Twenty miles into my final long run before the Manchester Marathon, and in sight of my car in the Swinsty Reservoir car park, my insidious devil head voice piped up:
“Why don’t you just run a marathon now, that would look good on Strava, wouldn’t it?”
The angel voice responded “Don’t be stupid, its only two weeks until the marathon, get in the car and go home”.
In truth, I didn’t want to go home: I felt good, I was out on the trails on a stunning spring day and I was enjoying the solitude. I pressed on.
I’d started the run at 8.30 a.m. As I parked up, there was a hint of chill and a smoky mist hanging loosely over the water, but I just knew it was going to be a glorious day…
I was running solo for a change, and as much as I have enjoyed the company of my teammates on long runs this year, I think I needed three hours alone with my thoughts in such a beautiful place.
It hasn’t been a straightforward week. It started with family illness and rushed visits to hospital last Sunday; work has been fraught and stressful recently and my blistered toe was slow to heal.
Three weeks out would be the perfect time for the final pre-marathon long run, but last Sunday my toe was too painful. On Monday morning, I got up at 5:30a.m., fully intending to run 20 miles before starting work.
After 5 miles of 8:30 min/miles shuffling and with a throbbing toe, I ran past my office and tossed in the towel. Poor I know, but sometimes when you are hurting and absolutely hating the run, there is no point in continuing.
Thankfully, by the end of the week, the World seemed a nicer place again.
Good Friday meant it was the Salford 10K – an annual fixture for me, and a race I really enjoy. I don’t want this to sound wrong, but it’s a proper old fashioned ‘club’ race. No big corporate sponsor, no £30 entry fee, no closed roads – just a mass of very good Northern runners, most in very short shorts, fantastic volunteer marshals and a great wholesome atmosphere.
A flat 2 lap course and a windless mizzly day presaged fast times. Despite my down mood at the start of the week, a good hard interval session of 5 times one kilometre on Wednesday lunchtime gave me thoughts of a possible fast time, maybe even a PB.
Looking at my previous fast 10Ks, like Salford (36:50) and the Abbey Dash (36:21) in 2014, I realised that I have tended to run the first mile a little too fast, and had faded towards the end of the race. Although a 10K race is almost the definition of what a threshold effort is, you still need to measure the effort correctly.
I decided to back off just a tad for the first mile. I was well back in the high quality field, but still ran 5:49, feeling I had left plenty in the tank.
I managed to lock in this pace and kept passing other runners steadily as the miles ticked over – 5:50, then 5:50 again. As I passed the 5K halfway mark, a marshal yelled out “17-58!” I still felt OK – I was working hard, but felt I could probably maintain the pace for a bit longer.
Mile 4 is ever so slightly uphill and was a bit slower in 5:56, but then I managed to run a 5:50 and a 5:51 mile to bring me in sight of the finish. There was a knot of about 5 other runners just in front of me and I decided to absolutely bury myself for a final 200m sprint in order to pass them and burgle a few places.
My finish time was 36:06 for a new PB, which I was obviously pleased with. I was probably even more pleased with the way I paced the race, which was nearly perfectly even.
Having broken 18 minutes for the first 5K at Salford, what could stop me smashing my 17:44 5K PB at Woodhouse Moor parkrun on Saturday morning? Well, hubris for one thing! Although I gave it full gas, Friday’s effort was still in my legs and I faded to finish in 18:14. The course is very busy these days, which is wonderful, but I did experience a few traffic issues on the third lap, probably costing 5-10 seconds.
* * *
Back on my long run on Sunday, I was finally tiring after 24 miles on the final little loop. Realising that only vanity was telling me to run a marathon two weeks before a marathon, and spying an ice cream van in the car park; I decided to stop at 25 miles and sit in the sunshine enjoying the perfect post effort recovery fuel – a ‘99’ ice cream and a can of full fat Coke.
Despite the extortionate price (£3.20!!!), I watched the birds over the water with warm sunshine on the side of my face. It’s been a hard block of training since Christmas, but now I can relax, at least for a few weeks and hopefully enjoy the fruits of my efforts during the cold and dark of winter.
Surely I’ve earned it?
CM -8 weeks (MM -2 weeks)
Weight 11st 4.0lb
parkrun – Woodhouse Moor (18:14, 5th)