What an incredible journey it has been over the past 2 months since completing the Penang Bridge International Marathon (Half Marathon Distance).
After finding out that I had secured a gold bond charity place for the Virgin London Marathon being held on 24th April 2016, I decided that I wanted to make it an extra special event by deciding to run both the London event and the Borneo International Marathon which takes place exactly a week later on the 1st May. (I think it’s the masochistic side of me…)
Up to the point of training for Penang, I had only ever trained for Half Marathons, so I knew that the training schedule certainly had to be up-scaled for this mammoth of a challenge.
Seeking advice from a good running buddy of mine, I took on-board the BUPA Marathon training plan that started almost immediately after the Penang event. No sooner were my running shoes drying out and I was set to hit pavement again.
The plan is far stricter than what I had been used to, being a solid 6 day training week culminating in a long-run on a Sunday and well-needed rest day on the following Monday. The plan also incorporates solid nutrition, which is something that to be fair I hadn’t thought about properly before now.
As I sit writing this in my cubbyhole at the end of Week 8, I can certainly feel the difference that this first 2 months have made to both my stamina and my cardiovascular fitness in preparation for what is to come.
Each week has had me working-out in a variety of scenarios which have included a broad spectrum of both road running, treadmill running in the gym, cross training and that ever-increasing Sunday long-run.
Looking back at the start of this first 8 weeks now, especially at the long run, makes me smile. Back then in week 1, the long run was just 10km whereas I sit here having completed week 8’s long run of 25km…. and the mileage increases.
Whilst many experts from the running arena disagree on a number of issues, the overriding consensus is that when training for such a powerhouse of an event like a marathon, “slow and steady increments of mileage or distance are the best way to build your stamina and avoid injury”.
Therefore I have taken this advice on board, making sure that even if I feel I could run an extra 5-6km, I have planned the run so I’m going to run the plan.
Whilst I have mashed the actual days up at times over the past 8 weeks, traditionally for me Friday morning has been the cross training day. At this juncture I must make a special mention of thanks to the Shangri-la Resort at Tanjung Aru who very kindly donated their gym equipment for this segment. They really do have a fine gym, as to be expected from a 5 star hotel I guess, and I have been super-spoilt for choice as far as machine workouts are concerned.
The cross training days have traditionally been a 2 hour workout consisting of 30 minute burnouts on the Summit trainer, Elliptical machine, Concept 2 Rower and Spinning Bicycle.
Each workout, regardless of its type is then concluded with a full 35 minute muscle stretch, another theory which is well supported to avoid injury and muscle damage.
Life is a big balancing game. It’s hard to juggle a home life, running 2 very busy website businesses, transcription services and 2 little bundles of joy, (one of whom is very challenging non-verbal autistic) at the best of times. Add a full marathon training plan into the mix and it makes for a very busy schedule indeed.
I know that I’m not alone here… in fact just today I was reading a report from a fellow London Marathon runner who is having difficulty with this juggling of commitments. It is times like this where we often question what we are doing and the fact that we must be crazy to put such pressure on ourselves. It is then that we are reminded that amazing saying, “when you feel like quitting, think about why you started.”
Thankfully for me, I have the support of an incredible immediate and extended family, effectively allowing me as much time as required to effectively get the job done. My incredibly understanding wife Carol, although not a runner herself always asks how the training is going and remains as solid a rock of support as she always has. I truly am blessed.
When a training run goes well (like this morning) I feel like I am floating on air. Each step feels light and agile through the entire 25km and I feel is if I could just plough on and on and on without hesitation. My heart rate is solid, my head is held high, stride is strong and the Camelbak is providing me with a good amount of hydration, whilst my “in-run” banana intake has provided me with those all important carbs. In general, I could take on the world.
But then there are days where it just all feels crap. Heart rate is all over the place and each km feels like a marathon in itself. These are days where despite all efforts you just cant get into a rhythm. Couple this with maybe some fatigue from a bad nights sleep or a niggling knee injury and it’s just never going to work.
Just like life we have to battle through those bad days, give ourselves a kick up the butt and just chalk it down to, “I’ve had better days.”
As the mileage has increased over the past few weeks, so have the little niggles. Just in the same way you find the little blemishes in a second-hand car when you buy it or move into a new house, the same goes for distance running too.
You get to know where you commonly get a blister and you apply a plaster ahead of time. Then you get another one, so you cover that too the next time, then you get another one… you get the picture.
Due to the fact that I wear an all piece X2U suit when running which has no sleeves (it’s real hot in Borneo) I found rash marks appear on my arms too where the edge of the hydration pack meets flesh – so on go more preventative plasters! Then there’s the total godsend that is KT tape. Without giving them too much of a plug, if you suffer from the off annoying knee twinge or shin niggle, check out their website for how this miracle elasticated tape can keep you running at you full potential even if your body says, “noooooo….” At the very beginning of a run. It’s great stuff.
Finally, what runners kit wouldn’t be complete without a deep heat gel (my choice being Peskindol) before that start of a long run and a cooling deep freeze gel for the recovery and rest section afterwards. I think I will buy shares in Guardian and Watson’s pharmacies soon!
Unlike my British counterparts who are training for the same event back in the freezing cold and driving rain of the UK, here in the tropics us runners face different weather challenges.
Often in Borneo, the sun begins to beat down as early as 0630 in the morning in an often cloudless sky, with temperatures exceeding 32-33 degree’s very quickly. Therefore we all tend to run in the early hours of the morning, (this mornings run for me began at 0220hrs!)
The things you see running through the street at this time of the morning are often strange and sometime your mind even plays tricks on you. Like this morning, I almost ran over what appeared to be a large black snake upon first sight. Gasping in shock I jumped out of the way and upon second glance realised it was just a piece of broken car bumper!
I am blessed here in the fact that Borneo is an incredibly safe place to run in the early hours of the morning. Taxi drivers will toot their horns and wave as will the local police and even the skater boys along the Kota Kinabalu promenade will shout, “Morning Orang-Putih Gila.” (Translated to “Crazy White Man!”)
However, the funniest thing that has happened to me on an early morning run is being chased by a monkey. Just the other morning I was running up Signal Hill Observatory from the town area. It is an incredibly steep hill climb with a total elevation of over 170metres, so makes for solid training ground and is blessed with an incredible view of the entire down-town area.
Anyway, as I reached the top of the hill with my heart rate having just reached breaking point, I began the exhilarating sprint to the bottom. Feeling like it was time for carbs, I reached into the back of the Camelbak for my back-up banana and began to peel it as I was running.
A few moments later, despite my breakneck speed I became aware of something behind me, thinking it was a dog I turned and could not believe my eyes. Scampering behind me was a macaque monkey who must have got a whiff of the banana and was determined to get it from me. Boy he was quick too but I was quicker … just. Yes, this old man nearly got outrun by a monkey!
So as this 2 months of training comes to an end, the next 2 months begin after my rest day tomorrow. Over the next 8 weeks I have got 2 major long runs of 30 and 35km to look forward to as well as a running visit to both Kuala Lumpur and my adopted hometown of Tawau where there are some great hill-runs to explore.
Don’t forget, if you are yet to make a donation to the 2 Marathon, 2 Continent, 7 Day Challenge, you can do so by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Until next time, ciao xxx