The weeks after the Paris Marathon were an anticlimax. It was no longer socially permissible to wear my medal, I'd already told everyone who cared to listen (and perhaps those that didn't, too!) about my experience and my legs were on the way to recovery.
But without a goal to focus on, I felt quite adrift. What do you do when you've made possible what you thought was impossible? The only solution was to sign up to another marathon pronto and aim to complete it faster, of course! I had well and truly caught the bug.
I toyed with the idea of Amsterdam, Dublin or Venice in Autumn 2018 before finally settling on the Valencia Marathon on December 2nd. The date worked perfectly to give me a good 16 week training block after we returned from our family holiday in Portugal this summer and I'll not lie - the flat course and some December warmth was very appealing indeed!
I signed up, registering James for the concurrent 10km race so I'd have someone there with me on the day. James is insistent that he will never run another marathon again, such was his discomfort at Paris! He's more of a sprinter than a plodder, so the 10km should suit him just fine - plus he will be at the finishing line for me afterwards :)
With a few months to go before chapter two of my marathon journey began, I decided to focus on base training. I wanted to keep a reasonably long run in during the week, but otherwise look to improve my speed and strength. I found that embracing the "run slower to get faster" method has really worked for me, as counterintuitive as that may seem! I ran the Lincoln 10km on July 1st setting a PB of 58:38 which I was beyond thrilled with. It felt like I'd really turned a corner; graduating from "try hard runner" to "average runner"!
Since then, my times have continuously come down during my faster sessions and my longer runs have got much easier. Being able to bash out 10-12 miles easily and recovering far quicker from the effort seemed like nirvana even six months ago, but it has become reality now. More consistent strength training complimented the running and I completely overhauled my diet and nutrition, leading to weight loss of a stone and being back in a size 10 for the first time in many, many years. More importantly: I felt stronger and fitter than I have ever felt.
It made me wonder whether I sell myself short. What am I truly capable of? I'm like Rainman when it comes to researching and planning, so I set about creating a training plan. The maximum official time regulated for the Valencia Marathon is 5h30 so I knew I had to be faster than I was at Paris. A realistic goal for me would be to shoot for the 5 hour mark; but then, I do everything to the extreme and I'd quite like to be somewhere around the 4:45 mark. If I'm being totally honest, I think I could achieve closer to 4:30 assuming my training goes well and I keep a strong mindset during the race. My mind will give up well before my legs do!
I've worked out an arbitrary goal marathon pace of between 10:10-10:20/mi and have planned my training accordingly. This may be wildly optimistic - but if you don't try, you'll never know! I'll start off with this pacing and amend accordingly, if necessary.
Vamos! Vamos! Vamos!
See you in a few months, Valencia!