I’ve read those words a fair few times this week on other runner’s blogs and tweets and gulped, thinking, that’ll be me soon. But in truth I feel ready for this. A week to go until race day and really, there’s not much more I can do.
The Sunday long run has become a feature of my summer and I felt there was one more still to do. Last week I ran 12 miles and found it hard, this week I wanted to see if I could run easy and still cover the distance. So my plan was to run for 2 hours and see how far I got, with the understanding that if anything hurt, or felt really uncomfortable, I would stop and walk, and revise my plans. I even set myself a route that meant I was never too far from an escape plan.
And so, up and prepped with porridge in my tummy and running vest on. A bright ,warm, sunny day with a welcome breeze at my beloved coast and plenty of runners smiling, waving and saying good morning as I passed by, heading towards the lighthouse.
Always that slight uncertainty for the first mile… too fast, too slow, how am I moving? 09.10 beeped the Garmin – I can slow that down a bit, there’s a long way to go.
Freedom and peace, a sense of space in my own head. How many times have I run this stretch of tarmac? But still I love it as I veer away from the road and along above the sea on footpaths used by walkers and runners.
Out and along the causeway to the lighthouse wall, tag it and turn back. There’s a wee uphill out of this section and you always seem to turn into a headwind. But by now I’m running 09.30 per mile – target training pace at last. It’s only taken me 12 weeks. A sip or two of water and some mango to keep me going and I’m off again.
Back along the front and past the Rendezvous cafe. But it’s not my usual out and return. I add a little diversion up through the Churchill Playing fields to run the end of the Run for Bob, aiming to follow the off-road but level and friendly tracks until the 8 mile point and then turn back.
These trails have been kind to me this year. Today they offer shade and sunshine, but not before I’ve nearly taken a spill at the entrance to the park. I bash my foot against the metal plate at the base of the gate, and it’s a wonder I don’t fall flat on my face. A reminder to take it easy. I walk a few paces to shake off the shock.
Along the trails and not feeling too bad, but really I don’t feel like I could go much faster than this now and keep going, yet it’s still a good way short of race pace. I go through my usual 8 mile mental dip and out the other side having once again raided my pocket for a piece of mango and more water.
Back towards the track and playing fields and I’m up to 9 miles, so that’s officially a long run as it’s further than I went on Friday. Ten miles would be good, 12 even better, but I’m still just running how I feel.
Unusually for me, in my guise of taking it easy, I’ve had a couple of brief stops already. One for a particularly slow traffic light and another to lose a stone in my shoe. So as I return to the seafront I take one more to fill up my water.
And now it really is just running for home. No heroics today, no sprint finish, looking for a landmark and anticipating the clock, but I do pick up and stretch out a little as I clock 11 miles, then 12, mentally transporting myself to that spot on the race route. At 12, I glance at the watch and notice there’s about 6 minutes to go until my 2 hours are up, and I know I have that much running in me.
Just as I reach the surf shop a lovely old lady walking her spaniel calls out, ‘Keep going, keep going,’ with a smile and I say ‘Thank you’. And I’m reminded of the one thing I haven’t experienced yet on my training runs. One thing that will keep me going faster and further with a smile on my face. All the fabulous people that turn out to cheer on the Great North Run.
And so, I’m ready. I’ve trained. I’ve prepared. Everything else will just be what happens on the day. All I can do now is stay well and injury free. Eat well, sleep well, hold the railings on the stairs and try not to put too much pressure on myself before race day. If I can hold onto this calm, content and relaxed mood I have today, that will be a good place to be.
Stats and stuff 12.5 miles/ 20.1km in 2 hours
13. 04.33 (0.5 miles)