The Christmas break is well and truly over, the decorations all packed up till next year and the crumbs of the last mince pies long cleared away. Like most other runners at this time of year, I am throwing myself back into my training, rested, with renewed determination and free from all other distractions! Right?
Philip, our first baby, made his appearance on Christmas day and the following two and a half weeks have been a maelstrom of excitement, nappy changing, cuddles, sleeping (Philip, during the day), partying (Philip, at night), breastfeeding (Demi & Philip, around the clock), stupid smiles (the happy parents) and bleary eyes (idem)!
Fortunately Demi’s mother is still staying with us to help, so I have deferred my paternity leave for the first week after she flies back to Greece. But this means that I have to fit work and training around our new routine – which isn’t even a routine yet, just a confusion of sleep-deprived activity, hoping for the best!
But I am determined: I know from past, bitter, experience how easy it is to be relaxed with your training for a Spring marathon around January, thinking you have loads of time ahead, only to find out that things have quickly gone pear-shaped and you are in constant “catch up and adjust” mode! So I made a point of going out for every workout last week and this, regardless of how tired I felt or whether I had slept the night before or not. The only hiccup was the weekend, when a trip to Heathrow on Saturday and having to hang around waiting for an emergency repair person who never turned up on the Sunday, messed with my training a bit; but this has left me even keener to nail every workout, every time!
To keep up with my mid-week training on a 2 to 4 hour sleep and a full working day I’ve found I need to take every opportunity to get as much sleep as I can, even if this means having a 30 minute kip when I get home from work before I can get up and hit the streets. It’s not easy, curling up in a warm bed for a snooze that you feel should last at least 24h to have any effect, only to get up 30 minutes later and head out for a cold, dark run on a January evening!
At least once I’m out I find I am fully awake and alert, can concentrate on whatever run or other workout my plan dictates and return home surprised at how well it went. On Tuesday nights for example, I go for a relaxed run from Cosby to Narborough and back. I had been thinking of my post-work nap all day however, and as soon as got home I had a short chat with Demi, kissed the sleeping Philip and headed straight to bed for a long needed sleep top-up: getting up half an hour later was extremely hard, and it took a lot of determination to get kitted up and get out for my run.
Still, once I was out of the warm car and running in the night, everything felt fine. I loved the idea of it being a short relaxed run, not because I didn’t have to push myself, but because it made me realise that all that this run wanted from me was to just turn up: Get out of the door, turn up at the starting point of your route and start a gentle, effortless run. Everything else will just happen. And I realised that those comfortable, short (5m / 8km) runs had become like a reliable, non-judgemental friend you can be relaxed around: Just find the time for them, turn up and everything will flow naturally! Sure, I love the exhilaration of sprint reps, I take pride in the sense of accomplishment after hills or tempo runs and I am in awe of the great journey (in space but also within oneself) that is a really long run. But these relaxed runs are what keep us grounded, the counter-balance to the emotions and efforts of the harder runs and what reminds us that we run – primarily – because we love to!
How wrong I was in my training for previous marathons to look down on such friends and sacrifice them as soon as my schedule got a bit pressed!