Spring has sprung. The bluebells are struggling to carpet woods, daffodils lie spattered across grassy mounds, birds are nesting and, up and down the country the pitter patter of trainers can be heard in city streets. Yes marathon season is here again. I know that marathons are run all year round, I spent most of last year running them but, for a lot of runners the spring marathon is the culmination of their winter training, the point at which they discover if all those early mornings, cold runs and wet running gear was really worth while. It is no different for me, by the time you read this I will know if it has all paid off and, whether I reached the goal I set myself all the way back in October.
It was around then that I decided simply running a lot of marathons was not enough, I really needed to get a time that I thought did me justice. I like trail runs, I don’t mind hills I ran a lot of undulating trail marathons last year but, what I really really want is that elusive sub 4 hour marathon time. It’s not any secret, I have written about it before and all my training since December has been geared towards that goal. What I was not prepared for was the butterflies in my belly. For about a month, since just before my last long run I have had moments when my stomach lurches and I have to take a moment to breathe deep and relax. I mean it’s only a marathon, I’ve run 11 of those and the distance is hard, but nothing to fear. What’s different about this Sunday is that I have a target beyond simply finishing, and it’s a public target that I have spent months preparing for. Whatever way it works out, in less than a week from when I write this all that focus and effort will be over and one question will remain. What now?
In my calmer moments I have thought about this, after Manchester Marathon I will have a vacuum, the post marathon come down. I am pretty sure my wife would like me to retire, or at least scale my running down a huge amount to maybe every other parkrun. Barring a leg falling off that’s not going to happen and even if it did I would look into which prosthetic limbs are good for running. The temptation to get back on the treadmill of monthly marathons is great, they are always there and they give you something to focus on but, I don’t think it will help with even longer term goals. No, what I have decided to do after this spring marathon has sprung is to have some fun. Work on pace at track, train with friends and enter a few 10k’s and half’s on a much more add hock basis.
One of the things I have missed out on with all this marathon training is some of the fun. I love running and I have had some excellent training runs with buddies but there is stuff I have not been able to do. It has conflicted with my own training or I have been scared of developing an injury. Last week for example one of my mates asked if I could join them for 14 miles on Sunday. I really wanted to do the run but it conflicted with my tapering so I was hard with myself and kept discipline. Sunday morning I ran 9 miles on my own and my friend had to change long run day. These are the sacrifices that we make that I won’t miss over the summer. There are at least 2 half marathons I have missed out on and a few smaller races. It’s spontaneity that sticking to a plan has robbed me of. Still come Monday morning I shall be free again to wing it and go off on spur of the moment running adventures.
It was seeing what happened to a few friends who joined the 100 marathon club which helped me decide that I just need to go back to running purely for the joy of it. Instead of enjoying what they were doing it became a chore and the ambition became one of giving running up once it was all done. A few did, well almost. Happy to say that most of them are back out again but their approach has changed and I have learned from this. They have taken a step back and as their bodies have started to recover they have begun to enjoy the shorter distances again, training and running just for the joy of it, sometimes even doing 3 or 4 runs a week rather than just the marathon at the weekend. If I don’t want to get burned out this is something I must do as well. So here is to the end of the spring marathon season and the return of joyful running with no particular aim in mind.
Until of course training for the autumn marathon season starts…