We arrived back on Sunday, to find Guildford lying in a warm green haze. The moment had arrived, and I knew it was time for those first three miles. A very gentle loop, following my favourite route along the River Wey from the bottom of my road. The sun was going down, and there were cool patches in the warm air. The path was dry, and the river still. Summer running. Definitely a different season from last weekend in London.
It was a good five days of recovery in Sicily, eating pasta, going to Syracuse and Etna, and resting tired legs on Taormina’s beach.
On the first two days the fronts of my thighs burned like mad. A doctor told me that this is the effect of running in the rain. Colder muscles work lactic acid much more slowly. Things have gradually improved since then, and I’ve no discomfort now. Good recovery is a huge benefit of good training.
Three miles were fine, but enough, and I made sure I walked up the final hill home. Another slow and even gentler three miles on Monday lunchtime, which left me strangely stiff as a board, with a sore butt. I felt like someone who had just completed their first mid-life run. I felt like me, seven years ago, rather than a runner who has completed four marathons.
Four marathons. Count them, four.
Whilst in Sicily, I did some thinking about my race, although I’ve not yet worked it fully through. My report last Monday clutched serenely to that single but sublimest straw, that the more I run a marathon, the more I am certain that there is so much more than the final time.
So much can happen, only some of which you can control. As in life, you have to take the hand you’re dealt, and enjoy the good parts. There always are so many to enjoy.
All of that is true. But there’s definitely some disappointment. Not necessarily because it was over 4 hours, but because on the day I couldn’t make a more decent attempt at getting under. The weather was grim, but really there was nothing worse out there than I’d experienced in training all winter. Better cool than hot, and there was certainly no danger of dehydration. Even if one hour wet is still a lot warmer than four hours wet.
If I’m skilled at finding positives in tricky times, at making lemons into lemonade, it’s because I’ve learned that’s the only way to live a life. But I still get tired of plucky resolve in defeat, since there’s only so much stoicism even a West Ham supporter can stand. The real frustration which strikes post-marathon is that you can’t simply go out and do it again, have a second try. Even though I know it’s not the way it works, I must admit I’d like to do just that.
Where have I got to ? Well, it was a tough run, but I’ve no regrets. London is simply the best race in the world, and I learned much more just plodding slowly towards the start. Now’s not the the time to plan (not yet). So maybe what frightens me most is the thought that I might feel ready to do it again, tomorrow. Well, almost.
Another slow run today, a Crawley loop, the less steep way round. I didn’t look whilst running, but see now my splits were 9:20, 8:27, 9:00, 9:01, 8:54, 8:56. It seems uncanny, but that’s the speed I trained for, through all those weeks.
If the run was fine, it was far enough. The closing mile felt much more like the sixteenth than the sixth. There’s not much gas in the tank, because there’s still some physical recovery to do. And the miles seemed to take much longer to complete, than a few weeks ago, even though the times are nearly the same. That’s the mental recovery still required. It’s normal for this stage of the game.
The real news this week is that I’ve crossed the line. Successfully bridged the dangerous and darkly deep divide which lurks between lethargy and recovery. From descent and despond, to recharge and rebuild.
83. Seven Bridges Road – the Wey floodplain
122. Cephallonia dreaming
8. Lakeshore reflections – Chicago Marathon review
101. The sun’s gonna shine – Abingdon Marathon
51. London Calling
100. Half a million steps