I was on a real high after my experience of running the 2014 London Marathon and although my cold lingered for a few days, my body was in remarkably good shape. I had a few aches and I was a little stiff but was able to get up and down stairs without any pain. I made sure I went out and did some walking just to keep the legs moving but running was certainly off the agenda.
Back home in Northern Ireland, I was keen to focus on my next race, which I hoped would be the Newry Half Marathon at the end of May. So, about a week after the marathon, I was out on the roads running some gentle miles. This turned out to be a big mistake, particularly as I continued running with a slight niggle in my left knee. The upshot of this was nearly 3 months out of action, nursing my left knee back to full working order. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; yes, I should have rested for longer after the marathon and I certainly shouldn't have continued running with a niggle.
These 3 months were frustrating but it also gave me a chance to take stock of how I approached my running. Firstly, I had my knee checked out and no major problems were detected and my injury had probably come about because I had run the marathon with a cold, not enough rest after the marathon and not listening to my body.
So, between the end of April and the start of July, I started to regularly do some strength training and dynamic stretching with focus on my glutes and hips. May and June was when I started some gentle walking and by mid-June I was able to go out for over an hour. With my knee getting stronger, I started to walk/run where I went out for 90 minutes, walking for 10 minutes and running for 5. The final week of June saw me run non-stop for a couple of miles without any ill-effects.
In early July, I picked up a copy of Irish Runner magazine which included a 22 week training schedule for Dublin Marathon and this is when I decided my focus for the rest of 2014 would be to get to the start line of the Dublin Marathon. My training started at week 8 and I was determined to follow it as best as I could BUT I wasn't going to lose sleep if I had to miss the odd day or take extra rest days. I would continue daily stretching, run on grass at least twice a week and try to mid-foot strike as much as I could without compromising my natural style.
I didn't enter any races in July and August but I was keen to get a couple of races under my belt before Dublin Marathon, just to see how my training was progressing. There was my first ever Park Run (5k) which I completed in 21:50 and then on August 7th, I ran the Laganside 10k which went really well (other than I started too far back) and completed this in 45:44. Although, not a PB, this was my third fastest 10k time, so was very pleased. The following week, I was lining up at the Belfast Half Marathon and was hopeful of a sub-1:45 time. The start got delayed by an hour after a PSNI officer got knocked down helping to set the course out. Rather than stand around getting cold, I took myself off to do some gentle strides and get some stretching done. The only drawback was by the time the organisers called us to the start line, I had no way of getting through the crowds to the 1:45 pacers. I didn't lose too much time by starting at the back and by the first mile, I was already hitting a good pace. I ran even paced and although there was difficult section between miles 10 and 11, I found the course quite straightforward and not too challenging. Really pleased to cross the line with a time of 1:44:26 (my third fastest half marathon).
Here I am at mile 9...I was trialling the yellow tutu as I had agreed to wear said item at the Dublin Marathon (don't ask!)
September and October flew by and my confidence was growing, particularly as I completed two 20 milers with some miles at marathon pace and for the first time, I ran a 22 miler as part of my training and this went really well. Now, all that was left was to taper and prepare for Monday 27th October and the 2014 Dublin Marathon.