41. Reflections

It’s coming up for two weeks since I ran the London Marathon. I spent the first seven days with the medal around my neck, and since then its been in my bag everywhere I go. I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever come to getting an Olympic medal. I’m desperate to get back out running but for the first time in my life I’m doing as I’m told and resting my knee another week before hitting the streets again.

I have been completely overwhelmed by everyone’s encouragement, support and donations – the figure raised is now around £2000 which is incredible. Thank you all so so much for this amazing generosity.

On reflection over the past few days, as I’ve recounted my marathon mission many times, I’ve been thinking about my top ten things I would tell someone who is going to do the London Marathon (or any other marathon for that matter); things I have done and wish I had done. Here goes…

10. See a physio at the start: I only saw one when my knee got bad, and they could have helped from the beginning to prevent or at least limit the damage by identifying potential problems you may have. It’s worth investing a few pounds into seeing a great physio (just don’t listen to the bit when they say you shouldn’t run because it’s bad for your knees).

9. Enjoy the carb loading: Do it for anything over 13 miles, and practise your whole race day routine – try and run at the same time a race is (usually starting between 9 & 10am) to practise eating your two breakfasts at the right time.

8. Keep a diary: It may sound pointless, but record all your running, gym sessions and rest days. Put in what you did (eg hills, intervals, weights, long run), how long for and how you felt after. It’s really good to be able to look back and track any factors influencing your training, both helpful and not so helpful. Be disciplined and stick to a plan. Pace it, and build up gently.

7. Energy levels: Make sure you practise carrying enough gels with you, and can consume water regularly. Try adding electrolyte tablets to your water, particularly on long runs.

6. Tapering is weird: Fact. I thought it would be easy, as I knew in my head why and how it would work. But when it came to it, I really struggled and started to doubt I hadn’t done enough and thought I should be out doing longer not shorter runs. Trust me, it’s weird but necessary.

5. Get your head in the game: Find headphones that you know will stay in/keep still, and use them on every run. Find music that you love, it’ll be playing for a few hours solid.

4. Don’t high five kids: Not much more to say. Sounds awful but this was the best thing I heard on the morning of the marathon, and was a bit of a life saver. Kept me from being distracted. Apart from the mum holding the baby, too cute not to high five.

3. Shoe laces: Check your shoe laces are tied up tight enough. I never had a problem until the actual day when for some reason I just did them a bit loose. Big mistake. My toes still hurt from them rubbing inside.

2. Supporters: Don’t forget they’ll be loads of people supporting and encouraging you right from your first training session, with you every step you take. They are vital, a lifeline to keep you going. I could not have done it without them. Try and get a few people to come and cheer you on. It makes such a difference. If you’re doing the London marathon, give out your runner number for those at home on the day so they can track you online. They feel like they are involved, and it means everyone knows how you’re doing – I had friends in Uganda, South Africa and Australia tracking me! Get your name printed on your top and thousands of people who you don’t know will cheer you on. It’s such a boost when you’re struggling.

1. Watch the clock: Look at the timer when you go over the start line. That was the most irritating thing the whole way round – I’d forgotten, and it meant I had no idea what my pace was. Learn from this!

Two more top tips:
~ It’s really hard to take everything in, it can be quite overwhelming on the day but you want to try and remember everything. I tried to remember moments, and every so often just think to myself, ‘flip, I’m actually running the marathon, look around and enjoy it right now’. I’d try and think of one thing that stood out about each mile, mainly to give me something to do – at the end of each mile I’d go over the list and add a new thing from that mile.
~ Read ‘Marathon running for mortals’, it’s the best book out there for “normal people” wanting to run. It was really realistic, and a real help to me.

Bizarrely, if I was offered to run a marathon in a months time, I’d do it. Next year, no. I absolutely loved it, but there is a high level of commitment to training needed which is quite intense, time consuming and becomes relentless towards the end; once is enough! There’s a part of me that knows I could run it faster and that’s frustrating. Maybe one day.

I’m proud of having done it, but now it’s time for a new challenge…

22. Perils of the Path

Bit of an exciting week has been had. Well, I say exciting…I think it is exciting, or at least interesting, but you may not. Read on, my friends, and see for yourself…

Run 34 – Tuesday morning was a quick dash round a few roads as I hadn’t accounted for a) having to be at work extra early to meet someone  and b) having to de-ice my car so much. But something is better than nothing.

Walk 2 – I had a day off work on Wednesday, and went to London with Guest Walker 2 to try and walk parts of the marathon route. I thought it would be good to do at some point before April, to try and get my bearings and work out vaguely where I’ll be going. I like to know these things. We decided to head for Greenwich Park and find the start so I could see where this ordeal would begin. It was ridiculously foggy, but quiet and beautiful, even at 11.45am when this ‘what I call’ lovely (soz, Miranda moment) picture was taken. Well at least it was quiet until we came along. 20131211-235722.jpgWe did a 3 mile circuit round the park and back out to the Cutty Sark which is also on the route. After lunch we headed for the finish line in St James’ Park, and worked backwards along the route following it all the way back to Tower Bridge, and then back to London Bridge again which was around 6 miles. So we walked about a third of the total route, and I feel like I’m piecing the route together. Not bad for a couple of girls having a chilled out day off.

Non-Run – Thursday morning I woke up bright and early (5am to be precise, don’t know why) and ready for action. It wasn’t till I looked out the window and saw how icy it was on the paths that I realised it really wouldn’t be sensible to try and run. I’ve never felt gutted about the weather stopping me from being able to go for a run, until now – it means I think I’m going to have to join the gym to be able to get through the winter months. Oh dear.

New Person – So, the low down on this new person is as follows: basically someone arranged for me to meet a sporty type person (fitness instructor…I think) as they had run the marathon previously, and could probably give some helpful advice. Brill, I thought, sounds…helpful. And it was. Three things to think about in training for the marathon: building in distance, building in variety, and building in fuel. Apparently he’ll tell me more about it next time. It also appears he’s going to be a total hero and write out a training plan or my for after Christmas, and help me out along the way. Amazing! Thanks FI (his name from now on).

Run 35 – Time for a long run on a lovely bright but chilly Saturday morning. After our weekly house pancake session, off I went. It was a great route down around the edge of the city walls and then heading out to Chartham and back. It’s a flat path that runs right by the river the whole way, and very peaceful to run along. However, there were serious perils I encountered along the way – take note, and learn:

People – yes, you lot. Well, most likely not you per se, but human beings using the path. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing the British nod and brief ‘hello’ to those who I pass by. But sometimes there comes the ‘excuse me’ situation where you try to ask discreetly, which is clearly too under-the-breath, so you ask a bit louder and then make them jump and it all becomes a bit of a confusion for a few seconds. Runners, brace yourself, slow down and shout loud and clear. It’s the only way. And then of course you have the competition, fellow runners out enjoying the morning. One girl overtook me and although she was a lot faster, I had her in my sights for ages. Then all of a sudden at a gate she stopped and turned to run back again. Being so focused, I just followed her when I got to the same gate, thinking that was the end of the path. It wasn’t until I started running back and heard my arm (RunKeeper) shouting ‘4 miles’ at me that I clicked – it wasn’t the end of the path! Quickly I turned back again and it was another half mile till I could finally quite literally shout, ‘wahey, I’ve made it to Chartham’. Moral of the story – don’t get distracted by other runners. Keep your eyes on your own prize.

Animals – Oh yes, animals, and it’s not just the dogs off the leads that think it’s fun to run in circles around you. Sheep are also a hazard. A gang of them heading towards you is quite terrifying. And then there is navigating the poo  everywhere that at points makes it hard to see the path.

Kissing Gates – I decided from the start that slippery cattle grids were too much of a risk to run over and I would be using the gates at every opportunity. This was going well until a fellow runner reach the gate at the same time. He went for the gate the same time I did and well…awkward whale alert. And it wasn’t until I was almost done that I saw my choice of gate usage was a good one – two girls were crossing the cattle grid as I came pass and one slipped and went through the bars. Giving first aid wasn’t on my list when thinking about the run this morning (don’t worry, she was fine – more a bruised ego than anything else I think).

It was a good run, and the 1 hour 28 mins it took to do 7.6 miles reflects a much more realistic average time of 11 mins 38 secs a mile compared to last weeks Olympic speeds recorded. Goodo. Onwards and upwards.

17. Jive o’clock

One o’clock, two o’clock, jive o’clock rock.

Tuesdays are great days for me. I love work on Tuesdays, and Jive in the evening makes it a brill day. Jive hasn’t always been in my life. In fact, it only started in January this year, but it has quickly become an addiction/obsession/love affair; what ever you want to call it. I’m not sure what I’d do without it now. It’s a brilliant way to meet new people, and when you start going to dances outside of lessons, it’s a whole new underground world unknown to many. If you really wanted to, you could find a 40’s/50’s night happening somewhere in London or Kent every night of the month. Granted, most people including myself don’t have the time, money or energy to do this, but we (me and my jive class pals) do make it to a few a month. London has some great nights, and Kent have a few smaller ones too.

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The beautiful Rivoli Ballroom, Lewisham. An original 50’s dance hall, now grade 2 listed.

Yes, the red lipstick, big bands and polka dot dresses are a large part of the fun. Getting dressed up with a big quiff fringe and looking a bit different to usual isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it appeals to the ‘fancy dress’ streak in me. The music is brilliant; energetic, and I’ve heard some great live bands. Check out the Jive Aces for some brill stuff (it’s a cute kid at the start, but the song takes about a minute to start). But for me, it’s the dancing I love. It was a new years resolution for a friend and I to learn to jive, but we didn’t think we’d enjoy it this much, and properly get in to it! Very quickly we’ve made friends with lots of the others at the class, and it’s become a great social part of our lives. The dancing is tons of fun, often ending up in hysterics when we forget moves, spin the wrong way or just freeze when we don’t know what to do – much to the bewilderment of the guys we’re dancing with (though they’re used to it now and tend to just push us in the right direction). I have to say, it is a lot easier being the girl and following – the poor guys have to think three steps ahead (which I can’t cope with) and be able to lead well enough that the girl should know what to do. I on the other hand just have to follow and be thrown around a bit. Brilliant! It’s definitely helped build my stamina (you try boppin’ to a song for 3 and a half minutes and then tell me you don’t need stamina!), and probably helped prepare me for starting marathon training. Well, I like to think so any way. I love learning new things, and being able to keep improving and working at it; there is always more to learn with dancing. When a friend gave me a list of ‘fun moves’ for us to start learning and eventually be able to use, I wasn’t quite prepared for ‘neck breaker’ or ‘the upside down’ to be in this category. They don’t sound fun, more ‘life or death’. Let’s take it one step at a time.

I’m glad I’ve progressed from having to hang my head out the window on the drive home incase I vomit from dizziness of constant spinning – that was the elegant ending to our first class eleven months ago… Strictly Come Dancing is still out the question though.

4. A curious incident

I thought some/most/all of you (I am of course making an assumption here that people other than me read this) may already be tired of my witterings about running and its all consuming ability to take over my life, so to prove that running isn’t the only thing I do, I’ll be throwing in posts about other things that I get up to. You must remember that running is the most recent addition to my hobbies list, and as they say, ‘life must go on’. Which is a good thing really because I wouldn’t want any of it to stop.

This post is about a love of mine that I wish I could do more. I’ve always enjoyed going to the theatre, but as I’m sure you are aware, tickets and travel are costly and can only be squeezed in to my tight monthly budget every so often. So when I go and see a show I want it to be good. And boy, this one was a goodun’. You may have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. If you haven’t, stop reading this, order a copy online, and when it arrives, read it straight away It’s brilliant. Knowing how good the book was, I had high expectations of the stage play. The book is written from the point of view of Christopher Boone, a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. He discovers a dog killed by a garden fork in his neighbours garden, and decides to try and solve the mystery of who killed it. I worked as a play worker for a few years with children and young people with disabilities for a fantastic organisation called Disability Challengers so following the main character was close to my heart. The play sticks very closely to the originally storyline, and the ten cast members did a fantastic job at playing all the roles. The staging was incredibly well thought out with some genius uses of lighting and projection on the walls. The actor playing Christopher has the hard task of portraying an autistic teenager realistically and with sensitivity, which he did beautifully. I was glad to have read the book first, but seeing the show bought it to life, and leaves you seeing things in a whole new light. I cannot recommend it enough.

Have you booked those tickets yet?

Go see it. Now.

Go see it. Now.