Friday, 15 May 2009

Day 18 - smashing the barriers

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6.5 miles

Time - 52 minutes 25 seconds

Back to the streets of London for another punishing, pushing and utterly rewarding run with Jarlath (G). G had told me last week that we would be upping the distance to 6.5 miles, wanting to run for about 55 minutes to experience a decent distance but not quite breaking the hour boundary (which, I presume, will be for next week). This would also be just over the distance for the 10k, so give me a good idea of how close I was progressing towards my first goal of a sub-50 minute 10k. G had planned the route to go the 3.25 miles from LSE to Chelsea Bridge, and then turn around and come right back (map).

"Sounds good." I said. "Pretty flat as well". G smiled and raised his eyebrows, an impish glint which suggested he knew something about the terrain that I did not. I thought about it, and knew the Embankment, Millbank and Chelsea Embankment was pretty flat. It follows the river, so deviates little from the gentlest of uphill gradients as it tracks the river upstream. "I suppose the roads rise a little to take in the approaches of the bridges".

"We'll see." And that was all I got out of him.

I had prepared myself much better for this run than any of the others. I had a protein rich pasta dish for lunch, a fruit smoothie two hours prior to running and a nutrigrain bar 30 minutes before setting off to tide me over. I bought a small bottle of water, mindful of the last run and G's comment that any greater distance (than the 5 miles we did then) would require water. I turned up at his office, and he seemed genuinely pleased I had listened to and acted upon his advice. Of course I had - the guy has just finished running seven consecutive marathons. His word is my running bible!

So we set off, across the Aldwych and down to Temple. Steeply down a few hundred metres to Temple. Ah. What goes down, must come up. And in this case what goes down gamely and fresh at the beginning of a long run comes back shattered, cramped and sweaty with a final sprint up a relatively steep gradient.

"Do you see what I mean now? No hills?" G smiled. I won't repeat on a family forum my exact reply, save to say that where it not for him being the nicest of guys, he would be capable of sadistic training excess!

The run started well, very strong and I got into a stride early on. There were no real twinges, and we paced well. Over Parliament Square and weaving through the crowds. I made a mental note that in future we should dart off this busy, tourist-filled road and divert via Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall. On the way back past Parliament, more tired, irritable and with a pace being interrupted by pedestrians I voiced this idea and got knowing agreement.

Millbank and Chelsea Embankment were, as far as is possible with running, fun. We talked about MI5's discrete offices, and MI6's less discrete Vauxhall conceit. We discussed which building James Bond had burst from to plunge into the Thames in a speedboat. Jobs, life and all the usual tittle tattle of friendly conversation. And it was proper conversation, fully formed sentences barely out of puff.

It started to feel more difficult getting towards Chelsea Bridge, with the looming, broken hulk of Battersea Power Station dominating the view. We had to get under the Victoria railway bridge and then would simply turn around at Chelsea Bridge. It started to seem a long way back, and the pace seemed quick. My legs were throbbing slightly, and my chest already damp with sweat. This will be the last run I do without something better to run in - synthetic material that can effectively wick away sweat and is more comfortable.

We stop, stretch and drink some water. G was right - this run needed water, and the dry mouth of the 5 miles would have been unbearable extended over 6.5 miles. We pause, only 43 seconds, and then set off again. My legs don't want to work properly, jelly thighs placed gingerly in front of jelly thighs. It takes a few minutes to get back in to the stride, all the while I am increasingly anxious I have gone too far, too quickly. Soon I settle in to the run, and the amazingly cathartic effect of retracing steps, ticking off the landmarks, bridges and streets that mean every step brings the destination closer. Maybe my preference for circular runs is unfounded - are linear routes preferable?

Getting towards Parliament and a slight stitch starts to develop, a sharp pain in my chest. I begin deeper, measured breathing which has the effect of dissipating the lactic acid and reducing the stitch. It works, for a while. Past Parliament, and on to Embankment and the stitch is back with a vengeance, feeling painful in the lower stomach and upper chest. I breath deeper, and, with only a mile to go, hope that I can continue the pace. I have no real idea of what time we are heading for, having left the pacing up to G. G offers support, shouts of "good run", "dig deep" and "great time". And I continue, past the gardens, past Embankment tube, past Savoy Place and my DWP office, under Waterloo Bridge, painful, aching, burning breaths and stabbing pains. Deeper breaths, still burning, still searing pains but now only that hill to go.

That hill. The small hill on the run that has no gradient. Returning right at the end to mock me. It is only a few hundred metres to the top, but it is right at the end. From somewhere I push out a final sprint. I don't think I could have run much further than the finishing point, but I suppose the point is that you don't have to.

I stop the watch at 52 minute 25 seconds. Wow. I think about it. That seems a good time. And then we work it out - 8 minute miles, and a 10k race done in under 50 minutes. Wow! I am really pleased. I recover quickly, another positive sign from the training, and go back to polish off a protein laced, post exercise smoothie.

Perhaps I'll make a runner of me yet.

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