The One Where I Talk About IVF …

So I haven’t always told the entire story about my reasons for running, and I feel like now is the right time to talk about it. I’ve written a piece for today’s Guardian Running Blog explaining why my running journey started.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2015/jan/29/running-healing-emotional-scars-infertility

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The One Where I Run for Therapy …

I did two runs this weekend and the more miles I do, the more I feel like me again. Sometimes life takes over and you become a product of what’s going on around you. And then sometimes you get out for a run and everything just feels that little bit better. Mile by mile we learn to heal ourselves.

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The one with my first run in 2015

This is the story of my Sunday morning.

I was pottering around my flat doing the usual – avoiding cleaning the bathroom and wondering if I could eat my dinner for breakfast when I noticed a woman out running. And something clicked in my head. I HAD TO RUN.

Since I last blogged, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t done many runs – in fact you could count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been out and still have fingers free. For a long time I used my knee injury as an excuse, and in my defense, your Honor, I did have a pretty painful knee injury. I was still walking like an ageing robot until May.

After the injury phase I moved straight into the excuse phase – of which I excelled – ‘I can’t run because I’m too fat,’ or ‘I can’t run because I’ve still got four seasons of Breaking bad to watch’ and my personal favourite ‘I can’t run because I’m drunk’.

Then life took over and soon enough I found myself in 2015 with legs as weak as a stray cat and the cardio strength of a potato. So it was as much as shock to the world as it was to me when I found myself out running again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a long run, but I expected to at least be able to get to the top of my road without stopping. I didn’t. Turns out my road is long and steep, something I had failed to notice when I was running up it five times a week before the marathon.

So now I need to get my fitness back. I need to get some miles into my legs and I need to set a new goal – one that isn’t related to the amount of cheese I can eat without hallucinating.

I’m happy to announce that after all of those excuses, after some serious weight gain and a lot of muscle loss, I’m a runner again. Watch out world.

The One Where I Run The London Marathon …

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write this post, but to be honest I’ve had to stop running, talking about running and thinking about running since the marathon, just to deal with the enormity of it all. So, Sunday 13 April I ran the London Marathon and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s how the day went.

Travelling to the Red Start at Greenwich I chatted with other runners as it seemed the entire tube network was clogged with runners carrying bright red bags. I met my friend B (from Secret Tuesday Running Club) and after putting our bags in the baggage trucks we spent about 40 minutes queuing for the toilet. I had been advised to queue up, go to the loo and then queue again but there was no time for that as it was ten minutes to the start of the race.

 

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Start line self with B. she finished in 4:40!! Amazing!!

I crossed the start line at 10.17, according to the online tracker, which my family on the course were using to find me. They were all wearing TEAM AUNTIE HELLY T-shirts and were in a group of ten so I wasn’t going to miss them. Or so I thought.

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The start line from way back in pen 7!

The weather was really hot right from the start and as someone who hates running in any heat over about 10 degrees, I knew this was going to kill me. But I can honestly say I loved every second of the first 18 miles. I chatted to people – outlandishly claiming IAM THE OYMPIC LEGACY to people who looked unimpressed, confused and in some cases frightened. I high fived children, took sweets from people and then remembered I couldn’t eat because I hadn’t practiced eating and running (mental) and I even had time to stop for a quick sip of G&T with some friends before I realised I hadn’t practiced that either and would spend the following seven miles wondering if I was going to shit my pants (spoiler alert: I didn’t).

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Cutty Sark at 6 miles. Just before I saw my family for the first time. So happy at this point.

 

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Crossing Tower Bridge. Woooooah!! The crowds were mental. Good mental, but certainly mental. Loved it.

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Thanks Janine for snapping me swigging a G&T on my first marathon. Not sure my running club would approve of this!

It was all going so well. Right up until 18 miles and then I massively hit the wall. And to all of those people who told me there is no such thing as the wall – there bloody well is. And it’s bloody horrible. I saw my family for a second time just after 18 miles and instead of high fiving I cried like a lunatic before carrying on sobbing to myself and desperately trying to catch my breath.

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The best support team – Team Auntie Helly!

I started the dreaded run/walk strategy from 21 miles and battled with the fact I hated myself for walking but also hated myself for even entering the marathon in the first place. At one point I think I might have wanted to throw myself into the Thames. My family came to see me at mile 21 and apparently I was so focused (probably on stopping myself from jumping into the Thames) that I missed them all – despite the fact there were 10 of them, all wearing identical t-shirts, screaming at the top of their voices about a metre away from me. Sorry Team Auntie Helen.

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Wise words from the Lucozade tunnel take-over at mile 23. Not long to go.

The final mile, from Embankment, past the Houses of Parliament and onto Birdcage Walk was amazing. I was in so much pain, the heat was immense and the crowds were deafening. I told myself I hadn’t come to walk down The Mall so I ran the last mile and a half chanting ‘One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other’ on a constant loop like a maniac. I couldn’t look anyone in the face and I blocked out the hysterical screaming around me and I just ran.

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One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other …

Finally crossing the finish line!

Finally crossing the finish line!

Turning right onto The Mall is something that still fills me with such pride and joy that I can’t think about it without wanting to cry. I have never seen anything like it. There were people all over – six, seven deep in some places, people hanging out in the fountains and all of them with the biggest smiles they could possibly muster – all screaming us along as we took those final steps. And there, just 200 metres away was the bright red finish gantry. Running past the grandstands 5 hours and 20 minutes after starting at Greenwich I felt more full of energy than I had in the entire 26 miles. I was just a minute or so away from completing my first marathon. This is a feeling I will remember till the day I die.  The proudest moment of my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it was so worth it. I AM A MARATHONER.

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Can’t believe it

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As a footnote, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came to support me on the day. I genuinely don’t think I could have run it without knowing you were all there (somewhere) cheering me on. And to my long suffering boyf, Josh, I am so sorry for all of those marathon meltdowns, early morning runs and the constant talk of missing toe nails and pee colour. Let’s hope we both get a ballot place next year so we can go through it together. Whoop whoop!

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Thank you all x

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The One Where I Reminisce Before London …

As I approach the final few days before the London Marathon, my mind has been busy[insert montage music fade in]. A lot of my thoughts have involved complex toilet calculations, last minute spray tan appointments and a crippling fear of looking fat in photographs and not being able to untag them on Facebook before everyone on my friend list has seen them. And some thoughts have been looking back at my running journey.  And it’s been eventful! 

Learning to Run, London 2012

I started running during the London Olympics because I was inspired by the amazing athletes and really, really wanted a six pack like Jessica Ennis. I was joined on those early morning runs in Victoria Park in Hackney by the Kenyan Olympics running team. Admittedly I saw them for half a second before they disappeared and I was left screaming at my iPhone trying to get the camera to work.  But that brief glimpse was enough inspiration for me to carry on running. 

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The photography skills of a Ninja

Secret Tuesday Running Club, 2012

I started a running club at work with two friends, B and H. We all agreed it would be a secret as we didn’t want to be seen in our running kit. The secret lasted about four seconds but we kept the name, going out shouting STRC around the streets of London every Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime. Long live STRC.

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Hadleigh Olympic Mountain Bike Course, 10km run, 2013

Okay, so I learnt a few valuable lessons here – when booking a race always read the terrain details, never run down a muddy hill with an iPhone in your hand and if you say you want Jaffa Cakes enough, they will appear.

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Where’s Wally 10k run, 2013

Another triumph of my race planning for STRC. This was the first time this event was staged and who was to know it would be snowing and minus temperatures in March, but having no bag drop meant we all had to turn up in running kit, no coat, wait around in the cold for an hour till our core body temperature was lower than that of someone stranded at sea for three days and then run six miles, all whilst dressed as Where’s Wally. Where’s Wally? I couldn’t give a f*** where Wally is. Where’s my god damned fleece?

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Croydon Half Marathon, 2013

So I decided the best way to train for a half marathon was to run a half marathon. Genius. It nearly killed me. At one point I was crying and hyperventilating whilst continuing to run. This is my version of a triathlon – cry, hyperventilate and run.

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Great North Run, 2013

Crossing the finish line of the Great North Run whilst my family watched on was a scene I carried in my head during all of those early runs. When I was struggling to run for ten minutes, I kept reminding myself how amazing it would be to run the Great North Run with my family cheering me over the finish line.  At no point did I imagine I would be involved in a collision with Bagpuss as I ran to the finish banner. I somehow managed to hurdle the poor sod and didn’t look back. No way was I adding seconds onto my time to help him up. I had a PB to get!  

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Three days to go …

 

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The One Five Days Before the London Marathon …

My current internal monologue …

Oh God, I have a muffin top. Tapering is making me fat. 

Would cropped running tights or full length make me look slimmer. Must remember to do a fat-test in the mirror later. Add that to the to-do list.

I only wish I had had a more positive response to the question ‘Can I wear Spanx whilst running a marathon?’

[To boyf] Wake up!! Do you think I’m putting weight on? I think I’ve put weight on.

[Boyf briefly opens his eyes with a look I’ve seen on wildlife documentaries, right before the lion eats its prey. Makes a token ‘You’re not fat’ comment and rolls over]

Well, I have put weight on. And I don’t think I’ve put in enough training. This is going to be a nightmare. Should I do a long-ish run tonight? 

No, you shouldn’t run tonight, you mentalist! It’s five days before the marathon. This isn’t in the plan. STICK TO THE PLAN.

I think my knees aching. Is it an ache or a pain? Pain score it. 

Erm, it’s a 6. Is 6 good or bad? I need emergency physio. 

How early can I call the physio? What time is it anyway? 6am!!!

Why can’t I sleep beyond 6am anymore? This has happened every morning for almost a week. 

I bet I oversleep on Sunday morning. Must remember to set more than one alarm. Add that to the to-do list. I’m probably going to need another bit of paper. It’s quite long. 

Is everyone else running London going through this?

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The One Where the Madness Begins …

Okay, so it’s three weeks until the London Marathon and I’ve gone mad. Actually mad. For anyone who read my blog around the time of my Great North Run last year, you’ll be familiar with how my mind works and should have expected some kind of mental breakdown this close to race day. For those who haven’t read those insane blog posts, good luck, you’re entering a world of madness and meltdowns.

 

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Final details!

 Last week I had a week off running. I know all of the advice on tapering says DO NOT STOP RUNNING!! But I felt so exhausted after my last long run (15 miles) that I could barely walk to my office from the station without my legs threatening to give out.  So I stopped and had a week of stretching, foam rollering and early nights. It was amazing. However, this extra time gave my mind chance to wander around in circles and generally drive me insane. This is what I’ve been thinking about.

  1. Can I run in a pair of Spanx? This seems much easier than the core exercises I’m currently doing day and night.
  2. Is it wrong to consider my pre-race spray tan as essential as my final sports massage?
  3. Will my family make it to London okay or will they get stuck in some football-related traffic on the A1 (Dad, thanks for adding that recent worry to my list!)
  4. What if I’m the last person out there and have to move out of the way for the road cleaning team at the back? Oh God.
  5. I get my period on race day! Most period days feel like my insides are trying to eat their way out of my body whilst my mind looks on and cries to itself. How is this conducive to running 26 miles?
  6. How is my relationship going to last the next three weeks? The last few months have been bad enough – tears before and after runs, missing toe nails, unflattering injury tape all over my legs, and now three weeks of meltdowns. Good look boyf!

20 long days to go …

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The One Where I Talk to Myself for 21 Long Miles …

This weekend a remarkable thing happened … I ran 21 miles. Erm, did you get that? 21 miles! I get tired just driving 21 miles let alone running it. I am obviously skipping over the memory of wanting to vomit my own spleen and running like my legs were on fire.

I went out on Saturday morning before the sun came up and was about 8 miles in before I wanted to scream ‘For the love of God, why is it so hot?’ to everyone I came across. The irony that I’ve spent the last few months complaining about the cold, wind and rain is not lost on me. Rest assured of that.

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Kit check!

I decided that as it was my most difficult run yet, I needed something to keep my going, so I ran to my favourite place in London – Victoria Park in Hackney. I lived in the area for three years and miss it dearly. I’ve managed to overwrite all of my memories of gangland killings and the sight of the local youth running with armfuls of stolen goods during the riots. Instead I remember things like riding my bike to the local deli to buy cheese and getting drunk in the park every time the sun was even a little bit out. Ah, the joy of selected memory. Sadly my boyf doesn’t have the same thing and when I mention moving back to Hackney he reminds me about the price of car insurance and parking permits.

Anyway, Hackney, or specifically Victoria Park is beautiful in the sunshine and on Saturday it welcomed me back in all its sunny glory. I got into the park at just under 9 miles and joined a 10k run for a few laps, making it up to 12 miles before heading out on my return leg. I stopped briefly at 12 miles to get more water and after sitting down for five minutes lost all momentum and ended up looking like this.

 

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Nine miles to go!

Everything was going okay until mile 15 when I started to doubt myself and spent a few miles telling myself I had to stop. It went a little bit like this …

Me: 14 miles, this is great, I’m doing so well.

Me: 15 miles. Oh for f***’s sake, I can’t take this any more. This is too much. Stop running. 

Me: Don’t you dare stop running.

Me: Why did I ever think I could run a marathon? This is stupid. Perhaps I’m mental.

Me: Gah, why am I still running?

Me: Hang on, what’s happening to my hip? Oh God, my hip’s falling off. Can a hip fall off? It feels like it’s become detached. I can’t take it any more. And my knees are on fire. Are they actually on fire? I can’t see any smoke.

Me: STOP RUNNING!! JESUS CHRIST, JUST STOP RUNNING.

I did this for another five miles and almost cried when I heard my running app say  ‘20 miles’. The only thing that stopped me was the fear of losing more body salt and imminent death.

I was going to walk the final mile but found walking strangely more painful than running, so instead I spent the last part of my running like a robot in need of some WD40. But I did it! 21.2 miles done and just five weeks to go.

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21 miles done!

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A self-congratulating post-run selfie

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The One Where I Navigate a Rally Track and Blame it all on Google

Yesterday I learnt a valuable running lesson, and I think you should all hear it. NEVER TRUST GOOGLE WALKING DIRECTIONS. As I set off on my longest run so far – 15 miles – little did I know that at least 10 of those miles would be spent shuffling and crying to myself along 60mph roads with no footpath. I was terrified. I know I tend to over exaggerate stuff for comedy effect but I can genuinely say, hand on heart, yesterday was one of the worst experiences of my running life.

Cars came hurtling towards me and behind me as I navigated blind bends as I whimpered to myself. A few times I had to jump into hedgerows and on more than one occasion I actually fell off the side of the road into a mound of mud and roadside rubbish. I spent the majority of time tangled by bramble bushes or running through road debris and flood water.

So, here are my top tips for keeping safe on the road:

  1. Indulge your eighties penchant for neon clothing. The brighter you are, the more visible you are to drivers – although some won’t care and will still drive incredibly fast, giving you an inch of room. Keep telling yourself that karma will get them.
  2. Turn your music off. At least then you’ll hear people honking at you to get out of the road, despite there being absolutely no pavement or room to move. Idiots.
  3. Check out your route. Had I have looked on Google Street View, I may have noticed the lack of pavements and Top Gear style rally track I was soon to be risking my life on.
  4. Turn back if you can. I kept telling myself a pavement will be right around the corner. It wasn’t. So I ended up doing the majority of the run in fear for my life. This is not at all helpful when running your longest ever distance.
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