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.

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.

 

Interval Training

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I had to turn on Endomondo for this moment alone.

As part of my marathon training plan, and for the first time ever in the twelve years I have been willing to run ridiculous races, I have decided to interval train.

Why?  Because I want to endure.

I have done alright for a slow-poke on a marathon course and hung around 6 hours.  But I know I lose the mojo at the “wall” point of about 18 miles.  To push through that wall I had read that doing such things as going and running up a gradual hill really fast over and over and over again will help build endurance.

So, out I went to a series of gently rolling hills near work where I ran, over and over and over again, up and down them.  Scared the daylights out of leisure lunchers and dog walkers, but did it.

And boy, did it suck.

I mean, wow, brutal.  It’s been years since I wanted to puke after running and for the first time in ages I took myself just up to the point of it.  Dry heaves and all.  It was the most awful thing in the world since my pole instructor added these fantastic hanging inverts into our warm up. (What are those you ask?  Well, you hold on to the pole and pull your knees up.  You then count to five and then curse profusely as you cleanly flip yourself over. You then neatly lower back down to the ground with all the grace of a swan who learned to speak at a truck stop.  Then you do it again.  And again.  And then on the other side.)

I have a scheduled ‘dry heave’ now booked into every week of training.  There isn’t an end to the pain.  We have 1 minute as fast as possible followed by 1 minute of putting my stomach back in my body.  We have more hills.  We have things called “progression runs” which could be called “progressing into hell.”  None of it even sounds fun.

So, yeah, I’m totally doing them.

Every single awful terrible one of them.

Because you know what?  They only amount to about 2 miles of hell based on my pace.  2 miles of hell for 26.2 of prospectively more pleasant miles?

I’m down with that.  Seriously.  The food is going to stay down.

Promise.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Kick Yourself

2016-01-14 08.18.58.jpgThis is sunrise on the Thames River in Oxford.  As it’s a wet winter the river is darn close to busting its banks and, in some areas, it has hit the flood plains turning fields into lakes.  I took this picture standing on the Osney Lock, noting that the brilliant pinks and oranges and yellows would likely not show up in the hastily taken photo, but I took it any way.

I decided to take the photo because I had a crap run into work.  It was muddy, icy, and I was slow.  My podcast wasn’t loading.  My pack was rubbing against my running tights in such a way that they were slowly inching down and I had to stop and pull them up periodically.  I had not eaten breakfast as early as I should’ve and I could feel it uncomfortably turning in my stomach.  Pedestrians were wandering around in the dim dawn light towards me, likely attracted to my violently coloured pink hoodie, making my pace erratic.

I was angry at everything and angry with myself.

My pace was more like around when I first started running.  And, since I’m not known for speed, you can guess that my pace was well outside what I am hoping to achieve.  I was cursing myself, cursing how I would allow myself to run so horrifically, despite the fact that today is a purposely designed slow run to set me up for my long run on Saturday.

I had given up at the lock and turned off everything.  I was attempting not to slide across the ice at the lock when I looked up and saw the sunrise.

And then I remembered: I shouldn’t be kicking myself.

Any seasoned marathoner, fast or slow, will tell you that so long as you get out there and put in the miles you will cross that finish line.  Sometimes the training isn’t what you want, but you do it.  You go out there and you do it and that means you are inches closer to achieving the finish.

As I looked up at the sunrise I realised that I am doing it.  Lots of people don’t.  Lots of people never try. I am out for myself and my causes and I will keep going.

So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation remember you are in this for the long haul.  Keep training.  I believe in you.

 

 

A note on running fashion.

So, just to bring home a point from my last blog: This was the cover of Runner’s World in 2015:

Runners_WorldNote the well-coordinated outfit.  The slicked back hair.  The glorious stride.

And now, what I wore today for my interval training:

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Almost there…

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Please note that while the amazing University of Florida Gator running tights are new I’m proud to say that I totally forgot my running socks and thus wore these fabulous winter socks from Primark (purchased to keep the cold at bay whilst biking).  To top off my look I have Brooks shoes in NEON PINK and… while I failed to show my running top… it was also a hoodie in NEON PINK.

I also have a singing hat, which clashed with the entire ensemble.

People fled my presence.  I got some excellent (if not painful but necessary) sprints in along the river.

There are times when I have all the intention in the world to match.  In fact, I do have running outfits that actually do match.  It’s just that it is winter and I have two pairs of long running tights.  So, yeah, this is going to happen and I’m going to OWN it.

One of the best things about running is all you really need to get going is a half decent pair of running shoes.  Or a total lack of shame.

Happy to say I have both.

(Yay donate!)