Feeling on Top of the World: Marathon Training Week 8

As training weeks go, this has been a great one. After some pleasing running last weekend, I recovered well and, as I pass the halfway point in my training, find myself feeling strong, running well and on form for a PB performance.

Planned training this week:
Monday – Gym
Tuesday – Club Run
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Club Track Session
Friday – Rest/Swim
Saturday – 5 miles
Sunday – 15 miles

I used Monday’s gym session to opt for some deep stretching and a recovery run. I found that last year as my mileage increased I had a greater need to stretch my hip flexors, hamstrings and calves thoroughly the day after my long run and thought that it would be worth seeing what sort of shape I was in at this point. Pleasingly, nothing threw up any particular problem so things are looking good so far. The recovery run was also useful in loosening off my legs before Tuesday’s club run given that I had followed a rather hilly route last Sunday. That club run consisted of a 5 mile loop featuring a pretty steep hill. I’ll not complain about that, though, given that I chose the route and despite my running partner suggesting a slightly longer (and therefore less steep) route to the top, I found myself proclaiming that no, I’d rather take the steeper route and get it over with. Yes, there is definitely something wrong with me!

Steve had to cancel my gym session on Wednesday so, feeling sure that he’d be able to see me on Friday instead, I used the time for a swim and a nice restful sauna. I recently read that endurance capacity can increase by up to 30% when a sauna is regularly included in a training programme. At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Either way, I enjoyed the chance to relax midweek, especially with the prospect of Thursday’s speed session looming. I always find my Thursday sessions the toughest as these are the ones designed to boost my pace. To be honest, I’d rather go for a long run than punish myself with speed work, however I know that I’m really benefitting from this speed work now so it’s very much a case of sucking it up and getting on with it.

This week, the track session was short (in distance) but a real lungbuster – 15 x 200m sprints with the walk back across the centre of the track for recovery. By the end of it, my legs were like jelly from the knees up, but I was pleased to discover that my splits were pretty even, with each rep coming in at a similar time. Even better, our coach commented on how much improved my form is and how well I’m progressing. I suppose that kind of makes me the teacher’s pet, but having never been much of a sprinter, I’m pleased to have made an improvement and am definitely noticing the impact in my longer runs. Perhaps I should take an apple with me next time!

Friday brought the gym session Steve had cancelled earlier in the week and was a combination of both upper body work and some leg work on the TRX. The TRX seems to have really helped me to improve my running, and since reintroducing some leg work to my training programme, I have had no return of the niggles that forced me into cross training a few weeks ago. It can be a bit tough on the legs and glutes, but worth it if I can keep injury-free.

Saturday turned out to be one of those mornings where running seems the perfect thing to do – the sun was shining, the temperature was ideal and I couldn’t wait to get out the door for my 5 miles. As it turned out, my route was slightly longer than 5 miles and my last couple of miles were probably a bit faster than they were supposed to be, but I was rather enjoying myself and got a bit carried away! My route combined both road and a bit of trail and there were lots of people out walking and making the most of the weather. I’d have happily run further, but the main focus of my running this weekend was, of course, my Sunday long run of 15 miles.

Having tackled a particularly hilly route over the last couple of weeks, this week I opted for something a bit flatter (not completely flat, just rather less hilly!) to give me an idea of what I could do. My last few Sunday runs have been with a friend who is a bit faster than me and this has helped to push me on. This week he started the run with me, but really felt the effects of a heavy cold and lack of training during the week which forced him to turn back after about 10k, leaving me to tackle the rest of the route by myself. For the first time on a long run I found myself completely alone with my thoughts as normally I would have some music if I’m running alone but I leave it at home when I have company. I worried briefly about how my pace would hold up – had I been using my training partner to “pull me along” as it were? – however I quickly dismissed those worries as I already knew that after this week I will be by myself for the longer runs and, crucially, will be running alone on race day. I knew the route well, I knew how to judge my pace by how I was feeling and I knew I just had to get with it. And as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I ended up completing quite possibly the best run of my life. I felt strong, ran at a good pace and still felt I had more in my legs when I finished. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better after a long run. Last week a good friend jokingly compared me to Wonder Woman. I was quick to laugh this off as the fancy of a non-runner, but if I’m honest my achievement this week does make me feel a bit like Wonder Woman – I even spend a lot of time running around in lycra! I’m just not quite sure what my superpower is…

So, since this is the halfway point, the teacher in me can’t resist a “half-term report”: so far I’m focused, ahead of schedule and exceeding my targets. My attitude is good and I’ve done all my homework. I would definitely award myself an A+. Well done and keep up the hard work!

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