Monthly Archives: September 2013

The one where I can’t read a map …

So my running has taken a slight back seat – something I said wouldn’t happen post-GNR. But, after months of giving up every weekend to a long and a short run, this weekend I was finally able to lay in bed for most of the morning and not have to think ‘I’ve got to run ten miles later’. This is something I want to get used to but sadly can’t until the London Marathon has been and gone. Just seven months to go!

I haven’t entirely given up on running, though. I did a couple of lunch time runs last week and I’ll be back at running club tonight and circuit training later in the week. And who knows, maybe I’ll run this weekend.

In a role reversal, I spent Sunday morning cheering on the boyf who ran the London City Race in Canary Wharf. It’s an orienteering event which has grown and grown each year and this year saw over 1000 runners navigating their way around London’s Docklands. I was incredibly proud to see him running off on his elite men’s race, and was even more proud when he ran into the finish control 68 minutes and 13 kilometers later.

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Race bib, compass and timing chip – ready to go!

Although I pretty much have no navigational skill whatsoever (a two-hour car ride from the airport once took five hours, much to the boyf’s anger), orienteering is a great sport and something I’d recommend all runners to try. Until I met the boyf, my only experience of orienteering was a vague memory of running to the back of the school field with a compass, someone smoking a fag and then running back. It turns out this is not what orienteering is. In fact it’s a proper sport for serious runners. They run long distances over every terrain imaginable whilst reading a map. The idea of running and reading at the same time is something way beyond my capabilities – I struggle to count my laps of the track and spend most of my time trying to work out my minutes per mile when my watch is set to kilometers. But for people who can do more than one thing at once, maybe running around a forest, street or beach with a map in your hand is what will drag you out of bed on a cold Sunday morning. 

 

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The one where I run the Bupa Great North Run …

I wrote this on Monday but didn’t get around to uploading it. Here goes …

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This time yesterday I was running the Great North Run and loving it. It was an early start 5.30am because I couldn’t sleep. I found myself searching on Twitter for other runners who were wide awake and there were loads of them! It seemed the entire North East was awake with excited runners.

Needless to say, despite the early start, we still ended up leaving the house late. 18 minutes after the scheduled departure time! This did nothing for my nerves which were teetering on the edge of full blown mental breakdown. After a quick bowl of porridge and honey and some Powerade, we set off.

The weather was awful – the kind of day where you sit under your duvet thinking ‘I am not getting out of bed all day’, not the kind of day when you should be attempting a half marathon. With the rain and gale force winds rocking the car we drove north up the A19. I turned to some music for inspiration. It was at this point I started crying to Eye of the Tiger and what became the first of my many hysterical outbursts started.

The lead up to the start line is a bit of a blur. I remember eating a banana, shivering, crying, cheering a man with a fridge on his back and many toilet trips. I was in the Green starting pen, which was about 1km behind the start line. It was cold but I had a delightful green bin bag from Macmillan to keep me warm, oh and the body heat radiating from 56,000 other people penned into a small space.

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I finally crossed over the start line at 11.05am, 25 mins after Mo and his mates. And just as I crossed over, the Red Arrows flew overhead. Emotionally I was already a wreck. This nearly finished me off and I still had to run 13 miles!

The run was incredible. The weather was just awful, winds battering us and driving rain hitting us side on, but I actually remember laughing. Not hysterically, just with pure happiness. I was soaking wet and hit by the wind but I had already fallen in love with the Great North Run.

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A vivid memory is running through a series of underpasses in Newcastle, about two miles after we set off. The deafening sound of ‘Oggy, oggy, oggy’ is still ringing in my ears. And what is usually a really annoying chant actually made me smile. I even found myself screaming ‘Oi, oi, oi’ in response. It’s only now that I have begun to hate myself a little bit for joining in, although I’m fairly sure I’d do it again.

The really special thing about the GNR is the support. The entire route was lined with people cheering us on and high fiving the runners. And they bring so many treats, everything from lollipops, sweets, oranges, water and even Newcastle Brown Ale.
As I was running for Macmillan, I made sure I ran next to all of their support stations. They all shouted my name and cheered as I went by. And I said thank you to all of them. They were amazing.
I ticked the miles off in my head and as each one passed I kept thinking it’ll start to hurt now, but it didn’t. I felt really strong and comfortable the whole route. I attacked every incline, trying to pick up the pace whenever others started pulling up.

Sadly, I knew I was slightly over my 6.20 km pace I had wanted to do, but I just took it easy. In hindsight I could have pushed it a little harder but that’s easier said than done with thousands of runners around you. It’s hard to get through people when the course is so congested. At some points I wanted to scream at people not to walk in the middle but I held back. The day wasn’t just about running, it was about being there and being a part of it – a kind of joint euphoria.

Having driven the route the day before, I knew that my first glimpse of the sea meant I was close to the finish. And as I ran up the last incline and saw the North Sea I didn’t care about my time, I just couldn’t wait to run under the finish banner. I picked up my pace, and my Garmin shows I ran my best split times in those last two kms. I ran that last stretch with a manic smile on my face and renewed energy in my legs. I’d trained for a year to run the GNR, and here I was, not only running it, but feeling strong, not feeling any pain and actually revving up for a sprint finish! Haha. Sadly the sprint finish didn’t happen as there were so many people bottlenecked in that final mile, and someone dressed as Bagpuss tumbled in front of me so there was a bit of chaos to run through. Crossing the finish line, 7 mins off my PB, my hands up in the air and a massive grin is something I will relive in my mind for the rest of my life. I came. I ran. And I smashed it. Great North Run, I am head over heels in love with you. I WILL BE BACK!

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The one on the night before …

Today I drove along the whole Great North Run route. God, it’s long. It’s really, really long. Jeez!

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The one where I realise how far I’ve come …

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”   

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

My friend recommended I read this book ages ago and stupidly I didn’t. However, having come across this quote, I agree with everything Murakami is saying. I hate that people impose their own goals and times on my running, asking what time I’m going for and then telling me I should be running quicker or scoffing at my km times. For me, running isn’t just about the times and the distances, it’s about the challenge. When I first started running I couldn’t last for longer then ten minutes without needing to stop. I told myself I couldn’t run a 5k. Then I did it and told myself I couldn’t run a 10k. I did that too. And I never in my wildest dreams thought that I could run a half marathon, yet on Sunday I’ll be lining up to run the Great North Run – something I’ve wanted to do all my life. In fact when I first started running I used to imagine running along the home straight, right under the GNR finish banner just to keep me going. So every time I think to myself I can’t do the distance, something in my head tells me I can. Or at least I can give it a go. I may not run the GNR in a fast time, and yes people might laugh at my km times, but I’ll still be out there, challenging and pushing myself to the limits. And the best part is that I’ll be enjoying every minute of it. That’s what running is to me. And I love it.

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The one where I go completely mad …

So the Great North Run is now just SIX DAYS away and I’m trying to be cool about it whilst at the same time a high pitched voice in my head is screaming that EVERYTHING IS GOING WRONG AND IT’S ALL GOING TO GO BADLY. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll be aware that I’m prone to hysterical outbursts so just ignore the shouty caps. As it gets closer to the race, things seem to be going wrong so rather than have the calming, relaxed week I had planned, I’m just walking around screaming at myself in my own head. After the run, maybe I’ll see someone about this. Or maybe I’ll just drink a gallon of wine and resume life as normal.

Yesterday I ran my final long run. 10k in the dark – done! It was a huge relief to get it out of the way and brought home to me just how mad I’ve become as I spent most of it contemplating what I would do if I was attacked by a fox. I have no idea why. I didn’t even see a fox, yet it became my primary fear and possibly made me run faster. Incidentally, my plan involved kicking it in the nuts and screaming for help, whilst simultaneously protecting my face for race-day pictures on Sunday. Anyway, I managed to make it home without having to Kung fu any wild animals to death so the run was deemed a success.

My latest mind-mess is that my train tickets for me and my spectators came on Friday and have the wrong date on them. Newcastle Metro are blaming me. I’m blaming them. And that’s where I’m at. Having tried to get through to their customer service people for four hours, I was already quite ‘tense’ when they eventually answered the phone and told me they won’t refund or exchange the tickets. It was at this point I started crying (idiot) and having what I believe to have been a minor asthma attack (double idiot). So I’ve launched a Twitter campaign to shame them. So far one guy called Dangerous Steve or something tweeted me to tell me his arrived and they had the right dates. Great. That sent me breathing into a brown paper bag and fighting back tears for at least an hour.

I still have six days of this nonsense. By the weekend I expect I’ll be on Prozac and wheezing into a paper bag while simultaneously karate chopping the entire cast of Farthing Wood. No animal or customer service assistant should come near me right now.

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The one where I get a marathon training partner …

Yesterday a great thing happened. My mate B (of Secret Tuesday Running Club) got her place for the London Marathon. We decided to run it together months ago and when I got my place and she hadn’t heard about hers I was worried I was going to have to run it on my own. There’s no way I wanted to go out and do those long winter runs on my own. I even suggested that if she didn’t get a place she might just run alongside me. She did not like this plan. But worry not, Marie Curie came through and offered her a Golden Bond place. About time too. They said they’d announce their places two weeks ago and we’ve waged a Twitter campaign to get them to hurry up ever since. A few more days and it was about to get nasty! Sorry Marie Curie, I think you do a wonderful job.

So, let’s time travel back a few months to how this (some might say ludicrous) plan came about.  I remember this conversation on one of our lunchtime runs about six months ago …

Me: Do you think you’d ever run a marathon? 

B: No, I don’t think I’d be up to it.

Me: Me neither. I just can’t imagine at the end of a half you’ve got the the whole thing to do again. My body could never handle it. 

B: And I don’t think I could do the training. Who has that much time for training?!

Me: I know what you mean. Let’s just stick to half marathons. 

B: Yeah.

Then, after watching the marathon on TV and reading Alexandra Heminsley’s brilliant book Running Like a Girl (you really should read it), in which she went from novice to marathon runner, this happened …

 Me: B, I’ve got something major to ask you. And I couldn’t do it over text. It had to be face to face because it’s important. Very important.

B: (With a look of terror on her face) Oh god, what’s happened? 

Me: I think we should run a marathon. I’ve given it a lot of thought and if Alexandra Heminsley can do it, we can. 

B: Err.

Me: There may be Jaffa Cakes at the end *.

B: Okay.

 So that’s how this whole bonkers plan came about. We also asked fellow STRC member H to join the marathon train. She looked at us like we’re insane and said no almost immediately (she’s a very clever person).

 And now the hard work really begins and weirdly we’re both looking forward to it. Last night we talked about how excited we are for those long winter runs. Maybe H had a point, maybe we are insane. Only time will tell …

 *  B once said at the start of a race ‘I could really eat some Jaffa Cakes’ only to find a massive bowl of them at the finish line. Thanks Castle Point Joggers!

 

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The one where I buy a bum bag …

In the last week I have been on a bit of a running spending spree. Long gone are the days when I would spend my money in Topshop and Reiss. Now I’m buying anti-blister socks and energy gels. And I couldn’t be more excited by it. As well as the new socks (Hilly’s Twinskin, they’re amazing!) and a new sports bra (Shock Absorber Run Bra, equally amazing), I’ve also bought my first race belt. This may not seem too exciting, and to be honest it’s not. But to me it sees me turning from fun runner to serious marathon training runner. Also it’s the closest I’ve ever been to owning a bum bag and as someone who regularly mocks my boyf’s dad for bringing his bum bag to all family holidays, this revelation has changed me deeply.

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The bum bag has sent me mad with happiness

The race belt also helps settle my Great North Run fears. Run out of energy? No way, the race belt is chocked full of energy gels. Boyfriend can’t find me? No way, the race belt has my iPhone in it. He can track me on Find My Phone. Chased by lions? No way … oh wait. Unless the lion is terrified by the sight of a sweaty mess of a girl running around Newcastle in a bum bag, it may not help with that one.

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