...5km used to seem a long way!

As we get closer to 26th April and my weekend training runs become steadily longer, I've been reminiscing about the days when a steady 5km (- taking about 30 minutes) was my limit. The reality is that just twelve months ago 5km was the furthest I had ever run, and I had no intention of running any further than the local parkrun route! This February was a far more varied month, with frosty fields, stormy seas, and sunny skies making for some interesting running, totalling 216km.

The freedom and simplicity of relatively short runs is liberating: just get dressed and put some trainers on, and you're pretty much ready to go. Preparing for runs of more than an hour requires a bit more thought, not least the question of how to carry some sort of food and drink for sustenance - especially when you start getting closer to three hours. Whilst most organised events will provide refreshment facilities en route, solo training runs can be a lonely business, and there are certainly no ready made food and water stations, so you  have to carry whatever you require. That's why I invested in a running backpack with pouches for water bottles and snacks at the beginning of the month, and it has already proved to be a really handy addition to my kit.

One of the things I was looking forward to in early February was the Worthing Running Festival Half Marathon on Sunday 9th. Being so close to home, it seemed a great opportunity to get another race event under my belt and cover the necessary training distance for that weekend. Unfortunately, however, the festival was cancelled due to Storm Ciara, as the strong winds made it unsafe to hold such a mass participation event on the seafront. Having kept a careful eye on the forecasts during the days leading up to the event, it looked as though the Saturday would be somewhat less severe so I ventured out for my 23km and escaped the worst of it - catching only the beginnings of the storm rather than its full pelt.

The following weekend, it was Storm Dennis. The weather at the start of my 26km run on the Saturday morning was fairly pleasant, but the wind soon picked up quite dramatically and the rain started just before I finished.

The next Saturday - at the end of a fairly windy week - it was the tail end of the same weather system (Dennis) and another punishing run with gusts over 40mph.

Then - for the last weekend in February - it was the turn of Storm Jorge to throw up some foul weather for a 30km run: 8 degrees, rain and winds of over 45mph! How many more weekend storms will we have this winter?!

Anyway, two work trips provided a bit of variety: there was a short stay in Oxfordshire with some frosty and muddy fields, and a meeting in Thailand that was hot and humid. Covering an undulating 13km course in temperatures of 25 degrees before breakfast was a novelty and tough, and I wished I had taken my backpack to carry more water with me: I got through a litre whilst running, and another as soon as I had finished.

Closer to home, I ventured off road for a couple of my midweek sessions. It makes such a difference to be running on footpaths rather than pavements, and the darkness brings another layer of excitement - requiring extra care and attention, making for a more invigorating experience all round. Arriving home late in the evening, I was wet and muddy but satisfied!

In addition to the backpack, another kit purchase this month was a small foam roller. They're great for massaging muscles prone to running-related injuries, for example aching calves. It is about a foot long and so it's very easy to pack / carry, convenient even for hand luggage, meaning that it does get used. It has certainly made a positive difference to my weary legs.

Aside from skipping one midweek run on the day I returned from Thailand, I have stuck to the training plan for the whole month of February without incident. It is a real comfort to know that things seem to be on track and I must trust that the things will continue to come together in the remaining weeks. It is apparently very common for novices such as myself to start to doubt their readiness as the Big Day gets closer, and to be tempted to try to do more "...just in case"; that is almost always a mistake, and I should instead have confidence that a tried and tested plan is worth sticking to.

Looking ahead to next month, the Bath Half is coming up - a popular preparation for London Marathon runners. It's another chance for me to run with my brother (see December's blog for our previous shared event), in the beautiful city where our Mum studied at Domestic Science College back in the 1950s. I'm hoping that the weather will be kind to us and things will proceed as planned.

In other developments, we had hoped to order some Feba running shirts so that I'd be more visible and identifiable - keen to make best use of the opportunity to get Feba's name publicised at the Marathon. Unfortunately we've been let down by one supplier and are therefore having to make alternative arrangements quite hastily, in the hope that shirts will still be delivered before 26th April. We'll share details next month so that anyone watching the London Marathon - whether in person or on TV - will know what to look out for!

On a more encouraging note, the sponsorship continues to come in. Just minutes before one of my long training runs I received notification of a donation from the Feba Prayer Group in Abingdon - a very timely boost. I also received the largest single donation to date in February: an anonymous £250 gift, submitted online with no name but a very kind note. At the time of writing, my fundraising effort has reached a total of £1,442 (plus Gift Aid). Raising funds for Feba does make this worthwhile for me personally, and it really does make a tremendous difference to know that I'm not doing this alone. If you could possibly make a donation of whatever value then I would be so very grateful. Thank you.

Finally, please send any comments, questions, encouragements, or suggestions using the Contact Form or calling the office. I'd be particularly keen to hear from you if you're planning to be in London to watch the marathon on 26th April - we'd love to see you there! 

Keeping going...

If you would like to sponsor me, please see my fundraising page.

To read more about my marathon efforts, please click here.

Thank you!

Photo/video credits: Phuket, Goring and Poling Fields © Bob Chambers.