So the fourth week of my training for the Greater Manchester Marathon ended on a note of cautious optimism. Well, if the way the fifth week started was any barometer, it soon changed from a mood of caution to one of joyous relief and emphatic success.
Off the back off a successful 36 minute run on the previous Saturday, I prepared for a similar run home from work on Monday, billed as 40 minutes easy according to plan. This time I made sure I stretched properly before starting and I took the run nice and steady. I didn’t have to stop once and in the end I reached 4.91 miles before stopping the watch. Sure I could have run the extra 0.09, but I’m taking this recovery from injury very seriously and the end result was a pleasing one. Less than 24 hours later, I’d be up to head down to the gym the next morning to complete a 54 minute interval session on the treadmill. I felt unsure about going at ‘threshold’ pace, but when my fast interval arrived I initially put the pace up to 14.4km/h – measuring in metrics as my local treadmills do – and ran it for 4 minutes. I would rest for 2 minutes and then repeat the steps another four times. I was cautious about putting it too much speed beforehand, but my confidence grew and so in the end I was running one interval at 15.5km/h. In the end I did 11.2 km (6.96 miles), and I left the gym feeling like I was well and truly back in business!
I got myself down to the local pool again for a swim session on my rest day, and did six freestyle lengths – the first of which was reasonably relaxed; the last of which was horrible – and spent some time trying to work on my breaststroke, which showed marginal improvement – however I still have a long way to go to get over my tension in the water. Still, I left the pool that morning and headed on a work a picture of calm, having had a good workout and setting off in plenty of time, earphones in, listening to a Puscifer playlist. All chilled out before the proverbial winter storm was about to hit. Not long after arriving in work, the snow began to fall in fast, thick but short flurries. And then as I left work that evening, the snow began to fall thick and fast. As I arrived at the top of the hill, I could see visible snowfall and then all of a sudden, a flash in the sky…and then boom! ‘Thundersnow!’ I shouted like an excited kid, not as a 30-year old man. The prospects were beginning to look good for a snow run.
The following morning, my commute was horrid. Indicative of how much our country grinds to a halt when the white stuff falls, the main roads hadn’t even received gritting and though my bus arrived on time that morning, it took over an hour just to get up a hill that normally takes it a few minutes, in part due to heavy traffic. I had my running shoes and my windproof jacket on – over my work uniform – so I carried out a run/walk which lasted 2.1 miles. My feet were now wet and I had to spend the day at work in my compression socks as I had no others – still, it counted towards my Jantastic score which looked nailed on for a return to 100% this week.
The real adventure came that evening as work finished. I exited my place of work and snow was gently falling. I got to the top of the road and finally my Garmin found a GPS signal. I was off. Firstly through the streets of Huddersfield town centre, then ascending through Edgerton towards Burn Road, a country lane leading me towards New Hey Road, the A643 near Ainley Top. The first 30 minutes of this run were serene – sure it was mostly along a busy main road, but there was a gentle wintry chill, the snow on the ground was firm, crisp and not slippery at all. When I turned up onto New Hey Road, the snow on one side was really deep, I’d say at least 4-5 inches. I continued up the road and within 30 minutes I reached the bridge to cross into Pinfold Lane and Upper Edge.
It was there that the snow began to fall again. At first, quite softly, but soon it gathered pace, and within a couple of minutes it was a full-on blizzard. Now this was what I wanted. Edge-of-the-seat running. The bandana went up over my face, true ninja style, and I fought to keep the pace up along a mostly flat section, with the snow blowing sideways, the elements throwing everything but a bit of thunder and lightning at me. In the end, the snow stopped 20 minutes later, as I began to descend into my hometown – which bizarrely, really hasn’t seen much snow, not at the lower levels at least. I completed my route, an hour in length, arriving into town with time to spare.
I was incredibly pleased by the stats from this run but they are irrelevant compared to the actual experience of running in that weather. I feel truly lucky to have experienced that – the first time I did was back in 2012 and it was horribly icy and a bit of a disaster. This was completely different. I enjoy running, but rarely does it get as enjoyable as that. I love the challenge – what I can build myself up to and put myself against, and when the conditions worsened, I absolutely relished it. The person before September 2012 would never have dreamed of doing this – I was always a keen walker but that had fallen by the wayside. It could be a few days before I do this again, it could be a year, or maybe longer. Whatever the case, this was a memorable evening.
The weekend saw me further consolidating my comeback from injury with a rough 10km run which was meant as 12 minutes easy, then 3 miles at tempo pace, followed by 12 minutes easy again. My mile splits for this run went 8:06, 7:33, 6:39, 6:49, 6:45, and 7:53. That was exactly what I wanted from that session and so I was buzzing from that run – and it meant I’d reached 100% for Week 4 of Jantastic, putting me on 90% total overall. So no pressure for the sixth and final run of the week, other than insuring I got away on time and that I made it to Huddersfield in time. Because yes, I was working, and so it’s that most enjoyable pursuit of a working weekend – the Sunday long run to work. Because I can really diversify my route and it often leads to a big challenge as it inevitably involves a hill or two.
I ran along the muddy banks of the River Calder, over the railway line and into Colne Bridge. Except this time I continued down Leeds Road and turned onto the next section of the Calder. My phone was on the blink and so I was relying solely on memory and a little faith in Google Streetview. I was looking for a bridge to cross. There it was. The exit onto Wood Lane in Mirfield. There it was. I ascended Wood Lane, a long, hilly section, and then onto North Moor Lane, past a trailer and through an initially narrow, slightly frozen section. I didn’t get an ideal amount of sleep before and the sheer effort of so much climbing took it out of me – I suppose the miles had to catch up at one point. So just past five miles in, I stopped, nothing but hills and scenery. I had a gel. I don’t often take gels on training runs, but I suppose if anything I can regard it as a potential strategy I may employ for the marathon, though truth be told I don’t feel it made a great deal of difference other than perking me up a bit. Anyhoo, hilly section passed, I made my way through Kirkheaton, along another footpath trail/fell/staircase off Bankfield Lane, and continued along the way towards my final destination in Huddersfield town centre. I clocked the 10 miles in 1:20:03 – just three seconds off my personal estimate for the run. Ah well. 37.61 miles clocked this week, the most so far this year.
I’d had a thoroughly rewarding run – I did it without the aid of a map or compass for comfort; my memory and my faith in it came through, having failed me so often before, and as a result I’ve learned not just another route, but gained another three or four miles of trails for my running knowledge, all of which are suitable for running – i.e. not too narrow and prickly/not too boggy for my liking.
Sadly I don’t have any photos from this run, as parts of it were spectacular. It was a bit dark early doors and I couldn’t rely on my phone to basically freeze when I unlocked it. It seems to be fine now but if this post is up slightly later than normal, you know what to blame it on!
There was one note of caution I suppose this had to end on, which was that during the run, I had to stop and stretch my ankles – an old theme from my earlier days of long runs which I thought I’d got the best of – maybe I can attribute that to my recent injury. It affected me 8 miles into that long run and I didn’t feel it again afterwards. And also, my left knee was a little sore afterwards – not at all during the run, but it’s something that seems to occur particularly after these long runs to work – I wonder if its down to the inactivity of sitting at my desk after the initial cooldown, stretch and shower at work. In any event, you be sure I’ll be posting this while I’m on my foam roller or stretching this evening, and will look to be ready for my Monday run which will be a gentler run home from work in the evening, and therefore maximising my recovery time.
It’s been a good week for me this week, having bounced back in such a way, getting to run in extreme weather conditions and getting into double-figure mileage at last. I got a developmental role progression at work which won’t bolster my pay but it does mark an incredible start to the year which I hope to reap the benefits from as the year unfolds. I finally got some new glasses after two months without – you’ll see me in those soon – and Leeds did the double over those pesky Terriers, haha!
Next week sees my long run pushed up to 12 miles, which without the pressure of having to get to work will be much easier and will act as my tune-up for Liversedge which is now two weeks away. Due to work and family arrangements, I can expect to have a pig of a time fitting in my interval sessions mid-week, but I’m sure I’ll find a way, and I’ll aim to at least get on the treadmill once if I can manage, just to break up time spent on the road.
Until then, onwards and upwards people. Happy running all! And weather lords, please, just please, can we have a little more snow?