(This covers the period between 21 January 2019 and 15 February 2019)

One more descent, a long drop down towards the finish, a mere right turn at the bottom of the road and a few yards more. I hurtled down with every last bit of strength and energy I have. My fellow front runner was neck and neck. He had the inside line, as we reached the bottom and made the turn. Then with one last push, I stretched my stride and sprinted for the line, and there it was! I’d won! I’d won the marathon! The time, somewhere around 2:59…something – I had done it! I had finally broken the 3 hour barrier for the marathon. I turned towards my fellow competitor, having won by a second, exchanging cordialities. I turned back, and punched the air with jubilation…

And then I woke up. It was 5:40am. Time to get up and get ready for work.

I had a spring in my step for the rest of the day. It seemed I had discovered my happy place! If only such dreams weren’t so complicated in real life. If only there weren’t any obstacles to throw into one’s path.

Suddenly, there were two. My kids. One after the other, a virus gripped them, and that was running cancelled that weekend, with their health and wellbeing becoming the obvious priority. Up until that point, training was going well. Lunchtime runs on the canal, up to 13 miles in training, everything had been ticking along nicely. But this was the first roadblock, as it were. I did manage to get back into routine quickly the following week though, by running during lunchtime from work. The kids improved as the week wore on, but come the next day I chickened out of running in the cold on the commute on the Thursday, opting for the treadmill at my local gym. I rarely shirk running outdoors, but on this occasion I worried a little about potentially icy and slippery conditions. Not good for fast bursts of running. Still, it seemed I was getting my groove back. Saturday and Sunday would mean time to get back outdoors and out of my comfort zone, and no shirking towards the gym. The kids were alright by this point, and it was left for me to complete the week’s training with gusto, as the first weekend of February arrived.

After running 6 miles at target marathon pace around my local park, I took on a 14 mile run at 4:45am start, in – 3C, opting to wrap myself to the gills in baselayer, vest, a backpack for extra warmth, gloves, gaiter, headtorch, I was well prepared. I decided to run along the Calder-Hebble Navigation, as far as Sowerby Bridge and back. To my surprise, it wasn’t very icy at all, in fact it was fairly dry underfoot. And this meant I had a comfortable, steady run all the way, coming back into Brighouse as dawn arrived.

The river crossing at Old Cawsey, Sowerby Bridge, 03/02/2019

Then, it seemed to come out of the blue. I’d gone through Sunday without any recriminating effects from the long run, but Monday morning brought about some sharp discomfort in the top of my left knee. I persisted with going on my 3 mile recovery run at lunchtime regardless, feeling I may just need to shake some aches out of my system, but this felt to be right on the joint. By the end of the day I was struggling to bend it without its aching. Something felt seriously up, but what? I couldn’t think of anything I’d done to aggravate it. I went to bed the night before feeling tip top, no knee pain at all. I’d have felt much less agitated had I known what was causing it, but this felt like a sudden surge out of nowhere. 13 days out from Liversedge, and suddenly in a potential race against time to be fit for the race.

Within a few hours I’d become Dr. Google and via the NHS website, determined my symptoms seemed most like bursitis. It was swollen, causing me pain whenever I bent my knee, it felt warm. Seems most likely indeed. Recliner up, bag of frozen peas and Bob’s your uncle. The next day, painkillers, to take the shine off it and at least move around more freely. This process lasted about four days and in the meantime, I ordered a brand new knee compression sleeve. The week contained no running, those 3 miles aside. Right now, the bigger picture had to be recovery.

By the next Monday, six days out from the race, the swelling had gone right down and the knee pad was doing the trick for my comfort levels. I attempted to do a few chair exercises to test my knees out, but this seemed to cause discomfort in my knees that wouldn’t truly go away for the remainder of the night. And from then on, every bus commute became uncomfortable torture as I couldn’t find the necessary leg room to stop the morning aches from building, to the point where I could barely hobble off the bus.

You would think this would be curtains for my race this Sunday at the very least, but I did find that once I was into my stride, my knees felt somewhat better, like they just need warming up. I began to trust my knee without the compression sleeve more, and slowly, but surely, as the week wore on I could place more pressure on my left knee and walk comfortably. Therefore after much deliberating, I’ve decided that I’m in reasonable enough shape to attempt to run before the race.

So later today, I’m going for a run. And depending how my left knee reacts will determine whether I line up. But rest assured, for now, a bit of pressure has been lifted. I was determined to go all out for a sub-1:20 half marathon, but I realise that, having not had the joy of consistent running for the last few weeks, a slightly more conservative effort might at least preserve my condition, while hopefully keeping me on track with marathon training and, ultimately, having an enjoyable race rather than a slugfest.

One things for certain. That storming personal best I’m chasing is almost certainly staying in my dreams. For now!