Month Three, 2019

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Oh my gosh it’s less than TWO WEEKS until Boston Marathon! I’ve been dreaming about qualifying for and running this race for over three years now, and it’s absolutely bonkers that on April 15 I will get to run that iconic race. I’ve been reading and learning and fretting about getting everything ready for it, I just want to have a great day no matter what the outcome.

This past month has been all eyes on Boston. This race means so much to me that I knuckled down to ensure I was doing my training and getting adequate rest and recovery. Sure, that made me a little bit boring during the week, but the onset of spring and some glorious sunshine-y weather did allow for some quality time with friends on the weekends. I’ve even been able to muster up energy after a long run to actually do stuff on a Sunday afternoon!

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After months of no racing, in March I twice pinned on a bib and stood at the start-line. I get so much enjoyment out of running with/against other people in these semi-competitive scenarios (mostly you’re just competing against yourself), that after the winter hiatus it was great fun. I still get jitters and butterflies before the gun goes, but that’s part of the experience! And once you get going that all fades away.

The first race was the Semi de Paris, a good tune-up race ahead of the marathon and a way to see how the training has been going so far. It was a pretty windy day and my sub-1:35 goal was blown to one side (hah, see what I did there?) but I kept grinding it out to run a 1:37:16 new PB, so happy with that! The best bit was finishing still with a lot of energy left in the tank, so theoretically that means I could keep the pace going for longer, right?

A week later I ran the EcoTrail de Paris 30km which was meant to be a fun run on trails and then some marathon-pace work to finish… but I got a bit carried away with overtaking people and being in the forest and raced it all. ~500m of elevation gave a nice burn in the legs, but I finished strong as 22nd female! Given the single trail run I’d done this year, it was solid.

Those two races were a great confidence boost. That this running-really-fast-over-a-relatively-hilly-marathon may actually be feasible after all. On verra.

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Outside of running/training/racing, I got to enjoy a few fun things in Paris this month. One was the Salon de l’Agriculture, which is a big exhibition of farmers from all around France. We live just next to the main Paris exhibition centre, and so figured it was finally time to go along to one! We saw lots of pigs, sheep, goats and cows (including a bull who weighed over 1600kg!!!), along with llamas, camels and two dromedaries. Super cool! There was also lots of food from all the different regions of France and beyond, nearly too much to choose from.

Another Sunday I met up with my friend Genieve and we had the most lovely afternoon wandering through the centre of Paris and discovering all these random things going on. To start with we ended up partaking in a dance flash-mob-like thing, trying to copy moves from a leader up the front. Then down by the Seine we found Mammouth Brass Band, who were playing awesome jazz tunes and drawing a crowd. The vibes were incredible. It felt like the start of summer, and I hope it continues in this same direction.

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March in kilometres:
1 – 3 March: 44.8km (Fri – Sun)
Best run: First two hours of the long run, with Pippa, doing the loop around Paris
4 – 10 March: 54.6km (inc Semi de Paris)
Best run: my friend Alissa visited from London & I got to join her for her first 5km run!
11 – 17 March: 59km (inc EcoTrail)
Best run: 4x10mins where it felt like things were starting to come together
18 – 24 March: 83.5km
Best run: Hitting 35km in the long run
25 – 31 March: 64.2km
Best run: The longest threshold session at 3x15min, which felt almost smooth
Total: 277.7km

There were a few dodgy track sessions in there (it’s been a long time since I’ve properly run in circles and it showed!), but overall it was a solid month of training. Of the three ‘sessions’ I’ve been doing per week, the second shorter-intervals one has been the most problematic. However, my Tuesday long threshold-intervals has continued to get stronger and stronger which is really pleasing to see.

We started to add some marathon pace sections into the long runs, which hasn’t been the smoothest transition. I’ve found that after two hours of running it’s hard to switch up a gear for a very long time, and I usually ended up crying. Now that I think about it, despite how solid the month was, I did actually shed quite a few tears – but mostly worked through them. The training has been pushing me, for sure.

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Boston Marathon marks the end of my challenge to run 26.2 marathons by age 26.2. On April 15th, this challenge which has been my life for the last 3.5 years is coming to an end, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on everything that’s happened to lead me up to this point. In some ways, running marathons back-to-back-to-back became so normal that I hardly considered it, but simultaneously now when I think that I’ve already run 25.2 marathons – that’s just ridiculous.

I’ve been writing little recaps of each marathon over on my Instagram (@julia.runs), one marathon per day. Every race was an experience in itself, and an opportunity to see a different part of the world. I am super lucky that I have been in a position to do this challenge: physically, mentally and financially, it has shown and taught me a lot.

When the challenge comes to an end in 11 days time I will be so elated to have finished, but also quite sad to see the end of it. I’m not quite ready to think too much about what comes next- firstly I need a break!

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Collecting a few interesting articles each month has become really enjoyable. This month’s reads are all about sport (running/athletics), but that just goes with my general frame of mind at the moment.

I’ve been really enjoying the articles published by Tempo Journal, particularly this piece on running in Ethiopia, the Bekoji Time Trial and the Ethiopian lifestyle (they drink a lot of coffee!). Tempo is an Australian publication who also fielded a women’s team for The Speed Project. They ended up coming first and breaking the women’s record by 7 hours, so that’s pretty awesome.

Early in the month I was struggling with how to deal with the mental side of trying to run relatively-fast for 42.2km, and came across ‘How to Build Mental Muscle’ in Runner’s World. Seems like my post-work runs may be having more effect than just physical.

Loved this look into the lives of two of the world’s greatest shot-putters, because it’s just a world I never even think about. Field events don’t get much exposure, but these are still guys at the top of their game.

Everything about running is special, and Blรกithรญn Sheil captures the essence of what keeps me continuing to chase after my goals.

And of course, we couldn’t finish without something about the Boston Marathon! If you’re getting ready for the race, I found Canadian Running‘s 2017 article to be the most helpful for knowing what’s coming. It covers the course (with handy Strava diagrams so you can see the Newton Hills elevation profile!), race-day logistics and pacing strategies.

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April April April 2019 I’ve been waiting for you forever! Boston Marathon on the 15th to finish off this epic 26.2 marathon challenge, then a week’s holiday in the USA including celebrating my 26th birthday in New York! Absolutely cannot wait, I just need to stay calm until then…

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