The 21 Mile Run

I write this from our bed. I’m not so sure about getting up as I’m not so sure I will be able to. I completed the 21 mile training run yesterday. Somehow. It was not a pleasant experience. I knew from the first mile something was not right. I felt like I was running flat out but my time didn’t reflect it. My legs were okay but my arms and upper body were drained. I had nothing to offer. By mile 4 I was visibly slowing. The panic button pressed, I plugged on thinking it was a blip and I could run through it.

It wasn’t and I couldn’t. By mile 7 when I had my first drinks stop I seriously considered stopping but my stupid pride wouldn’t let me. I soldiered on and the situation improved slightly. I was still hating every step of it but my mile splits stabilised and I was able to hold a steady, if highly unimpressive, mile pace. The heat wasn’t helping. Only an idiot would schedule their longest run of the year on the hottest day of the year. I was that idiot.

At 14 miles I had my second drinks stop and rued not having bought energy gels for today. My pace was the same but I was dreading the final section. And rightly so. By mile 17 I was running nine minute plus miles and the slightest gradient felt like Everest. An elderly lady pulled up alongside me in her car and asked was I okay. I mumbled that I was alright, then remembered my manners and thanked her for stopping. I imagine she could have ran faster than me at this point.

I stopped greeting passing walkers and cyclists which is most unlike me. Motorists waved at me and I had no idea who they were. If Katy Perry had been standing at the roadside by an iced lemonade stall I would have grunted at her and staggered on. The last two miles included a couple of sizeable hills. An old sheepdog lying in the shade looked on in pity as I waddled up the first. By the second I had lost the will to live. My form and rhythm had totally vanished. It was just a matter of getting to the top.

The last mile back through the village should have been a victory parade but turned into a death march. The German retreat from Stalingrad was a cheerier experience. I willed my Garmin watch to read 21 miles and counted the seconds down. I refused to walk even though my normal walking pace was probably quicker than I was managing at present. My last mile was an embarrassing ten minutes. But then finally it was over.

I’m not sure what went wrong. The heat certainly played a factor as did the busy week at work I had just finished. I also had a nasty eye infection which must have taken its toll. I should have had energy gels as well. On the plus side I completed the run and still somehow ended up a minute inside four hour marathon pace. So all was not lost. Plus if you are going to run a stinker then you might as well do it during a training run as opposed to on the big day itself.

That said my confidence has taken a blow. I don’t think I could have finished a marathon today. At 21 miles I was gone. Out on my feet. I will be better prepared and rested on 7th May. Hopefully it will be cooler and my plan to run alongside a pacer surrounded by other runners will hopefully help. I know the course and know I can complete it. The crowd and the adrenaline will hopefully drag me along as well.

My taper commences now with the race just over a fortnight away. I will focus on reduced mileage combined with a healthier diet. When I’m flat out at work I tend to eat all sorts of rubbish. Running is a great leveller. Just when you think you are on top of your game the wheels tend to come off. I’m going to try and get out of bed now. Wish me luck. If you hear muffled screaming you’ll know who it is.

55 thoughts on “The 21 Mile Run

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  1. ๐Ÿ˜€ Ha ha ha. Gotta laugh, because my mile pace finally got down to ten minutes. You marathoners are FAST!
    You’ll do fine, simply because you didn’t stop. Who are you running for, anyway?

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  2. Oh dear it does sound like it could have gone better! ๐Ÿ™ˆ The next two weeks will be more focused on being healthy though, eating and sleeping better, along with smaller runs will build that confidence back up. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  3. Your grim shuffle pace is my fast pace now. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know how a tough run can shake your confidence, but it’s sounds like you had many factors leading up to it. Especially the heat. That can sap energy like nothing else. Praying for a cooler race day for you.

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          1. I won definitely as I also cleaned up the shed and while still cleaning the patio the whole four season passed over my head๐Ÿ˜ฑjust came in…… I deserve a chai latte and some trash tv now๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. This has me really worried about you. I know this marathon and the preparation has been a big deal and you’ve worked really hard to make it. But please don’t neglect your emotions and your needs that may seem to “ruin” things. Regardless of the outcome of the marathon, you’ve put your all in and aimed high and that is more important than making it across the finish line in record time. Don’t take yourself for granted and how difficult it has been. Keep in mind where you came from and started from. Taking care of yourself is more important than proving something to yourself, because your mental and emotional health is the most important thing in the world. And I hope that if you start feeling that is getting compromised you’ll choose the necessary. You can always run other marathons, but it’s not so easy to get back on track if you fall into a depressive slump as a result of being extremely self critical and perfectionistic.

    I wish you all the best and as someone who wishes she had that strength to go hiking and whatnot, your commitment is inspiring.

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  5. Haha! In retrospect I’m sure you see all the reasons it sucked. We runners are an optimistic bunch! Oh I can run an easy 21 miles even though I had a shitty week, it’s hot , and I have no fuel, no problem! ๐Ÿ˜€ Good for you for getting it done , and don’t let it worry you too much. You’ll be fine!

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  6. Been there brother! I have run five marathons in my life. That 21 miler is always a doozy! As we all know, it’s that last 48 hours before we begin pounding the pavement than can sometimes make or break a run. Way to finish!!

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  7. “No pain, no gain,” is a myth that was debunked a very long time ago. All people are different, and there may well be a limit to the extent of physical exertion you can safely perform. Please take care of your body, and pay close attention to its signals: if something doesn’t feel right during a run, stop.

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  8. You do realize your long training runs are not suppose to be done at race pace. This means you are beating yourself up for no reason. If you didnโ€™t have a crappy I think Iโ€™m going to die run every now and then, then it wouldnโ€™t be possible to know what a great run is. And better to have that run today than the marathon which is the day before my birthday. Therefore I can guarantee it will be great. Love bossy pants from the US

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  9. The only way youโ€™d catch me running, is if some bloke has a very sharp knife and is in pursuit of me. Congrats on a great effort!

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  10. Hey, well done. The negative side of your efforts probably started well before your practice run. Writing down those when you have them will help you to see and understand more the impact they are having. That said, be positive! Looking forward to learning how your race goes.

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  11. If you can run 21 you will run 26.

    My first marathon was my last, thanks to a friend that had run them before. I had been a runner for 20 years (30-35 miles/week), so I was in decent shape. Did a couple of halves with no problem.

    Three weeks out he phones me: “what’s your longest training run?” I said “18.” “Oh no, you’re never going to make it. You have to run at least 21.”

    I did 21 two weeks before the race. No problem, until I woke up the next day with a right foot that was completely numb. Diagnosed as “tarsal tunnel syndrome.” I asked the Doc about the race. “Run it if you want. Damage is done. We can talk about surgery later.”

    I beat my friend by 15 minutes on a right foot I could barely feel.

    One unsuccessful surgery later, my running days are over.

    Listen to your body in training. You’ll be fine on race day.

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  12. Well done for keeping on – I cannot imagine running 21 miles at 43 years old. Your piece has me inspired and for that Iโ€™m grateful. Now… whereโ€™s that old pair of trainers I used to have…

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  13. I do wish this fashion for marathon running would pass. Please, take notice of the messages your body is sending to you and give up on the competitive drain that will shorten your life or destroy your joints in the end. It is not a natural activity for a biped whose hip joints, particularly, are not yet fully evolved. The original marathon runner died after his run, but at least he had a good cause! There are plenty of other ways to raise money for charity – try some of them!

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