I'm running the Amsterdam Half Marathon on Sunday.
At the moment I'm nervous about it. I usually get a bit nervous before a big run, but I'm a bit more nervous than usual this time round. This is because I've been a bit ill so my preparation hasn't been too good. The upshot is I don't think I'm going to get anywhere near my personal best because I know you need to be 100% right physically and mentally in order to totally push yourself to the limit. If I'm being honest I don't feel I'm either at the moment.
In every run I've done so far I've improved on my previous times. This is the first one where I don't honestly feel I can better my best. I'm going into it with a mix of excitement, energy and dread. I know I'll have a slightly empty feeling at the end.
This is because I've been limited in my preparations and this is why I'll never be an elite runner. I'm accepting the fact that I'll not get a personal best because of the limitations - illness and lack of training. Truly great athletes would be inspired by this and would push themselves to breaking point.
But it's not all doom and gloom and I'm looking forward to the run. I'm genuinely excited about waking up, eating breakfast and then talking about the run with my friends. Then it'll be back to the hotel to relax for a while.
When the time comes we'll get ready and put some music on. I like to focus on the task in hand before a big event. I sit and think about what I'm about to do in a rational manner. I'm about to run for about 2 hours. Two hours. Two hours. No stopping. Start off easy and don't get carried away. I'll set myself some goals such as not skipping through my iPod Shuffle until at least 1 hour in. I'll restrict my intake of energy gels until at least halfway. During the race I will stick to these goals.
There's a great buzz and excitement at the beginning of a run. Everyone is together, and you can feel the nervous energy dripping off people. I love that feeling.
I find there are four stages to a run:
Settling in; enjoyment; effort; elation.
Settling in is a key stage. Don't get too excited by the atmosphere otherwise you'll set off too quickly. This could be disastrous. I prefer to start pretty slow and speed up toward the end. I'm very focused at this stage.
After around half an hour or so I start to really enjoy the run. By then my body has adjusted and I'm in my stride taking in the sights around me. It's a joy to be running. I lose focus at this point and just enjoy the feeling.
Then the wall happens. There's a lot of stuff written about the wall, but I'm talking about a different one. Regardless of whether it's a 4 mile run home or a 13 mile half marathon, I always hit a wall. It's always about two-thirds of the way through any distance I run. I get an immediate feeling of a lack of energy, and question whether I should stop or not. It takes a lot of focus to stick to your guns at this point.
Lastly comes the elation. There's no better feeling when you're in a run than when you know there's not too far to go and that you're gonna make it. It becomes joyful again. Sure, you're tired, but it's a joy. Energy reserves might kick in here. The crowds build up toward the end and you get people cheering you on. At this point I'll think about why I'm running, and if I'm raising sponsorship I'll think about the people involved to try and get every little drop of effort out of my body. I can get quite emotional at this stage.
It's a lovely feeling totally giving 100% for something and feeling like you couldn't have done any better. I'm really looking forward to that feeling on Sunday, I just don't think it'll be my best ever.