And so onto week five, a week that would end with a hugely memorable weekend in London – and a medal!
My training plan had this marked down as an easier week but, in many ways, it was anything but. A lot of fun, yes, but not necessarily easier.
Monday, 30th January, 2017
I decided to move up to the 45-minute group at tonight’s club training session. I had debated whether to do it or stick with the 30-minute group given my efforts over the weekend, but I decided I would never know how I’d cope if I didn’t give it a go.
It started off ok, a reasonably sedate pace, but the speed steadily increased and whilst I wasn’t left behind I did find the going a little challenging, partly because my legs were a tad heavy.
I made the mistake the last time of doing the little shuttle sprints up the Frys Road so I elected to sit them out this time.
I felt bad about that because there were only six or seven in our group tonight and I was the only one not to do them …… but last time they totally drained my legs and I really struggled in the second part of the run. I knew the same would happen tonight so I decided to put my sensible head on.
This all sounds very negative but it’s not meant to be. I suspected the group leader was thinking that’d be my mindset because, towards the end, he said to me that I’ll likely go home and beat myself up over the run tonight.
Yes, I was towards the back of the group but I wasn’t spat out. I managed, by and large, to keep pace with everyone else and that very definitely wasn’t the case the last time I tried the 45s.
Tuesday, 31st January, 2017
Well, that was enjoyable. I decided to go to the club C25K session tonight to offer my help if needed. It was week four which meant splits of 3, 8, 3 and 8 with two minutes walk between each stage.
I remember doing this before and really worrying about the step up to eight minutes – and so did everyone else – so it was wonderfully reassuring to not give it a second thought this evening.
That said, I appreciate how daunting it is to those who haven’t done it before so it was good to chat to a couple of people beforehand, hopefully putting them at ease if even just a little bit.
Out on the run itself, it felt really good to go at a very gentle pace. This was my fourth consecutive day running (or my fifth in six days) so I got the sense it was really beneficial for me to use this as something of a recovery session, rather than just doing sod all.
Friday, 3rd February, 2017
I might be a cantankerous old goat at times, but I’m also a sentimental fool who would be no stranger to having something in his eye or a lump in his throat.
And, with that in mind and being in London for the Winter Run 10k on Sunday, I decided to do something that I thought would be quite nice.
Basically, it was this ….. over the course of its history the London Marathon has finished in three different locations, namely Constitution Hill, Westminster Bridge and The Mall.
So, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to go on a little run that would take in all three locations? In effect, I’ll have crossed the finish line three times in one night. Also, with a little nod towards Sunday’s run, I thought I’d start it all off at Trafalgar Square from where I’ll be setting off at the weekend.
Despite feeling like an idiot going on the tube bedecked in my running gear and tights I set off towards the Embankment to recreate that point in the marathon that you realise, after all the heartache and pain in the months of training that preceded it, you’re going to finish this thing. You see Big Ben, you’ve got the Eye looking at you across the river, you’re going to do this!
Reaching Westminster Bridge I suddenly realised I didn’t know in what direction the race finished all those years ago when it took over from Constitution Hill, so the only thing to do was to run over one way, then loop back and go the other way, at least I’ll have crossed the finish line in the right direction regardless.
It wasn’t particularly easy to navigate, it was surprisingly dark, it was raining, quite slippy and I suddenly felt this overwhelming regret that I didn’t have little wipers on my glasses! Oh, and tourists.
But it felt quite a cool thing to be doing. I felt like a runner, I was getting nods – and returned them – from other runners. It felt good to be seen to be a part of something.
Anyway …… after Westminster Bridge, it was onto Birdcage Walk, another place I was so glad to see last time out. The end was nigh. It was to time to get the blubbing, the tears and the trembling bottom lip out of my system before composing myself for that all important last 300-odd yards.
That brought me to Buckingham Palace but instead of turning onto the Mall I ran along the front of building before taking a left onto Constitution Hill and the original finish way back in the early 80s.
Again, I wasn’t quite sure where the actual line was so I ran up to the Wellington Arch, turned and came back down again. I remember watching the first ever London Marathon on tv as a wee lad still in primary school, seeing Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen finishing in a deliberate tie, and I replayed those images in my head.
It felt like I was paying homage to the origins of an event I’ve come to love over the years, and one I still can’t believe that I’ve competed in and will be competing in again.
Returning back across the front of Buckingham Palace it was time to head onto The Mall and ‘my’ London Marathon finish.
Running down that road on April 24th 2016 having completed my first marathon is a memory that’ll always have a very special place in my heart and, returning tonight, I’ll admit to having a serious dose of goosebumps. The memories came flooding back, wave upon wave of them.
Call me silly but I felt quite contented to have done it. I didn’t do the finishes in the correct order but that didn’t matter. I had paid my own little tribute to the race and, as I did so, my thoughts also went to those that started off over the years but never survived to finish their race. A part of me was felt I was completing it for them.
Sunday, 5th February, 2017
And so onto my point of being in London in the first place, the Winter Run 10k. The distance is as it says on the tin, setting off under the shadow of Nelson’s Column, heading out to St. Paul’s Cathedral and back in again to a finish just shy of Downing Street.
I arrived in Trafalgar Square at approx. 8:30am with my friend – some two hours before my start time – there was nothing else for it but to take the obligatory pics of the start line, not forgetting the penguins and on a podium holding a speech bubble! I didn’t take part in the mass warm up, I have two left feet at the best of times without taking a wrong turn in some routine or t’other and taking out a row of people!
At 9:45am I made my way to the starting funnel expecting to see some sort of designated area for people in my wave to wait until they were called. However, there wasn’t, so I found myself swept along with the crowds and placed in a wave much, much earlier than I should have been. I eventually crossed the line at 10:10am, not the 10:34 I was allocated. Ah well.
When the race started I set off at a fair old pace and, indeed, went even faster in the second kilometre. Not ideal and definitely not the ‘start slow, go slower’ advice that’s often given. Realising I’d probably blow up if I kept this up I made a conscious effort to slow in right down before the halfway point, even stopping a one point to take a selfie with a ‘penguin’!
My legs weren’t feeling 100%, even at the start, and this continued all the way round. They weren’t awful, just not as fresh as I’d have liked.
Anyway, moving onto the second half of the race I began to gradually quicken things up again although this did mean not really paying attention to my surroundings. I recall St. Paul’s and the bells sounding, thinking how loud they were, but not really that much else.
The crowds were quite sparse in places, but this was more than made up with by the camaraderie amongst the other runners, plus a ‘rock’ choir, a brass band and a woman blowing into some big Swiss horn contraption of a thing.
As we neared the end the crowds did thicken up again, and as I spied Nelson’s Column in the distance it started to have the feel of the marathon itself, a factor that really spurred me on. I tried to increase my pace again, but with tiredness kicking in I had to dig deep before eventually finding another gear and putting in a final kilometre that was actually quicker than my first!
There was a moment of despair as I turned the final corner into Whitehall. I was expecting the finish line to be a lot further up the road but as I went round that final bend it was right down almost at Downing Street a lot further away than I thought!
However, with the crowds quite deep at this point and knowing my friend was standing somewhere to take a picture there’s no way I was going to slow down or take a breather, so I kept chugging on trying to dredge something up from somewhere …… I was so, so grateful to see that finish line, I had absolutely nothing left to give.
Timewise it was outside a PB, but faster than I had done the distance a week earlier – and it would have been faster if I hadn’t stopped for a drink or that aforementioned penguin selfie. I was still happy with my time, though, and it’s good to know what I’m capable of.
I also attended the VLM ‘Meet the Experts’ day on Saturday. As this will be my second time doing London, there was a lot of information given out I already knew but also lots I didn’t and that made it a very enjoyable and beneficial event to attend. It was also to good to meet some of my fellow charity runners, and other runners in general.
Adapted from my blog: Huff, Puff and Shuffle
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