Reality Check

There are days when your running goes according to plan. Most days, in fact. You’re in control, you’re on track for your goals, and you feel capable of anything.

And then there are days when your running takes on a life of its own. Turns around and gives you a slap in the head. Nothing too brutal, mind you – just an unmistakable reminder that it deserves some respect, and so does your body (which by the way is no longer 25 years old).

Today was quite a wake-up call for me. I breezed out on a 14-mile towpath run – slightly rough terrain, but dead flat – planning on an easy 9-minute per mile pace. Without warning, at mile 10 all my indicators suddenly hit the red zone. Complete energy depletion, dead-weight legs, heavy stride, breathing off…

I applied all the “out-on-the-road” fixes I know, including breathing exercises, slow recovery intervals, and concentrating on my stride. Ultimately though, I only covered the last 3-4 miles with a combination of mental grit and stubbornness, as well as moral support from Alex who was along for the ride (thank you coach!).

So what happened? Why did my wheels come off, on what should have been a moderately easy training run?

Part of it was certainly due to the 10-miler I ran yesterday, which included a stiff climb up to Claverton Down. But the whole point of my training for Brathay 10-in-10 is to prepare for challenging back-to-back runs.

The real reason, I suspect, is that I am just trying to do too much. Today’s “bonk” was my body’s way of reminding me that I really do need to sleep 8 hours a day, and attach as much importance to rest as I do to active running. Without this I will never be able to build up to a regular training mileage of 50-60 miles per week, at the same time as holding down a demanding professional activity.

Mental grit is good. Stubborn is good. These are what got me from mile 20 to mile 26.2 in my first sub-4 marathon finish. But on their own they are not enough. What really got me that 3:53 finish was preparation, discipline, common sense, and listening to my body week after week, for over a year.

So as I prepare for Brathay in 2012, I will be applying the same principles. Respect your body, and respect the event. (Hard not to, “intimidating” doesn’t do it justice.)

Above all, any time my wheels come off, I will take a step back, and think of the young people that Brathay Trust exists to help. Many of them suffer hardship that we cannot begin to understand, and yet they find a way to rise above it. Lessons to be learned there, for sure.

Every mile I spend out on the road during the next 291 days will be a mile closer to the start of Brathay 10-in-10. To prepare for this 262-mile event, I will be training somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 miles in 9 months…

I hope you will help me prepare in your own way, by contributing to my fund-raising goal of £5,000 in support of this very worthy cause.

Stay tuned for another post very soon, about my projected training plan. That’s what I was going to write about this evening, but after today’s experience I think it needs a little extra revision before going public!


  1. Rob, trust me you learn alot more from the bad runs than the good ones – you had the mental strength to battle on, dig deep & get the job done.

    I set my goal to get my first 50 mile week since May & once there changed the goal to 60.

    I wouldnt go too nuts to soon. You dont need to be doing 50 mile weeks on a regular basis until we get to January & rest is indeed very important, along with refueling, anything longer than 10 miles & i will take a gel or energy bar with me.

    All the training in Jan – April should stand you in good stead for a PB attempt in April.

    Best wishes


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