snow, socks and a stitch

img_7656Into week 7 – I  think of marathon training and by now I was expecting it to just be running, running and more running, which of course it is, but the running is punctuated by new discoveries and all sorts of learning that I have to hope will all help me come the big day.

Weather so far this year has been a winter of the unrelenting grey and bleak variety – cold as a given- but with hardly any uplifting crisp, frosty, days to offset the drab – just a shed load of Pantone 442.

And as I am following a training plan of set days – sometimes my run days just don’t coincide with the odd sunny spot.

No matter – this training in all weathers is all helping me to develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS.


This phrase is a recurring one in marathon training, and I imagine any race training – and I think I get the message. It seems I will need bucketloads of this mental strength come race day. I just can not begin to imagine (and have no intention of finding out) how much mental toughness you might need to develop to do some ultra distance or these races that have you running through the desert or in the depths of Death Valley or across Scottish mountain tops. Respect to all of you guys out there doing that kind of thing, but its a no from me.

To come back to this week and my weather obsession – Thursday was my hill repeat day and snow was forecast. These days storms all have names – and Doris the storm was going to bring winds, rain and for some parts of Scotland a shedload of snow.


Hearing that forecast – I had the same kind of feeling I used to get during summer when rain was forecast. By way of explanation –  I grew up on a fruit farm and in the summer months worked there during the raspberry harvest. Of course, as a family we did not want it to rain during the raspberry season, but sometimes I did just long for one rainy day to get me out of a day’s work.

And so this week I had much the same feeling when watching the weather forecast on repeat  – maybe it would be just too windy/ snowy/ dangerous to train – yippee! A day off for me

But then unlike getting a day skiving off work, skipping a training session is not really helpful in the long run – I know I have to put in these long cold hours to get me round 26.2 miles come May.

As it turned out storm Doris did bring some very windy weather but in the part of Edinburgh where I live it also brought a welcome snowfall – by that I mean just enough snow to be pretty but not enough to interrupt things too much.

Was a nice change to run in cold crisp air and amongst a snowy hilly landscape.


After the previous weeks training when it felt as if it was all coming together, this week I thought it was unravelling. On Tuesday I cut short a planned pace session as I just could not get my legs to move fast enough and could not get warm. I had done a different body pump class the day before and my legs were heavy, but truthfully it was more my head that did not want to play ball.

Mental toughness was in short supply on Tuesday.

My snow hill session was invigorating, but not sure it could really be classed as a genuine example of hill repeats, as I spent quite a bit of recovery time taking pictures. then on the way back from the hills I took a tumble and landed heavily on my knees – no damage done save for some grazing and technicolor bruising.  Falling and getting up to keep running is a good way to develop mental toughness though !

Then on Saturday, I was to do 10 miles steady on a hilly route but in the afternoon. I am not so good at eating for exercise when the session is later in the day, and as a creature of weekend running habit – it feels a bit weird to be sitting around reading Saturday papers at a time when I usually have my running done and dusted for the day.

But I had a route planned and was also going to try out running in my new compression socks – so I downloaded the podcast of Cerys Matthews R6 show and following what I thought a decent interval after a brunch of poached eggs, bacon and toast – I headed off.

Not far into running, I got a bit of a stitch. This was something new and so I just slowed down but the stitch did not seem to want to budge. I was trying to put it to one side and at the same time try and remember self-cure for stitches. Neither of these mental actions made much difference so  I just kept going – and made it to the Meadows where there are public toilets.

Even after a comfort break, my tummy was not feeling great but I had completed almost 6 miles, so more than half way. I had opted for a route into town partly to get some hills, but also to have some distraction as I  was running alone. The route I often do is an out and back along a trail path – and while a favourite run route – you are much more on your own.

Is good to have distractions sometimes but the downside of running into the city is knowing that at any given point I could hop on a bus and get myself home – and when I was feeling less than 100% it was tempting.

But of course come marathon day this will not be an option – so I just did a tried and trusted method of breaking down the miles left into songs – usually 3+  to a mile. Fortunately, Cerys Matthews Sunday show is just perfect for this as she has a very eclectic music selection and good chat between songs.

So I made it to 10 miles – including 3 uphill return miles that at least took my mind off the stitch, and was pleased to have completed the session even if it was not the most enjoyable.

Later when discussing my stitch and tummy trouble with Sally – she told me I had eaten completely the wrong things before my run ( largely because I ignored what she had told me to eat )! – so that’s a lesson learned. But a run chum was a bit more forgiving saying that finishing a run when you don’t want to and are feeling out of sorts is a great way to develop the necessary MENTAL TOUGHNESS -an essential component of marathon success.

It’s that old chestnut again.

As to the socks – I have no idea if they are making any difference, but at least I know they did not cause the stitch !







8 thoughts

  1. I haven’t been running long distances for (more than!) a few months now, but for my LSD runs at 18K, I would generally have my morning tea followed by a banana or a piece of toast before, and then bring along a sports drink for fuel along the way. That was usually good enough, and I’d enjoy a big brunch when I got home. For runs at about 25K, I’d not eat much more, but I’d bring along a runner’s energy bar or gel, or just a handful of raisins, chocolate chips, whatnot. I guess I’ve been fairly lucky not suffering stitches very often. . . I’d be very curious to learn what your trainer suggests for fueling your longer runs — what and when. (and Yes! that Mental Toughness is the biggest part of the training, I think. The last 10k of the marathon. . . . I so know you’ve got this!

    1. Hi Frances – my coach is pretty good on the eating advice, ( as that si her main line of business) it is just that I don’t always follow it ! Generally, I prefer to run fasted, but that is not a great idea over longer distances. So porridge an hour before a LSD of say 20k + , with a gel after 70 minutes of running then every 25/30 mins thereafter. Then yes a good brunch or protein carb refuel afterwards. I have not yet entered the really long runs of marathon training – so not sure how I will feel taking multiple gels. I am going to try some solid snacks in training, and see how it goes. My big thing is getting thirsty – so I am trying out a backpack with a bladder, so I can take small sips of water rather than carrying a bottle. I think as to mental toughness – I need to tell myself it is about finishing rather than any other goal, as when I put myself under any time pressure – it seems to unravel. 🙂

  2. Great read Margaret. Stitches are never good but if you can work through them then all the better. I’ve found a stitch on my right is fatigue related and one in the left is food.

    Totally agree with the thoughts about mental toughness, 20 miles is the half way point in a marathon. Sounds like training is going well though. Keep up the great work and see you at the start line.

    1. Thanks Owain and interesting analysis of right v left stitch ! Overall I feel the training is going well but as it’s a first time at marathon distance the fear of the unknown looms large 😳😊!

  3. Enjoyed your thoughts and observations. What have you been advised to eat before? I usually have a small amount of tea and a bite or two of toast as I read somewhere that women need something before they run. Agree about compression socks too. I have been wearing them for a year now and I also have no idea if they make a difference either but they do keep my legs warmer than short socks that just feel weird now!

    1. Hi Johanna
      I would normally run fasted ( except for a cup of tea) for distances of up to 6 miles or time up to 1 hr running, then if longer I have porridge 1 hour before running, then a gel if I am running for longer than 75 minutes.
      Is easy when running in the morning but running in the afternoon is trickier as I don’t always fancy a sandwich – maybe need to just live off porridge !

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