Monthly Archives: December 2013

Finding my feet


After feeling a little despondent about my training so far (or the lack of it) and resolving to up my game, I finally did.

I live by the river Thames, which is an excellent place to be (until the sea levels rise, when it won’t be). Amongst the many great things about where I live is that the Thames towpath is right on my doorstep. It’s a brilliant place to run; there’s no traffic, it’s peaceful and quiet, and you get to see the different birds as the seasons change. I know it sounds wanky, but it makes me feel much calmer and more connected to the seasons when I get out along the river.

I have a regular route from where I live in Barnes down to Hammersmith and beyond, and back again. Whenever I want to add a bit on to my distance, I just add another bridge on to my route on either the way out or back again. The Hammersmith-Barnes loop is a nice 7.5k – a good lunchtime distance – but I hadn’t been further than that in a while.

Today I reached Hammersmith and still felt like I had plenty more in the tank, so I kept going, all the way down to Putney, across Putney Bridge (see photo above), and back down the north side, around 14k in total.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Cold but sunny. There were cormorants and herons on the shore, and rowers out on the river. I felt fit and strong and happy, and as I made my way back home, I felt like I could have gone on longer were it not getting dark. For the first time I felt like I can really do this.

I can run a marathon.

Festive fail

running santas

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? The short answer is: not a lot.

Last year I bucked the trend by having a super-fit Christmas; we were away on holiday, staying somewhere that could hardly be better suited to running. We ran every day. I even started Christmas day with a nine-mile jog in the snow along the riverside, leaving me feeling smug right up until I stuffed myself silly over dinner.

This year I’ve been less successful. I’ve been for two short, plodding runs since getting back from holiday. Between post-holiday blues, and the string of festive drinking invites, running in the cold and wet has slipped down my list of priorities.

Christmas is a time to spend time with family, and enjoy food and drink together. But it’s also one of the rare occasions on which one gets a few public holidays off on the trot, making it an ideal opportunity to fit in a run or two to balance out the overindulgence (and prevent me going completely stir-crazy).

I really enjoyed last year’s Christmas running streak. So as I’m now winding down for Christmas, I’m planning to take advantage of the days at home to refocus and get my marathon training back on track.

Photo credit: nance coleman

Planning, not doing

Image by Tung Pham (Creative Commons)

With less than four months to go until the big day, it’s fair to say my training is off to a slow start.

In my defence, I have been on holiday. We spent two and a half weeks in Argentina, on a really active break which saw me hiking, climbing, swimming, rafting… but not running.

I’ve become quite obsessive about my Fitbit, clocking up an average of 22,000 steps a day pounding the stunning countryside in Patagonia. On one day we did over 35,000 steps, which is about 14 miles – more than a half marathon. I’m trying to tell myself this is progress, but I’m probably not convincing anyone else.

Likewise, my nutrition strategy – lots of steak and red wine – has been sub-optimal.

If I’m going to make that 26.2 miles it’s time to take charge of the situation: it’s time to make a plan. As the old army adage goes, fail to plan and you plan to fail, right?

On the recommendation of a marathon-running friend, I’ve started reading Run Faster, Run Less. This advocates a strategy of running three times a week, combining one long run with two shorter ones aimed at improving speed. In truth this about all I can realistically fit around my job anyway, but it’s nice to have some confirmation that this is a workable plan.

So with that in mind on the plane home I sketched out targets for the months ahead, starting with getting my long runs up to 10 miles by year end, then working upwards from there by adding a couple of kilometres a week.

I’ve scheduled in long runs and target distances for all my weekends between now and April. I’m aiming to combine these with a weekly run home from work, and an hour’s interval training on my working from home day.

I popped this all in to a Google Calendar, colour coded by run type. I’m pretty proud of it. My other half is less impressed: “If I were you I’d put more effort into the actual running”.

He might have a point. I slipped on my trainers and went for my first post-holiday jog. 6.78km, around where we live. It was hard. All that steak and Malbec, lovely though it was, has taken its toll.

I may need more than a plan. I need to up my game.

Photo credit: Tung Pham