Another week closer to The Brighton Marathon and the training takes a step up. My knee is almost fully healed. It complained for most of last week, but by Thursday it said, ‘ oh I give up’ and stopped complaining. The programme I’m following is varied and has almost as many acronyms as (almost) voluntary work.
Thursday’s menu looked like this: 10mins ER 20minsTR 10mins ER.
That doesn’t mean I had to visit the hospital – ER means ‘easy run’, which involves running at a leisurely pace so that you can speak in sentences easily. Speaking sentences when you’re on your own on a country lane seems a bit weird, but if that’s what the programme wants…
Threshold running means running ‘at 85% exertion level.’ How do I know what 85% of my exertion level is? I can’t find it anywhere on my watch. Is 100% exertion the point at which I expire? I know quite a few people who would rate putting on their socks at 85%, only slightly less exerting than trying to stare at their penis without the aid of a mirror.
In the end, I decided that ‘threshold running’, for me, would be running at a pace under 7 minutes 30 seconds per mile. During these runs I discover what Einstein was on about. The threshold running seemed to last for an hour an a half. The finishing easy run was more of a floppy, gasping mile and a bit lunge for home, but I did it and had the pleasure of putting a tick beside that day for ‘completed’.
So to Friday’s itinerary: Rest or cross train. Core and stretching.
Guess which one I usually decide to do? Yep. And I tick it off, after a couple of toe touches.
But last Friday, I decided it was time to try the latter and cross train. Now, technically, ‘cross train’ means any other form of physical activity. No, not that one. They mean swimming or cycling. Since swimming is not a pleasant pastime, I fished out my road bike from its rack in the garage, donned the cycling gear, set the Garmin watch to ‘cycling’ and set off to find a suitable 16 mile running route for Sunday, since most of the surrounding area is under water.
Now, here’s the first difference between running and cycling. Cycling is colder, because of the resulting breeze whistling past your ears at 15 mph. Fingerless gloves don’t exactly do the job, so after a mile, the feeling in my fingers had pretty much gone. Lady Barton St Mary has explained that I probably suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon, where the blood flow to your fingers is restricted. I’m not sure if I want a phenomenon, but it seems I have little choice in the matter.
Like a brave soldier, I cycled on. At mile 9 I discovered my first real hurdle, a big puddle across the road, which I forged through. It turned out not to be a big puddle, more a continuation of a fast flowing brook across the thoroughfare, swelling up over my pedals and feet.
The second difference between running and cycling. Cycle shoes are designed to keep the elements off your feet, whilst running shoes will allow trapped water to be expelled. Hence, with 7 more miles to go, I had two small buckets of cold brook water attached to my feet. But still I persisted, negotiating another watery barrier at mile 10.
Then at mile 11, the familiar rumble and jolting I know so well. My front tyre was flat.
I think that over 50% of the time, when I go for a cycle, I get a puncture.
Third difference: If I were running with Noel on a Sunday morning, at no time would I have to say, “Hang on a minute, my leg’s just fallen off. Do you have any leg levers and a spare tube?”
So, with the obligatory cursing, I pulled over into a farm gate and set to work. It was getting dark and my cycle lights are not the best in the world. Fortunately, I always carry a spare inner tube with me. The hardest part is getting the tyre off, prodding, pushing and sliding the levers around. Due to my numb fingers, I dropped the levers a couple of times, fishing them out of the wet grass.
Two cyclists passed by the gate, slowing down, smiling.
“Do you need some help?” one of them said cheerfully, “do you have a spare tube?”
I looked at them suspiciously, completely forgetting that at this moment in time I was a cyclist, not a runner, a species that cyclists regard as a lower form of life that get in their way on the highway. Well, they have to contend with drivers; we all have our place on the perambulatory food chain.
I considered for a moment. I had tyre levers. I had a spare inner tube. Neither of them were Jennifer Aniston.
“Thanks, I’m fine!” I chirruped cheerfully. They gave a cheery wave and went on their way, possibly commenting that I was wearing SPDs on a road bike that only had carbon fibre on its front fork. Amateur.
I managed to get the new inner tube fitted and inflated. Unfortunately, I’d packed a previously repaired one rather than the new ‘slime’ anti puncture ones I’d bought at Halfords, but it did the job.
Then I noticed the funny smell. Was it the rubber from the inner tube? No, it was more unpleasant than that. I looked at my cycling gloves, anaesthetised fingers and tyre levers, which, if you remember, I’d dropped in the long grass.
Fourth difference: when I go out for a run, at no time have I returned with dog shit on my fingers.
The light was fading fast, so rather than continue with my failed quest, I cycled directly home and slung all of my kit in the washing machine with a couple of those ‘stinky clothes’ washing liquid tablets especially reserved for my sportswear.
Therefore, cross training to me is exactly that. Training that does its best to make you cross.
16 miles, 2 x (4 miles MP, 4 miles ER).
You work it out. Noel and I managed this even though Noel isn’t running a marathon in April, the nutter.
It was my first realisation that I was really doing a full marathon. I thought, ‘that was ok, but another ten miles of that???‘
I returned home, showered, drank two glasses of beetroot juice and ate a banana omelette. I’ve been alcohol free for 37 days. I’m still on a low carb diet. If I keep this up, I’m going to be immortal…
* The Rural Spaceman would be grateful if you sponsored his Brighton Marathon attempt – he is raising money for Cancer Research UK. Go to :