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Coping with race cancellation? Its not all doom and gloom…..

You have been training for that Spring Marathon for months and now its cancelled or looking like being cancelled. For non-runners its no big deal but for those that have made this a major part of their life over the last 3,4,5 (and 6 months beyond) the reality that your race has been cancelled or is likely to be cancelled is devastating. Today I am that person as its just been announced that the Belfast City marathon has been postponed until the middle of September.

The news did not come as a massive shock as marathons around the world having been falling over like dominoes during the last few weeks and as much as anything it was a relief that the decision was finally made rather than having to go thru 2-3 more long runs only for it to be cancelled. As anyone that has undertaken this feat will know, the mental side is almost as tough as the physical side as when those miles really climb you are constantly questioning why you are actually doing this as your body screams STOP! Thus keeping the motivation up with the likely prospect that it would be postponed has been at the front of my ‘running mind’ the last couple of weeks.

I had pretty much made the decision last week that the event would be postponed and I changed my long run from 26kms to 16kms and it actually was invigorating as I had my fastest long run since last September’s half marathon and finished strongly and mentally good about things. On my way around I was starting to plan what I would do if it was cancelled and rather than viewing the last 6 months as a waste I started to think of them as a stepping stone for the rescheduled date.

Now the ‘worst’ has happened rather than being disappointed I am actually very positive about the revised date as it gives me more time to improve and be in the best possible shape for September. I read an article a while back that said on every race and every training cycle you learn something which will help you for next time. Well on this training cycle I have learnt a number of things:

Running smart – in a previous article I had said about trying to run more as I felt I did not run enough in my first marathon, I still stand by that however this has to be done in a measured way. I picked up a niggling injury around mid-January and while I had only one week of zero mileage I visited an excellent fitness and conditioning expert (Leo Neenan – and he said that I was running too much! He advised me that I would have to build this mileage slowly otherwise I would just get injured again. Thus he put me on three days running and 2 days leg strengthening, he said while my mileage was good there was a lot of ‘junk miles’ that just made me tired and did nothing for my performance…this started around a month ago and its starting to have a really positive effect on my running.

Be patient – for me running is a massive lifestyle change and it’s a commitment I have made to myself for the long term. The temptation is to push harder and harder so you see fast results however while I don’t especially enjoy leg strengthening and weights if this gets me running 5 days a week in 12-18 months time and at faster speeds its worth it. According to Leo if you are patient you can build properly you will get there with a physique that allows you to focus on improving your skills rather than worrying about injury.

Gradual training – this is an addendum to ‘being patient’ and relates to spreading your training out over a longer period of time rather than compressing into a 16 week marathon training cycle once a year. A while back I read an article about ‘plateauing’ where each marathon you saw no improvement and it said that part of the problem was if you stopped training in between races all you did over the 16 weeks was return to the same place you where at the last race. If however you train in between races you gradually build on your base level of fitness and can in fact start and improve your times and performance.

So in summary while many of you will be feeling down about the cancellation I am taking the positive approach that I can use the spring and summer to really push on from my current level and be so much better prepared in the Fall that I have a chance of real improvement. Last marathon as soon as it was over I cut straight back to my favoured distance of 10k and that was my long run – this time rather than cut this back so much I am going to try and keep a long run in there weekly at 16k (10 miles) and gradually build this over the next 2-3 months so that when the 12-16 week cycle kicks in I am already at a high base and I can be focused on running faster not just getting distance up…anyway that’s just my take everyone will view this differently. I am always much more half glass full than empty, so my advice is while for sure its disappointing take the positive out of what you have achieved the last 3-4 months and use this for the future.