Marathon training, races and a couple of PBs

With two months left to the Marathon, I was pleased to finish with a PB (2h 6m 14s) at the North London Half yesterday. Especially since I didn’t think I had it in me after last Sunday’s Finchley 20, which completely drained my energy levels and I felt I had not quite recovered.

A PB, and look how they spelled my name, a disgrace :O
A PB, and look how they spelled my name, a disgrace :O

It is good to know that all my efforts are making a difference and that I’m shaping up alright for the Marathon – I have good hopes of finishing without too much suffering. I’ve had a good running-winter, weather in London is never cold enough to provoke the need of wearing long johns and double long-sleeves are as much as I have ever needed to put on. One occasional Sunday run we had sprinkles of snow – but that was it. It hasn’t even rained much. Therefore, training has continued uninterrupted throughout winter, finishing 2h 12m 32s (only a few minutes off my PB) at the Watford Half in February, despite an acknowledged challenging undulating course. The race was nicely organised and smallish. It started off in the park and took us onto beautiful country lanes where one could enjoy the running and the view without being worried about traffic. Also, it was a one lap race, which I always prefer. The only disappointment was that there was no race finish banana.

Enjoying the country lanes around Watford. Photo Courtesy: Christopher Calvert
Enjoying the country lanes around Watford. Photo Courtesy: Christopher Calvert

A week later I ran a local race, Harrow Hill, which again is known for its hills, especially the murderous first uphill. I’m beginning to think I like hills and our club runs over Harrow and the graveyard certainly has given results because this time I managed a PB and finished within the hour, something I’ve never managed before, 59m 05s. This was celebrated with a Sunday roast and a pint to wash it down. If all Sundays were like this, life would be sweet.
On Sundays when I haven’t been racing, there have been Sunday runs to different locations, park runs including runs to park runs, and of course the now usual Tuesday and Thursday club runs with Sudbury Court Running Club. It is great to have a reason to get out of the house and chat about this and that while getting some air, my head would be too clogged up with studies otherwise.
So, ‘is running always easy?’ you might ask. The answer is of course, no, it is also very very hard. Admittedly, I would not do this if I didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it is ‘a walk in the park’.

Proud and tired, 20 refers to miles, approximately 32k
Proud and tired, 20 refers to miles, approximately 32k

Finishing the Finchley 20 was very hard, it is a distance that I had only ran twice before in my life, once as a pre Lisbon Marathon practice and then of course I passed that distance during the Marathon itself. My greatest problems when running longer than 20-25k are to keep hydrated and energised. I take energy gels, which help but they also make me burp for miles afterwards and if I take a few I feel sick. I also try good old-fashioned Jelly Babies, which are tastier, but difficult to chew. When running this far I would need to actually stop and eat a cereal bar or something solid, need to try that next time. Something just as troubling is my nerve problem and that my left leg and feet tend to go numb, I suspect the pressure on my feet causes it but I’m not sure if it is pressure from above or underneath. In addition, I need to sort out my blister problem.

After the Finchley 20 the rest of the day was spent sleeping and eating, the following day as well. Then I got better. However, I did learn from this and made an effort to hydrate better for the North London Half, drinking coconut water before the race, sport drink during the race + a couple of gels and then a cheese sandwich postrace, in addition to my banana. This made the energy last all the way home to shower and down to the Ace Café and the Overland & Adventure travel motorbike meet, where I ordered a fry up and soaked up the atmosphere. Sadly, no pics, must have been tired 🙂

Finishing in the Wembley arena, with my favourite photographer in the grandstands. Photo Courtesy Christopher Calvert
Finishing in the Wembley Stadium, with my favourite photographer in the grandstands. Photo Courtesy Christopher Calvert

Here, I also want to mention the great organisation around the Finchley 20. The race consisted of four 5 mile laps and I was told it was going to be boring. I, however, never really thought it was. I enjoyed being lapped by the fastest runners half way on lap 2 – then I could study their stride and step and the marshals were extremely encouraging and cheered us on lap after lap. When comparing this small race organised by a running club and the huge event of Vitality, North London Half I must say that Finchley 20 had the nicer feel to it. Nevertheless, North London had the greatest finish line. As advertised we finished inside the Wembely Stadium – this was the major reason why I signed up. The downside with these two races was that the locals were not all that interested, the crowd support was almost absent. Not at all as last year’s Hackney Half, which was like a running-party.
Now I have to think of something new to sign up for, either I’ll go for Hackney Half again, or a smaller race… Food for thought.
Now, dear friends, thank you for reading – and if you appreciate my effort for getting fit for the Leiden Marathon – please consider donating to Motorcycle Outreach. It is a small independent charity which provides motorcycles to healthcare workers which in turn can bring healthcare to remote villages – they make the world a better place and you can be part of that! The fundraising event is called WIMA: Ride and RUN for Charity – Welcome with your donation!