I massively dropped the ball on my half-marathon training. My longest run so far has been 16kms, and I won't do a further one before the Royal Parks half. I feel a bit like I failed myself, and my mental health, and the idea about fundraising for Mind. It's a bit ironic that my mental health got the better of me when I was trying to raise money for a mental health charity and talking about how great they are and how much they helped me. Huh.
But, I've been running again, and I've been reading about running again, and I need to start writing about running again. There's a thing about me that means that sometimes I need to obsess about something, and right now I need to obsess about running.
It makes me feel good to do so. So, here we are - self-enforced running obsession. Running, reading about running, writing about running.
And, a new goal for next year. Not to run a marathon. But to race every month - 18 races in total (for 2018!) with at least 12 at half-marathon-or-longer distance. I've started a wish-list of races. In the mean time, I've signed up for a 10km a few weeks after Royal Parks.
Because, that's the other thing about me. I'm motivated by the bling.
Yesterday I ran a very, very slow and lazy 10km and it was wonderful.
I ran around my neighbourhood - basically from one side to the other - and looked at things, and took it all in, and people-watched as I slowly plodded along the footpath. It was great.
It wasn't that long ago that I could barely run 3 kilometers without stopping. I had lost the joy of running, and I wasn't just in a slump but got trapped at the bottom of a gorge. And now, I've raced 10km on a Saturday and run a recovery 10km on Monday. And not only did I do that but I really enjoyed it.
Perhaps 80/20 is going to work for me! I couldn't be happier.
I read this naff motivational quote on Twitter this week that said something like 'running is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate'. It really struck a chord with me, because running has never been a punishment for me - it has always been about joy.
I wonder if that's why all I really care about is getting to a point where I can run for a very long way. I've never really been driven by pace - and while I enjoy a PB as much as the next person, it's never been a big driving factor for me.
When running is not a joy then it's not worth doing.
Today I ran a slow 5km in my new trainers - a present from my parents for my birthday (technically not until Saturday!). So far so good, with noticably more room in the toebox than my old Brooks Pure Connect 2s, I managed to finish the run still able to feel my toes! A good sign all around.
I've also signed up for a 10km race on the 20th of May, with a friend. We're going to plod around the back being social.
I'm still reading 80/20 Running, which I've spoken about before. I'm playing around with the difference in HR vs. pace zones for my training, but I think I will end up sticking with HR.
According to pace zones today I spend most of my run in 'Endurance':
But, by heart rate I am mainly in 'Tempo' - which is not where I should be.
I don't (yet) know enough about it, and I haven't (yet) read far enough into 80/20 Running to get a proper sense of what I should be aiming for, so I will continue to investigate and experiment.
Also - if someone could explain to me what a Strava Suffer Score is, that would be great!
P.S. Remember, you can sponsor my running for Mind HERE.
I said to Andrew, my partner, today as we were jogging around at the park after doing some intervals that this is the first time literally ever that I had really wanted to get out and do intervals. Bizarrely, I feel much more invested in my running now than I think I have ever been – including when I was training for the Royal Parks Ultra in 2013! It’s an odd feeling, being serious and wanting to work hard.
I didn’t really do that much but it was quite hard – my poor legs aren’t used to being pushed hard.
I ran down the length of a football pitch (so on grass, which I’m also not used to), and then jogged (ahem, walked) around and back to the start. I did two sets of four with a short break in the middle. Next week I will try and do two sets of 5, and after that I think I will move up to some more targeted intervals (rather than this ad hoc style of putting something together as I am on my way to the park).
All in all, I think it was successful, even though I didn’t really do that much work. I’m very pleased!
I’ve been thinking about the way that I run, and why it didn’t stick when I tried to reboot my running six months ago.
As I am an academic, I came at this problem by thinking ‘I need to read all the things‘, but perhaps it turns out I only needed to read one of the things. And that thing is Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running. Which I have been reading, obviously.
So, I’m trying to take Matt’s advice to begin (before I have even got to the juice of the programme, even) with a running detox. That is, to spend a bit of time running at an actual ‘easy’ pace to get yourself ready for a new kind of running (M likens it to a juice cleanse to get all the chocolate and sugar out of your diet – though here, that means the habit of your ‘regular easy’ pace). As per M’s advice, I decided to take my run by heart rate rather than pace.
Full disclosure – I’ve never done this before. I’m not a fast runner, and I probably never will be. But I learned today that what I think of as my ‘easy’ pace is a lot faster than my body’s ‘low intensity’ pace really is. Somewhere in the order of 1:30 to 2 minutes slower.
So I ran to heart rate, and I ran easy. I could have kept running, really – but the 1 hour and 4 minutes that it took me to cover 8 kilometres (!) was quite enough, and I was hungry.
I’m slightly sad to say that I already have an Intervals date with my partner booked in for tomorrow so I won’t be running slowly. But, I am going to keep at the 80/20 programme. While I love racing, what I love more is feeling like I am running the exact distance my body can handle on a given day. I’ve never cared much about the time, but I do care about the distance. Hopefully, with the 80/20 programme, I can get better at both.
So after all that – my run. It was amazing and frustrating. It was really frustrating to run so slowly, and I struggled to keep in my HR zone, but when I got into a rhythm is was wonderful, and being slow and purposeful meant I could really focus on my form, and how my body felt. From that perspective it was great.
I think it was also very encouraging to finish feeling like I had a lot more in me. Last time I ‘came back’ to running I really struggled with motivation, and I suspect it was because I just wasn’t giving myself time to fall back in love with running.
I am already getting to that point. Today I really did not want to go. I was tired and had been fighting off waves of panic throughout the day. But, I knew that I needed to run and, more than that, I really wanted to run. Of course, the run gave me some time to process what that making me feel anxious, to feel whole in my body, to punish myself in a normal way*, and to be at one with myself.
So, who cares that I was going slower than I’ve ever been. I also don’t remember the last time I ran 8 kilometres and had some juice left, so… that’s awesome.
I’m not sure my tune will be the same after tomorrow’s intervals… Stay tuned!
*This is something I am going to talk about in another post!
At this stage I’m sure it will shock no one who regularly reads my blog, watches my YouTube channel, or follows me on Twitter, when I say that I have had issues with mental health. I have type 1 Bipolar and have a panic disorder. I’m not alone.
The Guardian has a section titled ‘Mental Health: A University Crisis‘. In the last NUS, 78% of students reported they had mental ill health. Tenure She Wrote called mental health in academia an epidemic.
It might sound odd but I never ran for my mental health, but exercise has proven benefits for mental health – so although I am driven by the (self)competition I also get significant benefits for my all-round health. What better way to make a different for myself and for others than to combine my love of running with raising money for a charity that does a significant amount to assist people struggling with mental ill health and the loved one who support them: Mind. I have personally benefited from the information and support services that Mind offer, as have my family when seeking out information
I am officially running the Royal Parks Half Marathon, but over the coming months, I will be adding some more (training) races and some other sub-sections (including a link to my training plan, when I eventually write one). You can follow my running journey here. In 2013 I ran the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon, also to raise money for Mind.
I am aiming to raise £550, but obviously I would like to raise as much as possible (and I dream of raising over £1000!).
And! You can sponsor me at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EMackin.