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.”

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…

Feast your eyes!2016-01-12 12.12.16

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!)

 

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…

On Wussing Out.

So, tomorrow is the Oxford Half Marathon, which I registered for.

I registered right after they released the course information.  For those who had run the earlier courses, which kept you mostly out of the city, I was thrilled.  If you go to the course info right now it pretty much outlines my absolute favourite areas of the city to run.  The whole idea of people blocking off said areas for me to run through excited me.  It would be like the Rome Marathon all over again. (PS – To anyone reading who didn’t get into London – RUN ROME)

I had meant to get around to training for it.  It’s not like I’m just lazying about.  I’m still bike commuting, pole fitnessing (I can do this now!), and eating seasonal like a hippie.

But I wasn’t putting in the distance training.

See, here’s the deal: YOU HAVE TO DO THE TRAINING.  I know this.  I’ve been running for a long time, the mantra is etched into my brain.

But yet, I didn’t.

I wish I could tell you it was because I was sick.  Or I broke something.  Or I was jet setting across the world with all my billionaire friends and the personal trainer was too busy with Beyonce.

But I don’t have a good reason.

I just didn’t do it.

If I go tomorrow I know I’d be fine through the 10k point.  Likely a bit further.  But, just like with a marathon, there is a wall.  For me it’s 9 miles.  I would be 4 stinking miles from the end and my legs would be in this conversation with my brain like so:

Legs: “Hey, um, brain?”

Brain: “Yeah?”

Legs: “Um, we haven’t done this in awhile.  Can we stop?”

Brain: “No.”

Legs: “We disagree with your assessment, we’re going to stop now.”

Brain: “It’s not a good idea, guys.  We’re 4 miles from the end.”

Legs: “Shutting down now.”

Brain: “What? No…”

Legs: “Yeah, here we go… from the knees…”

Brain: “Noooooo!”

(After writing this I’m glad my legs cannot act independently of me.  They would totally do this.  I know it.  Dang you, legs.)

So, long story longer I’ve decided not to run the Oxford Half Marathon.  This, of course, drags up all sorts of emotions.  It’s odd because I go from relief to wanting to cry.  It’s like I’m doing what I know is right for me while disappointing myself at the exact same time.

Instead, I’m going to start my London Marathon distance training.

And, like a good trainee, I’m starting small and building up so I can be strong come April.

I’ll be taking a route away from the fanfare, and I’ll be rocking my jersey from the National Autistic Society, who I will be supporting along with the WWF come April.

But, yeah, I feel like I’m wussing out.