In running you get out what you put in.
If I decide that I want to run a half marathon in under 80 minutes the amount of work that I have to put in is not exactly objective as there is no barrier through which I can pass which will guarantee me that time, but it is at least tangible. There is a level of effort and commitment which will make running that time possible. In other words, there are no shortcuts. Running that time, over that distance, is going to be hard.
I am going to have to run far and, sometimes, I am going to have to run fast.
With that said, I am running farther than I’ve ever ran before. This week 60 miles has been my goal, which is pretty low level stuff compared to what some runners are doing, but it’s the highest volume week I’ve ever done and it will round out an extremely solid block of consistent training which began as the lockdown in the UK began.
Why though? Especially without any races to truly commit to?
I’m fitter and faster than I’ve ever been and with each incrementally noticeable increase in my ability I am further engaged with questions like: how far can I go? How fast can I be?
The answer to those questions is: I don’t know.
But there is a relatively simple way to find out.
Step it up.
The base is built. 60 miles is not a huge step up in mileage, but it does represent another (admittedly arbitrary) goalpost to pass by in my running journey. When I started running last year it was great to settle in around 30 miles a week, and I saw huge improvements just by being consistent in that training. Then when I jumped up to 40, the PB’s came in much greater increments than I imagined. More recently I’ve been mooching around the 45/50 range, and pace wise I find myself sinking relatively smoothly into sub-6 minute mile pace with a certain ease, so much so that I sometimes find myself caught off guard as I launch into what I considered to be controlled tempo pace.
With that in mind I figured that while I’m fit and free (with a week off from work, and the world still restricted) I just figured, let’s push it a little bit further.
I am more than familiar with the risks of over training, so the idea has been for the majority of this training to be at an easy pace to stave off any potential impact injuries. I swapped my usual Tuesday interval session for a threshold run, so although there has still been fast running in this week’s rotation, it’s not been at the same short, sharp, intensity that I would usually subject my body to.
I’ve written before (very recently) about how running easy isn’t as easy as you might think, or at least not as easy as I might think, but now that the possibilities of running somewhere unfamiliar are open again it’s less of a worry. The sense of exploration which comes with travelling for a run encourages a slower pace, so I’ve been able to get out for a few miles, plus a change of scenery, whilst keeping my legs fresh and healthy.
The key workout has been the long run, my longest run ever. 15 miles, 10 of them at a restrained, slower pace, and the last 5 of them cut a little loose.
Anything over 10 is long in my books, and until this 15-er the longest single run I’d logged had been around 13.5. It was, despite the easy start, a bit of struggle. My body seemed to be anticipating the pain of the later miles even in the early stages. This was despite the fact that I had a planned water/comfort break after the first 10k of the race. The 15 was composed of a loop 6.3 and a 8.7 miles, with both ending at my house.
After that little break after the first loop I took some water, dropped the kids off at the pool, and carried on my merry way. For a mile or so, still at a pace which on paper should have been completely comfortable for me, I felt great, absolutely happy to have a hearty chunk of mileage left to go. But, alas, running is a cruel, contradictory sport. The great feeling subsided and I felt drained and sluggish and heavy until, as running is also a thrilling, surprising sport, I felt a counterattack rush of endorphins respond as I hit the gas for the final 5, cutting down to a sub-7 minute a mile pace. Don’t get me wrong, that final 5 was still hard work, but my head came back up out of the gutter and reattached focus on the task at hand.
Now I’m left with a few miles left to clock in today and tomorrow and then…what? Definitely not another week as long, and most definitely not a longer week. Probably a bit of a rested week, with tapered mileage, but really, who knows? Who could say how it well go. I’m not super inclined to plan it with too stern a regiment. Running is contradictory, surprising, cruel, and brilliant. I’ll go wherever the road takes me.