Week One: Clarity, a Chance Encounter, and a nine-month game of Snakes-&-Ladders

Running a marathon is so much more than 26.2 miles, and the time running on the day. In my case this one will take at least eight or nine months depending which of my candidate events it turns out to be. And that doesn’t include the past year of thinking about it, training, injury, rehab and thinking again. Or indeed, the interval since October 2007 and Dublin, since when, in truth, it has never really gone away.


It feels different, much clearer now that I have admitted to myself that I am aiming for it: my mind is no longer tumbling around the ifs and maybes and hows; I am not worrying about it, not procrastinating. I am doing it, and there are only two outcomes.

  • I will manage the buildup and training and reach the start intact. In that case the day will take what course it will. I need not think about that yet.
  • Or I will fail between now and the start line (Overtraining? Turned ankle in the woods? Revenge of an old injury?) in which case this definitely will be my last attempt.

It’s simpler. Binary.

And to be honest it’s also a relief to have said to people that this is what I am doing. It feels unburdened. I can be more open about my goals and why it matters; and if I fail, I won’t have to keep the frustration and disappointment to myself.

I had another flash of clarity this week, too, regarding charity fundraising and sponsorship, but I will write about that in another post.

A nine-month game of snakes & ladders

So running this week has had a different feel to it: a nine-month horizon with a route to get there.

  • Build some strength and endurance (a base for for the structured Programme later), completing the rehab of last summer’s injury and testing out my other niggles.
  • Spring half-marathon: Leeds, and maybe AN Other?
  • Summer: Humber Bridge Half? Eccup 10 again, but finish it this time!
  • My 16- or 12-week Programme, adjusted to suit 2013 and the event, whichever it turns out to be
  • and of course Robin Hood Half if that is not the one.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the course between here and the start-line (or the other end-point) will be the usual emotional and physical snakes-&-ladders of a marathon ambition.

But that’s what makes it so special: if it were easy it wouldn’t mean so much. It is exactly those doubts and obstacles which give the depth to the pride you feel at having done it, and which make a marathon medal pure gold. I once read something to the effect that

there will be many days of doubt and fear in preparing for a marathon, but a lifetime of knowing that you have done it

which I think perfectly captures both the event and the journey.

Week One

First Tracks

The knock-on of a cancelled school governor meeting, snow and ice, and a friend in hospital (how selfish can you be!) interfered slightly but it was a solid week overall.

Saturday morning woke to a new covering of overnight snow, so I got myself up and out, and in the end went further than I had planned simply because it was so beautiful in the woods. The recent weeks’ churned-up mud and wet had frozen solid, the tracks now an assault-course of rigid spikes and ruts and risky angles. I’m used to this though, on the basis that if you don’t break your ankle it’s all good strengthening.

I had a lovely chance encounter with a farmer (phew! good job I didn’t write “chance encounter with a lovely farmer” which would have been something quite different). He jumped down from his tractor to warn me about the treacherous track below. I thanked him but said I was used to it, and it turned out he was also a runner, was nursing an injury (we compared notes on GPs and Physios), had run marathons and raised money for Martin House Hospice, and you’d never guess but the tightest buggers when it comes to sponsorship are the bloody farmers. Apparently. He had a place in the new Yorkshire Marathon, one of my targets, and smiled when I wished him well with his injury but pointed out if he dropped out I might get a waiting-list place. ‘Cause I’m nice, that way.

He also told me about the Snowdonia marathon which is in the same time-window in late October: he recommended it as “not an ultra… a bit hilly, mind, but lovely”. Now, my former membership of the London Mountaineering Club [north face of Primrose Hill, without supplemental oxygen] qualifies me to say that Llanberis Pass and surrounds is rather more than “a bit hilly”: even so, that’s one to conjure with, for my Quest. I was getting cold by now and ran on. Nice though, that understanding, the common vocabulary, between fellow-runners.

Did I mention I had a Quest? One of my running Tweeps put it that way when wishing me luck in getting into a good event. So now I have a Quest-of-Four, to be decided between York, Dublin, Snowdonia as well as Robin Hood if it’s back on. And a newsflash: RH are “still making final decisions”…. but with no timetable for when there will be a decision, which rather fuels my suspicion that having made the break they may well stick with the (much-cheaper-to-put-on-thank-you-very-much) event without the 26.2.

Interesting though: Snowdonia. Alongside London and Dublin, IF I managed that, and IF I could do another one, and IF Edinburgh had places, then I could maybe come up with a Home Internationals plan. Ooops, there I go again…!

Random Thought Of The Week

Funny, how when running on snowy streets at night, you dress in all black to make yourself more visible.

Week Index

Runs 4; Long 8.75; Speed 0

Other: 2

Body: Ok so far.

Spirits: Good, positive but realistic. 50/50, with care.


About johntleeds

In amongst the perpetual juggling of work, family and things on my mind, this is MY time, MY escape. Any this is what my mind comes up with when it has time to wonder, as I wander on the trails... twitter @johntleeds
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