Running

If the cap fits, still check the weather

Okay, so I got told that my previous post about Spring wasn’t really about Spring at all, but, yawn … running again. I think she made it sound more polite than that but I took this to be the inference.

A running cap and a woolly hat
My slim stock of running headwear

This blog is about hats, but then again it’s about running as well, as the only time I consistently wear one is when I run. A woolly one for the winter and my peaked cap for the summer. My hair is not super short nor long enough, most of the time, to fully tie back and the most annoying thing is those escaped wisps tickling your eyes or slapping at your cheeks if the wind is up.

Today, the wind was up, it is still March after all, and I pulled the woolly hat back out from the bottom of my running drawer and tugged it snugly on. I may not have had to worry about my hair giving me whiplash but the trees have been shakin’ their thang rather vigorously and I contemplated putting my bike helmet on as extra protection but decided that it was better to die from flying debris than look a twonk.

It felt good to be out for a short little two miler, as I’d had another attack of the CBAs this week, and despite Bev trying to entice me several times, I wasn’t having it. Partly because it was my time of the month, and partly because it was rainy and miserable and who in their right mind would venture out voluntarily in skimpy clothing in this kind of weather anyway!

Today’s blustery but not freezing wind just felt invigorating, even when it buffeted me. But it was not a cap day. If you can see what the wind did to this fence, you can imagine the kind of lift-off my peak would have given.

A fence panel fallen down
Wind damage or dodgy carpentry? You decide.

It is quite astonishing sometimes how a mood can affect me. Yesterday, I wasn’t exactly low, but I definitely wanted to hunker down and keep myself contained. Whereas today, I felt like dancing with the bud laden branches, and hollering in the breeze!


There are many poems about March winds, but this little ditty captures the current mood of the day:

March wind is a jolly fellow,
He likes to joke and play.
He turns umbrellas inside out
And blows men’s hats away.

He calls the pussy willows
And whispers in each ear
‘Wake up you lazy little seeds,
Don’t you know that Spring is here?’

Anon
Running

Spring is in the Air

I am just watching the pigeons. Three were sat merrily on my neighbour’s apple tree just now, when a fourth landed in the vicinity. It sidled up to each and they all flew away one by one as it got close. I wasn’t sure whether I was witnessing a bully or a failed attempt at pigeon chat up lines. ‘Tis the season after all.

It is a rare moment of wilful idleness as I’ve been unusually busy but after my long run this morning (I got to 9 miles), I feel like I can put my feet up for a bit.

It took me 1 hour 45 minutes ish and I realised that I’d need to start taking a gel in the middle of my long runs now as my quads (or ‘thighs’ to normal people) were starting to turn to rubber. That may also be because I’d been for my first proper cycle ride of the year yesterday. It was just under 12 miles done in a leisurely 1.5 hours and by the end my thighs (or ‘quadriceps femoris‘ if you want to be technical) were very happy to see the bike go back in the shed, as were my buttocks.

Now, for me, gels are tolerable but many people find them sickly. There are a ton of makes and flavours etc. and I use the SIS ones as I tried them first and I didn’t throw up, so. They definitely help me get a little more energy in my slow but steady legs and I would recommend them, ( or dextrose, or chewy sweets, or whatever works without making you barf), for any run that is going to take you well over the hour mark. I’ve heard of some people use them for a 10k, or even a 5k. If your 10k takes you an hour and a half then maybe. But, otherwise, I’d go for porridge (or other real carbs) a couple of hours before you run and that should be enough. I personally only take these gels while I’m running, probably around 45 mins in, and then 40/45 mins apart. They do help but they don’t give you superpowers and they’re full of artificial shite.

PLUS, the other thing to remember, is to put the packet, once tipped into your gullet, in a BIN or in your POCKET.

The amount of empty gel packets lashed onto the ground, even during races, should not be allowed. We have enough of a problem with litter and fly-tipping without adding to it.

I’ve come back to this blog this evening, while watching an episode of Drag Race UK (weirdly compelling). It looks like I was about to rant about litter, as it is a REAL bugbear of mine. But instead of that I shall keep it positive. Yesterday my biking buddy Gary told me about a facebook group, the Wirral Wombles, an incredible local group that goes around picking up a lot of this rubbish that people throw, to make our streets and country lanes nicer places. I’m going to join it and get out there with them.


You can read a little more about gels here.

Running

Technical Notes #2 – The Long Run

Silhouette of a woman running - either dawn or dusk.
Not me but someone cooler via a more ace camera
Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

If you have ever followed a training plan for a race, then it will always have the long run in it. This will be at least one time in the week where essentially you aim to go out slower but farther than the rest of your weekly runs. Apparently, they’re very good for you. I have found out this science bit:

These runs produce more mitochondria and capillaries in your muscle cells, increase your aerobic capacity, improve your cardiovascular system’s efficiency, increase your muscles’ and liver’s ability to store glycogen, strengthen your musculoskeletal system, give you a greater ability to work through muscular fatigue and increase your body’s ability to use fat as fuel.

https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a774616/essential-guide-to-long-runs/

Well that’s absolutely marvellous and I wish I had read this when I’d been training for all those half marathons (and the two marathons) I’ve done in the past, because it sounds to me that if I’d committed to them properly I could have turned into Wonder Woman!

However:

I used to do training plans the way many people do diets, like a yo-yo. I would get a week or two of sticking to it and then miss a crucial couple of days and then it would be binned, before I started another, and another, until I was down to the final ‘Complete the Half Marathon without dying’ training plan, about two weeks before the day. The Long Run was nearly always the spanner in the works.

It has always previously filled me with a bit of a dread, especially when the miles got into the late teens. Wondering whether I had enough gels (slightly sickly carbohydrate gloop in sachets), or water; whether I’d need the loo on the way; whether I would get too tired to finish it. All of the above have floored me at least once (it’s traumatic trying to find a bush sometimes) and that’s when they get into the mind and start whispering to you before you even get out the door.

That sounds slightly dramatic I know, but running is as much a psychological game as well as a physical one. Research has shown that your body can go way further than your mind thinks it can. Your angels and your demons have more space to tussle when you’re monotonously slogging away and it can get schizophrenic.

Monotony is a big problem but there are ways to challenge that. You can run with someone, or if you’re on your own, listen to a podcast or audio book. I find that better than music because you have to concentrate on it more which means you’re thinking less about your legs.  I’ve also been known to map out the super long runs to make sure I include cafes/petrol stations etc. en route for a quick wee. And don’t think you can keep this need at bay by not drinking liquids. As I found out during the London Marathon, that way leg cramps lie.

The absence of races in this last year and a bit has meant my running has been sporadic. But the January kick start has given me a nice foundation to get going again. My long run now is up to 7.5 miles and although that takes me as long as it used to take me to run 10 miles (which I try NOT to dwell on), it’s okay. It’s the furthest I’ve run in one run since the middle of last year.

The plan is (loosely, kind of, in a non-committal manner) to get to about 12 miles or so, and try and maintain that stamina until the races start again. It would be nice to get to a fitness level again where I could rock up to a Half and know I can finish it without too much pain but in the meantime I will just keep repeating the mantra ‘more mitochondria’ and visualise that gold tiara on my head.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
The original Wonder Woman and the best
Warner Bros. Television
Other, Running

February Blues

Snowdrops surrounded by dead leaves.
Tentative snowdrops

A slippage has occurred.

After the success of my January goals I am feeling a little adrift and rudderless. I guess you can’t always be fired up and raring to go, and as my downswing is in the worst month of the year (according to all the polls1) it is probably inevitable that I feel this way.

How do you get yourself out of the rut?

I’m suddenly reminded of an animated film I saw when I was very young, called The Phantom Tollbooth2. The only thing I recall is that the boy, Milo, goes into the land of the Doldrums and lounges around lethargically, killing time until he’s eventually pulled out by a friend. Well that is what February feels like right now. An in between depressing month where the edges of the day may be getting slightly wider but it won’t be really felt until March. Where each little delicate snowdrop that manages to push out of the cold brown ground is crushed again by repeating waves of frost and snow. Where an ex-President is acquitted by spineless, avaricious cohorts even though the evidence against him is incontrovertible. Where our washing machine has stopped working because the water pipes have frozen up. Where …

I need to be pulled out.

I’m currently watching the wind doing a whirling dervish dance with the snowflakes acting as a visibility cloak. The few birds out are clinging on to the branches while this squall plays out. It could be quite pretty really, if I change my frame of mind.

It’s been three days since my last run and my yoga and Italian have gone out the window for the moment. I’ve done so little cycling that my buttocks are still complaining when I try. I think this slippage has created a space. A space to make excuses, and this year, like last year we’ve got the best excuse of all. All the races are still called off and the gyms are still closed.

What can I focus on?

I think good health and mental wellbeing are sometimes difficult, intangible goals to strive for but I have made a little start with the up perking. I listened to a BBC podcast the other day called ‘People Fixing the World’.3 The episodes aren’t long and they’re quite varied but each one sets out a particular problem that is being solved by ingenious people. For example ‘The breath of life’ looks at ways of creating and storing oxygen (for use in hospitals) without electricity for those places in the world that don’t have a ready supply, of either oxygen or electricity. If you have a short attention span and want a bit of happy nerdery, then this is for you.

The winds are still whipping up a hooley but invisibly as the snow has nearly melted. Tomorrow (as I’m not quite ready today) I will lace up. Bev has tasked me with training her for the Great North Run in September. During normal times, it is the UK’s largest half marathon race with well over 50,000 people running it.  It might not take place this year, but then again it might, and September is far enough away to keep the hope alive. Having responsibility for someone else’s fitness seems like a thing I can grasp more easily right now than thinking about my own. But that’s okay. It’s still a reason to get out and sometimes, if you can just get your trainers on, the rest will come.

  1. I only looked at one poll but I’m sure they all agree: (https://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/all-the-months-ranked-from-worst-to-best)
  2. The Phantom Tollbooth:   https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064806/
  3. People Fixing the World Podcast: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04grdbc

Running

Technical Notes #1 – Chi Running

In the UK, back in the halcyon days of the first lockdown, when the weather was warm and Spring was in full bloom and we were all amazed at how quiet it all felt without the cars and everybody who wasn’t harassed by having the kids at home tried a new hobby like baking or macrame, I did a little online course about Chi Running.

I’d heard of it as a thing, but I didn’t really know the nuts and bolts and I just assumed that it was some western attempt at applying eastern hippy dippy terms to running in order to make a load of money from people (okay, as much as I attempt to be non-judgemental and open, the snark does rear its ugly head from time to time).

So in the spirit of exploration and re-evaluation I signed up.

What is Chi?

According to Google, Chi is the 22nd letter of the Greek Alphabet and is pronounced ‘Khi’.

It is also, when I scrolled down further, ‘the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine’.

This second definition is, I suspect, closer to the purpose of this running method but it still felt a little bit ‘what?’.

So let’s just sack off the name for a minute and look at the things that I learnt. In succinct bullet point form they are:

  • Nose Breathing
  • 80/20 Rule
  • Use Gravity
  • Small Strides
  • Tempo

Nose Breathing

The thinking behind this is that you get more oxygen through your nose, the air is cleaner as your nose filters it better and it builds up your respiratory strength.

This is something that I struggled with and have attempted on and off. Off at the moment because in the winter when I run my nose is a dripping tap and it just would not be pretty. I know that it requires patience and practice and apparently you can build up your speed and still keep your gob shut. But patience is not something I’m liberally endowed with.

However, when I was doing the course, I did have more of a go and found that when I went super slowly, as in a pace only slightly faster than walking, I could keep my gob shut for at least the first ten minutes. This did force me to slow right down and actually made the rest of the run more enjoyable, let me go further, and helped me stick to the 80/20 rule.

80/20 Rule

This is their recommended ratio of how to pace your runs. So 80% of your miles in a week should be at a slow, thoroughly comfortable pace, and only 20% should be juiced up. That  doesn’t have to be sprinting all the time. It’s anywhere between breakneck and raising the heat so you can’t talk more than the odd word or phrase while you’re pumping the legs.

So if, for example, you did 10 miles a week you can either have one 2 miler at a gallop or tag on a fast bit at the end of each run. I preferred this second way as I felt fully warmed up to get cracking for a sprint finish.

The reason for generally keeping it slow is to build your muscles and other internal body bits up more gradually before you start tear-arsing it and causing yourself an injury. This rule suits me down to the ground because I am a slow plodder rather than a speed freak and I prefer to enjoy the scenery.

A faraway sparrowhawk in the sky
Always stop to watch the sparrowhawk hunt (i think it was a sparrowhawk!)

However, I have read that even short distance runners advocate doing the majority of runs at a really slow pace for that physical strength building and injury reduction. And apparently the great man Eliud Kipchoge runs most of his weekly miles at more than half of his race pace, which is still faster than my best. So if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me, I think.

Use Gravity

This one sounds like ‘use the force Luke’ and it kind of is.

You know when a baby learns to walk they’re basically sussing getting that leg out in time will stop them leaning over and falling. This is what the ideal Chi runner does. Okay, hopefully we’re at a slightly more sophisticated level of bipedal locomotion but the essential idea is the same. From a tall standing position lean your whole body forward until one of your legs comes out to catch you. That lean, which is a straight line from your head to your ankles, is around the position you want to be in so that you’re tapping into gravity to help the momentum.

 Small Strides

Which leads very neatly on to small strides because you want to land your feet beneath you. If you start doing a Penelope Pitstop you’re then having to pull your whole body forward to catch up and so you’re working against the force and the jedi master unhappy is. But if you keep it small then it feels like gravity is doing the pulling. It will also mean that you’re more likely to land on the middle of your foot instead of the heel which is loads better coz all the little bones in your toes help to dissipate the impact instead of it shooting up the leg and causing all kinds of dodgy stuff. My anatomical knowledge is very sparse and I may have made that last bit up but it totally makes sense to me so I’m sticking with it.

Tempo

Chi Running reckons you should aim for about 180 strides per minute which on the metronome sounds like a clip. 

I wouldn’t worry about counting really, if you have a running app it does a good guesstimate for you. But if you practise that short stride thingamabob then you’ll naturally be quite quick.

He-man runs on the spot

Well how do you get faster or slower if you’re always keeping the 180 tempo? It’s apparently to do with that ‘lean’ again. If you lean more your leg stride will be a bit longer and therefore you’ll go further, and conversely, the slower plodders like me will be a teeny bit more upright. I’m not talking horizontal like He-Man up above, just a gentle incline. We can see Eliud here, (coz who better to get running tips from, than the master), doing a little one step. Because his legs are in motion you see the lean from his back knee to his head and his front foot lands beneath him.

One step of Eliud's running form

So that, basically, is Chi Running in a nutshell. Or, more specifically, the bits that I remembered from my course, which I actually really enjoyed. So if this is interesting, it may well be worth reading more on the subject, or taking one of their courses, as they did seem like nice people.

Some more visual tips via Eliud

Running

January February Don’t You Come Around

I know this title is an artless steal of an old song lyric but it kind of fits ish.1

I’m not sure why, but I can’t quite seem to get the words to come out for this last blog of the month. My aim was to, perhaps, write one blog each week or two but January has generated a flurry of thoughts that have come pretty easily to the page. Except now, to close the month, I’ve been gnawing painfully away at the end of my virtual pencil and can’t think of what to say.

Okay, that’s not quite correct. I can’t find all the right words. And I’m not sure what I mean by that because surely if you have something to say you just say it, assuming your command of language is adequate. I’m not trying to expound some complex, mind-altering thought. Alls I’m wanting to note is that I ran those 100 miles with two days to spare.

So that nugget of info definitely isn’t a revelation. But yes. That last 28 miles was done in 5 days and I’m massively chuffed and seriously grateful to Bev who did most of them with me. And on Friday, when we hit that 100 I felt so happy I almost skipped back to my house.

I don’t get stressed very often but when that snow was falling last weekend, all half an inch of it, I did start chewing my lip a bit about the likelihood of completing my aim. By Monday night when we’d handed back little Alf to his mum after his day with his nannies, I found my old head torch and called for Bev for a night run as the snow and most of the ice had disappeared. I hate running in the dark but needs must and I’d had decided, in order to take the heat off, I’d run twice the next day. That broke the proverbial camel’s back and I knew we’d make it. Our final trip, a canter around Port Sunlight village, was on a dowdy but dry afternoon and we wished we could have cracked open some beers together to celebrate but we made do with a selfie.

Quick aside to briefly comment on the rest of my list:

  • Today I have one more Yoga sesh to do for the full complement and I want to talk about it more in another blog because this has been a bit of a revelation.
  • I’m progressing with the WordPress course and hoping, bit by bit to make my pages a bit more whizzy woo, or at least better organised.
  • Stories have been ditched for the moment but I’m not saying it’s forever.
  • Vegetables: Annie has started planting. Exciting times.
  • I only seem to do my Italian app if I do it first thing and I’m forgetting nearly as much as I’m learning but maybe by the time we can go back to Venice I may be able to order more than un tramezzino and un grande bicchiere di vino bianco.

So back to my big 100. It only started as a thing because Michael (Alfie’s pa) said on Facebook after a few bottles of Christmas fizz, that he was doing the challenge to raise money for Liverpool Sunflowers, a local charity that does a huge amount to support people with Cancer. This is his link below and btw the big guy on there is NOT Michael.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michael-fagan6?fbclid=IwAR1RadqUIt-8fMpxOeWsc4D8WAuU9KtoASiS4xwr8vHGDjIfDy9ekdI5AXA

As of this morning he only had three miles to go which is way more amazing than my achievement as he’s a dad with a more than full time job so molto credito to him.

I, having also partook of many beverages, commented that I would see his 100, and luckily neither of us upped the ante and we’ve both got to this end point successfully. So not a very salutary lesson on the dangers of excessive imbibing then.

But now what?

February is only a few measly hours away and I need a new thing. Because, well, I need something to write about and sitting on my tush, whilst appealing, does not make for an entertaining read. I don’t want to lose my running legs but I also want to start getting on the bike to begin my training for the ride that we’ll be doing in memory of Mark this summer. So I think, to pluck a random figure out of the sky, I’ll aim for 70 miles running and then 3 times a week on the turbo trainer for 15/20 mins at a time: Aldi’s finest (especially as I got it for free!) piece of equipment that lets me cycle on my bike without needing to suffer the crap weather or crazy drivers just yet.

One of the feet was missing from it so they sent me my money back and let me keep the contraption. Result!

It is the shortest month so that’ll do.

I think I have written my way into finding my voice this time around. Definitely a good reminder that just because it’s not always easy, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

An addendum: If you’re want to run for weight loss it doesn’t always work. I didn’t lose any this month but my body shape did change a little bit, and I definitely feel stronger. So that will also do.

1 - Barbara Dickson – January February (1980)
Running

28 miles to go

I wasn’t planning to write anything again until the end of the month when I will have hopefully completed my 100 miles in the month challenge. But the snow actually, finally, kind of, settling on the streets of Bebington meant that my long run hasn’t happened today and, after much vacillation and angst about letting the mileage slide I’m ensconced on the sofa with the fire and a good book. Also, Bev, my neighbour, who is normally great at chivvying me along, has sacked me off for snowballs and sledging instead of twisting her ankles on black ice with me so that’s the last time I big her up in a blog!!!

I haven’t read a book in what feels like months. Lots of articles and news headlines and memes and tweets and quotes. But nothing longer than a couple of pages for a while and I’ve realised that it requires some considerable amount of concentration and, ironically, mental relaxation. To let the flow of words cascade and slowly envelop and draw you into a finely brush-stroked world where the small details and background matter as much as the denouement. It takes patience.

I’ve chosen, therefore, an old favourite that I knew I would like, but where I couldn’t remember the plot. This lack of recall occurs quite a lot and one of these days I’m going to go on those brain training courses that get advertised ad nauseum on my social media feed (Facebook seriously knows too much about me!). For now though, it’s a happy affliction because I’ve just smoked fifty pages without so much as a wriggle of my backside and I’ve loved it.

I’ve broken off to write because I’m about to cook the dinner and the chapter end has fallen. I recommend ‘The Crow Road’ by Iain Banks. So far, not much is occurring but the bittersweet and very funny descriptions of normal life. There is a whiff of a bit of a background mystery that may surface later on but at the moment I’m getting to know some nicely flawed people.

But back to my running, or lack thereof. It’s only because I was supposed to be doing seven miles that I felt a little panicked that it couldn’t happen. After today I have eight days left and 28 miles to go. One of those days is a babysitting day and another is Mark’s funeral, so potentially only six days left. And what if it snows again and gets really icy and … ?

And breathe. Anne has suggested prosecco and fish and chips instead of cooking so I think I’ll stick another log on the fire and pop the cork. Cheers!

Running

How’s that New Year Resolutions thing going?

My previous blog was a little side track into the real world out there where the crazy nonsense is going on. That may happen from time to time when I crane my neck from beneath my shell, peer around, and then shudder back into my cave of safety.

This time I’m concentrating on the non-dramatic mundanities of my personal life which I prefer.

We are now on January 17th and over the halfway mark of the month and I’ve completed 57 miles of my hoped for 100, so I’m still on track to put a fat tick against this one.

Mornings like this reminds me why I love to run!

Have you ever run to the top of a hill and then felt like barfing? No? Me neither. I ask the question because it happened to my frequent running buddy neighbour, Bev. One of the times we went out and slogged our way up Rest Hill Road (nothing restful about this road – unless you’re going the other way perhaps), she got to the top so much quicker than me. Then, when I eventually crawled up those last few steps, I found her leaning against a wall and colour slowly coming back into her cheeks.

Rest Hill Road … from somewhere near the top

‘I nearly threw up then’, she said cheerfully, as we carried on along a nice flat bit. And she was completely fine after. She just had pushed herself on that hill to a serious level.

This got me thinking, as being a bit of a nerd I like to read articles about running a lot, and that feeling isn’t uncommon. Pushing your body so hard that you nearly spew or you go past the nearly and actually do. I am not sure if it is a good thing or not, but I’ve never felt that because I would have given up and walked well before I got to that stage. Despite the icky, I am a little in awe of people who have the drive and will to keep going, right into the nausea and get to the top of the hill, or the end of the race. I wish I had a small amount of that.

It is an enormous benefit to me to be able to run sometimes with another person. Ideally someone, who is faster than me but thoughtful enough to accompany me at my pace. It makes me up my game just a little bit. Bev is someone who kindly kicks me up the proverbial when I’m feeling lazy and comes out with me a lot, which is phenomenal considering she’s got four kids, a job and in the middle of a degree course! She’s bloody amazing.

On our little three miler today I was discussing my progress. I have noticed that my calves aren’t anywhere near as tight with the amount I’m running and that must be because I’m still on top of my yoga. It’s only about half an hour a day but it is definitely doing something to me as I’m nearly able to touch my toes whereas before I couldn’t get past my knees!

In fact the only big resolution that looks like being broken any time soon is the story writing one. Which is ironic as the reason I started this blog lark was to get me practising putting pen to paper in order to write my magnum opus. I have sat several times, and stared at the empty page. I’ve started several somethings and then tossed them aside. I can’t seem to get my imagination fired up so far. Is it because I don’t have one or because the real world is just too crazy to make stuff up? I don’t know.  I’m not calling it as a fail yet as we’re only just over two weeks into the year. But we shall see.

Even when we are in a safe space, sometimes sad things happen. My wife Anne lost her brother last weekend very suddenly. Mark had, in his last few years, suffered from Motor Neurone’s Disease and perhaps his passing has prevented more indignities and physical debilities than he was able to suffer. Yet to lose a brother, a son, a friend so quickly like that is difficult to come to terms with. Especially now when we can’t even get together. Anne is one of six and has been Zooming with the rest of her siblings and mum a lot this week. They’ve shared memories and photos and thoughts but they won’t be able to see each other for real until the funeral. We can’t even give his wife a hug. That crazy world out there has ways of permeating ours, however much we try and hide in shells.

Running

London Marathon – the big day …

It’s not that I underestimated how hard it would be. It’s that I really underestimated how hard it would be!

I started off quite well and the weather turned out to be actually perfect for running; cool but not too cold and pretty much dry all the way round. Then at some point, I think it was about mile 14, I was desperately in need of the loo but it seemed that everybody else was at that point too because the queues for the portaloos were really long and I ended up waiting about 15 minutes just to get in. I watched the 4.45 pacers go past and then the 5.00 pacers.

That’s when my muscles started seizing up and from then on it was a really tough ride. The rhinos, giraffe, ostrich and Big Ben who I’d gone past easily in the first half soon left me behind. From about 17 miles onwards I started walking a bit in between the running but it was a bit of a comedy walk as I was having bouts of cramp. Somewhere about mile 20/21 I spotted a St Johns station and got a wonderful calf rub that helped me to run slowly but continuously for another couple of miles. She told me I wasn’t drinking enough water, which was probably true as I was wary of stopping for another loo break, and she wanted me to sit down for a bit as I looked a little dizzy.  It’s true I wasn’t able to formulate complete sentences at that point but that was because I was in that place where l was just determined to get to the end and distractions were a little hard to register.

I knew I ran past the London Eye and Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament but they were just on the periphery of my mind and I didn’t really take them in. In fact my sisters and brothers had to shout my name a few times when they spotted me before I saw them!

However I think partly that was because there were so many other people shouting my name and encouraging me. Virtually the entire route was lined with people and that was something I’d never experienced before. It was amazing. Complete strangers shouting out my name and willing me on. For the first few miles I was running and chatting with someone I met at the start and we were both saying that our jaws were hurting from smiling so much; it felt like a carnival, a great big celebration.

image

The smiles turned to a grimace at the end. But I did get to the end. And I’m still walking just about, although I do go up and down the stairs like my 95 year-old grandma. The run didn’t quite go according to plan but I am no longer a marathon virgin and the time I eventually got, 05.36.53, is my first benchmark. I can learn from this experience and hopefully by the next one I’ll be a little bit stronger and a little bit wiser.

image

Running

London Marathon – prelude…

It’s a strange thing, waiting. 

After spending three and a half months training and building up my strength and stamina to something a little more than I had before, this last fortnight of enjoying the sunshine and the eating and the hardly doing any running at all has felt good. Really good! But at the back of my mind I’ve got Sunday looming and, with just three days to go, I’m liking this limbo land less and less.

I’m excited.  I’m nervous.  But now I just want it to start.  

My cold has pretty much gone, which is good, although I need to remember to pack some tissues to blow my nose on.  I’ve always managed to forget them so far and have been attempting to refine the art of expelling the contents one nostril at a time on some grassy wayside patch with varying results.  You don’t want to know what happens when I misjudge the wind direction.  And should I try anything like this on the day it will be the law of Sod that gets the camera to zoom in on me at that particular moment.  It cannot happen. Tissues must be not be forgotten! 

I’ve made a big list of things to remember and building a pile in the corner of my bedroom.  Kit, registration form, photo id, food gels, immodium (just in case the nerves get the better of me), suncream…  Having said that, Sunday is looking a bit cool, overcast and rainy.  Fantastic.  That’s on my side.  I’m trying to eat well ish  Yesterday I ‘carb loaded’ at Pizza Hut’s all you can eat lunchtime special with my running club buddies, and today someone brought in loads of cakes to work so the ‘well’ is very ishy at the moment. But I’ve not been drinking any alcohol for the past few days and lots of water so that’s good, right?  I can’t do any more so now, it’s in the lap of the gods.  

I’ve been thinking about how my training has gone as I have time now to reflect.  At the beginning I did have a plan worked out.  It had involved going to the gym alongside doing my running, to do some cross training like cycling and rowing or something like that.  But after the first couple of weeks I stopped going because I did not feel motivated.  It just seemed so tedious.  And plus I could never run more than three miles or so on the treadmill as there is something very odd about having an exact rhythm. When you run outside, even on a seemingly straight path, there are tiny undulations and changes underfoot that cause your pace to vary here and there.  And there’s AIR.  I felt so hot on the treadmills that I found it too difficult.  And I’m rubbish with difficult. So I cancelled my membership at the beginning of February and have not done anything else apart from my three or four runs a week and the occasional bit of cycling.  

I could have definitely done more. But, honestly, I’m just not that single minded.  You have to be really driven and focused and be willing to put yourself through some pain to make a serious stab at this. That is not a description of me!  But I’ll get better at it incrementally, gently, by degrees, so that by the time I do my next marathon (had I mentioned that I’m doing another one?!), in Athens in November, I’ll be a little bit stronger and I’ll keep the enjoyment of running. 

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Got my T-shirt printed with the charity on the back and my name is big letters on the front.  With my bright blue hat and mint green running shoes you can’t miss me!