Bristol’s very own Tim Godfrey Twiss previews this Sunday’s half marathon, giving details of his incentives to take part, training (or rather, lack of it) and his general ‘optimism’ leading up to the event.
Over the past three weeks I have been preparing for my first half-marathon, 13.1 miles for those lucky enough to have never attempted one. Even as I write this I had to google the distance of a half marathon, just to double check.
This lack of knowledge, planning and expertise is a good illustration of my general incompetence leading up to this event. Despite my overwhelming ignorance, I thought it may be interesting for any prospective runners to discover what the training process can throw up.
I use the term ‘training’ lightly, in reality I mean the opening scenes of Run Fat Boy Run but without the incentive of Thandie Newton’s heart and hand in marriage. Also, this article will hopefully serve as an explanation to my friends and family as to why I am a struggling, sweaty mess 753 yards into the event.
The decision to enter myself into the Great Bristol Half Marathon boiled down to two main reasons: one, I had just completed a 130 mile day cycle ride and two, my mate James was planning on running it. The completion of the 130 mile ride convinced me that I could actually complete the half marathon and the fact that James was also running it meant that I wouldn’t be standing on the start line next to some 35 year old in tight latex shorts rubbing his nipples with chammy cream, well, at least not alone. My confidence was sky high as I entered my card details into the sign up page; unfortunately, this was to be the highlight of the subsequent three weeks.
The three weeks of training got off to a bad start. The day after I entered I had to attend a close friend’s birthday party which ruled me out of action the next day, then the day after I got injured playing football so I couldn’t run for the next three days.
These days were my first lesson in training – it’s often incredibly frustrating for unexpected reasons. You become very conscious of time when you are approaching race day and any day without training feels completely wasted, even if you had won a Nobel Prize for Physics the same day, or you had just seen the birth of your first child. Annoyingly, neither of these events happened to me during my time out.
— Bristol SU (@Bristol_SU) September 13, 2017
For the majority of the first week I was forced to recover, twiddling my thumbs sat in chairs and endlessly stretching my hideously inflexible legs whilst every night trying to avoid any type of televised sports event that would only wind me up more. It is important to remember that large amounts of the training period will involve doing no training.
When I finally felt about 80 per cent fit, with 17 days to go, I awoke early and hopped out of bed, visions of failure spurring me on and hit the road. I rounded the corner of my road filled with motivation and grit. I had no planned distance or pace, only that I was going to smash the run. Moments later all sentiments of ‘smashing’ evaporated and all motivation had been drained from my body. This was my second lesson of training for a running event: running is shit.
You may respond to this with: ‘Why didn’t you know this?’ This is a reasonable question, and to answer I can only say that there are two types of running: purpose based running and purposeless running. I play football about twice a week and run a reasonable distance within the game, varying on how bothered I can be to track my man, but this is for a reason. There is dynamic and constantly shifting objective, this is normally just kick the ball but you are a lot less focused on the actual running, and therefore acutely less aware of its inherent shitness.
Every day: mild anticipation, then brutal pain and melancholy.
Other forms of purposeful running include other sports, chasing a bus or evading a wild predator. However, running training is purposeless. There is no reason to reach the next bend in the corner or the edge of the field apart from to carry on running. Even the final objective, to stop running, doesn’t make sense, because if the end goal is to stop then what is the point of even starting?
Despite the crushing sadness of the run I managed to do about 4.5 miles with only my existential debate around running to keep me company. The pattern of my training continued this general formula. Every day: mild anticipation, then brutal pain and melancholy.
Gradually, the pain became less, the distances grew and I began to regard my running shoes with less disdain. I felt I was making reasonable progress, I wasn’t going to set the world alight, or even Bristol, or even my Father’s admiration, but I knew I could complete the half marathon.
I realised that I had not taken a full rest day at any point in the nine day period of training.
However, with eight days to go I finished a run with searing pain in both my calves. I could barely walk up the stairs to heave my aching body into the shower. I was slightly confused because I had been warming up and cooling down religiously before and after each run. As I pondered my seeming bad luck I realised that I had not taken a full rest day at any point in the nine day period of training.
Some days I didn’t run but I always did something else, like cycling or a games sport. This was my third lesson, that I probably learnt too late: don’t try too hard. It’s important to test yourself but just as important to let your body heal…google tells me.
My anger was confounded when the next day James explained he was quite happily running 13 miles on a semi-regular basis and was aiming for a one hour 30 minute time. This was my fourth unhappy lesson: don’t run with James. Although wanting nothing more than to get back out training and try and bridge the gap to James I knew I couldn’t. I went for more gentle training such as cycling that didn’t involve the constant impact of running the next few days. Unfortunately, the pain in my calves didn’t go away. To combat this, I booked a session with a physiotherapist.
#garmin picture. . . So I’m not sure if I’ve broken 20min this year but today I did for sure! . . So this week I plan on some speed sessions in preparation for the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday. Also not my 5k pb just a new watch! . Current weight 10st 10lb. . Goal. 10st 6lb by Sunday! . 12lb down in 3.1weeks . @asicsfrontrunner . #ASICSFrontRunneruk #ASICSFrontRunner #asics #dontrunfly #runningcommunity #instarunners #instarun #runnersofinstagram #marathon #marathontraining #runningmotivation #runtoinspire #runnersofig #runlovers #worldrunners #runnersworld #run #running #halfmarathon #iworkout #instafitness #runchat #inspiration #runninginspiration #fenix3 #xtremerunnerslife #bristolhalf #bristolhalfmarathon .
The experience with the physiotherapist can only be described as torture. When I first saw the skinny 50 year old physiotherapist I felt safe in the knowledge she wouldn’t be able to produce enough grip power to genuinely hurt me. This was a gross misjudgment on my part, perhaps worse was the statement, “You can press as hard as you want, I don’t mind.” which was uttered at the start of the session. One hour of pure agony later she had the nerve to demand £30 which I only handed over for fear of more nerve shattering discomfort. Despite the torture, that in my eyes can never be forgiven, my legs were actually feeling better less than an hour after the treatment.
I was banned from running for a further two days by my sadistic tormentor, otherwise known as Sarah, but I was then fit as a fiddle with four days to go. Lesson five is that professional treatment is good, but also bad. Regardless of my fitness, I was drastically under prepared for the upcoming marathon and no way to remedy the situation apart from hope James would carry me at least some of the way in some sort of Brownlee on Brownlee situation.
I end this article three days before the Great Bristol Half Marathon. I am as uncertain to you as to how well I will perform or if I will even finish. I also don’t know whether the feeling of accomplishment will justify the hours of suffering. All I can say is that if you’re looking for a small fitness challenge, a half marathon can most definitely fulfill the criteria. I appreciate that this documentation of my training holds almost zero utility for anyone, but maybe that is the greatest gift – if you are planning on training for a long distance running event, you know you can’t do any fucking worse than I did.
Are you running in the Bristol Half Marathon this Sunday?
Have you ever had any training nightmares? Give us your training stories in the comments.