The mind gives up before the body

The week got off to a less than perfect start when I fell of my bike on Monday. It was a frosty morning and there had been a water leak that had frozen over the road. I slid straight over sideways, but luckily didn’t cause myself any harm except for a nice bruise on my left side.

With a new bruise to keep me company I went off for my weekly interval session. 8x 500m sprints with 200m jogs in between. I ran the splits in a 3:35/km pace, slightly faster than last week so I can’t be disappointed with that.

I rounded off Monday with a 1500m swim at my childhood pool in Balham Leisure Centre. There were only two lanes – a slow and fast lane – and I’m neither. However, I attempted the fast lane and felt a bit out of place, but I wasn’t the slowest one in there so I stuck with it, just letting other swimmer’s past me when I got to the ends.

On Tuesday I had booked on to a spin class at the work gym, but I ended up not being able to make it because I was too busy with meetings. Sometimes life just gets in the way.

On Wednesday evening I went for a steady 12km run around south London. I couldn’t decide where to run out of the three local commons: Wandsworth Common, Clapham Common orTooting Bec Common. So I ran round all three.

A route I’m dubbing “The SW12k”

It’s quite tricky to find good running routes that don’t have a lot of traffic lights and busy pavements in London, but this route worked quite well. I hit a few crossings just as the red man came on, so I made up for any stops by sprinting off once the green man came on. With that tactic I managed the run with an average pace of 4:27/km (that includes the stops).

Thursday started with one of life’s greatest pleasures, a morning swim. This time Balham Leisure Centre had three lanes so I could be comfortable in the medium lane again. I focused on my breathing technique and by the end of the 1200 metres I felt much more confident.

My plan for the evening was to cycle the 11 miles from work to my parent’s house, but when I got to my bike I realised that my rear bike light was missing. Half of the light’s case was still clipped to the bike so I suspect that someone had knocked the light off with their handlebars by accident and broken it. So that was not ideal. To add to the situation, my front bike light battery was nearly dead making the light very dim. This wasn’t great, especially cycling along the dark Thames path. I had to cycle very slowly along the stretches with no street lights, which made it hard to get a good bike workout from the ride. I got home in just over an hour, averaging 18km/h.

To make up for the lacklustre ride on Thursday, I tried to get a bit more of a workout on the bike on my way in to work on Friday. I changed the route to avoid the Thames path and stayed on the roads, which was much better overall despite having to navigate Hammersmith gyratory. I averaged 20km/h this time, which is not bad for me considering the traffic, etc.

I finished off week six of the sub-1:30 half marathon plan by going all-out on a 16k (10 mile) run around Hyde Park. I chose Hyde Park as it’s the biggest of London’s parks that’s also easy to get to on the tube. I asked Kirstie if she wanted to join me and we agreed to meet at Green Park station at 9am. It was good to have that organised to hold me accountable to actually get up and go on for the run on Saturday morning. The all-out 16k was not a run I was particularly looking forward to.

I needed to complete the 16k in 1 hour 8 minutes to ensure the half marathon in 1 hour 30 minutes was going to happen. That meant a 4:14/km average pace. The fastest I can run a 5k in is a 3:55/km pace, so this was going to be a serious challenge. That’s also why I chose Hyde Park — I didn’t want to contend with any road crossings or worry about where I was going.

I had a banana for breakfast and then bumped into Kirstie at Stockwell station. After a 1km warm up I physicked myself up by Hyde Park Corner. The route was two laps of the perimeter of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, plus one lap of the Serpentine lake.

I set off well, finishing the first 5km in 19:32, which is on par with my PB. I then continued to keep the pace, completing 10km in a PB time of 40:02 — one minute faster than my previous PB I set a few weeks ago. The last 4km were a killer, but I kept motivating myself by repeating “The mind gives up before the body” — at the end of the day, it is just a mind game at that point. There were lots of runners out, including a couple bigger groups, and overtaking them gave me another mental boost towards the end.

I got to 16.1km in 1:05:44. A full two minutes faster than I’d aimed to. Average pace was 4:05/km. It still seems impossible to me that I managed that pace for over an hour. Just goes to show how effective the training is because there’s no way I could have done that two months ago.

I was very chuffed, but also very thirsty. I rejoined Kirstie and limped back to the tube to get a cup of tea and a lot of water.

Kirstie and I in high spirits after successful runs in Hyde Park

Maybe this 1:30:00 half marathon can happen after all…