The alarm violently wakes me from my slumber. It's 4.51am on a damp August morning.
Groggily, I reach over and switch the damn thing off – I don't want to wake Joanna. It's still dark outside as I clamber out of bed and make my way through to the spare room, where I've laid out my kit the night before – a part of my routine that I do before every run
It's still dark at 5.15am as I head out the door, ready to take on the 11 mile run that's on today's plan. What's that noise though? Heavy rain! That wasn't forecast, so I run back upstairs to grab my rain jacket. I pull it on and start my Garmin….
I do a lap of the village, which takes about 10 minutes. It's now light enough to make my way out onto the country roads that surround us. My playground.
The main focus of today's run is 8 miles at my goal pace for the marathon (8:23/mile). I've been looking forward to this run as I know it will challenge me, but I've been reading The Brave Athlete – a book I shared a few weeks ago – and I've got some new mental tricks up my sleeve to help me tough it out.
Of all the chapters in this book, the one that resonated with me most was Chapter 11, 'Learning to embrace the suck'. I'll be honest, I'm still learning how to suffer at running.
I was pretty good at suffering on the bike, but lately I've noticed a pattern with my runs. I'll get to the top of a climb and stop briefly. I do it on the same climbs, every time. Time to stop stopping and man up!
By mile 2 the rain has stopped, so the jacket comes off.
By mile 6 I'm beginning to feel it, so I try one of my new skills – thumb tapping. This helps, and I push on, sucking down a gel for some extra energy.
At mile 8 I need another boost to keep me going, so I start counting. Tuning in to the rhythm of my running, I count to 8, the beat propelling me forwards. The theory is that by thumb-tapping and counting, the brain focuses on this activity, rather than on the pain so you can grind it out.
Before I know it, I've completed the 8 miles at goal pace. The mile splits are bang on target, without any stopping. I'm pleased. I take a breather for 10 seconds, then turn down the pace for the last couple of miles as I jog home.
It's been a good run. I've sucked it up and done what needed doing. I feel satisfied, promising myself that from now on, no more stopping.
Learning to embrace the suck.