Because I felt good after running a half marathon last December, I decided to continue my run training and signed up for a marathon because I wanted to become a balanced “triathlete”, having similar level in swimming and running.
I picked Seoul International Marathon as my target race, which was 15 weeks after I did the half marathon, noting that it had a IAAF platinum certified flat course and held in a good season which I could expect to run PB in it. My expected time was 3:40, and, if the training went well, an ambitious goal would be 3:30, based on my half marathon time of 1:42. I continued my run training to build my distance, and planned to increase my weekly mileage to about 30 km / week in January, and 40 km / week in February, in 3 runs per week, and gradually extending the length of my long run by a few km every 2 weeks until reaching 37 km by the end of February.
It went well until mid-January, by that time I had already built up my long run to 25.7 km on 2020-01-12. However the next two weeks were a disaster. I basically missed nearly all my training, because I didn’t feel good in the week, then I did a marathon swimming race, and the next week was Chinese New Year so I went away for my family. So I hadn’t trained for half a month in the second half of January.
After the missed training, in February I had lost all my run fitness. When I tried to run my prescribed sets at the target speed I burnt out very soon, which resulted in terminating my workout earlier than planned. For example, when I planned to do 4 rounds of intervals I could only do 3. Also, I planned to run my long runs at about 10.5 km/h (which was 11 km/h when I trained for my half marathon) and could no longer do so, and I couldn’t even keep 10 km/h. So I know I was doomed and I had to adjust my expectation to 4:00.
I gradually resumed training but because of my missed training in January, I had to start my long runs again at 17 km rather than building up to 30 km or more after my 25.7 km long run in January. I also added more runs per week and signed up for running classes in a triathlon club. I once thought that my running fitness was returning when I was able to keep up the intervals in the running class in mid-February (2020-02-19) based on my original race pace. However, it was not true. I ran another 25 km long run on the weekend afterwards on 2020-02-24 and I felt much worse than the 25.7 km long run in January. I was very slow (less than 10 km/h) and my whole feet, ankles and legs were painful. I was really doomed because I had time to make only 1 long run afterwards, 2 weeks after that i.e. 2 weeks before my marathon, which I planned to run about 33 km to conclude my training. I might even not be able to meet the revised goal time of 4:00 at that shape, and could only hope to complete within the 5:00 cut off. I posted my situation on a forum and people thought that I needed to consider bailing out. However I had already bought non-refundable flights and hotels for the trip so I would only consider that as a last resort.
When I was really worried if I could complete my marathon and thinking if I should give up my goals, God finally told me to give up. In the week of 2020-02-20, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Korea started to grow exponentially, with daily newly-confirmed cases more than total combined before, i.e. a community outbreak happened there. The flights were cancelled so I could refund it or postpone it, and the cancellation of the marathon was near certain, but I still needed to wait for official announcement to see if it would be postponed to a later month.
I once considered to do another marathon in August in my planned trip to Europe, for example, Helsinki Marathon on 2020-08-22, two weeks after Vidösternsimmet which I had signed up already. I felt so bad in my second running class on 2020-02-26 that I couldn’t run my race speed when I should be, and couldn’t catch up the intervals afterwards, which was a vast contrast in my first class which I did well. It was because the night was warm and humid, and I could only run in cold weather even with minimal clothing. I really wanted to give up. So I no longer thought I would do a European marathon because I didn’t think I can sustain my training in the following few months due to the weather.
The announcement of cancellation was officially made today with refund given automatically. Therefore I can now continue with the refund of flights which has already been cancelled by the airline. I now declare my plan to run a marathon aborted. I actually didn’t enjoy the whole training process in the past few months, and the feeling of pain was become more and more over time. I can now give my feet a relief and take off all my pressure from them. I will stop running from March onward. I don’t know if I will revive my plan, but certainly not before November when the hot season will be gone.
Meanwhile, in February, my swimming training returned to my base level. Due to COVID-19 all public pools and university pools were closed to minimise the chance of outbreak, and Swim Lab Asia organised OW training sessions in Repulse Bay as a replacement for the cancelled Wednesday and Friday pool sessions, doing speed sets in the OW to complement the long social swims which most of our Tritons members do regularly on the weekend. I usually swam 4 times a week, Wednesday and Friday OW squad sessions, and Saturday and Sunday OW group swims, about 12 km total in February. This won’t be enough to train for the 21 km Vidösternsimmet in August so I planned to gradually increase my training and start another training cycle again once I completed my marathon in March, before the sea in Hong Kong is too hot for swimming. However, because the marathon is cancelled, and I am planning to drop my Swedish small group lessons as well (because I have decided to go to the UK instead of Sweden for my working holiday next year, planning to have my base in Bournemouth / Poole), I will have more time for swimming and will start increasing training sooner, maximising my training benefit when the sea is only 19°C which is the expected temperature of the race in Nordic August which I may need to swim up to 9 (!) hours.