Reflections on a challenging year

It’s been an unusual year for me.  Unusual in that I haven’t run a single marathon…or even a half.  I do realise that makes me sound a little unusual, the irony isn’t lost on me.

I tried.  I was full of good intentions, and training plans, and I had my sights set high for a post-foot-surgery comeback… but it wasn’t to be.  Instead I didn’t even start the last three marathons I entered.

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My running kinda went downhill after missing my goal in 2016’s London Marathon.  I lost faith.  Then I ended up having surgery to correct a painful ongoing foot problem which wiped me out.  It took longer to get back to running than anticipated and then I got the fear every time I put my trainers on.  You know, the fear that makes you want to do absolutely ANYTHING else other than what you’re supposed to do.

Track Fear

Sometimes I gave into the fear.  Sometimes I didn’t.  They say things fall apart so that better things can come together.  I guess we’ll see about that.  However, 2017 is coming to an end and it’s time to find some positivity in the things I have done rather than dwelling on those I haven’t, so I tried to find some.

1. I got back on my feet

OK, so I haven’t run all that much this year, but I have run.  I have picked myself up and started the journey back to my usual runner-bean self.  It’s been hard. It’s been physically hard because I felt like I had to teach myself how to run again and it’s been mentally hard because running scared me.  But I got back on my feet.

2. I bought me a bike and cycled almost 3 times as many miles as I ran this year

Yep, me, a bright new shiny pretty blue bike!  And I quickly had to learn how to ride it in cleats, on London roads, because I gave myself just two short months to prepare for Ride 100.

FYI, 2 months is probably, PROBABLY not long enough to go from semi-regular gym spinner to lycra clad 100 mile road cyclist…probably.

First time in cleats on Wimbledon Common

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3. I took that bike and rode 100 flippin’ miles

Which was HARD.  Why didn’t anyone tell me??  Why does everyone have to make cycling look so damn easy?!  Still, I completed my first ever cycling sportive in one piece, and I even started to enjoy it once I remembered to feed myself.  It actually turned out to be 120 miles after I had got myself there and back.  I did not leave my bed for the rest of the day (to be fair there wasn’t much day left by the time I’d finished…)

I cycled 100 miles to the Queens house…I went the long way

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4. I got stronger

Every time I gave into my running fear I found myself at the gym instead.  A lot.  And I had forgotten how much I loved it.  I swapped runs for sweaty spin sessions and went to classes called ‘Broken’ and ‘Insanity’ and ‘Core Wheel’ – you name it, I was there.

I also started lifting/pushing/squatting heavy things again and fell in love with Body Pump once more.  It gives you a different kind of post-workout buzz – and a different type of post-workout ouch (big ouch).

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5. I officially became a Barre Babe (as Nesse calls us)

I’ve been a regular at my Monday night Barre class for about 18 months now and I’ve seen a real improvement in my strength.  Barre is a ballet inspired isometric strength class that works by holding your body still while you work a particular set of muscles to the point of exhaustion.  It hurts, but we do it to hardcore gangster rap (seriously), and have the occasional glass of prosecco after to numb the pain (also seriously).

I absolutely bloody love it and if you fancy it I can promise you that Nesse is the best (and most glamorous) Barre teacher in London – catch her on her website here or on Instagram here.

Nesse on the left…and us trying to be like Nesse on the right.  Photo credit: Instagram @nesseinlondon

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6. I went boxing at the Ministry of Sound

I mean, COME ON!

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So, it’s been an unusual year.  And I didn’t run a marathon. So what?

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Chasers Thames Path Beer Run

Saturday was the first ever Chasers Thames Path Beer Run.  Saturday I ran nearly 20 miles for the first time in over a year.  Saturday was pretty epic.

Martin (Chasers Beer Run founder, run director, die-hard Chaser, beer enthusiast and shameless short shorts poser) devised a run along the Thames Path, just shy of 13 miles, that involved 11 pub stops.  I mean, he didn’t do anything sensible like reccy the course, so he didn’t know where he was going, but given the day was a stonking success, he’s forgiven!

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A few of us met early for a jaunt over to Richmond parkrun and a hearty Bill’s breakfast to set us up for the day.  Whilst this was fun, I hadn’t quite thought through the bit where I had therefore run 7 miles before the main event…

The vibe was all about being social and having fun (apart fron Kev ‘last one to the bar buys the drinks’ Smith…who may not be invited to the next one), so there were generous time allowances for getting from one pub to the next.  As the day went on though, we started to get closer and closer the the time allowances (or was that just me?!)

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Starting in Richmond, we almost fell at the first hurdle because our opening pub wouldn’t serve us any alcohol without food!  Alas, this is London, and there was another pub just a few metres up the road who welcomed our booze-only custom.  We had a pretty good turnout, the sun was shining and we were all in good spirits.  Martin then gave us a ‘safety briefing’, which was something about drinking water and knowing your limits and…zzzzzz.

Pub 1!

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Bang on schedule we headed off to the next pub, I could already taste smoked salmon and feel the cider swishing around so I devised a new drinking strategy, because I’m sensible like that.  I decided if I alternated between cider and vodka I would be drinking less liquid and reduce the unwelcome ‘swishing’, perfect right?!

On to Pub 2

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At somepoint early into the run we lost Barry who had taken a frantic call to say his girlfriend had potentially gone into labour.  Yep, he let us all down and headed to the hospital.  Sigh.

Sans Barry, we continued on our schedule, running from pub to pub, occassionally losing a Chaser who dared to have something better to do with the rest of their day, and occassionally picking up a Chaser who clearly decided they wouldn’t make it to the end if they started from the beginning.  We had ample time to enjoy a drink (or two) in each pub and it was still sunny.

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As time wore on, day turned to evening, legs turned to jelly, tiredness set in, the miles racked up, and the pubs got busier.  It’s a strange feeling running and drinking, you don’t quite feel drunk, but you definitely don’t feel sober, everything is funny and you’re in a little happy place.

We had news that Barry had become the father of baby girl twins and we all had a toast to the newest little Chasers.   An injured Louise came to to join us on her bike and Emma decided to hop on the back, Martin moved onto the Pimms, Dez and I moved onto the prosecco and Gemma suffered a grazed knee after taking a tumble.

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Finally, we made it to The Ship in Wandsworth.  I’m not going to lie, we got some very odd looks and we were very aware that we smelt like we had been running all day…not sure it was appreciated by the folk who had got all dressed up for a night out. Soz.

For the doubters, Emma and I made it in once piece and in a sensible, coherant state.  So there.

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WHAT a day!

  • 14 hours time on feet
  • 1 x Parkrun
  • 1 x Breakfast
  • 12.8 miles of Thames Path
  • 11 Pubs
  • 1 x portion of fries
  • Several ciders
  • Several vodkas
  • A Prosecco
  • The return of the snakebite and black (not me)
  • 1 x bike (again, not me, I didn’t cheat…)
  • 1 x drunken fall and grazed knee (Gemma)
  • 19.6 miles run in total
  • 2 x new Chasers join the world (congratulations to the baby Valentine twins)
  • The realisation, for the first time in a while, that my body is stronger than I think and the Berlin Marathon is no longer an impossibility

The talented Del Huse also put together this little video of our day out – thanks Del!

Finally, when I asked Martin how he thought the day had gone his response was:

No one’s dead. So we’re all good

Thanks for a fabulous day Rutter, apart from your shorts, you did good 🙂

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Boston: Not yet worthy

So, I went to Boston.  I went to Boston to watch my friends run the Boston Marathon because, unfortunately, I am not quite worthy of my own Boston bib just yet.  Instead, I attempted to console myself by spending £46.11 on the official Boston Athletic Association 5k, to give me full licence to buy the expensive Boston Athletic Association running jacket, because it was the only thing not actually branded with the marathon.  I see how B.A.A make their money…

Bryn, Gaby, Martin, Me and Gemma at the start of the 5k:

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When I didn’t qualify for the race, I didn’t want to go to Boston.  I was grumpy and resentful and sad.  But, as time wore on, I realised that loads of my friends were all going on this amazing trip, all staying in the same house, and were all going to have a great time without me.  I was going to have to add ‘missing out’ to my grumpy, resentful and sad self.  So I changed my mind.

Luckily, our fabulous Phil has some friends in nearby town Newton, with a HUGE house, and there was still space for me!  Together with 11 others, we all went to stay with Joan and Donna for Chasers Marathon Camp.  Our wonderful hosts even came to the airport to pick each of us up!

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The 5k Story

On the Saturday, 5 of us went into Boston to run the 5k.  I’ve never quite seen such a big set up for a 5k but, with 10,000 people running, it was probably necessary!  The route started on Boston Common and took in some of the marathon course, including running over the official marathon finishing line on Boylston Street, before heading back to the common for the 5k finish.

The route was just as crowded with spectators as I would expect for a big marathon and, with a great atmosphere the whole way round, it made me feel like I was part of the marathon weekend.  Much different to the London Marathon, in which the event is just a day, Boston as a city really get behind the marathon and everyone really gets into the spirit for the whole week beforehand.

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Despite the pricey entrance fee for the distance, I loved this race.  You get to run part of the marathon course, a tremendous atmosphere, and a t-shirt and medal, definitely worth a trot round if you’re in Boston!

To top off a lovely sunny morning, on the other side of town Rob was pacing our host Joan to a big 5k PB in a different race and she was over the moon!

Chasers Marathon Camp post 5k: Full Team!

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Temperatures were starting to rise and, by the time Sunday came around, it hit 29 degrees.  Perfect for a cider in the sun, but not so perfect for running 26.2… It could be a warm one.

After Joan and Donna put on a big pasta party on Sunday evening, it was an early night for the runners as they needed to be up disturbingly early considering the 10am start time.  Everyone had left by the time I got up on the Monday but I still had Phil and Sally, who were also spectating, as well as Joan and Donna.  Phil, Joan and I went out for a 5 mile run up Heartbreak Hill (part of the marathon route named so because it comes at mile 20!) and, despite only being 8am it was already very hot.

The Best Support Crew in Boston:

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After watching the start of the race on TV, we all headed down to mile 20 to watch the elites come through.  Joan’s house is only a mile away so we didn’t have to go far.  Unsurprisingly, there were police everywhere, and everyone was in high spirits.  As predicted, it was hot but we took a blanket and a picnic at set up the Chaser banner.

The marathon app was working pretty well so we knew when our guys would be coming through but the heat was clearly getting to people.  We successfully spotted and got a smile from everyone, with Sally getting a surprise hug from marathon-obsessive Rob, and Gemma telling us off for not having any beer waiting for her.  In fact Gemma didn’t really shut up, we practically had to push her up the road to get rid of her so she could finish…

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It was a tough day out there, both the course and the heat took it’s toll on people, but everyone finished in one piece and we even had a PB!

The Strava Socks Story

We all love Strava.  We love Strava segments, Strava challenges and Strava stalking.  So when Strava announced they were giving away socks at a pop-up shop in Boston to anyone who completed their ‘26.2 miles in 10 days challenge’, I was almost as distraught at missing out on Strava socks as I was on Boston Marathon branded gear.  There was no way I’d get those miles in by the time I realised.

Shuffling along quietly behind everyone to said pop-up, I watched with envy as they were all given a pair of special socks.  It was fine.  However, as we left the shop, Bryn (who is never nice to me unless he thinks I’m going to cry) actually gave me his socks!

Just to be clear. These aren’t just socks. They’re STRAVA BOSTON SOCKS. Thanks Bryn 🙂

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Boston was brilliant.  It’s a brilliant event in a brilliant city and I want to go back.  But next time I’ll be running.

So the BQ quest continues. Roll on Berlin.  Oh, didn’t I mention?  I’m now running Berlin in September…  #MarathonLove

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, when it comes to fitness, I can definitely concur.  I’m not sure how much time I had off from running, but I think it was a good 3 months of doing very little, including an entire month off exercise completely, whilst recovering from foot surgery.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that I genuinely had no idea how fit I actually was.

When you constantly surround yourself with people who do more exercise, and more running, and more EVERYTHING, than you do, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing yourself is actually far from ordinary.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t, at the very least, half marathon fit, if not marathon fit, and be able to not only run the distance, but race it in a time that was better than average, even though I was never happy with my time!

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Coming back from an injury that has set me right back to square one has been challenging on many levels.  How exactly do you motivate yourself to do something that has become so difficult and laboured unenjoyable and, quite frankly, hard work?  It’s a bit like dragging yourself to a hardcore tempo session that you know you need to do, but the difference is, there’s no reward.  There’s no reward to sending yourself out on a run that’s not only half the distance than you’re used to, but takes you 90 seconds per mile longer than you’re used to and leaves you more knackered than you’re used to.  No reward, just a lot of AAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHH.

I’ve had a lot of arguments with myself.

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Undeniably, I’m getting fitter and stronger.  I can feel it.  Especially with the strength work I’ve been doing – Monday nights burning at the Barre in a ballet inspired strength class are becoming my favourite!

While I know I’m still fitter than most, I’m still not ‘me fit’ and I’m not ‘my friends fit’ and that means I still can’t run with them.  That’s right, I can’t play with my friends and I’m miserable about it.  (Fair play to Gemma though, she has offered to run with me but I fear she doesn’t quite know what she’s letting herself in for…)

As I plod on with my slow runs home from work, attempting tempo at Parkrun because I can’t join in at actual tempo, and slowly increasing my mileage, I’ve found a new found awe for my former self.  She was tougher than I thought.  In light of that I thought it was time to set myself a new goal and, being lucky enough to get a place in Great North Run, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try and beat my half marathon PB of 01.40.50. Gulp.

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Suck it up Princess

Running is hard.  Running is harder than it’s ever been (if you can actually call it running at all) and  I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel (there’s going to be a light isn’t there…please tell me there’s going to be a light??)

I’ve moved on from the run/walk strategy.  It was good while it lasted, mostly because it took the huge pressure off hitting a pace I was vaguely happy with rather than my foot, but it had to end at some point.  In all honesty I hadn’t planned to end it quite as soon as I did but it was actually snowing in London and my blood is 100% southern so, you know, I get cold and running is quicker than walking.  I didn’t dare look at my watch.

Of course after I had transitioned to continuous running there was no way back, you don’t make progress by taking steps backwards, and so for the last 2 weeks I’ve been shuffling around London trying to remember how to be a runner again.  It was hard and it was scary and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.  I didn’t know why I was doing it.

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The last two Saturdays I’ve made an appearance at my local Parkrun on Tooting Common.  Running with other people helps me to forget that I’m running and that I’m finding it hard, Parkrun is the perfect place to learn to run again.  It feels kinda safe.

The only problem was trying to run a Parkrun without running as fast as I could, that was another new one on me.  Being much slower than I usually am is difficult to deal with, but I have been enjoying running again and that was the whole point.  You’re ace Parkrun, thank you!

You can’t be at the top of your game all the time, there will always be times when you’re just a little bit rubbish.  But you don’t make progress by hiding away and doing nothing about it, you have to get out the door, suck it up and do it.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve also never got as much Strava kudos for so many rubbish runs so THANK YOU for making me feel better about it, it really does help.

I will get faster and I will get back to the top of my game but, for now, I need to suck it up and plod on.  Joy.

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Back to Basics

So it turns out that after breaking your foot you can’t simply throw your trainers back on and run 12 miles.  Not even close.  But that’s OK because, you know, it’s winter and it’s dark, and it’s cold out, right?

Yep, that’s really OK…

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I’ve had some physio. Sometimes we got on (when she let me run) and sometimes we didn’t get on (when she didn’t let me run), so throughout most of our relationship we didn’t really get on much.  But we did have a common goal, and as frustrating as I found it, I did everything she told me to, like rest, and glute activations, and mobilsation exercises, and squats, and more rest…which was, you know, lots of fun.

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On my final physio session, 6 and a half weeks after surgery, and after lots of squatting and hopping and jumping around, I was actually  allowed on the dreadmill. It was the BEST DAY!  We’re talking 2 whole minutes of running…OK maybe ‘jogging’…but still huge progress!

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What I’ve really had to learn is to simply go back to the boring stuff basics, which has been mentally challenging.  When my physio told me I was allowed to go for a little run that weekend, after an excessive warm up of course, BUT I was only allowed to alternate between 1 minute running and 1 minute walking, I wasn’t sure my ego could handle it…I mean, what if people SAW me?

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However, I did as I was told, well, almost, my legs being the little rebels they are settled into a pattern of 2 minutes running and 1 walking but it was close enough.  It was actually quite enjoyable because it took the pressure off trying to run at the pace I was used to, so I just didn’t worry about it at all.  Three miles successfully completed and I was back in the game!

The one thing I’ve found most difficult to deal with is my running confidence hitting rock bottom.  Just the very thought of actually going outside of my house and running in the actual outdoors made me anxious and nervous, how I ever managed to run a marathon was beyond me.  Something that used to be so natural, and a normal part of my life, now seemed a little alien and a little intimidating.  I now understand why people find the thought of taking up running daunting.

Of course, I really didn’t have a choice, I HAD to find my confidence again because, you know, running is like oxygen.  So I’ve been getting back into it slowly with short runs of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking which has helped both physically and psychologically, as well as getting around because I can finally run home from work again (yeah, screw you tube strike!)

I’ve also taken the running-down-time to up my game in the gym which has helped improve my strength and stability and I’ve promised myself it will remain part of my regular routine, ya hear that body?  PROMISE

It’s taken a couple of months but, this morning I woke up with my entire body aching and feeling exhausted, and that makes me soooo very happy because I actually feel like my old self again! Well, being well rested and ache free is for wimps right 😉

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The one where they told me I needed foot surgery

So I have a broken foot. Yes. A. Broken. FOOT.  I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but when you’re a fitness blogger with an injury that will only let you do one legged planks and tricep dips (so that’s fun then), you find you don’t really have much to say.

My foot’s been wonky for a while, I’ve even used it to excuse why I’ve fallen over thin air after a few proseccos, but I’ve kinda been ignoring it.  The problem was, I was starting to get shooting pains through my foot not only after I had been running, but when I was simply laying down too.  I knew there was a problem.

It turns out that my big toe hasn’t been doing what it should and my other toes were taking all the weight.  Whilst this apparently isn’t too much of a problem for muggles, for an obsessive compulsive marathon runner (I’m coining the term OCMR), it’s a real pain in the arse…and the foot…and in fact the whole bloody leg.

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So, the official diagnosis was ‘Wonky Foot’ and the bad news was that surgery was the only way to fix it.  On the plus side, it explained a lot and explains why I was getting frequent injuries in my right leg, it was all related to a gradual change in gait to account for my wonkiness.

So I had a choice:

  • Don’t have surgery, continue to be wonky and struggle to run, but always have an excuse for prosecco based tumbles
  • Have surgery, have an injury that would stop me exercising for a while and lose the prosecco based tumble excuse, but potentially get fixed and comeback stronger

Before I had a chance to change my mind I was booked in for surgery.

Apparantly the procedure was fairly simple, they break the bone, realign it with pins and sew it back up to leave a double-hard action man scar.  Of course when I tell the scar story later it’ll involve a crocodile and the heroic rescue mission of an adorably cute puppy…

So this is my Frankenstein’s Monster foot.  Just be grateful it’s the post-manicured picture:

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After being pretty much housebound for the dullest 2 weeks ever, I was finally allowed out to play again last week for Christmas fun (you know the, sensible, well planned out controlled type of fun we all dream of), it made me so happpppyyyy!

Sensible, controlled fun has never really been my strong point so after a few mulled wines on Saturday morning (yes morning, it’s December, it’s fine), I found myself jumping (OK hopping) at the chance to participate in the Chaser pint mile relay!

It’s pretty easy, you just drink your pint as quickly as you can, run around the track as fast as you can, then tag the next person.  I went 4th in our team to avoid getting in anyone’s way and succeeded in completing a 3 legged hobble of the track putting our team firmly in, ahem, last place.  Honestly, I have never been more excited to go around that bloomin track!

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So, it’s been nearly 3 weeks and my broken foot is on the mend.  Not being able to run, or indeed fit my foot into anything other than an Ugg boot, is driving me completely insane but it’s Christmas so I’m trying to to chill out and let myself heal.  Who would have thought relaxing would actually be so challenging?

Hopefully I’ll be back in my trainers very very soon and I can work on my #ComeBackStronger approach.  In the meantime I still have these memories to remind me what I know I can do and a whole lot of sensible, controlled festive fun to look forward to 🙂

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“The biggest mistake is doing nothing because you can only do a little”

I don’t know who said that but, for now, I’ll credit it to Dad French.  Not long ago I came back from a 5 mile run (I say run, this most definitely fell into the ‘jog’ category) downhearted about both pace and distance. ‘When will I get faster again, it was so slow I may as well not bothered’ I moaned to my Dad.  He simply turned around and said:

There aren’t many people that can just go out and run 5 miles, they say the biggest mistake of all is doing nothing because you can only do a little

And he was right.  As I try and get myself out of a real running rut it’s time to hit the reset button and shake off the mindset that anything less than 10 miles isn’t worth getting out of bed for.  Easier said than done though.

Instead of going out for shorter runs I found I was making excuses not to go out for 12 mile runs.  My thought process went a bit like this

  • What if I can’t run that far?
  • What if someone I know sees me?
  • What if I forget to switch my watch off before it uploads to Strava for the world to see  how slow I am?
  • What if I get attacked by a dog?
  • What if I get attacked by the Beast of Wandsworth Common?
  • What if I can’t actually run at all anymore?
  • What if I fall over?
  • Well, 12 miles is quite far isn’t it, maybe I should just go for a run round the block?
  • No, that’s just stupid, what’s the point?
  • Maybe I’ll just stay here and watch the next episode of Stranger Things then…

And so that’s how it went.  Of course, eventually I ran out of excuses and finally managed to bribe myself into running 3 miles round the block with my favourite smashed avocado on sourdough.  I even managed to face the Beast of Wandsworth Common.  Don’t be fooled by those friendly eyes and little twitchy nose…

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I think it’s all so easy to get swept up in marathon madness and forget that it’s actually OK to run shorter distances (even at the weekends, yes really) and it’s much better to run a little, not matter how slowly, than to not run at all.

A couple of weeks ago I ran the Cabbage Patch 10.  That’s 10 whole miles.  I was dead nervous.  I woke up early on a Sunday morning to a miserable day pouring with rain and felt sick.  Honestly, if I hadn’t of promised Graham a lift to the race there’s a 90% chance I wouldn’t have turned up.

But I did turn up, I ran, and I got the t-shirt.  Plus, if you take out the pain of seeing my Garmin flash up embarrassingly slow miles, and the fear of coming last, I actually enjoyed running.  I needed that race to kickstart my confidence again.

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Sure, I’m slow.  Sure, I’m scared of long distances right now.  Sure, I can’t see myself improving.  But I know I will as long as I keep going.  Besides, I don’t really have much choice now I’ve signed up for the Brighton Marathon in April…

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Tallinn Marathon: The one that wasn’t

  • At mile 8 I was still hopeful
  • But at mile 9 my right leg really wasn’t so sure
  • By mile 11 my jog had turned to a distinctive shuffle
  • At mile 12 I was walking…
  • …and at mile 13.1 I was well and truly OUT

Just 2 and a half hours after I had started the Tallinn Marathon, I was back in my hotel room, physically and emotionally broken, having only completed half of the course.  I wasn’t sure how much cider and wine I was going to need to deal with the situation.

It turned out to be a lot, luckily I had good company…

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It was never going to end well.  I was undertrained and injured.  But my head was in a different place to my body, in fact, it was so far away, it may as well have been on a different planet.  Through a combination of really not wanting to go running, being too busy, and carrying some kind of leg injury that quickly shut down my late attempt to get marathon ready, it really should have been the one I never started.

But I did start.

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Tallinn is actually a very beautiful city, and with the weather bright and sunny, and some Chaser buddies around me, it really could have been a lot worse.  After a lot of thinking, and trying to figure out how I felt about the situation, I realised that although I didn’t run the full marathon, and I didn’t get my BQ (which was the reason for signing up in the first place), I still ran half of it and had a really good weekend in a place I had never been before.

The marathon is part of a weekend of events that consists of a kids 5k on the Friday evening, a 10k on the Saturday, and the marathon and half on the Sunday.  The marathon is 2 laps of the half, which starts later in the day.

The kids 5k in full swing

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Beginning in Freedom Square, the route takes you around the city and heads out along the coastline for around 7 miles, before switching back to the city again.  It was actually better supported than I expected, I thought it would be quite low key with less than 2,000 runners in the full and around 3,000 in the half, but there were people cheering along the route and a few bands making some noise.

It’s pretty flat, and a great course for a PB, although it could get quite windy by the sea in different conditions.  There’s also a smell, a kind of putrid dead fish type of smell that gets worse as the day goes on and really puts you off your caramel macchiato caffeine gels.  Be warned.

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I was feeling OK for the first 8 or so miles, I was running slowly, but I felt OK and was even enjoying running again.  But somewhere on the way back to the city, my right leg started to hurt and my hip flexors felt tight, I was getting slower and slower.  It was frustrating, and I was trying to calculate how I could adopt a run-walk strategy to the finish but, by 12 miles run-walk was more walk-walk.  It wasn’t happening.

As Freedom Square got closer and closer, I had to make a decision.  And I knew what the decision needed to be, I just didn’t want to admit it.  I could have carried on and shuffled around, but I really didn’t see the point, I was injured, I was going to be painfully slow, and I was already back near the hotel.  As my watch hit 13.1 miles, I pulled out.

Tallinn is a well organised event, I can’t take that away from them, but I wasn’t impressed that they wouldn’t let me get off the course very easily, and they wouldn’t give me any water despite having run 13 miles in warm conditions.  It didn’t help my mood.  Plus, as I hadn’t officially downgraded to the half, I didn’t even get rewarded for my efforts despite having run the half course.

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Well yes actually, I do. And I deserved one. So I got one.  And I wore it allll night.  Thank you to Paul and Lorraine, who managed to sweet talk the Estonian medal police into letting me have one, it made my day!

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Although Mike unfortunately couldn’t run due to injury, the rest of the Chasers ran really well with a sub 3 PB for Paul, a sold BQ for Rob, a great run from Emma despite hurting her back 2 days before, and an awesome PB for Lorraine in the half.

What then followed were a lot of drinks, some dinner, some more drinks, some silliness and some music.

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There’ll be other marathons, and other opportunities to get a PB and a BQ but, right now, I’m a little bit over 26.2.  I’ll face up to the fact I’ve signed up to a mountainous marathon in Gran Canaria next year a little later…

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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