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  • Writer's pictureThomas Alexander

Fear, loathing and self doubt. The build, and taper week.

I started 2021 injured and after X-rays, MRI, bone scan and ultrasounds couldn't find the cause, 2 months of no training was the only cure. Safe to say that didn't do a lot for my confidence or hope for the year consisting of anything meaningful from a running perspective. Trying to tap into and maintain that PMA (positive mental attitude) I decided that when I could run again, it would be for fun, times be damned.

I had entered the Busselton half marathon and so, with only 6 weeks to train, got myself a basic generic online training plan, skipped most of it and got to work. The time off seemed to have helped, I did a lot of riding so the legs weren't too weak, and surprisingly I felt quite good, quite quickly. Then, the race was cancelled in the days beforehand due to one of Perth's short (we've been very lucky) covid lockdowns.

With no other races on the schedule, I started having fun at Parkrun, and if you haven't done Parkrun before, a free timed 5km event each Saturday, you're missing out. I finally managed to get my 5km time under 18 minutes and have improved since then with some magic new shoes, Endorphin Pros, set 1km and 5km PB's. I managed to follow that up at the Asics Bridges 10km with a 10km PB of 36:11 and was all set for the rescheduled Busselton Half Marathon.

I had just reached Busselton when a press conference announced another lockdown. I sat in the car for an hour waiting for updates and then yes, the race was cancelled again so I drove back home. Frustrated, after 6 hours of sitting in the car, I walked into the house, got changed and set out for my own half marathon in the dark. I've always felt that a frustrating day at work is great fuel for a run and this was no different, my previous PB was 1:32 and sub-1:30 was my goal so I was ecstatic with 1:19!

Much like any addiction though, the highs don't last too long and so I started looking for the next challenge, and hopefully a race that wouldn't be cancelled. A lot of marathons were much later in the year and, being the impatient type, wouldn't satisfy my shorter term needs so, I decided on Rottnest marathon, which will be my first marathon in 4 years!! I'm told this race is traditionally not a fast course, with rolling hills and wind, but figured it would be a chance to benchmark fitness and then aim for something later in the year if I didn't reach my goal. So this begun my very very short marathon training block which you can see below starting off after the taper for the half in April:

I also entered the odd distance of a 20 mile race a month ago at the West Australian Marathon Club's Perth 32km and surprised myself finishing in 2:03, an average of 3:51min/km. Part of me, a very big part, wishes that was marathon day as it's rare to feel so good on a run. But anyway, we're now deep into taper territory and the familiar nagging feelings and anxieties that await before every race are back.

Somewhere along the last few months, the (very minor but personal) successes that I've had have again put my brain out of the "fun" mode and back into being competitive. Not with anyone else, but with myself and so that pressure and expectation risks taking all of the fun out of the race, and dooming my goal of using running to be positive and happy. Of course, a good result on Sunday would fix that, but I don't want to be that kind of runner, that kind of person.

I remind myself of how it felt not being able to join friends on runs for 2 months, hating Strava and instagram for the reminder of things I couldn't do and so, perspective is so important. A sub-3 hour marathon seemed impossible a couple of years ago, but I'm in the best position ever to give that a shot, but if I don't and I kick myself, then I've really learned nothing this year so... for everyone that can't run, or is just starting to find running for whatever personal reason, I will make sure that Sunday is a day to celebrate being able to run. I will smile on the hills, into the wind and when my legs are cooked, because to do anything else seems selfish and stupid, to be honest.

Whatever happens will happen but I know that with a positive and happy mind, it will be a success, regardless of the time at the end of the day. Lying in bed right now with food poisoning isn't the best preparation but it has kept me from trying to sneak in extra running so maybe that's a bonus too! I still have so much to learn from others at how to be happier and more care free, hopefully some tips on what you do during taper weeks and on race day can assist 🙂.

For everyone else that's racing this weekend or soon, don't be like me and make sure your running lifts you up. Will update after Sunday so until then, stay #pavementstrong.

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