There is no question that life is full of ups and downs. However, in running I have found that the gulf between the two extremes seems to become much wider. One good race and you’re on a high, ready to take on the world. Run slower than what you expected and you start to doubt your ability and question whether the time and effort you put in is worth it. After a disappointing performance at my first indoor 3k race last month, that is where I found myself.
I am not an expert on dealing with failure, far from it. I have always had belief in my abilities and would consider myself on the whole to be an optimistic, ambitious, albeit realistic person. But, here I was, running 8.09 for 3000m, 40 seconds slower than the best in the world, a vast chunk of time over such a short distance. Needless to say, after the race I was not happy and this was reflected in my training.
The week after the race, training was slightly easier to ensure that I recovered well. On the Thursday, was a standard 8 x 1k session, 200m jog recovery, this time on the track at 2.50 pace – a relatively comfortable session on paper, given my fitness and how indoor training had gone. However, while I hit the times, it was tough, much tougher than it should have been. Ok, everyone has a poor session from time to time, and I still managed to hit the times, so no real harm done. The next session was a 6mile tempo, fluctuating 5.10 / 4.50 pace every mile. Again, given the fact that I was comfortable running 4.16mile reps indoors, the run should not have been difficult. While I convinced myself afterwards that it was windy, I was nowhere near the 4.50 mile pace that had been set. Once more, the head dropped and I started to question what I was doing. Usually when training isn’t going to plan it’s due to under-training, over-training or quite simply the head not being in the game. For me, I believe it was the latter.
For two weeks after the race, each run was a struggle. I was getting the training done, going through the motions but feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere. It is hard to explain but running didn’t feel natural, it didn’t feel fluid. I clearly had some anger or frustration to get rid of and with the long Sunday run the next day, it was the ideal opportunity to do just that. Eighteen miles and 93 minutes later and I definitely did feel better. However, I’ve learnt from the past, running on anger is rarely a good idea and only offers up a short term solution. The following week, training still wasn’t improving and the frustration crept back in.
I sat down with the coach and decided to take a different approach. It is probably not the most professional approach, and I openly admit that, but with the Ireland-England rugby game on the Saturday, it presented itself perfectly as an opportunity to let off some (read: a lot of) steam. Stumbling round an eight mile plod in Bushy Park the next day, my head, while still spinning from the night before, was clearer than it had been for the previous few weeks. This is what I want to do and the life that I want to lead. I was ready for the next block of training. Sometimes it takes remembering and experiencing what you have sacrificed, to remind you of where you want to go.
Since that Sunday jog, training has been perfect. My head is back in the game, the sessions are feeling easier and yesterday I ran a 30 second personal best and World Half championships qualifying time (63.52) in the Bath Half marathon. The race was extremely well organised, the officials did everything with a smile on their face and despite the poor weather, the support around the course was fantastic. I would highly recommend anyone to do the race next year if you get the chance.
The plan for the next four weeks is all geared towards the World Half marathon championships in Copenhagen on the 29th March, having been selected by Athletics Ireland today. The greyness and windy and wet conditions of February are hopefully behind us all and here’s hoping the month of March will bring the start of a glorious summer, both in terms of the weather and our running.