“Just wanted to run 20 miles.”
It’s 2am on an average Saturday morning in the GCC. In spite of a recent run of night shifts resulting in a general lack of sleep and in the face of a fresh set of work related hell a mere 2 days away, I resist the urge to roll over and surrender to sleep once again and begin my hour-long wind up to consciousness and an overdue really really long run.
So What Prompted This Madness!
It’s Spring marathon time in the northern hemisphere but I have no marathon on the cards.
Well, slight lie. I am planning on running a Spring marathon, but it is a southern hemisphere Spring in November and I don’t really need to spend 7 months training for it.
I have really cut back on my distance since Ooredoo in January, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, but Twitter and WordPress are a buzz with people slotting in their final and ‘dreaded’ 20 mile run before the horror of the 2 week taper pre Brighton, London, Manchester, etc etc .
Well. My legs were beginning to feel left out. So if I needed some to blame (THANK) for guilt-tripping me out of the door well, it’s you WordPress blogging community and members of the @UKRunChat community.
Time To Think
Aware of my own physical limits and the twinges I tend to get over long distances, I figured the best approach was to run this slow. And I mean S-L-O-W. I plan to take 4 hours to do this. I know I can run at least 20 miles – I’ve done it on three occasions in the last 2 years and I know I can run for 4 hours without complaint (see previous statement). So 20 in 4 seemed like a nice number. Plus if I timed it perfectly, I could join the Saturday morning conversational for a coffee and a chat at the end.
But as my marathon pace is somewhere around the 6min/K mark, running 7:30s is a lot more relaxed a pace which gave me lots of time – in between arguments with my Garmin about my current pace – to take in the scenery and contemplate my running related navel.
So I began to ponder, what sort of runner am I? You know, sometimes we are defined by where we run, when we run, how far we run, who we run for. I am not necessarily saying we should label ourselves, but sometimes labels are useful. Not for bragging rights or anything as aggressively competitive as that, but more for efficiency in communicating the concept of running to non-runners.
The conversation goes:
“I’m a runner!”
“Oh. I run once, hated it. How do you cope with all that jogging?”
Cue urge to kill non-runner.
“I’m a marathon runner, I run marathons”
“Wow, why? Isn’t that bad for your knees?”
“I do Parkrun”
“What’s Park Run?”
“I run Obstacle races”
You see. Much more scope to let us talk about the thing we all love doing without a hint of the J-word.
So I contemplate this, as I casually trot along my 20 mile route. Thinking how I like that I get a kick out of speed work, I enjoy a tempo’ey 10K run, I even take pleasure in a leisurely half marathon every now and again. So it occurs to me.
I AM A DISTANCE RUNNER
I run distance. Wherever, whenever, however I want. Awesome.
I am also using his run as a tester for my peanut butter chia energy balls as run food. I took my time over one, along with a long drink of water at around the 15K mark and by the time I had hit my turnaround point, just after 10miles, I felt pretty good. My system had not reacted violently to the balls (no major need for the loo) and I feel like I may be able to use there regularly on my long runs. I decided that next time, I would have two doses, maybe at 12 and 24K. Build up my run-food experience.
Post 10 miles felt great. Legs felt fresh’ish, energy levels were where I wanted them to be, I am even 4 minutes ahead of schedule. But looking at the sky-scraping West Bay skyline, seeming to be a smudge in the clouds on the horizon, it feels like a long way away.
The way back was much like the way up, except lighter (day light) and with a few more people around. I did spot some Green Parrots at the city end of the airport road, I assume they are feral and are currently busy making lots of baby parrots that will terrorise the tourists for years to come.
Even knowing I could be cruisy for the second half, with 4 minutes in hand, I struggled to get myself slow enough. Settling for 7:10 – 7:15min/K and the persistent ‘slow down’ beep of my Garmin – I think next time I will just make that my pace range about 10 – 15 seconds faster as this seems to be my proper slow pace. This, of course, is all wonderfully good practice for ultra distances as I imagine I will be looking at this sort of pace for the +50K length distances.
Around 7, with the sun up, I rocked up to Costa for a banana and strawberry smoothie (yes they do those here) and had a fun chat with the conversationalist’s. I think this is the way to do it, a long run on Saturday’s finishing up with the group for a drink and a post-run chat. Feels like my body is working with me again.
note to 1st time marathoner’s in training:
I think what I have learnt from this, is that when 20 miles is just a long run and isn’t forced upon one as the ultimate target training distance to run your marathon, it’s actually quite nice – longer than a half, shorter than a marathon, yet you’ll have no guilt if you do nothing that day.
Watching people’ reactions when you say “I ran 20 miles this morning” and they say “why” and you shrug and say “just felt like it” is awesome.