I signed up for a half marathon this September and I’m keen to complete the distance within the allocated, and quite limited for a beginner, running time. I know half a marathon is a long way and this isn’t something that I can optimistically train for a week or two in advance, so I found a training schedule online and have been determinedly sticking to this.
I’ve been in and around the UK of late, back for a wedding and sticking around for some parental performances (one play and one choral production). However, being away for a prolonged period presented me with two options, either I temporarily suspend training activities or I adapt to my UK environment, bring my running gear with me and find some new running locations.
I chose the latter option and have been experimenting with where to go for my runs. Each week my schedule has me undertake two shorter and one longer run, that gradually increases my distance on a weekly basis. The idea being that by the time I get to half marathon day the idea of 20+km doesn’t induce a heart attack before I even cross the starting line.
Two weeks ago, in the midst of the UK heatwave I started out on my long run of the week. The first few km, were pretty challenging, more so than usual but I think this is partly a psychological thing as I fear that running a further distance each week will be beyond my capabilities. Anyway, after 20 minutes or so I settled into a happy pace.
Past the half way mark, emerging from shaded woodlands in the early morning sunshine, I found myself running along the edge of a field, trying to navigate a way back into the less heat-oppressive woods, when I became conscious of a number of butterflies. At first there were just one or two that seemed to be fluttering along in my direction and then there must have been twenty, flitttering about my head and engulfing me in my own personal cloud of winged supporters. This happened as the wonderfully catchy Andrews Sisters rendition of ‘I don’t want him, you can have him, he’s too fat for me’ came on through the headphones.
I am not sure if it was too much sun to the brain, the ridiculous song, or some sort of butterfly induced hallucination but I started to laugh out loud in what I can only explain as a moment of pure euphoria. It felt as though everything in my life at that very moment, had come together in one wonderful joyous union.
It was just as well I wasn’t running along the main roads and wasn’t currently in sight of any dog walkers as I must have looked like an absolute maniac, padding along with a swarm of butterflies, a huge grin on my face and some very loud outburst of laughter. Had I seen me, I think I’d have nervously hid in the undergrowth until the guffawing lunatic passed on their way, and then quietly called the relevant authorities to resolve the situation.
Last week I prepared for my long run again and as I was staying in a different part of the UK, chose a different route. Even at 9am it was roasting and regretablly the route I had chosen offered almost nothing in the way of relief from the sun and, although it was a designated walking path through the countryside, mostly it was running in a straight surrounded by similar looking hedges so the route was pretty dull.
After my first 2km the running app suddenly got confused and decided to add an extra 12 minutes to the next km and promptly threw my average running time off kilter so I no longer had any idea if I was maintaining pace, speeding up or slowing down. The blisters that had gradually been getting worse since I started longer distance runs (with some fairly old trainers) held their designated plasters in place for the first 6k before promptly giving up, wandering down my socks and agonisingly exposing already damaged skin to the hard impact of running. I hobbled on for a bit longer, suddenly found a lot of flies chasing me and some bastard insect bit me. I decided enough was enough and cut my losses for the day.
As I had been running a straight route, planning to double back and run the remainder of the course at half way point, when I decided to give up was a good 6km from where I started. I limped back for a couple of kilometers until I reached a point where I could get my mum to rescue me in the car. This was my worst run since I started training.
But running is like that, sometime it is wonderful and you can fill full of ecstatic joy as your legs pump along the countryside swirling up endorphins and beautiful swathes of butterflies and then other days it just seems that everything, yourself included, works against you and you cannot emerge from the funk of a depressing and painful run.
The good thing about having committed to the half marathon though is that although I have leave to allow myself a week to recover and heal those blisters I cannot indulge in the temptation of giving up completely and will have to relace my new (and therefore obvioulsy blister resistant) trainers and hit the trails again soon. Hopefully the next run will be an endorphin blasting confidence booster that convinces me there’s nothing I want to do more than just keep going and if not I’ll have to just glue myself to my run schedule until I can convince myself I enjoy this exercise malarky again!