Last Saturday I ran a marathon with the East of Ireland Marathon club. It was marathon number 8 for me and my second marathon so far this year.
The plan for this one was a little different to the last. I am training for a race that takes place over two consecutive days in July. The race is the "Stone Mad Ultra" and is made up of a 62km run on the Saturday followed by a 55km run on the Sunday. So far training has gone really well, as the mileage increases week on week the main objective is to stay injury free.
It's a strange feeling training for an ultra. The marathon this past weekend was a training run, never before in my life have I ever ran a marathon distance in a training run. My training plan required that I put myself into the hurt zone during the final kilometers of this run.
The course was a short 2.1k before starting out on four laps of a 10k. With this in mind I planned to set off at a high pace 4mins30 per kilometer for the first 10k loop, I knew I couldn't hold this pace for the full marathon at this stage of the season. I dropped to a 4min45 per kilometer pace for the second and third loop knowing that due to fatigue built up on the first lap my body would be spent before beginning the final loop.
Everything went to plan until I began the final loop. My body still felt OK and I realised that my initial goal of running sub 3hrs40mins was a forgone conclusion. I tried and tried to calculate an estimated time in my head but anybody who has ran a marathon knows that doing maths based on time isn't easy when you have 20miles in your legs and your muscles are begging your brain to "please just stop!"
"Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain" Joseph Campbell
I knew I'd be around the 3hr30min time so I tucked my head down and ran on. The weather was beautiful that day and the running was easy. I'd been running with three other guys and we randomly over took each other before being passed again a little while later, a common occurrence with a sporadic pace. I kept running and felt relatively good until kilometer 38. This was the beginning of an uphill drag for 2 kilometers and it was the fourth time tackling this incline. The first time over it it had hardly altered my pace, now I had reached the desired pain zone and now this hill killed my speed. I had been averaging 5min kilometers from 32k until this point and then I dropped to a 5.30, 6.10, 6.38 before falling back into a steady 5min20 for the final 2km which was a steady slow drag downhill.
"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy" Norman Vincent Peale
My body ached the last 5km and it was those final kilometer that I got to do specific ultra training. It's argued that an estimated 90% of distance running is a mental challenge. I experienced this mental challenge last weekend and I got first hand experience of the war between body and mind. It's a war of attrition where the body just wants to stop and the mind just wants to carry on. I ran and walked and ran and walked, every-time I walked I knew I had to just keep running.There is no rational reason why the body should keep going. There is no obvious value is continuing the torrid pain but still the mind remains unwavered and the elation of completion regardless of time makes it all worth while, even if the body disagrees.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to exceed is always to try just one more time" Thomas A. Edison
My official race time was 3hrs34mins.
The race finished but the training didn't. As part of training for back to back ultra marathons this summer my training plan advised getting up the following morning and running 8-10km. I woke early and hit the road so I could be home in time for my children's Easter egg hunt. I was pleasantly surprised when I had no muscle or joint pain. I ran 8km at 5min per kilometer pace and my stride felt good and lose. Recovery was obviously at 100% and I owe this wholeheartedly to the adoption of a plant based diet since last October.
Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!