Confessions of a Runner

1.We’re obsessed with Strava

  • Who ran what, where, when and HOW fast?!  No way, the GPS must be wrong…oh yes, that complicated zig zag, that’s not right is it?
  • Errrr, excuse me, I’ve just run a Parkrun PB, why hasn’t the random-guy-I’ve-never-met-but-stalks-my-every-move given me kudos yet??
  • It really looks like that guy sprinted the last half mile of their run to improve their average pace.  That’s just silly.  I would never do that.

Yep, we spend much more time stalking Strava than any other social network. Because we have to. Kudos.

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2. When people ask us how far our next marathon is we want to jab them in the eye with a pencil

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  AAARRGHHHHHHHH.

When we don’t quite know someone well enough to poke them in the eye with a blunt object, and we have to smile politely and explain how marathons work, a little part of us dies inside.

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3. When we get drunk we sign up to all the races

Most people get drunk and do stupid things. But when we get drunk, our stupid thing is to sign up to all the races.  It doesn’t really matter what distance they are, or how far away they are, or if we have to race against wild horses, or trains, or jump into freezing bogs in the middle of them (all actual races by the way). No, one bottle of prosecco and we sign up to all the races that exist in the whole wide world.

Then we wake up and wonder why we’re poor.

THEN we realise what we’ve done and that we actually have to run the damn things.

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4. We Lie

Not all the time.  But sometimes.  You know when we tell you we can’t go for a drink on a Friday night because it’s our neighbours, cousin’s, best mates annual BBQ and we promised to look after their pet tortoise Jimmy?  Well, that’s not strictly true.  It’s actually because we know one drink leads to 16 and we can’t possibly risk having a Parkrun hangover.  In our defense, it’s not just Parkrun…there’s usually brunch and cake and stuff…

Sadly, little Jimmy the Tortoise does not exist in real life.  Well he might do, but we don’t care if he gets fed or not.

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5. We own more pairs of trainers than any other type of shoe

And we need all of them. Don’t ask questions.

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6. We suffer extraordinary things to make sure a run goes to plan

Not long ago I was getting ready to run to my tempo session from work when I realised I didn’t have any socks. None at all.  After begging everyone who was left in the office for the socks they were still wearing, I finally came up trumps with a pair of colleagues gym socks…that he had already worn to the gym earlier that day…and were still sweaty.

I see no problem with that.

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7. We don’t always have time to wash our hair

Running can take up a lot of time, what with having to do muggle activities like working and sleeping as well.  It  means we don’t always have time to partake in life’s little luxuries such as washing our hair.  Sometimes, just sometimes, we’ll take a hairdryer and just dry the sweat right out.

Ironically, these always seem to be the days when people politely comment ‘your hair looks good today, have you done something different?’ Yeah, it’s sweat mate, 8 miles of pure sweat.

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8. Post long run pain is our favourite

When we’ve run a long way it hurts.  It hurts during the run, and it definitely hurts after.  We put our legs up against the wall, waddle up stairs, climb down them backwards and shuffle along the street. But we like that pain, it means we worked hard, and it will make us stronger.  In fact, that pain just means we’re winning at life.  So giggle all you want, we don’t care.

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9. Injuries make us angry. Like, really angry

You need to understand that, when we’re run-injured  and we can’t run, it is the end of the actual world.  And you can’t help in any way.  In fact, you can only really make it worse.

I know it was only a few days ago we were moaning about our training schedule and how tired we were.  But that was when we could run.  And now we can’t run.  So that means the only thing in the world we want to do is run.

No it’s not ‘nice to have a rest’, it’s not ‘good to take a break’, and it’s definitely not ‘fun to go for a swim instead’.  JUST. BACK. OFF.

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10. We don’t understand why you recoil in horror at our ‘easy 10 miler’

Because an easy 10 miler is simply that, we’re running 10 miles and we’re keeping it easy.  OK, maybe running 10 miles isn’t ‘easy’ but, what we mean is, we won’t be adding any strides, fartleks, tempo or MP (I know, I know, I lost you).

The problem is, our concept of distance is completely distorted, we think nothing of our 15 mile weekend run and, for that reason, it’s never wise to ask us if we think somewhere is close enough to walk.  We only know how long it takes to run there.  And therefore the answer is always yes.

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11. We don’t always WANT to go for a run

Despite everything I’ve said, we’re not always filled with joy at the prospect of going for another run.  Sometimes running is hard, and it hurts, and we would much rather sit on the sofa with a box of Lindt balls and watch back to back Friends episodes we’ve already seen 100 times.  But we run anyway. Because running is life.  And it’s the only life we know.  We don’t expect you to understand.

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The Poncey Air Kiss that could undo it all

There’s just 4 sleeps to go until I run my 7th marathon.  I’ve got a sore throat and I’m pretty sure my leg’s about to fall off.

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No, really, I jogged, jogged round the block on Monday and there’s a new weird pokey unexplainable kind of pain in my dodgy leg….

Is it real?  It feels real…it even made me limp a little yesterday.  I’ve been doing all my lazy arse exercises, my foam roller is my new best friend and I’ve even been stretching after I run (I know, I don’t recognise me either).  So what the hell is it and where has it come from all of a sudden??

I know what you’re thinking.  The taper has got me.  But I think your wrong, injury has set me back so much it doesn’t even feel like a taper so how can I be suffering taper madness?  Exactly.

It’s also that time of year when the weather is changing and all the sickly types are starting to get, well, sick.  Why does this mean that everyone INSISTS ON TOUCHING ME.

Do you have to give me a kiss on the cheek?  Do you?  We’ve had 38 meetings before and you’ve not felt the need to kiss me until this particular occasion when you’ve just had a coughing fit and have snot dripping down your nose.  Thanks.  Appreciated.

Don’t get me started shaking hands. What is that? Why do we need to shake hands?  Will it really compromise our business relationship if our hands don’t touch?  Can’t we just smile?  Keep your gross germy hands safely in your pocket and…

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If that wasn’t bad enough I have the added challenge of negotiating the rat race on a daily basis just so I can get to the place where all people insist on touching me.

Don’t get me wrong, being a Londoner is bloody brilliant, but you know what’s not bloody brilliant?  Getting the tube to work.  Packed full of germ infested, snotty, coughy, wheezy, sneezy commuters, tourists, children and even animals that are waiting in eager anticipation to invade my personal space just to spread their germs.  I hate you all.  WHHHAAAAAA

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On top of all that it looks like there’s a storm coming.  Of course there is. Of course there is.

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If you have the pleasure of seeing me in the next few days I strongly suggest you approach with caution, keep a comfortable distance and bring copious amounts of Berocca, hand sanitiser, First Defence, chewable vitamin C and broccoli.  Thank you please.

 

Internet results are forever…but only if they’re published

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival has been slammed this week after refusing to publish a complete list of results for any of the events held over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Why?  They claim:

“All your personal data and information, including your running times, are treated with great respect. As such your result information is exclusively available to you…They are your results and times.” 

Not even Power of 10 or Run Britain, websites which allow you to compare your performances against others, had access to results meaning athletes couldn’t record their performances.  Bloody annoying if you ran well.

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And what about those who wanted to use Edinburgh as a qualifying race for another event?  How can you prove you’re a Boston Qualifier or London GFA if results aren’t readily available?  It seems almost ludicrous in this day and age.

This isn’t the first time this has happened – Bournemouth Marathon Festival did the same thing when they launched last October…and they’re organised by the same people.

Following an angry backlash, EMF have since updated their website giving athletes the option to ‘choose’ to publish their own results…but they still haven’t backed down on publishing the full results.

Whilst there are strong views surrounding this decision, as well as failing to meet IAAF guidelines (of which the IAAF Bronze Road Race label is proudly displayed on the EMF website), it does raise an interesting debate.  Should your race time, splits and finish position be made available online for the world to see?  Possibly forever…?

Of course, before the days of the world wide web (say what???) etching results into history forever wasn’t an option – when my Dad ran the Southampton Marathon many (many) years ago the results were published in the local paper, not national, and a results list was sent out to competitors through the post.  I believe this was common practice, but these results are unlikely to still be available.

However, it’s now 2014 and, not only is there a certain expectation as part of the race package, but it’s an IAAF requirement that full results are made public on the event website:

3.12.2 Official Results for all participants should be made available on the race’s website within the shortest possible time. 

Source: IAAF Road Race Label Regulations 2014

There’s nothing a runner loves more than running stats – our little eyes light up gleefully when we’re presented with the latest race results showing our splits and finish position – how did our friends do and other people in our category?  Did the heat slow everyone down or was it just me that suffered?

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Geeky?  Yep, but it’s difficult to fully assess your performance without knowing how others of similar ability ran on the day.  So when there are no results available to geek over…

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So, what possible, logical reason could EMF have for making a decision they knew would anger the very same people they want to come back next year??  Money

Perhaps it’s not protecting the data of competitors the organisers are concerned about, but protecting the data of their event – an event that has arguably seen decreasing numbers year on year (I tried to find evidence to support this but, interestingly, could not find any comprehensive historical results either…)

Besides entry fees, races, especially big races, make a huge amount of money from sponsorships.  But sponsors want to reach guaranteed numbers of relevant people in return for their investment and they want to know what that reach is.  EMF have already seen Asics and Lucozade Sport walk.  How can you protect existing, and future, partnerships, and this vital revenue stream, when numbers are dwindling?  Don’t publish those numbers.

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Cynical? Perhaps, but it makes perfect sense in a commercial world and, at the end of the day, EMF is a business and they need to make a profit.  It’s certainly a better theory than data privacy – especially when Marathon Photos offer an option to include your race time on your photo…which is available to preview…publicly.

There’s no denying that refusing to publish race results is a controversial decision.  The orgainsers prerogative?  Data privacy?  Or a bloody stupid idea driven by fear and greed?  I don’t know what EMF’s reasons are, but I do know the advertising industry inside out…and there’s only one theory that’s convinced me so far.

Jason Henderson – Athletics Weekly Editor

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The Art of Running Slowly

We all know how it works. If you want to improve as a runner you need to mix up your sessions and introduce some speed work, plodding along at one pace won’t get you anywhere. However, in order to make the most of the hard sessions you need to slow down the easy runs. You also need to vary the pace of your long runs.  Start slow, introduce some marathon pace and finish strong.

It all makes perfect sense to me, I get it. However, as with most things it’s a lot easier in theory than in practise.

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On Friday I went for a run at lunch (RUNch as we call it) & it was supposed to be an easy run. An easy run is 60-90 secs slower than MP. For a 3.45 marathon, MP is 8.35, add on 60-90 seconds and that’s 9.35-10.05 pace.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I only dreamt of running that pace but, for me, at this point, it just doesn’t feel natural, I can’t do it.  So I compromised at 9mm…but only ended up running 1 mile at that before falling into 8.30. Fail.

I don’t really like running to be too complicated. The beauty of running is its simplicity. But I know that if I want new PBs I need to control my pace a lot more.

Today’s long run was 135 mins in total. 60 easy, 60 steady and 15 MP or faster. I was determined to stick to it! Generally my long runs are pretty consistent in pace, maybe dropping towards the end if I’m tired, but I know this isn’t the way to do it.  I was going to try really hard.

I set out slow. It felt slow, a bit like I was shuffling but I stuck to it. My route took me round Clapham Common and up to Battersea Park. There were loads of other runners out and they were all running faster than me…

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Running around Battersea Park I was eager to pick the pace up. This was my territory, this was where I came for speed work not shuffles. Then I spyed a tall girl bobbing up and down next to me. She was bobbing up and down, she was being tall and she was RACING me. She was, I know she was, how was I supposed to control myself now?! Luckily, by the time I had finished pondering this she turned off. I must have scared her, she knew she couldn’t take me….

Anyway, tall bobby girl out the way I focused on my pace again. As I ran across Chelsea Bridge I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to run faster now. I’m not sure I’ve ever run a negative split before. However, I waited until 57 minutes on the clock (I just couldn’t wait until 60, patience isn’t my strong point) and picked it up.  It felt ok.

By the time I got to 2 hours I was still feeling good and ready to pick it up again, so I went for it.

Obviously I looked exactly like this…cool, calm, in control and fast…

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The clock reached 135 minutes and had done it!! I ran the first half slow, the second near MP and the last 15 at tempo. And I finished strong. It made me so happy!

Now I just need to nail these jogs. I just wish I could get Kanye West out of my head…’drive slow homie’

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Marathons: Spring Vs Autumn

Is it better to train through the freezing Winter…or the sweltering Summer?

Frankfurt will be my first autumn marathon.  The previous 3 have all been spring marathons which means cold dark nights, cold early mornings and bloody freezing long weekend runs.

This Winter was one of the coldest in history, so cold in fact RW editor Andrew Dixon said ‘Those who’ve marathon trained through this UK winter are 23.7777% tougher than in previous years. Fact.’  This prompted my Dad to respond with ‘When I was steel fixing in 1963 and the snow was 4ft thick for 3 months and I was riding my bike to and from work was 100% tougher than any marathon runner’ but whatever, it was cold and I was brave!

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Finding the motivation to head out for an after-work run after a warm cozy tube ride home or a 3 hour weekend run when it was snowing was challenging to say the least.  The seasons are changing, I don’t think I got a single long run in when it wasn’t really cold, and inevitably the day of the marathon itself was warm and sunny which wasn’t ideal considering training conditions.

When I signed up for Frankfurt I promised myself no pressure.  There’d be no slave to the plan, no regimented mileage and no ‘junk’ miles.  I did all that for London and it didn’t improve my time.  This time I planned to run smarter, run less, recover more, and remember that I’m doing it for the love of running (and the new bling…and the mini break abroad…and the post race celebrations…)

For the most part, training through the summer has been a pleasure; warm light evenings and sunny days beat the cold, dark and dodgy ice patches anytime, it lifts your spirits.  There have been downsides of course, we had a couple of heatwaves earlier this Summer and it made the long runs tougher than I had appreciated, my pace slowed, I had to get out the door early and I needed to take on more water than I was used to.  But I wouldn’t complain about it!

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My long runs have generally been slower than in the Winter.  I don’t know why, in all honesty I feel fitter than ever so it doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m hoping it’s because I’m putting more effort into weekly tempo and track sessions which weren’t part of my schedule before and therefore I’m not as fresh on the long runs as I might have been.  Or it might be the increase in temperature (when it’s -7 you run as fast as you can just to get it over with), but I’m trying not to let it worry me.

So, is it better to train through the Winter or the Summer?  No doubt the Summer is much more enjoyable but how will this affect my race?  Has my pace been compromised?   Jury’s still out, my marathon time might have the answer…

Is it ever a ‘good’ time to get injured?

As my shoulder smacked down on the stony trail I knew immediately I’d done enough damage to my ankle to wipe myself out of running for at least a few days.  I was 2 miles into the first run of a long training weekend with the Chasers in the New Forest.  As I sat on the floor trying to weigh up how bad the damage was all I saw were several concerned faces looking at me.  Gutted doesn’t come close.



Of course I tried to convince myself it would be fine by the morning and I’d be back running the next day but as my ankle swelled to the size of a melon even I knew how ridiculous that was.  No more running for me.  No more running with a group of people who love running as much as I do on a weekend I had been looking forward to for weeks.


I felt bit like this…



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As I sat in the dirt contemplating the recovery time I couldn’t help but think of Chrissie Wellington and all her ‘muppet’ moments, I got a strange comfort from that (if you haven’t read her book A Life Without Limits, do it, the woman is INCREDIBLE).



Luckily i wasn’t on my own, I didn’t really know where I was & it hurt to stand – I’m not one to overreact but had I been alone it obviously would have been the absolute end of the world & I probably would have stayed there on the floor covered in dirt all by myself until I eventually got eaten by wild New Forest ponies.  In situations like that you can’t underestimate the reassurance that other people bring, especially those that couldn’t empathise more.



As I realised there would be no speed session in the morning, no easy jogs, no 20 milers and not even any games of rounders I started to wonder what the hell I was going to do all weekend?  The idea of rest and elevation did not make me at all happy, I had come to run!  I couldn’t help but wishing it had happened on the last run of the weekend rather than the first but it got me thinking, when is it ever convenient to pick up an injury?



If it had happened on the last day would that have really been any better?  Sure, I would have got my mileage in and the weekend would have gone to plan but I’ve got a half marathon on Sunday… whilst I’m still not sure if I’ll do it, a sprain any later would have surely made it an impossibility?  I’ve got a marathon in 8 weeks and gearing up to some heavy mileage, surely an injury earlier is better than later?  My running schedule seems to be so hectic I don’t have time to be injured.  Ever.  Who does?



I refused to feel sorry for myself and let it ruin my weekend so I quickly made friends with a couple of the girls who were hiring bikes the next day instead of running.  We rode around country lanes for 4 hours (including an obligatory pub lunch of course) and I loved it!  I was incredibly grateful for the company as I wouldn’t of had the confidence to do it alone, the girls really made my weekend.  It was great to do something different and see the New Forest on a beautifully sunny day, plus it didn’t bother my melon sized ankle too much either.  I know if I was playing by the rules I should have been resting with my foot in the air but that was never going to happen was it?  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I wasn’t even jealous when the group went out for their second run of the day (well, maybe a tiny bit).



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So, my running weekend didn’t go to plan, I didn’t get my 20 miler in, or do any running at all in fact, but I did spend an amazingly glorious weekend outdoors – cycling, stretching, swimming, doing some core work & walking (plus eating, I still ate like a runner!)  I had a brilliant time and met some truly fabulous people who I know I’ll be running with again soon.  Plus, 4 days later, the ankle is definitely looking more like a plum than a melon and the bruising is starting to fade.  Progress!



Injuries suck, they always seem to come at the wrong time, they’re unbelievably frustrating & at times soul destroying but they come with the territory and I guess we all have to accept that we’re not invincible.



I’m sure I’ll be embracing running again soon like this little fella
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The Work-Life-Run Balance

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is hard enough, especially when you throw in a commute either side of the working day, but add to that your running life and you can quickly end up in a pickle.

I work in an advertising agency in central London and that means there’s pretty much always a reason to be social and a reason to drink (we have a beer fridge in our office where it’s not frowned upon to crack open a Bulmers at 4pm…).  I used to love it but now I can’t remember the last time I went to a media party (that would be a party with a free bar…) or to the pub with colleagues on a Friday night.  They think I’m boring…or at the very least dedicated…but I definitely think I’m boring compared to my former self.

Of course that’s just work socialising, you’ve then got your own friends, family and a list of boring jobs like food shopping & cleaning to do.  The clock doesn’t stop ticking.

This weekend was a Bank Holiday.  After dutifully running my 18 miles on Saturday, followed by sensible post run R&R, I went to a festival on Clapham Common on Sunday.  A full day of standing, dancing and drinking caused some sort of weird back pain that left me barely able to walk at 11pm (it was a looooongg shuffle home).  It quickly passed but it freaked me out.  Was it the run?  18 miles is a long way but it’s not unusual to put my body through that.  Was it the dancing and drinking? Was it the combination of both? Can I not run and have fun?  Consequently I skipped my scheduled 5 miles yesterday but did spend some time walking around Notting Hill Carnival which was also exhausting.

Today I feel like this.  Not only that, but I’m back at work.

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I like my job (most of the time…).  I love running. I love having fun.  Why can’t I just do it all?  Of course if I win the lottery I can take work out of the equation and life would be much more manageable…