Run long and taper – with apologies to Trekkies. I kept hearing this phrase on a brilliant podcast that I found by Steve Runner (real name Walker but you can see why the change occurred) called Phedippidations. Back issues can still be found but he slowly lost interest in his wonderful running community after the bomb incident in his home town and the podcasts seem to have dried up. COME BACK STEVE!! We are missing your wit, your philosophy and your choice of inspirational music.
I was supposed to run long last weekend and taper down to a slow 13 miler on the flat today with no long run next weekend and then the huge, in numbers, Cardiff Half Marathon on the following weekend. These things never go to plan. Two days before the twenty miler I spent a long time in a new car, stop-start driving in London. My foot was constantly on the clutch pedal which was higher than in my old car so was bending my foot on every use. Add to this lace up boots and I ended up with a bruised upper left foot that took four days to simmer down to the point where I could walk properly again.
The idea of tapering is a bit alien to me as I am a runner that is either working or looking after grandchildren. I cannot seem to keep to any plan, run when I can (usually 5am) and constantly have that guilt feeling of any weekly mileage not being nearly enough.
So, today’s easy 13 turned out to be a faster (relatively faster for me) 13.1 mile run that ended up being only three minutes slower that my time in the recent Severn Bridge Half. So today was about mental toughness. It was a four lap course (so passing the temptation to get back into the car three times) taking in three miles of the actual, upcoming, half marathon.
For me the mental toughness thing comes at the point, at the bottom of the Roath Park rose gardens (for those that know the course) where, on race day, you observe all the runners, faster than you, going in the opposite direction with only one mile to go to the finish line whereas you have only reached the ten mile mark and have to run away from the finish line, up one side of the lake and down the other side, with faster runners always in view, a mile or so ahead of you but over the other side of the lake. This could be a moment of despair. My plan, that worked last year, is to chant a little mantra something like “How many times have I run around this lake? I could do it with my eyes closed.” Hence the four lap run around the lake today.
Other runners had the mental toughness idea also. I saw lots of Cardiff Half T shirts from past years, both black ones and red ones, their owners silently proclaiming “I am not a beginner you know, I have done this before.” And lots of older runners, which reminds me of an earlier (an earlier press) finding that more and more older runners are returning to the second running boom after the experience of the first one (UK 1980s USA 1970s). If you remember I came 99th in age group at the Cardiff Half, took ten minutes off my time the following year and came 126th – You do the math(s).
It strikes me that with all these oldies getting fitter, the fear that the Youff (sic) have that they will be working to pay taxes to look after the oldies, may be unfounded. The oldies, may well be fitter, work longer, pay taxes to look after the unfit youngsters who sit around all day either gaming or telling everyone on Facebook / Twitter that they have been gaming.
I wrote in my paper journal back in August – “A week of extremes. Sat outside the gym where seven year old Mali does her rhythmic gymnastics and I had to sit in the car for an hour as we had turned up early. At the end of the road was an imposing building “The Games Centre”. Watching people come and go from the games centre I would guess that about 90 to 95% were obese rather than just overweight. Mali finished her 6 hours of gym and was offered a McDonald’s as a treat. She asked if she could have just 6 chicken nuggets rather than a meal and went on to explain that her coach had been talking about nutrition, had said that McDonald’s was a once a month treat and that chicken was better than a burger – but leave off the chips at all costs.
I will be back after the Cardiff Half for a race report. Some fast runners expected (not that this should overly concern me) as the course will be repeated next March 26th 2016 as the “World Half Marathon Championships” I am already practicing my line to grandchildren that, yes, Mo Farrah and a host of Kenyans / Ethiopians did beat me. I guess I won’t have to tell them by how many hours they beat me!