The Tale of the Training Plan and The Runner.
Marathon Runners. We all know one. They tell us soon enough. I’m one. I can actually now say I have done two marathons. Marathon Runners like to tell you how many they have done as well. Marathon Runners are in fact boring people. They obsess over miles, injury, food, sleep, trainers, socks and so on.
But it’s not completely their fault. I blame Training Plan. Training Plan is that very needy and demanding extra entity in the family who sneaks in rather innocuously before taking over the runner’s life. Family members and close friends need to be accepting of this new and intense attachment with Training Plan and then the whole process is much more bearable.
18 weeks ago Training Plan made a tentative and unassuming entrance into the life of a runner and her family; just 4 or 5 runs a week, nothing too intense. The husband and sons welcomed the structure as everyone knows that families are more effective with a routine and a plan.
Training Plan felt at home and accepted. All was well. For the runner, the journey had begun and everyone felt happy for the runner.
This happy state of training homeostasis continued for some time but slowly and stealthily, Training Plan was infiltrating one person in the family. The runner. Me.
The runs got longer, the sessions became more race specific and the true colours of Training Plan was revealed; to indoctrinate the runner to believe that the marathon was the most important goal in the world whilst simultaneously, making everyone else close to the runner, feel insecure about their fitness and questioning why they don’t have goals. Devious. Training Plan has the power to rock the deepest of foundations.
The runner craves the adaptations training brings, and the progression. The runner pours over statistics on Strava and Garmin searching for clues that all is going to plan. Fully committed and blinkered, the runner panics when potential fun family occasions clash with long runs or key sessions. The runner will try to manipulate all these scenarios for the good of Training Plan. It is about this point that Training Point has now infiltrated sleep patterns and food choices. Family members long for takeaways and pizza but when Training Plan is consulted, it appears a Chicken Balti would not be a good choice before a long run. Or a midweek bottle of wine was not compatible with the following day’s speed session. Trying to catch up with Game of Thrones becomes a source of contention between the runner and the husband as at any time after 9pm, without warning the runner could pull the plug and announce it’s time for bed. Even in the middle of a crucial fight scene. With dragons.
Life becomes very different for family and friends and they look on their runner with sympathy and pity. They try to humour her, forcing enthusiasm at the latest bonkers-long run but really they are mourning the person they used to be before Training Plan wormed its way in.
Everyone is utterly thrilled when taper time finally arrives. Training Plan relinquishes it’s hold over the runner’s time and energy. Wonderful! The problem is, at this late stage, the runner is relying completely and utterly on Training Plan for all life decisions and continues to search hungrily for anything extra that Training Plan might be concealing; anything that might help seal the deal with that imminent finish line.
Training Plan has lost a bit of interest and is indifferent to the tired, emotional and desperate runner. Training Plan shrugs and tells the runner that the work is done. The miles are in the legs. This is not what the runner wants to hear. There are still 2 or 3 weeks before the event. The inattentiveness of Training Plan causes the runner to begin to unravel. The family and close friends are there to pick up the pieces and offer their reassurances. That’s Training Plan for you; ruthless, merciless and brutal.
The week before the marathon, the runner begins to pack for the weekend and race day. She glances at Training Plan and realises it can stay at home. There really is nothing more it can offer. She knows what she must do. She knows that she has to go into the race having eaten and hydrated as well as she ever can. She knows she has to look after herself on the course; fuelling, drinking and she knows she has to manage her pace and conserve energy as much as possible. The battle now is between her and the 26.2 miles.
For the runner, this was no ordinary 26.2 miles. This was the London Marathon; something that she had wanted to do for nearly 20 years. As it got closer the runner shifted backwards and forwards from being insanely excited to exceptionally nervous. This was it.
Training Plan was far from forgotten when race day dawned. The runner knew the miles were in her legs, she knew she had done everything Training Plan had asked of her. At the Blue Start on that windy and cold morning, she allowed herself a little self confidence.
The race began and it was everything that the runner had hoped it would be and more. She had heavy legs at the very start which caused brief concern but she didn’t dwell on it. She moved on. She kept her faith in Training Plan but she was surprised. Training Plan hadn’t told her how happy she would be whilst running this marathon. She wasn’t really prepared for the continuous party vibe that rippled through the whole of London. She didn’t even need any of her mantras that she had practised with because the positivity that filled the air was all she needed. She repeated to herself ‘I am running the London Marathon!’ and that was enough
The dark places the mind takes you when it hurts never came. Yes, it hurt but she didn’t focus on it; she was in control and the plethora of colours and banners, the music, the roaring of the crowd were a huge but brilliant distraction. It was a multi-sensory experience and ever so slightly mind blowing.
Some might argue that to run a marathon within yourself might suggest the runner didn’t push herself. Training Plan taught her patience. Some much braver runners go all out and who can blame them. It’s their day to show what they can do. This runner however, is a cautious runner. She ran a patient and measured race with control, terrified of blowing up. She looked after herself following a well-practiced fuelling strategy and the pace she had trained for and she enjoyed every single minute of it. Honestly. Even when her legs were screaming running along Embankment in the final mile. She loved it.
The runner is home. The runner is tired and sore but the runner is so happy. And so are the runner’s family and friends. All is forgiven and all is forgotten. Training Plan with its curled corners and endless notes scrawled all over it has been filed away. The runner is very happy about this. Training Plan did her proud this time but can quite frankly do one for now.