Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

A Week Too Far

on 3 April 2016

My marathon attempt at Kielder last week did not go quite according to plan due to my poor clothing choices in rather wet, windy and cold weather, but I genuinely felt as I made my way round the lake that I had it in me to finish. Even when I decided to pull out, it wasn’t because my legs couldn’t keep going.

I’ve spent three months ‘training’ for the marathon distance, and to be honest haven’t really enjoyed the latter half of it, so having determined that I probably wouldn’t be putting myself through it again anytime soon I decided I wanted to make one more try at the distance, and try going from Prudhoe to Newcastle Quayside and back – a flat route where realistically the distance was the only challenge.

The weather was once again rather soggy; drizzle forecast for the whole afternoon but fortunately not as wet and windy as Kielder had been.

weather

I’d decided to try something slightly different to what I normally do for this one – I normally get as far as I can in one go, then interval at no particular time or distance after that depending on legs and terrain. This time I decided I’d try for steady; intervals from the start of 5 mins jogging and 2 mins walking in the hope that as I got more miles in, my jog speed would be maintained rather than slowing down as it normally does.

My personal trainer and faithful companion J was braving the ikky weather to accompany me and time-keep and generally chatter me round, for which I was very grateful!

pt

We set off steady enough, heading down to Wylam and past Newburn without incidence or really notice, which was good as last time I did the run past Wylam and towards Newburn on an 8 mile run 2-3 weeks ago, I had to really fight to get that far. We followed the Hadrian’s Wall walk from Newburn towards the Quayside, coming down through an industrial estate including a Warburton’s factory neither of us knew was there (I can at least be excused not being a local by birth, but J seemed most put out at not having known in advance all the things there were to know!).

I discovered relatively early in, that intervalling does not work for me: I was steady enough doing it, but I get tired after a period of time being on my feet as well as over a certain distance – the two are obviously not mutually exclusive and for me it appears the time-tiring is the bigger contributor than the distance. Alternating between jogging and walking obviously lowered my average pace, from its usual 10:30-11min/miles in the first few miles of a run, down to 12:30min/miles and it showed in the time it took me to do a distance.

My mind really started to falter when I saw it had taken me 2 hours to do 9 miles – a time I normally do somewhere around 11 miles in on the flat ground we were covering. Some quick maths suggested it would be 3 hours to the half marathon  – my worst ever time, and the prospect of well over 6 hours for the full thing – much longer than I was hoping for. Mental fortitude very shaken at this point and just hoping I’d get it back when we reached the halfway mark and knew I was counting milestones home again.

I tried to recoup some time back heading into Newcastle – running until I needed a walk again rather than for 5 mins, and walking for what I suspect was less-than 2 mins each time before setting off again. I did hit the half marathon in under 3 hours, but not by much, and my legs were feeling very heavy – continuing in this fashion for the same distance home again did not seem likely. We stopped at The Hub on the Quayside for a loo-break and for J to raid the cake board – I had been lightly eating on my way there and didn’t want a more sloshy stomach for the way back. I also knew I had plently of food waiting in the car at the end!

food

My mental reserves perked up again as we headed back under all the many bridges of Newcastle and back out towards Scotswood Road. I could see the Odeon and Costco coming into view along the river, and Scotswood Bridge in the distance, but now the physical side of it was starting to hold me back. I started intervalling again with J calling time for me, but needed longer and longer to walk. My calves got tighter and tighter and at 16 miles, the same distance in the same sort of time as I’d managed at Kielder the week before, I was forced to admit I didn’t have it in me to carry on – another 3 hours was too much to contemplate and I wasn’t capable of moving any quicker to bring the time down at this stage.

Mr J came to the rescue and picked us up and dropped us off at Prudhoe to get the cars. I remain injury free, but very very very tired – I felt worse doing the flat route along the river than I did going round Kielder, where I felt fine except for how incredibly cold I was. I think I hit my peak last week, and with the 16 miles last weekend just lost the stamina for the following week. Marathon season, for me at least, is over for this year. I suspect it will be a few more before I try tackling it again, if I’ve not put myself off trying it again ever! I have grown an even bigger respect for the people who complete this distance even once, let alone multiple times! For myself, I’m content to let my fitness grow more slowly towards the longer distances, and concentrate on getting quicker so as I start to tire noticeably at the 2-3 hour mark, I’m further along.

I don’t know how much was trying to write my own training plan without any experience at the start of the year, I certainly seemed to be adding to the distance week after week after week for several consecutively, which resulted in some rather heavy crashes and a few weeks completely exercise free due to over-training and exhaustion, and at one point a cold! I think if I were attempting this again, I would try and spend some time going through a plan with some of the experienced marathon runners of the Bounders and trying to get a more structured and better balanced program so I don’t peak and trough as much.

I’ve run 225 miles this year so far, and in that time run 8 runs at the half marathon distance or further – I managed 2 in the whole of last year! Now, I want some fun back. I miss Run England, I miss parkrun, I miss going out just to clear my head and to socialise with my friends. I miss the camaradrie of races, and am looking forward to some comfort-zone running for quite some time! Sand Dancer 10k is next Sunday; I haven’t done this one before but it looks right up my street – a familiar distance club run across multi-terrain, and I’m determined to enjoy it and just get round – whatever pace I end up doing, I’ll let my legs dictate that for now!

Thank you to everyone who’s been there through my marathon attempt – your support, interest and time have meant the world to me and helped me keep my head above water when a few times I was feeling rather down. For now, bring on the fun – and I hope to see you all very soon!

Sarah

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