Yesterday was the first sunny weekend day for about three months, for most people this meant pub lunches, walks in the sunshine and maybe even tidying up the storm damage in the garden. But for me yesterday was something far scarier. Eight weeks to go until the London marathon.
Yesterday was the first of my big training runs, by this I mean a run that is over 10 miles in length, roughly at marathon pace and involves practising nutrition the race. So while almost everyone else I know was sunning themselves, reading books in the garden, I hit the road to try and run 15 miles non-stop.
Before I go too much into this, I should say that I have a slightly unconventional training plan. Most people training for a marathon take four or more months and run 5 or 6 days a week. I have a confession to make, I’m not really a runner, I’m barely even a triathlete, I’m probably best described as a cyclist who occasionally jogs.
I have competed in a number of triathlons and duathlons over the last few years, as well as half marathons and cyclo sportives. So slightly unusually, half my marathon training will not be running based.
Having sung the praises of joining a running club last week, I have to say I love cycling just as much, if not more than running. It is easier to get further out of the city on a road bike; it’s only 10 miles to get to the Mendip hills and about 30 miles to the Wye Valley from Bristol. Once you are out in the hills I just love challenging myself up the big hills so I can enjoy the stunning views, only to zoom back down, my top ever speed was 47 miles an hour when I was cycling in the Pyrenees last summer.
My training plan is this: to each week do three runs, three cycles and fit in yoga and stretching every evening. If I’m feeling up to it I might throw in a circuits session or a swim, but as I find these less fun as I’m not out in the fresh air, I’m afraid I’m far less motivated to fit them into my schedule.
My runs will be an interval or hills session, usually about 4 or 5 miles in total with the lovely people up at Bristol University Cross Country Club, a short recovery run of around 4 miles at a delectably slow pace, and then my most important long run of the week on a Sunday, which is anywhere from 12 to 20 miles depending on the week.
Bike wise I have one interval session with Bristol University Cycling Club, where we do sets of 3 or 4 minute efforts round flat roads or up the hills, one lovely long ride on my road bike, going around 40 to 60 miles and usually involving a pub lunch out in the beautiful Mendip hills, and finally my pure joy session of the week, mountain biking for an hour. We’re very lucky in Bristol that we have two designated trail centres just outside the city, and in my mind there is no better way to cheer yourself up than pelting round the tracks, jumping over rocks and getting covered in mud with your friends.
And yoga was a fantastic discovery I made only a year ago. Almost every evening before bed I settle down on the living room floor to watch an hour of CSI (yes I love silly murder mystery TV, feel free to replace with your own choice!) whilst stretching and practising yoga on the floor. I also have a class I go to each Friday at the University gym, where I learn new poses and the instructor helps me with posture and stability.
As well as yoga being good for my body whilst doing as much sport as I do, it is also fantastic for my mind.
Taking an hour before bed each evening to relax and stretch out tired muscles from a day sat hunched over my desk is wonderful, it also forces me to let my mind drift away from work and slowly power down for the evening. I can unwind and let go of all the work I did do and the guilt over work I didn’t quite finish, and relax so that when I climb into bed after wards my mind is not running over problems or making to do lists, but is switched off and ready for sleep.
And as we all know, sleep is the best treatment for a bad day. I know I’ve really been struggling with a bit of computer programming at work, but after a good night’s sleep suddenly it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
And after a 15 mile run yesterday, I have lots of sore muscles that need to be stretched out. I might even go for the CSI double bill and get in two hours tonight, if I can stay awake that long.