I decided to run just 3 times a week, but to make the two midweek runs quite long; I figured I would match the 8.5 mile run I’d last done as my long weekend run and then try and go a bit further for the next 2 weekends, say 9 or 10 miles then 11 or 12 miles and then taper for a couple of weeks.
My preparation for the first of the 8.5 mile runs however was not great. I had an awful night’s sleep; 3 or 4 hours maximum, then a difficult day at work. On the train on the way home I was exhausted, a complete space cadet, and was seriously thinking that I needed to somehow reschedule my run. I said so on Twitter and got the slap in the face I deserved! Support comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes you just need a kick up the backside. It also helps reading about everybody else going running. So I was tired, but what was the worst that could happen? And do you know what, I had a great run that night!
I did the same a couple of days later and then at the weekend I tried a new route that I figured would take me over 9 miles. IT WAS FANTASTIC … a real beauty of a trail run. It started off innocently enough, running along a nice wide footpath, but soon began to climb, and as it did the path got narrower and narrower. Before too long I was up high looking out over the valley and hills of Saddleworth. The path had narrowed so much that my legs were getting trashed by heather bushes either side. To my left was a huge drop down to a railway line and to my right a cliff face. There was mud, rocks, tree routes and paths forking off left, right and centre, and all the time climbing. When I got to the top it was a great feeling and the view was superb. The run in total came in at just over 9 miles, but it was hilly so I was really pleased with the achievement.
This last week I did the same 2x 8.5 mile routes and then took a couple of days off before my long run this morning. Now despite what I’ve said above I’m not big on planning my running. I’m put off by training plans and talk of things like splits just bemuse me (that’s something to do with gymnastics or bananas surely). I just have a route and/or a distance in mind and then go for it - usually. Take this morning, I thought around 11 miles would be about right 2 weeks before a half marathon and having run along the canal a lot last summer I had a pretty good idea that if I ran to a place called Scout Tunnel in Stalybridge and back it would be about 11 miles. The added incentive of turning back when I got to Scout Tunnel was that it is a bit of a nightmare to run through. It’s long, dark (don't let the picture below fool you) and wet with limited headroom.
However, I didn’t stick to this plan for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the first time in ages I had a decent night’s sleep. Secondly, I spent the first hour of the day reading about Twitter folk running the Silverstone Half and the Bath Half and I wanted to do one. Thirdly, it was a lovely sunny day – perfect running conditions. I decided I wanted to do 13.1 miles like everyone else and figured I could run to Scout Tunnel and then do a bit of a loop on the way back if needed.
Things did not begin well though. For the first 3 or 4 miles, I had a *niggle* in my left groin and my left knee was aching. As I got into it though these aches and pains seem to fall away. I felt good, really good, and I was really enjoying what the Huddersfield Narrow Canal had to offer. When I got to Scout Tunnel there was no way I was turning back. Apart from anything else, that would have been a cop out. Like a mountain, I had to run through it because it was there.
Running through this tunnel is weird because you can’t see the cobbled floor you are running on for the most part and occasionally you splash into a puddle, which takes you by surprise; you can’t see the curved roof that you know you are very close to; and whilst you can see the white posts that make up the hand rail, you can’t see the bars that run horizontally and so you don’t feel protected from falling into the water.
I did manage to keep running (well jogging) through the tunnel though, and then I just kept going – for another couple of miles. The way back was all up-hill (I know, it’s a canal, but this is the Pennines and there are a lot of locks). The total run was over 15 miles. At least a mile more than I've ever run before!!
I’m chuffed with my run today. I hope I haven’t overdone it. I can feel the niggle in my groin and a little discomfort in my left knee, but hopefully nothing a couple of days off won’t put right.