Thirteen weeks ago I started training for my first marathon. I’ve pushed myself more than ever, setting both personal firsts and bests. This weekend sees my training peak and embark on my first proper taper.
Today was a big day for me. As a chocoholic, Easter Sunday is always a big day but today was big for a different reason. Today was the peak of my marathon training, the biggest long run of my whole schedule: 21 miles.
I would never have thought that I would be opting to go for a run over eating Easter eggs, let alone going for a 21 mile run. That’s what marathon training is all about – making sacrifices for the greater good.
Having done a windy 19 mile circuit through local villages last weekend I wanted to find a different route for today’s 21 miles.
One option would be an out and back along the mind-numbing A40 to Oxford. It would certainly make for a mental as well as physical challenge but the hills at Barnard Gate and up to the edge of Witney was not what I wanted for the end of my longest ever run.
So I opted for something different. My amazing wife, who has patiently tolerated the limited lay-ins and lost weekends, sacrificed her own lay-in to drive me into Oxford and release me like a homing pigeon to find my way back.
With the direct route home only 10.5 miles I needed to be a homing pigeon that would do a bit of sightseeing first.
Oxford was relatively quiet but busier than I imagined for 9am on Easter Sunday morning. Still, a pleasant and unusual calm to the city made for a relaxing start which helped me keep my heart rate down in it’s target zone.
One big thing I have learnt from my marathon training is, despite setting a host of new personal bests last year, I wasn’t running my long runs slow enough. In fact, even during this marathon training I’ve struggled to slow myself down to gain the maximum fat-burning training effect.
Entering Christ Church Meadow brought back some memories of Oxford Half Marathon’s past. If the rumours are to be believed, this year’s race won’t set foot in the peaceful park.
I haven’t run with earphones for years and it’s not just for safety reasons for running on country roads with no paths; I love listening to the world around me.
Today I had a mixture of tracks on my “world around me” playlist.
First I was treated to melodic multiple peels of church bells drifting over Oxford. Cutting past the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs marked the start of track two: the rhythmic clatter and chatter of camera shutters and their accompanying tourists. More bells saw me all the way to the edge of Oxford before the track changed to the cacophony of cars, vans and trucks courtesy of the A40. Diverting off the main road at Cassington brought the next track featuring the varied chirping of the local birdlife. The final track came from the heavy metal band “Tired Legs” and was an unwelcome 5 miles long. I was relieved when I got back to the front door and I could shut off their shouts!
I think my wife was a little surprised that I wasn’t in bouyant mood like I have been at the end of other long runs. After the 7 miles at marathon pace yesterday and the 21 miles today I was completely spent. It didn’t help that I’d opted to take no water with me and whilst it wasn’t warm, it was warm enough that I could have done with some in that last 5 miles.
After a pint of water and a big glass of chocolate milk I started to brighten up and reflect on what I’d achieved:
- my furthest ever run at 21 miles
- my longest ever run at 3 hours and 26 minutes
- my biggest ever running week with a total of 64km (that’s 40 miles for those of you who use old money)
Back in November, when my legs had never seen further than 13.1 miles, I really wondered whether I could make it through this training plan. My coach had planned more big weekends in to the schedule than I needed to make allowances for illness or injuries but ridiculously I’ve managed them all.
My typical running week prior to this marathon training schedule was 20 miles so I’m chuffed to think that this week has doubled that. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
Looking back is a great way to reinforce the valuable adage I will need to remember over the next 3 weeks: “Trust The Training”. In fact, I’m glad I looked back at today’s run straight away. I think I’ve found out one of the reasons why the legs were shouting so much.
I’d done all the good route planning work to avoid the big hills but hadn’t realised I’d still left a steady incline all the way home, despite having run most of those miles before!
Of course all of this hard work isn’t just about me. My London Marathon place was given to me thanks to African Children’s Fund, a small charity doing great things in East Africa to enable children to secure an education and better future for themselves. They were fortunate to secure the place through the first ever London Marathon Charity Ballot, making me their first ever representative at the nation’s most popular marathon.
In return for the place from African Children’s Fund I have set myself a target of raising £2000 for them. My supporters have been fantastic in helping me raise money so far and today I had some more great news.
My 8 year old god-daughter Niamh held a raffle at her family’s Easter get together and raised a massive £70. Thank you Niamh! That takes my total to just over £1500 which means, if my fundraising efforts were running the marathon it would have exited the Isle of Dogs and heading towards Limehouse for the second time.
Can you help push my fundraising all the way to the Mall? Every donation helps take me closer to the finish line so please visit my fundraising page and make a donation at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runningdanw
Many thanks! Now it’s time to ease the training back slowly over these final few weeks and push to get that fundraising total to the finish line.