Six-week-out reflection

Six weeks to go until the London Marathon. Three till the Great North Run. I’m finding the long runs really tough but I’m getting there. There have been several main issues plaguing those long runs recently:

  • Foot pain – this has been a real saga. I’ve always suffered with burning pain and hotspots in the balls of my feet on long runs due to my shoes not being wide enough for my feet, but during this training period I have been so fed up with it (as it’s so painful that it stops me running) that I’ve been trying to find some way to stop it happening. Through the purchase of a ridiculous number of new pairs of shoes, I have discovered that running shoe companies don’t actually make shoes wide enough for my feet, but one or two of the pairs are at least a bit better than what I had before. I’ve also been experimenting with various sock types, moleskin tape and metatarsal gel pads, but I haven’t found the magic combination yet. I really hope I find it soon, as it’s making me pretty miserable.
  • Recurring hip issue – this was a real problem when I started running, but vastly improved when I lost a lot of weight. I’ve put a bit of weight back on during the pandemic and it’s really starting to niggle again, especially when my form suffers due to the aforementioned foot issue. I’ve been doing my yoga/Pilates stretches to try and ease it, and for this morning’s run I took an ibuprofen twenty minutes before starting and didn’t have any hip pain en route. The ibuprofen strategy is not ideal, but if it gets me round on the day then that’s what I’ll do.
  • Water logistics – I previously carried two 400ml bottles in the front pockets of my running rucksack, but it’s been a hot summer and I found on my last super-long run that it wasn’t enough. I’ve also had those bottles since I started running and they’re getting a bit old and manky now, so Geth recently bought me two 500ml soft flasks as a replacement. I tried them out this morning (a six-mile run) and was surprised to find they felt about twice as heavy as my old ones! That extra 200ml really makes a difference. They’re nice to use though once you get the hang of them. The only thing was that they weighed down my pack and caused it to rub against the back of my neck more heavily than it usually does. This settled down after a while, but I’m a bit worried about chafing on longer runs, so I’m going to start carrying a spare multiuse just in case.
  • Lack of energy – on my last super-long run I felt really tired. I can’t say that this is stopping me running though (it’s been the hip and foot pain that has done that) – it’s just slowing me down a bit. I’m hoping that this issue will disappear with better fuelling.

To keep me semi-occupied during runs I’ve been listening to podcasts (I treated myself to some Aftershokz bone conductors, which have been a godsend – and yes, you can wear them even if you’ve already got glasses, hearing aids and a multiuse on, it just requires a bit of careful arrangement!). The mental game has been tough during this training period though. I’ve had to stop doing lapped routes and spider/crossroads routes because I often just don’t have the fortitude to resist cutting the run short when I go past my house again. Another thing is that, as part of trying to deal with the foot issue, I started following an online tip to take a walk break once per mile. Unfortunately this has given me mental ‘permission’ to walk when it’s hard, meaning that the last few miles of most of my super-long runs have been mostly walking. I’m not sure how to deal with these issues.

I also keep seeing the advice (which has become more prominent over the last couple of years) that even slower runners shouldn’t be doing more than three hours in training runs. This advice is bad and is starting to annoy me, to be honest, as it shows a real lack of understanding of the way slower runners train. At my current ‘stop for walk breaks/water/gels every mile, run really slowly the rest of the time’ pace, three hours wouldn’t even get me to half marathon distance. I need to build up to a 22-mile long run like a faster marathoner, even if the longest long runs take all day, as I need the mental preparation of doing that distance. The real plus point about this current training period is that I’m recovering from runs really quickly (barely any soreness the next day), which has never happened before, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

I have three big runs remaining before the marathon itself: an 18-miler (this Thursday), a 22-miler (two weeks later) and the Great North Run (three days after the 22-miler, so no, I am not expecting a PB!). The shorter runs on the schedule (3-6 miles, plus a couple more 12-milers) will all be about continuing my experiments to find a footwear setup that doesn’t hurt. It’d be nice if I managed that this Tuesday so I don’t have to do the 18-miler with foot pain!

parkrun finish
Sprint finish at parkrun, 14th August 2021. If I can sprint finish like this at the London Marathon, it means I’ll have done the rest of the race too slowly! Photo (c) John Cooke 2021.

I’ll update again closer to the marathon. I know my result will be far from my original goals for this marathon back when it was scheduled to happen in spring 2020, but if I beat the insanely slow time that got me a second chance in the first place, I’ll be happy.

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