Last year I wrote a blog about the pros and cons of running with a group versus running alone. I won’t rehash it here, but if you want to read it, here is the link: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/lion-or-tiger/
Last year I did most of my long runs either with a group or with one other person. At the time I preferred that, and the thought of running 30+ kilometres on my own was horrifying to me! There were a few exceptions where I had good solo runs but I would always choose the group option where possible.
When I first joined the SARRC morning groups, I often would end up running on my own – I was very much a ‘mid-packer’ and it took me a while to find my niche. Then, I would be running with others and focusing more on the conversation than the running. For me, it was really a social gathering which happened to involve running! Regular running buddies Leanne and Doug commented that I seemed to be running ‘within myself’ and could potentially be pushing myself a lot harder!
Fast forward to 2016. As I have said many times before, my training this year has been all over the place, with 100k ultra training combined with fast marathon training (when I could fit it in around all the events I wanted to do!). In 3 weeks we will find out if trying to do too much at once was a massive mistake, but I am quietly confident that I will make it work!
Because my main marathon (Gold Coast) falls slap bang in the middle of the two major SA marathons (Barossa and Adelaide), the Sunday group long run distances have never been quite right for me. Therefore, I would have had to extend or shorten the group run to fit what I needed, and thus be running at least a big chunk of the run on my own. Also, I often would have events or other commitments on Sundays, making it difficult to fit the long run in anyway.
So, after UTA, with 6 weeks to go before the marathon, I did a solo 30k out and back along the coast on a Saturday afternoon, and loved it! I only managed to run 10k before I needed to take a walk break, and I did take frequent walk breaks after that, but I still managed to do it at a faster pace than I had been doing for my long runs in previous years. Besides, when doing group long runs, we were constantly stopping for traffic or for someone to get some water, so I was unconcerned by my apparent inability to run 30k nonstop.
Last weekend in a trail loop event I managed to run 38km in difficult conditions without stopping or walking. This weekend just gone, I did my last long (solo) run before the taper – 36km at 5:25/km – SIGNIFICANTLY faster than any of my previous long runs! (Strava said I did my 3rd fastest 30k – the only faster ones would have been during my 2 marathons last year).
So, why now do I seem to be running faster? Well I can’t answer that question with 100% certainty but I think running on my own has actually helped! Because I’m running at my own pace and not someone else’s, I can push myself closer to my limits. It makes sense to train on my own at least some of the time too, because in the Gold Coast marathon I will be running on my own (albeit with roughly 6000 of my closest friends!).
Even in the morning groups I have tended to be running on my own again. I try to stick with some of the faster runners (or at least keep them in sight) and save most of my socialising for the post-run coffee (which often goes for longer than the run itself!). An additional advantage of that, when I can keep up with the fast guys (usually when they’re injured, tapering or recovering, but still…), I can pick their brains for advice to help me in my running!
So now, it’s TAPER TIME!
That means firstly I reduce the distance of my long run to make sure I am fresh for the marathon. It also means taking it a little easier in my other runs (although I’d like to continue doing one fast run a week just to make sure I can still run fastish!) and gradually reducing my number of runs per week.
On Sunday, the day after my last long run, I did a nice easy 5k run and I actually think it helped my recovery. (Previously I have done my long runs on a Sunday and NEVER run on a Monday.) Since UTA, I have also started sleeping in my compression tights after my long run and I think that makes a BIG difference.
3 weeks to go – BRING IT ON!