(This post covers the training period between 18 February 2019 and 3 March 2019)

So far, the British winter of 2019 has given us a few things. Cold nights, unseasonably warm days, and displays of immense fog (and lately, a stormy blast of wind and rain – but more on that next time). Over the course of one weekend, and into the following week, the unseasonably warm winter days and accompanying cold nights were bringing about bouts of the murky stuff.

None of this is anything I can’t handle, however strange a sensation it seemed. And yet, less than a week after Liversedge, I was now being struck down with a typically seasonal cold, just as I was getting back into my stride after a few weeks of family members getting ill, and then injury. A year ago, I was out every other day, whatever the weather, and pace targets fell like dominoes. Nothing could stop me. This time, the misty night time conditions were becoming a metaphor for the sturm und drang of winter marathon training in 2019.

The evening of Sunday 24 February, 2019 came. I’d overslept that morning, seemingly unable to rouse myself against the efforts of mind and body wanting to rest and endure the sniffles. Despite the feeling that my cold was now starting to descend into a chesty cough, i.e. the runners’ red flag, I had to do this run. I perhaps wouldn’t have felt so desperate had I not already missed or adjusted two or three weeks worth of training, but missing this run would have really set me back in terms of building my mileage back up. The left knee was good once again, and I knew that as long as I wasn’t wretching from the chest that in every other respect, I was good to go. I hadn’t a moment to lose, and so with the kids finally settled, and everything else at home prepared for the following morning, I set off for 16 miles. At 11pm. On a work night, no less. I would initially head towards Hipperholme and then in the direction of Wyke, but it was here where I first noticed just how thick the fog was becoming.

I ran back down into clearer roads as I came back to Brighouse, running past the clock that stands outside a tool company’s shop on Bradford Road. I’d only run about 6 miles at this point, and immediately a voice in my head whispered at me to jack in a mile or so later. Given I was going to do the remaining 10 miles running out and back on this road, I had no desire to see this clock so soon again. So I kept on running past my turning point and into the direction of Mirfield, getting about as far as Cooper Bridge (a further 2 miles), before turning back. By the time I reached Brighouse again I was over 11 miles in, and having saved myself on the way back, it was time to try and inject a bit more effort into my closing few miles. By now, the fog had descended onto Bradford Road, and anything more than a few meters ahead was visible. Crucially though, I completed the run, albeit not without the hijinks from the phone app I used to track the run trying to make me believe I ran a 13 minute mile at a decent tempo, thus ensuring I ran possibly a half mile further than intended. And that was that. At 1:10am, I walked back through my door. Job done, 16 miles in the bank.

And just like the fog at the end of that run, the cold began it’s plunge into my chest, taking hold over the course of the next day. Yes, it sounds overly dramatic. The reality isn’t quite that severe, but it did mean losing out on further training, at a time I could really do without losing out. Wisely, I purchased some cough medicine which did wonders for it quickly, reducing the cough, lifting my cold somewhat and making it possible to be able to run into Armley for a bus home twice in two days, clocking up approximately 1.4 miles each time. I was well enough to resume full training on Thursday. And sure enough, the evening fog cleared and visibility on the roads was restored.

The weekend brought on quite a packed schedule which played out in the space of 17 hours. At 4pm on the Saturday, a trail run to Beacon Hill in Halifax, which I ran via Shibden way for the first time. This meant I wound up with a few steep hills to navigate, and I found out first hand what a tough climb it is up to that site. But it is worth it every time to see out to Halifax and beyond, though its much better on a clear day.

Cloudy skies over Halifax from Beacon Hill (above) and looking through the beacon pan (below)

My free flowing meander, however, meant I wound up dropping down the infamous Trooper Lane, and then back up another steep hill back into Southowram in order to keep the mileage in check. An extra, flatter mile might not have been the worse thing here.

I was a bit wary that this might have taken a bit out of me for the 18 mile run I had planned, but undeterred, I was up and out early for my planned route, out to Barkisland and dropping partly down to Ripponden but to turn up a steep hill, head towards Ringstone Reservoir near the village of Krumlin, then back towards Barkisland and back towards home via Stainland. Except this route meant a long steady climb from Elland, a hard climb towards the reservoir, and a couple of steep climbs while heading through Stainland. Not the best thing for my poor quads, which I urged through the remainder of my run and at which I finished at reasonable steady pace. To top it off, I would run again an hour or so later accompanying one of my daughters around our local junior parkrun, at a much easier and forgiving pace. Thereby clocking 28.2 miles for the weekend.

This wound up being one of my hardest blocks of training somewhat by accident rather than design, as I sought to get my training back on track. I didn’t half put myself into difficult and testing circumstances by running a 16 miler late into the foggy night, or running the combined equivalent of a marathon, more or less, within the space of 17 hours, and off about five hours of sleep. I could do without sandwiching runs together like that, as I approach the business end of training. Compared to how training went last year, it certainly feels as though I’m wrestling to keep it on track.

Yet the mist that appeared to cloud my training program has now lifted. My injury has fully cleared up, the miles are in the bank, and with an easier week lined up, I can breathe again. I’m back on track. Just.

(NB. Thank you to my sister for the foggy header image!)