‘The annoying thing is I seem to feel a lot more tired now I’m doing less running. That happens quite a lot before a race. It doesn’t really make sense though, does it?’
‘It is the way it is.’
Eight weeks ago the most running I’d done in a week was 93 miles. Six of my last eight weeks of training have totaled over 100 miles, and in the fifteen days up to Monday I ran 238. How tired I’ve felt has varied massively and doesn’t always seem to correspond to when I’ve been training hardest. Every week there seems to be one steady run where I feel absolutely awful, and can barely persuade myself to stay out for half an hour. My coach says he found exactly the same thing and that ‘it was usually the case that there was no logical reason – which probably makes it worse!’ The positive side of this, however, is that for every run like this there have been several where I’ve felt fantastic when I really had no right to – the day after a twenty mile run, for instance. As the enigmatic answer to the question above suggests, there are a few things about serious distance running training that make no sense. Dropping down from 110 miles a week to 60, I expected to feel light-footed, like a weight had been taken off, full of running. Instead, I feel lethargic, like I’m having some sort of withdrawal symptoms from the training.
I started off my two weeks of 110 miles with back-to-back precedents, running my fastest 5,000m to date (14.48) the day before running my longest ever run of twenty miles. I’m pretty pleased with the 5,000m as it came at the end of a relatively big week of training and several weeks after deciding to focus on the half-marathon rather than on track races. I think perhaps that there are two kinds of runner; one who thrives on event-specific training and another who runs their best times off the back of marathon-type training who, in short, gets better the more running they do. It is a bit of a relief that this seems to have worked – running six weeks of 100 miles plus and getting slower would have been pretty disconcerting.
So, it seems that you can get used to running over 100 miles a week relatively quickly. The first week at 100 miles I felt pretty heavy a lot of the time, like I was accumulating tiredness in my legs that wouldn’t fade away without a couple of days rest. The second week I started to feel more normal again, and by the third I felt like I’d created a new normal, that I could cope with it. Then I had an easier week before starting to run 110 miles a week, which averages out at a slightly intimidating 15.7 miles per day. The same thing happened. I felt terrible for a few days and then gradually started to feel better. I texted my coach a week or so ago to let him know that I was feeling ‘pretty tired’ (a bit of an understatement at the time) and his response was to say that ‘the stress of heavy mileage makes you tired. But the body recovers remarkably quickly when the stress (workload) is reduced – then the stress is reimposed and the body should be a little better prepared – and so on!’ In theory, then, this ‘and so on!’ could go on for a while, as you gradually become accustomed to more and more running. No doubt I’ll have a chance to test this theory.
Increasing mileage follows a series of gradually rising oscillations, as you build up and then back off before building it up some more. On a daily basis, too, my energy levels have had a tendency to follow a series of peaks and troughs. The Kenyans call this process ‘building your aerobic house’. I was a bit worried that trying to race a few weeks ago would be running the risk of trying to live in the house before the roof was in place. It is definitely a process that requires patience. When I suggested to my coach that I thought I felt stronger as a result of the increased training he said that it would probably take six months before I would see real results. Hopefully the roof will at least be closer to completion by the time the Great North Run comes along in a couple of weeks, though.
The period of trying to run over 100 miles a week has coincided with my becoming slightly nomadic – I’ve lived with various people in three different parts of Edinburgh over the course of the last couple of months. This has meant that I’ve had a lot more varied running routes than I would normally have had, which has probably helped me to get all those miles in. I think the run around the Braids from Liberton, pictured above, is probably the best trail I’ve found.
Two weeks of 110 miles are below for anyone interested. Typing this it seems more exhausting than it actually was. Marginally. The one session I did on the track coincided with me feeling more tired than I’ve probably ever felt before. I ended up running the 3km rep at a slower pace than the 5 mile tempo run I did two days later, which goes to show how much your energy levels can change throughout the week. I’ve done the two laps of Arthur’s Seat session twice now. I run hard from the first roundabout (clockwise) to the pond at the top, then steady round the rest of the loop. A good session if you want to get used to running well both uphill and off the top of the hill (and in the wind. It’s Edinburgh):
Sunday: 16 miles including 7th in Scottish 5,000m championships (14.48)
Monday: 20 miles.
Tuesday: AM 8 miles PM 8 miles.
Wednesday: AM 7 miles PM 8 miles including 6 x 3 minutes hard.
Thursday: AM 7 miles PM 6 miles.
Friday: AM 10 miles including 2 laps of Arthur’s Seat running hard on the uphill section PM 6 miles steady.
Saturday: AM 7 miles PM 6 miles.
Sunday: AM 9 miles PM 6 miles.
Monday: 19 miles.
Tuesday: AM 8 miles PM 8 miles.
Wednesday AM 12 miles including 1k, 2k, 3k hard on track PM 4 miles.
Thursday: AM 9 miles PM 8 miles.
Friday: AM 6 miles steady PM 7 miles including 5 miles tempo.
Saturday: AM 7 miles PM 7 miles.