Houston Marathon countdown: seven weeks to go (should I be more nervous?)

Well, this happened fast. Can there really only be seven weeks – that’s 48 days – until the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon? Apparently so.

After all, that’s what it says on the countdown timer on the Houston Marathon website. And that’s what it says according to the (very loose) training plan I’ve got pinned up on my desk, visible just above the screen of my laptop. So… yeah, the Houston Marathon is only seven weeks away. And, to paraphrase R.E.M., I feel fine.

In truth, part of the reason it’s hard to comprehend my second marathon is just seven weeks away is because I’m so calm about it. When I was seven weeks or so away from this year’s London Marathon it was already largely dominating all my waking thoughts (and quite a lot of my sleeping ones…). This time, it’s far more compartmentalised. Sure, I’m putting a reasonable amount of thought into it, and I’ve definitely been upping the training mileage, but it’s a very different feeling.

Now, there are various possible reasons for this. It could be that I refuse to to acknowledge the arrival of Christmas season until December 1, and since Christmas is three weeks before the marathon it would be a little on the hypocritical side for me to get worked up about the race.

It could be because the marathon takes place in 2017 which is, you know, next year. And it’s hard to think about next year being quite so close.

But, more likely, the reason I’m actually really quite calm about the fact the Houston Marathon is only 48 days away is because, to grasp for a vaguely fitting cliche, this ain’t my first rodeo. And yes, I know the marathon isn’t a rodeo. It’s a marathon. But if you substitute the word rodeo for marathon, you’ll get my drift: this ain’t my first marathon. Houston will be my second marathon – and the confidence of knowing I can actually run one makes the whole process or preparing for another a lot easier.

With seven weeks to go before this year’s London Marathon, the furthest I’d ever run was about 16.7 miles. I didn’t actually know if I could run 26.2 miles, what it would feel like, or how best to prepare for it.

This time, I know. I know I can run 26.2 miles – and that gives me plenty of confidence. This time around, my training programme isn’t simply about finding out what it feels like to run long distances: it’s about being able to run long distances more effectively.

That manifests itself in a considerable amount of confidence when it comes to doing long training runs, which are the cornerstone of virtually every marathon training plan. This morning, for example, I set out with the aim of running for around 2h 30m – and, in the event, added another five minutes or so on to the run to make it a nice, even 20 miles. It wasn’t a particularly flat 20 miles either – I spent much of it running up and down the hills of Richmond Park.

screenshot_2016-11-27-16-42-26

Yup, I explored a lot of Richmond Park today…

screenshot_2016-11-27-16-42-48

Richmond Park has hills in. Look at those hills.

And, aside from a bit of general leg ache, I’m feeling pretty good about it. Which is… odd.

After all, when I first tried a 2h 30m run in the build-up to London – and that was only eight or so months ago – it was with the sole aim of finding out if I actually could.

That’s the big difference. Knowing you can do something gives you considerable confidence – at least at this stage. Because, well, I also know that the bigger challenges are still to come. It was about 30 days before the London Marathon that I fell massively ill, scuppering much of my training efforts.

And, well, there’s running the marathon itself. And I know that the general pain, exhaustion and mental challenge that I encountered running the final chunk of the London Marathon is something that no amount of training can really prepare you for.

So perhaps that’s why I’m so calm: because I know the training isn’t the really hard bit. That comes on January 15, 2017 on the streets of Houston, Texas. In exactly seven weeks.

Seven weeks? That’s not long. Hmmm, okay, I’m beginning to get nervous now…

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