I'm really hoping that some of you may have some advice or experience to share with me.
Yesterday I ran a half marathon in just under 1.57 - seven minutes slower than my last half last October. Since October I have run a 3.55 mathon in November and a 1.23 ten-miler in December. In yesterday's half I was passing the ten-mile mark at 1.29.
I know why I was slower yesterday. Over the past five weeks I've only run eight times (combination of snow and ice, Christmas/New Year hols, family commitments, work etc). During this time I've also eaten more than usual (still have fridge full of Christmas cheese) and probably put on at least a stone (don't know exactly how much as don't own a pair of scales).
So...I expected to be slower yesterday but it was still a bit of a shock to see how slow I've become so quickly. It was also a bummer because since I started running two and a half years ago, I've improved with every race. I knew the day would come when another race didn't mean another PB but I didn't expect it to happen so spectacularly!
Now I know there are no secrets and no short cuts and you really have to put the hours and the miles in to keep improving. I'm running the Brighton Marathon in 13 weeks (eek!) so serious marathon training starts now (bit late, I know). After running NY in 3.55 I was thinking about aiming to crack the magic 3.45 barrier, but I think I can wave goodbye to that idea now.
A friend who is a very experienced and successful runner said to me after yesterday's race that it's just not possible to lose seven minutes worth of fitness in just over a month - she says the difference probably has more to do with weight gain than lack of training. I'd be very interested to hear what others think about this.
I also know that I should build up my training again gradually and not launch myself into a full-on marathon training plan after a period of relative inactivity - however I think I'm going to do it anyway. Until five weeks ago I was running five days a week and I really want to focus on my marathon now.
Has anyone had similar experiences? I'd be interested to hear how long it took you to regain your fitness.
If you put on a bit more than a stone I would say the slowing down is almost entirely due to weight gain.
Try entering your numbers into this, although it's only a guide:
After a month of very few runs I would imagine you'd be back to previous fitness within less than a month assuming you were at the same weight - your few runs in that time will have helped a fair bit. As a general rule I think the "harder" fitness, i.e. that fitness attained through quality training such as improved vo2 max, is lost more quickly than slower aerobic fitness.
The danger you face now is the extra stress on connective tissue due to the weight gain so be conscious of that when you try and ramp up to previous volumes. I think your 'comeback' will have to include a focus on weight loss in tandem with increased running volume.
In your circumstances I wouldn't settle on a marathon time goal until much closer to the race (vollume is up / weight is down). That means not giving up entirely on any aspirations - yet!
Thanks Moraghan, that's very helpful - hadn't seen that calculator before. Will def be cutting out the cheese and chocolate. I did become a lot fitter through threshold running and interval training in the run up to my November marathon so will be including more of those hard training sessions again now in the run up to my April marathon. Just done a nice easy three-mile lunchtime run.
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