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…

40. Mission Accomplished

It’s over, I’ve done it!

It’s mid Monday morning, and this time 24 hours ago I was lining up to start the London Marathon. And what a day it was! So much happened so quickly yet slowly at the same time. Lots of you kind people have been asking how it was and want to know all about it, so I thought I’d attempt to write about what I can remember of the day from a runner’s perspective…

A day in the life of a London Marathon runner:

5.20am – First alarm goes off. Oh goodness, it’s today. I don’t know what to do with myself. Quick twitter/FB post with the link for people to track me round the course. Right, no more phone use, I need to save the battery for RunKeeper.

5.30am – Second alarm goes of. Time to get up. Head downstairs to the lounge where all my kit is laid out ready from the night before. There is a ridiculous amount of stuff – a lot of ‘just in case’ things. I grab my clothes I’m wearing for the race and go and get changed.

5.50am – Breakfast no 1 – Alpen. Milk isn’t the easiest thing to transport so I save the dry breakfast for later.

6.10am – Final check I have everything. There’s probably something I’ve forgotten, but I’m sure I’ll manage. I have my Primark matching tracksuit on from when I was 14, ready to leave at the start just before we get going. I never want to see it again.

6.15am – Mum gives me a lift over to Sutton to get the train. Ashtead can’t manage trains early enough on marathon day. It’s pretty warm out already. Flip, forgot sun cream.

6.45am – Arrive at the station, and get my ticket. I have all the train times written out but they don’t seem to be showing on the screens. Bewildered, I stand looking aimlessly trying to figure out what to do, when I hear ‘are you going to the marathon? Come with us’ and I’m thankfully whisked away by three girls who are clearly much more organised than me.

6.55am – Sitting on the train with my new running friend Kate and her two friends, we chat away about how we ended in this mad situation. She had applied five times before finally getting a place this year. She’s aiming for 4.5-5 hours, so I’ll let her get on with that by herself! Turns out we are both in pen 9 at blue start. Amazing.

7.30am – Still on the train. We decide that if Mo Farah happens to not make it to the end and we pass him, we have to take a selfie.

7.45am – Working out what we need to do at the start. I declare that when we’re there I basically need to ‘sort my life out’ and empty the contents of my bag out.

8.02am – Change of trains and we are joined by hundreds of other runners. It’s a total mix of people; ages, backgrounds, reasons for running. I love it.

8.25am – We get off the train at Blackheath and are immediately greeted by marshals directing us to the start area. I’m impressed at how well organised it all is.

8.32am – We head over the hill and are met by clear blue skies and excited crowds of people. I suddenly have a brief moment of panic as I wonder what on earth I’m doing.

8.35am – Time for obligatory selfies with Kate and friends before we leave them and enter the start area. Point of no return.

8.40am – Wandering round the start area, we head for the toilets. We head in to the ‘female urinals’ and make a quick turn around – not happening. Speedy exit, and we manage to find the port-a-loos. Much better. We make the most of very short queues.

8.50am – We spy out a patch of grass to sit down on, and promptly make ourselves at home. The large screen to our right shows people sitting around, chatting, flicking between crazy costumes. The guy on the PA chats away. Then a pre-recorded message from Mo Farah for all the runners is played. And I quote, ‘Good luck today. Go big or go home’. Thanks Mo.

9.00am – Breakfast no 2 – honey granola bars. A bit dry to eat so I have water with it. Except not too much water or I’ll need the loo half way round, and I don’t want that.

9.15am – Time to sort my life out. Things I didn’t realise I’d packed came flying out as I started loading up my pocket, getting my phone arm case on, packing in energy gels, and sorting out my head phones. Kate has suncream, what a star. Tutu is on. And it certainly isn’t coming off easily, it’s what I call, ‘snug’. No, tight.

9.20.am – Calls for getting our massive red official kit bags to the baggage lorries are repeated over the PA. Should probs get our stuff handed in or they’ll go without it. Again, epic organisation is in swing as bags are put in sections according to runner number.

9.25am – Texts have been flying in all morning. Am so grateful for all the support, but trying not to use my phone. Sorry for not replying everyone!

9.30am – Toilet time again. Queues are now 30ish people long, but moving quickly with an abundance of port-a-loo’s available.

9.45am – Eeeeeek. Heading over to pen 9 (sounds like herding sheep, which it pretty much is). Once we’re in, we’re in.

9.50am – Brief chats with other runners. So many charities represented. Chuckling at some of the mad costumes. I have a golden apple behind me, Scooby Do to the side. Time to put Deep Heat on my knee, hoping it holds out for a while.

10.00am – Go! Well, for the elite men at the start, anyway. We don’t even hear it. Everyone just knows that the race has started and it’ll be us going through soon.

10.04am – We start moving forward. This is it. People are dashing from the start line to the toilets and back. Clothes are flying everywhere as people throw off their top layer that was keeping them warm. It’s tricky trying to dodge round mountains of hoodies and trackies.

10.16am – I cross the start line. Except for I don’t actually know what time it is I start as I fail to look up. I’m frantically trying to get RunKeeper to start so I can record this. But it doesn’t work, I get frustrated and give up. Time to resort to music. Playlist goes on shuffle. Mumford and Sons kicks in, and I feel better already.

10.20am – Settling in, and smiling at the lovely people who are standing outside their houses cheering. Toilet stop on the left already, and there are queues. I just hope I don’t need the loo later on. I run through my first legal red light of the day.

10.28am – Mile 1 marker. Hang on, how long did that mile take? I have no idea. Then I realise I have no clue what pace I’m doing. I’m so used to RunKeeper telling me constantly and adjusting to what I want to be at, that I have no idea how fast I am going. But then I have to decide if I’m going to go as fast as I can until my knee gives up, or to slow down and try and get round with more running, but slower. I opt for number two.

Mile 2 – We’re joining up with the red start group now, and everyone is together. The crowds start to get bigger.

Mile 3 – Someone at the start said ‘I know it seems harsh, but don’t high-five every kid you see. You’ll go insane.’ I’m so thankful for this advice. It means I can stay focussed. And if I don’t high-five anyone then it’s fair. Sounds mean as a children’s worker, but sorry kids; any other day, but not today.

Mile 6 – 1 hour 4 mins I think. Is that quicker than my usual 6 miles? I have no idea, I can’t work it out. There’s the Cutty Sark. Love running round this bit, the crowds are mad.

Mile 9 – First time seeing supporters. Mum and Dad are there on the corner by the traffic lights. Time for paracetamol for knee pain. I’ve never taken it so quickly.

Mile 10 – This is a long mile. Really long. Random people shouting my name makes me smile, keeps me going. Right from the start I’ve had music playing, but even with head phones in I can hear them.

Mile 12 – Come on. Almost half way. Here’s Tower Bridge.

Mile 13.1 – HALF WAY! Right, I can do this. Oh no, that’s the 22 mile marker on the other side of the road, and there are lots of people going very fast in that direction. Focus, I’ve got a while yet.

Mile 14 – Left knee (the one giving me grief the last few weeks) is finally giving in. Decision made – if I’m going to get round to the finish, I need to walk. It’s heartbreaking – I was so determined to run the whole thing. That was until my knee issue. I’ve run 18 miles without stopping, why do I need to stop at 14? Frustration. First few steps of walking are strange but a bit of a relief as well. I’m not going for time, I’m going for finishing now.

Mile 15 – Pretty bad. Hard work, I swear these miles are longer than the previous ones. The sun is pretty strong, and the heat is getting to lots of the runners. I try and stay on the side of the road with shade as much as possible.

Mile 16 – Mum and Dad keep ringing, they’re around here somewhere, but I think I’ve missed them. Annoying, but it made me keep running – you don’t want to get to supporters when you’re walking.

Mile 17 – Joe just rang, interrupting Ant and Dec singing ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ to me. I’ll forgive him.

Mile 18 – Mum and Dad are here again, I don’t see them but they shout at me. I’m walking (cardinal sin when seeing supporters). My feet are killing. Re-tie shoe laces tighter, so much better. Why didn’t I do that before? Why didn’t I check them at the start? Dad is pouring water over me. ‘Mind my phone!’ I cry. Time to re Deep Heat the knee in an attempt to make it through. A bit further on and Jill, Reb and Nessa are just on the corner in front of the steel drum band. Woohoo! Massive ‘GO MIM’ sign hanging over the barriers. It’s amazing what seeing supporters does for you. Quick selfie and time to go. Lyd, Mike, Sus and Joe are just further up. I spy them and run over. Another compulsory selfie and I’m off.

Mile 19 – Ahhhh there they are. Sam is up on a plinth with the camera and I can see him waving. Mel, Lizzie, Hannah, Oli, Sarah and Joe are all at the barriers, so excited. Sam gets a pic of us all, big hugs all round, lots of cheering. Hopefully see them a bit later. Text from Toby saying I’d just run past him. Oh no, rubbish. Will try again later.

Mile 20 – Come on. Only a 10km to go. I’ve done this so many times before. A guy on a PA says, ‘they’ve run 20 miles, they all look exhausted, come on crowd, let’s cheer’. Yep, we are.

Mile 21 – This is where I saw everyone running in the other direction earlier. Now it’s my turn.

Mile 22 – Toby is right by the 22 marker. No missing this time! So good to see someone I know. I moan about my knee and how when I walk it’s harder to get back into the running rhythm. He says to just keep running slowly to keep it going. Round the corner and I hear ‘Mim’ louder than the crowd usually shout. What? Mel and Sam are there again! It’s on a wide corner so we were all running on the inside, but I head over to them, boosted by the surprise. Woohoo more excitement and I’m off again.

Mile 23 – Thanks Tobes, no more walking from now on. Head in the game, let’s do this.

Mile 24 – Head into Blackfriars Tunnel, greeted by huge lit up balloons and loud music pumping out. ‘Fight for it, fight for it’ is going round and round my head. Not gonna lie, it’s Palm Sunday today and this reminds me of telling the Easter story to year 6’s a few weeks ago. We told them how Jesus came in to Jerusalem to crowds cheering and shouting…was it something like this?!

Mile 25 – Mum and Dad again. Quick stop, and off I go. Past Westminster, looks pretty cool in the sunshine. There’s a line of runners on the right who are being massaged, two are on stretchers covered in blankets, poor guys. It’s a funny thing, the people you least expect to be injured and struggling can end up in the worst pain. I think a lot of people have been caught out by the heat, I’ve drunk far more today than I have ever done on a long run before.

800m – Come on, almost there. People are limping, bent over, doing all they can to get to the end.

600m – So close. A marshall shouts encouragement to two girls clinging on to each other as I pass them. ‘We’re almost there’ I say, encouraging both them and myself. Round in front of Buckingham Palace, I say hi to the Queen and I take a cheeky selfie whilst still running. I take my headphones out. I want to run up The Mall and remember this bit.

Finish – What’s that? The finish? THE FINISH! I’VE FINISHED! ‘You can stop now’ the marshall says as I keep going. Oh yes, I can stop. First thought: I didn’t need the loo at all, winner. I’m handed a goody bag, and someone comments how we are given such a heavy bag to carry after just running 26.2 miles. My timing chip on my shoe is cut off and the medal is placed around my neck. Oh, the medal. Proof that I have actually done it. It doesn’t quite sink in. Over to the left the official photographers are taking pictures. I do my practised pose – thumbs up. On a bit further and I hunt out my massive red official bag. I’ve been handed it before I’ve even got to the barrier. These guys are pros.

I make it to the end and out to find my amazing support group, and hear my name being called. It’s Toby, he happened to be walking past whilst trying to find the others. He takes my bag, what a star. We head over to ‘M’ in the far corner of Horse Guards Parade and are greeted by cheers, hugs and much celebration. Out comes the awesome cake Lyd has made and it’s devoured. Photos galore, I feel like a celeb. Well, I have just finished the London Marathon.

Huge thanks to all the bands that were playing, people out cheering, the woman who gave me an orange quarter which was the best thing ever, and all the supporters who came up to cheer ūüôā

If I’m honest, it is all slightly surreal, and as much as I tried to take it all in, most of it is a blur of everything at once. I hope this captures a little bit of what it was like. Thank you all for your amazing support over the last seven months as I’ve trained for the London Marathon. Yesterday I ran it – and I have the medal to prove it ūüôā

6 hours 12 mins 55 secs and I’m a London Marathon finisher!

39. Better never stops

In the words of the London 2012 Olympic Team GB Campaign, ‘better never stops’. It sounds good so I’ll go with it. I guess it’s about always improving, pushing yourself, bring the best you can, never letting up. The title of my first blog was a quote a friend had given me: ‘Your legs will only go as far as your brain will let them.’ This is particularly true for me now as I think about getting round the marathon with a knee injury. This could take a lot of mental will-power, but I also know that I’ve put in all the training I need to in order to finish what I set out to do.

I’ve just got back from our family holiday to Italy. Perfect for carb loading. Perfect for resting. I may now be just about ready for literally the biggest race of my life. At which point, I think ‘better’ may reach the limit.

Run 67 – I know holidays are a time to rest, and I did largely, apart from my last two runs. Mum came with me on both, and we decided to walk/run this to see how my knee held up. ¬†It wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to push it, so over 50 mins we meandered (with a few near death experiences due to Italian driving) along the edge of Lake Como, from Varenna through to Pino. It’s simply beautiful.

Run 68 – This is it, the last one. We pretty much repeated what we did a few days earlier, but I managed to run (slowly, with a few stops to look at the view!) the whole time. This was really important as I felt me knee was holding up, and I feel better about it for Sunday. There is hope.

Physio 4 – Have seen the physio this morning to re-tape my knee for the last time. This tape is amazing stuff! It may look bizarre but if it supports my knee then I don’t care.

Some stats for you, courtesy of anything I’ve recorded (long walks, running, cycling, cross trainer) on RunKepper since beginning training at the end of September:

  • 468 miles covered
  • 38,275 calories burned

So that’s it. I’ve done all I can. No more training.

20140411-215555.jpg

The view over Lake Como, Italy, on my last training run. Not bad eh. 

It’s all or nothing now.

Just off to register at the Excel in London, along with thousands of other runners, before getting everything ready for tomorrow.

See you at the finish line; ‘Mim’s Mission’ is almost accomplished.

Thank you to all of you who have been so generous in donating, it will make a huge difference. There is still time – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

 

38. Take a break

Race day. 8 days away. A scary prospect. But I’m comforted by the fact that some very lovely people have agreed to come to London and be on the roadside to cheer me on.

If you would like to come along, the marathon is on Sunday 13th April. Obviously I appreciate any support along the route, but the most helpful would be anywhere after 12 miles on the north of the river, especially around Canary Wharf (miles 15-20) and towards the end of the route.

There is one condition to you coming to watch though. If you shout really loudly and I see you (which hopefully I will!) then you have to be prepared to have a speedy selfie taken with me. There is no getting out of this. I won’t exactly be looking my best so I’m afraid you have no excuse. Some lovely friends have made me a marathon scrapbook and I want to put pics in from the day recording how it all went.

So if you’re down with that, please do come and join me for a great day in London!

Gym 25 – 3.2 miles in 11.5 mins on the bike, 10 mins on the cross trainer, resistance machines and stretches and that was me done. I try and put the equipment to the highest level I can maintain to keep me working hard, particularly as road running has been so limited the past few weeks.

Run 66 – Another try at running outside, mainly because I get desperate for fresh air when I’m in the gym. 15 minutes later and I could feel my knee starting to go…which meant I had to stop. And that was at 12 min 12 sec a mile, which is slow for me. Enormously frustrating.

Gym 26 – Last proper gym session before the marathon. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve done in the gym, and although it can feel very repetitive, I’ll probably still go after the marathon. Another 3 miles on the bike, and 1.6 miles in 15 mins on the cross trainer made for a good start to the day.

Gym 27 – The last ‘long run’ of the training was finally upon me. I actually did it on the cross trainer, which I’ve finally become friends with. 6.3 miles in an hour was pretty good going at 9 min 26 sec a mile. I don’t know how this translates to normal running, but that seems quite fast! The knee held up fine, and it felt more realistic than cycling. I was pleased with how it went, though I am now thoroughly bored of looking at the same wall for hours at a time, and am very excited about running outside! I think it’ll make me appreciate the crowds even more on M-day.

Physio 3 – Another physio session to re-tape and ultrasound the knee. Hopefully this will hold up whilst I’m on holiday. Just a few short runs to try and get through before the big day.

Now, what time is it? Holiday time? Why yes it is.¬†Right, I’m off to Italy, see you all soon. Altitude training/ carb loading/ whatever you want to call it, I’m there. Just over a week to go, and it’s getting very real.

If you can’t make it on the day but you would like to sponsor me, my page is: www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

36. Expectations

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t how I expected the last few weeks of marathon training to be. I’ve had a schedule I’ve followed pretty closely since Christmas, and even until two weeks ago had been completely on track with it all. Then everything started to have to be adapted slightly, and suddenly I find myself not where I feel I should be at all. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, though I don’t think they were. It’s sheer frustration at not being able to run properly. I feel like I’m under prepared. And whether it’s pride, vanity or fear of failure, I don’t want to be walking the whole thing and look like I have just rocked up on the day having done no training – it’s been hard work! Combine this with tapering off and it’s a weird thing as you feel like you should be running more, not less. Suddenly you start to doubt if you’ll be able to get round 26.2 miles after spending three weeks running less and less.

I was back home yesterday, and went to Richmond Park with some friends. I’ve never seen so many people out running and I actually had heart ache at not being able to run with them. I felt guilty, like I should be out there, but can’t. It’s a horrible thing, injury. The last thing I wanted two weeks before the biggest run I will ever do (that is a fact!) is to be strapped up in (albeit purple) physio tape down my left leg, and be doing constant exercises to try and stabilise my knee enough to make it round the course.

I suppose I’ve been put in a position where I now have to manage my expectations of the day. Two weeks ago I would have said training was going really well and I was aiming for 5 hours 20 mins ish running hopefully the whole way. Now it’s literally a case of managing pain relief and just getting round. It’s a hard pill to swallow after more than six months of early morning training, planning your whole life around long runs and eating saucepanfuls of pasta. But that’s the risk you take when you start training from scratch for something like a marathon – part of it is to see how far I can push myself, and this is becoming more of a mental than physical game now. Do I believe I can get round? Yes. Done.

Gym 23 – After a day off from the epic cycle ride, I was back on the bike at the start of another Monday gym sesh. I went faster on a higher level than I had done to keep the cardio going – it’s quite unrealistic sitting on a static bike in a warm room compared to running outside in the chilly fresh air so I wanted to keep make myself work hard. Almost 4 miles in just under 14 mins was good.

Run 65 – This was a hard morning. I went out and tried to run and stopped the moment my knee hurt. I got to 15 mins before I stopped. This doesn’t bode well at all for my confidence in my knee over many hours. I then spent the rest of the day thinking of the best pain relief plan for over 5 hours of running.

Gym 24 – Back on the gym bike and did 65 mins, but with no distractions this time – pure cycling. I put it on a higher level than the last long cycle and kept up the speed to do just over 17 miles, so had been over 1.5 mph quicker which was good.

Physio 2 – At home over the weekend my best friend’s wonderful physio mum gave me some more physio including taping up my leg, ultrasound on my knee and working on my left foot as it’s very tight and won’t move as much as my right. I now look like a pro with purple tape on – an injured pro, but a pro all the same.

I’m doing all I possibly can to get to and actually complete the marathon. After all, it is raising money for two brilliant charities who both do incredible work with the people they meet. M-day, by the way, is 2 weeks today! Eeeeek!

If you want to support the charities I’m running for – Catching Lives and Rianna’s Fund, you can see more about them and how to donate at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

34. Setbacks and staying positive

I’m terrible, I know. Two and a bit weeks of no blogs. Thing is, I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to scare you. I’ve had problems with my knee and I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be so thought I’d hold off till I knew – which I do more now, so I’ll reveal all in a bit. Things have changed slightly in the last few days, which will all become clear.

Gym 18 – Threw a bit of rowing in to the mix, I quite enjoy it as it’s sitting down ūüôā The resistance machines I’m getting used to using and can feel how helpful it is doing gym sessions as well as just running.

Run 61 – 8 miles. After a brilliant 18 miles the week before, I was thinking this would be fine. I’d go out slightly quicker as it was a shorter run, and keep up the intensity. Disaster. At 11 min 5 sec miles in just under 1.5 hours it was my fastest long run to date. Went out far too fast, and completely lost all rhythm. I also absolutely knackered my knee, and thought I’d completely ruined any hope of running the marathon. It’s a horrible feeling, thinking you aren’t going to be able to complete something you’ve worked hard for and have your heart set on doing.

Gym 19 – Almost 5 miles cycling before work isn’t a bad start to the week. Having done 8 miles on the Friday, this is Monday and knee still feels bad. Usually it’s gone in a few days with rest but I’ve had ibuprofen gel all over it, knee support, ice, you name it I’ve done it…and it still isn’t right.

Run 62 – Hills: I managed to run 1.88 miles in 21 mins, but then had to atop because of the pain in my knee. Ahhhh so frustrating. I also wore a long sleeved top, but got too hot – clearly I hadn’t learnt from last time. I need to embrace the chilly morning air!

Gym 20 – I focused on upper body conditioning as my knee was playing up. Arms are definitely stronger than they have ever been. Yeah, that’s right, I’m getting stronger!

Run 63 – This week is a bit all over the place as I’m away for the weekend with my church without enough time to get a long run in, so today (Saturday) is a short run of just under 2.5 miles before Monday’s long one. I ran in the forest around the house which I’m not used to as it’s very uneven ground, but nice to be out in the sunshine. A group of friends were out for a walk and I met them half way round. My laughing problem returned (I laugh when I see people when I run) and I creased up as I ran through the tunnel they made cheering me on. It was a great moment, and a bit of a taste of marathon day… ūüôā

Run 64 – 20 miles. Well, let me set this straight, it was actually 13 miles. I’ll explain. It was awful, frustrating and not in the plan. I got to 6.5 miles fine, having covered my knee in ibuprofen gel. And then the effects of that started to wear off and I could gradually feel the real pain from my knee. It got worse and worse and so intense but I just kept going. I desperately wanted to get to 20 miles – after all, that was the aim for the day, I’d carb loaded and I was yet to stop before I reach a target distance. But at 13 miles I had to go down some steps and I had to hold on to the rail to do it, and by the time I got to the bottom my knee completely seized and I couldn’t move. It took a good few minutes for it to relax enough to hobble to a bench in the park and sit down and hold back tears. It was horrendous. Mainly because I felt so good running. I had loads of energy and it had been a good pace until the pain had started creeping in. Absolutely gutting. A very lovely friend came and picked me up and I realised I had to get to see a physio quick to work out what was going on and if there was any hope of competing 26.2 miles in a months time.

Physio 1 – Two days after the failed run, I saw a physio. Advice to anyone going to run a marathon: whether you think there is anything wrong with you or not, see a physio before you start training. They’ll be able to tell you what to watch out for. It turns out I have lax ligaments on the outside of my knees and so my thighs have been doing all the work to support my knees and now my leg muscles are really tight and can’t cope. Rubbish. But I’ve been given loads of exercises to do 3 times a day to strengthen it all as much as possible. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m still going to run the marathon, I just have to do all my training on a bike or cross trainer now. Not what I hoped for the last few weeks of training but hey, I’ll just have to go with it.

Gym 21 – A couple of days later I made it back to the gym and busted out time on the bike and cross trainer. Man I am so uncoordinated on the cross trainer, it’s really weird to use. Not a fan.

They say ‘no pain, no gain’. I think in this case, that will apply to marathon day, but any training until then is strictly ‘no pain, more gain in the long run’. If Davina McCall can cycle run and swim 500 miles in 7 days with 3 months training, I can run this marathon.

Gym 22 – Im currently typing this blog whilst cycling on a bike in the gym. It’s so boring not actually going anywhere, so I thought I’d alleviate this by multitasking for the first hour and a half. The song ‘Happy‘ by Pharrell Williams just came on in the gym and it’s reminded me to stay positive. It’s not the end of the world. I’m still going to run the marathon in 3 weeks time! Right need to stop typing and start focussing, Bargain hunt has come on the gym TV.

*watches Bargain Hunt, Top Gear x 2 and 4 Music chart countdown (One Direction came on so it was okay)*

So this session was 4 hours 15 minutes and I cycled 60.34 miles. Mental. The bike will only record up to an hour and then 5 min cool down at a time, so I kept taking photos on my phone to record each hours work. It seems multitasking makes me a lot slower as the second half of the cycle was much quicker! I’ve genuinely never cycled this much in my life. Knee is okay, aches a little bit, but a good call to cycle not run. I have to protect it as much as possible.
In case you wondered, this has been my view for the last few hours (the bike records in km not miles!):

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To sponsor me for this pain, you can donate at www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

33. Are we nearly there yet?

Well, what a difference a week makes. Last week was a really good week of training and feels the complete extreme to the week before. The frustration is that there is often no reason why it’s a hard run, it just is. And that’s annoying because it feels like there’s nothing you can plan or control to make it better. Good job it is better than last week – remember I said I couldn’t walk normally after 24 hours? Right, change that to 60 hours! Yep, it took till the Monday morning to be able to walk up/down stairs without using the banister to hold on to for dear life. Not cool. And I genuinely thought my legs wouldn’t ever feel normal again, so was quite relieved when I realised I could finally stand and sit without having to lower myself using my arms.

Gym 15 – Monday morning I was back in the gym but man it was painful! By this point I’d decided I had to push through and get my legs moving or they would never get any better. I sat on the bike and cycled 3.5 miles in 20 minutes. And that was all I could manage…but at least it was something!

Run 58 – Hills: If I’m honest, I always think I’ve done a pretty good hills/intervals session, however it goes – mainly because they’re meant to be hard work and I’m always quite tired afterwards. But I’ve decided more commitment needs to be involved, as in actually¬†using them to their full potential as high intensity training to get maximum benefit. So today was the day I ran for 40 minutes in the rain, almost stopped after two laps but instead had a voice saying ‘this extra lap could make the difference’ and pushed on for another one, making it just over 3.6 miles. Was a good pace from the start (11 min miles), and really worked hard to keep it going. It was proper hard work and I was tired by the end, but it felt so good. Funny that.

Gym 16 – It was raining (again!) so ended up running down to the gym as I was getting pretty wet. After the usual 5 minutes on the bike, and using the machines, I tried some of the exercises FI had given me the week before to make gym sessions a bit more interesting. It was much harder than I remembered, probably because I didn’t have someone telling me if I was actually doing it right or not. But it made training more interesting, so all good.

Run 59 – 18 miles. Wowzers, now that was a good run. A whole other world to last weeks nightmare. I managed to properly carb-load leading up to it, and got a good nights sleep. Even though it was an early run (7am start, eugh!) it was super speedy (well, for me, anyway) at 3 hours 23 mins woohoo. It rained the entire time, not hard but just constantly. I wanted to test my theory that whatever pace I’m doing after 3 miles is what I end up finishing on. This turned out to be a little bit daunting as I was on 11 min 15 sec a mile after 3 miles, which was a minute a mile faster than the week before! However, I went with it, preparing to slow down by the end, but actually finished up on 11 min 17 secs a mile, which took me by surprise! All I can hope is the marathon is like this run and not last week. I was totally desperate for the loo and after 12.5 miles I was passing work, so quickly ran in. This raises the issue of loo stops for the marathon. I know there are some along the way, but I really don’t want to stop at all. It may be a case of trying to time when I’m consuming water…and heeding the advice from the book saying that all you do when you arrive is stay in the loo queue until it is time to start. Sounds good to me! I managed to stomach enough gels and water to keep me going. Also ¬†did a 10 minute walk afterwards to try and help reduce the muscle tightness which I was determined NOT to go through like before. My legs felt much better after the run and they were pretty much fine by the evening. Thank goodness for that!

Gym 17 – Back to the Monday morning grind and the realisation that in six weeks time I’ll be recovering from the ACTUAL marathon was suddenly quite scary. Oh dear, the real thing. I’m excited about it, really, I am. It’s just come round so quickly and it also feels like there is still a long way to go. But every little bit of training helps; there is no point in slowing down now, this is the home straight!

Run 60 – Intervals: Yesterday I went for it with the intervals. No holding back, it was hard. Glorious sunshine made such a difference in wanting to go out. Back and forth on the same bit of road, running flat out and trying to recover before the next one. 2.5 miles, 27 min 37 secs, 10 min 50 sec a mile. Boom. Again it felt like a good run, you feel like you’ve earnt a second breakfast after it ūüôā

Sunday evening I realised I have been fooling myself. I’ve been telling myself (and others) that I only have 1 long long run left (as opposed to a short long run which is any long run up to half marathon. Ha that’s ridiculous, can’t believe I would now call an 8 miler a shorter run!). Well, sadly it’s a lie, I have a 20 miler to do first. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing so it’s a smaller jump from 18 miles, or it’s bad as it’s an extra long run I hadn’t planned in my head. Either way, there are now only 2 loooong runs, and 3 shorter long runs until the big day. I reckon it’s about another 80 odd miles of training till the real deal. Oh my.

If you want to sponsor me for being bonkers, you can do here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

31. Far from ideal

Time for another update on training. A fair few significant points have been reached in the past two weeks…

Gym 10 – The gym routine has now become exactly that; a routine. I know what I’m doing on each machine and how much to push it. I’m kind of getting in to it…worryingly. This is not me.

FI 3 – I’ll be posting a more detailed blog on this session in a few days. It was really helpful as we discussed race practicalities for the up-coming half marathon that I had a week later. All the small details to think though which each contribute to making things a bit easier. It’s about controlling all the factors you can so you know you have done everything possible to make it the best opportunity for a good run. We reviewed my training so far and looked at pushing through these next few weeks to keep the training going in these middle distances.

Run 53 – Time to break the half way distance, and go for 14 miles. Eeeek. Just about kept sub 12 min miles (11.58 to be precise) in 2 hours 47 mins 30 secs. Started out too fast but eventually got in to a rhythm even though it was a little bit slower than usual. Tried out new energy gels which were much better. New shoe lace tying also helped! First time for ages on a long run that I’ve got back and thought I can’t run any more. Totally spent. Became so engrossed on auto pilot to make my legs move constantly that changing speed is really hard work. Good run in sunshine, was blinding at points! Need to think about the weather – sun as well as rain – for the marathon!

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Gym 11 – It’s been taking a couple of days for my left knee to recover from long runs. The gym on a Monday is now low impact so I’ve got quite in to cycling. It’s a nice start to the week, sitting on a bike and letting your mind wander without having to think about steering and crashing in to anyone.

Run 54 – Hills: I was pretty stressed so felt like I needed to get out and run but was very distracted. Also didn’t have much time due to something coming up so was frustrated I couldn’t run for longer. It was a bit wet and windy, pretty miserable weather which didn’t really help that morning. It’s times like this that I’m glad I can actually get out and run though, channeling energy into something.

Gym 12 – Another resistance session. Starting to recognise people in the gym, but there is an unwritten rule of no talking/communicating; everyone acts as though there is no one else in the room. It’s a bit weird sometimes.
It was also the day to start carb loading for the half-marathon race. Trust me, it’s harder than you think to eat a mountain of pasta.

Run 55 – Human Race half-marathon at Lake Dawney, Windsor. This is my only opportunity to experience a ‘race’ environment before the marathon, so I really wanted to be able to use it well. I don’t run with other people so even getting used to other people being around and overtaking was really important. It was all very touch and go as the weather had been so awful with the flooding, that mum and I only made the final decision to run it on the morning.¬†I think it was what you would call ‘far from ideal’ conditions! It was 4 laps around Lake Dawney rowing lake which is over a mile in length, with very short ends, and not the most breath taking of scenery to enjoy. We had 25mph winds the entire time, and as it was going across the lake all the time we spent the whole race leaning to one¬†side then the other to try and stay upright! The whole thing felt hideous. It was a flat course so that helped – it would have been a nightmare with any hills in! It was such hard work to¬†keep going, the wind was mad, but I stuck with the 12 minute pacer the whole time which was really helpful. Usually I would have been quicker but with the wind that was about as good as it was going to get!¬†RunKeeper decided this was the perfect time to tell me there was no GPS so annoyingly I couldn’t record the race. However you get a tag for your trainers which records your laps, which turned out to be very equal splits.¬†I did it in 2hrs 35 min 54 secs so averaged 11.53 a mile. It certainly wasn’t the right conditions to be doing a fast race, just more a keep going race!

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The closest I’ll get to being an Olympian…standing in front of the Olympic rings! // Some words of wisdom in the port-a-loo

Gym 13 – I’m now completely out of netball (as FI said it’s not worth the risk, and not helping with knee recovery) – sad times. Tried rowing for the first time as all the bikes were taken. 20 minutes flew by, and I quite enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll be back at Lake Dawney soon as a rower…or not.

Run 56 – Intervals – used a new road for intervals this time, a bit of variation; I live a wild life. Just makes training a bit more interesting and less predictable. It’s these hill and interval sessions which are hard intensity that really help build for the longer runs. So easy to want to bail on these sessions, but you just have to remember what it contributes to the overall training.

Gym 14 – Rowing was so much fun last time, I did it again. And some time on the bike. And the usual resistance machines. Man, I still have pathetically weak arms. Good job I’m not trying to become a weight lifter.

FI 4- It’s only been two weeks since the last time I saw FI, but it was good to go over the race and work out training for these last few weeks leading up to April…less than 8 weeks to go! We’ve switched up when to do the long runs and shorter-long runs, to get an extra one in. I wanted to be able to get to 22 miles which breaks through the 20 mile barrier, and on the marathon course it means you know you can get through the depressing bit round the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf and you are running back along by the river. I’ll crawl the last 4 miles if I have to. FI also went through some other gym exercises to make sessions more varied and to work on different things. Now to remember it all for Monday morning!

Run 57 – 16 miles. What? 16 miles? Errrr since when?! It is a bit out of body experience thinking about running that far. Obviously I knew I’d have to do it at some point; the marathon is an extra 10 miles on top! But some how it just seems so strange to think that I can actually run that distance now. However, it was a hard run, a bit of a mixed bag. It felt like the first mile was too fast, then I slowed up too much and couldn’t pick it up again. This is a bit of a recurring problem – my first 3 miles sets the pace for the rest of the run, and I find it almost impossible to change pace. Whatever I’m on by then I just keep going like a machine, so it needs to be right. It was lovely warm sunshine, then suddenly rained pretty hard around miles 10-12. Nice. Just what I wanted – wet feet, my fave. I was also wearing glasses so had to run holding them as I couldn’t see a thing (note, wear contact lenses even if it looks nice outside!) My thighs went numb in the rain and I couldn’t feel myself running. The first 7 miles were the hardest I’ve done, even more so than the crazy winds at Lake Dawney (well, in a different sort of way), but the last 5 miles were actually okay. By the end, even after a terrible start, I felt like I could keep going a little bit more. My legs just feel like they can’t stop. 16 miles, 3 hours 16 min 46 secs, 12 min 18 sec a mile. Slowest pace by a long way, but at the end of the day that’s still sub 5.5 hours for the marathon, which I’m totally down with!

And that’s the problem. When my legs stop, so does my entire body. As I sit and type this 24 hours after the longest run of my life, all my muscles hurt a lot, and it takes 10 minutes to go up or down the stairs. I have to use my arms to push myself up from a seat, my thighs just kill. Right now I’m not convinced I’ll ever walk properly again, let alone run!

But remember, ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever’.

Assuming I’ll actually make it to the marathon, if you’d like to sponsor me for this madness you can on this page: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

30. Two amazing charities

So now my fundraising page is up and running (excuse the pun), I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you a bit more about the charities I’m running the London Marathon for. I really appreciate any donations made – you can donate¬†through my Virgin Money Giving page here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission ¬† (If you would like to make a donation but would rather not pay online, please do contact me directly for more details.)

All money raised running the London Marathon will be split equally between these two fantastic charities.¬†Both are fantastic, so here’s the low down…

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Catching Lives
Catching Lives is based in Canterbury, and has been running for over 20 years. They aim to support the homeless and vulnerably housed in and around the local area. ¬†The charity does amazing work at raising awareness and changing attitudes to homelessness through working with the local community. They take work placements, deliver training and work with schools and youth groups to inform them; homelessness could affect any of us.¬†They provide immediate respite at the open centre. Here clients are given access to many services which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to use whilst being on the street or with no fixed address. These include basic services such as meals, laundry, showers and clothing, as well as health services; social and emotional support; ¬†advice , advocacy and referral; and work, learning and recreational activity. All these things are vital for clients to feel valued members of society. In the Winter months they have a community shelter open in a different venue for each night of the week. This has been invaluable in the past couple of years with such cold weather and often snow for days at a time. The aim is to try and help the clients find sustainable and¬†appropriate¬†accommodation, hopefully by the time the shelter finishes at the end of February.

Catching Lives are always looking for volunteers for a number of roles. If you would like to find out more or get involved, please contact  info@catchinglives.org

 

Rianna's Fund

Rianna’s Fund
In January 2003 Rianna, just eight years old, died tragically when a tree fell at her school in Ashtead, Surrey. This charity set up in her name, aims to help and support¬†underprivileged¬†children around the world achieve their potential. It is a charity close to my heart for many reasons. Rianna’s family ¬†attend my home church, and it has been inspiring to see all the work gone into the projects that have been set up through Rianna’s Fund. They bring hope to children who would otherwise have nothing. They have now built a school in Kampala, Uganda, for over 640 children and funded school places for children across India along with many other projects.¬†They believe that ‘one life can make many changes’, and that is exactly what has happened through this wonderful charity.

For more info you can contact Rianna’s Fund on¬†riannasfund@aol.com

Thank you for all your support!

29. Fight for it

Very often when everything is going right we don’t realise how good it is.¬†But then sometimes things don’t quite go right, in fact they feel like they are going very wrong. I’ve been fortunate that so far my training has felt like it has always been on the up, even if there has been varying degrees of improvement at different times. But now I’ve come to face the reality of training when it feels like it’s all going horribly. And this is the time when I spend entire sessions repeating ‘fight for it, fight for it’ out loud over and over to myself.

Gym 6 – I usually like doing the gym sessions as it breaks up pounding my poor feet on the pavement and gives them a bit of a rest whilst still being active and working out. I can’t say I think the gym and I will ever be best of friends, but our relationship is certainly better than I ever expected.

Run 49 – Time for the long Friday afternoon run – this week was 12 miles. Trouble was I was feeling physically exhausted from a very busy week, and with no let up in training, I was feeling the effects. I got ready to run, sat down on the sofa, and before I knew it I shocked myself awake having dozed off for five minutes. I really wasn’t feeling very up for a long run, but knew it had to be done and the light outside was starting to fade. I’d worked out a rough route, beginning with what has become quite a standard first 5 miles now – twice round a lap which is a long slow incline up one road and long slow decent back down the parallel road. I like this because it is familiar, which means I can mix up the last half of the route and make it more interesting when I need something different to keep me motivated. 12.13 miles later, and after 2 hours 22 mins 7 secs I was absolutely shattered but pleased I’d done it.

Gym 7 – Evening netball training meant a rare lie in, wahey! Was good to run about and do some sport with other people, having fun. Brings a bit of light relief to the intense isolated training I’m doing for the marathon.

Run 50 – Hills: This is what I wrote as soon as I got back from a 2.5 mile hill training session. ‘Ugh that was horrible on a whole new level. Whole body was a dead weight from the first step- and that was going downhill. Arms ached. Legs wouldn’t move, I had to drag them round. It was hideous. Felt like I had already run 10miles before I started. Probably didn’t help that I forgot to eat till I got to the door to leave. BBC weather was saying it was raining. I’ve never been more pleased that the BBC were wrong. Half way round I stepped on the edge of a paving slab and a ton of water came up and soaked my feet, contributing to the draining enthusiasm for the morning. Having said all that, the loop was longer than I thought it would be but felt shorter. Which is always a good thing. That was the worst I’ve ever felt running. Glad it’s over.’ Get the picture? Now you see why I spent the whole session saying ‘fight for it’. Somehow I still did it in 29 mins (though it felt like 29 hours), and averaged 11 min 38 secs – ironically, better than some other ‘easier’ runs.

Gym 8 – Thursday’s workout was frustrating as it felt harder to lift lighter weights. In my mind I would always be improving; I’d never get to a day where I struggled with something I previously could do. I soldiered on and got through it all, and just have to keep reminding myself that some days are going to be harder than others.

Run 51 – I was away at a work conference in Eastbourne over the weekend so the normal long Friday afternoon run became Saturday morning. It was a drop back to 6 miles, so I ran for 3 miles along the very windy South coast and then back again.¬†Regretted wearing a t-shirt under a long sleeved top to begin with, but by the end I was rather glad I had the extra layer. Gloves were a lifesaver – I usually get annoyed after two mins and shove them in my trousers, but again, I’m so glad I had them. Being the coast meant the route was pretty flat the whole way. I’ve not run that far with no breakfast before- not the best idea, won’t be doing it again in a hurry. I was able to get into a rhythm and stay consistent through it, averaging 11 mins 43 secs a mile over 6.5 miles. 1 hour 16 mins 31 secs later and I was ready for a cup of tea.

Gym 9 – As it was a match night for our netball team I did a gym session in the morning. I’m totally bailing from playing in a match until after the marathon – by which time the season is over, but I’m cool with that. Right now, my legs are too precious to risk injury! Was quite good actually, cycled for 18 minutes then did some upper body resistance. There’s something odd but relaxing ¬†about cycling on a machine whilst watching BBC Breakfast.

Run 52 – Intervals: 2.5 miles covered, but with some hard intervals in the middle. Again, ‘fight for it’ was on repeat.

If anyone comes to see me at the marathon and I’m looking like I’m loosing the will to live (which could well be for most of the way round) just shout at me. Don’t worry, I’ll fight for it the whole way.