How I adapted my training plan to keep running when the races stopped
Sometimes we need a little challenge to keep us running.
As Coronavirus bludgeons all hope of organised races, motivation can be hard to come by. Our training plans are suddenly redundant. Deliberate distance is replaced with arbitrary miles.
How do you create a schedule under such circumstances? What informs how far we run? Should we focus on pace or endurance? Does anyone know what waits at the end of your training plan? Is there even an end to your training plan?
For those who race often, this is a cause of much frustration. If, like me, you only manage a handful of races each year, it’s still difficult to deal with. I mean, how do we accumulate new medals if we can’t race?
I haven’t lost all perspective. These are small, first world problems. I get that. But, in times like these, even the slightest issues are easily blown out of proportion.
I set myself some targets this year: to run more miles and do more parkruns than last year.
It started well. Throughout January I trained for the Worthing Half Marathon, scheduled for early February. I put the miles in and still managed plenty of parkruns. Unfortunately, Storm Ciara had other ideas and the race was postponed.
Little did we know how many other races would go the same way. Although, for a very different reason.
I previously listed the races affected by Coronavirus. Back then, with my optimist hat sat jauntily on my head, it seemed possible that we’d be racing again by May. June at the latest.
I seem to have misplaced that hat recently. Now a pragmatic realist cap vies for headspace with the hooded cloak of pessimism.
As February trundled on, more storms arrived, making coastal running a blustery nightmare. My legs and I agreed that they needed a rest. In the end, I managed a meagre 22 miles for the month. I should have done over half that in a single day, had the weather not got involved.
Then, as Coronavirus sank infectious talons into the nation, I began training for the Lancing College 10k. It excited me to try it. So much so that I naively believed it might go ahead. The jaunty hat was back.
The Lancing College 10k was scheduled for 24th May. You don’t need me to tell you it didn’t happen.
Since then, the Boston Marathon was cancelled for the first time in its 124-year history. Actually, not cancelled – replaced by a virtual marathon. We’ll see how many others follow suit. Don’t be surprised if that number is high.
As well as the Worthing Half Marathon, I expect the rescheduled Worthing 10k to get the elbow. I don’t hold much hope for the popular West Sussex Fun Run League either. Its fixtures page is depressingly bare at a time when races should be happening most weeks.
Amidst the cancellations, we lose sight of motivation. What are we aiming for, if not the prospect of new medals?
March certainly saw my drive take a knock. As lockdown got going, I ground to a halt. Two weeks without any running. Drained mentally and physically, I slumped to inactivity. It was bleak.
The arrival of new trainers early in April brought me out of my funk. If ever there’s a way to get runners on their feet, new shoes will do it. Indeed, there’s nothing worse than fresh pumps arriving while nursing an injury. I’m sure we’ve all been there. First world problems? Perhaps. But tough to bear, even with privilege in check.
While pristine Reeboks pushed me through early April, my enthusiasm flagged as the month wore on. What was I running for, after all? My training plan had pointed to a pair of races whose dates would soon expire. That achy tiredness, so welcome when you have a clear purpose, was increasingly intolerable.
Besides, lockdown brought an entirely new challenge. Slung low around my middle, despite the exercise, my excesses pushed lumpily against my clothes. It’s been hard to steer clear of beer and fatty food. My gut will testify to that.
It wasn’t looking great – and neither was I. Another running break loomed. And there wouldn’t be more new shoes to reignite my mojo.
Then came my knight in shining Lycra.
‘Dad La Soul’ is a revolutionary, grassroots movement, that uses the arts, music, tech and play to tackle social isolation.
I’ve been involved since I moved to Worthing in 2018. My daughter and I don’t like to miss the local playdates. And I (all too sporadically) contribute to the blog – I owe them a few pieces, if I’m honest. Ironically, my last piece was on Procrastination, way back in February.
Since its inception, Dad La Soul has spread an infectious virus of its own. Only, unlike Coronavirus, it has brought people together.
Following the success of the Worthing playdates, there are similar events in several towns across Sussex – or, there will be, once it’s safe. In fact, undeterred by the global pandemic, the events continue online. And they’re still great.
Added to that there’s the blog, a radio show and a couple of Facebook groups – one of which is for dad’s only. It provides a space where dads can talk freely, safely and, if necessary, anonymously.
Most recently, just as I was losing a little love for running, they set up a Dad La Soul Strava group.
As with everything Dad La Soul, the Strava group brings people together. In this case, we were challenged to run 100k in May. For some, that’s a week’s worth. Others will see it as a monumental task. For me, it was the kick I needed to hit the streets.
Suddenly, my training plan had purpose. Based on three runs per week, that meant 13 runs of a little over 7.5k each. Of course, that’s not what went into the plan. Instead I threw 10k into each Runday.
I thought, “why stop at 100k when I could do 130? I can push even further. With all that motivation in my bones, this May could be my best month ever.” Why the hell not?
Well, I’ll tell you why not. Because my legs disagreed. Because, despite my best intentions, I creak and ache. And, because, well, some days I just can’t be arsed to drag my chubby little body out of bed.
The good news is, I managed 100k with almost a week to spare. And to celebrate, I took that week off from running. Not for lack of motivation, but because I could.
And because my leg was sore.
June sees us attempt to run, swim, cycle and walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Collectively we’ll cover the 1,407 km from the bottom of the UK to it’s very top.
Sponsored by Dad’s Delicious Dinners, we’ll work as a team, brought together during a time of social distance.
It’s not a race. There’s no competition. There will be no judgement.
If we’re lucky, there might be medals.
And that, I reckon, is all the motivation we need.