In the months leading up to the Blackpool Great North West Half Marathon I had been aware of the fact that I needed to carry my training into winter. This was something I hadn’t really done before as usually I finished my running year in mid-October then took a bit of a break from November until mid-January. It was usually around the middle of December that I started to pick up an illness of sorts so I was intrigued to see if carrying on the training and eating healthily would see me through Winter without a cold/flu or suchlike. As a backup I’d also started to take Vitamin C tablets to see if this would boost my immune system enough to get me to Blackpool fit and healthy.
I’d managed to bag a run in November (Brampton to Carlisle 10 miler) and a few parkruns in December in Newcastle before we started our own up here in Carlisle in the middle of January as well as all the training I was doing on the roads and in the gym. I honestly couldn’t have been going into this half marathon any healthier.
That was until two weeks before when I started to have a twinge in my lower back which quickly escalated throughout the whole of my back and eventually lead to my back locking up and resulting in a fair bit of pain. Luckily I had a couple of osteopath sessions lined up before the run so there was a lot of fault finding in these sessions and there were a couple of things that could have caused the issue (bad mattress, sagging sofa, new chairs at work and the like). So two weeks before the run where I needed to perform at my absolute best I found myself unable to run and having to switch my regular training to swimming instead which ended up including a trip to the sauna and an uncomfortable staring contest with a very large man.
On the Saturday the week before my back had eased up a little so I decided I would go round the parkrun course, it was only 5k so that was achievable right? Wrong!!! Two laps in and in a fair bit of agony I pulled out feeling more than a little sorry for myself. I was getting a bit worried about the run in Blackpool now as I hadn’t been close to the distance for three weeks now. I felt like I needed to know I could run the distance which was why I went out on the Sunday determined to run at least 13 miles. This ended up being exactly the distance I covered when, at mile 5 my back cracked which in turn loosened up my hamstrings and I ended up running 13 miles in 1 hour 53 minutes. My previous best time for this distance over this route had been 2 hours 4 minutes so the extra training appeared to be paying off. It did leave me in a slight state of confusion though as I had been unable to complete a 5k course the day before but here I was running 20k the next day. The back felt good though and I still had another osteopath session mid-week to free me up for the run and I definitely had to get my haircut as I didn’t want to make that mistake again, the only thing I had to contend with now was tiredness from working nights.
So here I was on the Saturday finishing work at six and trying to get my head down for a few hours and I ended up having to contend with broken sleep due to some persistent person constantly ringing the house phone (eventually unplugged!!!) and some rowdiness going on outside. Due to my alarm not going off I ended up sleeping an hour and a half more than I wanted to which wasn’t ideal. I knew that I was going to struggle to sleep on the Saturday night and I was right as I was still awake at 2am and wondering how I was going to complete a half marathon that day on no sleep. The signs were ominous as the year before I had tried to do the run on very little sleep. Not long after though I was asleep and I would stay that way until I rose from my slumber at 6:30 that morning. I had ended up having just over four hours sleep and I had to wonder whether that was going to be enough or not which was also the question my wife asked me when I ventured downstairs:
“Have you had enough sleep?”
“We’ll see” I said “We’ll see soon enough.”