running blog

Clive Whaley


Happy Valley

Day 49 - Marathon Training - 17 miles steady

It was a trip down memory lane today. I completed 17 miles running through the beautiful, and mostly deserted, Bride Valley. I used to live here and most of my runs, when I first moved to West Dorset, were completed along these relatively wide rural lanes.

The main reason for choosing this route was to get some miles in on the road, without having to jump out of the way of traffic and without having to climb ridiculously steep hills. There are hills in the Bride Valley but they are fairly modest and rolling and … well, you can forgive them and accept them when you are running in such glorious surroundings. Not only that, but it was unseasonably warm for late February (about 14C) and the sun shone for most of the time. I wore only a single layer on top and donned my shorts for the first time in 2017!

The whole day and the whole surroundings were doing a cheeky imitation of spring - from the sparkling, babbling streams by the village roadsides, to the snowdrops on the verge. I guess I was running so fast I was causing the space/time continuum to warp and the whole valley had leapt a month or more into the future. The little streams which tumble along the roadside in most of the villages in the valley are a real treat - you could call it a 'streamlined valley' and I tried to capture them on camera with my dynamic shape racing along. It's an interesting training concept - matching your running pace to a village stream.

Slap Slap Slap - Squish Squish Squish - Slap Squish, Slap Squish, - Slap Slap Slap. The sound of my new running shoes on the valley roads was accompanied by the sound of my backpack full of water. At times it provided a comforting rhythm, at others it was driving me mad but for the most part I forgot about it. Mind you, I did need the water today because it was pretty warm. I only wear the 'bladder' on my back on longer runs (more than 90 mins) and/or when it is fairly hot. It was sensible to take it today, despite the annoying sound effects - and my training plan specifically stated "practice your fuelling and hydration strategies". I hadn't thought about the little valley streams - maybe I could have just cupped my hands and gulped down water from the roadside?

Much like last Monday's 'long run' I felt really light and strong in the first half (or say up to about 10 miles) and then significantly weaker in the leg department towards the end. This time the hamstrings were complaining. The back of the legs were competing for attention with the tiredness in the front. If there was just ONE thing that would make me a better runner I am sure a 'hamstring transplant' would be it. And if I couldn't get them both done, I'd settle for having the one done at the back of my right leg. It's ALWAYS stiff and inflexible and noticeably more so than my left. Can anyone explain that? I do try stretching them out after most runs and I give more attention to the right than the left in a vain attempt to balance them out a bit. I think it is the curse of the runner, and especially middle aged male runners, to have tight hamstrings.

Maybe after the London Marathon I will take up 'extreme yoga' and develop the ability to leap out of bed in the morning and touch my toes with my nose, whilst keeping my legs straight. This also opens up possibilities of a new job in a travelling circus and freak show as 'the amazing rubber man'. One thing at a time. In the meantime I will settle for a training programme that allows me to have a beautiful Dorset Valley to myself on a day when it starts to wake from winter.

My mantra: I take only photographs and leave behind just the faintest Slap and Squish.

Back Breaking

Marathon Training Day 15 - 35 mins easy

It's great to be able to say that for the last 2 mornings in a row I have got up early and been running by 7.30 am or thereabouts. That is an achievement for me and a significant step towards conquering my psychological struggles to get out of bed. But what has really plagued me both mornings is a really stiff and uncomfortable back. It feels like I've got a huge solid plank - like a railway sleeper - shoved down the back of my running shirt. It eases up a bit by the end of the run but it's still a bit worrying.

It never helps when I go for a run first thing, because my aging body needs a bit of time to free up during the day but I think (and I'm hoping this is the case) it is mainly a result of the Gym work I've been doing. It was at it's worst on Monday morning and I had done my latest weekly strength session in the Gym the day before. I do these things called 'Russian Twists'. Although it sounds like it could be part of a plan to influence the US Presidential Elections, it is in fact an exercise done sitting on a mat with a medicine ball. You swish it from one side to the other whilst trying to stay balanced on your bum with your legs in the air … err … more Trump analogies are coming to me … Actually I don't think this exercise was the main culprit, it was probably the 'Plank' that had more effect - the one where you lie face down but propped up on your forearms and your toes, keeping your back and the whole of your core relatively straight. After 30 seconds of this my whole body starts shaking uncontrollably and the name says it all - the next day it turns my back into one hell of a plank.

It is early days for all of this stuff and I am hoping that my body will adjust and eventually benefit from these new punishments. Two early morning runs with an uncomfortable back at this stage in my training plan and only a day or two after new gym exercises is probably predictable. I really do hope that this sort of discomfort will fade and be replaced with a new spring in my step and a much more fluid and flexible body. I'm talking in 'relative' terms here - I don't think I'm ever going to be VERY fluid and flexible but just more so than I am now.