Endurance running is definitely more enjoyable when you have the company of fellow likeminded souls, however saying that, there’s something calming, satisfying and almost an out of body experience when you run for a long time on your own.
Running with a group of friends will give you banter, support and spells when they drag you along and visa versa. A solo run is all down to you, your watch and your thoughts.
I set out with the intention of 20 miles at ten minutes a mile i.e. 3 hours twenty minutes. The 50K I’ve been spasmodically training for is in two weeks time so today was as much a mental test as a physical one.
My usual training involves hills, fields, gates, streams and all the glory of the countryside so what the hell was a doing planning 20 miles of tarmac !! The answer my friends was the lack of available time and testing my legs over flat terrain just to make sure that no weaknesses were lurking. Running up and down hills gives your legs a varied workout, constantly running on the flat works certain muscles and repeats the action again and again.
That’s the physical side, now onto the mental task of three hours + with only yourself for company. I saw John Vose who I ran with when I was at Stubbington Green, he must be 70 now and as he drove past I wondered if he was off to spectate or even run at the Victory 5 today. Mike Dally from Hedge End runners tooted his horn as he passed and again I wondered if he was heading in the same direction.
So, excluding people I know, what else occupied me ??
I keep an eye on the hedgerows for any signs of early morning animal activity, birds, maybe a fox !! Then once I made it to the sea after 4 miles then there’s windsurfers, huge cargo vessels on their way into Southampton docks and even an occasional swimmer.
Your pace strategy is easily managed by your garmin and then there’s your nutrition. I generally take an SIS gel every 50 minutes, drink 500mls an hour, swallow occasional salt tablets to prevent cramp and eat occasional SIS bars just for something more solid. Remembering to do this is easily forgotten once you are in your flat, even paced metronome mind set.
Paying attention to keeping warm is another factor to ponder on too. Start with more than you need is my philosophy. Gloves can be removed, base layers can be untucked but by the time I turned around at 7.5 miles and headed back up Stokes Bay the direction of the cold wind had an immediate effect. Another trick is keeping an eye on the clouds so that you can see is bad weather is approaching and also because they’re just really interesting to watch !!
Saying hello and passing positive comments to fellow runners and cyclists always motivates me and it’s surprising how many of the general public say hello too.
Next, what goes through your mind when your pace starts to drop and you realise the run is starting to take its toll. I consider if I’ve got my nutrition right and most of all have I drunk enough. Never be afraid to stop at a garage or corner shop just to supplement what you started out with !!
Psychologically, have a word with yourself 🙂 I’m on this run for a reason. The challenge, the enjoyment, the preparation for two weeks time, to push past such moments of doubt because they may occur on the day, to draw on all the months of running already done this year and most of all, don’t let yourself down, you are in control so keep at it.
Finishing below target pace was satisfying and hugely motivational. One of my favourite sayings is that your legs achieve what your mind believes. So, believe in yourself.
Finally, I never think about work or any issues I have in my life. Running is my therapy and quite often I don’t think about anything at all, I just observe my surrounding.
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