Running through the pain!

At this point in my marathon training I am finding it harder to decipher what is actual pain and what is my mind thinking I am in pain. With now less than five weeks to go to the London Marathon I know that I am not alone in saying that everything seems to hurt all the time.

Whether it is a dull muscle ache, body fatigue or heavy legs – it just does not seem to let up no matter what I do to try to alleviate the feeling. When I am dressed and ready for a run, about to take my first step I am constantly asking myself is this fatigue I am feeling or am I simply not able to run today?

Knowing the difference between the two has become a blur in the need to tick off all the training sessions during the final weeks of training. It is a constant battle with mind and body and also understanding when it is more productive to have an additional rest day.

This was extremely evident to me after the North London Half Marathon. I am not sure why this race got to me so much. I have been training consistently on hills in my local area, so I should have had the stamina and endurance to get through. However, in the days following I suffered more than I ever have post race. I didn’t do anything differently, I didn’t change anything in my diet – I simply just hurt. Monday through to Thursday I had a constant battle with myself to determine whether it was superficial or if I could simply run through the pain I was feeling.

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Tuesday was the first attempt to get back running and it failed immediately. I got out of my car, stood in the car park and simply said “I am not doing this today”. I know this was probably more my mind winning this crazy marathon battle. But on this day I simply did not care, I got back in my car and went home to the comfort of my pajamas.

The following day, Wednesday, my mind was in a better state but my legs certainly were not. But I simply pushed through anyway. And it hurt. The tightness in my quads meant that I spent the first four miles shuffling. But I kept pushing through, regardless of what I may have looked like, and I completed an eight mile run before heading off to a Yoga class to stretch out.

Saturday saw me more determined to head out for my 18 mile run (one I had previously failed to complete). At 8am I was out the door, leaving my car at home and completing a large loop of my local area back home again. The first eight-ten miles were fine, then I felt hungry. Taking on energy jellies I carried on through to thirteen miles, fourteen miles, I kept going – at times walking out the aches. Fifteen miles hit and I wanted to scream – the pain was not just my body, but my mind too. My mind hurt from trying to convince myself that I can keep going. I hit a new level of fatigue I had never felt before but still continued on for the last three hellish miles, barely able to get the energy to lift my legs. After I mis plotted my Strava map, I spent the last half a mile running in circles around my Neighbour’s houses to make the run up to 18 miles – there was no way that I was going to go through the last 3-4 hours without hitting the distance exactly. Then I fell into the house, crawling up the stairs to the shower. Stopping hurt just as much as keeping going, so I can see why the experts say keep moving when you finish. If you don’t you will end up like me crawling round the house.

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That said – the next morning though considerably tired, I jumped out of bed with no aches and pains at all. So I ran further than I had done the previous week, with possibly the same amount of hills, yet nothing ached!

There are times during this training I simply don’t understand anything. I don’t understand how my 18 mile run caused me no post run fatigue and aches the day after, but the North London Half Marathon left me in pieces. I don’t understand how sometimes you can run through the pain to complete a long run but then the next day running a mile is simply just impossible.

It just doesn’t make sense. All I can do is keep running. Keep attempting to run through the pain in the hope that one day I will make sense of it all.

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North London Half Marathon

Sunday 12th March saw me complete my final training race before the London Marathon. Having spent the majority of my childhood in North West London, the North London Half had a particular interest for me. Part of the route saw you run through Mill Hill, where my Grandparents still reside, round Saracens stadium (Copthall to those who grew up with Summer sports days and Sunday’s spent swimming at the pool) and then back along Graham Park Way – passing what used to be Barnet College,  which is now a building site for new housing. Add to this, finishing at the iconic Wembley Stadium itself was enough to draw many runners to sign up.

Gathered in a rather crowded pen before the race began, I started to feel rather anxious. Perhaps it was due to the fact this was the last race day before the big one, but I just kept thinking about “what ifs?” What if I feel like this on Marathon day, what if I cannot complete the race, what if I don’t feel ready, what if I don’t get my long runs completed……too many “what if’s” to think about before the whistle blew.

It is safe to say that I did not start this race well.

An uphill start from the get go, this race had to be the most evil course I have experienced to date. For the first three miles runners faced hills after hills, knowing that on the loop back to Wembley you would have to face these hills for a second time going the other way. I started before the 2:30 pacer thinking “great – I will get a better time than Hampton Court Half.” Until we got to the third mile. The pacer caught up with me, stayed alongside me for a while but then, with all his experience, left me for dust as the hills got to me and my pace slowed, at one point even to a stop.

 

With heavy legs I trundled along, allowing myself to walk when needed during some tough inclines, taking on water and more energy jellies than I would usually take on board. A far cry from the comfortable run of Hampton Court Half Marathon.

Reaching Bunns Lane, I had to fight the urge to run off course and flee to the safety of my Grandparents just a short distance from the actual route in Mill Hill Broadway. Head down I kept going, round Saracens stadium, back along Bunns Lane and leaving the comforting thoughts of home behind.

 

On the return to Wembley I managed to keep some solid pacing going, mainly on the flat, thinking just one mile at a time. Just before mile 10 the route saw runners going back along Hay Lane and climbing the mountain than we ran down on the way out. At this point, I only saw one person actually running – the numerous hills and miles wearing out the majority of the runners taking part. Even some of the toughest looking men around me were walking – so I knew it was not just me.

Several more hills followed, then I turned the corner to mile 12 and felt such a sense of relief that I was on the home straight – which of course saw us running on an incline towards and round the stadium. Finally, running through a service entrance I made it onto the pitch at Wembley. With the spectators cheering me on and my name being announced over the tannoy the pain and frustrations of the miles I had just run completely slipped away. Volunteers handed medals, drinks and some even put out their hand for a high five – making you feel special, like you have achieved something, congratulating everyone no matter what their time.

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Despite not enjoying the course itself, and knowing that I will NEVER be running this one again, everything on the day was spot on. From the organisation, to the the volunteers, the medal and even Wembley itself. A race can be a bad run for you personally, but if everything else around you makes it slightly more enjoyable then that’s what counts.

Am I bothered that I got my second worst Half Marathon time here? No. Although I would have liked a good time, time itself was not a focus for me here. With this being race being sold as a undulating course I knew it was not one to chase a personal best. As with all the races I have taken part in this year it was all about practice and endurance. Whilst I failed miserably with endurance on this occasion, I know that the London Marathon will not see me having to face the hills I experienced on Sunday. That, for now, gives me comfort as I look to attempt my 18 mile long run for the second time this weekend.

Plus I can now say I ran round the pitch at Wembley Stadium!

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#ReasonToRun

Everyone has a #ReasonToRun. I don’t recall anyone ever saying they started running for no reason at all. In the lead up to the London Marathon I am paying more and more attention to the reasons why other people have chosen to do so.

Personally I started running after experiencing the feeling it gave me. After going through some tough times, when some would find alternative outlets, I turned to exercise. I used running and fitness as my way of coping, a way to deal with stress, drama’s and anguish experienced during day to day life, and as such it has now become the one time of day where I find peace. During that hour, two hours – whatever the time would be – I find that my mind goes to a different place. I don’t think, I just run or if I am not running – I spin. It has become my haven, the me time and time when I don’t have a care of the world.

Until recently.

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As the London Marathon gets closer my love for running is diminishing. The enjoyment I experienced before the training cranked up a notch has been replaced by resentment. I long for  the easy, careless, stress free runs I used to have. Now every run feels forced and lately even the short runs are a struggle. I resent the miles, the training plan, pacing, mapping runs on Strava and even my new snazzy trainers – which I am still finding hard to adjust to. Every run is slower than the last, I have a constant feeling of fatigue and self doubt. I have learned that I do not enjoy anything over half a marathon and in fact trying to get to the 16, 18, 20 and 22 mile runs just seems virtually impossible right now. On Saturday I even gave up at 12.5 miles, calling Ross to come pick me up, after crying for half a mile. Immediately concerned, he asked “are you okay?” On receiving my answer, he simply made a very good point – “If you need to walk, walk. If you run 20 miles on the day and have to walk the last 6.2 then so be it. You will finish.” And I suppose that’s all we can do – forget times, aim to finish.

So as the six week count down approaches I have to keep trying to remind myself why I am doing this. The London Marathon was on my bucket list and I was lucky enough to be able to run it for The Willow Foundation. There are many people who are not able to run, so I am running for them. I am running for those who have fought a life threatening illness, for those who have lost loved ones and those who have been lost in the fight, in the hope that one day time spent with those we love will not be cut short.

“Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up.” Pick yourself up and keep running until you finish!

What is your #ReasonToRun?

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The London Football Awards

Last night saw me swap my trainers for my dancing shoes, as I attended the London Football Awards. An event hosted by The Willow Foundation, it was a night at Battersea Evolution filled with glitz, glamour and many football legends.

With the Willow Foundation being the Red Letter Days partnered charity we were lucky enough to be able to get our hands on a table for the evening. Usually the football scene would not hold any interest for me, however I simply could not pass up a chance to support another Willow event. And I certainly was not disappointed.

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We arrived at Battersea Evolution to a wonderful champagne reception and managed to get up close to the Premier League trophy – proudly on display (and heavily guarded) for the evening.

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The evening quickly got underway with Gary Linekar as our wonderful host. With great rapport, he kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the evening.

A successful night for Chelsea, who won three awards; Premier League Player of the Year (N’Golo Kante), Manager of the Year (Antonio Conte) and Outstanding Contribution to London Football (Frank Lampard). Tottenham Hotspur (Ross’s team and therefore the guys I was cheering on), also went on to have great successes with Dele Alli winning Young Player of the Year and Hugo Lloris with Goal Keeper of the Year.

An exciting evening, where even I managed to get a few pictures taken with the great Frank Lampard and, much to Ross’s approval, Dele Alli. The likes of Ian Wright (who was such a witty man to talk to), David Seaman and Roy Hodgeson were also in attendance, as well as the the great Bob Wilson – co-founder of the Willow Foundation.

Although the evening’s purpose was to award some amazing talent in London football, there was also a second and more poignant purpose for us all being there – to raise money for the Willow Foundation. A charity that has become so close to my heart after working with them, fundraising for them and attending many events over the last few years.

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A silent auction was in place, where lucky bidders could win anything from holidays to signed football shirts. A live auction also took place once dinner had ended – where, I if I remember rightly, a private dinner with Frank Lampard at Coutts sold at a final auction price of £30,000.

Leaving before the auction had ended, I went home buzzing. Not from champagne, but from the thrill of being part of such amazing event. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to attend the awards, especially knowing there were many friends or family who would have loved to be in my place.

The event came at the right time too. With 50 days to go until the London Marathon, it reminded me why I am doing this. I am not just running a marathon, I am raising money for the Willow Foundation. And every penny I raise will make a difference.

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