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Paris Marathon training: Week 12

January 24, 2010
A rather gloomy day at Shotover Hill, but at least there's no snow.

Not the most inviting-looking weather, but at long last there's no snow. Behind me was a gathering of about 20 goths with swords and quivers of arrows. I decided not to take a photo of them.

And with an unseasonably warm spell and several rather more seasonal showers, the snow was gone. After last week’s thwarted gym-based runs, it was time to live up to that promise of actually doing some more serious training and cover some big mileage.

In fact, this week also brought some big mileage for work. Monday brought a drive up to Leeds and back (around 300 miles all round), and Wednesday was an early morning trip to Sutton Coldfield (call that another 120 miles) for the January sales conference. However, neither trip would get in the way of my running (although the longer drive thankfully fell on a rest day).

I kicked off the week with a longer-than-scheduled long run. It felt good for the first half of the run, but got progressively tougher as the final miles crawled past. However, as a decent stretch, it became a good talking point.

I’m all for scenic routes. For me, a good run should involve a nice mix of scenery, some tougher stretches as well as some more forgiving moments. It’s great to get back from a run and feel rewarded by time spent in the picturesque outdoors. As I was talking through the route that I’d picked, I realised that it sounded anything but scenic. First off, it cuts round the cooling towers of Didcot power station. Then, on the route back into Abingdon, you pass right next to a sewerage plant. Sounds great, no?

However, a network of traditional villages packed with ye olde Georgian houses, farmland and sprawling farm estates and a stretch alongside the River Thames join these two eyesores. It’s really much better than it sounds.

Deciding to place scenery a little higher on my agenda, I skipped the track speedwork session on Thursday in favour of some serious hill running on Saturday at Shotover Hill. Since the snow had melted and been replaced by rain, the crisscrossing dirt paths were a little muddier than I had expected. But all expectations were washed away by the large group of LARPers gathering in the car park on my return.

Oxford actively embraces eccentricity. There are so many pockets of multi-faceted quirk, that you shouldn’t really be surprised by what you see. However, a significant gathering of – and I don’t want to be dismissive – what can only be described as goths with swords wasn’t quite what I had been expecting to see. I thought, generously, for a moment that they were an historical reenactment society. But one of them was dressed as a wizard, which kind of blew that concept out of the water. Still, each to their own – they were probably wondering what kind of a weirdo was out running on a Saturday morning.

Sunday: 33.85k (21 miles) @ 4:45 per km

Monday: Rest (and lots of driving)

Tuesday: 11.5k @ 4:17 per km

Wednesday: 10k cycling, 5k running (12.5kmph at 3.3% incline)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 20.5k @ 4:24 per km

Saturday: 5k of hills and mud @ 5:26 per km

In case you don’t know, I’m running the Paris Marathon on 11 April 2010 to raise money for The Stroke Association. So, if you think that running 75.85km in a week is worth something, come splash your cash at my JustGiving page. All donations are gratefully received, and since my employer’s matching contributions up to a total of £500, it’s a pretty effective way to donate to a worthy cause.

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