Eight weeks to go. 56 little days. This marathon training schedule is evaporating before my very eyes. I’m not sure if the speed of my running is keeping pace, but the ticking over of training days is certainly pretty quick.
Maybe it has a lot to do with life being particularly busy just now, or maybe it’s just because I’m really enjoying myself. The motivation to perform well and the desire to do myself justice when I hit the streets of Boston in mid-April is powerful but I’m also trying to make sure I don’t fall into the familiar trap (for me) of piling on unnecessary pressure.
I want to relish this experience and I was reading an excellent blog recently by former multiple Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington read it here about fitting training in when you are trying to spin life’s plates at the same time. ‘Perfection is doing your very best in the context of your life’ she says. It sounds like pretty good advice to me.
Another one of her suggestions, should you also be trying to balance training with family life, centres around getting your nearest and dearest involved in the whole process, to take them along for the ride and make them part of the team. Where my wife and children are concerned – and I feel very, very lucky that this is the case – they need no persuasion at all. In fact it was Fran – a marathon runner herself – who instigated the idea that there should be a family outing to a trail running race in Aberfoyle just over a week ago.
I rarely ever need persuading to head for this lovely little slice of central Scotland. It’s a place tailor made for walking and running on paths and trails which have been well trodden by this bunch of Crumleys. The race would uncover some terrain that was new to me, too, but more of that later.
The plan was set. The four of us – myself, Fran and our sons Callum (he’s 9) and Sam (7) – would run the kids’ 2km race first, then I’d get ready to run the 7km race (there was a 5km option and ‘cani-cross’ events too) being staged by a relatively new company called Skidaddle.
The only slight flaw in the plan was that the weather conditions proved to be a little south of ideal when we toed the start line – it is February in Scotland after all! It was snowing, which is normally a source of raucous celebration for our boys, but this wasn’t ‘nice’ snow. This was wet, aggressive, Scottish snow. The kind that slaps you about the face a bit and forces some involuntary grimacing.
There was a serious edge to the cold, too, but this is the part where the proud Dad in me comes out. There was not one complaint. Not a single ‘it’s too cold’ or ‘I don’t like it Dad’ or ‘are we nearly there yet?’. Callum actually shot on ahead of us as we made our way round what proved to be a pretty lumpy 2km course. When we finally caught up with him, he had already completed his sprint finish and was inspecting the contents of his goody bag. Sam only needed minor encouragement to get over the line too and they were both clearly very chuffed with themselves.
As for me, the 7km was going to be a bit of an experiment. For various reasons, that day HAD to be long run day as far as my training for Boston was concerned. So, with the idea in mind that it would simulate running on tired legs, I had logged 12 miles at home a couple of hours earlier. The race would top up the day’s mileage.
I’m an experienced runner, but a novice really when it comes to tackling the trails. So, when the gun went and a group of five or six men who were clearly good at this shot off on the circular route, I knew better than to attempt to put the foot down and try to cling on. That proved a thoroughly wise decision after the undulating early stages gave way to the start of the climb – that climbed and climbed and climbed.
There hadn’t been much snow at the start/finish line but, the higher we went, the snow thickened and the feeling of running in a winter wonderland increased. I love running in the white stuff but, as my quads started to burn and my calf muscles tightened, I did start having some serious words with myself as to why I was putting myself through this.
What I’ve discovered with trail running in stunning places, however, is that for every big hill or strenuous slope you attempt to conquer, there is usually a substantial reward. That was the case again here as we hit the highest point of the course in what was now thick, thick snow. Going up and over the top, there was an immediate transition of discomfort to plain and simple fun. The trudge had now turned into a game of how to bound down the hill as quickly as possible, with a blanket of soft snow to stop the joints from really jarring. We emerged on to open hillside before the path signalled a route back into the forest where the finish lay. Somewhere.
Aside from a couple of bumps, it was now more or less downhill all the way and the chance to stretch out, let gravity do some work and gain some speed felt great. I soon hit the final bend and could hear my family cheering for me before I saw them. Turns out I finished seventh. I’m never one to knock a place in the top 10 and, with my legs tired but still in one piece, the experiment seemed to have worked.
It was an excellent and extremely family friendly event – and the fact we didn’t fully thaw out until a few hours later can’t really be blamed on the race organisers! My boys are already plotting their next event…if they are keen on being active after doing things like this then the entry fee is money extremely well spent.
I had also spent the week getting to know a new running toy I’ve been given the chance to play with, the Garmin Forerunner 230 . It’s certainly a few steps up from my trusty old Forerunner 110 and I’m still being surprised by how much it can do. With the miles about to start really creeping up in training, I’m going to need all the help I can get. I’m still waiting for it to bestow upon me the ability to run faster, though…maybe I’ve missed that bit in the instruction manual.
With thanks to:
Skidaddle have a number of events scheduled for this year. Take a look here