|Large Red Damsel eclosing from the pond|
|But who is this?|
It's two weeks until the marathon. I have finished all the long runs; all the significant training is behind me now. There is literally nothing more I can do now to make any difference to my fitness on race day, apart from reduce the miles right down, get plenty of rest and eat the kinds of foods that will restock my liver and muscles with glycogen.
Sounds appealing? Not for a runner. The two-week pre-race taper is the time when most marathon runners go slowly crazy. I've been steadily building up fitness and adding on the miles over the last four and a half months to the point where I now need to run plenty of miles every week in order to feel remotely human, and now I'm staring down the barrel of relative inactivity coupled with eating what I would if I were clocking 35-40 miles a week. I'm not looking forward to it. In fact, I am hanging on to the one ten-mile run I'm allowed to do this coming week as a sort-of saviour amid a sea of not running very much at all. All the other runs I'm allowed are 5-6 milers at a slower pace than normal. And it gets even worse the following week with only two 4.5 miles and a measly 1-2 miler the day before the marathon. Expect me to be grumpy.
It's gone well though, on the whole. Considering I couldn't walk at the start of January without significant knee pain it's gone amazingly well. I've done one 18 mile run and three 20 mile runs in the past 6-8 weeks, as well as a handful of half marathons, several ten milers and a couple of 14-16 milers, which my husband tells me is very good prep. I've eradicated the knee pain which started to disappear once I hit the 18 mile runs. I've kept up the daily stretching and strengthening exercises throughout. I've varied my pace between steady, tempo and intervals. I've done plenty of hill work. I've run in boiling sun, in frosts and snow and ice, in wind and pouring rain. I've done the odd off-road race to vary the impact on my joints and muscles. I've more or less had a perfect build-up, with the odd hiccup along the way, which I have overcome (the latest being only a fortnight ago which I worried would derail the whole thing, but it hasn't).
I did my last 13 mile run on Thursday this week and it was hard work from about mile three in. I had very little energy and finished dead on my feet. I spent some time feeling worried that 13 miles should be that tough at this stage of training and what did that mean for the marathon, then I totted up my mileage and realised I've run just shy of 50 miles in the past eight days. Reason enough to be feeling it.
I've noted shifting baseline syndrome before with running. When I started running a few years ago, half a mile was a massive achievement, then running 3 miles without stopping seemed a big deal. My first 10k felt like a long way for someone to run. The first time I did 10 miles I was ecstatic at how far it was. Learning how to run half marathons last year was a big achievement and I felt like a proper endurance athlete afterwards.
The problem (if you can call it that) with training for a marathon is that, when you're regularly running 18-20 miles, 13 starts to look easy, a low-mileage training run, and even the 20 milers no longer feel a big deal in the way they did. You get used to whatever distance it is you're doing. Added to this, because I am surrounded by people who run marathons at the good for age/ getting on for elite end of the sport, in 2.5 - 3 hours, and ultra-marathon friends for whom a marathon is a warm-up, distance running quickly becomes normalised in a way that makes it seem no biggy. I don't, for example, now find the thought of a 50 mile run as impossible to conceive as I did five years ago. Because I know people who do it several times a year. What you do, and what the people you mix with do, becomes your new normal.
I have to remind myself that any run over 10 miles is classed as a long run and an endurance run, and takes it out of your body. I have to remind myself to respect those distances and not expect them to always be easy. Thursday's run was a reminder of that, as was M's response when he got home later and I was whingeing about how hard it had been: thirteen miles is a long run, wife. A bit of learning there for me.
I am confident about the marathon. The only thing I'm worried about is the final six miles, because that is unknown territory, I've never run more than just over 20 miles in one go before. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by experienced marathon and ultra runners and they have all told me the same thing: that the final six miles of any marathon is psychological, not physical (as long as you don't cramp up or fall over etc). Keep the pace steady, eat all the way round, drink enough fluids, take the electrolytes and trust the training and you'll do it fine, they've all said. Anything else is out of your hands so don't worry/ think about it. keep the goal simple for your first one: don't think about time, just focus on finishing.
It's good advice and I shall be drawing on it all the way round.
Hope you're all well?
ps- if anyone can ID the bee in the last two photos I would be very grateful. Melecta spp? Not sure.