Five days after my trial by heat exposure at the Great Manchester Run, I still wasn’t exactly raring to go back out training. I may have only completed 10k, not a marathon the previous Sunday but the baking conditions for the race had taken their toll and my run hangover was lasting well into the week. Now Friday evening, the very last thing I wanted to do after finishing work was to get my trainers on. And it was still too warm outside!
Reluctantly I headed out the door. With a stiff breeze blowing it wasn’t too uncomfortable but I knew as soon as I set off I still didn’t have it in me. My ankles felt weak, my hamstrings were tight and for want of a better phrase, I just couldn’t be bothered. I took an easy jog out to my 2k marker and turned back – I could hardly contemplate tackling the incline on my training route which makes up the first half of the third kilometre. By the time I got home I had put in such comparatively little effort to normal that I was barely out of breath.
I was surprised how much the exertions of Manchester had affected me. I can’t imagine how you amazing marathon runners recover after taking on that distance. And there were people who completed the same 10k as me in much faster times – but then it was only my second ever race and I had done the very best I could. I still suddenly felt that I was 13.1 country miles away from being ready for the Great North Run.
With only a couple more days’ rest, however, a week after the 10k, it was a different story. The sun was shining once more but on a late Sunday afternoon rather than the height of midday it was a pleasant feeling rather than an enormous hindrance. My legs felt stronger, my muscles more relaxed and I was able to push forward up the hill I couldn’t face 48 hours earlier. I completed my usual 6k course in a good time and I had to take a minute to get my breath back as I leaned against the garden wall to stretch my niggling hamstrings and relieve the dull ache in my left shin which reminds me it is there every so often.
I felt confident in my own abilities again – I hadn’t lost it after all. Then I thought how I should cut myself a little slack. As runners we are so focused on constantly improving and beating our PBs that any little deviation from our best can be treated as a huge setback. But as important as the time on our stopwatch is also the time we give ourselves to recover afterwards. It’s why I’m sure most of us (unless you’re some kind of superhuman or just really love running) don’t run every day, or at least not to the same extent each time if you do. Pushing it when you’re not ready to is only going to lead to injury and a very real setback.
We are all wonderfully different and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other runners – only you know what your body is telling you. And if it’s telling you to put your feet up for a few more days and maybe have a glass of wine or two then you really should listen.