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Virgin London Marathon training: Week 13

March 25, 2012

The weather for the next week

It’s almost like summer’s here. Almost, but not quite. Temperatures have been unseasonably high in the UK, the sun has been out all weekend and London’s parks have been packed with barbecues and hipsters who are old enough to know better than to rollerblade backwards, but still do anyway. In the sun, it’s been warm, but there’s still an edge to the wind.

This week the Virgin London Marathon registration magazines were delivered contrywide, with final details for race day, a pair of red shoelaces and a voucher for grape juice. If nothing else, running teaches you to expect the unexpected. The race is getting close and there’s a week left of high-volume training, which is traditionally the time at which runners’ normally high levels of hypochondria start to elevate.

So, this week I’ve been running with a bit of stiffness in my hips. At first I thought it might be joint-based, but now I think it might be muscular. Perhaps it’s my hip-flexors. On Thursday it mysteriously transferred from my right-hand side to my left-hand side. There’s something there, but it’s almost certainly accentuated by my consciously noticing it. I’m stretching it out as best I can, when I can. It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.

After a couple of faster runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, I decided to turn my 15-mile Thursday run into a more sensible affair by minimising the amount of stuff in my running backpack. This was all well and good, but when I got to Home Run to help with the route from Canary Wharf to Stratford I was given a second backpack filled with spare running clothes in return for my role as a lead runner. All great stuff, and it fitted into my original backpack, but meant that my run home wasn’t as low-impact as I’d hoped.

Although I ran home on Friday with two days’ worth of clothing (as a result of minimising the contents of my backpack the previous day), I took it relatively easy and then had a rest day on Saturday.

On Sunday, most of my aches had cleared up and I was well rested for my long run. The sun was out and the river paths were crowded, which meant my girlfriend kept on getting trapped behind large walking parties as she came round with me on her bike. I was carrying 1.5 litres of water in my Camelbak and two carb gels for the latter stages of the run and generally feeling good. However, around 8 miles in I started to feel the ache in my hips. Try as I might to ignore it, I’m sure other runners can relate to the niggling in your mind circular thoughts of ‘This hurts. Why does this hurt? The more I think about it, the more it seems to be hurting. Is this hurting?’

After 13 miles, I took my first gel. It was a brand I hadn’t tried before – Viper something – and it sounded manly. Grr. Sipping on the sharp-tasting lemon and lime gloop reminded me of drinking cordial neat. Regardless of taste, it kept me going. Leaving Lizzy to read her book in Victoria Park, I shortened my stride and picked up the pace to knock out a few miles at close to marathon pace. (The crowds down the tow path had resulted in some uneven splits, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t having trouble with the pace in the heat.)

At 20 miles I headed back to Lizzy, took my other gel (rhubarb and custard Torq, which was surprisingly tasty) and we set off back home. Although I could still feel my hips aching, the shorter stride seemed to be helping things and (once we’d passed an enormous pack of day trippers off to view the Olympic stadium from a distance) we made good pace back. In the end, the long run tallied up at 26.6 miles in 3:18, with an average pace of 7:27 per mile (whatever that might mean with the splits being a bit all over the place at times).

With just 27 days left until the marathon, this week clocked up at 63 miles. I’m feeling happy with that, and not minding the heat too much. Now that British summer time has officially commenced the evenings are going to be lighter, making the after-work training that much more pleasant.

And, in case you’ve been keeping a log of this, I fixed my bike. The bike had been sitting up side down in the garden with the rear wheel removed and tyre gone from the spate of punctures I suffered before Christmas. Now I’ll be truly free of the tube again!

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