Chasing Time

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I’m stood at the side of the road, blinking in surprise, thinking, “I’ve stopped! I never stop. Now what do I do – give up? Carry on?”

Nine-thirty on Saturday morning two weeks ago, the air thick with warmth, my running tee already damp with sweat because of the heavy, humid heat, and I’ve stopped running. I’m a mile-and-a-half into what is supposed to be a hard fourteen mile run at target half-marathon pace. With just a fortnight until the race, I’m partway through a too-tight-for-comfort six-week turnaround to bring myself up from long distance marathon endurance pace to short-distance half-marathon speed.

I feel extremely under-prepared.

I need this run.

So why am I stopped? It’s unlike me. I’m disciplined, I believe in training hard, I don’t quit. I’m not injured. Why can I simply not face the prospect of running another step?

To answer this, we need to step back a little…

~~~

So there hasn’t been much activity on this blog lately.

But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been much activity overall. Quite the opposite, in fact. Since the last time I posted I’ve:

  • run the Brighton Marathon (03:28)
  • run the Milton Keynes Marathon (03:31) a fortnight later
  • had a rest week
  • got through a niggly knee problem
  • continued yoga classes
  • joined a running club (Bournville Harriers) and…
  • …switched from early morning running to mostly evening running as a result
  • grappled with putting on (a little bit of) weight after stopping marathon training
  • gone full-time with zero-drop shoes
  • started half-marathon training
  • had (yet another) birthday and turned 44
  • ran another junior ParkRun with my daughter
  • experimented with full forefoot strike running
  • started personal trainer (PT) sessions at the gym
  • got through a niggly ankle problem.

I would have liked to have blogged about all of the above. In particular I’d have liked to have written race reports about the two marathons, since they also serve as diary entries. Plus, Brighton was a massive PB.

So… why no posts?

Well, when I first started this blog I was stuck for a name for it. I came up with lots of alternatives but none of them seemed right.

In the end I went with the rather plain DM Run Blog since, as we say in the UK, it “does what it says on the tin”. But for a long time I was going to call it Chasing Time because it had a nice double meaning: in running I’m very driven to chase target times, and in life I always seem to be perpetually busy so I’m always chasing time to do this or that.

(In the end, the reason I didn’t go with this was that if potential readers saw a blog called Chasing Time they wouldn’t necessarily know it was primarily a running blog. And actually, DM Run Blog has a nice little double meaning to it as well, since the original intention was to write a few tech-related posts and it sounds as though it could be some sort of command line entry to run some code: “C:\>DM RUN BLOG”.)

Anyway, getting back to the point…

I haven’t written any posts because I seem to have been simply too busy. I’m chasing time to read and write blog posts but not finding it.

There are a couple of likely explanations for this.

Firstly, I may have been doing too much. Since November last year I’ve added a fourth run per week to my schedule. And a fifth, on the weeks I throw in a ParkRun. In January I added a weekly yoga class, and I’m still doing two weights/resistance training sessions, plus a separate hips-and-glutes session.

I’ve been chopping and changing my schedule round all year, trying to make all this fit. Looking at my Strava training log from last year, when I was only running three times per week, shows consistent sessions week-on-week, month-on-month. This year I’m all over the place. It doesn’t all fit.

Secondly, what has actually been the biggest change has been an increase in pressure at work. Yes, I’m doing a lot of training, but it’s been pressure at work that’s tipped the training into being “too much”.

In fact, there’s been an almost exact correlation between an increase in pressure at work and:

  • a drop-off in the amount of blogging I’ve done (i.e. none)
  • a drop-off in motivation for training, results from training, and general running ‘mojo’
  • a drop-off in the amount of online interaction I’ve been able to have (especially noticeable with the amount of UKRunChat hours I’ve missed).

Physically I’ve felt fine but mentally I felt punch-drunk, with no down-time, no chance to switch off at all. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve dialled back my training, which has meant missing runs and dropping mileage, to try to avoid overtraining.

With my target half-marathon this coming weekend (19th June), the Shrewsbury Half (which will also be a mass UKRunChat weekend away and tweet-up), this has not been ideal. In a normal half-marathon training cycle, by now I’d be running fourteen miles at or close to race pace regularly. So far, I haven’t been close to target race pace (06:45 minute miling) once. I ran ten miles at tempo (06:59 m/m) a few weeks ago. I ran 13.1 miles at 06:41 pace four weeks ago, which was good, but that was on a treadmill so it was pretty easy. I ran fourteen miles at slow 07:24 pace three weeks ago, wilting in the heat and slowing dramatically on hills. Two weeks ago was the aforementioned abandoned run. Last weekend I ran a ‘sandwich run’ (as suggested by Claire, @mumonrunz) – a few fast miles sandwiched between some steady miles at the start and the end – because I couldn’t hold race pace for the full distance. And I struggled on hills again.

The effect that factors outside of running can have on actually running is quite surprising. It can have physical outcomes. Apparently.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to staying away with UKRunChat for the Shrewsbury weekend enormously. It should be the equivalent of last year’s Eastbourne training weekend. And despite the hit-and-miss training I’m still going for it in the race, be in no doubt about that.

And I’ll try – if I can chase the time to do it – to post a race report of how I get on.

Happy running,

D.

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