So after a glorious summer at the beginning of October 2017 it was time to start thinking about goals for the winter racing season as well as longer term aspirations and forming a plan for how I’ll make those aspirations an actual reality.
Having had a solid winter’s training last year and setting personal bests over the summer I decided I wanted a repeat dose of the same and run some fast times on the track in summer 2018. To this end I had a reasonably good idea of what I wanted out the winter. Run a reasonable amount of miles each week, ensure there were some speed sessions each week, do some hill reps and avoid injury like the plague. Simple really.
I didn’t have any particular racing targets for the last 3 months of 2017. There were no planned races against the clock at a particular distance (I’d done plenty of that over the summer so mentally didn’t want the stress which that can entail). So essentially I would do some cross country races for my club Herne Hill Harriers. Bigger targets existed for early 2018 where I wanted to put my hat in the ring at the County Championships to earn one of the 9 spots available on the Warwickshire County Cross Country team for the UK intercounties competition in Loughborough in March. In addition I also wanted to run a 74 minute or quicker half marathon as this would mean I could enter the London Marathon in a future year and could start at the front of the race without the need to enter ballots, get a charity place etc.
To achieve the above I knew I needed to put in many consistent weeks of back to back training. So from the end of September over a 14 week period I put in the following weekly mileages:
52, 58, 50, 53, 40, 51, 54, 48, 58, 47, 48, 49, 57, 31, 41 miles. Over an essentially 3-month period I averaged 49 miles. This is probably at least 6 to 11 miles less a week than I’d originally hoped for.
There were 2 reasons for not getting as much running in as I’d hoped. One was free time. I concurrently alongside my fulltime job am undertaking a part time Master’s degree which takes up a lot of my free time. Weekends in particular have been taken up preparing for some tough exams leaving not a lot of time for training. In addition to this mentally I really struggled to get out the door at times over the winter due to the cold and miserable weather. This may seem ironic as I spent 4 years of my life living in Poland where the winters are infinitely colder but hey. The stress at trying to prepare myself for exams in a topic area I found challenging affected my sleep as well and naturally I had less energy available for training.
The summer of 2017 was the first time I really dropped my weekly mileage in a while as I focused completely on top end middle distance speed for summer races. This meant that come October 2017 for the first cross country league match of the winter my body was totally unaccustomed to running hard for 5 miles on a tough challenging hilly surface. The first Surrey League match at Reigate was a complete shock to the system with my legs feeling dead from 500m into the race. Talking after the race with an experienced seasoned middle distance track athlete I was told this was completely normal and that I probably wouldn’t start feeling race fit till end of November – words which I found out were true. Racing over this 3 month period proved to be pretty average. There was no race that really stood out as particularly good. However one very enjoyable race proved to be the South of Thames 5 miles Cross Country Championships. I finished in 21st place which was a marked improvement and averaged 5.38/mile. This was a nice boost as I felt I was able to tap into my middle distance speed to enable me to finish considerably higher up the field than usual. Horses for courses they say and that course proved to be suitable to this horse.
I probably raced less than I would have liked but I really had to focus on the studying at weekends to ensure I finished my course. Getting out for runs in the cold was a challenge as my motivation ebbed a little but I’m glad I got out enough to ensure my fitness remained at a reasonable level. Before Christmas I took part in my annual pre-Christmas tradition of the South of Thames 7.5 miles Cross Country Championships. As a team we came 4th so a medal was not meant to be. Over the Christmas period I managed to successfully get sick. This happened last Christmas as well so I do hope it’s a trend I won’t maintain going forward. I’d picked up a stomach bug and had a 3 week never ending cold which hampered training at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.