If you have ever been within a 10 meter radius of me you will have probably heard about that one time I did an ultra-marathon. Just incase you somehow missed the memo, I ran from Padstow to Landsend in 3 days and it was so hard but I didn’t even get one blister which is a mystery to this day because I hadn’t even worn in my shoes properly. Eat your heart out Mo Farrah. When I crossed the finish line and burst in to tears I decided that I would categorically never run again. Once I’d eaten the amount of food equivalent to feeding a small village, had a massage and slept for a week I thought at some point I would probably want to lace up my trainers at some point.
After a long rest, I decided to start running but I very quickly struggled with searing pain in my heels (I spoke about it briefly in this post). For a long while I pushed through the pain but in the end I hobbled up the Bristol foot and body clinic and accepted defeat. Rehabbing for plantar fasciitis has been an interesting time. I’ve been forced to slow down, have loads of acupuncture and wear insoles and a sexy foot splint when the pain peaks. I was told it was likely I’d have to live with managing this pain & running short difference max 2 x a week but miraculously, right now, the pain has gone. I am sure that this is something I will struggle with at different times in my life but now I feel like I have the tools to manage it and the mindset not to berate myself if I have to stop exercising for a while whilst I heal. As a side note, I highly recommend Louise at the Bristol foot and body clinic. She is an absolute angel.
A few weeks ago my friend Maria was telling me about the Maffetone method of running which is in a nutshell: running slower to run faster and make sure you are running slow enough by staying in your aerobic heart rate zone which is where you most efficiently exercise – to calculate your basic aerobic heart rate it is 180 minus your age and this should be the max you’re hitting during easy runs. At first it is likely you will be running slower than you ever have before to keep your heart rate down but with progress it has been proven that you can run quicker within the same HR zone. It also means that if running like this through training, on race day you have the reserves to push harder, go faster and comfortably stay at a higher HR. A lot of runners don’t run slow enough on their slow runs and I am 100% guilty. For years I have been tied up in numbers, pace, miles ran and this means I have had to undo the thoughts that tell me that a run is only ‘counted’ if it hits a certain target. I knew I had to give this method of run training a go!
My first run trying this was a huge test as I knew it would mean allowing myself to walk when I needed to and stop completely if my heart rate jumped too high. Strangely on my first run I managed a consistent plod and didn’t need to stop. I spoke to Maria about it and we thought maybe my love for slow runs might have put me in good stead for this style of running. However, on my second run, my heart rate spiked massively and I had to take walking breaks and complete stops to bring my HR back to an aerobic level. So many things play into our heart rate such as heat, stress, lack of sleep and this way of running forces me to properly tune in to my body and it’s capabilities at that time. I am nowhere near as exhausted after my runs and running in this way actually makes me want to run more. Hardcore Maff-er’s also focus on nutrition but this is something I haven’t and won’t delve into.
On Sunday I had my first race of the year. I decided not to check my HR or any other numbers and just enjoy the run at the pace which felt good for me (and not race it) and it was so much better than any event I’ve done previously. When I finished the run, I drank some water and ate a Twirl, I didn’t frantically try and upload the run to Strava so everyone could praise me or instantly check how many calories I’d burned to work out if I’d ‘earned’ the contents of the post-race treats table. My relationship with running is a constant work in process but this method matched with not checking my pace or amount of time ran by turning my smart watch into a stupid watch feels like a real step in the right direction.
Turns out I was so chilled with my new running mindset, I even managed to nap on route.