This month I am suppose to be running a marathon, I’ve had it pencilled in since November but come raceday I won’t be lining up with everyone else.
The thought of not racing hadn’t crossed my mind until a few of my friends suggested dropping it, followed by my running coach a week later (yes I now have a running coach, more about that later!). They pointed out that with two marathons in April my body deserves a rest and if I carried on at this pace (excuse the pun) I was at risk of burning out or picking up an injury. The fact that I didn’t dig my heels in and ignore their advice, as I often do, told me they were probably right.
Lakeland50, my first ever fifty mile ultra, is only 12 weeks away and the sands of the Marathon des Sables are getting ever closer so I know I need to be sensible. However, being sensible is not something I’m known for, especially when it comes to running. In my first year of running I picked up a stress fracture through pushing my body beyond it’s limits, having gone from no running to 3 marathons and 5 half marathons in the space of a year. Three weeks later, with a huge medical boot on I hobbled a 6K. I was suppose to be running a marathon that weekend and that loss of control was gnawing at my depressive tendencies. I saw the mental warning signs and made the choice, albeit a stupid one, to run the shorter race. It was hot, painful and caused a lot of chaffing but I got it done. However, I didn’t learn anything from that experience and five weeks after that I ran the Athens Marathon. It was by far the worst race I’ve ever done. The injury that I had battled to recover from reared it’s ugly head along with many other aches and pains born from doing too much, too soon to a warn out body. It was a huge mental battle too on the lonely road from Marathon to Athens, one that I did not win. I arrived at the finish line entirely beaten by the race and quickly drank all the beer in Greece.
Since then I’ve learnt that my body is a finite resource. If I don’t take care of it and respect it then one day I might not be able to run at all. Running is my coping mechanism and the thought having to go through the mental struggle I had in the few months following my stress fracture for the rest of my life is terrifying. I have to look after my body so I can keep running as long as possible.
I need to run smart.
The smartest thing I could do would be to enlist some help. As some of you will know I live in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful Cotswolds, where on earth am I going to find a running coach here? Well, fate intervened for me through the wonders of coffee. There’s a local coffeeshop that I go to far, far too much and about two months ago it changed hands and along came my coach Ed and his lovely wife Laura. Ed, aka Challenge Cotswolds, is someone who not only knows what the desert will throw at me next April, having come 21st the year he competed in Marathon des Sables but is also now a mate. I’ve given him full control over my training plan for the next year and will try my very best to stick to it! We are planning weekly sessions in the hope of turn me into a lean, mean sand dune conquering machine come April.
So while it is hard to turn down a wonderful opportunity, like running my 14th marathon, sometimes you’ve got to control the Gollum-esque part of your brain that craves new race medals and play the long game. By resting my body now and doing a few shorter distance races until the next marathon, my first ever trail marathon, I’m giving myself the best chance of staying fit, happy and crucially out there still clocking up those miles.
NEXT RACE: Silverstone 10K
Much respect for having that discipline! Even though passing on the next marathon might be a bummer, it’s exciting to know bigger things are around the corner. Good luck with the new training plan!