Winter has been kind to me. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the first day of Spring. My hardest marathon training session so far was strangely satisfying.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I embarked on training for my first ever marathon but I knew weather would play it’s part in making the training hard. I didn’t expect the first day of Spring to provide the toughest challenge on the training schedule.
Following a quicker-than-needed 2 days of running last weekend, today’s long run was all about disciplining myself to run 19 slow miles.
The aim was to complete the 19 miles maintaining a heart rate right down below 150bpm to maximise the fat burning and remind my body that it’ll need to be doing just that in 4 weeks time.
Despite waking up to rain tapping at the windows, by the time I got out the door it had stopped. Having dressed for the rain I was mildly disappointed!
With my legs still feeling a little of the previous day’s interval session it was nice to be sitting comfortably and I was content that my heart rate was behaving itself.
The first 6 miles was on road I’ve run before so I relaxed and enjoyed the fact it wasn’t raining, although I was starting to feel a little hot. After unzipping the jacket I took on a gel and soaked up the new ground I was breaking.
One difference I’ve found with marathon training compared with my previous training is the amount of ground you cover requires you to get adventurous. I find myself running through villages I’ve often driven through but never run through.
As I arrived at my 10 mile mark so did the rain. It came down with some force but luckily left as quickly as it came and was actually quite refreshing.
At the 11 mile mark I turned onto a new road and found explanation for why the rain had moved on so quickly – the wind almost slowed me to a standstill.
I’ve never felt wind like it. A mighty head wind that whipped my baseball cap clean off my head forcing me to turn and chase it back down the road. I bent down to grab it back and consider jacking it in for the day but something made me smile.
How ridiculous are we runners? How ridiculous was this?
I was virtually running on the spot and my hat has blown back down the road but yet…this was all about four week’s time. There’d be no option to jack it in in London so why give in now? So I smiled at the ridiculousness of the wind, shouted a Tom Jones style “Yeah!” and cracked on with the job in hand.
Blimey! It took a lot of smiling and yelling positive words to keep plodding along. Two miles of headwinds was enought to break anyone. As you’d imagine, my heart rate had risen even with a drop of pace but I was still on target as I turned out of the head wind – and after a short respite, I found myself being blown across the single track road with the wind now hitting me from the side. This is one of the trade-offs for picking a largely flat route – there was no shelter from the winds storming across the West Oxfordshire flatlands.
The road surface was broken and I was starting to feel it in my legs but I was still smiling. Only 5 miles to go. It was all about keeping a steady rhythm as the ground slowly climbed towards Lew, before making the final turn towards Curbridge and home.
This was the one bit of my planned route that I wasn’t looking forward to – a short stretch along the A4095. By no means a main road but even on a Sunday morning there would be some traffic to contend with, given there are no pavements.
Safely cresting the old railway bridge meant I could see the path in the distance and a nice straight stretch meant the passing traffic would be able to negotiate me with ease. The drivers were courteous, given me plenty of room, including two TV trucks heading to Bampton to film the next series of Downton Abbey.
Entering Curbridge put me back on well trodden ground and the legs were really tired now. So tired that, when the wind decided to help for the first time, my legs cried at being pushed along faster. Luckily, the tail wind faded allowing me to relax back and think of the warm shower that awaited me.
I was rudely woken up in my final mile after running through what I thought was an ivy creeper, only to find out it has a trailing hawthorn. Being a road runner predominantly, I’m not used to picking up war wounds.
Despite the run being the toughest of all my marathon training so far it was thoroughly rewarding. I had conquered the desire to quit. I had kept my heart rate down successfully. And I had stuck two fingers up, and smiled in the face of the strongest wind I’ve ever stood in, let alone run in!
Just one more long long run to go (21 miles next week will be the longest I’ve ever run) and just four weeks left until the London Marathon.
One thing that really helped this weekend has been a great week in terms of my fundraising. My total has now passed the halfway point, largely helped with a successful charity poker night on Friday.
If you can spare any money, it will really help me to help African Children’s Fund help children in East Africa to secure an education and a better future. Please donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runningdanw