20 April 2014

May the road rise

The realisation, some 18 months ago, that I could run a Marathon without special preparation (provided I would be satisfied with five hours) was never going to be good for me - and was certain, fairly quickly, to be refuted (in the proper sense of 'proved wrong', not 'denied' as it now seems to be used to mean). Refutation came today, in the Compton Downland Challenge. (I should have re-read this posting, with valuable advice from a Runner's World staff member.)

A cursory reading of this blog will reveal that I haven't done a lot of running since last October's Abingdon Marathon. A few Parkruns, and several runs between Paddington and the office. A week skiing didn't help, as it didn't work the right muscles, and giving both knees a violent twist on the last day certainly didn't help. And my cycling-to-the-station régime has barely got under way this year, at least in part because my route was flooded for so long.

That amount of running's not enough on which to do a 20-miler, clearly, although I thought that if I kept the pace nice and slow - I had in mind 10 minute miles, which I revised to 12 in my own mind (and in practice) as soon as we got going. I also thought that if I stuck with John, who was doing the 'full fat forty' as it was billed at my last attempt at it, in 2006, he'd keep me at an appropriate pace. But I lost him in the melée at the start, and after catching him later I lost him again about mile 10 - he just disappeared into the distance. Well done, John: 8:40 for the full distance is superb.

Shortly after John vanished, this loomed in front of me:

Streatley Hill: spot the runners

It was daunting the first time I ran this race - and if it's daunting at 10.5 miles, what must it be like at 31 miles of the 40-miler? At least this time I was prepared, having done a couple of training sessions up and down this section, and I succeeded in keeping up a run - albeit a very slow one - almost all the way to the top. No-one else I saw tried that: naturally, they were the people who later came running past me as I limped miserably to the finish ...

At the time, though, it wasn't the climb that did me in, it was the descent half-a-mile or so later. My knees, the right one in particular, complained fiercely, and I found it painful even to walk down the hill. The same went for all the descents in the remaining seven or eight miles. As for the ascents, which were equally numerous, perhaps I'd expended all my climbing energy on the big one and if I hadn't run that I'd have coped better later on, but at 10.5 miles I had felt as if things were still going reasonably well.

I think I understand the sentiment of the old Irish saying, but interpreted literally a road that rises up in front of me is the last thing I want when I am running. When the road falling away in front of me is painful, too, as it was in this race, I have the worst of all worlds. I suppose I know what I must do about it: train!