Training Hard

Just before Christmas I wrote about my first foray into fell running ahead of a trail marathon I’ve optimistically decided to undertake this year. It was a hard, somewhat humbling, lesson in just how different (and how much harder) running on uneven terrain is in comparison to running on tarmac. My Dad, a seasoned fell runner, assures me that I’ll grow to love running off road and although I’m sure that’s true, right now I’m feeling more than a little bit nervous about the challenge ahead.

If it was a road marathon I don’t think I’d be feeling quite this level of nerves although obviously, 26.2 miles on any terrain is still an epic distance to run. But I think it’s the fact that my speed will be so much slower than makes me worried. For long distance on road, my pace is probably about 9.5 minutes/mile meaning that for a marathon I’d be running for around 4 and a half hours. On trail however, I think my pace is more likely to be 12 minute miles meaning that potentially I could be running for around 6 hours (or more). It just seems like a ridiculously long stretch of time to be moving without stopping. I have absolutely no idea how the ultra marathon runners do it.

Upon expressing said concerns to Dad (who I’ll be running with), he reassured me that as long as I do enough training then I’ll be fine. In my heart of hearts, I know he’s right. But there’s so much more to training that just the running itself. As with a lot of things, a holistic, wider approach is needed. I need to eat right, sleep right (did you hear that boys?!) and have a positive mental attitude as well as making sure I get some longer runs and hill training in. So unfortunately for those around me, it might mean that I’ll be living, breathing and sleeping this marathon for the next six months. Apologies to my friends and families if I start to become a bit boring! On the whole I think it’s a good thing though.

Through the training I’ll be able to foster a healthy body and mind and surely that can only have a positive impact in everything else I do. It took me a while though to remember that it is rare to face a challenge and succeed if you adopt a one dimensional approach. This challenge has been a real learning curve but it’s seeping into other areas of my life as I remember to tackle any issues I face (be them big or small) from many angles rather than just head on. As someone who tends to jump in with both feet first and think later, this is definitely a helpful lesson. So I promise to not write about it every week but hope that you’ll forgive me if I do come back to it here in my column a little over the coming months. Have you set yourself any big challenges for 2017? I’d love to hear all about them!

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Pride before a fall

(This is a column that was in the paper from before Christmas but thought some of you might enjoy it so posted it despite it being rather late!)

On Saturday I took part in my first ever trail run. I have done plenty of road running in my time and this year have started participating in races, taking part in a 10k and half marathon. I’ve even enjoyed them! Consequently, in the run up (pun intended I’m afraid!) to the Cockington Christmas Capers run, I was a little relaxed, verging on cocky (intentional again). It was 8 miles. I run 8 miles regularly as part of my training for next year’s marathon (more on that later). I didn’t need to make any special effort, I was just going to turn up and run it. Job’s a good ‘un as they say.

Well. Two things. Firstly, trail running is a whole different kettle of fish to road running. (Why didn’t anyone tell me!?) And secondly, it was, without exaggeration, the hardest sporting endeavour that I have ever taken part in. I think the word used to describe courses such as Cockington is the innocent sounding ‘undulating’. I estimate perhaps 10-20% of the course was flat, the rest was up huge muddy hills in the forest or down steep steps covered in wet leaves. I was running with an incredibly fit friend of mine who kindly stayed at my slow, often staggering pace and without him, I don’t think I’d have finished.

I was less than two miles in when I first thought the fatal thought…I can’t do this. The hills were too steep, the ground too slippy, I had had too little sleep (thanks kids!), I obviously just wasn’t made for trails. But by the water point halfway round I’d remembered a conversation between two ladies that I’d overheard during the Great West Run. They had devised thirteen different conversation topics for each mile of the run in order to keep their minds distracted from the running. I had a bit of a moment and realised that I was perfectly capable of running it, but only if my head was in the right place. So I switched back to annoyingly chirpy, put on my big girl pants and got on with it.

And you know what, I finished the race. I think I’d say that I’m glad that I did it and I’d probably even do it again. Speaking of which…that marathon I mentioned? Turns out that I signed up for something without fully looking into it. Not only is it a marathon but it’s on trails, not road and is described as ‘brutal’ and in the top ten of toughest marathons in the UK. I’m feeling slightly apprehensive but I’ve got six months to train and I haven’t fallen over yet. Watch this space!

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