I'm signed up to the York Marathon in October, so there's still quite some time, but a month ago I decided to start training "for real" as opposed to just going out for a run 3 times a week. Some internet browsing revealed that there are, if not hundreds, then at least dozens and dozens of Marathon training plans out there.
They're all fairly similar - run x times per week with one run being the long (weekend) run. Increase the distance week by week. Throw in some recovery weeks where you take it a little bit easier. I picked an 18 week plan for novices and then set about tweaking it. I've got 4 10k races during the summer, and they need to fit in as well. The result was a 22 week plan culminating with 20 miles as the longest distance 3 weeks before the race itself.
On week 0, the week before starting the plan, I had my first reality check. I went out for a long run along the river Ouse (we were caravaning, the weather was gorgeous, and the river was even gorgeous'er), and thought I'd push myself a bit so that I would be a little ahead of the plan already before beginning. I have worked as a project manager for many years, so creating a bit of contingency in the plan comes natural. Anyway, I was running along the river 5 miles to the nearest town, everything was lovely, and then turned around to run back. Could have picked a short 3 mile route back, but when I got to where I had to chose, I picked the long 5 mile back. With two miles to go I ran out of steam. Totally. As in, can't run, can't walk, can't limp, mwaaaaaaaaaa! I phoned Her Ladyship to tell her I would be a bit longer than expected. She offered to come and fetch me, but I bravely (stupidly!) said not to worry, I'd just take a small break and then make my way back to the caravan. Well. After my small break it was clear I was not going to run anywhere, so I tried calling her to collect me anyway. By now she had inadvertedly switched her phone to silent, so I was stuck with having to limp on. There's a lesson there. Actually, there are two. 1) don't bite off more than you can chew (you hear me Tomas?) and 2) when you have an offer, accept it.
The original plan suggests Mondays and Fridays as rest days, with a short run Tuesday, sorta-longish Wednesday, short Thursday, long Saturday and cross training Sunday. I have tweaked it to be short and slow Monday, increasingly longer sorta-long and fast Wednesday (to rain for the 10k races), short and slow Thursday and long and slow Saturday.
Week 1 was uneventful. The short runs went fine, and on the weekend I again attempted a 10 miler, but this time I was far more careful not to over exert myself. The result was as anyone could have predicted: By taking it easier and not running so fast it felt far better, and I covered the distance.
By now I was becoming aware of some niggling issues that had troubled me for a while. My Achilles tendon is sore, and the 10 miler did not make it any better. My glutes ache and sometimes my lower back. It's nothing new, and I have lived with it for a while, but it seemed sensible to do something about it rather than risk it runining the training a a critical phase for the Marathon (I had an over-use injury last year a month before my half Marathon, so once bitten, twice shy). Made an appointment with a physio a couple of weeks out in the future.
Week 2 was equally uneventful. The long run as 11 miles, and while it was hard work, it was entirely doable.
Several things happened in week 3. The Wednesday sorta-long and fast run progressed to 10 km, and I beat my PB from February. Yay. That gave a nice mood boost. It did not at all improve my Achilles though. Ouch! And I eventually had my appointment with the physio. She massaged (tortured) me, gave me some exercises, told me to take up pilates and sent me to a podiatrist to have my shoes checked. This was a recovery week, so rather than extending the weekend run, I cut it back to 8 miles.
Week 4. Went back to the physio on Friday for a bit more torture. She could see that the exercises had had some effect, but there's still work to be done. Okay to run, but don't overdo it, and try to stay away from hills. Yes of course, I said. Lying toerag that I am. On the weekend we were caravaning again, this time near Scarborough, and I had planned a lovely 13 mile route. My farily long running notes for it ( connect.garmin.com/modern/a... ) describes it as the prettiest, loveliest and most enjoyable long run I've ever had. I concluded that there was nothing I would have wanted to be different.
Now, a few days later, there is one. I should probably have heeded the physio's advice about avoiding hills. The elevation gain from that one run was the same as for all my runs for the last three months combined. And my Achilles hurts for it.
Yesterday I finally saw the podiatrist. He looked and measured and analysed and sent me on my way with a pair of very expensive custom made insoles, and suggested that I go home and spend some more money on an extra pair of shoes so I've got two to change between. Not only does it give the shoes more time to rest and recover (the poor things, my heart bleeds for them!), it also means that if for whatever reason one pair of shoes should break shortly before the race, I'll have another pair that has already been through a couple of hundred miles of breaking in.
Today should have been a running day, and with the first 10k race being this weekend, I had planned on doing a 10 miler today as replacement for the weekend long run, but I think I shall give my Achilles tendon an extra day to calm down a little. I want to play it wise this time and listen to my body, but at the same time I also want to get the miles in week after week after week, so that it becomes a habit.
Stay tuned for another update in a month's time. By then I should hopefully be up to 15 or 16 miles for the long run. The expensive insoles should be doing their thing, I will have had my first pilates training session, and I really, really hope that the physio exercises will have made my legs feel better.