Running column: Mark Armstrong urges runners to think how they're feeling before embarking on that long run
Marathon training plans ebb and flow.
One week you feel great and ready to take on all of what those 26.2 miles have to offer.
The next and that three or four-mile recovery run when you just want to go home and eat your tea feels like an ultra.
For those that haven’t run a marathon, a piece of advice… it’s not always a lot of fun.
But it is during those dark moments in training that you build that inner strength that will become so important when everything is telling you to stop running.
Those are the runs that make the difference… and it’s also what makes it so frustrating when you’re unable to get out on that training run.
Seventeen miles were pencilled in last weekend and it was all I could think about when I got my programme from Neil.
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A sense of nervous anticipation builds when I know I’ve got a run planned for that weekend that will act as a really decent barometer for where my endurance is.
Unfortunately, a couple of days beforehand I was really struggling to hold a steady pace that I wouldn’t normally have any problem with.
When I got to work I kept an eye on my heartrate (I am that sad) and it was a lot higher than normal. Then the aches started - there was now no denying it, I had a cold.
The 17 miles weren’t going to happen and would have to be re-scheduled. To try and attempt it when I was feeling under the weather would have been silly at best, dangerous at worst.
I hate missing training runs but I hate being ill more. If I had tried to complete the run feeling the way I did then the best case would have been that I prolong it for a few more days than necessary.
Anyway, come Thursday night, with the rock and roll lifestyle that I lead, I helped my wife Alison, get the kids to bed and promptly hit the hay about half hour after them.
It was the best decision I made all week and my son Logan even obliged with just the one wake-up that night (don’t worry, he has since resumed his nocturnal service).
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The rest made a huge difference in my recovery and by the end of the weekend I was still able to get 10 easy miles in.
It wasn’t the 17 planned but it was a bit more time in the legs and the fact I got to run it with Ally made it even better. We’ve noticed in the last couple of years that we don’t go on dates anymore, we just run together when time and childcare allows. If we really want to treat each other then we go and get McDonald’s after a race just as we did after Freethorpe recently – it’s the only one we’ve had this year, honest! We’re proper athletes, you see.
Seriously, though as frustrating as it can be at times, plans are made for adapting. I know that a lot of runners aren’t as fortunate as I am to have someone like Neil to call upon and will be following a plan they’ve printed off the internet, many of which can do the job just fine.
However, that plan can never take into account how you’re feeling and it’s up to us as runners to evaluate if we’re giving our bodies the rest it needs to make the adaptations necessary to get through all those miles.
Far better to skip a run now than break down nearer the big day.
Feel free to pick and choose any of the above advice, just perhaps go easy on the McDonald’s.