At the moment I feel like a runner between gigs, not sure of what lies ahead in terms of running opportunities or challenges. As the glow from completing the Edinburgh marathon 3 weeks ago begins to ebb away, I think it is important not to slip into idleness or into a pattern of unstructured/directionless training. The fitness levels I achieved in training for the marathon were hard-earned and I do not want to see them decline. At the same time, I can’t be in a permanent state of marathon-readiness. The time commitment and physical strain on the body are too great for a quasi-elite athlete like myself.
I think the main task at present is to work on maintaining a good level of mental and physical preparedness for when the time is right to identify my next challenges. It is also a great opportunity to experience the freedom of running without the pressure of having to achieve any goals. It is an opportunity to run for the sake of running, and to connect with what actually drives me to get out there and hit the ground step after step after step. It allows me time to reconnect with my mind, body and soul, and for these elements in turn to connect with each other. Holistic integration.There is also the risk that it makes me sound pretentious. Holistic pretension.
To illustrate how liberating it is to be free from goals, during the past week I achieved two new personal bests over 5km without really having that intention. It was a lovely feeling, and it is inspiring me to work harder at these shorter distances. One aspect that was liberating was not fearing injury – this really held back my efforts in the latter stages of marathon training, knowing how prone I am to falling, spraining my ankle, and hurting my hip flexors (not to be confused with hip flasks).
At the same time as improving my strength and speed (and I will include some hill work in this), I also want to build on my endurance. This means keeping the tradition of a long Sunday run. I managed 8 miles today along the Brampton Valley Way (running south towards Northampton for 4 miles from the Draughton crossing, and then back again). I think if I can regularly run 10 to 12 miles, this will provide a good foundation for further marathon training should the need arise! In addition to the running, I have a regular stretching routine and a plan to work more on my core strength. Issues around nutrition and alcohol are also important and may have slipped a little of late, but I will address aspects of these in future posts.
The title is a reference to the fact that the Brampton Valley Way follows the course of a disused railway line. Today I saw cyclists, dog walkers, two people on horses, horses in the fields, cattle, and some dollops of horse droppings on the path. Mostly I saw my little feet going backwards and forwards – and (uncharacteristically) missing the dollops!