Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Why I got a Taxi Home and Other Tales of Running.

It was Sunday afternoon when it happened. I was supposed to run fifteen miles. I expected to run fifteen miles. This didn’t go to plan.

The task ahead didn’t feel daunting. Training for a marathon has changed the way I view longer runs, and as the distances have increased, so has my confidence and acceptance in my ability to achieve more. I train lots, so am able to run further, and I attribute a large part of being able to run further to belief. The same applies to lots of life’s tasks and challenges – if you believe you can do something, and you prepare, then it is highly likely you can. If I can train for a marathon, then so can a lot of people, who at the moment, may not believe this is the case. I like this quote from Percy Cerutty, legendary running coach:

“To hell with the lot of them if you ‘feel’ you can do it.”


I’ve gone off track and down a metaphorical windy lane into the woods here. Back to my original tale. So, on Sunday April 8th, I was prepared, I was not worried. But at 3 miles I already felt uncomfortable. I considered stopping at 5, but instead of heading home after a lap of Roath parks, I ran past Cathays cemetery toward Crwys Road. I paused at a bus-stop shelter, where I stretched and sat down. Another runner heading my way spurred me to start up again. My shins hurt. The other runner overtook me. I probably scowled at her and passing cars. I joined Whitchurch Road, and ran through the underpass onto Western Avenue, then through Bute Park. I acknowledged it was nice to take my time through Bute Park as opposed to the mad heart-attacky dash which is parkrun. But that’s as cheery as I got. My shins hurt. The scenery didn’t enthuse me on this day. I cut across Castle Street and ran along the Taff Embankment. I felt sick. I checked my watch. I stopped. I changed my iPod from the high bpm dance trash I employ to keep me going and put The (lovely) Cave Singers on instead. A bit better. I checked my watch. I felt sick. I pulled my earphones out. I ran to the sound of my stroppy breath and footsteps. I checked my watch. Ten miles. I walked for a bit. I tried to pretend the wind wasn’t freezing. People in padded jackets and bobble hats walked past me in the opposite direction. I tried to pretend I wasn’t freezing. I thought about walking through Penarth marina, along the Cardiff Bay barrage and back to Roath (approx 5 miles). I thought about phoning a taxi. I phoned a taxi.

Home and £11.20 poorer, I lay on the sofa underneath a blanket and contemplated what went wrong.

Some thoughts:

1. Within the previous fortnight, I had run approximately 71.78 miles.
2. Within the last month, I had run approximately 126.48 miles.
3. I had completed assignments and run fundraising events and not had much sleep for weeks.
Conclusion = I was cream-crackered. (Polite version used for parental readers)

I’ve since read up on this experience, and RealBuzz, a healthy living forum, assures me it was normal. Their article on marathon tapering suggests:

“Two weeks out from race day, your ‘long run’ should be just half the time/distance you achieved on your longest session. The week after, it’s cut in half again (so your 'long' run may actually be four to six miles).”

Ooops. I was aiming for 15 miles as a Runner’s World plan I read that week had told me. According to RealBuzz then, 10 miles was about right, as my longest had been 20 miles. There was more:

“It is not unusual to feel suddenly lethargic and heavy during the taper. This is partly because your glycogen stores are full (since you aren't continually depleting them with training), and each gram of glycogen is stored along with three grams of water. Your body also becomes accustomed to a large volume of activity, and taking this out of the equation can leave you feeling as if you could barely run a mile, let alone a marathon.”


It’s obvious then, that no matter what training advice says, ultimately you need to listen to your own body. There are hundreds of thousands of marathon plans, but these have to be adapted according to how you feel.

I spent the next two days sleeping and lying on the sofa enjoying multiple films, and plan similar for the next fortnight, alongside a bit of running – but definitely no 15 milers!

The taxi tale will no doubt be re-told and laughed about.

So will the story about my covert running attempt. It was the beginning of my training. I ran at night to ‘avoid being seen.’ Outside Cardiff High one winter evening, I got swearily heckled by a car full of teenage boys who could see me clearly. I tripped over a bump in the road, ripped my trousers and cut my knee. I started to consider morning runs.

I have been overtaken during races by by a giraffe, and by Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

On the approach to a Merthyr Tydfil race start line, I was greeted along with several other runners by a group of drunk-and-drinking teenage boys. They'd obviously been up all night, and wished us luck whilst holding their bottles of lager aloft. 

I’m looking forward to firstly, resting. Secondly, to collecting some more stories at the London Marathon. I promise not to catch a taxi until I’m over the finish line.

My fundraising amount is now at over £2250. If you'd like to sponsor me to help raise funds for Tenovus Cancer Charity, you can do so here. Thank you!

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