2 x 10 miles, 1h21m, 1h22m

So… This was my big weekend run. Fearing injury, I decided to split it into two shorter 10 mile runs. The last thing I needed to do was hurt myself and put the entire marathon at risk. We’re only a few weeks away now, and it really should be time to consider tapering, of which I intend to do a little. But not to much.

Saturday, around 8am I headed out of the door, planning to do the same route that I took through Shoreditch last Friday night, but with a twist – Instead of turning around at London Bridge, I would head across to Tower Bridge, and follow the loop around, with a little detour down a side street just to make up the distance.

It all started very well, and despite not eating since lunch on Friday, I felt good as I set out, with a pace that was just a little too fast. I consciously slowed it down, aware of the distance I had to cover, to around 8 minutes a mile. It was good to be out early, before any kind of weather had a chance to take hold – perfect conditions, really. Down to Liverpool Street in the usual 25 minutes, this has become a landmark where I know my time perfectly, and I hit London Bridge under five minutes later.

I was just beginning to flag, when in front of me, maybe 250m away, was this huge runner. I’m 6’3″, and he towered over me, muscles bulging, and a huge caveman beard. Everything about him screamed “I am man.” So, naturally, I turned up the speed.

This is what I needed to do, just as I was tiring. As always, the wise words of Jurek rang in my ears. All I had to do was keep on running.

I passed the Caveman with ease, and then had another thought. Now that he was behind me, I couldn’t risk him catching me, so I kept up the pace, even though all I really wanted to do was slow down. I hit the the other side of the bridge, and went down to the pedestrianised waterfront. It was still quiet that time of the day, and there were only a few tourists around, but quite a few other runners. They all got the gazelle treatment too. I was loving this. Nearly five miles in, and I’m passing people half my age.

Taking a detour at Tower Bridge to make up the distance, I first head away, and then reapproach the bridge from a side road, making my way up the long hill. I’m half way across, when I stop. It’s time to take on fluid and have a little walk. We’re almost 50 minutes in. My stomach cramps as soon as  stop running. I don’t feel good at all. I tell myself it’ll pass if I can just start running again, and so that’s what I do.

I head down the other side of the bridge, and across the cobbles in front of the Tower of London, tourists now beginning to appear by the bus load. I dodge and weave, making more than one leap out of the way as oblivious sightseers change direction abruptly in my path. Down another side road, and up a steep hill on my toes, and I’m back at the other side of London Bridge, and following the same route back home.

I’m at Liverpool Street pretty much on the hour mark, and realise I won’t be home for another 25 minutes. Time to go turbo. I launch myself at the road, that familiar floating feeling returning as The Foo Fighters blasts in my ears from my MP3 player.

From there, it’s hard going, but I’m back at my door in 1hour 21 minutes, annoying just outside a perfect 8 minutes a mile over the 10 mile distance. I’m done, for the rest of the day, I have little energy, but have a wonderful feeling of success. I tried to extrapolate my times over the marathon distance. 3h30m is achievable. A BQ of 3h15m (for my age group) isn’t out of the question, however is still unlikely.

And then… Sunday I did it all again. Although, I head out of the door at 1pm instead of first thing in he morning. Conscious of where I took my walk break, I try to run further before stopping this time, but the time of day is my enemy. I can hardly move for tourists on the bridge, and it takes me almost ten minutes just to walk across. By the time I get to the other side, I’ve lost the desire to run at all. But I pick it up again, and am soon running at full pelt back towards Liverpool Street, trying to make up for lost time.

I won’t go into details about the run – it was pretty much the same as before, but I reach home in 1h 22m, a little deflated, but aware that it was the tourists that cost me time, not my running.

It’s not until I stop, and reach to take off my shoes that I notice something. My previously bright yellow trainers now are somewhat mismatched. One has developed a shade of crimson on the instep that wasn’t there previously. I remove my shoes gingerly, unaware of any pain, and wondering where the blood has come from. I release a sigh of relief when I found a small, but raw blister on the side of my foot. It’s to be expected after 20 miles. But then…

A pair of shoes I worn previously for running had been thrown in the bin when I returned from a run with three blackened toenails. These nails haven’t healed, and are still quite tender. One of them, had split. It has decided that it no longer wants to be part of the group, and is going solo. It’s still attached, but mostly only through sentiment. We shall mourn his passing in the next few days, I am sure. There was a fair bit of blood coming from under, so I guess there was a lot of rubbing. I cleaned it, but it continued to bleed a little.

What made it worse, however, was Kasia standing on it. I promised her that I wouldn’t add this fact to the blog, but I think it really does need to be mentioned. It didn’t really hurt that much until that moment. I won’t dwell on it though.

Looking back at the times, 2h,43m for 20 miles. Not exactly world class, but definitely respectable.

But now to do it all in one sitting, with 6 extra miles tacked onto the end…

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Another 8 mile run. With a twist.

This is becoming a habit. A short after work run turning into a bit of a monster. “It’s only eight miles” is a phrase I found myself uttering as I headed out the door, roughly fifteen minutes after getting home from work.

So I set off on my one-mile circuit as usual, fully aware that I was capable of running the distance, and feeling good about it too. Usually, I’ll get a little apprehensive about a long run, hitting a mental wall before I even head out of the door, but last night, I was full of confidence.

Until half a mile out. The heavens opened and a torrential downpour hit. I was soaked to the bone, running in a thin t-shirt and a tiny pair of shorts. I was left with a choice. Go home and not run, or get on with it. I chose to get on with it.

The rain continued for the next twenty minutes. At some points, it was so heavy, I could barely see where I was going. But still I ran. And I ran. The whole eight miles.

As I ran, I felt good, despite the rain. It felt like I would look back on this run as a defining moment, and my thought drifted back to when I was a kid, running loops around the park because I could, the other big defining moment in my running history.

Circuit after circuit, mile followed mile. and then, at the end of lap six, just as I was flagging, I checked my watch. I hadn’t really checked it before because of the rain. 43:30. I was actually running faster than the usual 7:30 pace I expected. I thought I would be slower because of the rain, but somehow, I was on par for a very good time.

And then it happened. I had a sudden spring in my step. I couldn’t believe I felt this good seven miles out. I should have been dying. I should have been wanting to quit and never run again, but I felt as fresh as when I set out.

The final lap… I was practically sprinting around. I crossed the finish line in front the house and pressed the stopwatch. 56:40 – averaging out at 7:05 a mile. I can live with that.

What I can’t live with though are the sore nipples, which I’ve never suffered with before, and am going to put solely down to running in a wet T-shirt. Not happy. Time to break out the anti-chafing balm.

Having pulled up to a halt, my calves felt like jelly. I was a little worried, but woke up this morning completely pain free! My body seems to have fully adapted to running on flats, for long distances. I might stretch it to a ten miler tonight… if the nips will stand up to it, so to speak.

8 miles, 1:00:00

I knew I had a busy weekend coming up, with a couple of parties, and full day visiting my kids on Sunday, so I decided that I’d run a long run on Friday night.

Having upped my mileage from practically zero the week before to just fourteen miles between Monday and Thursday, and with the marathon now almost exactly a month away, it was time to start putting in some serious miles. Almost.

I decided on an eight mile route, practically a straight line from my house, onto the main road, through Stoke Newington, Shoreditch, past Liverpool street and across London Bridge. And then back in the other direction.

I don’t usually run ‘there and back’ routes; I prefer circuits that I can pace myself on, so I decided that I would run whatever time it took me, and then try and beat it on the way back.

Knowing that I was running longer than I had for a while, and with the strain of the week weighing heavy, I ran slower, back at my normal 7:30/mile pace.

Out of the door at 9pm, I headed out into the warm summer air, the last of the daylight just beginning to fade. As I hit the stretch of road that constitutes the local high street, full of Turkish cafes and restaurants, the Friday night crowds were just starting to gather. I ran past them all, at a pace that seemed consciously slow.

As I hit Shoreditch, Friday night is now in full swing. Crowded pavements, full of revelers starting their weekends with abandon, failing to notice me as I bound past, and after a few minutes, I find it easier to run in the road, rather than fight the crowds. A slightly risky strategy, in that death is probably only a misstep away (One hair raising incident shall be described later…), but I make good time, and hit Liverpool street within 25 minutes. Six minutes later and I’m crossing London Bridge, the far more iconic looking Tower Bridge over to my left. There are still many tourists about, but thankfully all seem to be able to notice the 6’3″ guy dressed in fluorescent green hurtling towards them, and step out of the way, rather than risk being flattened.

I cross to the other side of the Bridge, more for the sake of not wanting to look strange just turning around, and begin making my way back, clocking the time at almost exactly 31 minutes. I step on the gas a little, knowing that I need to lose a couple of minutes to be back within the hour.

My first mistake was crossing to the other side of the bridge. Roadworks at the far corner mean that I’m usher through a narrow corridor of boards and scaffolding, along with tourists and drunks alike. I slow to a frustrating walk, but manage to pick up the pace once I’m out in the open again.

The crowds around Liverpool street are near insurmountable, and I again switch to running in the road, scaring the life out of a few cyclists along the way.

And then that hairy moment… A truck that was parked, decides to pull out, just as I approach.I’m forced to run wide, into the path of oncoming traffic, and manage to leap out of the way at the last moment.

I continue on my path, spitting a few choice words in the direction of no one in particular, and before I know it, I’m back in the relatively open streets closer to home. The rest of the run passes without much incident, although I do marvel at how little my legs ache considering the step up in mileage.

Just as I turn into my road, my alarm beeps. My hour is up, less than 300 meters from my front door. But rather than defeated – I feel triumphant. My second four miles had effectively been run faster than my first. It takes a little leap of maths to work it out, but a steady eight miles over the hour is not bad at all.

I think I’ll do the same again. But not on a Friday.

6 miles, 44:11

I was so concerned with my speed on my previous four mile run that I went back onto Google Maps to check my route. Did I really run that fast? According to Livestrong that would put me in the top 1% of runners for my age group.

Google doesn’t lie. And Google maps lies even less. I really did run four consecutive sub 7-minute miles. But could I do it again?

So I went out last night. Mile one was done in 6:58. Mile 2 in 6:56. And then I made a decision.

I slowed down. Now I knew I was running back at decent pace, still nowhere near my peak, but still above average, I needed to put in some distance.

My third was 7:30, and so was my fourth. I slowed even further, remembering that my goal pace for the marathon is 8 minutes per mile, to give me a finish inside 3 hours 30 minutes. I did a little quick maths. 6 miles x 8 minutes = 48 minutes total. That was my new goal. I slowed considerably. for the final couple of laps.

But then I realised how slow I was going, and picked up the pace again. At least, I thought I did. The two final laps were still completed in around 7:30 each, with a massive final push on the last half mile. I remembered to stay fast past the ‘finish line’ this time around, and stopped the clock at 44:11, which, although not quite the fastest I’ve run this year, and certainly nowhere near my PB, was probably the most satisfying of my life. I was in control from start to finish, and able to adjust to my pace both faster and slower as I needed.

My calves ache, but nothing like I expected. The rest of me feels fine, and after ten minutes at home, I wanted to get back and run some more, a good sign. I did resist though, opting instead to eat a couple of Kasia’s amazing vegeburgers.

So, even with five weeks out in the middle of my training, and a little over a month to go before the race, I’m full of confidence, and running better than I have for many years.

Although, I am looking forward to a rest day…

4 miles, 27 minutes, 25 seconds.

Last night’s run was special. It was absolutely teeming down with rain. I felt tired after working all day. I was grumpy, and not in the mood. I was hungry. My calves still hurt, but I had to run. So run I did.

I clocked the first mile in 6:55. Way too fast for an opening mile. So I slowed to what I thought was my regular running pace for the second.

About half way round, I noticed how good I felt. My calves had got used to running, even if they did hurt a little. And then, as I crossed the line in front of my house, I pressed the lap button on my watch. 6:45. That can’t be right.

But it was. So I slowed even further for the third lap, running at what seemed like an incredibly slow pace. Again, over the line in 6:57.

I had planned to only run four miles, as a nice break in point for a second run of the week. But I was going to be damn if the last one was going to break the 7 minute mark after three great first laps.

Checking my time at the half distance mark, I realised I was only a couple of seconds inside my goal time. It was going to be tight.

I lengthened my stride, but became aware my strike rate dropped, so I increased that. Three quarters of the way round, I checked the time again. I had this.

The words “Finish strong” appeared in my mind, and I stepped on the gas. I have no idea what I looked like. I didn’t care.

At the line, as I slowed to a halt (instead of powering through) I checked the stopwatch one final time. 6:48.

This is the first time I’ve run four consecutive sub 7-minute miles in four years. And it’s only the beginning…

4 miles, 31 minutes.

Have you ever run a mile without your heels touching the ground? It’s a weird experience. And a calf-killer too.

Last night, I was obliged to run at Kasia’s pace, to show her the mile route I had worked out around our new place. As it involved a few side streets, She didn’t want to get lost, and asked that I run along side her. There’s just one issue – Her pace is significantly slower than mine.

We’ve tried running together before, with disastrous results. I left her after about twenty seconds, and felt guilty for my entire run after. Another time, we left together, only for me to lap her twice, which must have been disheartening for her.

Anyway, running at her pace last night was difficult for me, as my natural inclination is to go much faster. So, I began running on my toes and the balls of my feet. My heels didn’t touch the ground for the entire first mile, which was completed in 10 minutes.

As we cross the line (well, passed our front door), Kasia told me she’d had enough, and headed in. It was like I was suddenly released, and took off, much too fast. The second lap was completed in a little over six minutes. Way too fast.

I slowed down for the third, completing in 7:10, and decided to stay out for a fourth. The last mile was done in exactly 7:30, and I felt like I could have run all night.

You know when you get into a rhythm, and you can just keep running? Yeah, that’s how it was. Not in the zone, per se, but just feeling good about the run. I was tempted to stay out for a fifth, but thought better of it. I’m still easing my way back in, and conscious of overdoing it so close to the race (Now just some six weeks or so away).

I collapsed into the flat, suddenly very tired. I tend to overheat very quickly as soon as I stop running (not something I’ve ever noticed with anyone else, strangely), but was soon back up, cooking a tempeh bolognese for dinner…

However, this morning, my calves are killing me. I think it might be a couple of days before they forgive me for running on my toes.

…But a runner that does run is definitely a runner.

Aaaaand… I’m back. It was only three miles. But what a three miles. I loved every second of it, running with a stupid grin on my face.

For a long while, it didn’t look like I was going to get to run. Meetings at work ran late, and there’s still so much to do in the new apartment, and having dinner with my kids and ex-wife, and getting roped into playing a PC game with my son (he’s very persuasive for a ten year old). It was 11pm before I finally left the house.

I’d worked out a one mile circuit earlier on in the day, and it was actually more accurate than our old one mile circuit. Kasia was working late, and didn’t expect to be home before midnight. I was goign to run. For the first time in a month. I sent Kasia a text. “you’re crazy,” she replied, “It’s 11pm.” I knew that. I also knew that if I didn’t run now, I would find excuses for every other day this week.

Some halfhearted stretching followed the texts; I was in a rush to get out the door, figuring that I was a little out of shape and wouldn’t be running too far or fast anyway.

And then… I was gone. Out of the door, turning left and looking for road signs to follow my new route.

I completed the first lap, easing straight into my usual 7:30 pace like I’d been running without a four week break. As I passed my front door, I chuckled as I saw my lap time. Like clockwork.

The second lap, was exactly the same. And the third.

I hesitated as I finished the third lap. Kasia would be back soon, and I didn’t want to overdo the run on first return. The last thing I needed was another lay off through injury. Three miles, without break, like clockwork. A good, if short run.

I think I may do the same today. Well, tonight.

A runner who doesn’t run is not a runner. Right?

Hello again. It’s been a while. Let me take you through the saga of my last month…

So, as I’ve posted before, I took a tumble down the stairs and hurt my back. I then went to the chiropractor and had it repaired. Somewhat. It took another week or so to get to a point where it no longer hurt to move. I still can’t sit for extended periods, but I’m surviving. But I couldn’t run. Three weeks after the fall, and I still couldn’t run. It was driving me crazy.

And then… just as I got better… It was time to move house. Kasia and I had found a great place, central enough for both of our multi-location jobs, at the right price, and only needing a little work to make it ‘home’. There was just one issue.

We couldn’t move in until a week after we moved out of our old place. Which meant that we had to move all of our stuff into storage, then stay with a friend, and then move from storage into the new apartment.

Which meant that living out of a suitcase for a week, I had to sacrifice a fair bit of clothing. Including all my running gear. So no running for another week.

We finally moved in last Tuesday. We’ve spent every free hour since then (I’ve not had a day of work other than Friday, which I spent with my kids from my previous marriage) unpacking and building furniture. So still no running.

Tonight, I’m out for dinner. But I plan to sneak in a late run around 10pm… I need to. It’s been five weeks since I slipped on a pair of running shoes and did anything other than walk.

I don’t think running for the bus every now and then counts as a workout…