Slowly the locomotive chugs out of the station, easing into the tracks as it picks up pace. Very gradually at first, it weaves through the inner-city buildings, stopping quite frequently, but as it travels beyond the urban borders, spills into the outskirts and eventually over the rolling rural fields, the wheels start rotating more smoothly, in perfect harmony. Faster and faster, what was once a spluttering irregular chug becomes a dependably accelerating rhythm, like the heartbeat of a giant animal, galloping across terrain, in pursuit of its prey.
The faster this train travels, the more fuel is pumped through its roaring engine, but it’s ok – because the tank is still almost full and every time the tempo is notched up, it adapts and stabilises, ensuring a smooth ride for all aboard.
That train has just reached peak performance.
Last week I finally clocked my longest run – a slow and steady 19 miler. Sticking with my metaphor, I was roaring through the country side, hurtling past trees, fields, abandoned farms and hamlets, the sun pounding down on me and every cog, every screw, every bolt and every lever perfectly in sync.
I never thought it would, but my body has acclimatised to the rhythm of gradual increase and progressive overload. An extra mile each week? I’ve taken it in my stride.
So studying my training schedule after that long run, it really comes as no surprise that I feel a little knocked off kilter this week. The tracks are starting to feel a little wobbly, almost as if one my carriages might fall over if we slow down any more.
For weeks I’ve been craving a Sunday evening without aching limbs, raw toes and hunger raising its cheeky head every hour. But now that I’ve finally reached the “taper phase”, I’m finding it quite tough to adapt.
It’s just not natural for a train to cut from 100mph to 20mph in the space of a few fleeting seconds.
I’m used to the pre-fuel, and then the long hours of trudging through lifeless London, sending intermittent progress texts to the sofa at home, where my yawning boyfriend has just started his second cup of tea and is poring over the weekend papers.
I’m used to hobbling up the stairs three hours later, and lying down on the carpet, propping my legs against the wall as my quivering fingers unwrap a protein bar. Then wallowing in a hot bath, before wrapping up in a sweatshirt and pyjama bottoms and then eating. Everything. In. Sight.
But I have to get used to it. This weekend I’ll “only” be running a half marathon. Yes, that’s still 21 kilometres, but it is also eleven less than I ran last weekend.
It will feel short, and I might have a niggling voice in my head telling me that I haven’t run as far as I should have, but habits can be broken and I have a feeling that doing so will be a lot easier with the help of a great big lazy breakfast and the splndid spring sunshine.
(Image courtesy http://livelikeavip.com)
I'll be running the Brigthon Marathon on April 6th and raising money for Mind, the mental health charity. To sponsor me, please click here.