I’ve been stuck in a bit of a running rut lately, and I’ve been tough on myself because of it. Plagued by an Achilles injury since the London marathon, and the inevitable slowing down that happens to me over the summer months due to my hayfever causing chestiness and wheezing, it’s been making me pretty miserable. I haven’t been able to keep up with my old training pals, who are setting faster PBs, and I seem to have slowed down and lost fitness. Coupled with the fact that I am in the middle of training to be a running Coach, feeling like I can’t run at the moment is doing nothing for my confidence.
I’ve realised this month however that running naturally goes in peaks and troughs. Top coaches talk about training towards your natural peaks in performance, and advise you to book races at your fitness peaks. For me, running is what now defines me (although I challenge anybody who knew me during my first 25 years not to snort with laughter at this) and feeling like I can’t do it anymore makes me miserable and frustrated. However, I’ve noticed a pattern. In the past 4 years, my running has gone like this:
Summer 2010: tentatively take up running (again, after dipping in and out over the past few years) very slowly at first.
Autumn 2010: start up my running club and fall in love with it. Set some new PBs.
Winter 2010/11: get injured due to overtraining and bad shoes
Spring 2011: get back to running slowly
Summer 2011: love, LOVE, LOVE running. Discover the trails.
Autumn 2011: Discover speed work. Enter some longer races and set some PBs
Winter 2011/12: feel in the shape of my life.
Spring 2012: set my fastest time ever at a half marathon.
Summer 2012: train most days, including cross training (focused on my first triathlon)
Autumn 2012: discover I am pregnant. Slow my running down and reduce intensity and frequency
Winter 2012/13: running, what’s that again?
Spring 2013: give birth to my daughter. Running is furthest from my mind. However, somehow I enter the ballot for the London marathon. Am I nuts?
Summer 2013: back to running slowly, discover the joy of Parkrun and enjoy setting some new PBPBs (post-baby PBs)
Autumn 2013: find out they’ve let me into the London marathon. Run one of my slowest half marathon ‘races’ ever. Feel like I’ll never achieve that 26.2
Winter 2013/14: Train, train, train. Especially in the wind and the rain and the hail. Get FAST over mid-distances.
Spring 2014: complete my first marathon. I am superwoman. But I am also broken. Lose my mojo for a while.
Summer 2014: after limping around and experiencing the worst post-race blues of my life, I find my mojo on the trails. I can’t keep up with my old training buddies though, after I went solo for marathon training.
So where am I now? I’ve realised looking at the peaks and troughs of the last four years where my running has naturally peaked and dipped. I’ve drawn a little diagram just to help you see my journey in full technicolour. (Yes, I drew this. I’m a runner, not an artist.)
I’m just coming out of a dip now, and I’m drawing a line under all that has gone previously. I’m certainly not marathon fit now. My Achilles feels better though, and I feel like I can focus on my half marathon in four weeks time. I’ll be training smarter, doing some cross-training on the bike and with cardio and strength exercises, and running no more than 4 times a week. And most importantly, I’m no longer going to compare myself to others, or to my former self.
Running, I will always love you, but sometimes we drift apart for a while. Like any relationship, we experience ups and downs. I feel that when we can get through the bad times together, we come out stronger. We’re ready for a great autumn and winter, let’s do this!