Day 84–The Long One Done–Eventually

The 24 mile run has been, for the past nine years or so, my longest pre-marathon training run. Back in Coventry I had a four lap loop of around six miles that I ran in alternate clockwise, anticlockwise directions. Sounds boring, but I liked it for some reason, not least of which because I was able to call home should anything untoward occur.

Last year I was with my brother for the 24 miler. Actually I should have completed the 24 mile run a week earlier over Easter in Boston, but a combination of injuries and a vicious headwind meant I could only muster 22 miles. A week later at my brother’s house and injuries still putting major doubts on my ability to run, we concocted a three pronged route of eight or so miles per on different out and back loops. Although I remember being able to pick the pace up a bit in the final miles, it was by no means the swiftest run I’ve ever done – taking three hours ten minutes to cover the 24.29 miles at an average pace of 7:49 per mile.

This year and the 24 mile run was scheduled for yesterday (Sunday), a week earlier than I would have liked, but work has dictated this is my last weekend I can guarantee fitting in a long run. As chance would have it my brother and his family was at my home this year, although he would not be running with me. And as it transpired, nor would I. The cold that came on late Friday, really kicked in after my short run on Saturday. The legs felt like jelly, the head like it was going to explode. I went through the motions of running as planned on the Sunday, forsaking the Indian meal for something more gastronomically more suitable for a long run, but by around 8pm I knew a run was very unlikely and tucked into a glass or three of champagne and other (nicer) varieties of sparkling wine.

Sunday was indeed a write-off. Heading out for a morning walk to the park with the kids in tow on a glorious spring day, I felt like I could run 2-3 miles max. I improved a little during the day, but ultimately felt comfortable, but frustrated, in my decision not to run.

Fortunately I had Monday as an alternate date for the 24 mile run. I woke a little groggy and stiff, but much better than I felt a day earlier. After a quick breakfast and some pfaffing I was ready to head out. A 24 mile run had been mapped out and I was heading out with the old faithful Garmin 305, the new 910XT stubbornly refusing to accept the course thanks to some continued issues with the Garmin Connect site.

Where yesterday was wall to wall blue skies and temperatures in the high teens, this morning was cloudy, with a cold breeze and temperatures struggling to reach double digits. Whilst this would make the run easier and more comfortable, it was again a bit frustrating as a warm weather run would have been good preparation should race day turn out to be a scorcher. Chilly and stiff, the first couple of miles were fairly torrid. I briefly wondered whether I should continue. Thankfully the legs improved a bit and I pushed on, the biggest limiter being the headwind I was running into for much of the first half of the run.

The biggest challenge in the opening half of the run was the hill on the approach to Hough on the Hill. The legs felt dreadful going up. As seems to happen though the agony of the climb appeared to kick start the body, as the next mile was the first to dip under seven minutes. After a long descent there was a string of flat to gently rolling miles I’ve not run on before which passed by fairly quickly, all run around or just under seven minutes per mile. I felt better than I did at the start of the run but not feeling fantastic. It was as though the body was going through the motions rather than actively engaging in the run. Apart from the general feeling of malaise, the only issue was a niggling left hip, the source of pain from which could be coming from any of the usual suspects – back, IT band, hamstrings quads etc..

At sixteen miles I joined a brief bridleway that led to a quiet lane which I ran back last October when I ran a breakthrough long run, in biblically wet conditions, at an average of under 6:40 per mile. I wasn’t running at that pace but at least I was feeling fairly comfortable and the dry conditions were far nicer than the torrential downpour I encountered that Saturday afternoon.

Not long after passing through Foston, I had the A1 to cross. This motorway in all but name is not the sort of road you want to put all your faith in weary legs that have covered 18 miles, but that’s what I had to do, as a safe gap in the traffic is hard to find. That hazard successfully tackled and it was back on with the run. By and large the run was 90% traffic free, a real boon of running in this area. On this road off the A1 I was passed by the largest motorhome I’ve ever seen, one so big it made the BMW X5 it was towing behind look like a Smart car. Thankfully there was nothing coming the other way so it was able to pass relatively safely.

These distractions were putting off the inevitable sting in this long run’s tail. At 21 miles, after crossing the A1 again – this time more comfortably thanks to a bridge – there was the small matter of Newark Hill to tackle. At three quarters of a mile long and averaging nearly six per cent it is something of a challenge in a car let alone running up it. I found a pace and stuck at it, thankfully this proved quite successful, except for some problems at the lower end of the left IT band which made my running stride feel quite unusual.

The hill tackled it was a couple of miles back to home. After the descent from Great Gonerby, which was nearly as painful on the quads as the ascent, I was pleased that the final mile, mostly flat, was the quickest mile of the run. It wasn’t blistering and nowhere near what I want to be running in the marathon, but it showed there was still some energy still in the body. When the run finished the inevitable coughing fit ensued, 24 miles taking its toll on lungs full of cold.

At 2h50min the run is hopefully somewhat longer in terms of time than I will run in just under five weeks time. Hopefully I will have better health and be free of the niggles in the left leg. As it is it was the second quickest 24 mile training run I’ve done, the 2010 edition was slightly quicker. Back then I was in half marathon PB shape and was in good health for the run. That today’s run was only marginally slower and I was only feeling around 60% should bode well.

Split Summary
1) 1m – 7:45(7:45/m) 128/136bpm 124cal
2) 1m – 7:34(7:34/m) 136/142bpm 124cal
3) 1m – 7:16(7:16/m) 143/151bpm 124cal
4) 1m – 7:15(7:15/m) 141/148bpm 124cal
5) 1m – 7:15(7:15/m) 142/149bpm 124cal
6) 1m – 7:18(7:18/m) 143/147bpm 121cal
7) 1m – 7:26(7:26/m) 147/161bpm 126cal
8) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 141/148bpm 123cal
9) 1m – 6:48(6:48/m) 137/141bpm 125cal
10) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 142/144bpm 123cal
11) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 141/145bpm 125cal
12) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 143/146bpm 124cal
13) 1m – 6:54(6:54/m) 142/147bpm 124cal
14) 1m – 7:01(7:01/m) 143/147bpm 124cal
15) 1m – 6:49(6:49/m) 141/147bpm 124cal
16) 1m – 6:55(6:55/m) 143/148bpm 126cal
17) 1m – 7:02(7:02/m) 141/145bpm 121cal
18) 1m – 7:00(7:00/m) 142/146bpm 124cal
19) 1m – 7:06(7:06/m) 143/151bpm 125cal
20) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 142/145bpm 124cal
21) 1m – 7:03(7:03/m) 145/150bpm 122cal
22) 1m – 7:19(7:19/m) 148/158bpm 123cal
23) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 147/157bpm 122cal
24) 1m – 6:38(6:38/m) 147/153bpm 124cal
25) 0.07m – 30(6:46/m) 151/152bpm 9cal