With big plans for the weekend, I took an afternoon off on Friday so I could get my weekly long run in. Target: 13 miles.
I’ve run three half marathons before, but have never gone any further than that. Each time, I’ve prepped carefully for the race – tapering the week before, carb loading the previous evening, ensuring I have specific kit ready. All the things I feel I need to be able to make it round.
Friday wasn’t one of those days. I slept badly, then had a pretty full-on morning at work. I was so busy I didn’t leave as early as I’d planned to. I grabbed a bite to eat near work, working on the assumption it’d go down in the hour or so it’d take me to get home and put my kit on.
But it took me ages to get back, so having planned to be out on my big run by 1.45, I didn’t actually get out until just before 3. I plotted a route on Mappedometer, put my trainers on, and headed out, feeling a little flustered and daunted by the challenge of doing such a distance with less than optimal preparation.
I quickly got into my stride, running past Chiswick Bridge, Kew Bridge, the National Archives and Kew Gardens, then the Old Deer Park. Although I was slower than my usual pace, it felt really good! I kept on going past Richmond Lock, and finally to Richmond Bridge (pictured above).
I’d planned to go a mile or so further along the river’s edge then turn back, but the sky was already starting to look a little grey so I decided to turn back there. At night the towpath is very dark and very quiet, and I wouldn’t feel safe being there after dark. So I turned around there and headed for home, back along the same route.
When I got the the point on the towpath where I’d normally turn to go home, I checked RunKeeper: 16.5km. I mentally mapped another 5k loop and kept on going, through Barnes Village, up Castelnau to Hammersmith Bridge, then turned down Lonsdale Road back west again.
Here I remembered that this road was my route of choice when I first started running, and thought about how much I’ve improved since then. I’d run over 12 miles and yet it still felt almost easy. Amazing.
Just then, I tripped on a paving stone and fell over, only very narrowly avoiding hitting my head on the ground. My right knee took the impact. Ouch. It took me a moment to work out if I was properly injured. Then I picked myself up, and started walking. I soon realised that although I was bleeding, I could run on it. So I did. I kept on going. As I got into my stride again I managed to forget about it.
When I got to the end of my road, I checked Runkeeper again. 21.4km. I still felt like I had more energy left, so decided to make this my longest run yet. I knew I’d done 21 point something when I did a half marathon, but I couldn’t remember what the something was. So I aimed for 22km just to be sure, doing a quick loop around near my house, and finally just running up and down the street outside my house like a loon until I hit the distance.
I DID IT! 22km! And despite having not had any of the right prep, or eaten properly, or even had a good night’s sleep, I genuinely enjoyed it. When I’ve done halves before I’ve prepared carefully but still find them tough going on the day. But I was able to run slightly more than a half marathon with none of the stuff I really believed I needed to achieve that, and found it the easiest half marathon distance I’ve ever done.
It’s often said that long-distance running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. With my mind focused on the end goal of 26.2, the 13 mile barrier has quickly gone from being a possibly unachievable distance to something I can find easy.
I’m looking forward to the next challenge.