(This entry covers training from January 27-February 23, 2020)

It’s been a while since I last posted here, and I apologise – I normally do a introductory post to the year but with running such an early marathon, and having a lot on my plate since, it’s been difficult to find the time, or indeed, the words, to put into my blog to describe everything I’ve been doing the last few weeks since that sub-3 marathon I ran.

Yet that classic German phrase ‘Sturm und drang’, literally ‘storm and stress’, in my instance, couldn’t be more apt to describe the first few weeks of marathon training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon, my next big race.

The recovery from Sir Titus went really well. I got back into going to the gym, I did a few runs here and there, and it was good to mentally reset from where I’d left off on that day in Saltaire. I’d briefly even considered treating Liverpool as a victory lap of sorts, a moment to enjoy where I’d got to in terms of my progress in the marathon. To still race it properly, but to relax and just enjoy the sights, sounds and not get too wrapped up in chasing an even quicker time.

Wainhouse Tower, Halifax, at sunset one nice Thursday evening in early February

Such a notion was nixed the day I resumed training with my club. I got plenty of congratulations on my time, and then predictions I could run 2:45. I don’t actually believe I can run the marathon in 2:45 – 2:55 is a more reasonable aim – but the sentiment is to not rest on my laurels – I’ve still got some of my best years as a runner ahead of me, and I’ve got to remain focused. It was good to be reminded of that, having a group that understands what drives and motivates you and to push you towards that goal.

With that said, it’s not been an easy few weeks in terms of training. Firstly, there’s a number of little injuries that tend to keep cropping up. First was my hamstring, which had a bit of a knot in it – nothing more, I managed to work it out of my system. Then bother in my left heel – a possible recurrence of undiagnosed plantar fasciitis – that presently appears when I wake up in the morning. And there was one freak accident at home which caused me to jar my right knee. I felt that in the stairs for a couple of days, and it just went.

None of those have disrupted my flow of training. But after a 14 mile run last week (which I’ll cover shortly) I felt some discomfort on the joint of my big toe on my right foot. Until then, aside from sleeping in for one hill session, I hit all my target runs, but this was enough to set me back by missing a track session and instead heading home from work to ice it for the second night going, and to stretch and wiggle the joint a little bit. Oddly, it subsided by the Thursday, and following a gym cardio session on a rowing machine, a Wattbike, and a rough 5km on the treadmill, I managed to complete an easy, if hilly, 5 mile run on the Saturday, and 10 mile run on the Sunday, with seemingly no recurrence. Hmmm.

If the minor knocks and strains be the stress, then the obvious ‘storm’ is the weather we’re getting in the UK again. I got caught in a hailstorm when Storm Brendan hit, forcing me to abandon the end of a short run just so I could safely navigate the short distance left towards home. I woke up for 12 miles the weekend that Storm Ciara hit. I took one look outside, and my brain went ‘nope’. The weather that morning was abysmal. It would go on to flood the Calder Valley once again, devastating homes and businesses across the region only a few years after the Boxing Day floods of 2015. It just didn’t feel safe to run outside. I wound up doing my 12 miles in the gym, on a treadmill, feeling more like an artificial summer training run. I was drenched by the end of that run, and not from the rain. Still, it kept my training on track.

Fast forward a week later, and another storm, Dennis, came to wreak its merry havoc. This time, I got up for 14 miles and initially got lucky – the first 6 or 7 miles were pretty much just a few gusts of wind. I ran into Heckmondwike to double back via the Spen Valley Ringway and the Spen Valley Greenway (NCN66), on my way back towards home. I got to Hecky without any problems, found my way along the Greenway fairly comfortably, and then… DENNIS!

About 10 minutes before rainfall, Spen Valley Ringway, Heckmondwike, 16/02/2020

Within seconds, I was soaked through from the waist down, due to the most intense rain shower I’ve ever experienced. The speed at which my short shorts went from dry to soggy was unreal, though my trusty Haglofs jacket was yet again doing the business and keeping the rest of me dry. I took refuge under a bus shelter until the rain slowed down, and got on my merry way again. Though I quickly regretted not wearing gloves, or tights. It ended up colder than the forecast seemed and when I did get home, I felt like I was going to end up with chill blains on my hands and on the upper part of my legs. Still, I got home safe and sound, had a really good run overall, and it seemed I’d got through another stern examination.

The following weekend was slightly kinder, but we still had almighty gusts of wind. Storm Ellen was rumoured to be flying in, but thankfully, my Sunday 10 miler two days ago passed without any major weather incident. Though yet again, I arrived on the Calder Hebble Navigation towards the end of my run, to see it close to bursting its banks in a couple of places, and actually spilling over into the nearby River Calder at one section, as the river itself roared by, close to breaking itself. Its a reminder of the time we live in, the homes and businesses, the people, their families, and so on in the Upper, and Lower Valleys of Calderdale who bear the brunt of the Calder’s brute force when it floods, waiting for an intervention.

Given what could (and yet may) come from those minor injury issues, I’m reasonably happy. I’m getting back into my stride, and I don’t feel as though I’m right on top of my game at the moment, which is no bad place to be. I don’t want to peaking too early, and I’m maintaining my program. It’s making sure I don’t look too far ahead. It’s only a few weeks to the Spen 20, a target race in my preparations, but with all the bother I’ve had, it seems sage to delay my entry as long as possible and simply focus on where and what the next run is. It’s served me well until now, so why change that approach?

All I can hope for is for is that I can do a bit more to avoid the knocks and nags I’m getting right now as I try to build mileage, maintain a good level over the next few weeks and maybe, just maybe, its not too much to ask for a slight improvement in the weather!