As the Japanese marathon approached, day by day, the excitement grew. What time might I run? In what position would I finish? I had never seen the course before but yet, in my mind, I had visualised crossing the finish line a thousand times. Sadly, the reality, for whatever reason, did not turn out quite as I had hoped. With the disappointment of the race still raw, I returned back home, keen to get straight back into heavy training. I had done all the hard work throughout the winter but still failed to achieve a time indicative of my fitness. As I chatted with Andy, my coach, about the race and the plan for the next few months, one word kept cropping up in the conversation. Patience.
Patience is not a word that most runners like. The human body does not work in the same way as the human mind. Mentally, I am more than ready to go again. I want to undo the disappointments of my last race. Physically, however, I know what Andy says to be true. I need to let my body recover, to heal. I had returned home from Japan fit and perhaps, more importantly, not injured. After all the problems I have encountered in the past, we were both keen to keep it that way.
The week following a marathon is like no other. The nervous excitement that grows during the build up is superseded by immense relief following the race. No matter what the time, completing a marathon is an accomplishment and one that should never be belittled. All the pre-race pressure dissipates. I believe that it is probably the only time that marathon runners permit themselves to truly relax. Forty-eight hours after returning from Japan, I was keen to make full use of the relaxation period. That is how I found myself back at the check-in desk of Heathrow Airport once more. This time I was bound for the stunning island of Gran Canaria. The icy, cold, winter weather of home was soon forgotten as I sat on the golden sand dunes, overlooking the sparkling, blue ocean. With not a cloud in the sky, it was the perfect break that my body required. It did not take long however, until the running shoes and vest were unpacked from the suitcase. It was my first jog since raceday and, while it was a slow plod, it felt good to stretch the legs again.
A week later and looking slightly more red than tanned, I returned to Teddington, keen to get going again. My body had other ideas. An athlete’s morning resting heart rate is a key indicator of health. Every morning, I track what it is doing. Having jumped up eight beats higher than my normal rate, I knew that trouble was brewing. Twenty four hours later, as expected, the green phlegm and tight chest began. The plan of racing the Trafford 10k at the start of March was immediately scrapped. Any thoughts of decent training were lost, as I awoke each morning to a sore throat and blocked nose. Training was reduced to stumbling through either five or ten miles, the time completely irrelevant. And so it continued. For two weeks, simply breaking a single six minute mile was a real struggle. Eventually, I seemed to be on the mend, and so Andy set me the challenge of completing a parkrun. Finishing the Belfast Victoria Park parkrun in 15.22, I was nowhere near where I wanted to be but progress was being made. The following weekend bought the challenge of the Reading half marathon. Despite making the journey down to the race, and staying over the night before, a decision needed to be made. Having done no sessions and with even five minute miling still feeling like an impossible challenge, Andy’s advice after Japan, resonated clear in my mind. ‘Be patient’. The decision not to start might have felt like a close call at the time but in hindsight, it was the smart one. There was nothing to have been gained by pushing the body to its limit so soon after an illness.
Since the decision not to race Reading, my body has recovered well. I feel more alive and ready to hurt myself once more. Where exactly my fitness currently lies remains unknown. I am feeling stronger and fitter as each new day goes by. I doubt that it will take long to get back to where I was at the end of January. The plan for the rest of the year is starting to fall into place. The excitement is building once more. This is quite possibly the longest block that I have ever had without an injury. I am keen to keep that run going. With my next race not until the 23rd April, I know that I have time to get the hard training done. I have time to prepare myself for the challenges that lie ahead. Essentially, I have time to be patient.