It’s been a few weeks since I trained to run 20 miles in the space of seven weeks, using a modified version of an 8 week marathon training plan devised by Mario Fraioli. If you read my previous blog, you’ll know how well it seemed to go and how it left me pondering what to do next.

Well, I continued my training into late autumn, with running a marathon in mind… but without fully committing. I wasn’t 100% made up on running a winter marathon for fear of jeopardising my planned sub 3 hour attempt at the Rock n Roll Liverpool Marathon in late May of 2020. However, my training continued to go well, and the Sir Titus Trot, a race I ran in 2017, had limited spaces left for the marathon version of its race available.

View from Thornhills Lane, Brighouse, 30/11/2019

I watched for a few weeks as the number of available places dropped from somewhere between the mid 20s to single figures. By this time, I had completed a roughly 14 mile run, having maintained my training up to that point, and it got to a point where I felt it would be pointless if I invested all this time and effort into training to do a marathon, without actually entering. You know, getting up to Christmas, and just sacking it, because it’s Christmas. What would be the point of doing all that just to start again in January from week 1 of the cycle?

I felt good. I seemed to be injury free, and my training had gone smoothly without any major hiccups. So it was done. I took one of the final spots available and I will now be beginning the New Year with a marathon!

So in less than three weeks I will be lining up at the start line of the Sir Titus Trot Marathon, on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Saltaire, for 26.2 miles, starting out towards the village of Esholt, back towards Saltaire and then onwards towards the town of Silsden, before turning back to finish back in Saltaire.

In the meantime, I’ve continued my training to get a few longer runs in. The weather certainly hasn’t been too kind, mind, but I knew I had to get on with it. I ran early one morning up from Brighouse to Queensbury, and in the process took a battering from Storm Atiyah, throwing wind, rain and hail at me. But I still completed my 16 miles that day. Then mid week as I finished a run commute home, I slipped on the Calder-Hebble Navigation towpath in Brighouse, rather fortunately damaging only my glove and not myself – I landed on the side of my upper right leg, the most powerful set of muscles I possess (along with my left leg), taking the brunt of the impact. But I got back up to finish and I sustained no injuries.

Perhaps the biggest test of my resolve up to now was an 18 mile run up to the village of Pole Moor, somewhere on the fringes of West Yorkshire near Scammonden. I opted to run sans headtorch and that decision turned out to be delightful. Upon reaching Pole Moor I found its roads were not streetlit in the slightest. I should have expected that. There was evidence of significant rain judging by puddles on the road, but it was the wind and hail that would play the biggest havoc. The strong gusts of wind were sending hail sideways, and one powerful blast actually took my glasses off my face. That was a fun search, in the dark, with a phone light. And then I ran about twelve paces through probably the world’s largest puddle. I would call it floodwater but it didn’t seem big enough to justify calling it that. By any standards, it was a bit of a shock to the system in the middle of morning darkness. Running into it with absolutely no warning proved my decision to run without a headtorch was a mistake, giving me no chance to reconsider once I was in the water, which probably reached up to my ankles, if not higher. However it happened somewhere halfway around the loop of the village, so doubling back would not have really been beneficial. I made it out of Pole Moor eventually, feeling like I’d come out of some horrible ordeal, replotted my course to account for missing a junction on my planned route, and went on my way.

The Calder-Hebble Navigation at Ganny Lock, Brighouse, 14/12/2019

If ever there is a tonic for such an experience, it’s what comes that is worth waiting for. Or something unexpected. Or both. Dawn had properly broken by the time I reached the Calder Hebble Navigation. Coming into the final mile of my run, I crossed a bridge to begin the run into town when this huge black bird soared above the canal water, possibly carrying a fish. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and eventually able to confirm it was a cormorant. I’d never seen one of these birds before, but it was such an awesome sight.

Of course, the biggest obstacle present right now is not a hill, nor a weather system. It’s that holly jolly time of year. Christmas!

With all its bells, whistles and overindulgences. I’d do well to avoid overdoing it too much before a marathon, but I’m going to do my level best not to go overboard with the dinner or the booze! I can’t expect Santa to deliver my sub-3 hour marathon I’m so keen on, but I can at least make sure it stays on track and that come race day, I’ll be ready to execute my new race plan and see whether I’m capable of getting the sub-3 despite a slightly different way of getting ready for this marathon.

I’ll return with an end of year update, prior to race day, but until then, I want to thank you all for reading my blog and to all of you, including my subscribers and regular readers, a very Merry Christmas 🎄