A cautionary tale

I just thought I'd share this, as I feel very foolish right now. As I've told everybody on any occasion I can, last Sunday (11th Oct) I ran the Oxford Half, one of the best things I've ever done. I diligently followed a 16 week training plan, and arrived in the starting pens about as well prepared as I could have been. One of the factors that really made a difference was the build up of distance in the month to six weeks before the race. Previously, I'd got to the position where 10k wasn't a difficult distance to complete, and on occasion, I'd stretched a run as far as 13 or 14km. Going that bit further was a challenge, and introduced the necessity to consider nutrition and fuelling in conjunction with the run. The first time I ran a little past 14k I experienced the bonk/wall - I just suddenly ran out of energy.

I managed to move on to ten mile runs, fine tuned my in-flight refuelling techniques, and managed to reasonably confortably do 16, 17, and an 18.5km run, at the end of which I knew I could have run on to the HM distance.

I tapered in the last week, and I was pleasantly surprised on race day to be able to set off at a faster pace than I expected to (the first 5k was a shade under 30 minutes, and 10k was 60:02) and apart from tiring a little in the second half, didn't have any problem completing the race strongly.

Then, apart from accepting the need for a bit of a rest, I ignored the "reverse taper" - I took 3 rest days, then went for a 7k run on the Thursday morning. Later that day I found that I was able to go for a first club run with the local running club (I'd planned this, but expected it would have to be the next week). That turned out to be another 7.5K run, including a hill. I rested Friday, then did Parkrun on Saturday. At this point I was feeling fine. Parkrun was my second fastest.

Then my cocky, bravado filled head got the better of me. I'd run a HM. I'd conquered 10 mile runs. Sundays were going to become a regular long run day. I know, I'll go for a ten miler!

I ate fairly lightly on Saturday. As a last minute afterthought on Sunday morning, I had a banana for breakfast. I'd planned to take on energy during the run so had my shotbloks with me.

Off I went. Nice. Running comfortably, watching the k's go by. 10k, ok, just 6 to go. Taking it easy, running at a moderate pace, 7-7:30/k. Then, at about 14k, *BONK*. This is hard work. I suddenly felt really tired. Stubbornly, though, I pressed on. I'd gone out on a 16k run, and I don't give up easily. I did run on, and did complete the run. I was tired, though, more than at the end of the HM.

I recovered a little over the next couple of hours, though it caught up with me again, and by the evening, I was just about out on my feet. Today (Monday) I still feel really tired.

It's easy to get carried away and think we've got this running lark cracked - we can run where, when and how we want, and it's just easy and fun.

I've learned a lesson, though. I need to think clearly and plan properly. I'm not superhuman, and while I'm loving my running and want to do it as much as I can, I must not overstretch. Recovery and rest is important, as is carefully eating properly for those longer runs.

Happy running, people, but do it sensibly!

11 Replies

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  • great post and its so easy to think we are invincible...I used to wonder why I always felt emotionally drained and ravenous on a Monday at work, then it twigged that I did my long run on a Sunday building up to 23 miles and that had an impact on me big time!!!

  • Great post, Steve! I completely agree with you that it's so easy to forget we just put our bodies through a lot of physical stress! I am finding it hard as well to find the balance between the energy and pride you feel from completing a long race and giving your body enough time to cope. I feel pretty tired still from the OH (which, congratulations on your amazing time!!) but I want to get back out there and run.

    I also followed a training programme, but last week it only had me run one 5k the whole week and I felt like that was not enough. I added in 2 more 5ks throughout the week to get my legs moving.. I wonder if anyone knows on a good regime for recovery after a long race?

    Really insightful post, though :) completely echoes how I'm feeling!

  • Thanks, Sadie, and congratulations on your properly amazing time! And of course with your fundraising efforts.

  • Better, I think. Just looking at the rain outside and considering a run.

  • You were doing 5 runs a week as well in the run up to the HM - that is quite a lot of work on your feet! Might that be a factor too?

  • I really don't know what the exact cause was. I prepared well for the HM, did a decent time and felt fine afterwards. Last Thursday when I ran 7k+ twice in a day, I felt fine. I ran my second fastest Parkrun on Saturday, and when I started the run on Sunday it all felt ok. I emptied my tank, and I don't know if that was a cumulative effect or not.

    I rested two days, and needed to. I had a gentle 5K run this morning, which felt hard, but doesn't seem to have had any untoward effects.

  • Just one of those things perhaps. You're making great progress all things considered!

  • That's why it was so frustrating!

  • Maybe it's the release off all the pre-race training and tension or whatever...a few days off, and some shorter runs will get you back on track xx

  • Hopefully!

  • A very good tale to us all but i have another.... i just stopped dead and now I panic!!! I don't recommend this to anyone either!!!

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