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.

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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:

JB_Oxford_canal_boat_entering_lock_bridge_above.jpg

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.

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.”

Interval Training

intervalTraining

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.

 

 

Week One of Sixteen

I get a monthly subscription to Runner’s World.  It comes the old fashioned way, through the post, in a pretty plastic wrapper once a month.

On the cover is usually a person who is running along.  Chances are that that person is not actually “running” though I do know first hand that photo shoots can be exhausting nonetheless.  The fitness model is usually staring ahead, mid-stride, determination on their face.  Their clothing is perfectly coordinated, their hair slicked back as if the wind was hitting it just right. [1]

To be clear, this is nothing what I look like when I run.

I’ve started week one of sixteen.  Most marathon training plans are sixteen or eighteen weeks.  Up until now I’ve been just getting back into the swing of things: More time at the gym; Short runs around the the office; Runs to work; More pain on the pole (let me tell you of the hell that is “20s” sometime).  But now I have to take things seriously.  Commit to mileage.  Respond to everyone asking what I’m doing this weekend with the words, “Running.” Download several hundred episodes of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

The funny thing is, even though this is my third time to the marathon rodeo…  Even though I’ve trained for (I think) fourteen or so half marathons….  Even though I’ve run countless 5 and 10ks…

It still royally sucks to get going again.

On the first weekend run I couldn’t remember where I put anything, and I still forgot things once I left and was too far gone to turn around and come back. My minutes per mile, which was with a pack, were fine, but it all felt unfamiliar.  I also went to my first pilates class ever, which was both awesome and terrible.  Awesome because it worked areas that I needed to have worked and terrible because it worked areas that I needed to have worked.

They say that you never forget how to ride a bike once you learn… which is sort of true.  I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and when I moved to Oxford I was forced to.  I spent the first week crashing a lot but after awhile I got the hang of it.  So let’s hope the saying sticks… That once you run a marathon you never forget.  Though, to think of it, I must forget something because I have a tendency to keep signing up for these things.

Oh yes, please donate to me so I have no choice but to train.

[1] You probably think I don’t like Runner’s World.  Quite the opposite, in my opinion it is the most complete runner’s magazine out there.  I recommend it if you are starting out or want to keep up to date with running.  And maybe, one day, I’ll be on the cover… wind in my hair… perfectly coordinated outfit flowing in the breeze…

Marathon Training Review, October 2015

Well, I’ve begun.

This of course means I’ve gotten a cold immediately and have had to readjust my schedule.

I’ve always sort of questioned the marathon training season as it falls into “awful winter season” and ends, usually on the day of the marathon, with either the hottest, coldest, or rainiest day on record (take your pick).

“But,” you say, “You’ve willingly taken this sort of thing on more than once, didn’t you know this is what is going to happen?”

Yep.  But I can marvel at the madness of it all much like some people marvel at the fact that the sun keeps managing to rise every day… except for those people who live in places where the sun doesn’t at certain points of the year.

I digress.

So yeah, I’ve adjusted my schedule down slightly but otherwise have stayed on track.  As I’m in the “running for running’s sake” portion of the training I’m not too fussed.  One of the things I’ve picked up on is that my body, outside of the cold, is pretty cool with running more regularly after the first week.  The first week it was like, “&*%*!!!” (exact words) but after that it was fine.

And so I enter into November.  For fun I’ve again signed up for Nanowrimo, which means that I will be writing a marathon while training for a marathon.  This is because I welcome both mental and physical pain, obviously.

I’ve also managed to get close to halfway for my initial fundraising goal, which is a guilt fuel.  (Thank you to those who have already donated – and to the mystery donor who jumped me to my halfway point!)  Remember, every pound you donate results in me putting on my shoes and pounding out the miles whether I want to or not.

Until next time!