Saturday saw me hit a new milestone in training. Running further than I have ever done before (just), 14 miles.
I had planned this route long in advance. Parking my car at Harlow Mill Beefeater I would run along the river path all the way to Cheshunt. In recent weeks I have thoroughly enjoyed running south on this path, never northwards. For some reason running north on this path has a mental block for me – something I am going to have to overcome eventually as the routes become longer. The route was perfectly planned; I had researched it and checked it on numerous occasions. I was ready for it.
The run was going well. My mind was in good shape after the London Winter Run and I was steadily adopting the same mantra I had during the race the previous Sunday. I had planned to pause briefly at the seven mile mark to take on board my energy jelly that was tucked into my pocket. To be honest, I could have even pushed myself to the nine mile mark before taking this on. I was generally feeling rather good physically and mentally.
Then I hit Dobbs Weir. Running along the river during this portion of the run was extremely difficult; pot holes the size of craters meant that I had to develop almost a skiing motion with my running. That said, I got through it and started to pick up my pace again until I passed Broxbourne station and remembered I hated this section of the river.
Back in October 2015 I ran my first Half Marathon through the Lea Valley. I also trained for it in the area too. What I did not realise when planning Saturday’s run was my brain seemed to have a problem running this part again. For what seems like miles the path is just straight ahead. I was running for what felt like hours along this long section and it felt like I was going no-where, like it was never ending. My mind went to a dark, dark place. With the snow blowing around me I suddenly felt so lonely and my brain clearly sent a message to my legs – as they just stopped just after 11 miles. I was determined for this not to be me hitting a wall. So I took a large swig of water and started moving again, quickly picking up the pace again but not the pace I had held for the first 11 miles.
The same thing happened a few more times, with the last mile feeling so unbearably slow.
I crawled onto the train at Cheshunt, watching the path I had just run fly by, thinking “what the hell have I signed up for?”
The following morning, with my planned short run cancelled to rest my still aching legs, I was rather emotional. I had put my run up on Facebook and the support I received over the space of 24 hours broke me. Seeing all these people who have so much confidence in my ability to see this through, was overwhelming.
On top of this I kept thinking about the runs that are to come over the next few weeks, the 16, 18, 20 and 22 milers, and imagined the lonely road I have still to run over the next 9 and a bit weeks. I cannot even fathom how I can possibly get through those lonely miles. Many have said “join a running club” or “get a running buddy” – but at this point in my training I don’t think I would be able to have someone running the long runs with me. Shorter runs, yes, no problem. But my long runs have become a space in time when I don’t think about anyone else but me; my pace, my running, my heart rate. So it’s a catch twenty two situation; the lonely miles are torture but at the same time I don’t have it in me to run to someone else’s beat right now.
After much digression I have found a lot of support in the online community. I am becoming more and more astonished with the amount of support you can receive from people. Complete strangers who are willing to listen to your training worries, give you advice and sometimes just say “I feel that too.” All these people rallying together, becoming an amazing support system to new and old runners alike. It is simply amazing.
I am no-where near the end of the road with training, there are many, many miles still to come. But when someone commented on one of my posts stating that the lonely miles of training is much harder than race day itself, I found myself comforted slightly.
As my training runs start to get longer, and I doubt myself that little bit more, I need to focus on the fact that although this is a lonely road I am travelling; Marathon day itself will be a different story.
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