Last week was the last big week before taper.  It consisted of a little under 55 miles that included an awesome speed session with my mate Kate, a couple (of really rather fast actually) slow, recovery runs and… wait for it… the AMAZINGLY useful, confidence boosting and mind settling Fleet Feet 20/12 event in downtown Cincinnati.

That all looked like this:

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All in all, this week of running, when you consider it tapers to race now, went the best possible way it could have done.  Firstly it was a week that included runs with some of the most amazing confidence boosting company.  This is going to be my note to self for any future race – get runs in like this.  I started the week easy with Crystal (you may know this name from pretty much every blog post by now) and Sally (who I am REAL TIME tracking in the Boston Marathon as I type (She’s STARTED! girlie scream), then I got 2 runs in with Kate (more about this in a minute) and I ended the week running 20 miles on the ACTUAL FLYING PIG COURSE!!

Before I talk about the 20, I want to mention the speed session I did with Kate.  So, this was a 4 x 1200m work out.  I had planned to do this on the track, but Kate suggested I try it on the infamous “Loop”.  Just a word on this Kate girl, so whether she likes it or not, I’m claiming her as a mentor – running and life.  In weirdness of chronology I think biologically I am old enough to be her mother, but I just adore her life ethic, wisdom and attitude.  She is to me, a sports woman, highly driven, kind… and UTTERLY HILARIOUS.  As a running friend though, she is pretty much priceless.  For this session, she asked what I needed and basically sorted the whole thing, from programming my watch, to cheering me on, to giving me visualisation exercises in the closing seconds of each rep and utterly refusing to let me even consider giving up (SHUT IT. RUN!)*.  If I’m running with Kate I will deliver (sheet ice notwithstanding), and that made this workout perfect for the mental game 3 weeks out from the race.

*she never says this out loud, but I hear it in my head 😉

So, then, onto this 20/12 event!  What utter genius!  So, I’d heard talk of this from my other running mates but this was my first time partaking.  What it is is basically a very large scale group training run.  Whilst there are not road closures like there would be on race day, the set course was marked by pavement stickers (and a rather obvious crowd to follow) and was laced with water and snack stations and finished with free pizza.

All that aside though, I can’t begin to say what this event has done for my confidence.  So, if you are not familiar with it, the Flying Pig is a hilly course.  I’d like to quote here from the most wonderful Arthur Craig (I shall never forget the words):  “The Pig eats it’s own babies”.  It’s famous for a rather large hill section known as Eden Park.  Please see below – can you guess where Eden Park is?

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I’ve actually ran this hill twice in my life, once in the Flying Pig Half (2017), 4 weeks after moving to America and second in the Queen Bee 4 miler.  I have never run it in the context of 26.2 miles.  So, on Saturday I got to run it in the context of 20 and do you know what – it was great!  I can’t begin to say how good it was for the mental game to have run it this way.  When I got to the top, by the Krohn’s conservatory I felt utterly elated.  I’d managed to take the hill without slipping below 9mm.  I’d also got to run it MINDFULLY.  My good friend Kelly (who incidentally has just run a 3:51 and currently owns my dream), advised me to run this and mentally gauge the ebbs and flows – to know when it gives you a break, to know when you need to dig, to know when it ends.  And do you know what, now I do.  Running this has taken away heaven knows how many anxious hours of worrying about it.  Eden Park:  we’re friends now, your views are beautiful and what goes up – comes down.  I fear you no more.  I embrace you.

Here’s me at the top – feeling goooood:

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I’d advise anyone, if the chance exists, to run at least some of the course you will race on beforehand.  Getting the chance to run 20 miles (76% *hard maths) of The Flying Pig was a gift.  OK, it still leaves that nasty final 6 miles as unknown territory and I am more that aware that ANYTHING can happen there and frequently does.  But as an awesome quality final long run, I’m calling in the 20/12 for the win.

Right, time to taper.

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And… just finally.. outtakes section:  I can’t even begin to say how rubbish me, Kate and Sarah were are trying to capture a jump pic at the end of the speed session last Wednesday.  I’ll just leave this here:  (*Lucy Brown… heeeelp meeee.. bring me kryptonite!).

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