Tag Archives: Marathon training

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 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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The one where I’m Injured, not injured, injured, not injured …

Today I ache. A lot. Since I last blogged this has happened:

  1. I ran 12 miles. Yay!
  2. I put my back out running 12 miles. Not so yay.
  3. My knees healed. Yay!
  4. I ran a half marathon and now my knees ache again. Not so yay.
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Extreme knee taping

It’s fair to say that my marathon training has been turbulent. I’ve questioned myself, screamed in frustration, argued with my boyf, cried with pain and laughed in the face of strong head winds. It’s been a rollercoaster. And there are still seven weeks to go. I do not know how my nerves or knees will stand it.

Since my knee injury in November I’ve come close to deferring my entry to the marathon on at least five occasions and I’ve been inconsolable every time. Usually this outburst is followed by one pain free run and then I’m back to thinking I might be able to run the marathon.

Obviously this has caused me some stress and a considerable amount of anxiety. This is not good. At this point in my training I was hoping to be running long distances and looking forward to the day. Instead I’m a ball of anxious energy, liable to cry at any moment and I’m covered in freeze gel and heat pads.

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At the finish line – just need to run double that in seven weeks!

I just hope crossing that finish line will be worth it.

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The One Where I Commit the Ultimate Running Sin …

Sometimes with all the best will in the world you’ll lose your mind and commit a cardinal running sin. Last Sunday I went out for my long run without, dare I say it, going to the toilet. Blaspheme! Blaspheme! I hear you shout. Ten Hail Paulas and a slap round the face with a foam roller.

Well my fellow running friends, don’t you worry, I got my comeuppance 2 miles in when my stomach hurt so much I thought Freddie Krueger’s head might burst out. I managed to run another half a mile while I genuinely weighed up the notion of whether to shit in a tree or not. This is who I am now. When faced with the options of shitting in a tree and letting my entire family down just so I can complete my long run or go home go to the toilet, alarmingly I chose the former. Or at least I would have done it if there had been leaves on the trees and I hadn’t been wearing a neon jacket. Instead I shuffled back to my car with a face a painting of pure anguish and torture and drove home so fast I never went under third gear and I took all corners on two wheels. At one point there may have been smoke. I’m hoping it was the car.

This got me to thinking of all of the things I’ve learnt since I started running …

  1.  Don’t overdress in the winter. An extra layer will do. Once you’ve heated up you’ll feel like you’re running in the stuff you lag your pipes with. Nobody needs that.
  2.  Don’t be tempted to say hello to every other runner you pass. Some will smile or nod, others will look at you like you’ve just been dropped off to Earth on a spaceship, or they’ll write you off as a newbie. And for the love of God, do not try to talk to club runners during a race. They hate that. Save your jokes for the finish line.
  3.  Don’t buy all of your kit the instant you decide to run. The moment I see someone running in matchy-matchy, shiny new kit, I immediately try to beat them. And I’m not even fast. Or competitive. Just buy stuff as you go along. Having proper trainers fitted for your running style is a must. As is a good sports bra (women and men with moobs only). The rest you can buy as you increase the miles. Nobody like showiness. Nobody.
  4.  I’ve said it already but it needs reaffirming – never ever run without going to the toilet first. Nobody ever successfully ran on a poo. Don’t even try.
  5.  Running can be hard. You’ll have good runs when you feel like you can outrun deer – you can’t – and you’ll have bad runs where you run slower than when you first started. Mind games will start and you’ll have convinced yourself you’re not made to run. You are! You just need to stick with it. A bad run is usually a one off, an oddity like Timmy Mallet or Pop Tarts. Forget about it and plan your next run. It could be your best one yet but you won’t find out until you run it.
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Top ten things an injured runner will go through …

1. You’ll put yourself through pain …

Your pain threshold will increase as you’ll be constantly aware of that ache in your injury so you’ll be willing to try anything to make it better, like paying someone to stick needles in your ears. People will question how this will help you run a marathon and you won’t be able to answer them. You’ll start talking about energy sources and chi and you’ll lose your audience.

2. You’ll look like a Transformer …
You’ll alternate between icing and heating your leg in an attempt to stop the pain.  When you’re not emptying the entire contents of your freezer onto yourself, you’ll be strapping heat pads to your legs and looking like a Transformer. You may rustle slightly when you’re moving around at work.

3. You’ll pay for someone to pummel you till you bruise …
You’ll actually hand over money for someone to give you the most excruciating massage of your life. At one point you might even think about reporting your physio for physical abuse as it is so barbaric. Then you’ll pay her for her time and realise you’re insane as you count your bruises. My record is 11 on one leg.

4. You’ll try other sports …
You’ll try anything to get running again. Even taking up a new sport. You’ll get over your many shark related fears and end up doing 40 lengths in the same time your boyfriend has done a thousand or you’ll sign up for Pilates and ritually humiliate yourself in front of strangers.

5. You’ll learn more about your body than you ever wanted to know …
Every ache, pain, twinge or movement your body makes will be carefully monitored. Before you know it, you’ll be mentally pain scoring yourself and debating the differences between a pain and an ache. You will begin to drive yourself mad.

6. You’ll always have a giant rubber band in your handbag …
These rubber bands will go with you everywhere and you’ll find yourself using them wherever you are. I regularly took mine to work and used them at my desk whilst having meetings. Your sense of what’s appropriate and what isn’t will become a little distorted.

7. You’ll become best friends with your foam roller
You’ll become quite intimate with your foam roller as you spend more time with it than you do any friends or family. There won’t be a day goes by when you’re not watching the TV whilst rubbing yourself up and down that painful foamy friend. You’ll love and hate it in equal measures – much like a family Christmas.

8. You’ll redecorate your walls with training plans …
If you’re a planner like me you won’t be able to relax and wait for the injury to heal like everyone is telling you to. Instead you’ll find yourself churning out updated training plans like your life depends on it and the madness will only end once you’ve effectively redecorated all of the walls in your office/house.

9. You’ll become green with jealousy …
Even during a snow storm or a torrential downpour you’ll be jealous of other runners. When you see them out training, you’ll assume everyone you see is training for the same thing you are, and that you’re going to get left behind. This will lead to more training plans and a block booking of Pilates classes.

10. You’ll blog about every ache and pain …

You’ll begin to see everything as a blog post. Even when you’re laid on the acupuncturist’s table having needles put in your ears, you’ll be thinking about taking a picture to put on your blog. Another sign that you’re now insane.

 

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The One Where I Run Like the Wind. And Turn Into Mystic Meg …

It’s happened. It’s only bloody happened. Let me take you back to the start …

After a few drinks and some seriously booze-filled dreams on Saturday night  – the kind you wake up from and daren’t open your eyes in case it’s all real  – I had an epiphany. I dreamt I could run without pain again. The dream was amazing. I was running fast, training for my marathon with a smile on my face and a spring in my pain free step.

And then I woke up and remembered that I’ve been injured for five long weeks and the dream was probably not a premonition. Or was it?

Reluctantly (I had a hangover) I got my running kit on – having to dance my way into my now rather tight running leggings – and laced up my trainers that have sat taunting me at the bottom of the stairs for weeks.

I didn’t want to run on the roads so I waited until I got to a patch of forest about five minutes away, hoping the soft ground will be better for, what I hoped to be, a recovering knee injury. One last check of my kit – still way too tight – before I took my first few steps. And I RAN! I ACTUALLY RAN. WITHOUT PAIN.

The feeling was euphoric. I remember thinking I’m running, it doesn’t hurt, I’m going to make the bloody marathon after all, and I possibly have a gift for the occult. Life was great.

My euphoria was only briefly interrupted by my over-analyzing why a man might be walking around a forest on his own, if not just to murder a female runner. I’d love to say this made me run faster, but it didn’t. After five weeks of no training, my fitness level has dropped considerably. I managed two miles before the dull ache in my knee got too much and I was struggling to breathe because I’m about as fit as a newborn baby. But it’s a start.

Tonight I’m going to dream that I have abs like Jessica Ennis. Can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.

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The one where I fail at Pilates …

 I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m the worst Pilates student ever but I reckon I’d come a close second (behind the black knight from Monty Python who had his arms and legs chopped off).

 I decided to try Pilates after a previous failed attempt at yoga. All was good until I was overcome with … Emotion? Zen? A bottle of wine from the night before? I’ll never know what exactly happened but the result was me throwing up over myself in the middle of a class. Awful. Just awful. And to make the whole situation worse the teacher wouldn’t let me leave, so worried was she that I might throw up at the wheel of my car. So she insisted I stay. So there I was, reeking of sick, wrapped in a blanket, sitting on a mat while all around me people up dogged and down dogged without any involuntary digestive episodes.

 So it was with a certain degree of trepidation I signed up for Pilates. My knee had given way in my first half marathon and my sports therapist thought it a good idea to work on my core strength which was clearly around the same level as a new born baby.

 I put the vomit episode behind me and signed up for a six week course. It took roughly two minutes before I realised this was going to be another ugly episode in my already comical running career.

 It all started with those magic words ‘engage your pelvic floor’. I think I may have snorted at the absurdity of such a statement and I was about to say ‘You what?’ like an uncultured buffoon when I realised everyone else had a deep look of concentration on their faces as they were clearly ‘engaging’. At this point the screaming voice that so often accompanies me around a cross country course started piping up. Calm down, I thought, just pretend you’re engaging. She’ll never know.

 And it was at this point the teacher said ‘I’m going to come round to make sure you’re all engaging properly’. Shit. Finally she got to me. I tried to make a joke. She didn’t laugh. Instead she lay her hand on my stomach and told me to engage. ‘I am engaging,’ I said in a kind of squeak you might only hear while watching a particularly intense episode of The Muppets.

 What followed was five minutes of excruciating conversation in an otherwise silent room filled with people engaging and trying not laugh out loud.

‘You’re not engaging.’

‘I am.’

‘No you’re not. Pretend you need the loo and you’re trying to stop yourself.’

‘I don’t know how to.’

Long exhale of breath from her. ‘Okay, let’s try something else. Suck your thumb.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Put your thumb in your mouth and suck.’

Nervous laughter from me.

‘It’ll help you to feel your stomach contract when you try to engage.’

 So there I was, once again the lunatic in the class, laying on my mat sucking my thumb whilst wondering if this lack of control over my pelvic floor means I’m going to start wetting myself in the near future.

 The six week course was hardly a glowing success as I haphazardly negotiated Pilates movements with the gracefulness of a rabid dog. So it wasn’t a great shock at the end of the six weeks when out of a 15 people course 14 people progressed to the intermediate class and one, it was agreed, would stay behind and do the beginners course again.

 Surely second time round I would get it? Perhaps I’d be the star pupil? My optimism was misguided. I was still the worst pupil, although there were signs of a slight movement in my pelvic floor which had me and my teacher high fiving like I’d just scored a penalty at Wembley.

  Around week eleven I started to panic that I might be asked to join the beginners class again. Rather than become a veteran beginner I had a plan of action: tell her I’m moving out of the area and never shop locally again. But alas, as the last class finished and whilst everyone else progressed, she looked at me said simply ‘Helen, I think you’ll be okay with a DVD’.

 I should say at this point that she was a great teacher, every time she came over to my mat to correct yet another dodgy position she was always kind and forgiving. And I did actually take away from the class a routine for my legs and hips which I do every morning and which I can genuinely say has helped my running. I’d love to go back and tell her this but I fear there may be some sort of restraining order issued to prevent me ever joining her class again.

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