I mentioned in my last entry about the useful attributes of having a distraction to take your mind off a niggle here or tweak there. However there is nothing quite as distracting to one’s marathon preparations as a stomach bug that produces entertainment at both ends. This happened on the Monday and rendered me pretty much useless for the next four days.

I was beginning to get used to lounging about feeling sorry for myself until Friday when a metaphorical slap in the face forced me out of bed and got me out on the road,  just for a few miles. I managed four miles in the end and felt surprisingly OK, but err’d on the side of caution and resisted another lap.

All the advice I was receiving was to not run the Gade Valley Harriers 20 miles that weekend. This was a bitter blow as it is a significant milestone, both in distance, time and the subsequent beginning of the tapering period before London. The only plus side to this was the thought that I wouldn’t need to run the hills of Potten End this weekend.

I did manage to get out on my bike for 90 minutes or so on the Saturday and found the exercise very beneficial. It wasn’t really until Sunday before I had a decent nights sleep and my stomach had really settled. So while people up and down the country were putting in their longest runs, I had to settle for 10 miles around the lanes of Chiswell Green.

The frustration of having to hold back was messing with my mind and thoughts of how to set up the following weeks training was giving me a bit of a headache.  For reasons I can’t explain I ran a fast four miles on Monday, probably the frustration showing. We were out on Tuesday, so no Strider session for the second week running.

Gym life

I went to the gym on Wednesday for a suitably knackering conditioning session, I am probably still not fully back to fitness from the bug. The gym is a funny place, but hugely entertaining from a people watching perspective. The gym personnel always seem to be engaged in a bit of flirting and flexing in front of some of the more attractive patrons of the gym. I’m sure if I was a trainer, 30 years younger, I would adopt the same approach and not spend too much time talking to middle aged men walking around holding their core muscles in.

There is long mirror in front of the free weights witnessing regular muscle checking, six packing counting and cheek puffing (both ends I suspect). There is a large box structure in the middle of the gym, not dissimilar to a climbing frame found in a school playground that has an arrangement of males hanging off it in peculiar positions working on little known muscle groups to ensure they all get used.

One of the funniest things I witnessed this week when I was using a weight machine to improve my hamstrings was a guy opposite me on a similar machine. He would probably be the first to admit that he wasn’t in the best shape, but he was absolutely at the wrong end of his energy levels. He was slightly slumped, staring tiredly up at the television screen through his sweat smeared eyes as he prepared to work some tiring muscle group into submission. But, what brought a smile to my mind was the ill fitting Superman t-shirt he was donning. He looked far from super.

To run or not to run

So what do I do? Do I try and fit a 20 mile run this weekend with only two weeks to go? On the plus side I believe the psychological advantage of getting within 6 miles of a marathon distance is sitting well with me. But I have done 18.5 miles, is another 1.5 miles really going to make any difference? Will there be enough quality time to taper off properly afterwards? There are also potential injury concerns. If it isn’t a good run, how will that affect my confidence?

I put my concerns out on to various social media and not surprising I had equal levels of advice with the pros and cons of my intentions.

So what I did do, I drove to Sleapshyde, parked up, stretched out and set off on various length laps around the very flat Alban Way and A414. The first loop was about 6.5 miles, followed by a shorter 3.5 miles and then a further 5 miles. Each visit to the car allowed me to refill my water bottle and have a quick calf and glute stretch. If I had stopped there I would have been happy, but I decided to try and take my running time up to 3.5 hours so I embarked on another 3 miles that gave me just short of the time in my shoes that I needed. Not my longest distance, but a reasonably comfortable run and no niggles or worries despite the various toilet stops.

I  had a chat with a guy on a mobility scooter who alerted be to his to his approach with his hooter. We put the world to rights regarding runners and cyclists wearing ‘silly string’ as he called it (headphones) with their lack of awareness of what is around them. We discussed what a wonderful path the  Alban Way was but wished more cyclists would use there bells to alert other users of the their approaching status.  Sure enough one cyclist did brush passed me when I had to make a minor detour around another pedestrian, if only I had enough energy to chase after him.

Information gathering

The postman had been busy this week delivering pre-race magazines from Virgin and racing tops from the British Heart Foundation. Our virtual postman was loading up the inbox with tapering information from Full Potential and more advice from the BHF and Virgin for the big day.

I have booked myself on to the Striders bus on April 13th. Great to take some of the anxiety away for that morning, but it does get us to the start about 2.5 hours before the race, so may have to readjust some of my breakfast schedule. There is also a pre-race pasta pile-in and post-race drink off also organised. The BHF have an after run party on the embankment which includes a post-run massage and some food. If only there was a bus from the finish line to the party.

There is a huge amount of information still to take in – For pete’s sake it is only a long run after all.

Please help me break through my target for the British Heart Foundation by donating on my JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/mick-warnes2