The tyranny of the training schedule

You might remember that I’ve rather rashly signed up to run the Somerset Levels and Moors Marathon. Well it’s now just a couple of weeks away, and I’m slowly tapering off my running so that I end up on the start line with at least some energy left. But while it’s been fun training for the race – and, hopefully, I’ll enjoy the race itself, too – I can’t help thinking that it has taken up a rather significant amount of time. Perhaps a little too much.

Although this is my first marathon, I’m a keen runner and would like to do more than just ‘get around’ the course. I don’t have a particular time target, as the race is off-road and is unlikely to be particularly quick. But I want to be well prepared and to enjoy myself. So I’ve been running around 40 to 50 miles a week in training.

Here’s what an average training week looks like:

Monday: 60 minute easy run, covering about 7 miles on a variety of different terrains

Tuesday: An hour’s speedwork (mixing running fast and slow), hill training (running up and down a hill) or tempo run (running quickly for a sustained period)

Wednesday: No running, but an hour’s hard rowing with my local gig rowing club

Thursday: An hour and a half ‘fartlek’ (running a mixture of fast and slow) on a hilly off-road course, usually fairly muddy and requiring quite a lot of concentration (but by far my most favourite session)

Friday: 60 minute easy run, usually on-road or on fairly good trails

Saturday: 20 mile endurance run, usually made up of laps passing by my house, so that I can set up my own water station on the drive (in alternate weeks, I cut the distance by about 75% and up my pace a little)

Sunday: Rest

In addition to this, I walk Molly (my Labrador) for a couple of hours a day at a fairly brisk pace. She sometimes comes with me on the 60 minute easy runs, too, which she really enjoys – especially if we go somewhere off-road where she can run around like a hooligan.

While I really enjoy the running, I can’t help but notice that it’s eating up, in total, about a day a week. And, to be honest, once I’ve been running for about an hour and a half, the rest of the run is a little bit less fun. And once I get over three hours, taking up cycling seems a very tempting option! My favourite runs, by far, are the 60-90 minute off-road sessions, especially those where Molly comes along.

This isn’t to say that all this running hasn’t been beneficial. At the age of 38, I’m now fitter than I have ever been in my life. I’ve lost a stone and a half (about 10kg). And I’ve lost 4 inches off my waistline. I also take more care over what I eat, drink more water and am generally a much more cheerful person. (Provided I get my running fix, otherwise I become a bit antsy.)

On the downside, though, I spend a significant proportion of most days running in big circles in the countryside, when I could be writing, working in the garden or spending time with my family. When I’ve been for a long run, I’m generally not much use for the rest of the day (i.e. I’m asleep!). And none of my clothes fit me any more.

So once the big race is out of the way, I think I might ease off on the training. I’ll still run, of course, but will try to keep it to, say, three 60-minute off-road runs each week, with Molly tagging along. Though I might also slip in a longer run every couple of weeks, perhaps up to two hours, just to keep my endurance up. This will hopefully keep me fit, keep the dog entertained and allow me the time to do the things that I have possibly been neglecting a little.

All this will have to wait a couple of weeks, though. Because for the moment, I’ve got a marathon to run…

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