It’s been a while since I last trained for a race. I mean, of course I’ve still been out running in the buildup to each one; no-one (except Katie Price) would go into a marathon without going for a few little jogs first after all. It takes a bit of effort to put it mildly, but generally I’ve found that for the last few events heading out for a weekend long run alongside a couple of shorter quicker ones midweek has been just dandy in terms of getting me round.

No, I mean really training. Getting out and pushing myself a bit. Having a structured plan for interval, tempo and fartlek sessions. Trying to keep to pace, run to a distance or simply just dragging my fat arse out when I’d really rather not. 2016 was the last occasion when running kinda took over my life, that long drawn out affair leading up to an epic day at the office where more than six months’ slog paid off and I, finally, qualified for a London Marathon.

After that came a well-documented change to my running outlook. Running for pleasure. Running for my mental wellbeing. Running when I felt like it, not when I felt I had to. Running with my wife in tow and being able to cheer her over the line after I’d finished. Ultimately, running because I bloody love it. I¬† (mostly) love just getting out and about, and I love the feeling I get once it’s all over. And I still maintain I’m all the better for this switch in mentality and I don’t expect that long term this’ll really change a great deal.

Trouble is, every so often it probably will and as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become a little carried away with the idea of seeing if I’m totally over the hill now I’m running in the veteran category, or if I can get anywhere near any of my peak performances. OK – so I’ll never run a marathon close to that 3:02 again as just don’t have the time to commit to the training for that these days as work and general life seem to have ramped up since then. I’d also be surprised if I can ever get anywhere near a 10k time as fast as the one I achieved a few weeks after that marathon with all that training still in the legs. I’ve not even got within a minute of it since and these days just hitting a sub-40 is enough for me to say that’s a decent day’s work.

But what about my half marathon time? Although immensely proud of what I achieved in Liverpool 2013, I’m still to this day niggled by the fact it went down as a 1:28 dead. A second under that to make it 1:27 looks so much better, don’t you agree? It would to me anyway. I think of all the time I lost at the start of that race because I can’t tell the time properly, or stuck at that little underpass at half distance, and still wonder if I could just push it that extra second and dip under my PB. Or, I’m an old man now, all washed up and that’s that forever now. We’ll see.

But I wanna try anyway. I’ve not pushed myself for a half marathon for well over five years now, with every event since having some sort of mitigating circumstances as to why I never really bothered training properly for it. I still can’t explain why this meant my 2016 effort round Manchester ended up being my second fastest ever, but it gives me confidence for this one that it’s a fast course to have a go at.

So with that in mind, I’m following the exact same training plan as I did for that 2013 PB and with it come all those weird little side effects. I’m bloody starving all the time lads. I get home, I run, I eat a shitload of food and then I go straight to bed, usually before 10pm because I’m absolutely shattered.

The other unfortunate side effect is that I’m suddenly remembering what it’s like to feel the old body taking the strain of all this extra training. I’m doing my best to manage it so I don’t injure myself,¬†ramping the mileage up with one eye on the magic 10% rule and wearing my best shoes for most of my runs instead of any of the the knackered pairs from days gone by. But all those little niggles I’d forgotten about from the last time I did Big Training are rearing their little heads once again to say hello, then usually disappearing a week later with no rhyme or reason as to why. A tight hamstring here, a sore foot there. A twinge in the ankle or a pair of achey knees.

The human body is weird, basically. I remember back in 2016 getting a pain in my lower shin on a gentle run three weeks out from the marathon, diagnosed myself with a stress fracture and nearly cried that I’d wasted six months training for the sub-3:05, and then two days later it vanished completely and I ran 20 miles on the Sunday long run. Looking back to that general period, I just basically seemed to carrying minor issues from one run to the next, sometimes for over a month or two, that never bothered me while out running but then popped up every time I went up or down a set of stairs or something.

It’s kind of the same this time around, and weirdly the latest couple of issues in one knee and the opposite ankle seem to have popped up in the recent easyish fortnight I’ve factored in ahead of tomorrow’s practice half marathon over on the Wirral. It’s a bit annoying as I’ve been mostly fine on all of the big weeks and now with the race looming into view I have a couple of minor worries ahead of the furthest I’ve run since marathon day back in April. Typical, really.

I’m pleased with the results of all the training though as I’ve noticed it’s getting easier to hit the pace I want to on most of my runs, and even better than that I’m pretty proud of myself for dragging myself out on the occasions where if I wasn’t focusing on this target I’d probably have just sacked a day’s running off entirely. Late home from work after a busy day, or just getting fucked over by Northern Rail again on the way back. Getting home well after 7pm and knowing I’ve got an hour’s run then a shower before I can even think about starting to cook my dinner.

We’ll see if it’s worth it. I have no idea if how close I can get to my PB but it’s going to be (sort of) fun trying. And if not, sod it, the Manchester Half is a lovely race anyway so I’ll just have a nice old morning run to Sale and back and then a delicious free pint at the finish.

But first, my fourth race of the year and an early morning jog over on Merseyside. I’m trying to treat it as my normal weekend long run meaning it’ll probably be my slowest half marathon ever, but that’s cool. I just need to make sure I don’t go mental and get sucked into it all and end up trying to run a sub-90 or something stupid. That can all wait for six weeks down the line back in Manchester.