York 2019

16/10/19 – What Do I Do Now?

It’s a only four days before Sue and I are due to run the Yorkshire Marathon and I’m shitting it really rather worried.

To say that training hasn’t gone well would be a massive under-statement… I’ve mentally pulled out of the race more than once. Sue, meanwhile, has come down with a horrendous cold. We are both hoping it doesn’t go to her chest, because that will be Goodnight Vienna for this Marathon.

I’m wondering why on earth I thought it was a good idea to enter another Marathon? What changed? After all, London 2016, was going to be be my one and only Marathon. Half Marathons were going to be as far as I was prepared to run. I was convinced that my body wasn’t equipped for anything longer. It has been a firmly held view, repeated to anyone who will still listen to me harping on about running after all these years.

Sue’s motives were more pure and straightforward. As much as she enjoyed her London 2016 experience, she has always felt that a long loo stop robbed her of getting a time under six hours (finishing a minute over). She has always maintained that she wanted to do another London Marathon and that her ‘significant’ birthday in 2020 would be a good marker.

I guess there was no way that I was going to let her go through the whole Marathon experience without me. So when she entered this year’s ballot, I also applied and we set about applying to charities that are close to our hearts. Needless to say, we were both unsuccessful in the ballot, but both recently have had the incredible good fortune to be accepted by two fabulous charities to run for them. Game on.

In fact, the game was already well afoot. I forget exactly when I came up with the idea of us both doing not one, but two Marathons within six months. I do remember it was shortly after we returned from our holiday in June. I figured that I was in much better shape now that when I started to train for London 2016 – the daily run of at least a mile is still ongoing (past 800 consecutive last Wednesday!). Whilst I’ve been adamant that Marathons were no longer for me, If I’m honest, I’ve also had some lingering issues about my own Marathon performance. I could have done things different/better/smarter. And, after all, I’ve always maintained that ANYONE can get round a Marathon if they follow a recognised plan and put in the training. Maybe I could try and follow my own advice.

I can still hear myself saying to Sue: “We should do an autumn Marathon too.” The idea being to use it as a shakedown for London 2020 assuming we got in. Iron out some of those kinks and niggles from 2016, so we are ready for a serious PB attempt there. Get our fitness up to a level that we can maintain throughout the winter mitigate the effects month’s break in January to Australia that is already booked.

Also, how nice will it be to do the hard yards in the warm summer months, not just in the depth of winter? Oh Neil, you poor, sad, deluded fool. I had learned precisely nothing from our Half Marathon out on Cocoa Beach last October.

Now that race was a real beast. It started before sunrise and the heat was already over 30c. Worse still, the humidity was making it feel like 42c according to Weather Channel. On top of that, four out of the final five miles were on the beach: steeply cambered sand with nowhere to hide from the blazing sun. All very different from our previous pleasant experience of a Floridian Half Marathon. We survived it, but our times were half and hour over our average and we were pretty bushed for the rest of the holiday.

Just as we started training for our autumn Marathon, the temperatures soared and my training performance went rapidly south. I can only remember a couple of runs that went well, the rest were all horrible. Mainly involving completely running out of steam after around three-quarters of that day’s planned distance. No amount of gels and water helped. I would frequently get stomach cramps which accompanied urgent toilet need. This even extended to parkruns… I really felt like everything was failing apart rather than coming together.

The final straw came on my long 20 miler at the tail end of September. Due to my delicate tummy, I’d decided to do mile laps of the house – my usual daily run route. That way, I was never more than half a mile away from the loo. As it happens, I had no such issues, but I just ran out of energy, bang on cue at 15 miles.

Sue was doing to same route too and we found ourselves run/walk/trotting together near the end of the run. I was feeling truly awful and declared that the whole idea of me running Marathon distance was ridiculous. I was going to pull out on the next day and no longer pursue a London charity place. Sue convinced me to at least talk to Marc – my long-running, long running Guru – before I did quit. I grudgingly agreed, but deep down I knew that nothing he could say would change my mind. THIS TIME I REALLY MEAN IT!

In the end, it wasn’t Marc that made me think again – I couldn’t get hold of him on that Monday. It was the call from Alzheimer’s Research UK that came through early on the Tuesday that shifted the paradigm. They offered me a place at London Marathon 2020 on the spot. The die had been cast – quitting was no longer an option.

I now need Yorkshire to work up a plan to get around London. All thoughts of beating my time (at either event) have been replaced by coming up with a survival plan. Marc has helped immensely with that, as we have had plenty of time to chat over the last week, whilst we have been out on Tour with Jim Bob and the jitters are just about under control, but I still can’t quite stop fretting.

Looking on the positive side, at least my final long run yesterday went well. After driving the length of the country over the past five days, I needed to get out and give the legs a damn good stretch. A 10 miler keeping a slightly quicker than Marathon pace up and, for once, I didn’t hit any wall. It feels good to get one decent run in before the off – the last one was back in August! Even the taper down Titsey Trail 10K, the previous week had seen a return of the tummy trouble. Firstly, stopping me in my tracks midway through, then an involuntary ‘sprint’ past the finish line and into the nearest loo and then throwing up on the walk back to the car. What a sorry mess.

So here we are: Sue, sneezing and snuffling her way towards Sunday’s date with destiny; and me, fidgeting and fretting, not just about her capability of making that start line, but also trying to play down the fears that I’m really no longer up to a Marathon.

We are both playing the old waiting game.