Why I’m Glad I Took A Break From Running (even though I lost fitness)

This post is in collaboration with Brooks Running UK. What I learned from taking a break from running

Let me recap for those of you that might be new around here…

May 2019 – ran Edinburgh marathon, trying to BQ, ran a 3.38

June 2019 – started Ironman training

July 2019 – serious burnout, realised I wanted to BQ more than complete an Ironman right now

August 2019 – time off from a proper training plan

September 2019 – back to training!

What I learned from taking a break from running

Taking some time off felt lazy at the time, like I wasn’t taking my BQ goal seriously. However, looking back on the month of August, I realise how much I needed to be ‘off plan’ to allow my body to reset but more importantly, for my mind to prepare for some tough months ahead. I needed to fuel the fire.

The most ‘fired up’ I’ve ever felt going into marathon training was heading into the Berlin Marathon back in 2014, using the disappointment after missing my sub 4hr marathon in Paris earlier that year (I finished in 4.00.36). I worked harder than I ever had in my life for a sub 4 in Berlin, and managed a 3.49!

What I learned from taking a break from running

I have loved being part of the Brooks Best Fest challenge over the past few weeks (the final week is this week!) It focused not particularly on speed or distance, but on setting small challenges to remind yourself why we RUN HAPPY.

  • Challenge #1: more miles before sunrise
  • Challenge #2: last mile faster than the first 
  • Challenge #3: your route in reverse 
  • Challenge #4: run with new friends 
  • Challenge #5: beat your personal best

What I learned from taking a break from running

One of my favourite of the weekly challenges was the Running with New Friends which has forced me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to finally try the Reading Roadrunners track session. I’ve been putting it off for so long because I’ve been far too nervous to join a running club. Always worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, that I’d get lost (guess you can’t really do that around a track!) or not have anyone to talk to. But as I discovered on my instagram post, I am definitely not alone in this.

I braved the cold and took myself off for my first run club track session (its the one they suggest you join to get an idea of the club) and was taken through drills, stretches (erm, I thought we were over static stretches to warm up?!) and some speed play around the track with the founder of the club. He was very friendly, as were a couple of the other ladies who introduced themselves and chatted about joining their group next time.

Aside from a rather mean spirited comment about the fact that I was taking a selfie at the end of the session from one guy, I had a really positive time and will definitely be back.

I’m so glad that I put myself out there online by promising to attend, otherwise it would have been so easy for me to stay at home, or just not get out of the car…really that’s all I wanted to do! But the worst bit is always the first few minutes and then it’s over.

What I learned from taking a break from running

Another of the challenges that I’m enjoying is actually this week’s challenge, ‘to beat your personal best’. Now that isn’t likely to happen next week however, I will be running a 5K in Chicago…and racing it. Whilst I’m not anticipating a 5K PB (my current 5K time is 22.23 from parkrun on Christmas Day!) it will be a great opportunity to see where I am and where my ‘race’ effort is right now.

I’ve lost fitness, understandably over the past few months, and definitely some speed. However, what I’ve lost fitness wise, I feel like I’ve gained in terms of drive, motivation and perspective. Alongside a loss of fitness, I fear that I’ve lost confidence in my own speed, fitness and ability. This is something I want to work on over the next few months, with thoughts of working with a mental coach alongside my therapy sessions.

I want to run a Boston Qualifier, and not just BQ but a time that will actually earn me a bib in the race, which means more like a 3.25 (the official time is sub 3.30 for my age but this year’s cut off was 3.28.21 or faster for under 35 year olds). It’s my BIG goal, my will do whatever it takes to achieve it goal.

Taking some time off has given me the time to rethink what I actually want, focus on that as a priority…and practice patience.

Which is why I’m sort of taking the short time scale off, I had originally planned to attempt a BQ in Phoenix in Feb, however the shape I’m in right now, I’m not confident I could get there. So I’m being realistic, taking it back to basics, getting the mileage up, working on my strength, and looking at potentially racing the half in Phoenix (it’s where my current PB is from – read my race recap here) with the possibility of a late spring or even summer marathon.

The only goal is to earn a bib for the 2021 Boston Marathon race.

What I learned from taking a break from running

What I’ve learned from taking some time off…

  • I was seriously burned out.
  • My goal isn’t to run ALL the marathons as it has been in the past, although FOMO is real, I want this BQ more than anything else. And I’m going to have to put that into practice when it comes to saying no to cool marathons/races that don’t line up with that goal.
  • I need to readdress my attitude towards training, there doesn’t need to be a rush to run a race immediately. Dropping between 10-13 minutes from my marathon time will be no easy feat.
  • My training doesn’t need to look the same as everyone elses – and neither do my goals.

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6 Comments

  1. W. Purves
    9th October 2019 / 5:51 pm

    Sounds .like a good approach.

  2. Liz Johnson
    9th October 2019 / 6:16 pm

    Lovely post. I’m enjoying ‘no plan’ for the next month or so before Seville training, where I’d love to PB, kicks in. Really glad you’ll be back to Roadrunners 💚💙 (I’m the club social sec too) and in the spirit of running with new people, I’d love to join you on a run sometimes along the Thames. Enjoy Chicago. Liz x

  3. 12th October 2019 / 7:59 pm

    It’s fine to have a break from time to time. We all do. After all we are all human.

  4. 14th October 2019 / 1:43 pm

    Great post. My big takeaway from this is that whilst it is no bad thing to have multiple long term goals, it is really important to prioritise what is most important and focusing in on that. We can’t do everything at once.

  5. Heidi
    15th October 2019 / 5:20 am

    I think that in the Instagram / FB world people just keep going and going, or at least make it look that way. It’s actually very normal to take time off after a hard race / long training cycle etc. You wouldn’t necessarily think this if you just follow along with what influencers are doing.

  6. 17th October 2019 / 10:02 pm

    Great to see you back at it. I think breaks are a good thing, definitely after a big race. It’s hard to keep going and going from one to the next. Good luck with Project BQ!