Today was another half marathon distance in preparation for the Cambridge Half Marathon but it was also to test out supplies for the run. I felt pretty bad the first two times I did 13 miles and a little better on the third. This run I wanted to come home feeling that I’d had a good run but didn’t feel ill at all. My wife had bought me something called Shotblocks and I’d got a collapsible juice bottle to carry water. It was a chilly morning but the sun was rising and soon even managed to radiate a smidgeon of heat to take the edges of the chill away. I ran over the cycle bridge and then onto the busway. The busway is an odd thing where regular buses run between a couple of rails of concrete. The buses have guiding wheels on the side to keep them in place between the rails. At the side of this busway is a lovely wide path much used by cyclists, runners and walkers. It’s a delightfully easy track if you want to get a few miles under your belt.
One thing I did notice this morning was that there’s quite a lot of rubbish building up at the side of the busway. Much of it is probably left by people exercising there. I saw energy drinks cartons, gel wrappers and water bottles. It might be useful if a bunch of us who use the busway to exercise on went along there with some bin bags, to try and clean it up a little. If anyone is interested in a spot of litter picking there then please let me know. I can probably scrounge up some litter pickers and some bags from somewhere.
I ran along the busway and was pleased to see Richard there who had gone out early as he had family stuff to do later on. Passing the back of Histon I decided I needed some sustenance. The water was easy to access. I just removed the top and squeezed the bag. No problem at all. The shotblocks were sightly more difficult. I thought there’d be some obvious tab that said tear here. There was nothing like that but just tearing along the top was incredibly easy. I broke off one of the pieces and popped it into my mouth. It tasted really good. It was a little like a fruit pastille although bigger and without the sugary coating. I did have a little trouble eating it though as I have a bit of a cold and am having serious trouble breathing through my nose. This meant I was breathing heavily through my mouth and trying to eat at the same time. There were several moments that I thought I was going to choke as I almost inhaled the Shotblock thing. This didn’t happen though and I lived to tell the tale. I returned home with very weary legs but feeling sooo much better than any other time that I’d attempted this distance. It seems this body thing is very much like a machine. Fail to keep it topped up with enough fuel and lubrication and you’ll run into trouble.
I didn’t even feel that I needed to collapse into bed after the run but these two cats laying there all cute and that did make it seem like an awfully good idea to snuggle up amongst them.
Details of this run can be found Strava
I have a somewhat odd relationship with this half marathon. It’s going to be my first and emotionally it keeps doing the roller coaster thing to me.
A year ago I stood on the street, cheering folks on for the 2014 Cambridge Half Marathon. I joined a bunch of friends in the pub afterwards to congratulate them on their run. I was greatly impressed with their feats of speed and endurance but couldn’t imagine that I would be able to run that kind of distance. However, as the year progressed I ran a few more 10K runs and thought well, maybe it might be possible. I just need to run 10K twice and then a bit more. That doesn’t sound too much does it? Well of course it does and I vacillated endlessly between a whiff of hopefulness and oceans of despair.
The pendulum swung back toward the positive just before Christmas (2014) when I went out one day, felt good and so just kept on running. By some miracle I had managed the 21K so knew that the half marathon couldn’t frighten me anymore. The dark despair would be vanquished and I could skip happily on my way to a triumphant finish in the Cambridge Half Marathon. A couple of weeks later the pendulum has swung back and so I set off out once more to see if I could repeat the feat. Sure enough I did manage it (as detailed in this blog post ) but suffered for several hours afterwards from what must have been either water or nutrient deficiency. I’d done the distance twice but still wasn’t sure I could do it again so had to strap on the running shoes and prove that it wasn’t just a couple of flashes in the pan.
I prepared myself for the cold (running tights, long sleeved top, jacket and hat) and ventured out. There was a bitter cold wind and occasional flurries of rain. It was anything but a cheery day but I was a man with a plan. I had my map of the Cambridge Half Marathon route so intended to run down to the city centre, once around the route and then back again. It felt rough at first but it always does. I went over the cycle bridge cursing the biting wind and preponderance of grey and dismal clouds. I was also cursing the nagging pain from the hamstring injury at Parkrun yesterday and hoping that it didn’t get any worse. I trotted down the other side down the road and turned left toward Chesterton. I was trying to decide whether to cross the river at the Green Dragon bridge or the new bridge further down. I decided on the one further down and then looked up and found myself by the Green Dragon pub about to cross the bridge. Oh well. Down the side of the river there are lots of people running even now at 08:30 on a dismal Sunday. They are all going much faster than me. I try to kid myself that maybe they are not running as far as I am but with the Cambridge Half Marathon only a few weeks away it’s a good bet that most of the people I see are also training for the same run.
I run on to Cambridge and stumble across what will be the start of the half marathon at Victoria Avenue. The route stays quite close to Cambridge City centre. It’s 6 miles long and we’ll be doing it twice on the day with an extra twiddly bit at the end to get the extra mile. I’m feeling good and eating up the miles. I hesitate as I run up Kings Parade. Do I turn right at the Senate Building. I pull out the map. It looks like I do. Running toward Jesus Green I decide to try out the gel. Richard has given me a gel to try. These are the ones that they will be handing out at the drinks stations during the half marathon. I rip off the top and suck down the contents. It tastes incredibly sweet, sticky and fairly unpleasant. I know there needs to be a lot of sugar in these things but surely there’s some way of disguising it a little. Ah well – I’m pretty sure it’ll provide the energy I need but during this run I’m wishing that I’d brought along some water with which to wash it down.
I finish the 6 mile section around Cambridge and head for home. I’m flagging a little now and I know my pace has dropped quite considerably. I’m still confident I can get home.
Several kilometres later I arrive home and it’s much less of a drama than last time I did over 21 kilometres. I ran 22 and a half kilometres but I’m still standing and have enough energy to do my stretches and then go to soak in the bath. For now I’m happy and confident as regards finishing the half marathon but I strongly suspect that those doubts will creep back in once more.
Footnote – The hamstring injury didn’t bother me much at all during this run. I kept my stride short and the pace was fairly gentle. I must do a little searching on the net to find out how to look after this injury and hopefully strengthen it to stop it happening again.
You can view the details of this run on Strava