Part 2 of Russell’s series documenting his London Marathon Load Up – Weeks 2 to 8 (inc Wrexham Half Marathon)
London Marathon Week 2 of 12
Kids off school for summer holidays, new challenges. Having to get up at 5.30am to get my run done before taking the kids off Nina is fine most of the week, except on Wednesday mornings. Tuesday night is track Tuesday, I get home late, and I get home wired. It’s not unusual for me to stay up till past 1am.
Reset The Long Run
This week I set myself the challenge of nailing my long run. When you’re training for the marathon, the long run is the most important session of the week. Zooming round the track or parkrun is fine, but if you are too tired to get in a solid long run, your training is not as relevant as it could be. I got out of the habit of prioritising the long run the last few months and I needed to get back on it. So, I managed to hang on to the treadmill for 22 miles. It was harder than I would like to admit. The next one will feel easier.
London Marathon Week 3 of 12
The Non-International Athlete
I am so bad at travelling. Why is it any different to sitting still in your living room? Seriously, I’m asking you! It doesn’t make any sense.
Last year, I did quite well on the mountain running scene and got some attractive invites to race abroad. Countries I would love to visit. But, I am so awful at traveling that the chances of me competing well after a long-haul flight are small. Thankfully, our family have put a self-imposed ban on flights at the moment, to reduce our carbon footprint. So, I could sanctimoniously turn down the offers on the basis of saving the planet, rather than the other reason; I am shit.
We went on holiday. The FOUR trains to France absolutely wiped me out. Stumbled around all Sunday like a zombie. A heat wave in the already very hot South of France. Secretly regretting this whole holiday thing.
London Marathon Week 4 of 12
Breath and Spine
I realised last night, Sunday at 6pm, when the temperature was still 35°, that the only sensible time to run was at dawn. Waking up on Monday morning at 5.15am, Ihad an espresso, and stumbled out the door under moonlight. I wanted 100 mile weeks, so had to do it in ‘singles’ (one run a day). There are proven benefits in doing longer runs; increased mitochondria and capillaries, adaptation to using fat as fuel, as well as improved mental resilience.
We were on a family holiday, not a training camp. I didn’t want to be completely wiped out after these long runs, so I utilised a simple trick, nose breathing. A foolproof safety valve. I find it impossible to dig too deep if I simply keep my mouth closed. All I thought about was my breath and spine. How smooth could I make my breathing? How straight could I keep my spine?
London Marathon Week 5 of 12
Wild Boar And Me
Zoned into the routine of long laps through the vineyards, soft gravel, no music, no distractions. Perfect weather every morning, watching the sun rise. Taking my time, letting my legs and lungs dictate the pace as I stuck with the nose breathing, which was feeling easier and smoother. The animals seemed to be getting used to my smell. Wild boar, deer, hares, hawks and bats all around me. The goal of London Marathon slowly swirled away. I knew I was doing good, hard work (my legs and lungs could feel it), but I enjoyed my running so much, I didn’t care if it wasn’t exactly as scientific as possible.
Every day spent by water; rivers, lakes, waterparks. Board games in the evening. Getting better at sleeping through the hot weather. Of course, when it was time to go home, I wanted to stay.
London Marathon Week 6 of 12
We missed our train to Paris by 1 minute (parking the hire car was infuriatingly complicated) and then couldn’t get another train for 3 days. We ended up having to take an internal flight to connect to the Eurostar train home, so much for my Green Runner pledges. It would have been a very stressful and exhausting day anyway, without my being, as aforementioned, terrible at travelling.
I took another day off running completely to fulfill best man duties for my best friend’s wedding. Had a brill time and I was never going to miss it. Sunday morning I was feeling slightly worse for wear. I was trying to get through my last 20 miles of the week with laps of Dulwich park when I noticed old friend and very good runner, Nick Torry, coming towards me. I dived into the bushes to avoid getting my arse kicked. Later I arrived at a family picnic very late and had a nap in the sun. Toughest 100 mile week ever.
London Marathon Load Up – Week 7 of 12
Summer Fell Running Camp
This was third year in a row I have done a fell running weekend here in Snowdonia. I had this booked in before I decided to race London Marathon and it’s always an epic weekend. Fell running is the very best type of running. I love doing it, and sharing it. Also, the range of movement needed is much wider than on roads, which keeps the body safe and youthful. Also, being outside in the mountains with your friends, you just can’t beat it. Highlight for me was the Ethiopian meal served by Dame on Saturday night. My mileage took a hit, but in terms of time on my feet, it will have added up just fine.
London Marathon Load Up – Week 8 of 12
Wrexham Village Bakery Half Marathon
Fight Club only has two rules, I have three…
Keep showing up keep showing up keep showing up.
The night before the Wrexham Half, our house was getting battered by wind and rain. In the morning it was unrelenting, I got soaked on the way from my house to the car.
On the 90min drive to the race, I had to have the heater on full blast to stop the engine from overheating, as the fan is bust. So the windows were down to prevent myself boiling to death, but the rain was rushing in.
So there I was, 6am on a black Sunday morning, getting cooked and soaked at the same time, questioning my life choices.
I started to feel very disinclined to do the race. I was sorely tempted to turn around and get back into my nice warm bed.
Rather than think about the race, I thought about the McDonald’s just before Wrexham, and promised myself I could sit in there, get dry, and order anything I wanted.
A chocolate donut, double espresso and hot chocolate later, and I started to feel much better.
The rain had stopped and, as I warmed up with my friends, I was gradually getting my head in gear.
McDonald’s down, time to race
The first mile I felt awful, after a 100 mile week, my legs were heavy and slow. So I made another deal with myself. Just finish this race and I can go straight back to that McDonald’s and get a chocolate milkshake.
I managed to stay in contention with the lead long enough for my legs to come back to me. I finished 2nd in 68.36, an infinitely better result than having stayed at home.
Sometimes turning up is easy, sometimes it feels like the hardest thing in the world.
Make a deal with yourself, whatever it is, no matter how silly, just to get you turning up. Don’t judge yourself or be hard on yourself for doing it. The very best in the world make the same deals all the time.