Running to the Dark Side

As the hype of the London Marathon dominated my social media feeds I could not help but contemplate on the decision I made to defer my place to 2020.

Watching the stories of runners working their way around the course led me to reminiscing about my own race two years ago. Thoughts of those who came out to support me on the day (some no longer with us), the adrenaline on the day and the atmosphere created by the wonderful people of London cheering the runners on. There is a reason why they say the London Marathon is the greatest marathon in the world – the public coming together made for the most 26.2 enjoyable miles I have ever run.

It is no surprise that in watching this years race I decided to give myself a hard time. Yes, I had made the most sensible decision at the time, but I started to think maybe I gave in a little too easy.

18159806_10158714365815604_580682538_o

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and had I been feeling how I feel now, then, I would have been in a different position. But I wasn’t and instead I developed further issues beyond my physical injury that have kept me from running.

Since I developed the love for pounding the pavement and being outdoors, I have always been an advocate of the impact it has on my mental health. The more active I became, the more I was able to control my state of mind. If I had a good day, I ran to be free and active. If I had a bad day, I ran to shake it off. My mind could be controlled by the simplicity of running.

39777190_891911697667603_1213986937304514560_n

But what happens when the one thing that keeps you balanced, becomes the one thing that makes you feel unstable?

My decision to defer came not only from the physical injury, but the anxiety I developed around running post diagnosis. I became paranoid. Paranoid that I would injure myself again, paranoid I was behind in training miles and paranoid that I would not be fit enough for the big day.

I believed in dialling back the pressure, in deferring my place, would enable me to ease back into a gentle running pattern. To learn to love running again.

Instead the anxiety became worse. A fear of running developed. My half marathon training races came and went without me attending, and my absence from running club continued. With the longer nights I promised myself I would get back to it, just starting with a short, solo run to remind myself I still can.

But I am still waiting for my moment.

 

42161674_301063957352629_3538035032985698304_n

Everyone talks about the love of running, the mental and physical benefits. But no one mentions the dark place you can go to when your confidence is lost. I believed there must be something wrong with me. Despite some suggesting I should contact the running club for advice and some attempting to coax me out for a short run, I just wanted to retreat into the shadows.

Until one night several weeks ago I was contacted by a friend.

With a couple of weeks to go before the London Marathon, she was experiencing high levels of anxiety when faced with running. Especially the long runs. Like me, she was considering dropping out, with thoughts of the long runs and the missed miles, causing extreme levels of stress and doubt.

Despite being distressed that she felt this way, I was so relieved to find out I was not on my own. Weeks later, she made it to London and she crossed the finish line. Making me realise if she can get back out there and complete 26.2 miles feeling the way she did, then I can put one foot in front of the other to start again.

And that is what I intend to do. It may not be tomorrow, this week or next. But I will get back to running club, I will get to parkrun and I will learn to love running again.

With twelve months until the London Marathon 2020 I have a goal!

London Marathon Training: Week Three

It has taken me some time to put words together that can summarise the third week in my London Marathon training – mainly because I have been a week long strop.

I began the week with the ultimate rest day, waking up at the Champneys resort in Henlow.

The temptation to book myself into high intensity classes and go for a country run was extremely high. However, with a slight niggle in my ankle from the previous weekends activity and a poor night sleep due to lack of heating in my room, I gave myself a stern talking to. Simply allowing myself to relax by the poolside before my treatments later in the day was the one thing I needed right there and then.

Tuesday, still in a rather relaxed state post treatments, I allowed myself a gentle day of walking before ramping up the mileage at the latter end of the weekend.

The rest of the week started well with spinning sessions and treadmill running. But on Thursday evening, whilst attempting to complete my long (10 mile) run that little niggle I felt in my ankle during the week got progressively worse.

Only 3 miles away from my 10 mile goal, running was no longer an option. I started to experience shooting pain all the way from the ankle joint to the hamstring – bringing training to a complete halt.

Hobbling home, I made a swift decision to book myself into the sports therapist the next day. Lucky enough, SV Therapy were quick to respond to my desperate messages and a tough session followed to determine the source of my pain.

The verdict: Peroneal Tendonitis.

50976833_1852309901547179_2117648588958859264_n

Not only did I have a touch of this painful condition, but I also had ligament damage and scar tissue from a previous ankle injury that had not healed correctly.

It is safe to say that my session with the therapist was not easy. The pain was intense and I left for the second time in two weeks feeling rather bruised and battered – but also relieved to have a action plan to strengthen my ankle.

First port of call? Rest. My least favourite activity. Meaning no running for a good few days. In addition lots of exercises and icing the affected area.

You can imagine the mood of a runner who has been benched, particularly when training for a big race. It was not great.

Riddled with another injury made me question, yet again, if I should be taking on such a enormous challenge. Despite many assurances by others that it was still only week three and I still had plenty of time to get the miles in – once I had recovered – I have spent every “rest day” since the diagnosis thinking I should defer my place. With loosing valuable running time I keep thinking of the long runs I would be doing had I not had this set back.

Analysing and overthinking the situation does nothing for confidence. So yet again I had to start then new training week telling myself to forget about the miles I have not achieved and take each day at a time.

And so, as I entered week four, my only goal was to take baby steps, to plan my training a day at a time and to find myself fit enough to run the London Winter Run this coming weekend.

But most importantly – I need to stop beating myself up about miles and training I have not been able to do.

 

 

 

 

 

London Marathon Training: Week One

Yesterday saw the end of week one in the London Marathon training schedule. After a shaky start to the year, with what appeared to be shin splints threatening my plan, I finally found myself back into a rhythm. I found myself finally coming to terms with my ballot place and gently working through the week – looking no further than the day ahead rather than the bigger picture.

49628799_367626130680971_410201726461673472_n.jpg

So what did I manage to get into the schedule this week?

Monday: 4 Miles outdoor, undulating terrain. Steady, yet wary of the shin issues.

Tuesday: 4.6 Miles. Running club speed work on the track, with warm up/ down runs to and from home.

Wednesday: Spinning.

Thursday: 6 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Friday: Spinning

Saturday: 5.4 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Sunday: 7 Mile walk. Hilly terrain, Epping Forest

Total Running Mileage: 20

Considering I was concerned about my physical ability the week prior, I am pleased with such a solid number to build on in coming weeks.

50227105_820857234974231_3625308407663165440_n.jpg

If I compare this to my training for the same week in 2017, when my last marathon training schedule kicked in, there is a increase of 6.5 miles. So already I am getting off to a better start. Perhaps having experience this time round is working in my favour.

So the shin pain has eased, my mileage has doubled on the previous week and I have finally got back into routine. However, as with all plans there is room for improvement. For instance, yes I completed a good week of training, but where in that schedule was a rest day? There was not one. I unintentionally carried on training as I did not feel like I needed one. A mistake I cannot make again. Rest days are equally as important as training itself.

As I enter into week two I have a few goals in mind:

  • TAKE A REST DAY.
  • Get back into food preparation.
  • Have a sports massage to work out any niggles.
  • Increase mileage (aim for an extra 5 miles).
  • Plan an outdoor route for Saturdays long run.
  • Add in some weight training (return to Body Pump).

With many goals there is no time to waste. It’s time to get into week two!

London Marathon Training: The Treadmill

With Christmas and New Year now a distant memory it is time to prepare for the most important time in the running calendar….Marathon Season.

I’m not going to lie, getting myself motivated to train for the London Marathon the second time round has been rather tedious. With the festive season taking precious running time away, bad weather, injuries and re-occurring bouts of illness, getting out to pound the street has been difficult.

I have never been a fan of the treadmill. The monotonous pounding on the belt, going nowhere, staring at a wall and watching the clock slowly tick away simply bores me. I have always been a runner who prefers getting outside, running in the fresh air and picking picturesque routes to stimulate my mind.

However, the past few months have meant that I have had no choice but to jump on the dreaded treadmill (or “dreadmill” as I like to call it), to keep my legs ticking over and to work through injuries and illness without the harsh impact of the pavement or weather aggravating my ailments.

49213455_611700635929300_6789557638083379200_n.jpg

In doing so, I have found a way to carry training when factors outside my control prevent me from getting outside. With the trusty iPad covering the time and distance, I can now work around anything that is thrown my way between now and marathon day.

Although I will never be a lover of the treadmill, spending time racking up the miles on the dreaded machine, I have come to appreciate there are benefits of getting indoors to train.

Its safe and convenient!

As the last few months have taught me, treadmill running allows you to focus on training without the risk of slipping on uneven surfaces or the aches and pains that you gain from the harsh pavement. Running in cold weather takes its toll on our bodies, as it takes a while to warm up muscles – using up precious energy. A treadmill workout allows us to invest energy into the job at hand – the training.

After running in the cold, and subsequently coming down with a rotten cold on several occasions, I have made the decision to take my running indoors in wet weather over the next few months. The idea of completing long runs on the treadmill fills me with dread, but loosing weeks of training due to illness is not ideal either. The treadmill allows me to adapt my plan to the weather.

49533924_785414578462794_6435881808700637184_n.jpg

Running indoors is also safer. Dark winter mornings and nights are not ideal for women running alone. You can keep to the most well lit paths and still be at risk, especially if you go into your own running world like I do. During the dark hours I try my best to stick to busy areas, main roads and routes where I know I can get help quickly should I need it. That said, I would not risk training on dark mornings, when there are few people around. This is another occasion where the treadmill offers an alternative solution.

Control the pace!

Although they can be a bore, the treadmill is a great way to control a steady pace or training yourself to run at a faster pace for a bit of interval training. Adjusting the incline can also help your stimulate races, with pre-loaded race profiles to aid your training.

Improve your form!

According to Runners World, researchers discovered that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies on the treadmill compared to running outdoors, due to the feeling of instability when running on a treadmill. This in turn can help to improve form and reduce impact on the joints.

49764880_360851688031103_1362635192778358784_n.jpg

Treadmill running is by no means the same as road running, and certainly not a form of training I enjoy. However, it offers a perfect way to keep my training for the London Marathon going during busy times and unpredictable weather. I definitely intend to take the vast majority of training outdoors. But, if I find myself on the “dreadmill” at times too, that is perfectly okay!

 

 

The London Marathon: Being a Spectator

Yesterday saw London’s streets come alive during the 38th London Marathon – the hottest on record.

In previous years I have watched the days events from the comfort of my sofa – which I now know does not really give you the full experience as watching from the sidelines.

After running London in 2017 and experiencing the support of the crowd, I did not think twice about returning to the streets this year though as a spectator, rather than taking part itself.

I have always been told that even as a spectator, the London Marathon is one of the most enjoyable live events you can witness. And yesterday I discovered how true this was.

Heading into London rather early in the morning, I shared the train with numerous runners proudly wearing their bibs and timing chips – but looking rather apprehensive. I looked at them with immense admiration, knowing exactly how they would have been feeling. I too faced the long journey to the start line just 12 months prior.

On arrival at Liverpool Street station I decided to re-trace some of my marathon steps, whilst there were very few people roaming the streets. And in doing so, I was able to see the parts of the marathon set up that runners would never really see; from the final barriers being put in place around the Tower of London, the charity cheer stations on Tower Bridge setting up ready for the thousands of runners and even the water hydration stations unpacking so many bottles of water in preparation. I enjoyed the quiet time reminiscing – along Tower Bridge, where I can still hear the cheer of the crowd, down Tooley Street towards Bermondsey with the target of finding a good spot near Cutty Sark.

31189711_10160471362830604_3436412992911048704_n.jpg

As I walked, I was flooded with emotion – it felt like it was only yesterday. There were some parts I remembered so vividly. Other parts, not at all.

Whilst I was making my way, trying to find a good spot, the wheelchair race – which had started way before the masses – had reached Bermondsey. So I was delighted to cheer the participants on. Starting their race so early meant that there were very few spectators out on the streets. So for them, with a lack of crowd to cheer them on, it must be a rather long and lonely race.

31144075_10160471362605604_6570890953144401920_n.jpg

Shortly after the World Para Athletics runners reached the 8 mile mark, followed by the Elite Women’s – all of which I was delighted to witness. Watching on the TV you do not appreciate how quiet the streets are for all these runners, especially in the early stages.

I did not manage to reach Cutty Sark. As I approached the seven mile marker I noticed a significant change in the number of spectators lining the streets. So, remembering my friends were waiting for me around this point in 2017, I found a good spot right on the curb and waited to spot friends running the distance.

I did not have to wait long to see the legend that is Mo Farah. With the crowds screaming his name, he simply made running look effortless.

31172330_10160471362505604_4980484135601569792_n

Following Mo Farah, and the rest of the elite runners, came the masses.

31239540_10160471361250604_6646312180884963328_n.jpg

As a previous participant, I did not appreciate the sheer volume of runners that take part. Obviously I had a fair idea, waiting at that the greatest start line in the world, when it took a good 30 minutes to cross the start. However, watching from the sidelines, the runners just kept coming. And, at mile seven, in the 24 degree heat the runners already looked exhausted. If you were someone waiting to spot a loved one running within the faster groups you would have had some difficulty.

31164151_10160471361255604_6063570640206561280_n.jpg

One friend passed me without me spotting her despite looking out for her charity T Shirt. I blinked and missed her, the app stated she had passed me by one mile. Many others had the same issue. You begin to understand why some wear costumes, so those waiting at the sidelines can spot them without issue.

31223922_10160471361415604_2481521250522890240_n.jpg

With the speedy runners passing by, the crowd soon started to thin out with the regular runners. Those runners that form the majority. The runners who would not finish under four hours. The runners like me.

The thinning crowd made it much easier to spot a friend, give her a hug and tell her she was amazing!

Watching her run off made me remember seeing my loved ones in 2017, the simple joy of seeing a friendly face in a crowd of thousands and have them scream your name.

After seeing her on her way my plan was to follow her along her journey. What I did not comprehend was the sheer volume of spectators that had the same plan.

Trying to get out of Greenwich required either a 40 minute queue on the DLR at Cutty Sark or a walk under the Greenwich foot tunnel. I chose the latter, preferring to walk than stand in a queue.

31206191_10160471361390604_864166631343915008_n.jpg

Reaching the Isle of Dogs at 1pm saw me catch up with the faster runners and therefore the crowds too. With no chance of getting a good viewing spot I attempted to head further. Jumping on the DLR, watching the runners in the streets below was something else. The sheer volume of heads bobbing around Canary Wharf and seeing a normally derelict area of London on a Sunday afternoon alive with thousands upon thousands of people was something to be seen.

Back at the Tower of London I attempted again to find a spot – but it was almost impossible. At this point I decided to head on home to watch the coverage of the day on TV.

The day is just so special, for everyone. Seeing so many runners battling out on course, in conditions they were not able to train for, experiencing the immense numbers of spectators and seeing London’s streets come alive on a Sunday, was something everyone should experience in their lifetime.

The atmosphere and spirit truly brings London to life. It makes me extremely proud of our city and everything it stands for.

It was a rather emotional day for me, despite not running. Retracing my steps, reliving the emotions and most importantly remembering the cheers of my Uncle in the crowd. To this day I can still hear him cheering me on along Birdcage Walk – something that will live with me forever.

 

As many friends prepared for the most amazing marathon in the world, and many other marathons too, I consistently said “never again.”

Now, after spending the day watching from the sidelines, I felt that pull. I wanted to be involved, I wanted to be joining those running the 26.2 miles in our amazing capital city. I wanted that adrenaline rush!

And it was then that I realised, I should never say never. As given the opportunity I would love to run the London Marathon again.

Here’s to trying my luck in 2019!

 

The London Marathon

It has taken me days to finally be able to sit down and put my London Marathon experience into words. I have never experienced child birth myself, but I can only imagine this is how marathon training and the day itself compares.

For months you are training your body for one of the biggest days of your life, your body is not your own, you have aches and pains all over, your appetite changes and some days you feel physically sick.

Then the big day comes. You experience pain like you have never felt before, that goes on for hours. But you know at the end you will receive something that is so worth the pain – so you don’t complain, you don’t grumble, you push through.

The moment you have been waiting for arrives. You finish. The hard part is over, but you are still in pain. You have achieved this amazing thing and you have something to show for it – but you are in a fog and you cannot fully process what you have just done.

Then slowly, the pain subsides, the fog lifts and you look at this beautiful thing in your hand that you have not been able to put down for days. And you think – “I want another one!”

I am of course talking about my medal.

Now that my legs have eased up slightly, and I am starting to master the stairs again I am starting to kick myself when I analyse my performance. I know I could have performed better than I did, I can run faster – I have done it before. But in the moment, it just does not seem humanly possible to push yourself to go faster, you do the bare minimum to ensure you can finish. And in the second half of the race that is exactly what I did.

The run started off well. I was in the zone, I was not paying any attention to the runners around me, spectators were a blur and I was just focused. Until mile 4 and I realized that I should have lined up for that third toilet break before the start. Watching numerous runners (including some in fancy dress) fly past as I waited what felt like hours for the toilet I tried to not let myself panic. And there was no need. After a ten minute wait – I got back into the zone and over took all those runners who passed me whilst I waited in line.

18159554_10158714366350604_290683706_o

So I carried on. My legs and mind were working together in harmony, round Cutty Sark through to the seven mile mark where I heard people screaming my name! My friends were there to cheer me on, telling me how well I was doing. Quick hugs and I was off again. I knew I had another friend and the Willow Foundation waiting on Tower Bridge, so I kept on, in the zone never focusing further ahead than the next mile marker.

I knew the approach to Tower Bridge was coming, as the crowds started to thicken. When I ran over the bridge I did not stop. I have heard many people give an account of their experiences running over the bridge, and I have to say it is just like they describe. There is nothing like it. The shear volume of the cheers is deafening. Despite looking out for my friend here, I did not spot him and would not have been able to hear him shouting my name due to how loud the crowds were. It didn’t matter anyway – as many people told me – Tower Bridge is the place where you have to fight back the tears. And I did just that.

Just after Tower Bridge you turn right down the Highway, and here is where you will become broken. I was told – “don’t look to your left.” And for a very good reason. As you are approaching the half way point you will have runners coming towards you reaching the 22 mile marker – on the home straight. This part of the course is what got me. My mind went dark and I found it hard to keep going. Weaving in and out of the slower runners and walkers had impacted my ankle – it was throbbing and I just wanted to stop. So I did – I walked it out for about five minutes before getting back to a slower pace than the first half. Mile 14-17 was a hard slog, running round the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf was the worst part of the course for me. Not only did I have in my mind those runners (who were probably now finished) but I was trying hard to refocus and push through, plus I felt physically sick from the heat and the amount of sugar that was rushing round my body.

My friends appeared just before mile 17, the same guys who I first saw at mile 7. I took a longer pause to talk to them, get hugs and take on some paracetamol for my ankle, which was now making me question whether I could continue. But I carried on, pushing through when I could and then slowing down to a quick walk when the pain got a little too much.

Before I knew it I was back along the river. The crowds were thickening up again, cheering was deafening and everything remained blurry. I knew I had people waiting to see me on in the home stretch. So I kept going – trying not to break out into a walk – but running in a rather disappointing slow pace. I heard my name being screamed around Victoria Embankment, it was my Sister in Law and her husband. I sprinted towards them giving them a big sweaty hug. Seeing them was just what I needed to see through the final few miles.

Big Ben was ahead, I just had to turn right and my family and the Willow Foundation would be there to see me through the final turn. The crowds around Big Ben were unbelievable. Thousands of people stretched out, screaming names of strangers to get them through to the end.

Running into Birdcage Walk I knew I had to keep running. I could not walk in the last few miles, I had to be running when I saw my family. When I finally spotted them, hearing them roar and cheer, I sprinted over so happy to see them. Issy, from work, and my Brother were telling me how proud they were, my 11 year old Niece was sobbing, my Nephews were saying “you did so well” – but I had not finished. So with my heart bursting with love and pride I sprinted to the end. When others around me looked like they wanted to die, walking along, I ran my heart out to the end. The fancy dress camel, who had been in sight all the way, was in front. And he was not going to beat me to the end. The Marshall shouted to me “don’t let that camel beat you.” And I didn’t – I whizzed passed and crossed the finish line without him around me.

I had done it. 26.2 miles (or 26.8 according the Garmin).

The crying came as another Marshall placed that beautiful medal over my neck. And then I realized I cannot walk! For miles and miles I pushed on, running. But as soon as I crossed that finish line walking through the funnel to collect the goody bag and my kit bag seemed like another 26 miles.

18136729_10158714365950604_294874963_n

Finally through the production line and re-united with Ross I was guided by a Willow Foundation volunteer to the “Recovery Center” where Willow had hot showers, massages and refreshments waiting. Also waiting were my friends and family – those who had chased me throughout the day and those who were waiting at the finish line.

18159446_10158714366885604_988794757_o

Pain forgotten I had photos with Bob and Megs Wilson, beaming with my medal. I had done it. The journey was over.

18159806_10158714365815604_580682538_o

As I look back and reflect on the day, and the training leading up to it, I know that I had the ability to perform better. I think about the training runs I missed when I just could not take any more and know I could have pushed myself through – I just didn’t want to. I think of the day itself and the times when I took a pause, knowing that If I fought my mind harder my legs would have kept going.

I suppose this is the point post marathon, when you are starting to forget about the pain through training and race day itself, that runners do the thing they say they would never do – book another marathon. So far, I can happily say that I have not caught the bug. I am frustrated with myself, because I could have done better, but not so much so that I feel I need to chase a PB.

Right now, I am happy to have survived, to have finished and to be at the point where I can start thinking about running again without clocking in the miles.

There are many races to come my way in the next few months. So for now, I’m still resting and focusing on getting my running speed to back where it was and enjoying the freedom of running.

As a final note, I wanted to express my thanks again to everyone who played a part in my journey. The support I had throughout training and in the lead up, was nothing compared to that on the day. Family and friends, near and far, were sending me messages, tracking my progress and cheering from the side lines. It took me until the following day to respond to all the messages and comments I had received.

646769_253723803_Medium

In a world where there is so much focus on hate and evil, the London Marathon showed me that love is so much more powerful.

At the beginning of my journey I read a quote “If you are ever loosing faith in human nature, go out and watch a Marathon.”

There has never been a truer word spoken.

>>>>SPONSORS<<<<

Lots of Marathon Love

18057129_10158685474425604_4029659028160746166_n

Just over six months ago I wrote a post announcing that I was running the London Marathon. All of a sudden, time has flown by, and in two days time I will be in a pen waiting in Greenwich for the biggest day of my life.

Getting to the start is an achievement itself. Many miles of training your mind and body is something that breaks even the strongest of people. Tears, frustrations and joys of hitting set targets have all been experienced. And I would not got by without the love and support of family, friends and colleagues.

Whilst I wait out the final two days, with little much else to do but rest, I wanted to take some time to reach out to everyone who has helped me on my journey. This week alone I have received numerous messages of well wishes from people far and wide; whether it is simply to wish me “good luck” or to offer me advice, all have touched my heart. And it is time to show my marathon love and offer thanks.

I first met Jackie Scully through the Willow Foundation at the beginning of this year. Hearing her story touched my heart. Not only did Jackie have her pelvis rebuilt in 2007, but she was also diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks after getting engaged. Not allowing to let her illness define her she took to running and will be running the London Marathon on her wedding day! Yes – she will be getting married on the Cutty Sark whilst most runners are making their way to the race. Jackie’s story has been something that has kept me grounded throughout training. I am in constant awe of her accomplishments, her will to keep going and determination to not let illness beat her. Jackie – you are an inspiration and it has been a pleasure to meet you. I am sure that no matter what race day brings it will stay with you for ever.

Amber has been what I like to call my “virtual training buddy.” We did not run together once, due to different abilities (i.e. Amber being a whippet and me more like a giant tortoise), but she has been an amazing support for me throughout training. Every time we faced the longer runs we shared them, we discussed them, we cried about them and with her help I shook off the bad runs and got back up again. I know now that I would not have got through the long Winter months training without her being there.

Ross – my best friend, my partner in crime, my knight in shining armor. For the last few months he has had to put up with me being in one of two states of dress; running gear or pajamas. Listening to me go on about miles, discussing dodgy looking toe nails and at times coaxing me out the door when I just don’t want to go! Many nights runs were planned one way to Sainsburys – where he would be doing the shopping. And on a couple of occasions he was at the end of the phone, ready to rescue me on long runs when I just could not finish. I don’t say it enough – but I could not have done it without him.

Jon – three weeks ahead of me in the marathon schedule, he was running the Rome Marathon. Over the course of my training he was a great support; reassuring me that i’m not alone, that he had been where I was, it will get better and I will finish.

Friends and Family – of whom there are far too many to mention. If I did I would be here all day. But, every single one of you have been amazing. Whether it is donating money, liking my numerous Facebook posts, commenting on my progress or sending messages full of love and well wishes. The last few weeks in particular has brought me to tears with all the love coming my way. These wishes will keep me going during the darkest times on Sunday.

Red Letter Days and my amazing colleagues, who I have pestered with raffles, bake sales and my tuck shop. The support has been phenomenal. In particular, special shout out to a couple of you past and present, you know who you are, who have donated an amazing amount between them. They have been my cheerleaders from the beginning, donating and buying tickets, bringing me back up when I am down and for some of them, even coming down to cheer me along with the Willow Foundation on Sunday. You guys have a special place in my heart – thank you!

To the amazing running community, all who I have never met in person. It has been an amazing journey having you beside me. At times, when I felt I was annoying pretty much everyone in my life with stories of running, having the running community with me was a great comfort. Giving advice, telling me I am not alone and giving me the courage to keep going – it has enabled me to be a stronger person and carry on.

And finally to The Willow FoundationThank you (I think) for giving me the opportunity to tick the London Marathon off my bucket list. If I only ever do one marathon It would have been a dream to run London and at the same time raise money for an amazing charity. I am looking forward to seeing you guys on route and most importantly I will very pleased to see you at the end, once I have hobbled to the recovery center.

For anyone wanting to track my progress you can do so by entering my race number (52825) either online or via an app – information can be found here

So that’s a wrap. The next few days will be time to relax, rest and carb load in preparation for Sunday. Time to switch off!

See you on the other side!

<<<SPONSORS HERE>>>

18010703_10158688601605604_4021275479284778445_n

Fears of the first time Marathon runner.

Training alone for months. Something that I would not wish upon anyone, yet It is something that I have done in order to get “marathon ready” and there are many others I know who have done the same – for what ever reason. Not having that running buddy next to you throughout can leave your feeling such despair. There has been no one to keep me going – everything I have done I have done alone. Getting out during the cold winter months, running the long miles – It has been me pushing myself to get out there and continue training.

In my final days, as I reflect on what I have achieved and how far I have come, I still have many fears that I cannot shake. Some are irrational and some are expected, either way in 9 days time I will meet what has become my biggest fear and I know I will not be alone.

In the meantime, as a way to help me rationalise these fears, I document them to help myself and hopefully help others.

Boredom has been a continued fear for me. As the miles started increasing I had no one to keep me going and at times I even cried and talked to myself. On a few occasions I stopped some long runs early simply due to the fact that I was bored. Bored of the same streets, my own company and not having comfort of another person next to me. I have been assured that this will completely different come race day. I will have runners beside me feeling all the pain and anguish I am. I will have spectators – some strangers keeping me going when all I want to do is cry and give up. I will also have loved ones – friends and family who have promised to be there to get a glimpse of me – to scream my name, give me a hug and if needed a kick up the ass to get through to the end.

Loneliness, which I have felt so much over the last six months. I suppose will come hand in hand with the boredom. I will not be alone. I will have the company of 39,000 fellow runners and anyone who has come down to cheer people on.

What if it is too hot? Something that has been in my thoughts lately with the higher than normal temperatures. When I think about the heat I get flash backs to Hackney Half Marathon last year and the souring temperatures. If I remember correctly it was heading towards the very high 20’s towards the end of the race and I keep remembering how that felt after training in the cold winter months. However, I would like to think I am slightly more experienced now and I don’t have the same health issues as I did back then. I need to shake this one off and deal with the temperature In a sensible manner.

How am I going to do this? I don’t think any day has gone by throughout training when I have not asked myself this question. And I think the one thing I have discovered is that I would not be normal If I did not ask myself this. There is a reason why It is something that only a select few do – it is bloody hard. Not only on your body, but on your mind. I think throughout training my mind has hurt so much more than my actual body. Even now, after hundreds of miles of training, I am still questioning myself. Asking why on earth did I sign up for this, how could I possibly do this? Answer is – I’m just going to have to. I don’t have to get a amazing time – I just have to finish – and on the day itself I suppose I am going to have to channel all the will power I have to get through.

I’m going to die, is one of the irrational fears that has been placed in my mind by non-runners. When I first accepted my place I had people saying “didn’t that guy die last year” or “you had pneumonia, you should not run.” Yes – sadly people have died running in previous years, but we don’t know what underlining medical problems they had. And, yes, I had pneumonia last year and It was scary. But you know what, I picked myself back up. And, okay I am no where as fit as I was before it happened, but if the consultant gives me the okay then as far I am concerned I am good to go. Plus, I now know the signs and I am far from where I was when I hospitalised. So the scaremongers among us can do one! Listen to your own body!

Pain. It is going to hurt, it is supposed to. Throughout training, there have been many, many days when something has caused me pain. I developed a groin injury at the end of February, which kept causing me grief until recently. Today, I developed pain in my shins – something I have never suffered with throughout my training. Pain is inevitable – but there have been times when I have just kept going through the pain and when the pain hits on race day I am going to have to find a way to do just that. And if the worst comes to the worst and find the need, I will have to walk. There is no shame in that.

The unknown. Something you cannot train for. I managed to get up to 18 miles during training (disappointingly, for silly reasons I did not get to 20) so I have no idea what to expect beyond mile 18. I have not go a clue how I am going to feel or how the last 8.2 miles is going to effect me. All I know is that I am capable of running eight miles without issue, I have done it over and over again during training, so I am going to have to adapt to how I feel on the day. The day itself brings a fear of the unknown – I have never run the route, I don’t know how I am going to feel on race day or what the weather is going to bring. It is simply unknown and the unknown can be scary!

So these are my fears. Rational or irrational as they may be – they are haunting me and will continue to do so until I cross that finish line.

9 days remaining. To all my friends who are running and to those I have met along my marathon journey – we can do this!

Sponsors welcome here

Faith-855x1024

 

 

 

 

Enter the “Taper Tantrum”

This week it seems that my mind is running on over time. The only way I seem to be able to work through the thoughts is to note them down so I can reflect and, hopefully, realise that I am not alone.

So the critical “tapering” period began on Monday, and I was extremely hopeful about what the week would bring. However, it has proven to be just as stressful as getting the miles under the belt.

Day one – Monday – I went off to my regular Spinning class, though only staying for the one class when I would usually complete the back to back classes. Perhaps a little too sensible for me, but it meant that I was in bed nice and early.

Day Two – Tuesday – I got home and straight into my running gear. It started drizzling and I paused at the front door. After warming up I attempted to run and my legs simply hurt. My quads were stiff, heavy and had a constant pain at the very top. So I stopped, and completed an hours walk instead.

17820275_10158620114380604_1020549867_o

Day Three – Wednesday – I ran! Happy days. six mile loop through the woods and across the fields behind my house that I re-discovered the previous day whilst walking. I even sped up for the last half a mile, getting back to my pre-marathon training pace of 10:30 minute per mile.

Day Four – Thursday – A much needed sports massage was booked. I was not imagining the pain in my quads. My IT band was tight, along with my calves and hamstrings; both of which I had not been suffering with at all. After I had planned to get out for a run. However; after the brutality of the massage I could barely walk – so I just did that – a three mile walk.

Day Five – Friday – Social plans cancelled so I was determined to get a run in before the weekend. The sun was shinning and my legs felt okay – until I tried to go. My legs and my mind were simply not having it. I suddenly felt bruised and battered from my massage the day before and a wave of fatigue came over me. Another night with a walk instead of running.

17820145_10158620018290604_289964476_o.jpg

At this moment in time I don’t know if it is my mind hitting a wall, my legs just being fatigued or all the miles of training just catching up on me – but I need to shake this off pronto.

Running only six miles this week has left me feeling on the verge of a taper tantrum this evening. The plan is not going my way, I have hit a new level of fatigue, my mind has lost track and self doubt is setting back in again.

With time literally slipping through my fingers there is no time to catch up on the runs missed, which stresses me out even more. I know that whilst tapering you are supposed to slow it down, get more rest and recuperate – but is it supposed to slow down so much that you feel like you have hit a wall?

16 days remain – sponsors welcome.

To eat all the Carbs…….

Now that the 3 week count down marker has passed, and anyone running the London Marathon is now into the tapering stages of training, it is time to really focus on adding more carbohydrates to the diet.

download

I put my hands up now…..throughout the bulk of my training my focus on nutrition was rubbish. Thinking about running, planning with the runs and dealing with the aftermath of those runs took up so much time that nutrition fell to the back burner. I know for a fact that I did not take on enough fuel during runs, I almost passed out in Sainsbury’s on one occasion post run. I did not eat well post runs either, due to the fact that I felt physically sick after training – so I usually just made sure I had chocolate milk to hand, the only thing I seemed to be able to stomach post run. I also did not give up alcohol either. I am not saying I drank every day or was I out partying. I simply used the promise of Prosecco to get me through the long runs at the weekend. And I have been partial to the crisps that are sitting by my desk for the “tuck shop” I am running in order to help hit my fundraising target.

So, it is safe to say I have not been the model runner when it comes to nutrition. The next few weeks fill me with dread. Not only to I have to get in my last runs and keep a level head, but I also have to think about adding more carbohydrates to my diet. As a woman who has always steered away from eating too many carbs for the sake of my PCOS condition this is going to be rather hard.

However, over the last few months during training, science says my body would have been depleted of the glycogen stores needed to maintain the level of energy my body needs to complete such a race as a Marathon. Now is the time to restore these levels in preparation for the big day, the greater the amount of stored muscle glycogen, the greater endurance potential of the body.

There are so many difference sources that tell you how you should Carb load for each week of tapering that it makes my head spin. Working out how many grams of carbs per meal is something that stresses me out.

The last few days I have started my day with a bowl of porridge (which makes me hungry by 10am). Lunch has usually been a jacket potato, which sends me into a food coma around 3pm, or a salad with avocado and boiled eggs. Then dinner has been green vegetables with Quorn sausages, something light as I tend to be in bed by 9pm and don’t like heavy food sitting in my stomach at night. In addition I have clean brownies at my desk for snacking and sadly the “tuck shop” bucket is still next to my desk, so every now and then I have been enjoying a packet of Wotsits!

Maybe I need to get researching a bit more, find out what is recommended. But If I’m honest – I am so damn tired of everything to do with the Marathon. The thoughts, the training, the research, the fundraising – it is exhausting! So I just cannot bare anymore research. I just want someone to throw a meal plan at me and say “eat this.”

evolutionofthemarathon copy

But if I plan to complete this Marathon then I am going to have to buck up and get my head round this. I don’t want to find myself crawling to the finish from lack of fuel!

So time to reduce the mileage and add more food, in the hope that I don’t end up the size of a baby elephant by race day.

Time to Taper

So this is it. The final countdown. At this time in 3 weeks, I would have completed the toughest challenge I have ever faced.

Despite the fear of whats to come, I cannot wait for the day to be here and the long six months training for this day to be over.

Today, I had high hopes. I thoroughly believed I had it in me to complete the longest run of 20 miles. It began so well. Changing the scenery slightly I got the train to the next big town along, Bishops Stortford, planning a route that would bring me back into Harlow and finishing with a 10 mile loop round the streets I have completed most my training. BIG mistake. The new part of the route went well. 8-10 miles was spot on. Then as I hit the roads that have formed the bulk of my training, my mind went dark and my mind flipped – furious at every single hill or slight incline. Stopping regularly to take on fuel and water I plodded on through to 16 miles, then ran out of water!!

Usually this would not bother me, training during the Winter months has not seen the need for me to take on extra water, but today I felt panic.  Hitting the Pinnacles, where there was literally no where to purchase a bottle of water, and with the weather being warmer than I have been used to of late – I cut my losses and finished my training run at 17 miles. Furious at myself, I sobbed all the way back to the car – not understanding why I simply could not push myself to finish. It was only 3 miles – in the scheme of things, that was nothing!

However, at this point in time during training I kept thinking what if I carried on without water on a rather warm day and got into difficulty? In a rather secluded area on a Sunday afternoon there would be no body to help me if I got into trouble. And If I somehow injured myself due to the fact that I was getting myself into a tizzy that would jeopardise everything I have worked for over the last six months. What then?

So I frustratingly stopped.

17742331_10158590865665604_544585672_n (1)

With just three weeks to go until the big day, it is not about your longest run. It is about the training you have put in. No one really asks “how many training miles have you completed?” You only get asked “How far was your longest run?” It’s all wrong. I wish people asked me how many miles I have covered, because that number is far more impressive than the longest run I have completed.

21 days. 3 weeks remain. And tapering begins. “Tapering” – a word that was completely alien to me in relation to running before I took on this challenge.

It is word that fills me with hope and with promise. I watched a live video a few weeks ago from a Personal Trainer, Stuart Amory, who discussed tapering and it’s importance. It was the greatest reassurance I needed. A warm hug!

At this point in training, the miles you have logged are the most important. It does not matter if you did not reach 20 miles in your long run. Every single run has enabled you to build up your stamina and your strength. This is what will enable you to see this through to the painful end. And after I have spent the afternoon angry at myself, beating myself up – it is this that I am focusing on this evening.

I have spent months putting in miles. I know my endurance and stamina has improved, even if my speed has dropped. I can run for miles without thinking about stopping – many races and training runs have proved this. So it is time to stop giving myself such a hard time.

It has been a long, long lonely road training. Race day will be completely different; I will have people, I will most certainly have water and (touch wood) I will have a relatively flat terrain.

It’s time. Time to drop the racing miles, but keep the legs ticking over. It’s time to embrace the extra time – time to relax, time to get in some sports massages, time to sleep and recuperate. Its time to allow the body to adjust to the long training slog and get ready for Marathon day.

Its time to Taper!

Sponsor me here

The Gait Analysis

There comes a time for every runner when you have to bite the bullet and head to the experts for a gait analysis. I have never had one done before. But after noticing the way my feet landed in recent race photos and knowing in myself that my feet did not quite feel 100% supported I took the plunge and headed down to Runners Need at the end of February.

The gait analysis itself gives you crucial information about your running style, it enables you to pin point areas that would be effecting your performance and efficiency.

Looking at race photos in the lead up to getting my own analysis done I did start to pay attention to my own running style. I quickly discovered that I am a runner who more often than not lands heavily on my heel.

The staff at Runners Need confirmed within minutes that I am a “heel striker” and the trainers I was running in at the time, were not suitable for my running style. They did not give me the support I need to complete training and the London Marathon itself. Although I could possibly run in them short term, and felt so comfortable, continuing to run in my lovely “Nike Flex” would result in further injury.

As a heel striker I was told that I clearly land heavily on the heel of the foot. Shock from the impact of my running style goes up the leg and cause injury in the long term, without the suitable trainers. What I needed was a two cushion trainer with heel support – sounds like the the runners equivalent to orthopaedic shoes. I immediately thought, “good bye” pretty snazzy trainers as I browsed the selection of suitable trainers for me. Surprise, surprise all those I was immediately drawn to were not suitable and those that were did not come cheap. But needs must, I cannot be risking an injury by being silly and cheap, so I purchased a pair of Nike Zoom Structure, in a nice bright colour.

Wearing these in over the next week was a nightmare. The assistant did tell me to take my time, but did I listen? No. I went straight out and came straight back in after discovering the “structure” that was giving me the support I needed, pinched and generally made my feet ache. So for the next week I walked everywhere in them. No running, I continued to use my pretty unsuitable trainers for that.

Eventually though, I wore them in and they had their first big run at North London Half Marathon.

race_3258_photo_50899547

I am still sceptical about these trainers. I find that the structure is very clunky and, as much as I don’t want to admit it is true, I feel that I have lost speed since I purchased these. I no longer have the bounce I had running in my Nike Flex’s and I feel like I have developed more of a stomp than a run.

16938789_1860016074241218_4952701962946679237_n

Some may say that I am generally tired and achy, so my running style has probably changed because of this rather than the trainers themselves. But I still judge the Nike Zoom Structure – it is bit too much of a coincidence that my running became slower and my legs ached more since they came into my life.

That said I should still withhold judgement. After all, they are the trainers that are suited to my running style, my groin injury has eased and I do feel that they keep my feet more supported.

I suppose the biggest test will be in the coming weeks, as the tapering begins, and on race day itself.

26 days remaining