21. Seventy hours from Stratford

Today saw a very pleasant four miles along the River Wey towpath on a sunny Spring afternoon. That’s more or less how I started running, almost six years ago, and the perfect final outing before my third (and reputedly last) marathon.

clopton-bridge-river-avon-stratford-upon-avon.jpgLondon, Chicago… and er, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Well, it’s my home town, where I grew up, and I know those lanes like the back of my hand. It’s the perfect place for my farewell from international athletics.

The last run of the taper, and time to reflect on the training. In today’s Spring sunshine, it was easy to forget those cold winter afternoons toiling up the Hog’s Back into a stiffly biting wind, that wondrous lunchtime bouncing around in thicky silent powdery snow, and so many pitch black evenings spent burning pace and tempo runs onto the Guildford track at Spectrum. Roger Black used to train there, and even married a Guildford girl recently, but he for one wasn’t mad enough to be out there in the rain just before News at Ten.

Eighteen weeks is a long time, but there will be no more running now until Sunday. It seems I’ve spent fifteen weeks getting really fit, and the last three getting really unfit again. I have a stiff hip, a slightly dodgy knee, and naturally I found myself out of breath after just ten minutes today. This is all normal for this stage of the taper, when the running is all done and the eating all ahead. The first Bakewell tart has disappeared from my desk, and there are only seventy carbo-loading hours remaining.

This is the time to commit to my target of sub-four. My half PB of 1:47 theoretically offers a faster time, but I’m convinced that the calculators aren’t written for 6’3″ guys who weigh 14 stone. I know very well I’ll need a few minutes in the bank at mile 20 if I’m to make it. In the unlikely event that I don’t blow up, then, there might be a little change, but in the far more likely scenario of crawling hand over hand across the Recreation Ground, I could still have a slight chance of coming home within the time.

And yes, I’m looking forward to Sunday. I must be crazy. Fortunately, of course, I’m not alone in that.

Related articles:
3. Running in Shakespeare Country
23. The uncertain glory of an April day: Shakespeare Marathon 2003
49. Ready to run
115. A postcard from Greenwich Park
35. Stratford saplings and The Seeds of Doom
100. Half a million steps

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