A really long run and a really long hard look at myself

It’s been a bit of a week for realism and readjustments.

It was my birthday yesterday so this week I switched my long run to Saturday. I’ll admit to being pretty trepidatious about the whole thing.

I had to ditch Thursday’s eleven miler after five miles thanks to excruciating leg pain (the racing trainers turned out not to be such a great idea after all) so I was worried that the 20 miles I
had planned would be a) un-doable and b) painful.

I’ve also been running very slowly this week – I can’t seem to get my hydration/nutrition right.

I couldn’t face the prospect of doing 20 miles round The Loop – too hilly, too depressing to have to run past my house four times – so instead I though I’d head for Bournemouth seafront.

The route went from Bournemouth pier, to Sandbanks, round the peninsula, back to the pier, on to Hengistbury Head and then back to the pier. But as soon as I started my warm-up jog I could tell it
wasn’t going to be an easy run.

The sun, apart from making for extremely warm running conditions, had brought out about 6 million people and running the seafront was a bit like an obstacle course. My shins hurt. I was fully
prepared for having to give it up at six miles.

But I got the pier and didn’t feel too bad. So I plodded on, slowly. The good thing about the seafront is that there are drinking water taps along the way. The pain in my legs faded after about
three miles. I could tell I was going slowly, because the sun started to sink quite low in the sky.

When I got to the edge of the Hengistbury Head nature reserve I had another moment of doubt. It’s very sandy, and last time I ran here the path was mainly sand, not ideal 15 miles in. But miracle
of miracles, they’ve built a walkway! A lovely soft wooden walkway. Never have I been so pleased to see a few planks in my life.

The I was faced with The Hill. (It’s not much of a hill. But it is a hill.) Turn round or try and make it to the top? I went for it, promising myself a rest and a look at the view if I made it
without stopping.

I can honestly say it was worth it. The view from the head is so beautiful – and looking down the beach to Sandbanks and knowing I’d run from the furthest point I could see
felt like a real achievement.

View of Bournemouth Seafront From Hengistbury Head

Then the oh-my-god-I’ve-got-to-run-all-the-way-back-to-the-pier realisation kicked in. The last few miles weretough. So tough that I stopped at what I thought was 18.5 miles and walked the last bit
(in my socks) to give my legs a bit of a cool down.

Turns out it was actually 19.8 miles, so I feel much better now. It took me three hours and ten, so just under ten minute miles. All of which has meant a bit of a reassesment. I have to acknowledge
that I’m not nearly as fit as I was the last time I ran the marathon. Back then I had a five-years-of-training base that I’ve pretty much thrown away over the last 12 months.

So I have realised two things. I’m going to have to be lucky to make it round in less than four hours, never mind my original goal of 3.30. And unless I’m REALLY lucky, it’s going to hurt a lot
more than the last time.

But my new trainers arrive today, so I can attack this week’s training in comfort, hopefully. I don’t feel too sore today, so my legs aren’t broken. And this weekend’s long run will be the last
really long one I do before the marathon itself.

Things are looking up!

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~ by Sam Shepherd on March 23, 2009.

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