Why it sucks to be a non-marathon running marathon runner during marathon season

Sooooo, it’s that time of year again.  London, Boston, Manchester, Paris, Brighton, Rome, Hamburg…  All the big cities are hosting their annual Spring marathons with hundreds of thousands of people putting months of hard graft to the test and crossing those finish lines with pride and glee.  Wonderful.

And it truly is a wonderful, magical and pretty remarkable thing.  But not being one of them? Without any particular good reason (I can’t blame a broken foot this year).  Well, that totally sucks.  It sucks on every level.

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1. You just can’t escape it

No matter how hard you try, if you have friends that are runners, it’s everywhere.  I even tried deleting my Facebook account.  But then there was Instagram…and Strava…and Twitter…and, well. the news and, errrm,, the actual outdoors.

I’ve already switched it back on again.  So that went well.

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2. The FOMO is real

It’s difficult to put into words, and to get any normal person to understand, why exactly it pains you so much to miss out on putting your body through the wars and your mind through hell just to run 26.2 miles.  For fun.  So just take my word for it.

There is no greater pain that being on the spectator side of those barriers.

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3. You feel like the laziest person on earth

It doesn’t really matter how much exercise you do, even if you workout out daily, if you’re not running 20 miles on a Sunday when everyone else in the whole world is, then you feel like the Mayor of Slobtown.

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4. It makes you grumpy and unreasonable

Yes, more grumpy than usual.  Yes more unreasonable than usual. No, I can’t control it.  Yes, I’m sorry.  No, I don’t wanna talk about it.

It’s best to just stay away from me really.

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5. You’re just another muggle

This one is probably the worst for me.  Marathon running is magical.  It’s magical because it’s made of a unique combination of a strong body, a strong(er) mind, and a lot of  bloody hard work that only comes with resilience, dedication and willpower .  It’s impossible to understand unless you’ve been there.  And when you’re not there, you’re just a regular ol nothing-special kinda muggle on the sidelines.  And that sucks.

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Putting my jealousy aside, I wish nothing but the best of luck and positive, strong thoughts to everyone running over the next few weeks and, if you’re running London, I’ll be in the usual Chaser spot with a can of cider throwing jelly babies at you.  You’re welcome.

I want to be special again by the end of the year.  And I’m going all out for Berlin in September because, this time, I do have something to prove.  In fact I have everything to prove.

But only to myself.

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Ride 100: Way out of my comfort zone

They say the bit outside of your comfort zone is where magical things happen.  It’s dangerous, and scary, and a little intimidating, but it’s OK because unicorns live there and they can show you a whole new world of wonderful things.  Or something like that.  On Sunday I’m taking on my first cycling sportive.  It’s 100 miles long.  And it’s a whole new world to me.

My comfort zone is all but a dot on the horizon right now.  Mostly because I know s**t all about cycling.  Or bikes.  Or how to fix my bike if it breaks.  It doesn’t bode well when you have to phone your Dad from the expo to ask him what sort of inner tube you need, and you still don’t know what you’re look at so the random dude who overhears offers some help and picks the tube out for you after you tell him you have ‘you know, a normal bike…’.  Yep, my comfort zone is basically on another planet.

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Genuinely, I’d much rather run a marathon on Sunday, despite not being marathon fit, because marathons are my comfort zone (did I just say that?!).  I know what’s going to happen in a marathon.  I’ve run strong, I’ve run weak, and I’ve run when I probably shouldn’t have.  I know there will be good times, dark times, painful times, and many times when you have to fight the powerful desire to crumble and quit.  There’s little that could surprise me over the course of running 26.2 miles.  Cycling 100 miles however?  I can’t even comprehend how far that is on 2 wheels.

Honestly, this is the event that I never thought I would do.  I owe a huge amount of thanks to everyone who helped get me to this stage, including the Brutterly’s for helping me get kitted out and showing me the basics, my Dad for being my personal bike mechanic (and repeatedly reminding me how dangerous cycling on the road is in case I forget), and everyone who has ridden with me and boosted my confidence.  So thank you.  Now there’s only one thing left to do.  Or two if you include eating all the carbs tomorrow.

Fingers crossed for magic.  And maybe unicorns. #Ride100

 

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Never be ashamed of a scar

I’ve never quite been brave enough to share this story before now, but finding the courage to do so makes me realise how far I’ve come, and how much running has made a difference to my life.  It’s scary to admit you had a problem, a problem where you were addicted to self destructive behaviour that led you down a dark path.  It’s scary, and a little bit embarrassing.  Despite being a problem that affects many people, particularly in the world of sport, it’s a topic that people just don’t talk about enough.  I’ve read many peoples stories that have helped me in the past, so if my story can help someone else then it’s worth sharing.  Please be aware this post discusses eating disorders.

I wasn’t always as fit and strong as I appear to be now.  I say appear to be because, most of the time, I really don’t feel it.  But, despite this, I’m aware of my achievements and I’m aware that I couldn’t have achieved them without being fit and healthy and having a sensible approach to nutrition.  It’s something I have learned over many years.  Running has become so much more than a hobby to me, it literally keeps me sane and it’s showed me how strong I can really be.  When I can’t run, it’s fair to say I’m pretty unbearable to be around.

What most people don’t know about me is that I was bulimic.  Whilst I believe it’s a battle I’ve well and truly won, it will always be a part of me and I’m not sure I will ever have a ‘normal’ relationship with food.  My illness was characterised by a combination of restrictive eating, long periods without food, binging and purging, pretty text book you could say.

Eating Disorder charity, Beat, estimate more than 725k people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, but the true number is likely to be much higher.  And it’s not just women, around 25% of those are men.  Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, they’re complex and built on distorted versions of reality and cycles of behaviour that are difficult to break.  They also carry a certain stigma that people need to ‘just get over it’ or ‘it’s a lifestyle choice’ that means it has become a taboo subject, it really needs to change.  No one with an eating disorder would ever choose to have one, it’s lonely & isolating and physically & mentally exhausting.

In a country where we now face an obesity crisis that is becoming a national health issue, and we’re bombarded with reams of airbrushed and photo shopped images throughout the media, as well as on social platforms, being more open and honest about eating disorders and food issues is more important now than it ever has been.  I worry about young people growing up in a world surrounded by social pressure and unrealistic expectations that dangerously blur the lines between fact and fiction.  There’s not enough transparency around the fact that a lot of what you see simply isn’t real.

Like a lot of people, I started running to lose weight, it’s the easiest way to drop the pounds, but I didn’t enjoy it.  Exercise was simply a way to burn calories, that’s all.  But as time went on I did start to enjoy it and it became something I wanted to get better at, setting my sights on longer distances and faster times.  Around about this time my relationship with food changed from being destructive to much more positive and shaped by smart choices.  You just can’t run on empty, or at least not very far, and I started to see food as a source of fuel.

On Sunday I ran a 20 mile race with my club, I don’t need to tell you that 20 miles is a long way, but in all honesty, I often forget to respect the long distance runs and the demands it places on the body.  Recently I’ve been feeling completely exhausted and I was determined last week to stick to all my sessions, knock out some big miles, take my iron supplements, eat well and sleep well.  I came away with a new 5k PB and a solid 20 mile training run.  On Saturday, I ate healthily and ate enough to fuel my run, I’m not saying that was the only factor, but I have never felt as strong over 20 miles as I did on Sunday.  I was delighted with my pace and the way I felt.  Eating like a marathon runner sometimes scares me, but I know it’s necessary and I know it makes a difference.

Not being able to run stresses me out more than I can put into words, I have been known to go into a frenzy worrying that I’m going to wake up 2 stone heavier.  Similarly, I can feel horrendously guilty if I don’t run as many miles as I planned because I don’t have the time, or don’t want to, or drank too much wine the night before.  It takes a lot of mental strength to cope with that.  I’m getting a lot better at it.

Bulimia no longer has any power over me, I don’t have room for that in my life anymore.  Running really changed my life, especially the commitment and dedication involved in marathon running, and, despite my ups and downs, it makes me happy.  Achievements make me happy.

I’m not sure if you ever fully recover from an eating disorder, it will always be a part of you, but it’s certainly not something that defines you and it’s definitely something you can shut the door on.

I will always be very conscious of what I eat and I will probably always struggle with body image, I accept that, but when I look back and see how far I’ve come, I realise that it’s no longer something that controls me.  I’m stronger now than I ever have been.

 

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