The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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When I signed up for the London Marathon I had many people stating how amazing it was, how I will love it, how I would feel so amazing upon finishing.

Of all the people I spoke to I don’t remember one person mentioning the will power I would need to get through to the day itself. I did not expect it to be easy, I knew the training would be hard. What I did not expect was the rollercoaster of emotions that comes along for the journey too.

As a woman it is safe to say I am built to deal with all kinds of emotions; but training for a marathon is something that is beyond me. The highs of a great training run, the lows of a bad one and the ugliness of those days were you go into a deep dark place.

I have had all three of these within a seven day period.

The Good Run – Hampton Court Half Marathon. The best I have ever felt running long distance. I was in a good place, I was in the zone and I was thriving. Buzzing with post run happiness I did not notice the injury that was creeping up until the day after.

The bad run came on Sunday. After attempting my 16 mile long run the previous day, I went back out and tried again. I lost my mind, my energy and my will power at mile ten and could not get it back. Admitting defeat after nearly a week with no training I ended the run at 12 miles, only to almost pass out at my local Sainsburys after I just didn’t get the fuelling right. Thankfully I was surrounded by people and not running along the river when it happened.

The ugly run was the day before. Saturday I went out attempting to get back into it. But nothing happened. I started my run and stopped, then decided to cut the run down and stopped again. I ended up crying through the park wondering how the hell I have become such an emotional wreck. It is just running after all.

But that’s just it. Its not just running. It is months and months of building up your training and endurance only to find yourself set back due to injury. It is the emotions you feel when you are trying to push yourself that extra two miles each week to reach the long runs. It is the loneliness you feel whilst training – thinking you are the only one to think this way, only to find out you are not alone. And the relief you feel when you realise it is not just you.

It is supposed to feel like this. It is supposed to feel hard. But are you supposed to cry at the thought of having to go running in the rain and at the same time to cry when you can’t go out running in the rain. Does anyone else cry at the thought of other runners who make it look easy? Or when you see another runner logging 20-30 miles in the week when you have barely reached half of that.

With a little less than eight weeks to go, the whole marathon training plan seems to be going up in smoke. Everything is getting so real, the mileage is getting higher and harder and the whole thing just got a hell of a lot more serious.

Whilst I am pleased with my progress, I am also giving myself a hard time during the lows. Each one brings a fresh wave of self doubt that gets harder to pull myself out of.

Although I don’t want to wish time away, I am looking forward to race day itself. When there will just be me, in a crowd of 38,000 runners, with just 26.2 miles stopping me from getting that medal. And the marathon journey to be complete.

53 days – sponsors welcome here

 

Hampton Court Half Marathon

Sunday 19th February saw me run my second race of the year, my first Half Marathon of 2017, at Hampton Court.

A flat, “fast” route starting at Giggs Hill Green in Thames Ditton, this was a great route to aid my training for the London Marathon.

As with most races you are required to put yourself into a pen based on your estimated time. Not wanting to put pressure on myself about time, I placed myself in the very last pen, preferring to be able to over take others rather than being overtaken.

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Looking at those in the pen in front, including the pacers, I thought that I had perhaps underestimated myself. But I decided to stick to the safety of the slower pen regardless.

The first three to four miles were rather frustrating. Not only were the roads not closed off, but those runners who put themselves in the faster pens were rather slow. Therefore the first miles required either over taking the slower runners via the busy road or simply waiting it out. I did a bit of both, overtaking when there was space to do so and following slowly behind when overtaking was not possible.

Eventually the runners starting to space out, allowing me the space I needed to concentrate on pacing and form. That said, we still had the roads, pavements and cycle paths that were not free from obstacles. After a while I managed to zone these out and get into my head space.

Running along the River to Kingston upon Thames was a treat, lovely views, great running weather and I generally felt quite at peace. Whilst others were stopping at water stations I was trotting on past, regularly sipping on my electrolyte infused water – therefore not needing to hydrate.

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I pushed through for many many miles before I started thinking about taking on an energy jelly. In my 14 mile long run a few weeks prior I stopped half way through to take this on. This time round I kept asking myself “how to do you feel?” “do you really need this yet.” I did not feel like I needed it, though I forced myself to break into a fast march at mile eight, telling myself that it was the sensible thing to do. I still had 5 miles after all. I am glad I did after hearing that others had passed out at the finish line.

Around this point I was back along the river heading towards Hampton Court. A nice flat stretch with plenty to take in. Before I knew it I was at the Hampton Court Palace garden gates and low and behold I spotted a white flag in front……a pacer.

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I kept my eye on that flag over the next few miles and noted that it was getting closer and closer. Or rather, I was getting closer and closer. To the point where at mile 11 I was on their heels and five minutes later they were a distance memory. So overjoyed at my accomplishment, I was swept away with emotion for a brief moment, before remembering I still had a couple of miles to go.

So I pressed on, wanting to stop, but knowing I can overcome that feeling in my mind. So I kept running and did not stop until I passed that finish line.

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Seeing my good friend Jo ahead with the medals made me weep a little, all the emotion I had been bottling up or trying to bottle up almost spilt over. It was when she asked me my time that I realised what I had done.

Not only had I over taken and beat the pacer back, but I had also run the half marathon 22 minutes faster than the race at Hackney in May 2016. If I had knocked off another 5 minutes I would have also come in before the the 2:20 pacer…..a goal for next time perhaps?

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I left this race on an extreme high. It proved to me that I have the power to control my mind, to push myself through and that the training I have been putting in is having a positive effect on my overall endurance.

This was a great race for me. Not only has it boosted my confidence in myself and my ability, it has also made me realise that finishing the London Marathon is starting to become obtainable.

I just need to keep believing.

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Time Out in Dublin

It has become a tradition, at this time of year, that I plan in a short break. The post exhaustion of the Christmas period sets in and I always feel the need to get away for just a few days – completely switch off.

When I was toying with the idea to book a trip this year I was in two minds – I have the London Marathon to train for after all. I thought taking a break at this critical time would have a detrimental effect on my training.

Thanks to the Black Friday sales with Ryan Air the decision was taken out my hands. £30 return flights to Dublin – I would be stupid to turn that down especially as it was a city on our Bucket List.

So, perfectly timed after the London Winter Run, we packed our bags for a whistle stop break of Dublin. In the weeks leading up to the trip I logged onto Strava planning out routes around our hotel – determined that I would wake early and get a run or two in before the day of sightseeing begins. I even packed my running kit.

I didn’t run.

All the best intentions were there, but I enjoyed the ability to have a lay in without getting up and prepping for a run. I enjoyed a lazy Gluten Free breakfast from the buffet at the hotel. And then I went on to enjoy each day we were in the city, wondering round taking in all the sights.

Despite not training, I moved. We were there for two full days, then flew back home on the third, covering over twenty miles of walking. Like me, Ross is very happy to wonder round a city on foot (as long as I make sure he is fed and watered). You see more and it keeps us active whilst indulging.

The first day we arrived at our hotel by late morning. After checking in, and scoffing at the concierge after he suggested that the Guinness Storehouse was way to far for us to walk it, we headed in that direction. Slowly making our way through the city, having lunch and pausing for some pictures at St Patricks Cathedral, Dublin Castle and Town Hall, we made it to Guinness Storehouse at 2:30pm (earlier than our planned 4pm tour). It was no problem – we were happily accommodated and enjoyed a good two hours soaking up the history of Guinness, shown how to taste it and even given a full pint each at the Gravity Bar – whilst enjoying the panoramic views the bar had to offer.

Exhausted we made our way back to our hotel, via the Bull and Castle restaurant (I had promised Ross a steak dinner for all the walking).

The day ended with a quick dip in the hot tub, just what I needed to help my achy muscles after the Winter Run the day before, and then bed – where I had the most peaceful nights sleep. Nothing like an exhausting day sightseeing finishing with hot tub time to knock you out.

The second day we had planned a lot of the same, sightseeing and a Teelings Whiskey distillery tour. One thing is clear in Dublin – alcohol is big business! Making our way through the city via Trinity College and stopping at The Rolling Doughnut for the best cinnamon sugared doughnut I have ever tasted (not Gluten Free – but every now and then doesn’t hurt), we finally arrived at the distillery.

Whiskey Tasting at Teelings was an experience in itself. I would recommend any Whiskey fans taking time to visit the distillery if you are ever in Dublin. I tried, but I don’t think Whiskey is ever going to be for me. But it was fun all the same.

More walking back through the city to the hotel, so we could have a quick nap. Refreshed for dinner we discovered a lovely Thai Restaurant near the Temple Bar area, before returning back to our hotel for the evening.

The last day we only had a few hours to spare. So after breakfast we wondered down to Merrion Square, as I wanted to see the Oscar Wilde memorial. Then before we knew it it was time to head home.

Was I disappointed I didn’t get a run in? No. The only thing I regret was packing all my running gear; the trainers came in handy for walking round the city but the rest of the kit was just wasting space in my case.

I came back from Dublin a little more relaxed, rested and ready to take on the long miles that are ahead. So sometimes, even though we don’t want to rest, it is the best thing we can possibly do.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a break. Embrace it. Embrace the that time off to spend with loved ones, let your muscles relax and come back ready to put the runners back on.

63 days remain – Sponsors welcome here

 

The lonely road to the London Marathon

Saturday saw me hit a new milestone in training. Running further than I have ever done before (just), 14 miles.
I had planned this route long in advance. Parking my car at Harlow Mill Beefeater I would run along the river path all the way to Cheshunt. In recent weeks I have thoroughly enjoyed running south on this path, never northwards. For some reason running north on this path has a mental block for me – something I am going to have to overcome eventually as the routes become longer. The route was perfectly planned; I had researched it and checked it on numerous occasions. I was ready for it.

The run was going well. My mind was in good shape after the London Winter Run and I was steadily adopting the same mantra I had during the race the previous Sunday. I had planned to pause briefly at the seven mile mark to take on board my energy jelly that was tucked into my pocket. To be honest, I could have even pushed myself to the nine mile mark before taking this on. I was generally feeling rather good physically and mentally.

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Then I hit Dobbs Weir. Running along the river during this portion of the run was extremely difficult; pot holes the size of craters meant that I had to develop almost a skiing motion with my running. That said, I got through it and started to pick up my pace again until I passed Broxbourne station and remembered I hated this section of the river.

Back in October 2015 I ran my first Half Marathon through the Lea Valley. I also trained for it in the area too. What I did not realise when planning Saturday’s run was my brain seemed to have a problem running this part again. For what seems like miles the path is just straight ahead. I was running for what felt like hours along this long section and it felt like I was going no-where, like it was never ending. My mind went to a dark, dark place. With the snow blowing around me I suddenly felt so lonely and my brain clearly sent a message to my legs – as they just stopped just after 11 miles. I was determined for this not to be me hitting a wall. So I took a large swig of water and started moving again, quickly picking up the pace again but not the pace I had held for the first 11 miles.

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The same thing happened a few more times, with the last mile feeling so unbearably slow.

I crawled onto the train at Cheshunt, watching the path I had just run fly by, thinking “what the hell have I signed up for?”

The following morning, with my planned short run cancelled to rest my still aching legs, I was rather emotional. I had put my run up on Facebook and the support I received over the space of 24 hours broke me. Seeing all these people who have so much confidence in my ability to see this through, was overwhelming.

On top of this I kept thinking about the runs that are to come over the next few weeks, the 16, 18, 20 and 22 milers, and imagined the lonely road I have still to run over the next 9 and a bit weeks. I cannot even fathom how I can possibly get through those lonely miles. Many have said “join a running club” or “get a running buddy” – but at this point in my training I don’t think I would be able to have someone running the long runs with me. Shorter runs, yes, no problem. But my long runs have become a space in time when I don’t think about anyone else but me; my pace, my running, my heart rate. So it’s a catch twenty two situation; the lonely miles are torture but at the same time I don’t have it in me to run to someone else’s beat right now.

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After much digression I have found a lot of support in the online community. I am becoming more and more astonished with the amount of support you can receive from people. Complete strangers who are willing to listen to your training worries, give you advice and sometimes just say “I feel that too.” All these people rallying together, becoming an amazing support system to new and old runners alike. It is simply amazing.

I am no-where near the end of the road with training, there are many, many miles still to come. But when someone commented on one of my posts stating that the lonely miles of training is much harder than race day itself, I found myself comforted slightly.

As my training runs start to get longer, and I doubt myself that little bit more, I need to focus on the fact that although this is a lonely road I am travelling; Marathon day itself will be a different story.

66 days remaining – Sponsors welcome here 

London Winter Run 2017

Sunday 5th February saw me return to London Winter Run. After a poor run in 2016 I was rather apprehensive about running this race again.

However, with the London Marathon fast approaching it was the perfect opportunity to try out my training pace in a race atmosphere.

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Many people asked in the lead up “what is your estimated time?” “are you aiming for a sub 60 minute race?”. I am not sure If I am the only runner to feel this way, but there is far too much focus on time and chasing a personal best. Sometimes it is not about your time, but your journey.

In fact this time round I was 3 minutes slower than I was in 2016. This did not bother me. After ramping up the marathon training in recent weeks I have started to maintain a slower pace in order to cope with endurance and keep my heart rate steady whilst running. In doing so I am finding that its working – I am building up the endurance to keep running when I would have previously stopped and I feel stronger both in mind and body.

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Sunday was a clear indication of my progress. My mind was focused and in a good place, my body rested and, with the aid of my trusted Garmin, my pace remained steady – meaning not only did I feel great when running throughout but I completed the whole 6.2 miles without stopping and I even managed a sprint finish (and I never sprint).

The route itself is always pleasant; starting at Trafalgar Square, running through the City to St Paul’s Cathedral then back into the centre; along the Strand and ending in Whitehall. With the roads closed, plenty of spectators and a generally flat route it is a perfect race to enter to aid training or just to have a little fun.

When I first started running the London races I was overwhelmed by the number of people running; with faster runners darting in and out and myself having to dodge the slower runners/ walkers around me. Now I welcome the runners around me and the complete strangers shouting my name. There is something spectacular about the spirit and atmosphere during these races. The feeling that you are not alone, that no matter where you are in the race you have someone nearby and encouragement in the crowd even though they are not there to cheer you on.

If have often heard the statement “if you are loosing faith in human nature, go out and watch a Marathon.” From my own experience I have come to realise it does not have to be a Marathon. Watch any race and you will find complete strangers chatting to help each other round or shouting out from the sidelines with words of encouragement.

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Roll on London Winter Run 2018.

10 weeks/69 days until London Marathon Sponsors welcome here.

London Marathon’s Meet the Experts

In 11 weeks time, if all goes to plan, I will be basking in the post marathon glow. That’s it 11 weeks. Something that was drummed into all who attended London Marathon’s Meet the Experts event yesterday.

Personally I did not quite realise how close we were to race day; but when the first speaker at the event told us there was a collective gasp from the audience. So not just me then?

Lately I have been asking myself many questions as I try to come to terms with scope of the challenge I have signed up for. It seems these questions are asked by thousands of runners.

The room was filled with people just like me, with 101 questions that just needed to be answered.

Meet the Experts provided the perfect arena for this. The day was filled with sessions that focused on every aspect you could possibly think of; from what to do on race day, to nutrition, to pacing, training your mind, nutrition, to name a few – the day was packed with all the information we could possibly need, from the Experts themselves.

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To help us “train our minds” we had a sports psychology consultant giving tips to get us thinking about the fears surrounding training and the race itself. And the clue is just there – its all psychological. The fears are just that, and if you train the mind well then you are capable of anything. Something I learnt today completing the London Winter Run (which I will write up at a later stage).

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Martin Yelling’s session did wonders for me. Recently I took time out due to a bad cold and I was giving myself a hard time – thinking it would hinder my training. Martin simply stated if you are ill, there is no point trying to push yourself. I know now I did the right thing, taking that time out to recover was the best decision I made. Taking this time out also made me think that I was behind in training – which is not the case at all. Looking at Martin’s time line from this point in training I should have reached an eight mile long run. Last weeks long run was 12 miles – so I am on course, and just need to keep that in mind.

Another sticking point for me from Martin Yelling’s session was the break down of the runners finish times. When I signed up for the London Marathon I said to myself I do not have a time in mind, I just want to get round. However, I am only human, so as i’m getting through my long runs I am starting to work out in my head what my possible finish time would be. Constantly thinking “please don’t let me be last”. Reassuringly, the vast majority of runners finish with a time above four hours. So it is unlikely I will finish last. That said, I’m pretty sure Spiderman, the giant dinosaur and the Teletubbies will pass me at some point – but that is okay.

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I could go on and on about the expert advice received at Meet the Experts – there was so much to take in. The science of nutrition just blew my mind. Thinking about getting the exact intake to sustain training and race day itself is something that requires such attention. That part is something I definitely need to focus more on in the coming weeks – testing everything out now so I have time to work out what works for me.

With a goody bag and a few bits of London Marathon merchandise in my hand (it is a once in a lifetime experience after all), I went away more focused, more determined and, unsurprisingly a hell of a lot more nervous.

77 days and counting……..

Sponsors always welcome here

#ReasonToRun – because there are some who can’t

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