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The running diaries: June, 2020

10th May - 8th June

Writing this post means it has now been a whole month since I began this blog and another month in lockdown has passed us by. Over the past four weeks we have definitely been blessed with the weather, I don't think I've ever had such a good, natural (runners) tan this early in the year before! As well, the last month marks my first month entirely out of education. Although a strange adjustment, this means I have had chance to do a lot more things I enjoy without having to continually worry about deadlines or revision. Reading, baking and online courses have been some of the things keeping me occupied, as well as *of course* running, yoga and strength work. So, let's delve into my monthly running roundup of the last four weeks.

Stand-out sessions

Throughout the last month I have been particularly enjoying speed sessions. Whilst rigidly following my half marathon training plan before lockdown my weeks were mostly focused on endurance work. Since this would have been my first half, time wasn't especially important and I just wanted to ensure my body could safely complete the distance at a steady pace. However, as I mentioned in last months post, since I've been off of the plan I've started focusing on incorporating more interval sessions, aiming for at least one a week. At the moment I've been sticking to shorter sprint intervals of 200m or 400m since I find these sprinting bursts quite enjoyable after months of endurance work. Having said that I am aiming to now start building up the efforts to around 1km/5 minutes. Never did I think I'd be most motivated and excited to complete my speed session of the week after always enjoying my plodding long runs the most, yet here I am! Fingers crossed this speed work pays off in the long term, when I can eventually step onto that start line.

Alongside these sessions, during the last month I found a new 14km route to run using the country lanes nearby. It's a pleasant route for a long run consisting of some steady elevation for an added challenge. This run also marked my longest since mid-March and my legs felt surprisingly good the whole way. Recently my longer runs have had a focus on reining in the pace in an attempt to focus more on aerobic base building, taking my own advice on the importance of this to improve in the long term. Longer runs have seemed to require a lot more motivation during lockdown than previously, however I always feel ten times better for doing them and enjoy the company of my Dad in tow on the bike!

Personal bests

Following on from a theme of speed work, during the last month I managed to achieve an unofficial 5km personal best of 26:02. During this, I also managed a 1km personal best of 4:56, my first ever sub-5 minute split! This is something I am over the moon about as I have been feeling like I'd reached a frustrating plateau over the 5km distance. This was part of the virtual running competition organised by my University running club in which we all submitted a base 5km time and then subsequent times every 2-3 weeks since. Personally, I hate doing time pressured runs on my own. I find it hard to have the motivation to push myself to my maximum effort for any considerable distance and would much rather use events or Parkrun to test myself in this way. Considering that, I have high hopes that once Parkrun is open again I'll achieve an easy personal best and possibly even dip under the 26 minute barrier.

Race plans

Given the current circumstances, obviously all upcoming race plans have been cancelled. My half marathon should have been on 19th April at Dorney Lake, Windsor and I additionally should have been running the Great Birmingham 10km at the end of May. Swindon half marathon in September is still a possibility for me to be able to finally call myself a half marathon runner, however times still appear uncertain on whether this will go ahead.

Admittedly, when I first stopped following my half marathon training plan back in March I was quite excited for the prospect of simply running without structured sessions, just for the love of it. And whilst I have enjoyed this freedom, I have now decided to start following another half marathon training plan for the next few months. For me, a training plan and a set goal in mind have always provided me with motivation, motivation that I have recently found to be somewhat lacking. There's something enjoyable and rewarding about ticking off a set session (physically and mentally). Therefore, I'm hoping the next few months will see that drive return and progress be made. The first few weeks will see a reduction in my weekly distance to what I have been currently covering during lockdown which I feel will do my body good and give my legs a refresh ready to ramp up the distance again.

Overall opinion

It has been a strange month for myself as a runner. Losing sight of the goal you have been tirelessly working towards is hard to take. However, it's given me time to understand my love for the sport and allowed me to feel continually grateful I am healthy and able to keep getting outside. In all honestly, as mentioned, my motivation has taken a progressive dip during the last four weeks with the past 7 days being very sluggish. Whilst this may be a somewhat blessing for my body and legs, giving them a well needed slow, easy week, it is still mentally difficult to face a lull in training through no other reason than a real feeling of "cannot be bothered". Running for me has always been about enjoyment. Enjoyment for getting time outside, enjoyment for seeing my own personal progress and enjoyment for the atmosphere of running and racing with others. Forcing myself to keep continually pushing when the enjoyment won't be there takes out the sole reason I've loved running the past two years. Whilst on a training plan in preparation for a race, self-discipline, and consistency are key for achieving the end goal. But, when that end goal has been stripped away, or we are focusing on a recovery block, why should we push our bodies and minds further than needs be? Learning to give ourselves a break when our bodies crave it is so important physically and mentally to ensure we don't lose sight of why we run or cause injury that could force us off the roads for even longer. Understanding this is difficult for most athletes through worry of losing progress and fitness, but sometimes taking a step back can leave you feeling much more motivated and excited to get back in the trainers afterwards.

For the most part I have been keeping up with my three runs a week, averaging around 25km per week, purely through wanting to get out and run and not due to any pressure or force. Although, my runs did take a considerable drop in pace during the scorching weather we were blessed with. I'm looking forward to starting my new half marathon plan to provide me with some structure whilst also remembering to listen to my body and only do sessions through enjoyment. Admittedly, I am definitely missing running club and the company of others to drag me out the door and get the miles ticking by some days. Sometimes sessions on the plan will be rearranged, missed, extended or shortened and that is fine. Writing this post I can feel my motivation begin creeping back up and my mind craving some time pounding the pavements after the low mileage of the previous week. Hopefully by the time my next monthly diary post comes around my mindset will have shifted an be in a totally different, more positive place.

How has everyone else's running schedules been during lockdown? Have you found yourself experiencing highs and lows in training? Let me know in the comments!

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