Marathon Envy

May 24, 2012

Me and my daugher cheering on the runners!

It was Copenhagen Marathon on Sunday and once again I was in spectating. It was extra special this year as one of my friends and my brother-in-law where both participating. In both cases it was their first marathon and I’ve been eagerly following their training over recent months. As their excitement has been building, so has mine. Every time I’ve been chatting with one of them about their training I’ve been struggling with a little voice in my head saying “why don’t you just run it too”! The truth is I have been totally envious of their marathon projects! However, by the time the race started on Sunday it was absolutely too late to change my mind and so I just enjoyed being a spectator and cheering them (and all the other runners) on. It was a beautiful, sunny day and perfect conditions for spectating (though maybe a tad too warm for running).

After I ran Berlin marathon in September, while I was proud at what I had accomplished after a hellish year-and-a-half, I will admit that I was really disappointed that my time was so much slower than before the cancer. In retrospect I can see that it was totally unrealistic, but when I finished the cancer treatment in December 2010 I did have some kind of vague idea that I would be “back to normal” by September. By September the only physical sign left of what I had been through was that I couldn’t run as fast any more (apart from a few small scars and my 5 blue tattoos of course!). So at that point I started to doubt that I ever would be as good as before and in some irrational way it made me angry. I felt that in some way the cancer had won. I am ashamed that I felt that way. After all, I was (and am) healthy and cancer free and in every important way able to live a normal, happy life.  In the grand scheme of things, not being able to run fast is not really a huge problem.

Anyway, luckily I’m not the type to lounge around being angry and bitter for long, so I decided to do a bit of historical investigation. I have kept a training diary for many years, so I decided to go back and find out how long it took from the time I originally started running seriously i.e. following a systematic training programme, until I reached my plateau. Just to explain, when you first start training systematically you improve quite quickly and dramatically, but at some point you hit a plateau and after that improvements are much more limited and often more to do with avoiding injury, having a good day etc. . I was really surprised to discover that it had taken 2 years first time around! Hmm, that really made me feel silly that I had somehow expected to run a marathon in a good time 9 months after finishing cancer treatment, when I had probably been in the worst physical condition of my entire life!

So I decided that until the end of 2012 I would not set myself any big running goals in terms of races. I wouldn’t run any distance longer than half marathon. Instead I would focus 100% on training to increase my speed. I still wasn’t sure that I ever would be able to run as fast as before (and I was under any circumstances prepared to accept some age-related deterioration!), but I was going to give it my very best shot.

So that’s why, when the little voice was telling me I wanted to join the others and run Copenhagen Marathon this year, I resisted. It would have been fun, but I am very focused on increasing my speed and marathon training, marathon running or recovering after a marathon are really not good for that.

The good news is that I am now starting to believe that I will get back to my previous form! A few weeks ago I ran a 5km race in just
under 23 mins which is very close to my all time Personal Record. To put this in perspective my 5km time this time last year was over 25 mins and in December 2010 (just when I finished treatment) was almost 31 minutes! And as a direct comparison I recently ran a race (a very hilly 5km) in 23:36 and in 2009 I ran the same route in 23:15 – so that is only a 21 second difference over 5 km!

Anyway, back to my friends on Sunday – I am pleased to report that both did really well in their first marathons! I was a very proud friend/sister-in-law indeed. Time will show whether they decide that this was their “only” or only their “first” marathons, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it was only their first because it’s a lot of fun having nerdy marathon running friends!

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4 Responses to “Marathon Envy”

  1. Neil Says:

    Oh – it’s just the first!


  2. […] marathon under my belt almost exactly one year ago, as you may recall, I turned my attention to (1) seeing if I could regain some of my speed in running shoes and (2) learning to swim crawl. The sub-text to the latter was that if I did ever manage to learn […]


  3. […] To see whether I could get      back to my pre-cancer form in terms of running speed. […]

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