I’d like to start this post by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has donated to my Bloodwise fundraising page so far. You can find out more about why I’m running the New York Marathon and fundraising for Bloodwise by reading my last update.
When I wrote that last update I felt I had to try to inject at least a bit of a challenge into it. Not that a marathon isn’t challenging enough, but I’ve already run a few and my PB is sub-03:30, so I can clearly ‘do’ marathons. So I went down the route that New York is a tough course, it’s three thousand miles from home, I’m there without family, etc.
But since then, the challenge has suddenly become a lot more, well, challenging…
I had a busy autumn of races planned, starting with the Worcester City 10k in September. This was to be an all-out, flat-out PB attempt, and a shot at a hitting a long-held, much dreamed of (and much-publicised by me on Twitter) goal of breaking 40 minutes. The week after this I was due to run the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham, a race which I ran last year.
Robin Hood wasn’t intended to be a target race; rather it was a warm-up marathon for New York and a chance to run full distance in training, which I like to do. As such it was a ‘just-for-fun’ race. I could go out at pace and push for a PB, and if it happened then great; if not then it wouldn’t matter as I already have a sub-03:30 marathon this year (I ran 03:28:48 for a PB at Brighton), so no pressure.
When I originally set up these PB shots, planning a target ‘A’ race 10k sub-40 attempt the weekend before a marathon seemed perfectly logical, and was entirely deliberate. My body responds quickly to training. Building up into races works well for me, not tapering down beforehand. Therefore a 10k blast before a marathon ought to have been great prep, and has worked in the past.
At least, that was the theory.
In practice what actually happened was that the one became a distraction from the other. I had to combine long distance training and speedwork. I’d planned that this should be fine, as it’s what I normally do anyway – short distance, hills and speedwork during the week; long runs at the weekend. No problem.
But a busy summer combination of other weekend races; family holidays; training days in prep for NYC and at times a curious lack of motivation, mojo, energy and application; made for some uneven and inadequate running.
I was catching up on speedwork when I should have been long running, and vice versa, and found myself underprepared for both the 10k and the marathon. And in building up my speedwork for Worcester, it seems I tore my left hamstring. It was only a grade I (small) tear, but either by overcompensating for it or just plain coincidence and bad luck, I then developed a piriformis injury.
I ran 40:06 at Worcester, a 41-second PB and excruciatingly just seven seconds shy of sub-40. But what was even more excruciating was the pain in my left lower back, through/underneath/deep inside my left glute and into my left hamstring.
In the days that followed I remained in pain and unable to move properly let alone run, and my thoughts turned from running the Robin Hood Marathon, to pulling out of the Robin Hood Marathon, to accepting that I was injured, going to the physio, and starting a program of rest and recovery. I haven’t run properly since. That’s three weeks now. I was a DNS (Did Not Start) for Robin Hood, and I’ll be a DNS at this weekend’s Oxford Half-Marathon, which was another target ‘A’ race and a full-on, flat-out sub-90 PB attempt. I’d been looking forward to this for months and it was one of the races I’d built my season around.
So now I’m in a desperate race against time to be fit for New York on the 6th November. That’s ‘fit’ as in structurally sound, with all muscles healed and physically able to run, and also as in aerobically fit enough to run 26.2 miles. Two very different things.
As I said earlier, my body responds quickly to training. It also responds quickly to lack of training. I lose fitness fast. The physios tell me I’ll be able to run on the 6th November. But having lost so much training, whether I’ll be fit enough to run a marathon is another thing entirely.
And so the challenge now is not whether I can run the New York Marathon in a decent time, a long way from home, on my own.
It’s whether I can run it at all.