I have often commented that there is a world of difference between “going for a run” and “Training” (and, yes, the capital-T was deliberate). I am about to cross that line once more, but this time on a marathon scale. If I make it to the start-line this will be my sixth.
If you have time, please read my post from 16th April as a Prologue to this post.
That was back in April. After that I ran two Half-Marathons (Leeds and Sheffield) and managed them perfectly: paced not raced, and I nailed it! I was running well, loving every minute, pain-free and strong, gently building range and stamina, to the point where the long weekend run puts you in marathon-training territory.
It is then that you notice it, almost fearfully at first. The voice in your head which says “Maybe I could do another one”, changes to “Which one will I do…? Could do! Could… I didn’t say “will” out loud!”
But it was there: I admitted to myself that I was planning an autumn marathon, weighing the dates and venues, even selecting a charity to sponsor to make maximum good from my endeavour. Of course I hadn’t gone public yet, I never do that until I’m well into the training and confident that it is on track.
In July I entered a local 10-mile race, on a course which is made up of many of my weekend routes. 6 miles and going strong, 7 miles and <BANG!!> a recurrence of an old injury: my first-ever DNF(1), and a miserable 2-mile hobble back to the start, nursing a torn calf and broken dreams. No need to worry now about which marathon.
This time I did the rehab properly: a complete mind-bending six-week break from running and a restart from scratch: walk, then walk/jog, then jog, then jog/run and eventually – weeks along – allowing my stride to open to full length, a little pace here and there. No pain! The pure joy of running. By Christmas I was back to 12-13 miles of mud and hills on a Sunday, and feeling strong.
So the voice came back, and I began to ponder again, secretly to plot without admitting it. Or indeed, consulting the family (I did promise in 2007, after all, that Dublin would be my last marathon).
And then this week, a whirlwind and a direction. A launch by the Jane Tomlinson organisation of a new “Yorkshire Marathon”, in October. In York: and not only that, but start and finish at my old university! Then infuriating disappointment on Friday night’s tv-news that the entry-limit had been reached…WTF!! I hadn’t even spotted there was a limit, and felt robbed. A conversation followed on Saturday after my morning run, and now, unexpected, I have clearance for an Autumn marathon.
York maybe, if I can pick up a waiting-list place? Or maybe my Nottingham Robin Hood, if they reinstate it? Or Dublin, why not after our summer hol there? They are all within a few weeks of each other so I can daydream them all for the time being and tune the Training (see: “T” again) nearer the time as the practicalities firm up.
So tomorrow morning I will run as usual. But it will not be “as usual”, it will be different. It will be a Marathon Training-Run. Those hours and years of daydreaming another marathon, will now be real. It is way too early yet for my 16- or 12-week programme, but I can train to be ready for the programme, can’t I?
There is another difference too: I have never “gone public” this early. So this journey is going to be in the open. I am quite realistic that it may end in injury and failure before even reaching the start-line. If that happens then this WILL definitely be my last (I can’t put my body through all that again).
But, just think: I may get to the start-line. I may run another marathon.
(And if I can, who says this one has to be my last?)
In all honesty, at the moment, I’d put the probability of my making the start-line at 50:50. There’s a long way between now and then; and, as I’ve written before, that’s what people miss when they look at the London Marathon pictures and say “That must be a great day!” It’s not the day, it’s the journey of months, years, which bring you there. Mine is just starting again: but this time it’s different and I will share this pre-race phase as I go, whatever it turns out to be. Whether it ends at the start-line or failure somewhere before there. It will be a relief, actually, to offload it in writing along the way, instead of having it all bursting in my head in an unsatisfactory “Good run?” and a “Fine thanks”.
So in time I will write more, decide the event, pick a charity, report progress. I will manage my kit, my diet, my fatigue. I will marvel at what my body can do. There will be months of anticipation, of triumphant daydreams, and exhilarating highs. There will be worries, wear-and-tear, and sleepless nights. There will be countryside and weather and road and miles. There will be doubt and fear; and there will be injuries, physio and TLC… hopefully somewhere below that line which says “Enough! Please Stop!” There will be stats: of targets and actuals, of runs, distances, sessions; but there will be an index of confidence as well, ebbing and flowing, surging and shattering; and there will be emotions.
There will be fundamentals of being, for that is what we really mean when we say “I’m off for a run”.
It’s started already, you see, this “Not running, but training”. It’s already different, in lots of ways. A conversation after Saturday morning’s run and the world has changed: Sunday’s run will be different.
I seem to have written a lot. What I meant to say is (draws head up, shoulders back, strong voice): I am trying to run a full marathon race this autumn, 26.2 miles. There, I said it out loud.
One final little detail, by the way: I do know what my target-time is. But I’m not telling you that.
(1) In the official results lists: your time, overall position, and position in your age category, DNF = Did Not Finish. Just crushing.