running blog

Clive Whaley

The Effort

Day 42 - Marathon Training - 15 miles 'easy'

"Victory isn't defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can say, 'I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,' you're a winner." (Wolfgang Schadler)*

To roll out a quote like that might seem a bit dramatic at this stage. I'm only 6 weeks into my programme and I ran 15 miles … so what! Well it felt like I had to put just about everything into it to finish. I could have made it shorter and I could have given up but I didn't.

I quite enjoyed the first half. Although I was running into quite a stiff easterly breeze, there was sunshine, there were deep blue skies and it was quite warm. I amused myself taking photos to try and convey just how huge and deserted the beach is between Burton and West Bexington. It is quite breathtaking, liberating, humbling, to have such an enormous stretch of nature to yourself. Maybe it was an especially low tide but I can't remember seeing such a wide vista of sand and shingle and I mildly chastised myself for not running along the actual beach more often. I don't come along this far east that often but when I do, I normally take the slightly more inland path which runs inside the reed beds.

That was another thing I noticed today, the reed beds - they just looked spectacular - randomly swishing and waving in the late afternoon sun.

So all was looking good until I turned and made my way home. It could have been even better, with the wind behind me now and the setting sun painting glorious patterns in the sky ahead of me. But within a mile or two of the return journey I started to feel tired - very tired. My back was stiff and I could feel worrying twinges in it down one side (nothing new there). I had started the day thinking I would not be able to run at all because of my bloody useless back but it freed up during the day and I had decided to risk it - the weather was just too good to ignore.

However, a general exhaustion took over me and it was my legs, rather than my back, that started to fail. When you are running, your legs are quite important (school of the bleeding obvious alert) so when they are protesting over every stride, it becomes difficult - mentally and physically. It was like they were saying "Don't lift me, don't lift me" on every step. It felt like any ounce of strength and flexility in them had gone. I think it was my hip flexors that were mainly to blame - the muscle area at the front of the leg between your hip and your thigh. They were saying "No" but my mind was forcing them to keep going.

It's a feeling that will be recognised by anyone who has taken part in any sort of endurance running event - where you have run past your 'normal' energy reserves. It is remarkable that many of us continue on, sometimes for many miles, past the point when the body has told us to stop. For me today, there was really only about 2 or 3 miles past the place called 'sensible'. But somewhere along the line, it is this experience and this mental ability that months later gets us to the finish line. Every bit of effort counts in the end.
And it was a beautiful winter's day. And the sky was leading me home.

* By the way, the quote comes from a fella who was an Olympic athlete who competed in Luge for Lichenstein. So similar to my own experience …