9th June - 6th July
Another month of 2020 has flown by and we are now officially half way through the year. Given the majority of the last six months has been spent in some form of Covid-19 lockdown, it sort of feels like the year has only just began. New year, Valentines Day, my birthday.. did any of those really happen? Running has at least been one consistent throughout it all, since we were fortunate enough to never have outdoor exercise suspended in the UK. The last month has treated us to some unbelievably warm (for England) days as well as a lot of miserable rainy, windy times. This has faltered my motivation in some ways during the month, either being absorbed by the sunbathing lifestyle or opting to stay snuggled under a blanket with a coffee in hand. Nevertheless, I have still kept the miles ticking by in a sort of accidental one week easy, one week on track formation. Whilst unintentional, this has been quite beneficial in keeping my legs feeling fresher and allowed me to not feel like running has been a chore but more of an escape.
When thinking back over the last four weeks, a couple of sessions spring to mind as particular favourites. Firstly, I recently tried out a new 13.5km route across fields and paths that I had never explored before. I took this session as more of a run/walk with no pressure on pace at all, which admittedly made it all the more fun! Given, it was quite a warm day to be out running with temperatures of around 22 degrees, meaning walking breaks were inevitable to avoid over-heating or draining myself of energy. Regardless of how far was ran or walked, the scenery was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring new trails so close to my home that I had never tried. Also, there was a good mixture of elevation and flat throughout adding some variety. It is definitely a route I'll be keeping a note of to head off on again, especially when the sun is shining and I can really appreciate my surroundings. I've even found an 'add-on' to increase the distance up to 15km, which may be one I'll be trying out very soon. This exploration kind of running I find to be extremely enjoyable and shows why I love getting out in to nature on just my two feet. Whilst achieving personal bests and racing atmospheres can bring many elated feelings, sometimes stripping it right back to a good old adventure plod can be the best kind of session.
Secondly, the other sessions I have particularly enjoyed this month is the couple I have spent running with a friend (socially distanced of course)! This is the first time I have ran with anybody since running club at University before lockdown, making it a good three months of solo runs. Just when I was feeling a lull in motivation, running with somebody else provided that drive to get out the door and enjoy each step. Admittedly, both runs were in warm, humid weather, so not the nicest for running. However, I loved having the company as it makes the miles tick by quicker and provides that extra mental strength to push yourself as best you can.
As you can see by the photograph accompanying the post, this month I achieved my 1km personal best of 4:36. A couple of weeks ago I spontaneously decided to push out a 1km time trial effort in order to provide myself with a baseline. From now on, I am hoping to replicate this session once a month in order to hopefully track my speed improvements over this distance. With races being cancelled, I fancied providing myself with a smaller, manageable challenge to aim for and felt this ongoing, monthly attempt would do just that. As I mentioned last month, I have been really enjoying interval sessions the past few months and so I'm hoping to see the hard work pay off. Although I am super happy with this PB, given the spontaneity and very windy conditions, I am fairly optimistic I can improve on this when next month comes around. But, the question is, by how much? Stay tuned for next months instalment of my Running Diaries to find out...
So, if you are a regular to my Running Diaries series, you may remember in my last post I spoke about beginning a new Half Marathon training plan to provide structure and help with my motivation. Unfortunately, this just has not gone to plan. The first 3 weeks were mostly followed, with adaptions only being made to the weekly long run. However, since then, I have simply been doing whatever I feel like. This has included my runs with a friend, adventuring through fields and my 1km time trial all mentioned previously. Whilst I still completely agree that a structure gives me more motivation and drive to get out the door, what I've needed right now has been running for pure enjoyment. By no means have I been trying to push myself or strive for progress, but rather keep the miles ticking over in the most enjoyable way possible. Don't get me wrong, I do believe my fitness levels have decreased since full swing of half marathon training pre-lockdown, but right now I am not too bothered. I'm still aiming to loosely follow the new plan, if only the interval sessions each week, but I think all this time off will get me even more excited to train hard and chase PBs once the next season of events comes around.
Having said that, something I am hoping to improve on is my long runs. Since no longer following a training plan, and my goal of running my first half marathon this year has slowly been sucked away, my motivation for longer runs has gradually declined along with my weekly distances. In credit to myself, I've still been covering a consistently good average distance each week, but my longer runs have definitely become few and far between. Personally, this does surprise me since pre-lockdown my long run was my favourite session of the week. Possibly a combination of having no set goal to aim for and a general drop in motivation may have caused this endurance focus decline, seemingly feeling like there was now "no point" in pushing out these longer runs. However, my attitude about this has taken a complete turnaround and I am now eager to begin upping my weekly distances again. I loved the feeling of knowing I could now complete distances I once never could, and seeing that distance increase week-on-week felt amazing. I am now chasing for those feelings again and hoping to see this motivation return and the miles creep back up in the right direction.
Overall, the last month has been quite average on the running front. I've thoroughly enjoyed some sessions, whereas some have felt like an unmotivated drag. I've felt strong in some sessions and like I'm running backwards in others. Given the current circumstances, I am just thankful to be out running and pleased with myself for sticking with it, not allowing my motivation lull to deter me from getting out and doing what I enjoy. I am hoping July sees an improvement in my training schedule, mostly in the form of longer runs and more consistency in order to start seeing some improvements rather than just ticking along. However, mostly, I hope July consists of more enjoyable, adventurous sessions making me realise why I love running in the first place and exploring more of my surroundings before leaving my hometown come September. While I may not reach the aim of 2020 being the year of my first Half distance, it can still be the year of plenty of miles and base building ready for a stronger 2021. On a side note, my strength training is something that has improved over the last four weeks. Each session I felt to be pushing myself more, even with my limited equipment, and I'm hoping to keep this up throughout the summer months. With it being unlikely I'll see the inside of a gym any time before Autumn, I'm enjoying getting into a routine of home workouts and making do with what is available to me.
How has your last four weeks of running been? Are you following a plan or simply running for fun? Let me know in the comments below!