Done is beter than perfect

I know I’ve been suspiciously quiet for a while now.  Being quiet isn’t really my thing. But being completely rubbish at running isn’t really my thing either.  At least I’d like to think so.

I’ve been so rubbish that I haven’t really had anything positive to say about any aspect of running at all because the last few months have been physically and mentally painful. It’s physically painful to push your body through runs it doesn’t want to do because you know it’s the only way forwards.  And it’s even more painful to tell your running friends you can’t run with them at the moment because you just can’t keep up.  They don’t even believe you.  And yet it couldn’t be truer.  I got beaten in a 5k race last night by a friend who’s half way through growing a baby…and yes, I tried.

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However, I think I’ve started to turn a corner.  Not in terms of how my running is progressing, because it barely is, but in terms of my attitude, and that comes down to one thing…I’ve dumped the Garmin.

OK, not LITERALLY, because that would just be ridiculous and it’s pretty, and purple, and it gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it.  But I have stopped looking at it and I’ve genuinely stopped caring.  Because I’ve found that caring and worrying about my speed is the biggest barrier to getting me in my trainers.  So I can’t realy afford to care right now.

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I’ve been running for a long time now and during that time I’ve witnessed many friends go through cycles of going from the top of their game to the bottom, and then back to the top again.  And the common denominator?  Consistency.  A consistent and sustained effort to climb back the ladder…slowly.

So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. After coming up with every excuse in the book not to go running (ie, the wolf of Wandsworth is on the loose so it would be too dangerous), I’m finally back in the habit and it’s much less of a chore and more just a part of daily life – mostly because the Berlin Marathon was creeping closer and closer and so it was either fight or flight and I ended up paying so much for the actual flights that fighting was the only option.

I’m literally running the slowest miles I’ve ever run but I am getting fitter.  It doesn’t feel like it, it feels bloody horrible, but it wasn’t actually that many weeks ago that my ‘long’ weekend run was 8 miles and last week I ran 18.5 miles, slooooooowly.  It was actually supposed to be 20 but much to my frustration and annoyance, it just didn’t happen.

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I’m on track to run a marathon personal worst in two weeks time (except the time I ran around Medoc drunk, but I’m not sure we can count that one) but I’m more interested in the fact that I’m on track to run a marathon full stop.  And it’s been a while since I can say that.

Done is better than perfect.  A PW is better than a DNF or, worse still, a DNS.

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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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2018: Goals, Goals, Goals

Now we’re firmly on the wrong side of the silly season, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and set some targets for the year ahead (I was going to put something self-depreciating here, but yesterday a friend  firmly challenged me not to say or think anything bad about myself…so I won’t).

1. The Big London Half – 4th March

The Big Half is organised by the London Marathon people and was created with the mission of demonstrating how sport and community can come together, inspiring people from all backgrounds to take part.  They wanted an event that mirrors the diverse demographics of London’s multi-cultural population, it’s new this year and I think it will be a big hit.

This one will be my biggest test in a while and the furthest I’ve really run since the London Marathon 2016 (ohhhhh god, it’s gonna be tough isn’t it?!).  However, I have a marathon to run and I need this to push me through the training. I’m sure it’ll be fine…just fine.

Race Goal: Not be last. Not be sick (that’s not negative, just realistic 🙂 )

2. Reading Half – 18th March

I’m super excited to be joining the Reading Half team as a race ambassador this year.  Reading has been on my list for a few years now, not least because it’s one of the largest and fastest half marathons in the UK, but also because of the incredible finish inside the Madejski Stadium.  Three weeks before Paris, this is good timing for me to practice an even marathon paced run, I can’t wait for this one!

There’s an exclusive training morning being held this Saturday (6th Jan) with an exciting line up of workouts, training advice and Q&A’s.  There’s still a few spots available here if you’d like to join in.

Race Goal: Run at an even pace. Don’t get too excited

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3. Paris Marathon – 8th April

All being well, Paris will be marathon number 14.  It was also my second marathon back in 2012 when I ran with my friend Porridge, and I have fond memories of the beautiful city (I say ran with, she beat me, but we drank champagne together at the end).

Porridge – this one’s for you xx

Race Goal: Get round. Don’t be a fool

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4. Poole 10k – 3rd June

This is one of my favourite races of the season.  Held in my home town of Poole in Dorset, the 10k is part of a Festival of Running that includes a series of minithons for children and a new half marathon this year.  The Poole 10k was my first ever 10k and I love it.

Race Goal:  Dare I utter the phrase PB…? Sub 45 would be just super please

5. Canada Day 10k – 1st July

I’m heading over to Vancouver in July, which just so happens to co-inside with Canada Day, and they’ve thoughtfully put on a 10k in my honour.  It would be rude not to wouldn’t it?!

Race Goal: Earn the post race Canada Day cake (they said there would be cake…)

6. Great North Run – 9th September

Having tried for years to get into this, I finally succeeded in 2017 but, knowing I wouldn’t be able to run with any kind of conviction, I decided to defer.  This year Newcastle and I are going head to head.  I’ll be ready.

Race Goal: To smash it.  Sub 1:45 at least

7. Berlin Marathon – 16th September

Again, I was gutted to have to pull out of this last year, but I was lucky enough to get a ballot spot for 2018 so I’m taking it as a sign that it was meant to be.  Armed with a group of Chasers, this is the big one for me this year.

Race Goal: PB please

8. A sub 21 minute 5k

A tall ask? Maybe. But, if I can go sub 22, I can go sub 21.  Goal before the year is out.

9. Complete my first triathlon

I don’t know when or where, but I fear I can no longer get through another year without succumbing to peer pressure.  You’ll find me at Wednesday night swim sessions soon. Maybe…

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10.  Swim Serpentine – 2 miles

I’m adding this to the list for two reasons, firstly I can’t bring myself to leave the list at 9, and secondly, if I do this one I get a HUGE London Classics medal that’s awarded to people who have completed the London Marathon, Ride 100 and Swim Serpentine.  Call me shallow, but I want it.  The only caveat is that I can’t find a date for 2018 and it may clash with Berlin. Fingers crossed (although I’m not quite sure for which outcome).

Let’s get cracking then…

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Nothing to prove. Not a damn thing

In just 11 sleeps time I’ll be heading to Estonia to run the Tallinn Marathon.  Tallinn is the last chance to get a BQ for next year, which is one of the reasons why I entered.  So, how’s training gone?  Well, it’s been pretty non existent to be honest.  And I’m not sure I care.

Genuinely, I haven’t run more than 12 miles in one go since London and I haven’t done any training of significance over the last few months.  Again, don’t care.

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I’ve committed to a marathon training schedule for the last 7 seasons in a row and I forgot what it was like to just do whatever the hell I wanted.  Stay in bed on a Sunday morning, get drunk and dance on tables on a Friday night (not my fault), fall off said tables on a Friday night (definitely not my fault), go out for dinner with my friends on a Tuesday instead of going to track.  Just to say yes to things I would normally say no to..

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Sometimes, life happens.  And life did happen.  Sometimes you just have to go a little crazy to get through it.  Sometimes you realise how lucky you are to have some pretty awesome friends to be crazy with.  Because they’re friends with you because you’re you, not because of how many miles you’ve run.  Sometimes you realise there are more important things in life than running.  Yeah, I said it.

I was never sure if I really wanted to run Tallinn, purely because I just didn’t want to do the training.  But somewhere along the line I entered anyway and just decided I would see what happened.  I got sucked into the idea of a weekend in Estonia and the promise of a post race party, it gets me every time.

Of course, I’m not one to sit still for 5 minutes so I’ve still been sweating it out in my lycra at 7am with the best of them, I’ve just been doing different things, a bit of running sure, but mostly anything but running.

I could, and probably should, downgrade myself to the half, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.  I know I’m not going to run a half PB anyway, and the half doesn’t start until midday, so I may as well just spend the morning jogging round Tallinn…

Being so underprepared is strangely liberating because there are absolutely no expectations at all.  I almost broke myself training through the winter for the London Marathon, I was bang on form and still managed to f**k it up.  This time there’s nothing to lose.

So, I’m going to Estonia, I’m going to run a marathon, I’m going to get drunk and I’m going to try not to miss my 6am flight to Croatia.  And I don’t care how long it takes me. Because I really have nothing to prove this time. Not a damn thing.

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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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Hey London. I’m Ready!

On Saturday morning I smashed my Parkrun PB, knocking 19 seconds off my previous best and a whopping 1 minute 13 seconds of my PB this year!  My PB now stands at 21:50, it’s the confidence booster I desperately needed AND one of my 2016 goals achieved!

I didn’t do it alone though.  One of the best things about being a Chaser is the support you get from others and I was lucky to have not 1, but 2 Chasers pacing me round Dulwich Park.  I wanted a sub 22, but I didn’t know if I could do it, I really didn’t, and I was a bit worried Rob and Nick would be annoyed if they had gone out of my way to help me and I failed.  A sub 22 always seemed so out of reach.

With some strong words from Gemma beforehand, I set off determined to block out everything around me other than what the guys were telling me, they knew exactly which line to take, I drafted when it was breezy and I kept on their heels.  I always, always set off too fast so it felt surprisingly comfortable until the last half a mile or so…I thought I was slowing down a lot but I didn’t want to look at the pace.  When we hit the last 200m both Rob and Nick were shouting ‘come on, come on’ and I thought I’d missed it, I could barely believe it when I saw the time, it was a comfortable sub 22!

I am absolutely elated with my new PB and hugely grateful to Rob and Nick for helping me achieve it, thank you!

As an aside, I think it’s incredibly sad, and shameful, that Stoke council have voted to charge runners for Little Stoke Parkrun because, apparantly, they need to replace the path (a path that is no doubt used by a whole range of people throughout the week, not just Parkrunners).  In a society where we should be actively encouraging people to eat less and move move, Parkrun has been instrumental in getting a huge number of people off the sofa and into their trainers.  It really has revoluntioned Saturday mornings and this is a massive blow to the Parkrun community who’s ethos has always been about providing free, safe events that are accessible to all.

If you want to support Little Stoke, you can sign the petition here  #LoveParkrun

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Of course, I know that a 5k PB doesn’t mean a marathon PB, but it has made me realise I can achieve things I thought were beyond me, especially with a little help.

It’s the final few days before London and I’ve been testing the carb-depletion diet.  The science behind it is, by spending a few days eating a low carb diet, you deplete your muscles of their glycogen stores so when you begin the carb loading process they can store more glycogen than they could before, and more glycogen in the muscles means more fuel on race day.

I’ve read mixed reviews, and I don’t know if it will make a difference, but some people swear by it and I had nothing to lose by giving it a go, marginal gains and all that.  Honestly, I can’t wait for all the carbs on Thursday though, there’s only so much fish, chicken, avocado, eggs and courgettes you can eat and I’m not really a ‘no-bread sandwich and hold the fries’ kind of girl!

Looking back over my training plans I’ve had some really strong runs, I know I’m in good shape and I know I can do it.  I just have to actually do it.  Plus, if I needed any more motivation, I have a bet with my friend Martin that I can beat him with a 55 minute handicap.  Loser buys the drinks all night.  I don’t want to be the loser.

I’m ready for you London, I’m ready.

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When the taper brings nothing but self-doubt

There’s less than 2 weeks to go until the London Marathon.  The day when the last 18 weeks of training are put to the test, the day when you realise if all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it, the day when you bask in glory…or crash and burn in a devastating fall from grace, the day when everyone else knows whether you succeeded, or whether you failed…

There’s less than 2 weeks to go until the London Marathon and that means it’s time for the taper to slowly chip away at every ounce of confidence you ever had.

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The taper’s a funny thing, you spend all winter looking forward to those 2/3 weeks at the end of your plan when the intensity drops back and the long runs look easy, but when it gets here it’s not quite as much fun as you thought.  By the time the taper arrives you know it’s too late to change anything, there’s absolutely nothing more you can do to make yourself fitter, stronger, or faster except wind down, rest and eat well.  It’s terrifying!

On Saturday I went for a Parkrun PB, I actually wanted more than a PB, I wanted a confidence boosting 21:59.  Having gone to bed early, and dragging myself out in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning, I fell off the pace quickly and finished in a disappointing 22:23.  Rubbish.

However, it was my 2nd best Parkrun time ever, and this time last year I could only dream of anything starting with a 22, surely that’s a positive thing and a sign that the hard work is paying off?  So, this Saturday I’ll be trying again, one last shot at sub 22 before judgement day.

It’s difficult not to question every decision I’ve made over the last few weeks.  Should I have picked up the pace a bit more in my long runs?  Could I have tried just a bit harder in the Hampton Court half?  Should I have pushed through the last 2k at track last week when my legs didn’t work rather than bowing out?  Did I run too fast at tempo?  Was 3 x 20 milers enough?  Could I have done more, run further, tried harder???

Once you throw in the phantom injuries, imaginary niggles and overwhelming paranoia you realise the taper is anything but fun.  You’re convinced you’re going to get sick from the snotty nosed teenager that just sneezed on you, or you’re going to accidentally fall off a bridge into the Thames and break your leg, or Snoopy, the crazy dog who lives down the road, is going to bite your arm off and tear you limb from limb.  Convinced. (Snoopy really is a nutter you know).

I really don’t know what race day will bring this time.  I do know that I’ve run more miles (yes, I’ve counted), and put in more effort (yes, I’ve calculated) than I have for any other marathon, but I really don’t know if I’ve done enough.  I do know that I’m not ready for this taper, not ready at all.

And I don’t know if I can do it.

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