly in terms of time.  I’ll have to have a think about how much I care about that – running the marathon comfortably is probably a bit more important to me but it would be nice to have as good a time as I can manage.

As for the actual run itself, it was definitely a run of two halves.  The first half was mostly in Richmond Park, which was totally transformed by the sunshine.  It was no longer the grey and bleak expanse that I have become so familiar with through the winter months, but a leafy, green oasis full of excited children and shiny happy people.  Much more pleasant.  That first half (once I had got into my stride) was fairly comfortable and enjoyable, although my body did feel really tired and I found myself thinking longingly of the taper to come.

Once I left the park I headed through Barnes to the river and ran along the riverbank to Putney.  By the time I reached the half marathon stage at Barnes I was starting to feel tired, and knew that the next seven miles would be a struggle.  Although I was eating jellies regularly I could tell that I hadn’t really eaten enough the night before/that morning – must significantly increase the pasta intake prior to the long runs.  I was initially distracted from the discomfort by the river itself – it was really high, as high as I have ever seen it, presumably tidal as a result of last night’s “supermoon”.  It was also noteworthy that on this glorious day there were no rowers out on the river – generally there are loads even when the weather is really miserable, and given that we are only a week from The Boat Race their absence seemed really unusual.  I assumed the very high tide must be preventing them from getting onto the water.

When I got to Putney (at around 17 miles) though, I realised where they all were.  There was a regatta taking place yesterday afternoon and as I got there thousands and thousands of people were thronging the riverbank about to put hundreds of boats into the water.  The road was completely impassable, and I had to take a detour into Putney proper to get through.  That detour (which added just under half a mile to my route) was a psychological killer – I was only just holding it together at that point and I pretty much ground to a halt at the extra distance.  I had the last horrible section up Fulham Palace Road still to go and it defeated me – I had to walk a big chunk of the way and the whole of the last half mile to home.

Still, one way or another I covered the 20.5 miles, in just under 4 hours with a lot of walking at the end (the last 3 miles took me 45 minutes).  Everyone keeps telling me that the support and atmosphere on the day will provide a huge boost to keep me moving, and I am relying on that to a certain extent.  I also know that I need to eat a LOT more – the last couple of long runs I have been running out of energy rather than having any biomechanical difficulties.  It’s interesting that I didn’t have that problem with some of the earlier long runs – the 15 miler after the 30/90 party at home was no problem in terms of energy despite being really hilly, but I had noteably eaten my own body weight the day before! Similarly the 16.5 miler was fine too, but these last few longer runs I have been feeling hungry and weak by the time I get to 13 miles.  I’m perfectly OK with the kind of exercise that requires me to eat, eat and eat some more – when do girls ever get free licence to do that otherwise?!

That’s the longest run I’ll do, and listening to my body I think I need to start the taper from here so I’ll go back down to 16.5 next week.  Instead I need to step up the stretching and flexibility regime, try and get to some pilates classes and spend some time in the gym working on my core strength.  Hopefully then I’ll be in slightly better shape come 17 April.  Not long to go!

Stats:
Distance:  20.48 miles
Time:  03.56.39
Route:  Richmond Park, then river from Barnes to Putney
Weather:  glorious!!
Time of day: 11am-3pm
Notable features:  glorious weather, thousands of rowers in my way

Spring – in the air but not in my step

Since I last blogged quite a lot has happened.  Unfortunately not all that much of it was running.  In what surely can’t be a coincidence, my body has decided to fall inexplicably apart since I hit the big three-oh on 3 March.

Falling apart

My birthday dawned, grey and gloomy, and I didn’t have to get up and go to work because I had taken the day off to get my 18 mile run in before the party at the weekend.  Unfortunately, the sniffles I had picked up from hours of running in the rain the previous Saturday had turned overnight into a full blown cold, and I felt pretty ropey.  So I spent a lovely morning eating cake and opening cards and hoping I’d feel a bit better after a spot of daytime TV.  By the time the church bells rang for midday though, I had to accept I couldn’t breathe properly just sitting on the sofa, and that in the circumstances heading out into the drizzle for three hours wasn’t such a great idea.  So I went back to bed and had a snooze instead.

Despite the total lack of long run on Thursday, on Friday I noticed that my right quad was really quite sore and that my lower back was killing me.  Obviously old age had caught up with me, right on cue.  The quad was still hurting on Saturday morning when I went for a fairly gentle 10K with a friend – although I was OK running I was quite glad it was just a short one.  After that run my back was really killing me, but fortunately four inch stilettos seemed to relieve the pressure so I was able to dance my birthday party away without too much pain.

Trouble is, the problems in the quad haven’t really eased up, despite the fact that I’ve really cut back on the running and other exercise (work has had something to do with that too).  It’s particularly bad when I’ve been immobile for a while, so first thing in the morning I can barely put any weight on my right leg without toppling or getting a sharp pain in my back.  I’ve been to seen the physio about it and he has noted that I have got an imbalance, but this close to the marathon he’s reluctant to change too much for fear of making it worse in the short term.  Fortunately, although it’s making walking quite challenging, it seems that the injury isn’t actually stopping me from running – apart from a bit of a limping gait when I first start out I seem to be able to run on it fine.  Perhaps my body is evolving so that running is my natural state? 

Hitting the wall

This Saturday I decided to test the theory that running on a sore leg was OK by trying the 18 miler I hadn’t managed the previous week.  So you can imagine how delighted I was to wake up to glorious sunshine and balmy temperatures.  For the very first time since my training started in October, I was able to head out in a T-shirt (my Oxfam one no less) and capri leggings.  The sun was out, Richmond Park was beautiful instead of its usual grey self, and my leg felt fine.  As I ran down towards the park I felt like I could go on forever.  There had to be a catch, and there was.  It was only after the big hill in Richmond Park at the five mile mark that I realised I had forgotten to put on the bumbag which contained my trusty Haribo that was supposed to be fuelling me round the latter stages of the run.  I had had a huge meal the night before at a friend’s house (two servings of treacle tart, AND cheese and biscuits) so I hoped that I would have enough energy to keep me going.  I didn’t.  I was OK until I got back down to the river having run through Richmond itself.  I think it was all the ice-cream vans everywhere that got me thinking about food, but I started to feel noticeably hungry around the 12 mile mark and could feel myself slowing down by the time I got past the half marathon stage.  It wasn’t long after that that I completely ground to a halt and realised I had just stopped moving.  I kept on walking/plodding for as long as I could but by the time I got to Barnes I was dizzy and staggering and getting cold very quickly.  So I persuaded a friendly bus driver to let me on the bus back to Hammersmith for free and skipped the last 3 miles.

Not a great result, and totally my own fault for being stupid.  But at least hitting the wall has happened once during training and I know how it feels now.  This post is such a long one that I haven’t properly described the sensation – in fact it sounds a bit like I just gave up.  But it was an unnerving experience, and I felt like I had just crashed through the floor.  I’ll be trying very hard to avoid that fate on the day itself.

I went out that evening with a fellow marathon runner, who had had an equally depressing run, managing just 12 of her planned 20 miles.  So we consoled ourselves with some Sauvignon Blanc. 

Stats
Distance:  18 miles.  Twice.  Only the first time I did 0 miles, and the second time I did 15
Time: 03:02:33.  But the last three miles were by bus (and I had done a lot of walking)
Weather: sunny!!!
Time of day:  1.00pm
Notable features:  no food, a big hill, and a bigger invisible wall

On a mission

The 16.5 miler this weekend certainly did feel like a bit of a mission.  To begin with, I was persuaded somewhat against my better judgment to join a couple of friends for lunch in Marylebone at 1.30 on Saturday, which meant that I had to get up early to shoehorn a three hour run in beforehand.  The BBC News website had informed me the previous day that the hours between 9am and 12pm on Saturday were likely to be the best ones of the day: “sunny intervals” apparently.  Not sure I agree with the use of the plural there.  When I got up at 7.30am on Saturday the sun hadn’t even bothered to try penetrating the thick grey clouds, so the capri leggings and light top I’d planned to wear went back in the drawer and out came the fleecy tights and waterproof jacket again.  Twenty minutes into the run I thought I’d be regretting that decision, as the sun did briefly make an appearance over Putney and I started to swelter.  I needn’t have worried though – by the time I reached Richmond Park the rain had started to fall, and it came down thicker and faster with every soggy step I took.  The lap of the park was pretty bleak, but the effect of the rain was only really felt once I had headed back through Barnes to the river, and tried to run home along the towpath.  “Mudbath” would be a more accurate description – in places it was so slippery I could barely stay upright and the whole experience was far more Grim Challenge than London Marathon.  I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and the beginnings of a sniffle, which just goes to support the fairly obvious observation than running for three hours in torrential rain isn’t always particularly good for you.

Still, several positives to take away from the weekend’s efforts:

1.  Despite the challenging conditions, I went out and did what I needed to do.  In fact, it didn’t even occur to me that not going was an option. 

2.  The 9am start was another good practice for running those kind of distances in the morning, building on from last week.  Since I’ll have to do this on the day itself, I’m going to try and do all my long runs in the morning from now on.  The first mile was stiff and jerky but something about crossing Hammersmith Bridge always makes my running feel stronger and more fluid, and I settled into a comfortable rhythm after that. 

3.  I was well-rewarded for my efforts.  While I was out, my lovely flatmate (who is herself a London Marathon veteran and is therefore wonderfully understanding about the trials and tribulations of training) had got up, noticed the weather, and made chocolate brownies so that I would have something warm and yummy to eat as soon as I got in.  (Thank you Rachel!!)  And then immediately after that I got to have a delicious lunch at Cafe Luc with Mel and Michael, rounded off with fresh scones and jam (my all time favourite). 

4.  Physically, the run felt much harder than last week’s long run.  But my knee didn’t (and still doesn’t) hurt, my legs – which were screaming by the end of the run – have recovered much more quickly than last week, and the pace itself was a good bit faster as I completed 16.5 miles in 2:53:58 compared to 15.25 in 2:45:01 last time.

5.  I learned two things about ice baths (or at least very cold water baths).  When I got in from the run my quads and calves were really hurting – enough to make me think that a cold soak was just what they wanted.  The first thing I learned was that I was right – my quads and calves did like it.  The second thing I learned was that my feet did NOT like it.  Having spent three hours splashing through icy rain and mud, they were already numb with cold, and further total submersion in exceptionally chilly water prompted them to almost literally scream with displeasure.  I didn’t last long in that bath at all, but did give my legs (not my feet) a further cold dousing after my hot shower.  It may well have contributed to their swifter recovery – any thoughts?

6.  Girls – I found the ultimate track for a marathon playlist.  Gabriella Cilmi’s “On a Mission” is not one of the greatest tunes of all time by any means, but it could have been written for the marathon (it wasn’t, of course).  “I am a woman, on a mission; nothing can stop me I’m stronger than ever; I’m gonna see this through” etc is beyond cheesy but when you’re battling through the rain at 14 miles it’s pretty much exactly what you need.  I strongly suggest you add it to your playlist at a point at which you usually  struggle.  (Sadly, the gender emphasis probably makes it less effective for the lads.  The video – see pic opposite – might help though!)

Next long run is 18 miles on Thursday – my 30th birthday.  Gulp.

Stats
Distance:  16.5 miles
Time:  02:53:58
Route:  Through Putney to Richmond Park, 1 lap, back through Barnes and along the river
Terrain:  Some road, mostly shoe-sucking boggy muddy trail
Weather:  Wet.  Overhead and underfoot.
Notable features:  Rain was pretty overwhelming.  Also got caught up in the Fix’s Richmond 5k/10k, which made the first couple of miles of the park a bit more interesting.

Let’s get this party started

I haven’t quite given up on my twenties just yet, but the celebrations for the upcoming milestone started in earnest this weekend with a joint family party for my Grandpa (who turned 90 on Friday) and I.  As you can see, the cakes were impressive, not to mention delicious.  We had a great afternoon on Saturday eating copious amounts of delicious food provided by my wonderful mother, and drinking more prosecco than is ideal if you’re planning a 15 mile run the following morning.  Fortunately, the age of the guest of honour meant that the rabble had all departed by around 8pm, and I was allowed to snooze off the bubbles whilst my parents and brothers battled it out on the Nintendo Wii.

The 15 miler had been planned in advance and took in a daunting number of childhood and teenage haunts – the route chosen looked significantly further than a couple of laps round Richmond Park.  By Saturday night though I was a bit concerned that the old knee injury was going to scupper it: I did an interval session on the treadmill on Friday morning in my new trainers, and after 2 1/2 very strong and comfortable mile intervals my left knee suddenly started to grumble loudly enough for me to abandon the last half mile.   The injury wasn’t helped by an unscheduled race down the Kings Road in inappropriate footwear on Friday evening as I attempted to get to SweatyBetty before it shut in order to return some shorts I didn’t like.  (I made it, just in time, but managed to get a blister on my heel and increase the volume of the knee grumbling for my efforts.)  Plus I should add boxing in 5 inch heels to the list of things you probably shouldn’t do when training for a marathon – the gloves and pads I got my Mum as part of her Christmas present were a real hit (boom boom!) with the various aunts and younger cousins at the party but I probably should have taken my shoes off before offering to act as punch bag.

The result was that when Sunday morning dawned grey and cold but mercifully dry, I wasn’t sure whether or not to go out.  The knee was definitely not especially happy, but nor was it particularly bad either.  I decided to head out and see how it went for the first 4km, at which point I’d still be within half a mile of home and could abort the run if it was proving too much.

At that 4km mark I decided that it wasn’t so bad after all – although it definitely wasn’t 100% it wasn’t causing me any pain and if I maintained a steady pace it seemed happy enough.  And so it continued for the next 8 miles as I plodded around the country lanes.  People out on a Sunday morning in the countryside really are much more friendly and pleasant than those in London and there were plenty of “good mornings” exchanged with one or two other runners, some dog walkers and one chap on a bike who I passed a number of times on my long route (the third time I met him, miles and miles away from our first encounter, I could tell he was pretty impressed with how far I had come, which was a nice feeling).  After a fairly hairy run down the Straight Mile (no pavement, cars going very fast for obvious reasons) I turned off the main road again into Bourton and was met there by my Mum who had decided to do the last 5 miles with me.  It was nice to have the company, although I think she found the pace a little slow.  I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t need to match her pace, as I’d done 10 miles more than her!  By this stage though my knee got sore as soon as I either stopped or sped up, so maintaining a consistent 10.45 min pace was easy.

I made it home in one piece and bang on my target time of 2 hours 45 minutes (which in fact also included a brief comfort break at the Little Chef on the A45!).  The knee immediately flared up and I was very glad that my brother was able to drive us back to London that evening as I think 2 hours of clutch control might have been a bit too much for it.  But although it’s sore and stairs are a bit of an issue today, it hasn’t gone completely and I think it’ll be right as rain in two or three days.  This injury is such a long-standing one now that I know it well and can tell pretty accurately whether it’s aches and pains are serious or not.  I’m getting a massage today as well which will help, and I’ll probably skip one of my mid-week runs this week to give it a chance to recover.

All in all, a successful weekend.  Even if I am a bit crippled today, I’m not yet 90!

Stats
Distance:  15.25 miles
Time:  02:45:01
Terrain:  road, very undulating Warwickshire countryside
Weather:  typical grey February.  Dry and not too cold though.
Notable features:  pleasant exchanges with others out and about on a Sunday; running with my mother