It’s been about 5 months since I ran 73:34 at the Manchester Half Marathon, a race where I had registered my interest to represent England Masters in 2022. To do that I needed to finish in the Top 3 in my age group. I ended up finishing 5th.
I was delighted with my performance.
It represented the culmination of a prolonged period of training and racing from April 2021 to October 2021, taking in a 3k and 5k on the track in early summer, a 5k PB of 16.01 on the road, the Great North Run HM on a tough altered course (1.17.46) and finally the Manchester Half.
Although I felt great and proud in what I had achieved (undoubtedly my most successful year as an amateur athlete) I don’t think I realised how tired I was. When I say tired, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise this was much more mental than physical.
It meant that I was unable to really get back into any kind of rhythm both in terms of my training and racing. I ran one XC fixture shortly after Manchester which didn’t go amazing. I put that down to a lack of off road training (specificity) and also a bit of residual fatigue.
But since October 2021 I have struggled to train and the idea of setting goals and identifying races had become repugnant.
This was very strange for me. Of course, having trained for the last 10yrs, I have had many times where motivation has waned but never a feeling of complete dissatisfaction with the whole thing.
Winning Tyne Bridge Harriers veteran male athlete of the year did briefly serve as a wake up call and a reminder of what I had achieved in 2021, despite not achieving my overall aim of qualifying to represent England Masters.
But that boost of motivation was short lived.
What followed was more stop/start training. The general process was to note down a basic 6 to 8 week plan to get me back into some kind of shape. But invariably desire and motivation would break down again.
Overall since Manchester I have averaged around 17 miles per week with no real useful outings such as threshold. I have run one parkrun in windy conditions where I struggled to hold 75-80% of effort held in Manchester.
But that’s running. It’s honest. If you don’t train you won’t stay fit.
The facts of detraining are quite simple. You hear people say “I’m unfit”. It’s a feeling but simply all that happens is your legs lose conditioning, your resting heart rate slowly but surely increases and ultimately you put on weight. Your ability to clear lactate decreases and overall your VO2 max will decrease as well…
The danger is you lose patience in your training… For me this manifests in training runs ran too fast. Everything I learned in my training from 2018-2021 (about patiently building aerobic base) that led to my successes and PBs is cast aside as I seek to maintain something on nothing.
So here I am in March 2022. I can honestly say in these 5mths that I have gotten close to hating running. I had to stop listening to the podcasts, stop following athletes on Instagram, unsubsribe from the running channels I followed on YouTube. I needed a break, something akin to going cold turkey.
But ultimately I couldn’t stop thinking about running. I know that overall I am capable of more. The 16.01 5k in August 2021 was only my 5th official 5k race ever. My 73:34 HM was only my 3rd official HM ever.
Although in many ways I surpassed my expectations last year I feel like I have much more to offer in the next few years. And so I am determined to fall back in love with running again…
Thanks for reading.