Doctor Beat

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You might remember from my post on Monday that I went on a club run to the Doctors Road just outside Ballymena and it nearly broke me.

My head wasn’t in it, my legs wanted to be somewhere else and I squealed like a precocious little brat all the way up and all the way back down again.

It annoyed me all week and, if I’m honest, it knocked my confidence a bit.

I mean, I’ve done the Hastings Half Marathon twice and it goes up, up and up again for about nine miles so why was I letting an incline of around a couple of miles get to me? It didn’t make sense.

But there was always something inside that made me want to go back, to tackle it again and challenge it to break me for a second time, much in the same way I went back to Hastings.

I knew that the longer I left it the bigger a ‘thing’ it’d become, so I decided just to meet the beast head on and go for it tonight. And, not only that, I got it into my head that I’d do it without so much as breaking into a walk.

Let me explain, I’ve done marathons and I can keep going for hours but because of circulation issues with my legs (Lymphoedema) I often have to take short walks for around 30 seconds just to ease the pain. There’s no shame in Jeffing – it has got me through many races – but tonight I wasn’t going to do that. I was going to run the whole way there, take a couple of pictures, and run the whole way back again. No walking.

And I did. All 10k of it.

That meant, of course, that I’d have to start a little bit slower than I normally would but speed wasn’t the objective tonight. That said, my first mile wasn’t particularly slow anyway, just a little bit more than normal, I wanted to preserve my legs for the rest of the run.

The first hurdle I met was the incline coming out of the industrial estate after the opening mile, which was successfully conquered. It’s usually the first point I allow myself a few seconds respite to walk and get some of the discomfort out of my legs.

After that, it was all uphill. It’s not a massive climb in the grand scheme of things but it just rises steadily for a couple of miles and can be a bit daunting because you can see it stretch outwards and upwards in front of you. It was this that beat me on Monday, sure as hell it wasn’t going to beat me tonight.

I dug deep, kept going and – to my surprise – started to get a little quicker! I kept plugging on, was this getting easier? My legs didn’t hurt and whilst I was still slower than I’d like I wasn’t bothered. Conveniently the actual Doctors Road itself came at almost the halfway point. I had done it, I had beaten this bloody road and I had done it without stopping or walking.

I was buzzing! I stopped for a few pics and then set off on the return run. Again, I was determined not to stop, and I didn’t.

I had been concerned that my time was going to be a lot slower and began to question the wisdom of deliberately keeping my pace at a lower level than I’d like. Running non-stop is fine, but if it’s going to make my overall times drop then I’ll go back to run-walk.

But, to my surprise, the longer I ran the more my km splits began to drop. Starting off fast is fine for what it is but you’re only borrowing time against yourself from later in a run, whereas tonight that wasn’t the case. I had more energy left than I normally would at this stage in a run and, in fact, every single km during the last 5k was quicker than any of the first five – a negative split all the way!

Running wisdom tells me this but I never really believed it. Tonight I saw it for myself. My overall time for the 10k was a minute or so outside my PB but was still one of my fastest ever, and a huge six minutes faster than my last standalone 10k. Not to mention the first half was largely uphill – but that doesn’t mean the second half was all downhill, because it wasn’t, I didn’t follow the same route back.

Or, to put it another way, the first 5k was five minutes outside my PB for that distance but the overall run was only a minute over my 10k PB, so it’s clear that I made huge gains in the second half.

It bodes very well for the Vitality 10000 next Monday in London. I’ll not have the same climbs to contend with so I would hope that I’d not expend the same energy in the first part of the run, which should leave me with more to push on with in the closing stages.

Anyway, what happens then will happen. For tonight I’m just delighted to have lanced the boil that is the Doctors Road – that’ll do rightly for now!

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