We have the Brighton Half Marathon in three weeks’ time and it was definitely on our minds that we would have to taper soon. Nevertheless, the marathon remains the biggest goal of the year so, following our plan, we decided to add another 2km to the last long run we did in New York and aimed for 22km. We wanted to avoid our usual trip to Totteridge to keep things interesting so we decided to head down the Greenwalk to Hampstead Heath.  We do the park run in Hampstead every week, so we know it’s hilly. With hindsight, it was naive to think we could run the same distance we’d done before, plus 2km, plus some hills. This was definitely the hardest run yet on this training plan, but an important one, as we inch ever closer to 23 April 2017.

Long run: Hampstead, Swain’s Lane and other hills (22km)
Date: 5th February 2017. Time 2h4min. Pace: 5.40/km.
Written by: Clinton

It was an overcast day, misty and dreary. We started our run on the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, turning right and towards Finchley lane and Hampstead, and it took only a few kilometers before we were on a muddy path through the woods.

I was honestly doubting I was still in London at this point. I felt like I could have been anywhere in the countryside, but I was just off the A1/ A406 junction.

So how were we feeling? I had a very worrying experience with calf pain during the track session a few days before and at the time I was almost sure I was down and out. I gingerly ran on it 5km each of the subsequent days and I was now hoping it would be fine. I also read about why this had happened to me: it looks like I have weak glutes and hamstrings, my hips are too tight, my footwear was wrong, my abs are too weak, I have over-trained, I haven’t stretched enough, my cadence is too low… Obviously bamboozled by everything that was wrong, I’ve gone with the usual approach of changing nothing and hoping it fixes itself! (I may have done some sit-ups and kettlebell swings, slightly grudgingly, just in case.)

So far so good, the calf was holding up and the double calf guard combo seemed to be working. “How are your niggles” I asked Jess, who just yesterday was only 12 seconds from hitting a new parkrun course PB. “Oh they’re completely fine, great in fact.” Great, my calf is alright but my glutes are killing from those kettlebell swings.

We had now made it through Little Wood, Big Wood and just circumvented the Hampstead Heath Extension. Time to enter Hampstead Heath. We took a slightly winding path (didn’t really know where we were going at this point) down to the model boating pond.

We had heard from fellow parkrunners that there was an interesting street to include in any run round Hampstead: Swain’s Lane.

It is about 1km in length with an elevation gain of about 70m. Having ran there for the first time today, I can confirm that it is a big hill, starting on a mild incline, becoming steeper and seemingly never-ending. No calf niggles though! Just the pain of my lungs gasping to refill.

I put in quite a lot of effort on this stretch, thinking it would hurt but it would feel so great to look back from the top of the hill and see Jess far behind. No such luck! she stayed right on my tail all the way up. So annoying.  We then promptly went downhill back to the Heath, at a much quicker pace than the ascent!

At this point we had done only about 13km and we knew it was 5km back home. So on the way back, we had to do a couple of loops around Golders Hill park and Hendon Park to make up the distance. It was in Hendon Park (4km to go) when I started feeling the effects of the uphills we’d done earlier in the run. I felt like I was hitting the wall;  my legs felt like lead, my arms and back aching. My calves were both hurting, but no more than the rest of me! I’m not sure what made me notice my aches more at this point, I”m pretty sure I had gradually started building aches since 10km. Maybe it was Jess’s happy shout of “Let’s go race pace!” before speeding off down the path. She always does this! How was this possible, to have run so far with so many hills and still have the energy to attempt some race day pacing. Finally, we finished the 22km run, totally knackered is how I’d describe myself. The thought of the full marathon or rather, let’s do that run all over again was not at this point filling me with confidence.

Week totals:

Jess: 56.1km

Clinton: 42.1km