It’s Always the Last Mile

I had a lovely run today, 13 miles of it. Well, it was lovely for the first 10 miles, quite hard for the the next two and just woeful for the final mile. It’s always like that for me on training runs. Today’s was special for me for two reasons: it was my first longish run for a while and I completed it with my friend JuliaD, who made sure I got to the end of it just when I was dying on my arse. For those of you who don’t know, Julia and I started our running career in the same running group two years ago and she’s the real source of a lot of my supposed thoughtful comments on running and life.

We set off at what felt like a very easy pace but was actually well under 5:45 per km. Julia was planning 33km so I thought that would be a bit quick for her. I was only planning to do about 12 or 13 miles so I thought the pace was fine for me. Julia and I were jogging along, step-for-step. I was trying to put Helen’s advice on efficient running into practice and it seemed to work, for the most part. I was concentrating on keeping my stride short, my cadence up, allowing my shoulders to counter-rotate and my legs to swing from the outside of my hips. My feet – not yet in my new inov8 shoes – were relaxing into the surface of the road and I was allowing them to feed energy back into the next stride. The entire concept of free energy is intriguing.

We paused after 50 minutes to take on a gel and some water. I had shot blocks with me but I forgot about them. I turn into such a burpy man for a few minutes after I’ve had a gel. I like the Gu ones but I find even they become unpalatable after 20 miles. It’s one of the reasons I tend to do my long runs on my own: I’d rather not inflict the product of my gastric tract on my friends. I like them too much.

We got to a foot tunnel under the A14 at about 10 miles which was flooded following yesterday’s thunderstorm. The thunderstorm was a stonker. Anne and I were shopping in Tesco when it hit. We waited for a few minutes but it showed not the least sign of abating. I decided to make a run for the car and bring it round to collect Anne. Now, I’m not the world’s best sprinter but running through the torrents was an intense experience. I felt as if I was flying, my feet only just kissing the ground, my knees lifting high and my heels coming as far up behind me as ever they have done. I covered less than a 100m and it was only a fleeting few seconds but they were some of the best seconds of my life.

Swings and roundabouts…

The roundabout to yesterday’s swinging time was that flooded foot tunnel under the main road. We couldn’t cross the A14. It would have been suicidal. We tried to find another way through the hotel but only found a succession of dead ends. Finally, we just got on with it and splashed through the ankle-deep water in the tunnel. It was a bit squelchy for a couple of hundred metres but the cold water soon drained away and our feet soon warmed the cold water still soaking our socks. We settled into the same rhythm again quite quickly but I was beginning to tire. I was trying to keep my steps light and quick and managed until the final mile when my form went completely. I was just clinging on by then. Julia got me home in the end but she effortlessly breezed away from me in the last 400m.

It’s always the last mile which gets me. I know that’s an obvious thing. I wouldn’t be much of an endurance runner if I died in the first mile. I always want to finish strongly but I think that today I was just too quick earlier in the run. I was carried away running with my friend. I just wanted to keep up and blew up instead. Next time, I’ll make sure the last mile isn’t a complete disaster.

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