Friday, 30 December 2011

Dream runs

When the magic that is the internet publishes this post, I shall be in Norway, where the sun isn't shining and the snow is deep and crisp and even, where on the 7 January, I will run the Polar Nights Half Marathon. I figure if you're going to do something a bit tricky, why not make it fun?

Here's my dream list of events:
Medoc Marathon - I will do this once I have learned to drink better. Fancy dress is pretty much compulsory, it's hard to get into and fun and food is the name of the game. The course boasts: "22 refreshment stands, 21 food stands and special gourmet stands (oysters, ham, steak, cheese, ice cream, Medoc wine, etc.) and the presence of hundreds of disguised and delighted school children.£ I don't think the latter are for eating.

Running underground: Yep apparently in Germany there's an underground marathon. Actually there's a few. This needs more research to determine if I want to do the Untertage, the Kristallmarathon or Vessertunnel marathon. Ah those crazy Germans.

A marathon in my home country: At the moment, Rottnest Island Marathon is the favourite as it's closest to home and very beautiful. But the laps put me off!

An ironman: One day I would really like to do this, and I would like to do it before I am 40. So I need to start training pretty soon! Iron Man Nice would be a good venue.

A run in the mountains: Davos looks the most accessible for the moment and has lengths that I can manage!

Africa's Biggest 10km race - it's a long way to go for a 10km but if I can ever wangle a work trip for the Great Ethiopian Run, then I'm in!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Running for non runners

I know many people who don't run think that running is just putting one foot in front of the other. Actually there's also some very good runners who will say running is just about putting one foot in front of the other but that is because they are very zen and awesome runners. Anyway this post is for non-runners to appreciate just how much you have to think about if you're an aspiring distance runner like me, but not very good at it and therefore have to try very hard and concentrate a lot.

Eating and drinking: or fueling as we like to call it. Distance runners have to be conscious of what and when they eat(carbs 1-3 days before, protein after), what not to eat (anyone run 26 miles on a curry?!), how to eat when being a really slow runner (5 hours without food?), what to drink (sometimes water isn't enough) and how to get it all right when you have back-to-back long runs.

Social life: Your struggling distance runner will also contemplate if they should be having a big night out - after all a long run is looming on the weekend. It's also likely that they get smashed on two pints - I certainly seem to have trouble getting home on this level of alcohol now that my body is a slow moving temple. Also if you're planning a long run in the morning, is it safe to meet friends for lunch or is that just putting pressure on yourself to finish 13 miles under two hours, stretch, change and be social?

What you wear: Running into work? Then have two of everything or a wardrobe that can commute. If you run into work and have an offsite meeting first thing, your weekly schedule can change. In winter you need shoes and jackets at both ends. If you're going to stay overnight, or run somewhere and then shower and commute home, then these all require perfect logistics so you don't walk home without a vital bit of wardrobe. And high heels? After the first marathon I donated all my heels to charity; my feet deserve respect. Runners who go minimal will find that most of their other shoes feel like torture devices after running in bare foot style shoes. Or at best, your old shoes just won't fit anymore.

It's all in the head: struggling distance runners need a lot of mental toughness. After all, most of it's in the head. So what if you have a row, a hard day at work, or your best friend is on Oprah? All of this can effect a run. I also find when I train a lot and my whole body is weary, my ability to be grumpy and emotional increases in alarming measures.

If you're a non runner, don't let this put you off getting started. But if you are supporting a struggling runner like me, consider these potential things that keep your runner awake at night. And give them a little hug for still trying.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Start list

The start list for the Polar Night Half Marathon is out.

Try not to squeal with excitement folks.

Runner 1335.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Cool London things that occurred today

  1. Ran alongside the Horse Guards trotting down Birdcage Walk. At first I thought the police escort was for me.
  2. Ran through Westminster station. Twice. It's very warm in there but quicker than dodging the tourists ogling Big Ben.
  3. Exited Westminster station just as Big Ben was doing the 11am "bongs"; a beautiful sound.
  4. Bumped into @HumanRightsQC and Mrs HRQC at Blackfriars - beamed at them but didn't realise it was them. The beauty of twitter.
  5. Ran through the back streets of London Bridge and popped out on Tower Bridge Rd with the beautiful bridge ahead of me.
  6. Waved at a Chelsea Pensioner.
  7. Appeared in two tourist photos by accident - sorry!
  8. Eye-balled the Police assembling en masse outside Temple station, thinking "C'mon, give a brown girl running with a back pack a hard time and see where it gets you."
  9. Accidentally ran into Borough Market and nearly collapsed from food desire. Badly arranged.
  10. Startled by the high tide slapping up against the steps down a side alley along the north Thames Walk.
  11. Reminisced about walking the London Marathon route with the fabulous Anne Marie when she was training for Nepal and I was mostly unfit. Especially smiling at Broken Wharf.
  12. Wondered at the cool sounds that seemed to come from a Victorian prison with spooky lights and sound effects, once at the Clink and another, with sounds of the sea near Steelyard Passage.
  13. Danced in the middle of Southwark Bridge to "That's not my name" just to say I had.
  14. Ran 28km.
I also stopped in my tracks when a man walked past with two hyacinth macaws on his shoulders. This is not particularly London and not something I condone but I have never seen such big and beautiful birds close up - I actually thought there were puppets - and I was mesmerised.

Never forget the distance travelled

This morning as I eat my 5th rice cake I keep reminding myself how far I've come in the last six months: (the broken toe, pompholyx and the knees of misfortune - none are running injuries!)

So let's get out there and eat more rice cakes and run to Tower Bridge! And back again.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A right proper moan

Tomorrow I'm going to run a half marathon as part of my training for London Ultra. And if i get to the end of it I will feel really pleased. Even though I have run two marathons and have many times run this same achievable distance. I will be pleased because I don't feel like a runner.

I feel like a nervous worked up ball of knots. A person who is caught up in a few mentalisms not appropriate for airing in public. A person caught in a big job that I am trying to deliver effectively to redeem some self worth - but whose delivery means a lot of effort. And some of that high expectation stuff I put on myself without realising it be it for fundraising, volunteering or just trying to be a decent friend. I've also got a bit caught up in the Thing that is Christmas, due to some personal commitments that are going a bit bonkers but essentially leave me a bit flotsam and jetsam-like and alone, and out of the house which isn't terribly buoying my spirits.

I am tired. I am thirsty. Or more to the point, I can't drink enough and I can't eat enough for my training. I am grumpy and emotional. I cry at the drop of a hat. I get a stitch while sleeping. I don't want to run. And I feel like I can't run. I have felt for the first time that I don't want to do this bloody event any more.

But Ii will. I will read my visualisation notes. I will put one foot in front of the other. And I'll use these runs to conquer some of the mentalisms and Christmas angst. I'll do it because the feeling at the end of the race will feel a million times better than the lousiness I feel now.

But I just wanted to ramble on about how awful I feel as I always try and be a bit upbeat and I thought having a bit of a whinge might help me feel better about it. Hmm did it?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Reached the half way point

Today I reached the half way point of the distance I will have to run on Feb 19th- 25km. It was a good strong run, though the last kilometre seemed to drag on for ages. I guess I better get used to that - there isn't going to be 100m markers counting down and throngs of crowds at the Ultra!

I ran today's distance in 2:29 which is ok - I'd like to finish within 5:30 (and especially 5:15) so adding aid and injury time, everything seems to be going very well. Behave Gods of Running.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Random spyhole

Silly things you do as a runner. Or I do anyway:

1) Wear plastic bags over shoes so I don't get mud on the carpet. I'm not quite sure what warranted this, as opposed to taking my shoes off but I don't make sense a lot of the time.

2) Writing road directions on my hand. Yes this makes sense to me! Marble Arch, Park Lane, Green Park, Bressenden Road, Vauxhall Bridge, Oval, right onto the A3, continue to A24.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A weekend of running

Please don't ask me what I'm doing this weekend. Not that you would because you don't exist, being my imaginary reader and all. But if you were real, don't ask me that question, because I'd cringe. Because what I do on the weekend is run. Around that, there's a little bit of this, and a fair bit of that. But it all fits around The Runs.

Saturday was 25km - this was supposed to be the big one of the weekend. I was in pretty good shape, well rested, well fed and in good spirits. Probably too good spirits. Last weekend, the prospect of back-to-back half marathons had me praying to the Running God at 4:30 Friday afternoon. This weekend I was so relaxed that I was texting friends seconds before the off and even had my camera in my hand to test out on-the-run snapping capabilities before Norway. Madness. I ran the first 10km at a good 10km race pace. Fine except I actually had another 15km to go and I crawled, ran-walked and whimpered my way through.

The day wasn't without joy however. 1) I learned to respect the distance. 2) It was bloody beautiful out there with blue skies, green and red leaves and silver frosty leaves and slippery ice puddles. 3) An old man ultra runner trotted alongside me to give me tips 4) Are you ready? Are you really ready: Chrissie Wellington ran past me. I kid you not. And yes she was amazing, of fabulous breathtaking presence and of huge smiles.


On Sunday, I ran a sensible 20km (13miles). I sat closer to the 6 minute / km mark rather than a minute faster the day before, and only looked at my watch twice. I didn't hurt anywhere, I didn't need to stop and I felt like I had more fuel in the tank if needed. I was also joined on my run by a nice chap from Ireland called Ciaran / Keiran who helped me to a nice strong finish. If you're out there Ciaran, hello! And thanks. Good luck with your sub 3 Five Marathon Masters. (I do keep terribly good company on the weekends don't I?!)

So, guess what I am doing next weekend?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Confessions of a sing out loud runner

This is what I sing even when the ipod isn't playing...

Alabama Arkansas I do love my Ma and Pa
But not as much as I do love you
Holy Moly Me oh My your the apple of my eye
Girl aint never loved one like you
Man o Man your my best friend I scream it to the nothingness
that we got everything we need
Hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Aint nothin please me more than you
Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways and payphone calls
Home is whenever I’m alone with you.

Who's that (who's that) rapping?
Who's that rapping at my chamber door?
Mr. (mister) Raven!
All up in my grill like, "Nevermore."

Who's house?
Raven's house!

You know I do my best thinking when I'm flying down the bridge.
Humming to myself and kicking up my kicks

I thought I'd learned from my mistakes,
I thought he'd learned from my mistakes,
I thought you'd give me the right advice,
I thought he'd let me in for one last time.

There's only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti

I'd go the whole wide world
I'd go the whole wide world
Just to find her

I should be lying on that sun-soaked beach with her
Caressing her warm brown skin
And then in a year or maybe not quite
We'll be sharing the same next of kin

Four letter word just to get me along
It's a difficulty and I'm biting on my tongue and uh
I keep stalling, and keeping me together
People around gotta find something to say now

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
And long ago somebody left with the cup,
But he's driving and striving and hugging the turns,
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns.

He's going the distance.
He's going for speed.
She's all alone, all alone in her time of need.

With you I'm brighter, my eyes like lighters
They shine inside my Parka

But the dogs
Don't depend on a thing
They just lick your face
When they see it end
Oh, the dogs
Don't depend on a thing
And maybe that's why
They're man's best friend

But the dogs
They give nothing at all
They just lift a leg
As they watch it end

And yet it's because of the girls
When they've knocked us about
And our tears want to shout
That we kick the dogs out

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I'm glad you came

I'm in love with modern moonlight
128 when it's dark outside
I'm in love with Massachusetts
I'm in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night

18 years, 18 years
She got one of yo kids got you for 18 years
I know somebody payin child support for one of his kids
His baby momma's car and crib is bigger than his
You will see him on TV Any Given Sunday
Win the Superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai
She was spose to buy ya shorty TYCO with ya money
She went to the doctor got lipo with ya money
She walkin around lookin like Michael with ya money
Should of got that insured, GEICO for ya moneeey
If you aint no punk holla We Want Prenup

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eye snapshots

On long runs I don't stop for photos unless super amazing. But this is what my mind camera saw today in the lovely canals of Uxbridge:

Striped with military precision in purples, brown and green, two little ducks: two fat-bottomed synchronised swimmers, webbed feet symmetrical.

A fallen oak leaf casting gentle circular ripples in the still of the canal. A new leaf sauntered from the tree, sideways, sideways, a parachutist looking for its mark, hit too far adrift from its mate - cast its own gentle circle, ripples reached out, further further, till the two circles met like a brief gentle kiss. I almost cheered.

A cormorant - wings out to dry, looking lofty and a little pompous - the canal's bald eagle waiting for a dollar or a flag to adorn. Coots collect behind its back sniggering, turning the cormorant's poise into comedy.

An untouched, unwoken part of the canal, black like sunglasses - a reflection so perfect that if you'd never seen a reflection, you would think it was something you could touch, and if you did touch it, and found your hand went through the other side, you'd be sure it was magic.

A widow's veil of midges lurking in the bend of a bridge surprise me: "Oh" - my mouth makes the shape it says, inhales, exclaims, and snorts out midges in a perfect arc of spit.

Running solo

I love to run alone. It means I can start whenever I like, stop whenever I like, cry by the roadside, do the runners blow and spit wherever I like. I can be fast if I can, and I can be slow when I can't.

Does it get lonely?

If it did, I'd have grabbed someone to run with, though how that would work out with the stop-start nose blowing above, I'm not sure.

Post-run is when you want company. It could be someone to put a medal round your neck, a stranger at the banana station who also wants to say well done, someone who crossed the finish line with you giving you a hug when all you share is that final timing mat beep.

But when you're not running a race, and especially not a big race, that doesn't happen. For me, that's where the other world takes over and the virtual pom poms kick in! It's amazing how excited you can get over a message icon post-run!

In addition to friends who text, facebook and wassap I am grateful for the company, support and inspiration of the twitter running community. They give advice, they make your jaw drop with their achievements, they coach, they make you laugh, they share, and they cheer. And you get to select them and them you.

Sure you could join a run club, but that's a bit too UK Boarding School Gym Class for me.

Great runners that tweet:
  • mrafletch - the politest nicest man on twitter and boy can he run!
  • canteenrun - my longstanding coach, mentor and piss taker
  • runner786 - just bow, bow now. Ultra runner.
  • conwild -who sent me running through the woods + falling in the bathroom. A barefoot advocate that doesn't sound like an evangelist!
  • romfordrunner - A French marathoner with a great philosophy
  • dimuntiverunr - Gunning for a sub 2.0 half and a great source of cheering.
  • dunsrunner - my source of all things Scottish and smiley
  • mrnimby - fabulously funny, organisers of the Xmas Day virtual run (see we're never alone) and heading towards a target of £50,000 for cancer.
  • hibbsy - so committed to his cause it will bring tears to your eyes. A great fundraiser.
  • nbsue - the runner I most want to have a cup of tea with, Sue radiates warmth from every tweet - how'd you do that?
  • Fattofinishline - Jen makes me smile - she's so real and achieved so much
  • noynek - half marathon training while bringing up kittens!
  • briwifruit - the happiest Canadian runner I've found
  • robsavva - a repeat marathoner running for his son's autism cause.
  • ericdol - my Istanbul virtual run buddy and lightning quick cross country runner.

I'm going to miss lots of people and probably people who have been super lovely to me. Then there are those who don't define themselves as runners but are awesome cheer squads (Dr Simon, Andy H, Tom A, Heloise, Fari) who are always with me in spirit and in humour.

You get the picture - it would be so crowded out there if you actually ran with people!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy half

Today was my first half of a weekend of halves.

I ran up the Edgeware Rd towards Colindale, a part of London which merits a medal just for visiting. It's not particularly awful just so non descript so that running along the road is a bit like Groundhog day: Asda, Mecca Bingo, car dealership, supermarket, Asda, Mecca Bingo, car dealership, supermarket... and so on.

Boring scenery aside, it was a great run - I took it really easy, focussed on a sensible and light forefoot strike and felt fine all the way through. The trick is to see if I can repeat that tomorrow.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Why am I doing this?

It's a double half marathon weekend. And it's a little scary. But I'm trying to keep some focus and perspective. Three months ago I could barely walk without painkillers (see gross pics on the stress reaction that occurred all over my feet) so whatever I manage this weekend is an achievement.

Mentally, I've found myself reminding myself why am I doing this. I go through lots of different reasons:
  • because I can
  • because this redefines who I think I was and who others think I am or was
  • because it shows I can do anything I put my mind to
  • because it helps me to raise awareness or funds on something I care about.
But the real reason I do it, the real reason I kept going when my skin blistered, why I pull on my favourite but stiff socks on a consecutive run day, why I loyally trot home to rest when I'd rather be sipping wine in a jazz tunnel, is because I can control this. I don't have to do it. I don't have to get up in the dark, run 13 miles, call food "fuel". And that's a really good reminder. When you find out someone you love has cancer, or you find out you've got some crazy arse ailment that pops your skin, or you realise that actually some people do really want to hurt you, you can forget all of that and take charge of something amazing or as Andy Mouncey says: you can tackle the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you.

So that's what I am going to remember tomorrow and Sunday while I clock up 22 and 20kms and be proud of any time it takes to cover that distance.

PS I am still a little bit nervous

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How *you* doing?

It has felt like a tough fortnight of running. Such a last minute training schedule has meant that any further injuries and ailments mean I have had to skip that training week and move onto the next. That has made even a few of the mid-week back-to-backs tough - and they are only 13km. Thank god for the "power ballad" button on the ipod.

Also it's near Christmas when you suddenly realise you havent seen people since last Christmas so you rush round to see them so you don't feel like you have completely let your friends down. And so you sneak in the odd glass of wine. Oh what an I saying, I feel so freaking healthy I would have a glass of wine at breakfast just for the chance of feeling a bit dirty! But social norms frown on that sort of behaviour so I'm all up for a tipple over lunch. Only I'm pretty slight of build and wth low blood pressure and a low alcohol tolerance and a tendency to forget to drink water, I think that a couple of glasses of wine really do slow me down the next day or get me walking home a little bit tipsy.

So I've put the wine glasses away for the next few weeks (ok maybe the odd tipple) and found myself a cafe that does mocktails and milkshakes so I can still sip something in an glamorous glass for the festive season. And I'll put in some extra stretching and swimming sessions to complement the running. And make a conscious effort to drink litres of water and eat peanuts and bananas like my life depends on it.

This better pay off..!