BLOG: On Deciding Not to Race (And then Doing it Anyway)
We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Picked up an injury and missed several weeks of training, and sworn to ourselves we’d come back gradually and just train for a few weeks, then doing a couple of weeks of running and declaring ourselves ready to go again.
I think part of the reason for rushing back to racing was my frustration with the nature of the injury. I stood on a sea urchin whilst on a writing retreat with some fellow African studies students in Zanzibar (I know, it’s a hard life being a PhD student!) I tried to keep running in spite of the pain in my foot – four half-inch long spines eventually emerged from it in the subsequent weeks – and thought I’d got away with it until my knee started to get really sore. I’d been running strangely to avoid putting weight on the spines in the outside of my foot.
I couldn’t run for about four weeks, and then trained for a couple of weeks here before heading back to the UK. I’d been planning on racing while I was back, but e-mailed Jack at Ronhill and told him I’d decided to just take it easy until I had a few weeks running under my belt.
Just being at altitude – even if you can’t train – makes you feel quite spritely when you return though, and I went out for a couple of ten mile runs in Wellington, where my girlfriend Roslyn lives, and ran 65 and 64 minutes. ‘That’s about what I normally do for a steady run’ I thought to myself. Then I accidentally looked up which races were happening on the West Coast of Scotland when Roslyn and I were there. ‘There’s a half marathon on Mull the weekend after our trip to Luing, you know?’ I asked her. ‘I thought you weren’t racing?’ she asked. ‘Hmm…’ I said.
I decided if I could run 5 x a mile in 5.00 I’d run the race. It’s a classic ‘seeing where you’re at’ session according to my coach. I averaged 4.58. We decided to make an adventure of the trip and try out our new camper van (fold-down seats and futon, Italian coffee maker). Roslyn decided to run the 10km.
Making the calculation that I was probably just fit enough to run a half marathon I hadn’t banked on a point-to-point, slightly uphill course into a gale force wind. I was barely moving at times, and my number was nearly torn off my chest by one gust. I struggled in second, in a personal worst by a solid five minutes! Roslyn somehow managed a PB into the wind in the 10km, though, and finished 4th. The prize was cash, whisky and smoked salmon, too, which more than made up for it my disappointing run. More races should have luxury consumable goods as prizes.
Just as I was starting to think, ‘well I can’t have that be the only race I run while I’m back…’ I had an e-mail from Scottish athletics asking if I wanted to run for Scotland at the Frank Duffy 10 mile race. It was perfect. I finished second a couple of years ago and really like the course. I had two weeks and felt like I could get a lot fitter.
I did a long run, a six mile acceleration run (starting at 6.00 and finishing at 4.55), and a short, sharp track session (2km in 5.50, 4 x 400m fast) and got a few more ten mile steady runs under my belt. Then I turned up in Ireland to weather just as bad as it had been on Mull. The race report online described it as ‘one of the foulest days possible for road running’ and pointed out that of 6,200 registered runners, fewer than 4,000 turned up. It wasn’t going to be a day to run a fast time, but I did manage to hold on and finish on the podium, which I was happy with on such a limited build up. It motivated me for another bout of rainy season Addis anyway!
Michael Crawley is one of our sponsored athletes, and focuses primarily on the roads. He is also an ESRC-funded PhD student at Edinburgh University, studying the culture of long-distance running in Ethiopia. Over the next few months he will be living and training in Ethiopia, and learning one of the main languages used there, Amharic. He will be writing about his experiences of training in various locations around the city with different groups of athletes, and about trying to turn himself into a better runner in the process.