Runners don’t get holidays, they get overtraining syndrome

It’s great getting away, isn’t it? Especially when you live in a city and to have a week or so in the countryside – or even better, by the seaside – is blissful. I know I am like all of you and the first thing I check when I am going on a holiday is “where the heck will I run”! It would be easier if my distance was shorter but I need to map out a run that’s at least 22km long or it won’t work for me.

And so last week we found (if you can call having booked flights, a rental car, accommodation and then getting up at the crack of dawn for the train, plane and automobile “finding”) ourselves in the surprisingly sunny Shanagarry in the south coast of Ireland. I will spare you the details of the holiday (which was amazing!) but I can wholeheartedly recommend Kilmahon House to anyone. Normally operates as a B&B but the (incredibly lovely) owners occasionally rent out the whole house as they did to us as we went with the extended family of grandparents and aunties. Ok, I can’t resist –  here are a few pictures to give a flavour of the week:


Steps leading down to the water just off the cliff walk at Ballycotton
Steps leading down to the water just off the cliff walk at Ballycotton
Ballycotton Island Lighthouse in the background
Ballycotton Island Lighthouse in the background

So running. We flew out on Friday so my plan was to run on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to follow my usual routine. Normally Sunday and Thursday would be gym days to balance things out but when that’s not possible I run. I managed to map out what I thought was “a lovely little 22km loop”. Well, it was partly lovely but it wasn’t little. This 22.6km loop kicked my ass – I hadn’t accounted for that fact that it was, most of all, hilly.

What Google maps hadn’t really managed to convey, was that the part of the run that took me through the countryside was one hill after another. You would get up one and already see the next one. Not only were you climbing up the hills but you were constantly climbing up in the overall elevation as well. There was a nice big hill in the end though so that made up for some of the agony.

Elevation during my normal run in London. This is 23.14km (these runs vary from 22-24km)
Elevation during my normal run in London. This is 23.14km (these runs vary from 22-24km)
The elevation during the 22.6km loop in Shanagarry
The elevation during the 22.6km loop in Shanagarry

It was great to run some “real” hills. As challenging as Primrose hill is, it doesn’t really tax you all that much in the long run (Ha! See what I did there). But then maybe that is because I don’t do the “full frontal assault” during the long runs.

My first run was a shock for the hilly reasons already explained. I seemed to also run faster (probably because I didn’t know yet what was ahead of me) and did the run (22.6km) in 2:01:11. My average pace was 5:22 /km which I was (still am) very (very very) happy with.

For my second run my husband decided to join me. The plan was that he would do a bit and then turn back as he is a very sporadic runner and finds 10km to be his distance. However, the day was sunny and beautiful, the countryside gorgeous and he got lured in. Before we knew it, he was too far in and it didn’t make any sense to turn back. My pace for this run wasn’t great as I was trying to coax him on, running circles around him (not annoying at all), singing and generally showering him with little bits of wisdom whilst proving my running prowess. All the while he was fantasising about water in all shapes and forms;  the sea to swim in, a spring to drink from – in fact anything to drink from. He was half minded to go and knock on someone’s door to get a glass of water. I run without water unless it’s super hot so I am used to it but he was suffering. About 7km to go I had to leave him behind when he needed to stop. I know – what a shitty thing to do – but he knew from the start that you don’t mess with my running and he gave me his blessing in between wheezes. I had made sure I got him back into civilisation though. The man did great though, he detoured via a hotel and drank from their garden tap (still makes me laugh) and was happy enough to run home.

Third and fourth runs were uneventful but slower and harder. The Guinness and the running were clearly catching up with me.

So I did the four 22.6km runs in Ireland (Sat, Sun, Tue & Thu – total distance of about 90.5km). Got back on Friday and did a run on Saturday. Thought I would bash out a 24km but my body just went “Whoa!, you have got to be kidding me”. I was tired, my legs were heavy, my breathing heavier.. It was (pardon my French) a really shit run. I did 22.19km but I still don’t know how. It was horrible.

I then went to the gym on Sunday thinking “Yay, this will be easy! I will just watch my iPlayer and do my thing”. You can see where this is going, right? It was a SHIT session. I did my 1h on the Stair Mill but had to cut the lateral elliptical at 40 minutes iso the usual 1h. Just couldn’t do it. Head said no, body said no. So I gave in and said feck no. Hated myself, but did it.

The theme continued when my run on Tuesday was EVEN MORE MISERABLE. Again I had planned to do 24km but only managed a 22.15km. From the first step I wanted to stop. From the first – bloody (not literally) – step.

I know shit runs happen. I know these things have a way of going up and down and I guessed I had probably overdone it with the runs in Ireland. But I was gutted. And to top it off we are going away to a wedding this weekend so a) I have mapped out another long run in an unknown place  Saturday and b) will miss run/gym on Sunday all together. Dung. Oh, and I will be donating blood on 22nd of April so that will really crap all over everything. And hey, because misery loves company, I had to come to work today (Thursday, normally a day off and a day for the gym) so I had to do a run very early to compensate rather than hit the gym. I got up at 5am. Yes. That I did.

But you know what happened? It was an AMAZING run. Nothing hurt, everything felt effortless and I really enjoyed myself. The city was quiet and I didn’t have to battle tourists. I even warned a few dog walkers of broken glass at Primrose Hill! Yes, me, the angriest runner around. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was a great big burning orb when I was running towards it on Adelaide Road. I felt alive and just effing HIGH. I always feel this way when I do my early runs – why do I not do them more often?! Oh.. The getting up at 5am part is probably why.

So now I feel a bit more settled and less convinced that I can’t run anymore. And who knows, maybe that long run in a new place this weekend will be just as amazing as the run today and that day off on Sunday just what I need… I would say definitely after the wedding anyway…

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