Friday, 28 October 2011

Back to back

Gosh this blogging, fundraising, profile raising thing is quite tiring, especially if you don't know if you have an audience. I found another possible reader today though so let's try and make an effort.

The back-to-back runs seem to be going well, which is really saying something considering my toe is currently pointing due south.

This was my first week of a new training schedule (note: I revise my training schedule every 45 minutes) which contains four days of running (a back-to-backs midweek and on the weekend.). Along with personal training, that's five mornings where I get up early with the sole intention of training. That's not so difficult, what's really challenging is 1) making sure my laundry is turned around in time at the right time 2) making sure I have adequate clothes to wear when I run into work.

If you've ever run into work, you'll know that the best best is to bring your office clothes the day before, be all organised and check off socks and pants and such like. No one wants a pant dropping out of their camelbak on the Edgeware Road. Only as I do this on two successive days, I have to remember a few days in advance to have all the bits and pieces one needs. It's a a logistic nightmare, I tell you. Also if the weather changes I'll be left in a summer frock while the snow falls around me and forced to wear a hybrid of said frock with less than fresh running gear to get home without frost bite.

A veritable mine field. On Monday, I am literally moving half my wardrobe to the office. Expect there to be pants everywhere.

"It's the fifth golden ticket and I've found it!"

If you know where the Golden Ticket reference comes from, then you'll know how excited I just might be.

A few weeks ago at the prompting of RunEngland I entered the National Lottery Ballot for the Olympic Run, a 5 mile event, through the Olympic Park and ending inside the Olympic Stadium. It was a ballot but there were a few questions of the heartwarming kind so I told them about running in the original Olympic stadium at Athens Marathon to raise funds for the East London Community Foundation (which supports community centres in the 2012 Olympic's catchment area) and running in Berlin's Olympic stadium for another charity. I don't know if that meant anything but I also told them I don't play the Lottery so perhaps that evened things out.

Anyway, form submitted and duly forgotten about. But on the way home today a quick glance at twitter showed a fellow runner expressing disappointment that they had not been selected for the Olympic Run. My brain did a slow U turn as I realised: "I have entered that, but I haven't checked my emails today." I was literally on the tube home and fast approaching a tunnel, so while I couldn't download the lovely cheery message above I could read the words "Congratulations – you have secured a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." And yes I did the big Charlie Bucket whoop for joy and grinned like an idiot all the way to Finchley Park. Which for my fellow commuters is an awfully long way to endure a grinning fool.

Only 5000 of us will be running the course and I know thousands more entered. Gutted for those whose parents and partners got in but they didn't or vice versa and for those who really wanted this but didn't get it. Reading some of the disappointed tweets makes me aware how much this is a super privilege and I will savour every moment of it. I'll also tweet and pic and share the experience as much as possible.

Roll on 31st March 2012.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toe woes

Anyone would think this blog is all about feet. In a way it is. It's about feet that run, and then there was all the oversharing of pompholyx and now we have toe woes! Yes I've managed to break my little toe all very accidentally and incidentally. I sort of bumped into my personal trainer who's an awfully big body building dude. My toe wasn't so happy about this.

It felt a bit like blood was running out of it but as I was wearing Vibram Five Fingers at the time I figured I would know if that was the case pretty quickly. So off we went and I did my PT session. The next day, it was blue at the base and with some crazy tiny bruises on both side.

The SRO says there isn't much you can do with a broken toe - especially a little one. Apparently it's only a big toe one needs. So armed with arnica and ibuprofen off I went and ran on it. I can't forefoot strike and my other leg is mega compensating but it's just one of those things.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Race report: Constantinople

You know those hot beach holiday memories of Turkey you have? Put them aside. Think cold, grey, wet, cloudy, threat of hail and thunderstorm and you got the race conditions for the 33rd Istanbul Marathon (and 8 and 15km) perfectly pictured. Sadly I was running the 15km, having enter
ed as a marathoner, the pompholyx suffered in May and June had impaired my fitness and gait so much that even 15 was going to be a challenge.

But I wasn't thinking that last Sunday as I emerged from my Sultanahmet Pension, clad in cut-up pantihose and plastic raincoat. I was thankful that the wind had dropped, th
e rain had ceased for a moment and I was just picking my way through puddles and kittens heading towards other plastic clad runners emerging from the old city backstreets and forming queues outside the historic Aya Sofia, waiting for transport to the Asian start. The stray dogs barked to sunrise and the queue moved quickly; we were off on a fantastic 30 minute ride past sights yet unseen and dropped off 300m from the edge of the Bosphorous Bridge on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Highway barriers were perilously leapt over, portaloos were swiftly queued for, and the mass of humanity jogged
up and down the approach ramp as the organisers struggled to inflate the start arch. An enterprising type touted woolly hats and scarves. An hour we huddled, shuffled and bounced for warmth before balloons and a bang signalled the pro start and Turkish pop signalled the mass start: we were off, our timing cheeps a constant screech over the start line.

It was a slow start; lots of happy snappers on the suspension bridge and dodging slow runners (mostly overweight men with more ambition than fitness). It was glorious to be running over such a high bridge (210ft) and at 1.5km long, it was a good enough place for a warm up. As the bridge road led into highway offshoots, the rain came back to stay and running under over passes, I noticed that the spect
ators looked pretty glum. Pallets of drinking water appeared pretty early by the road side but the gypsies standing nearby looked like they were capitalists and not volunteers supplying refreshments. The SRO and I had each other in sights, running together despite running apart.

As we returned to shoreside it became clear we were running the exact route we had been driven, past the old university, Istanbul Modern Art Gallery, stunning mosques and decorative Islamic ablution blocks . I found everything fascinating and before long we were at the finish line for the 8km runners. The 8km finishers lined the road in matching green tshirts and finally there was some proper cheering as they sent us off for more.

The route took in one of my favourite spots in the whole world: Galata Bridge, so I was in my element as we approached, I knew I was over half way, I felt awesome and Kanye West was on the ipod! Fisherman lined the bridge, some took out mobile phones to film and I got my big friendly wave out to go with my ecstatic smile. Ahead of us, minarets soared from the Suleymaniye Mosque and the 16th Centu
ry "new" mosque and I was grinning like a fool; I didn't even notice I was running I was so happy.

After the bridge the route splits from 15km to Marathon. Even though I felt awesome there was no way I could do the marathon without impacting my now very tight London Ultra training schedule. So I crossed my arms in front of my bib (marked "marathon") so the marshals could be clear I had decided to do 15km. The first marshal was ok with that decision but numbers 2 and 3 on the turn off point were adamant I should be flagged into the marathon route. I cried out "on beş, on beş" (15! 15!) so frantically that the Turks running nearby had a good old laugh - at least I'd made my point.

The route then snaked along the waterfront alongside the railway line and I recognised it from a walk the SRO and I had done the other day and knew it was close to the hotel. I knew it was also on an incline so I kept my focus as we headed into Gulhane Park. In the park, I picked someone who looked pretty pro (he still had a run jacket on so I figured hadn't worked up a sweat) and stuck on his heels as much as I could given the crowds on the route. I snuck a glance at my watch and realised I was on 1:26 - set for a personal best. It was then that I decided I really wanted to finish before 1hour and thirty minutes. I didn't think this would be a problem until I exited the park to find that the route now became a little cobbled, narrow (we only had access to one side of the road) and featuring strange triangular speed obstacles to stop cars speeding down the hill. It was the last thing that was a problem as we were running up hill and while the 500m warning sign looked reassuring, it was at the bottom of this bitch of a hill. I hammered it up the hill as best I could, weaving through folk who had decided it was better to suddenly walk. My asthma - which had kicked in all weekend - now ramped it up a notch so I had to grab my inhaler and pump it up the hill, around the corner and into the Hippodrome in front of the Blue Mosque as I pushed myself into a sprint finish. More ventolin was pumped as I watched the clock tick over, and I flew over the line for a 1:29.

To say I was pretty bloody pleased was an understatement. It was the best run all year and fastest ever. Given that I walked with a limp in June this was phenomenal and even though it was gutting not to be running a marathon I had overcome a lot of stuff to get this far.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Medal time!

Let's get straight to the point: I ran a personal best, in the rain, full of cold and asthma, with a section of cobble stones and with a hill in the last 700 metres. It went really well, I loved every minute (even the cold and the hill), and I felt like I ran with my heart. Happy happy joy joy.

I'd like to do a lovely post telling you what it was like in Istanbul, with photos and funny anecdotes but I'm awfully tired. I came home (from the airport) late last night and ran a few kms. I went to work this morning, until the evening, and ran home 8kms. None of this was hard or tiring but sitting down to write a blog, to fundraise, to "build community" - that's pretty tiring. I need to think of who I am fundraising from, start writing for them, start researching more about Freedom from Torture and their work, start being a bit grown up about my expression of the running journey so I can somehow move people to part with cash. It's all quite exhausting, not least because that's pretty much my day job!

So I'm just going to say that I had a wonderful time in Istanbul and will tell you more in between running sleeping and raising money. All while wearing my medal.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Why Turkey?

Torture - Live and Well in Turkey as on InterPress Service
By Jake R. Hess

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, May 4, 2010 (IPS) - Six years after the ruling Justice and Development Party government declared ‘zero tolerance’ for torture, the practice prevails in Turkey, human rights monitors in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern region say.

As part of its EU membership bid, the Turkish government has expanded legal protections against torture, which is explicitly banned in Turkish law and now carries a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Detained individuals now have the right to immediately access legal counsel and limits have been placed on the amount of time they can be held in custody without appearing before a judge, though these provisions can be temporarily withheld in the case of terror suspects.

Despite such widely-acclaimed changes, torture is far from being history in Turkey.

According to data provided by the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), documented cases of torture dropped consistently in the years immediately following the announcement of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, before more than doubling in the year 2008.

Data for 2009 have not been released yet, but data obtained by IPS suggests that they’ll be slightly higher than in 2004, the year after the ruling party’s anti-torture initiative was adopted. That year, IHD recorded 1,040 incidents of torture.

"The biggest problem in Turkey is the problem of mentality," Necdet Ipekyuz, a physician who administers free medical treatment to torture victims on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), told IPS in an interview in Diyarbakir. "[Suspects] are innocent until proven guilty. This mentality hasn’t sunken in enough among security units in Turkey."

In 2008, the Justice Minister at the time announced that 4,719 people complained of torture, maltreatment, and being exposed to excessive force in the years 2006 and 2007 alone.

Sezgin Tanrikulu, a prominent human rights lawyer and former chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, told IPS that the most widely-used methods of torture in contemporary Turkey are physical beatings, forcing detainees to listen to music at extreme volumes, and threats.

"Torture takes place in the street, while people are being detained, in official and unofficial detention centers, and prisons," Tanrikulu said.

"In the past, people would be detained for 15 - 20 days, subjected to electric shocks, falaka, forced to hang [in awkward physical positions], cigarettes would be extinguished [on their bodies]," Ipekyuz, a former chair of the Diyarbakir chapter of the Turkish Medical Association, told IPS.

"These things still happen, but rarely," he said, adding that physical beatings and psychological forms of torture, such as threats and insults, are currently the most widespread methods.

The switch to less severe torture methods has been triggered by a de-escalation of the conflict between the Turkish state and PKK guerrillas, legal reforms undertaken with the goal of harmonizing Turkish law with EU regulations, and struggles for change carried out by civil society actors, according to Ipekyuz. Moreover, the purpose of torture has also changed.

"The development of technology has made it easier to watch and follow people, listen to their telephone conversations, read their mail, record their voices from long distances, and collect evidence," Ipekyuz told IPS. "The goal [of torture] is not to make people speak, but to make them own up to" what police purport to have documented them saying in monitored communication, he noted.

Another important change in Turkey’s torture situation concerns the profile of torture victims. According to Tanrikulu, children are currently tortured more often than they were in previous years.

Ipekyuz, the doctor, noted the same trend. "In the past, few children applied to TIHV for treatment," he said. "Now, children younger than 15 apply."

Minors are subjected to torture at demonstrations and verbally threatened and insulted when in police custody, according to Ipekyuz. "The police tell them, ‘we’re going to kill you, disappear you, we won’t let you go to school, you’ll never see your family again, we’ll do certain things to your mother and father, you’re a separatist,’" the physician told IPS.

In a recent report, Amnesty International notes that since 2006, thousands of minors have been arrested and faced prosecution as terrorists for allegedly participating in unauthorized demonstrations in Turkey.

Children are also subjected to beatings in police vehicles and in prison, where minors can be held in pre-trial detention for months, without access to school.

In January, through the agency of their parents, minors being held on terror charges at the Pozanti M Type Children’s Prison in the southern city of Adana claimed that officials there had sprayed them with cold water, beaten them with plastic pipes, and then poured salt in the resulting wounds. "Even the slightest problem can be a justification for torture," parents quoted their children as saying.

According to Amnesty, children previously held at an adult prison in Adana consistently complained of "severe beatings" during transfer to the facility, suggesting that there’s "systematic ill-treatment." Meanwhile, minors awaiting relocation from the adult prison to the one for juveniles asserted that they had "spent periods of more than one week in solitary confinement" before being transferred, according to the London-based human rights group.

One thing that has not changed about torture in Turkey, however, is that impunity is all but the rule for alleged perpetrators. "Administrative protection [for torture suspects] actively continues," Tanrikulu says. "Judges tolerate torture. Prosecutors tolerate torture. Permission isn’t given for investigations," the Kurdish lawyer told IPS.

Following a spate of particularly deadly demonstrations in southeastern Turkey in March 2006, the Diyarbakir Bar Association filed 76 separate official complaints of torture with relevant public authorities. None of them resulted in lawsuits, according to Tanrikulu, who was the Bar Association chairman at the time.

Impunity is not limited to the Kurdish southeast. An investigation by the human rights commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly found that only two percent of the 2,140 Istanbul police officials subjected to administrative investigations for carrying out torture and maltreatment between the years 2003 and 2008 received punishment.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Midnight Express

I’m writing this on the eve of my trip to Turkey – a country conjuring images of whirling dervishes, sunny beaches, soaring minarets and bustling bazaars. But it’s also a country with a dubious human rights record and where sadly torture is still a present danger for certain groups of people. It seems a fitting place to start my series of fundraising runs for the charity Freedom from Torture.

Freedom from Torture, is the only registered charity in the UK which exclusively supports survivors of torture and organised violence. Operating for over 25 years, they aim to rehabilitate individuals back in to society where they may rebuild their own human dignity and worth. Their services adapt to meet the needs of torture survivors so they can find new ways of meeting their changing needs. Such services can be difficult to fund as torture is not an unappealing and challenging subject.

The first event I’ll be running is an easy one – 15km from the Asian to European side of Turkey. But it will still be a challenge, because as recently as May I suffered from a stress reaction on the soles of my feet that prevented me from walking – not ideal for a runner! The next event will be a gentle step up to a half marathon, only it will be run in Tromso, northern Norway at the Arctic Circle and the town will not have seen sunlight for six weeks! Finally, I’ll be running in the UK – a 50km self navigating and self supporting run around a section of the Capital Ring

As I get up nearly every morning and train (four sessions of running, one of personal training one of pilates!) I’ll be keeping the clients of Freedom of Torture in mind. The softly spoken man reading poetry to express his pain, viewing drawings by children who have witnessed unspeakable violence, or recalling the proud smile from a client who has baked bread in a support group – these images will come with me as I run the streets, and hopefully will come to you as you consider a small donation to support the good work of the charity.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

On your marks...

All packed and ready to go. The alarm will go off even earlier than when I train (415am!).

I've packed everything, from arnica, to four safety pins. And running kit for all sorts of weather. Istanbul's forecast for hail on Monday has changed to thunderstorm. As long as it's Monday!

I'm so excited that I want to keep going to people "I'm going to run a race again!" Of course, it's not a race, it's a run, but I'm racing myself! That's pretty competitive.

I'm just too excited to type.

I should actually be planning how I can fundraise for the great charity Freedom from Torture but I am really distracted. I'm sure they will forgive me - and my two readers will contribute even a small donation...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I got my mojo back!

This morning I went for a run. And I didn't have to think about what I was doing! I got my running mojo back.

I am ecstatic.

I dedicated my little run to all the naysayers, the folk who said I couldn't do This Job and run a marathon, the people who have tried to stand in my way, the people with no perspective, and all their gang. You keep running around yourselves, I will run marathons!

I must remember to make a donation to the Eczema Society too, whose sense of community got me through the worse of the pompholyx.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Last run before the Midnight Express

What a great weekend! It was three day's long (for me), a special someone's birthday, @typecat ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and somewhere in between all the celebrating, I actually had a decent run!

This was great because it was my last weekend before Istanbul. I really want to finish mentally strong in Istanbul. Even though it's only a small race (15km) it will be a big spiritual boost if I finish with a smile on my face, and that will really help me go into my Ultra training feeling fabulous!

I've already started my baby steps towards training, by ensuring I went out on Sunday after my 13km run and doing a 4km tear around the block.

The Freedom from Torture running shirt was beautiful to run in, and I am pleased to report that you can buy them here! They are really lovely fabric and a really flattering cut. I'll post some pics soon as these printer graphics don't do them justice, but trust me all the ladies are coveting them!

Now that the Royal Parks is out of the way, the household is in preparation for Operation Midnight Express. For anyone planning to run overseas - do it! It's a great way to see the world and an additional challenge. Try to find pasta in Asia, or work out how reliable the weather is. Or transliterate Cyrillic. Or pack a small medical station and all your English brand drinks! Sadly, I know that the country I'll be running in does not have a good reputation when it comes to torture. For diplomatic reasons, I'll be posting more about Turkey once I've returned.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Running for a reason

If you've been here before you will know that I run because "it's the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you." So my modest running debuts of 5km races were in memory of friends who had died of specific conditions and the charities that work to stop that happening. I've since tackled bigger running events, for bigger charities, small charities and grant giving organisations.

I'm pleased to say that my charity for the three runs that are coming up (Istanbul trans-continent 15km, the Polar Night Half Marathon in Tromso and the London Ultra) are all to raise awareness of and funds for the charity, Freedom from Torture.

I've been a supporter of the charity for about five years now and been to a range of fundraising events.
At many of these I've been able to meet their clients, people who have been victims of torture. I've never come away from one of these events with dry eyes. But I've always come away deeply impressed with the charity's work.

I've heard about the work they do, I've read the writings that come from expressive therapy, and creative writing classes. I've eaten bread made by a women's only group whose commonality is the dough they make and the pain they carry. I've smelt the tomatoes grown in their garden refuge, where stones mark tributes to fallen friends and spell out the word "Why".

I've heard from women just like me, and men who could be my father. I've met therapists and Chief Executives and stared in stunned admiration at their volunteer medical practitioners as they talk of their work. I've interrogated their communications and marketing folk and joined a local group.
I can't think of a charity that has made me feel more welcome as a supporter - imagine how they make someone feel who has been a victim of horrific torture.

So spurred on by hard working local group at Hampstead and Highgate, I'll be tackling these three events and donating all funds to the charity. My events will not incur the charity any money, other than fundraising fees set by the website, just giving.

I thought if everyone I knew could buy my a glass of wine equivalent in sponsorship and everyone I didn't bought me a pint, we'd easily hit the target. 75p of every pound donated goes to running services.

Thank you.

If you'd like to ask a question before donating, please leave a comment and I will respond.

It's all in the mind

Well it feels like a long time since I've blogged and my two regular readers might be wanting updates. So, the new Ultra training plan is helping marvellous much. It feels very achievable (especially now I got the nice man from Finance to calculate my percentage increases each month in a spreadsheet). And it feels like I've cut that elephant into pieces. So that's one mental box ticked.

Then there's the other mental issues that come with just not having my fitness where I want it. So I'm reading a hippy sounding book called Running Within and have some affirmations and trigger words. Yep. Affirmations are things you say to yourself when the negativity or bad stuff creeps in. And trigger words are things you say to yourself to remind yourself to correct any bad habits. What you want to know what mine are? Cringe... Okay.

  • I get fitter every day. (See what I did there, not "my fitness is crap and I have a long way to go, but a positive reinforcement of what I can do.)
  • I can tackle anything I put my mind to.
  • When I reset I come back stronger. (So, sometimes when I run distance, I walk, especially at aid stations. I don't call this weakness, I call this a reset. And when I have timed my running runs against my runs with resets, no overall time is lost. Because you've gathered yourself to come back stronger.
  • The pain is just a reminder of how hard I am trying.
  • My legs are light and dynamite. (This is for when I have really dead legs).
  • I love hills
My trigger words are "glide", "tippy tappy" (a reference to raramuri running style) and my trigger action is to smile when it's hard and laugh when it hurts.

I know it sounds silly, and I am not really a natural convert but the smiling absolutely helps, as does giving permission to set reset breaks.

Monday, 3 October 2011

When the going gets tough

You know that song is on my play list. Actually quite a lot of bad confessions from the 1980s and 90s are on my play list. But that is not the point of this post. The point is that, while having my usual, eek 20 days to the race panic, it dawned on me that I haven't just lost the ability to run a marathon in the last few months, but I have lost those training weeks.

So as soon as I finish Istanbul, nay, before I start, I have to be an ultra marathoner in training. The training plan from this fabulous list of resources, will take about 20 weeks. That's quite soon really. So it's time to take oneself seriously. Not to skip meals or have beer at lunch and stuff.

The SRO was most helpful on the weekend pointing out how less stressful life is if you have fixed days for running, and not cram them in around a busy lifestyle. So I've got a spreadsheet for regular running days. It calculates my cumulative distance each week. If I can get it to calculate the % difference in cumulative distance week on week I've got it made in the land of Excel. But I am still struggling with the ABS formula function...

I need to eat like a machine. And very regularly, as I am only a slip of a thing. And I have to think ahead. For example this evening, I'm not too hungry but I am eating. Because in the morning I am running. Because at lunch I have too many meetings. Because in the evening I have an hour of pilates. See, everything is all very crowded in there.

I'm making my bulgar wheat lunch in advance - if I am not eating, then I'm cooking. Or washing run kit. Never ending isn't it?! I've got every superfood you can think of in the cupboard. Amaranth, quinoa, chia seeds. It's a lifestyle choice this distance running malarkey. I bet some people just eat hamburger, run when they feel like it and balance a big job.

But then they wouldn't have an excuse to put Billy Ocean on their play list. "Tough tough, tt-tt--tough."


So I bought my entry to the London Ultra last night. It was very exciting, and the SRO gave me a cheer as I handed over my £40, looked up Grove Park and Perivale on the map and answered such questions on the registration form as "what is your expected finish time" (Sunday), and "what is the name of your running club" (I don't have one).

It's very exciting because it's a week later than I planned so that's one more week of training. It's only 20 weeks away so the pressure is on from well, now really. Also the start and finish have moved so the finish isn't just outside my house. And it means the whole field won't know where they are going! Eek.

I'm not sure about the navigation part. The helpful @canteenrun and lovely Baxter Hound said they got lost in a field in Harrow! And when the SRO and I went to watch the finish, the chap who came in third entered from a completely different direction to everyone else. So the potential to misplace oneself is very much there. The Recommended Kit List says one should take both a compass and a map holder. Useful if I knew how to use them to find and correct myself.

Anyway, it's only 20 weeks away but then it's still 20 weeks away so let's keep focussed on Istanbul and staying healthy and positive. And imagine what the nice Ultra medal might look like.

BIG SHOUT OUT: to Andrew Johnstone who finished his first marathon last weekend! The Lochness Marathon medal looks very cool! And he may have been initially helped by a training plan by Yours Truly!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Doing Big and Scary

With apologies to Andy Mouncey

So I was caught in the office extolling to some of my team, the reasons why I run and probably sounding like a bit of a tosser, but hey I am ten year’s older than my audience which I think gives me the right to sound like a pompous git.

Anyway, I run 1) because I can. Because I’m alive and I have a body that’s functional. It’s not athletic, or gifted or strong. But it’s a tool that you can learn to use and I don’t think many of us do enough with what we have other thsn hunch over a screen, a tv or a dinner table. 2) I like to use this body to create pain because actually it’s not that big a deal. I mean yes the training is hard and feels like a sacrifice and there are times when you cry, or hurt or puke. But you know it’s not cancer, or death or losing a loved one or anything major like that you can’t have control of. Or as the incredibly inspiring Andy Mouncey says: “it’s the challenge you choose as opposed to the challenge that chooses you”. Good eh?!

This makes sense to me because I started trying to wear lycra with authority after annus horiibilis when I had been to too many funerals, when I had failed to say goodbye, when I had wrestled with my conscience over my ability to watch someone slowly deteriorate, when I had accepted that death leaves us only with our own guilt and unease because the dead are dead and don’t care or feel.

I plodded through 5km for cancer, for heart disease, and I ran with my friend’s suicide, depression and long slow deaths at my heels. When I felt bonked at 35km in Berlin I cursed the dead for the guilt they leave behind. When I finished a 5km with my friend’s name on my back, it was all I could do not to cry at the finish line, and then enter another race when I saw my memorial run had been photographed for the next event’s leaflet. I run for my friends who have nursed and buried friends and family and who live in the shadow of cancer.

So today when my calf was burning with injury, I massaged it and swallowed some ibuprofen and told myself it wasn’t heart disease or brain cancer. And I dismissed my nausea as nowt compared to chemo. And my pain was temporary, you can insert whether you’d like death or glory to be forever. And then as I psyched myself up to keep going, I realised I was crying because actually it’s a bit bloody grim having these reasons to run, like keeping your ghosts fresh. So if you’d like a more positive take on that, then do check out Andy Mouncey who expresses everything far better than I.

But the point of this is: 1) Every can run, every can do it. Even big fat people or people built really unaerodynamically. I mean look at the bumblebee. Science says it’s not the right shape to fly. 2) it’s never the distance alone that will kill you (thanks again Andy). If you think about it, you can put one foot in front of the other indefinitely, it’s all the other things that make if challenging. 3) it’s really not that hard when you think about all the things in life that is really hard.

So I know that even though my health has been shit, my training hasn’t been as much as I had liked, I will be ok in Istanbul and go forward for four months of proper training for London Ultra.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lessons learned

Some well informed person at the Kenya Experience told me that the Kenyan philosophy is that there is no such thing as a bad run, only learning runs.

So this morning I had a very learning run.

This is what I learned:

You should never ever change your pre run routine on whatever you consider a long run to be. I know this but I wasn’t really thinking at 6am when I poured myself a fizzy cola hydration drink. I rarely drink carbonated drinks so I was burping with nausea all run.

You should never try out a new piece of kit on whatever you consider a long run to be. I know this but also wasn’t thinking properly. It’s hot outside today and the thought of running without a drink seemed silly, more silly than running with a new hip belt. But actually I could have bought drinks along the way because the new hip belt didn’t sit on my hips without jumping 10cms every stride and so had to sit on my stomach. Combine a constricted stomach with the fizzy drink above for a recipe for disaster.

You should not shove homemade bread in the toaster then walk off, as homemade bread has contours, will catch on the toaster, catch fire and you will spend a good deal of time ensuring the fire alarm goes off and not realise that the smoke will affect your asthma.

When you get up early to run, you should get out there and run – not clean the house. The air was cool at 6am. It was sticky at 9am. Sticky nausea and asthma does not a good run make.

But there, look how much smarter I am as a result.