Monday, 28 August 2017

You can't win 'em all

Four years ago when I first started doing parkrun I got a PB every week.
Sometimes I scraped a few seconds, sometimes minutes.
Every week I got better and better.

And then, of course, it stopped.

It took 14 weeks for me to get another.
And, of course, it sucked. After weeks of progressively working hard and getting better and better, it's a bitter pill to swallow when you finally plateau.

It was the same with my 10K times. Once I hit under an hour, my goal for the first two years I was running, the PBs came and then went.

And now it's happening with the half marathon too.

I have a race in 7 weeks, my fifth half marathon.
A year ago I ran my first sub-2 hour half marathon at the same race, and it was hands down one of the greatest achievements of my life, up there with my first marathon.

When I ran my fourth half marathon back in May, I didn't care about a PB, but I wanted another sub-2 hour. A much more challenging race, I scraped it, just, with seconds to spare before the 2 hour mark.

So I decided in order to hit my goal of a half marathon PB this year, I'd set my sights to my October race.

Training didn't get off to a great start.
I found myself with a knee injury back in June, hobbling to the finish of a free 5K fun run, and, eager not to lose time in my training, probably launched back into running again too quickly.
The injury plagues me again now as soon as I get past 6 or 7 miles.
Last week I struggled through 10 miles, at an agonisingly slow pace, and gave myself a few days off to recover the strength.

And now I find myself with a chest infection.
The training I was looking forward to throwing myself back into is off the cards for another few days, and although I've only done a fitness class and a parkrun this weekend, the knee pain is back.

The dream of a PB is out of the window, and following close behind is my sub-2 hour goal.

I've never run a 5K over 30 minutes since I hit the goal two years ago, and I've never run a 10K over 60 minutes since I hit that goal either. Even when I've been far from a PB, I've stayed comfortably under that time.

Running a half marathon over 2 hours feels like backsliding. Even though I know I've been injured, I know I've been ill, it feels devastating to not hit that goal again after achieving it, admittedly not comfortably, twice.

I'm starting to dread the race. Worrying about my knee, worrying about my knee during training, worrying about how upset I'll be with whatever over 2 hour time I get.

And I know that's ridiculous. I know I'm being way too hard on myself, but I can't help it.

I feel like I'm letting myself down, with "half marathon PB" firmly on my goals for 2017.

But I know this just isn't my race. This isn't my time. And I know I need to learn that lesson and be okay with it. I need to run over 2 hours and accept it, and know that there will be hundreds of other races in my future where I'll achieve that goal.

I've been so so lucky with injuries. In four years of running I've only ever had minor setbacks, and even those haven't affected me on the day of a big race. Honestly, I'm overdue.

I know it's not going to happen this time. To get sub 2 hours I have to be full fitness, and I know with a chest infection I am not going to be smashing tempo runs and racing intervals like I need to. My body needs a break and it's done some amazing work for me over the years, I need to give it that rest.

In 2015, when I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon, my second half marathon, I smiled the whole time. I'd run my previous half in 3 hours 2, and after months of training I knew I'd be taking at least half an hour off my time. It was my favourite race I've ever run.

My last two half marathons have been run with obsessive Garmin-watching, focused splits and the pressure of a 2 hour pacer right behind me. I know I'm not fit enough for sub 2 hours, so should I even try? Or should I focus on getting rid of this infection, not pushing my knee too much and finishing slower but with a smile on my face?

One of the reasons I decided to run more than one half marathon this year was so the pressure didn't get to me so much, so I didn't have a whole year riding on one race, but it's obviously not worked. So maybe next year the answer is multiple half marathons, four, maybe even five. So each one is a lesson. So the ones that are under sub 2 hours mean something, so that I can appreciate that achievement again.

I have worked hard but some things just aren't meant to be, and I think in this case I need to just accept it. I worked so hard for not one but two sub-2 hour halves, and maybe this is the race where I remember why I love to run. Not for the time, but to finish with a smile on my face.

Charlotte x

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