Let me take a few seconds…

First, and most importantly, I made it around the course.  Here’s a photo of me in quasi-delirious state (with wild hair pointing out of hat to accentuate the point):

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I even managed, through my mystery angel fabulous donors, to once again break my fundraising goal.

Honestly, I am sitting here a bit stunned that I actually did it.  I’ve completed three marathons.  Me, the girl who once finished a 12 mile race, crawled to her car, crawled into her home and thought, “I’m never going to finish the half marathon.”  Me, the girl who cried the entire last mile of her first half marathon.  I’m now a three-time marathoner.

Some important race things things – I did not have an emotional hiccup on the course!  Those who have read my tales know that it is pretty standard that at some point I cry, but I didn’t.  I worked very hard on my mental state this race.  I also worked on rhythmic breathing, which I literally discovered the night before and so want to work more on because when I got it going I felt like I could go and go!  I spent so much time focused on the breath I frankly didn’t have a moment to think of anything else… so it was like I was marathoning in active meditation mode.   My knee started acting up at mile 23, which meant the last 5k was walking, but I decided to spend it singing so in the end I was probably quite an entertaining thing to witness.

Some important other things – The marathon expo was way improved over 2013 – it felt like a celebration of running and fundraising, which was so much fun.  I scored an extra £5 donation for dancing around like a silly person, but I will not speak of my bowling skills.  Also, the support – wow.  I don’t remember so many water stations, gel stations, paramedics there to assist if you needed them (I didn’t, whew!).  It felt like London showed up in full force to make sure everyone had the best race possible.

And some super important things:

To my friends and family (especially the hubby and the kiddo) – thank you for putting up with me.  I was either out running, talking about running, or doing some form of other training to help my running.

To the National Autistic Society, wow, what can I say?  I felt like I had a whole extended family this time around the course!

And finally, I wish to officially announce I have retired from London… but not marathoning.  I know that people have gone years upon years wanting to run those 26.2 miles and as I have been blessed to experience this twice it is time for me to step aside and let someone else slot in.  As it appears I like to do this every 3 years shall we say Disney 2019?

I think by then I’ll just about have recovered.

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A Pre-London Pep Talk

Right.  What you are about to experience is going to suck.

But you’re also going to love it.

How do I know?  Because this is my third marathon.

Third.  THREE.  I’ve done this, on Sunday, THREE TIMES.

Willingly.

And I can tell you, you are going to ride one heck of a roller coaster.  You will have moments of joy, moments of despair, and moments of crazy… and those moments could all happen all at the same time.

You may at some point be passed by a person dressed as a beer, or pulling a pile of bricks, or dressed as a beer pulling a pile of bricks.

Embrace that because that’s the London Marathon.

Embrace that what you are about to do is completely insane.  100% mental.  But comfort yourself in that there will be 35,000 completely insane people doing it with you at the same time.  You will be cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people in London and abroad.  You’ll all be headed towards the same goal together – to finish the London Marathon which is one of the top marathons in the world.

And when you finish (which you will) you can tell everyone you are a marathoner.  No one can take that away from you.  Not even the person dressed as a beer.

So count your gels, get all weird about what socks you are going to wear, and get ready to have some sort of crying fit at mile 22 – cause it’s on people.

It’s on.

Support my insanity by clicking this link.

Ran 12 miles. No John Barrowman.

After looking at the time between my 20 miles and the marathon I realised that it would be pretty close to silly to attempt 22 and then allow less than 10 days to be in a good place to run the 26.2.

So, I decided on 12.

It was a lovely run.  I ran by the canals.  They are lovely in the Spring.  Here’s a photo:

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I managed to accidentally turn off my GPS at mile 4, so I have no idea how long it took me, what my splits were, etc.  However, I know it was 12 miles because I’ve actually memorised that much road/trail in the city.  This coincides with the fact that once you live in Oxford long enough you understand that driving in the city is incredibly foolish and running marathons make perfect sense.  In some cases you can run a marathon and your friend or family member can transverse 1.2 miles of Botley Road in the exact same time.

This is a fact.  Though maybe it’s really 1 mile.  So… plus or minus .2 miles for the sake of ‘wiggle room’ on this fact.

Also, Oxfordians are turned eccentric not because of the university.  Instead it is done through a process called ‘being stuck on Botley Road for 6 hours for no apparent reason.’

Also fact.

So, any way, because I changed my mileage from 22 to 12 miles John Barrowman and I didn’t meet up. I’m sure that’s the reason why.  Not that he’s based in California at the moment or anything.  Or that the whole idea of him coming to Oxford to meet someone he doesn’t know is a bit… weird.  But we didn’t meet up this time.

Maybe next time,  John.  I’m sure he’s crushed.  Likely oblivious, but I’m going with crushed.

14 days until London.

Post Tom Cruise (aka The Tom Cruise Recovery Period)

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Tom Cruise in Oxford (last one, I promise!)

A post shared by Cristin Merritt (@cmerritt42) on

(Props to Instagram who managed to cut me out of this video in the cropping phase.  They know who the real star is!  Right?!? RIGHT?!?!)

So obviously I need to give up posting about running as I’ve gone from tens to, like, a hundred people a day stopping by to read my blog post.  In fact, here’s a link to my first post as it will likely be viewed more times than any other post I ever post, ever.

I wonder if writing about running with Tom Cruise means I’ll get up to 150 views?  (I stress the word “with” as the whole stalker thing would be way weird and considering the shape that guy is in I wouldn’t be able to catch him.  I’m realistic in my fantasies, okay?)

I must say, though, there has been some fun things that have happened since the encounter.  First, I’ve gotten lots of random tweets from all over the place.  And I’ve been retweeted a lot.  I didn’t know you could retweet so much by so many and that there were so many with Tom Cruise as their icon or their wallpaper or in their name…

Second, I got into our local paper! So I learned it’s likely the Mummy that they are shooting.  And, as a former Classics student I can say if there way one place to film a mummy flick, Oxford is totally it.  Hopefully this mummy knows Latin because that’s all they speak in Oxford.  Nobody knows what they are saying, but they speak it a lot.  This is fact. Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur.  No joke.

Third, I’ve actually been linked to SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOG.  That’s, like, never happened.  This person writes about monster movies and they complimented me!  Linked AND complimented me!

All I need now is a brief acknowledgement from John Barrowman that I might exist and I would hit the social media trifecta.  (Fact, until John Barrowman acknowledges your existence you are, in fact, a figment of your own imagination.)

And if I monetise this I’m then on my way to FFFF-internet star famous. [1]

Finally, the whole experience was cool and I’m glad of my part in it.  I was impressed that Mr. Cruise took the time to connect with people out to see him when, in all actuality, he could’ve chosen another path.  Like him or not that guy is 100% professional and I could tell he takes his very public job seriously.

So, thank you to Mr. Cruise for that on behalf of a looney runner on mile 18.8 of 20.  Trust me when I say I’m taking this one with me for the rest of my days!

[1] That link goes to the charities that I was out training for when I ran into Tom Cruise. So no personal gain here!  I run the London Marathon on April 24, 2016.

 

 

 

Ran 20 miles. Check. Met Tom Cruise. Check.

Oh, hi.

So, haven’t written in awhile.  I did this family holiday thing in Orlando (where I completed a 15 mile run as well as a likely 10k while hauling 4-year-old across the Magic Kingdom).  I have done plenty of core training via pole fitness.  I didn’t meet my 18-mile run goal but as it’s now pretty dang close to the London Marathon I thought “Eh, I’ve run 2 marathons already, so I’ll just skip to the 20-miler and all will be good.”  I rested all Saturday and looked at the pleasantly-overcast Sunday as the ideal day.

Oh, man, the pain.  I’ve got so much figured out, but my hips this run where so unhappy.  I had altered my run slightly to ensure I ran through as many pretty places of Oxford as possible to keep my mind off of it.  I had backlogged podcasts so I had plenty to listen to.  I had eaten bananas… so many bananas.

It was mile 18.8.  I know this because this was the point I pulled out my phone.  I was at the Radcliffe Camera, which cuts over to this really cool passage that I thought would be an excellent way to end (and also conveniently near a bus stop home).  It’s a beautiful area. Seriously, look:

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Funny thing the area you see to the right of the screen was blocked off.  Some people with barriers and yellow jackets.  I immediately realised that there was a high likelihood of filming going on in the area.  There is lots of filming in Oxford, so I pulled my phone out and thought I would see about capturing some of it.  It would likely be an Inspector Lewis or perhaps a documentary… sometimes cool things like X-Men get filmed there and there was hearsay that Benedict Cumberbatch filmed at Trinity College not too long ago.

Regardless, the whole little event would get my mind off the pain I was feeling.  Not to mention the fact that my brain kindly reminded me that if this were the real deal I would be undergoing 8 more miles of said pain.

As I approached the Bodleian Library I saw a knot of people with cameras and the top of a head.  My first thought was, “Oh, wow, it’s John Barrowman!”

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And so here is what is going through my head: “Why is John Barrowman hanging out in Oxford?  I mean, he’s actually Scottish but he lived in America for such a long time he’s never gotten his accent back.  Isn’t he actually doing a series in America?  Maybe he’s doing something here.  I loved him in Doctor Who…  Oh, I can get closer…”

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“My husband is going to be so jealous.  Wow, he’s got a lot of security with him I didn’t think he’d have so much but that’s cool.  And he’s talking to people… funny… that doesn’t sound like his voice.  That sounds a lot like Tom Cruise…”

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“Holy pile of expletives, that IS Tom Cruise.”

I had managed through some sort of will, or perhaps because I was at mile 18.8 and likely smelled very much like it that a hole in the barrier had opened up and he was working my way.  Mr. Cruise spent a few moments with every person and was very polite.  He also looked amazing.  I mustered every ounce of polite attitude and patience to make sure everyone who was there before me got their chance (it’s the British way).  He looked at me and said hello.  I told him I was out on a twenty mile training run and didn’t expect to see him in route.  His response, “Twenty miles?  Hey, that’s great!”  And then we got a photo:

20160403_171711Yep, the face of a guy who has made tonnes of successful films and looks like he’s 35 against the face of a woman who had almost finished her 20 mile run and looks like she’s 1.2 miles closer to totally insane.

Any way, two things:

  1. I forgot about the hip pain. (Tom fixed it with his magic.)
  2. I finished 20 miles.

Finally, I would like to invite John Barrowman to Oxford next weekend for my 22-miler.  In front of the Bodleian if you don’t mind because that is where I meet famous people. I’m totally sure he can do this.  And, if you can’t, John, I’m cool with a picture of you with a sign saying, “GO CRISTIN!  WHOEVER YOU ARE!”

Thanks.

Author’s Update:  My husband has informed me that currently John Barrowman is frolicking in a pool in Palm Springs, California, in red high heels according to recent Facebook posts.  As this is totally awesome I can understand if he cannot make my Oxford request immediately.  However, if he can make the sign whilst frolicking in red high heels my whole life would pretty much be complete. 

 

The difference between running and completing a marathon.

I’ve been seeing this a lot in the communities that I’m on for my fundraising:

“I’m not able to run a full [insert number of miles].  How can I run a marathon?  I think I’ll give up.”

For those training for London 2016 we’re all reaching the high mileage point in our training.  The period in which you really are spending your weekends running or recovering from running.

Let’s be clear here: THIS. IS. THE. HARD. PART.

How on earth do you run all those miles?  How in the world do you think you’ll get over through?

First, and most importantly, right now I want you to change your wording.

You are not running x miles – you’re completing x miles.

You are not running a marathon – you’re completing a marathon.

There is a phrase, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”  Think about it – life has it’s easy parts and it’s hard parts.  It has it’s ups and it’s downs.  Marathons are the exact same way.  You’re going to have good training days and bad ones.  Highs and lows.  You’ll get on the course and the weather could be wonderful or crap.  You could end up stuck behind a million people unable to get your pace on track or with wide spaces and plenty of room to move.

But when you say to yourself, “Today I am completing a marathon,” you give yourself permission to experience the race for what it is.  To allow the good and the bad, to welcome on positive terms.  Because whether you run a marathon, run/walk a marathon, or walk a marathon so long as you cross that finish line you have FINISHED.  You have COMPLETED.  No one will come and take your medal because you didn’t meet some arbitrary time you set for yourself.

And that’s the thing, we’re our own worst critics.  I promise you that years from now someone will look at your medal and say, “Wow!  You finished a marathon?” and not “Huh,  you finished a marathon in 4:23:10.  You must’ve been having a pretty crap day.  What were your split times?  You know I thought you could run faster than this.”

So this weekend when you are out completing your mileage keep that in mind: You are moving forward.  Whether you run it our walk it or both – you will be one more training session closer to your goal.

I promise you can do this.

Honest, I’ve done two and my pace is best described as “sloth.”

Three Things You Can Do When Training Goes *SPLAT*

I am broken.

In a perfect world this would mean a trip to a person mechanic, £1,000 in parts, and back on the 12 miles in under a week.

Instead it was a trip to the GP where I was told “It’s viral.  Rest and fluids.”

Now those of you who have been following me with abject devotion will know that either in November/December or February/March I really like to get sick.  My specialty is something in the chest – either viral, infection, or what everyone really likes in my workplace: My ability to speak disappearing. [1]

I have half a voice and a really incredible cough at the moment.  Shame these gifts aren’t appreciated in public.  You can check-out in supermarkets really fast, though.

Chances are if you aren’t a devoted fan (and you should be, because I am amazing) you might have stumbled here because you may be under the weather yourself.  As a seasoned running marathon-like person (I have medals, swear!) I can tell you that these things happen.  Training is long, and in many a marathon case it goes through seasons where colds, flu, viruses and dreaded lurgy are common.  One will likely come for you.  But all is not lost.  Here are three things you can do when you’re training has gone splat due to illness [2]:

Resistance Band Exercises.

As I am a slow runner my biggest issue is form.  After about mile 10 I’ve learned that my knees start wandering (seriously, I think they went to Bath once I and was in Edinburgh) and my feet start to move towards ‘penguin waddle.’  I’ve taken on some exercises out of a running magazine which aren’t invasive but work my hips and knees.  You just grab a set of resistance bands, which aren’t expensive nor difficult to store, and walk through the exercises – which take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on where you are in the training.  It’s sort of a little walk around that may mix up your day of daytime television, Netflix, and Kardashian re-runs.  Once you are better and you start your little trots about you’ll notice that those few minutes spent running through the motions with those silly bands pay off.  So grab some bands and Google yourself some moves.  It will help!

Mental Work

The mental aspect of distance running is just as important as the physical.  You go into any race of any length in a bad mood and it’s going to cost you.  You go into any race convinced you can’t do it and I promise you, you’ll live up to that thought.  You’re probably kicking yourself right now because you’re not feeling well.

Stop it.  You’ve come across the best running blog in the universe.  By default this means you must be an incredibly talented person with excellent taste in shoes.

I love this little group who came up with Buddhify and Cards for Mindfulness (I have tweets from the founder to me – sqeee!).  I use both constantly.  Buddhify has meditations on illness, including one that talks about how crummy things like this are temporary and how to work through the negative mindset that comes with illness.  I’ve actually re-purposed these and ones on stress on days where I’m dreading running.

Seek those recommendations out, or search out your own.  But downtime like this is good time to focuse on mental health.  May even make you better faster.

Nutrition

So who amongst you while ill decides you’ll feel better once you eat that leftover ice cream, donuts, and remaining Easter candy from 2012?  No one?

I do.  I eat horribly while ill, and that’s not a good thing.

I think it’s always about comfort.  “I’m sick,” I say to myself, “Poor me.  I need cookie dough.”  And then a few hours later I’m regretting the whole thing.

If you are down, might as well look at your food plan.  I have been trying to get more veggies into my life.  In fact, I’m fascinated with vegan (aka plant based) cook books. I’m a massive Isa Chandra Moskowitz and the very NSFW Thug Kitchen fan.  The stuff you can do with cauliflower! If you need more inspirational/structure the Happy Herbivore will teach you things like how to make potatoes that come pretty close to the Big Mac.

By no means do I expect you to turn into a hippie whilst ill, but there are tons of blogs, mags, and books on better nutrition.  While you are flat on your back healing start reading and trying things out.  Gets your mind off being sick, and you may find some more healthy and diverse food options in your life.

So, there you have it.  Three things you can do when you can’t log those miles.

Now, go feel better.  And nice shoes.

[1] As I am American in a 99% British office I think there is a general appreciation that for a few days a year the people I work with can be spared all the mauling of their language.

[2] Finally, I’m not a doctor.  I’m not a GP.  I’m not a nurse.  I don’t hold a PhD.  These are things I do when I’m feeling ill, but it may not work for you.  If you get sick and want to keep training in some way, shape, or form always check with your doctor.

Also, I’m fundraising for London 2016.  Acts of kindness and generosity are also bound to make you feel better, and will force me away from the cookie dough and into the roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos.  Mmm… roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos.