January has been an inspiring month. And I don’t mean that I’ve stuck to my training plan or that it’s been particularly great in terms of running fast times. This month I’ve seen and trained with so many people motivated towards achieving their goals, mainly related to marathon running. It’s enough to give a tangible boost as you head out on your own solitary training run. Hearing other people enthuse about their own journeys somehow gives meaning to your own.
I have read several books written by ultra-marathon runners and many speak of the notion that you are never really alone as a runner. Even in the moments where you are running further than ever before covering new trails and territories, you are a part of a wider, welcoming community. It is a feeling I’ve shared since I started running with Ramsbottom Running Club last January but that feeling has certainly intensified in the last 32 days.
My longest training run thus far was on the 20th January. In stark contrast to the last week of intense cold, a mild and pleasant Sunday morning provided a perfect backdrop for the first real test of my endurance. One of a small band of five runners, we set out on a scenic and pleasant long run around Jumbles Country Park. Running is easier when you are in and amongst others, especially over a longer distance where your mind can begin to wander. After 7.5 miles of pleasant chatter and steady paced running, I decided to push on alone.
The next 4 miles were straightforward. As before, I concentrated not on my pace but on enjoying the scenery, albeit without the excellent company of the previous 7.5. After that, things became a little more difficult. Not least because I’m not entirely familiar with Jumbles and ended up running in circles trying not to get lost.
Which is precisely what I managed to do. After 12 miles of reasonably straight forward navigating courtesy of four other runners who knew where they were going and then following the same paths I had taken with the group, I deviated on to new trails. At least, I think they were as they did not look at all familiar.
In short, I managed to find myself in a housing estate with a conveniently confusing layout. Although my Garmin helpfully pointed out I was a mere .5 miles from the car after 14 miles of running, it took another hour to find my way back to the car. Convinced I had found my way back at one point, I stopped my GPS.
A clever move it was not.
I walked a further 1.5 miles until I realised I was walking in entirely the wrong direction. My Garmin helpfully pointed out that I was just ‘0.3 miles’ from the car, if only I were in swimming gear. Luckily, I wasn’t alone on the path. At first, a well-meaning walker directed me to the other car park before a friendly family walking in the opposite direction directed me back to the car park I needed.
Without their help, I might still be out there…
It can be tempting to get sucked in to the ‘New Year New Me’ mentality which inevitably becomes extremely popular after New Year. This year, I knew that I had to support my goals by creating a structure and giving each one a deadline. One of my key goals for 2019 is to run the Manchester Marathon on 7th April. Whilst I’d love to run the marathon in under 4 and a half hours, my target is simply to finish and enjoy it this year using my time as a benchmark should I run a marathon again in the future.
At the end of January, Strava gave me the reassurance that I’d not only completed my longest single run but also that I’d stuck mainly to my training plan. January was a case of ‘job done’ but there was plenty of work still to be done before marathon day.