[S] is for Stretching

S     Alphabet is a strange thing because I had to wait until now to mention one of the most important things when it comes to running! Stretching – I love it. I don’t understand how people are able to exist without it! I love the feeling after a run when you are sweating and panting and thinking that you may possibly cough up a lung, your legs are tense and painful…ok I actually don’t love any of that but then you start stretching your muscles….slowly and diligently; and although you still sweat and pant and hurt, everything just starts feeling so much nicer.

I do both types of stretches – dynamic stretches before a run as part of a warm-up (come on W!) and static stretches after a run to cool and calm down.  And although there is no scientific proof that they boost your performance, I really like the feeling. 🙂

 

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[R] is for Rest

R     It’s the taper week! That means lots of sleep, plenty of food and the training is winding down. It is usually a rather strange feeling to give up all the hard work and have this much rest after several weeks of dedicated training. This time it is quite a different feeling for me as I was ill and was pretty much on lots of sleep and little to no training for few weeks already. My taper actually consists of picking up the training a bit so it reaches the levels of a normal taper. It is weird.

I have mentioned several times the importance of giving your body a break. But your mind needs a break too. The sudden abundance of free time may bring your thoughts into overdrive (or maybe that’s just me!) about the race, doubts start to emerge and the brain generally messes with your mental wellbeing and confidence about your ability to perform on the day. It is normal. Don’t give in to these nagging negative vibes. Easier said than done? Yeah. I know. My personal remedies are reading, binging on TV series, writing, meeting friends in places where they don’t serve alcohol (it’s not because I’m waging a war agains the booze, it’s because it’s too much temptation!).  There is already a bottle of Champagne smiling at me in the fridge. Just six days to go.

 

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[Q] is for Queues

Q     Be ready for them. Especially for loos! You arrive at the race village, you drop your stuff in a baggage tent, and still have some time to spare? Get into the loo queue. Even if you don’t need to go. By the time it is your turn, you will.

The worst loo situation I have ever experienced was at JP Morgan Corporate Challenge run last year in London. These runs are extremely popular, with thousands of runners taking part and unfortunately this is an issue every single year. The queues crossed almost the whole race village and many opted for the bushes instead, including ladies. Somehow I don’t think it will be any different this year.

 

You are at the start. The anticipation. The countdown. The gun fires. And then nothing happens. Another queue to be prepared for is the start itself. Just because the official time of the race is at 8am, it doesn’t mean you will cross the start line at this time. The more people are taking part, the longer it will take for all of them to step on that first timing mat. The record for this holds the Lisbon Half-marathon for me where it took me almost 40 minutes. But it was an amazing start, crossing the Ponte 25 de Abril definitely made up for the wait.

 

ponte 25 abril

Source

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[P] is for PB

P     It is in human nature to try to succeed, improve and compete. When I started running, it was all about getting round, making it pass the finish line. Now…well, let’s just say I have become more competitive. Not every race is a race though. When it comes to marathon training I use half-marathons as training runs to practice my pace rather than trying to run a personal best for the half-marathon itself.

As I have mentioned before, I am currently planning to run two other marathons this year so the competitiveness is sitting on a bench at the moment and I am focusing more on the endurance. Next year, I would like to run a half-marathon each month so the chase for PBs will be back on. The important thing is to remember what is the ultimate goal and understand and accept that we can’t always run a PB.

My best time for 10K for example is 54:33. If I do 10K as a  training run, it will be around 58 minutes. And it is absolutely fine. The same goes for a half-marathon. I know I can do it under 2 hours but time around 02:05 is more realistic when I practice my pacing. The only distance I always push for is the 5K because it is short enough for me to recover quickly even if I push harder. Although I haven’t done any 5K races this year yet…I think it’s time to revisit Parkrun and beat the 25 minutes mark!

 

 

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[O] is for Over-training

O     Are you training for a race but feeling constantly tired, have niggles niggling, and are in a state of panic you are not doing enough? Stop. These are just few signs that you are doing too much. Your body needs rest. Packing in extra runs one week before a race will do more harm than help. Take a break, eat, relax and most importantly get plenty of sleep.

I missed two weeks of training due to an illness during a rather critical period of marathon training and it is very tempting to try to squeeze it all in now. However attempting a 20 miler so close to the London marathon (which is on 26th April) would be insane. I have to trust myself, my body, and the training I have done in the past 12 weeks that I will make it on the day. Although I haven’t done as much as I hoped, I’d rather be as fit and rested as possible. The last thing you want is to be tired and in pain at the start.

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[N] is for Nerves

N     I am a very nervous and fidgety person – always worried that something will not go according to a plan (though it is not as bad as it used to be) so my first races were pretty neurotic experience from the night before to the point I actually started to run. As with everything else, practice makes perfect so more races I did, more I got used to the whole thing.

What to wear? What to eat? When to go to sleep? When to arrive at the start? What if I forget something? What if the weather is really bad? What if I’m not able to finish? These are just few of the questions constantly floating in my head the night before. Most of the time I can tame the practical ones – I prepare my gear and nutrition the day before, I make sure I know how to get to the start and what time I need to be there and always add 30 minutes extra just to be on the safe side. I check the weather forecast and pack an extra layer if just in case something goes terribly wrong in the atmosphere. I also prepare my post race bag with dry clothes and snacks that I leave in the baggage tent. Then I recheck everything about five times. I admit I am slightly OCD when it comes to races but it helps me to fight the nerves and over the time the process has become a ritual. Though sometimes the nerves still get the better of me.

 

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[M] is for Marathon

M     Ten days to the London marathon now! I’m pretty relaxed about it now but I had some hard times as I was not able to train for two weeks due to an illness and only got back to it this Monday. Nevertheless my first 5k run on Monday went surprisingly well so I am confident that I will get around just fine, even if not fast. It is a good thing that we have a very generous cut off time of 8 hours.

Marathons are not a walk in a park but the sense of achievement is addictive, and being part of such an iconic race as London is very special and frankly, I can’t wait for the day to come! This year it is even more special for me because my sister will be here to support me. My sis is now also a runner (I am taking full credit for that J) and she did her first race just few weeks ago in Bratislava as part of the Bratislava marathon festival. I made her company and also ran the half-marathon the next day. I surprisingly still haven’t run the full marathon in my hometown although I registered few years back….but my training didn’t really go according to the plan plus it was snowing on the day and the temperature outside read -5C, conditions I was not used to, so I was glad to miss it. But it is on my list.

I am also strongly leaning towards running the Helsinki marathon in August this year but will definitely decide only after London. Singapore marathon in December is also still on the list though I am bit perplexed by their ban on chewing gums. This creates bit of an issue for me as I am addicted to chewing gums almost as badly as I’m addicted to coffee….

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[L] is for Long runs

L     For me personally, a long run is anything over 90 minutes though if I train for a marathon it increases to two hours. They are important because your body needs to get familiar with the feeling of fatigue and they are a building block to your endurance. They are very rarely fun, at least for me. I find long training runs hard. That is partly the reason why I try to sign up to as many races as I can during a marathon training. To have the support of the crowd and the company of other runners makes a lot of difference. Even if the races are de facto just training runs. The goal is not to achieve a new PB – they are about practicing my pace, I am testing the gear and planning the nutrition for the marathon day. And they are way more fun than running on my own.

 

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[K] is for Kilometres vs Miles

K     I’m from a metric country so getting used to the imperial units took some time.  Weights and volumes are still pretty much a mystery to me but I think I can say I’m bilingual when it comes to miles and kilometres. Sometimes I prefer one, sometimes the other. It’s less miles than kilometres and the kilometres are going faster than miles even if the distance is the same. You know it’s just 26 miles compared to 42 km in a marathon 🙂

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[J] is for Joy

J     No matter what you are trying to achieve, be it your first 5k or a first marathon, important thing is to enjoy yourself. Don’t do something you find tedious. I ran the Reading half marathon on 22nd March and it was the best race I’ve done so far. Yes, even better than the London Marathon! The organisation was superb, the route was great, the crowds were amazing, there was live music and bands, weather was unbelievable favourable to us and I found myself enjoying the whole day. There was no PB for me – nowhere near actually, I was off by seven minutes, but I really didn’t care or mind. I finished the run into the Madejski stadium with a smile on my face and made it my mission to recruit whole bunch of people to run this race in 2016. If you are thinking about running a half next year – do this one.

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NB

Also it’s my mum’s birthday today!