It’s only four weeks until the small village of Roberttown hosts its annual largest event – the Liversedge Half Marathon. I’ve been training for it for the last eight weeks and I’m feeling tangibly excited now it’s on the horizon. But my progress has been hampered by oversleeping and most recently, injury. I spent a week off following the aggravation of the knee problem that means I wear a patella band every time I run. To be honest, I probably don’t need it, but then more often than not there’s a gradual ache that creeps in when I run, which only gets worse without rest. And so without wanting to risk it becoming more than a bit of recurrent annoyance, it was better to rest it and get myself right for an important last five weeks building up to the event. And in time for Jantastic too!
I began in earnest last Saturday (the 6th), giving myself a test run before attempting a race pace 10K around the local area the following day. I formed it around part of the Liversedge course, and despite it being hillier (to begin with at least) I chipped away significant time off my previous measured 10K best, timing at 42:38 (previously 43:20 back in 2011). Given I’ve got the Blackpool Beach 10K later this year, and other 10Ks I’m keen on, a sub-40 minute seems a realistic goal to work towards. My training program includes another blast at this distance this coming Sunday, so maybe I can take off a few more seconds off that PB on the right route. But a trip to the swimming baths, somewhere I hadn’t been for a while, really eased the tension in my ankles sustained in that run, and it has been the making of a fresher, considered approach to training. Too often I fall in the trap of running a slow run at medium pace, or end up gunning for a fast finish.
So I felt fit enough for a slow run back from work on the Monday night. And this time, I actually kept it slow. I kept myself well in check and retained a measured pace. So well that less than 12 hours later I ran back, and in doing so actually did four days consecutive for the first time ever. Only sleeping in due to a late night on the Wednesday kept me from doing my interval session, but I rescheduled that for Thursday and then did another 40 minutes home on Friday, at truly medium pace. This left me well set up for Sunday, nominating the Saturday as a rest day before attempting a hilly 12 miler from Brighouse to work in Huddersfield through the toughest Calderdale could offer. I’d barely felt my ankles all week, my knees were feeling good, and I truly felt in my stride. Taking part in the Marathon Talk initiative Jantastic and helped give me renewed focus on sticking to my training plan too. I wished to target at least four runs a week, a target I found hit and miss before, and thanks to just taking things a little easier, I’d hit my weekly target with two days to spare. I was truly on it, and eager to keep going. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jantastic develops as the weeks pass by, especially as part of the Running The World team, one of the largest taking part!
Sunday arrived, and I was intent on preparing well. This was the first planned session clocking 1:40:00, and meant I had to wake up at 5:00am, get porridge, banana and energy drink down me, get warmed up, before heading into the cold. The winter had been kind until now, but it was noticeably icy when I stepped out at 6:15am to begin my journey. The first four miles, heading through Elland, were familiar, and flat. But having used Google to familiarize my route before attempting it, I felt a discerning uneasiness about the hills that awaited as I landed back in Holywell Green, where I first felt what it was like to come a cropper on an ascent while training for GNR.
I’ve no idea why I worried though. In the chilly darkness, I was handling the hills capably, and as I passed into Stainland, the hills became a little less steep, and I began to stretch my legs. This was going well, really well! I continued on through Sowood, and then onto New Hey Road, the giant road that runs through Calderdale, and taking a quick phone call while on the move, before turning towards Huddersfield. It was up to the top of Round Ings Road in Scapegoat Hill, at 1135ft above sea level the furthest I’d ascended so far. I briefly admired the view before heading downhill as dawn arrived. The last four miles were almost all downwards, save for a couple of steep hills, and I just about achieved 12 miles – 12.04 to be precise – within the target time. I’d found a new favourite route, done a decent pace, protected my limbs reasonably well, and got to work on time. And completing a fifth run in a week to boot, something I’ve rarely managed without being on holiday.
So with less than four weeks to go, I’ve bounced back and managed to pack in a lot of training. Slow and steady might not always win the race, but it does last the pace, and maybe I’m getting a wiser head when it comes to running – not that I’ll be looking to curb my speed when it comes to race day or an interval run. Once payday arrives I should finally be able to get some new trail running shoes, which I’m badly in need of, meaning I can get back into mixing up between road, grass, mud and whatever other natural surface I can find. I might yet pay myself into the Bradford 10K if entries are still available by then. But in the meantime, the focus is Liversedge, and indeed, keeping fit for it. It’s as local a race as it gets for me, and I’m hoping some of my family and friends will turn out for it. It’s sold out too, and I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s race among 600 runners. The weather might be getting colder, but the heat is on, and yes, I am on it!