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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Lots of Marathon Love

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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>>>

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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