I haven’t been out for my long run today. It was such a lovely day too; unseasonably warm thanks to Hurricane Ophelia and little wind and no rain in spite of Hurricane Ophelia and still I didn’t go out for my long run. I do have an excuse though. Sort of. My right Achilles is a little twangy after my parkrun yesterday. I felt a wee stabby pain in the side of my foot on my cool down and the aforementioned twang started as I walked back to my car. I’d planned a run along the Roman Road this afternoon but decided to rest again because it just didn’t feel right but now I think it was an excuse to park my arse on the sofa and fart around Doing Things With Excel as I processed the results from this morning’s Cambourne 5k.
I think all athletes have excuses for when things go wrong. It’s usually best to be honest and own up to cock-ups. A period of self-reflection after a race or a training session is always a good thing and helps make the next one go better if you make the necessary changes. That is all well and good and worthy and necessary but it’s not very funny. (Nor is this, but I’m doing my best.) So with that in mind and because I feel the need here are the Top Five from Richard’s Big Book of Excuses.
In at Number 5 – The Wrong Kind of Weather.
You’ve trained for cool conditions and suddenly it’s twenty-five degrees centigrade. The sun is bouncing off the pavements just like the rain isn’t and the bastard spectators have all gone to have ice cream for breakfast. That black plastic bag you brought with you for warmth is mocking you. You want to put the fucking thing down but it keeps sticking to your hand. It. Won’t. Come. Off.
Or it’s pissing it down with rain and you have your favourite racing flats on, the really light ones with no tread whatsoever and the concrete surface you’re running on means that you’re suddenly Bambi on the iced-over pond. You want to run through the corners but you end up looking like Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served? on a boys’ night out with Dick Emery and Larry Grayson: more mince than is seen anywhere outside of a butcher’s slab.
Which brings us somewhat tangentially to Number 4: I Really Needed My Trail Shoes.
Following on from the wrong sort of weather is the wrong sort of surface. You find out just after you arrive to register that it’s rained all night and that hard-packed trail you reccied last month now has the consistency, colour and smell of nervous cow poo. Your trail shoes are at home, still drying out because you fell off the river trail and into the actual river a couple of days ago.
Or you misread the race instructions, skipping over the bit about the bog at 11 miles into Race The Train and end up leaving both shoes in said bog. I did this and the marshal wanted to know why I went back for my shoes instead of just going on. They were my fucking shoes! I liked them. I wanted them and I needed them to run the last three miles of the race. I realise that marshals are volunteers and do great things from the goodness of their hearts but sometimes you just want to give someone a good hard nipple grip.
Number 3 is of course The Wheels Fell Off.
This is usually down to neglecting the Six Pees. Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Actually none of the the excuses would be necessary if we paid closer attention to the Six Pees.
So you’re cruising along on a 10k at what feels like a strong but maintainable pace. Up comes a hill and everyone just runs away from you. Everyone. You’re left breathless and buggered by the scenery, retching into the gutter and begging passing strangers for a jelly baby. “Please give me a jelly baby. I just need one miserable sugar hit to get going again.” You have nothing left to give. You have emptied the tank too quickly, over-estimating your fitness and under-estimating the conditions. You feel miserable. You will never run again. You will go back to that bog in Wales and throw all your shoes into it. Of course, you are a complete drama queen.
Number 2: I Just Didn’t Get Enough Long Runs In
The excuse primarily of the lazy-arsed marathon runner who finds himself walking with seventeen miles still to go. Long runs are long. They are time-consuming. There are lots of things you would much rather do that may or may not involve alcohol, cake, sex, bragging on social media, cats, sofas or other soft furnishings, books, illuminated manuscripts, work (but only very occasionally), sex (again – how manly!), more alcohol, poor weather (see the above), twinges from assorted limbs and The Bad Back, and finally, rampant and terminal hypochondria. All of these get in the way of going for a long run so you can get to the start of a marathon having done quite a lot of fuck all and fretting but no actual running for more than about 90 minutes at all. That’s fine if you’ve done lots of marathons but the sort of person who needs this excuse hasn’t done lots of marathons. He’s made an awful lot of excuses.
The biggest and best excuse is Number 1: Injury And Illness Ruined My Life.
It’s entire possible to be both undertrained and over-injured. I am living, aching proof. In the last month I’ve had a week off because of man flu and the return of the twangy Achilles which plagued the start of my 2017 training. I’ve been as careful as possible about my training since March. I haven’t done too much, too quickly or too soon and I still ran a 90% effort at parkrun yesterday after a 32% warm up so now my Achilles tendons feel like one of John Cage’s prepared pianos.
On which happy note, I think I’ll leave you.
In spite of all of this, tomorrow is another day, the start of another week and maybe I’ll get through them all with no further recourse to the Big Book of Excuses. I doubt it though.