|The quietness of the English countryside in Winter|
I must tell you about my run on Saturday - t'was brilliant!
It was a run that I had needed for a number of different reasons. Firstly (and from the most practical point of view) I needed to have a long run to carry on gradually increasing the length of my long runs. Just two months before the 2013 MK Marathon! I can feel myself falling into the same situation as I did last year - during February I fell back with my training and it nearly cost me the race. Last year it was "life" that distracted me away from running. This year the main issue was prolonged snow and ice at the wrong time, plus I'm no longer a member of the fitness club so I can't use a treadmill as an alternative to the great outdoors.
The second reason for needing the long run was to ease all my worries. Forgive me for not going into the details but I can say I've got a few things on my mind concerning work and, for those who know me well, there's nothing new in that. Running is a great way of putting things in order, kind of tidying up the filing in my mind, sorting out which things are worth worrying about and which things aren't. Well, my medicine of a long run certainly did the trick in lifting many of those dark swirling clouds.
what, where, when
Another deliberately hilly run and a route I've not done since last winter. About 10 miles taking 1.5 hours. One huge lung busting hill, some gentle trails, country lanes and getting out and back into the town with a bit of National Trust land thrown in for good measure. Once out of the town it was gently undulating with a few more 'technical' stretches because of the uneven ground, slimy mud gravel, tree roots; all of which tested my balance and the strength of the muscles in my foot and lower leg. I could almost imagine, as I was running along, the marvellous workings of those muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones all working with each other, step by step. We are, indeed, an incredible design.
Need to tell you about the weather. When I left home at 8.00am there was a sleet shower with dark leaden skies. During the run I encountered mist, sunshine, gloom and more sunshine - can you believe it!?! All very good but what do you wear? How do you stop yourself freezing, boiling etc? Short of taking a rucksack with different clothes I just had to take the weather as it came. So that meant when I was plodding myself up a 1 : 2 climb (impossible to run) I was getting really hot and sweaty and then TALK ABOUT WIND CHILL! You get the drift, all interesting stuff.
I knew at times my heart rate must have been 'off the scale' during the last 30 seconds of getting to the top of some of those hills and I was panting at top speed. I think this is good to do in short bursts as it does expand the aerobic abilities of the body but also, it should be stressed, is not completely without risk and that's why short bursts are okay for me. Any suggestion of dizziness, chest pains, feeling light headed are all warning signs to stop and rest. I never experienced those at all so I pressed on, sweating like crazy, grinning like a cheshire cat. Flippin' brilliant!
In the zone
Yep there was a stretch where the run was undemanding, perhaps a mile or so with a gentle slope down hill and a chance to relax into the pace a little. It's at times like this you can just run on a kind of auto pilot with little effort. I've had times like this before when several miles can pass by without you even noticing other than an awareness of running well with good form at a reasonable pace.
These runs are important
We shouldn't under estimate the value of a good long run. It brings so many benefits in terms of upholding physical and mental health. As exercise goes, it is brilliant in terms of getting more "bang for your bucks" with a good workout and about 1200 or 1300 calories being burnt. Gently stressing those ankle and knee joints and knowing they'll repair themselves in a day or two to become even stronger. Reflecting on life, those niggles and worries, keeping things in perspective; all good reasons why these long runs are my favourites above some of those shorter blasts.
The rule of thumb, when training for a marathon, is to increase the distance of the weekly long runs by a mile each week. Knowing the MK marathon is only eight weeks away, I'm going to have to push that a little further.