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Sam’s journey begins

Why? That’s the question everyone asks me when they learn that I’m planning to run 3 marathons in 3 consecutive days next  March.  The answer is pretty simple… because I thought I couldn’t do it so I want to prove myself wrong.  The next thing they say is: “Well I couldn’t even run a mile,” to which I reply: “Of course you can’t if you tell yourself you can’t.”  And it’s that simple.  Rather than say I can’t, I’m saying I can and I will – even if I have to crawl it!

This was back at the end of May so I’ve had a while to get used to the idea. I signed up and paid the entry fee straight away so that I couldn’t talk myself out of it.  During the summer I started increasing the frequency of my running from 3 to 5 days a week and gently increased the weekly distance up to 25 – 30 miles.  I didn’t want to do much more than that as I would risk injuring myself and burning out.  Come the end of October I needed to get a proper plan in place so instead of making it up as I went along I hired the excellent Steve Hobbs from The Milestone Pursuit as my coach.  He put a tailored plan together broken down into 5 phases.  He will only release one phase at a time to me to stop me looking too far ahead and letting myself get daunted – good idea!  So, on the 31st October I commenced proper training by following the plan, and filling out the training diary as I go along.  This diary is key to the training as Steve can monitor how I progress and tweak the plan when needed – he doesn’t actually run with me, so the feedback I give helps him understand how I’m getting on and give me advice when I need it.

So, with 6 weeks of the plan done, what have I learnt so far? Firstly, and this came as a big shock to me, I was running too fast.  I would run my miles in anything from 8.40 to 9.15 mins per mile.  He explained that I wouldn’t be able to sustain that over the coming months and I would injure myself and burn out quickly.  Immediately he put lots of slow runs into the plan.  On some runs he has me trotting around at 11.20 mins per mile – when you’re used to 9 min miles that feels like a crawl.  But it works wonders.  I still get to do speed sessions once a week with intervals (yuk!) and a fortnightly Parkrun sessions, and he chucks in either a hill sprint session (double yuk!) or a tempo sessions once a week too.  I now look forward to my long runs, and welcome them as they help the muscles recover from the harder sessions, and so far, stop any stiffness building up over the week.

What else have I learnt? I’ve become obsessed by the weather. I do most of my training in the mornings to get it out of the way, building it into my commute to work on weekdays – I’m saving a fortune on tube fares!  As the winter takes hold I’m constantly looking at the forecast and temperature to gauge what I’m dealing with.  Do I need gloves, will it be too icy to run on the pavements, will it be light enough to do my canal route?  Normally I love snow but my heart sank when I opened my blinds last weekend and saw the winter wonderland outside.  Running 8 miles in the snow was a challenge, but in order to try and remain positive I kept on telling myself at least it wasn’t a hill run!  Right now I’m obsessing with the fact it’s going to be -3 degrees overnight until lunchtime tomorrow – what happens if the pavements are too icy to do tomorrow’s intervals session?  Anyone got some free guest passes for their gym they can give me?

Every other aspect of my life has to work around the training plan. Work parties and client Christmas dinners are a challenge as I don’t want to get to bed too late when I’m getting up at 6am to train.  I’m not seeing my friends as much as I should, and even fitting in my mentoring role with Friendship Works takes some juggling.  Thankfully the girl I mentor is amazing and completely supportive of what I’m doing, especially as I’m fundraising for Friendship Works too.  We’ve moved some of our Saturday morning meet ups to Friday evenings to accommodate training on Saturdays.  As I go into phases 3 & 4 where the mileage ramps up significantly she has offered to make those sessions our Saturday morning outings, with her cycling alongside me on the long runs to give me encouragement.

The first 6 weeks have been really enjoyable. I’ve knocked  1 min 19 off my 5km time over just 3 Parkruns, I’m feeling strong in legs, and I’m loving taking the plan and striking off each day as I go.  I’m about to enter 24 days straight without a rest day so it will be interesting to see how I feel at the end of that, particularly given I have to run on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  The weather will undoubtedly be a challenge, but it’s all part of the training.  I can’t control the weather on the days of the actual challenge so I tell myself to just get on with it.  I’m determined not to miss a day of training, and if I can run 8 miles in the snow, surely I can cope!  And every now and then, Mother Nature pays me back with the most spectacular sunrises to keep my morale up!  Onwards to week 7!