Winging it

The London Marathon (2014 edition) is now only three days away, or two days and three nights if you prefer pedantry, and I will be at the lining up at the start.

I’d be lying if I said I felt ready for it. Since the Berkhamsted Half, my running has been hit and miss and aside from 15 miles across two runs in one day, I spectacularly failed to manage a long run of any distance at all. Between work and personal life building up, training has fallen by the way side. Mentally my focus has been elsewhere and even as recently as Monday, after an otherwise enjoyable run left me in copious amounts of pain, I was considering deferring until next year.

I’m not deferring though – instead I’m going to rely on that good old, tried and trusted technique known as “winging it”! You see, injuries and niggles aside, I’m not in terrible state of fitness right now and while I may not have managed any long runs of sorts (15 miles over 2 runs in 1 day is my max – but they were hard runs!), I’m doing okay. I just hurt. Anyway, I think I’ve winged most races I’ve entered: my first 9 mile endurance race I did without any training (although I was only 9 years old at the time); the first time I ran 15 miles I did it without any specific training (but I had a season of rugby behind me); my first half marathon I did with only two weeks notice and while I did spend 12 weeks training for my first ultra, I spent at least a quarter of that time not running because of injury and the rest wondering what the hell I was thinking!

The marathon is different though, especially the London Marathon. If your social media input is full of running associated streams, like mine, then there is a constant barrage of marathon running hints, tips, advice, plans and guides, most of which, I feel, is solely designed to make you feel that whatever training your doing, it’s the wrong sort of training. Then there’s the constant comparison between your training and other peoples training and whether or not you’re doing as much mileage as Jimmy Duckbum from the club in the next town. I haven’t even told many people I’m running on Sunday because invariably the first thing they say is “Oh, that’s good. What sort of time are you going to do it in?” It’s difficult to ignore everything out there and the advice that the right training you need to do for the race is the right training for you to do for the race gets lost in the white noise of everybody else’s opinion.

Then again, I’m not ready: mentally I’ve had such little focus on the marathon that I have found myself instead sitting at my desk looking at the route map for a race later in the year rather than thinking about the marathon. And physically? Well let’s just say that I’d like to run without pain at some point this year. Injury is currently my biggest concern. After three months without pain, the calf I strained in December has started playing up hurt solidly for 6 miles out of a 7 mile run this week. The tightness in my other calf is still aggravating my knee. While I know that the muscles are strong, they are still tight and nothing I do seems to mitigate that noticeably.

So why am I still doing it and not deferring it? Well, for a start, I don’t know if I’ll want to training for it again next year. Secondly, because a couple of good friends have told me how much they really would love to run London and I can’t help but feel a little guilty at having a place in what is for many people a major bucket-list race and not feel excited by it. And thirdly, because why not just wing it?

So yes, I will be lining up on Sunday morning and I will be winging it.

  • I have no target time – well, actually that’s a little bit of a lie. I had a target time, based on what I theoretically should be able to achieve, but that’s gone out the window so now it’s going to be whatever I finish it in. Hopefully something under six and a half hours (as that’s the time I reckon it would take me to walk the course).
  • I have no pacing strategy – I may not even wear my Garmin and just run by feel. The run I did earlier on this week was Garmin free and it was bliss.
  • I have no nutrition strategy – I haven’t trained with gels, drink or anything. I may take some jelly babies but otherwise will be relying on what is provided on the course or handed out by generous spectators.
  • I have a mood strategy – I want to enjoy the race as best I can, to appreciate the atmosphere, admire the sights and resist the urge to stop for a cheeky pint or two along the way because, well, have you seen the price of a pint in London?
  • I have a finishing strategy – run, walk or crawl. Or, hobble if I have to.

That’s my “Winging It” manifesto of sorts and this is my final statement of intent:
barring absolute calamity, I will complete the London Marathon on Sunday.