Adverse Camber

I started this blog to get me through the London Marathon 2011. It was quite a challenge as I only started running on the 3rd of May 2010. I finished the marathon with painful blisters and quite a lot of money for a great charity!

This blog is now taking me on a new journey - to a fitter lifestyle aided by running.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dedication in Winter

It is snowing.  I don't mean the pretty frosting over grass and tree branches, I mean properly snowing where you can't see much in front of your face.  In my life time I have never known this in December.  As a child I was always depressed by how wet and mild it was every single Christmas Day.  One year I even prayed to God for snow on Christmas Day; He took me literally and sent a few flakes that lasted all of five seconds.

It has been a hectic week or two and I have not been out running as I should have, I have only been out on the last two Saturdays.  Last Saturday I did six miles or so, today I probably did two and there is a very good reason for this.

 Now do you see why?  The white haze is blizzard like snow and running into it is no fun...I could not see anything.

Some people tell me I'm crazy - HELLO!  I signed up to run 26 miles before I could even jog one!  And it is because of this I have to keep going, even in the bad weather.

Today I ran on the snow covered grass as this is uneven and hard to slip on, I avoided all the paths as they are very slippery.  I also went on line last night to look for grips for my shoes, but Yaktrax are all out in my size.  I don't think you realise how oddly you run on snow until you come inside and find yourself doing your best John Wayne impression.

Anyway, despite the weird weather I actually rather enjoyed myself this morning.

Monday, 22 November 2010

My first half marathon

I have a new friend.  I didn't know him before 10am yesterday.  His name is Len and yesterday he played a very important role in my life.

The chip
Saturday my official bag carrier and I drove south to my parents' ready for the Gosport Half Marathon on Sunday.  On the day itself I was up at 7am and we left just after 8. It was a short drive to Gosport, although finding where to park took a while and my parents had the traditional 'should've gone that way' bicker. My dad finished parking the car whilst I went up to the HQ to register.  By the time my parents had made it to HQ I had collected and attached my chip, been to the loo for the first of many trips and stood around for a while.  It turned out they had been so long because they had to dig a man and his car out of the car park/squishy gravel pit.

People heading towards the start (all 1469 of them)
Gradually more people began to arrive and I looked frantically for another person like me - a bit overweight and with the nervous look of a new runner.  Nope, no one. What I did see was lots of club t-shirts and thin, athletic frames.  I took a deep sigh and braced myself to be what I had feared - the last person to cross the finish line.

The start was a bit further down the road from HQ, so I waited for everyone else to line up before I went, I wanted to be near the back.  As everyone left it also meant the queue for the toilets disappeared!

The start was a little after the planned 10am as I believe there were a few problems closing the road.  Within minutes of crossing the line I was at the back and looked for someone as unfit as I am to use as my pace setter, I found a likely candidate, but I soon lost her (she finished about 25minutes before me in the end with two other people between us).  Then I met my new BFF, Len.  Len was a member of Gosport Road Runners and being the nice chap he is he volunteers every year to be the marshal at the back with the last runner.  He said one year he had to help a guy in a rhino suit, so I like to think I was a little easier to escort as at least I could see the kerbs.

I adored the first four miles, although I lost my hat which the lovely Len went back for and then carried for me until the end.  I had planned on allowing myself a small walking break every four miles, but I was loving it so much I thought I'd try to keep going as long as I could which then soon became the ambition to run it all.

The first lap of Daedalus air field wasn't too bad, as I could see the other runners and we mutually encouraged each other as I went one way and they the other.  As I was near finishing my first lap of the airfield the elite runners raced past me.  They can run!

Leaving the air field I didn't see anyone apart from Len and the other lovely marshals (who all smiled and offered words of encouragement) until it was time to do another lap of the airfield.  That was pretty depressing, the airfield is like a ghost of the Cold War.  Tall, abandoned MOD buildings line derelict streets.  I was glad to leave it behind and make my way, with the trusty Len on his bike, towards the promenade and the seaside.

The beach at Lee-on-the-Solent is beautiful, the view of the Isle of Wight was clear and there were dozens of yachts sailing between there and Southampton.  I am not sure I really appreciated it as my lower back was aching (a lot) and my already pitiful running pace was a glorified slooooooooow jog.

The penultimate stretch of road.
Len told me how far it was and passing the 12mile marker filled me with hope.  With quarter of a mile to go my mother joined me and nagged me to "run"; I think she was worried I was keeping all the GRR waiting (to be fair, I probably was).  I tried to tell her politely I had done 13 miles and there was not much left in the tank.

I picked up to a sprint to cross the line and I think the cheer was more for the fact they could all pack up and go home, rather than for me!  It was good to hear that everyone had finished though.

My time was 3hours 22minutes, 8 minutes quicker than my best estimate and I am pleased that I managed to maintain a 15minute mile.

The marshals cut off my chip for me and gave me a lovely cloth goodie bag.  Inside was the best bit of cherry cake I have ever tasted!

It was a good race, organised and run by lovely people.  I will go back again next year, my mission will be to not be the last runner in!

I hope Len does not mind me adding this, but it relates to one of the matters we discussed in our three hours together.  We were talking about the excuses people use for not running or looking after their health.  Len took up running after a quadruple bypass ten years ago.  Now tell me you have a decent excuse not to put on those shoes and get out the door!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Things seen when running

I love history and all kinds of historical facts clog up my brain at the expense of anything actually useful.

Today whilst out running I saw something that made me happy.  Here is for you to see too:

Now, your trivia question is - why is this postbox so rare?  And - how can we date it so specifically?

To give you a bit more of a hint have a look at the detail:

Sunday, 24 October 2010

An enforced running break

When I woke up Monday it was going to be a normal week with all my regular runs; by lunchtime everything had changed.  Ofsted had called and my school had two days to prepare for the visit. Needless to say, when you are in school from 7.30am to 9pm there isn't much time for running.   Not if you want to keep your sanity anyway.

Running buddy Su had been trying to encourage me to have a week off as she had found it really beneficial, I told her I just couldn't - if I didn't keep to my routine it would all fall apart (yes, I am slightly autistic like that).  Had Su given Ofsted the wink?  It was literally the only thing, apart from injury, that would stop me running.

So, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday no running - no running on Saturday either as I barely got out of bed.  Today I knew I needed to get back into the swing of things...a long run was needed.

The furthest I had run thus far was 10 miles, if it was possible I wanted to add a small amount to this and go even further.

I sat at my computer with Facebook's running application open and had a look at the area, plotting where I could run ten miles or so.  Then I remembered the old mile stone which still sits beside the Great North Road in Barnet, it says 'London X' (distances to London generally mean Charing Cross - the old one actually in Trafalgar Square, not the tube station).  This made me play with the map and I plotted a route down the GNR, over the North Circular and onto the A1.  Ultimately Saint Paul's Cathedral in the city was 11.5 miles, with Highgate (of the cemetary fame) about half way at 5.5 miles.

At 11am today I set off, through Whetstone and all the Finchleys, into Highgate village which had all the beauty of a Cornish sea village and I tore down the hill at speed. It wasn't so pretty going through Holloway and most of Islington (which seems to go on forever), but eventually I could see the Gherkin.  Three hours and sixteen minutes after I set off I was in front of St Paul's and I called my mum to proudly share my achievement.  She told me the winner of the Great South Run (today in Portsmouth) ran the 10 mile race in 25 minutes.  *sigh*

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Healthy eating

I am not the biggest fan of 'healthy eating' and often take the easy route in the evenings (I'm too busy is the, often legitimate, excuse).  Also, our school staff room is a Mecca of doughnuts, biscuits, chocolates and other calorific nibbles.  So, although school has not singlehandedly slathered my body with the extra fat that cushions it - it has been a contributing factor.  And honestly, if a child has just thrown something across the room or you've broken up a fight there is nothing like an instant sugar hit to calm you down.

But!  Enough!  This must end!  I gave myself 'time trials' a few weeks ago and I cannot get my speed down, my body is presently incapable of going any faster than 13 1/2 minutes per mile.  To improve my speed I need to shed those pounds that are refusing to shift.

Now, those of you who have been with me since the start may be aware I have shifted 12-14lbs just through running three times a week.  For a good month or so my weight has stayed the same and I now need to do more to shift this.  Hence the current ambition to eat more healthily.

Now, I am a wrimo and we start again on November the 1st and on the London forum we were chatting about snacks to eat whilst writing.  One wrimo mentioned something called a graze box and I was intrigued so I clicked on the link (as you can do if you click on the 'graze box' above) and was taken to the Graze website.  Graze post you a healthy and delicious snack box as often as you want (UK only) and the best thing is your first box can be FREE!  Simply use the code H99VZLH3.  You will even get your second half price should you choose to continue grazing.

This is my idea of healthy eating!  My first box arrived today and I was a little dubious (see above comments re: healthy eating).  Inside my lovely box were four sections and an information leaflet which informed me of the calories and nutritional value of each section.  As one section was kalamata olives, a bamboo stick and a paper napkin were also included.  I tucked into the lovely olives immediately (I had already told graze on line that these were a favourite of mine, just as I had 'binned' anything with garlic in so I will never receive what I am allergic to) and then had a look at the other three sections; gojis, jumbo raisins and green raisins; brazils, pecans and almonds; vanilla pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  I have now sampled each section and am converted!  The vanilla and goji section are sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and pecans are a new favourite - why have I never tried them before?  Brazil nuts I have never liked, but there are only a few in there and they are meant to be good for you, so I can suffer them!

One warning - the box contains about 800 calories in total so that still needs to be considered.  However, I'd like to think that my hand dipping into a 800 box of nutritional goodies will be better than dipping into pringles, biscuits or chocolates.  Each box should last a couple of days so as long as you remember these calories I don't see why this can't be a really healthy choice to make.  At least these foods provide nutrition unlike said pringles, biscuits, chocolates.

Benefits of grazing:
  • maintains energy all day with slow releasing foods
  • maintains blood sugar levels so that sugar gets burnt rather than turned into fat
  • Improves level of metabolism
  • Can boost immunity
  • Nutritional value of healthy snacks significantly better than unhealthy snacks containing 'empty' calories
  • A box on hand will stop you reaching for less healthy, nutritious snacks
There are also different types of boxes so after my energy box today I look forward to my wellbeing box Monday and my nibble box Wednesday!

Check out the website and see what you think! 

Doughnuts, biscuits, chocolate...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

My first 10k race

Every weather report promised a beautiful, Indian summer for Saturday 9th October.  What we got was a toneless sky and mist wrapped around every tree.

The side view of Hatfield House

I left early and drove to Hatfield House (about ten miles away) with my faithful bag carrier in tow.

Hatfield is most famous for being the home of Elizabeth I before she was queen.  In the grounds is the very oak tree (or it's descendent at least) that the young Lady Elizabeth was sat under when she was told she was now queen.  It passed to King James after her, who traded it with the Cecils for Theobalds.

This side view doesn't do the grandeur of the house justice.  from the front it is everything you would expect from a grand English country house and the inside does not disappoint.  It has extensive grounds, more than enough for a 10k race.

Not sunny!
I got a text from Su as soon as I got out of the car park and saw her almost as soon after that.  With her was her aunt and her granddad, her sister joined us shortly after.  I have to tell you, it really makes a difference having someone waiting for you at the end.

When our supporters had gone off to the house (we gave them an optimistic ETA of an hour and a half, and a more likely one of an hour and three quarters) Su and I exchanged secret confessions of how much we had spent on running gear since the last race.  And they say running is a cheap sport!

Before the race, unfortunately you can't tell that I coordinated my eyeshadow with the colour of the t-shirt, but I did.
Neither of us had been in the Mae West of health, but I think Su was worst off with bronchitis. I just had the school cold that wouldn't go away.  What annoyed us most was two squarking women on the stage who were from the local radio station.  Their mikes were set far too loud and they were rather irritating.  They even got the bloke who plays Max Branning in Eastenders up on stage and I felt sorry for him, he probably wanted a nice quiet run.  They asked him if he would pose for photos after and he said yes, then stressed he was here with his wife and kids (subtext, don't mistake him for his TV character and proposition him).

We set off with the joggers, swiftly overtaken by most of them.  Despite having used the portable loos twice, my bladder now insisted I visit again.  I tried to ignore it.

It was a good time to chat and catch up so we didn't push it at first.  I explained to Su what Marathon Man had told me about a steady marathon pace and overtaking people at Tower Bridge.  We had our first TB moment as we passed a man who did not look like a runner, who had tried to run and then given in to walking 500m into the race.  TB moments would become very important later on in the race.

I also spent some time looking at people's shoes.  You can tell if someone is a dedicated runner from their shoes and quite a few people were running in trainers rather than running shoes.  I was most amused when a man overtook us in a patterned, knitted vest over shirt and shorts.

Su and I discussed how perhaps after the marathon we might try running 5 and 10ks to get our speed down, as one marathon may be enough for one lifetime.

I kept my eyes out for dense undergrowth in which I might 'do a Paula' as the bladder was still whinging.  Damn autumn and fallen leaves!

I had laced my shoes too tightly and gradually my feet died until I could feel them no more, in the end I had to stop and loosen them to get the blood flowing again!

We took the first 4k easy and then Su, always faster and fitter than I, challenged me that we would overtake the people in white before the 5k.  They were about 120m ahead.  I couldn't manage it by 5k, but I would be damned if they would stay ahead of us by the 6k marker so I put on one of my rare sprints to overtake them.  We had a few more TB moments, easily going past the people now walking, but after 7k there was a woman (not in running shoes) kept running/walking.  Su wanted to overtake her by the end of lane, I said by 8k.  We managed to achieve both aims and were in a nice, smooth rhythm as we did so.  

With 1k to go I was flagging.  I don't know why as I've run further and faster before, but for that day the energy was gone.  Su was bouncing around and encouraging me to use energy I just didn't have left.  Where she gets her energy from I don't know, but I want some please!

With about 70m to go I managed to dig down and do a sprint finish.  We saw our supporters at the finish line and this helped push us on.  I stopped my watch at 1hr 31mins.  Not bad for our first ever 10k.

Su gave me a big hug and just past the finish my colleague Lisa from school was waiting.  She is an experienced runner and came in at a very respectable 1hr 5.

Unluckily as I came through to get my medal I got caught by the squarking women from the local radio station who were sick of talking to each other and desperately trying to keep going after several hours of squarking.  I said a brief hello to James and tried to get away as soon as possible.

There was no goody bag, but we got a medal, a bottle of water, those Ricola sweets you always get (well, I like them!) and a cereal bar that I devoured instantly.

So, another race over.  And the bladder that had bugged me all the way round?  I forgot all about it after I crossed the finish and continued to forget about it for a couple of hours afterwards! Typical!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sports massage

This is a new thing for me - sports massage.  A friend's husband is a triathlete and when she told him I was covered in ibuprofen gel he said a regular sports massage would be better for me.  With payday approaching I googled sports massages in Barnet, the one place I did not want to go for this was my local gym as the amount of testosterone in there (from men and women) is anything but relaxing.

So, I found a good website and read all about the masseuse.  Perhaps I didn't give it much thought; she was well qualified and local so I emailed to book an appointment.

Now, the furthest I had run thus far was 7 miles - but Saturday with the promise of a sports massage at 2pm I kept running until I had achieved 10 miles.  The last two were very slow and draining, but I thought if I can reach this goal it is significant enough to build upon.  After all, on the 21st of November I have 13 miles to run in the Gosport half marathon!

I was in the park forever!  At 9am I did three laps past children playing with their football coach, then they were gone and I had the park to myself before the dog walkers came out, then the other runners and finally parents with children.  Thank goodness it was a nice day!

Since I thought I might struggle to stand up in the shower I had a bath back at home and then went off to meet the masseuse.

I was met at the door by the masseuse who could have been Kirsten Dunst's sister.  She completed a health questionnaire with me and then checked my mobility.  It seems my shoulders are bending in (I need to stick my *ahem* chest out).

Ouch!  I had been told it might hurt and it did!  However, as the worked area was finished it felt fantastic and at the end I felt very, very relaxed.

The masseuse was also full of really useful advice and I am going to share this with you:
  • run with your bum, don't let the legs do all the work
  • keeping your middle tight will help prevent lower back pain
  • don't do static stretches before running, do some dynamic stretches or walk quickly
  • do ten minutes of static stretches after running
  • stick your chest out!
I highly recommend a sports massage if you are putting your body through new vigors and if I can afford it I shall make it a monthly event in my build up to the London marathon!

Friday, 1 October 2010


The aspiring runner!
This is just a quick one.

I am raising sponsorship for Aspire as they have given me my marathon place and they are a very worthy charity.  As a pauper I would never be able to do this on my own, thankfully I have the support of my lovely school.

We are not a rich school, but we do our bit proudly for charity and I am sure my children give more than their peers in richer areas.  We know the value of being charitable and many of the children know this clearly from their own personal beliefs (one of the five pillars of Islam is about giving money to those who need it).

We also like to have fun so my colleagues and I cooked up an idea.  We decided to have a non-uniform day and ask the children to come as what they aspired to be when they are older.  Adults were asked to come as something they aspired to or what they wanted to be when children. I came as an aspiring marathon runner as you can see from the charming picture above!

The children looked amazing!  We had:
  • a mad professor in a big wig and glasses
  • a Toyota car dealer
  • an economist (who if he flopped was going into politics)
  • nurses
  • vets
  • zookeepers
  • soldiers
  • two scientists in ripped labcoats because their experiment went wrong
  • an ensemble of professional musicians
  • lawyers
  • doctors
  • a 'maker'
Thanks to our Deputy Head I believe we even had a few fairies (would you tell a seven year old they can't become a fairy when older?). 

It was a brilliant day and we even made some money for Aspire!

What's that?  You'd like to help my fundraising?  How lovely, all you have to do is click on the blue justgiving box on the right.  Yep, that's it - there on the right. Thank you.  I will happily accept pounds, dollars and even gold pieces stolen from pirate treasure hauls to help Aspire and I will happily accept as much or as little as you are able to give.  Truly, it all makes a difference.

Sorry, I was wrong - this wasn't a quick one at all.  As the children would so eloquently say "my bad".

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The key to marathon running #1

The marathon man from Aspire called this evening.  It's the time of year when people hear about the ballot for the London Marathon.  People like me already know we're in - we've got a charity place.

Marathon Man said "the key to marathon running is..." and then told me he'd probably tell me there are lots of keys to marathon running over the next few months, so I thought I'd share them with you.

"The key to marathon running," he went on, "is maintaining a steady pace.  You want every mile to be the same and if you can do that all the people who tore off at speed in Greenwich will be on their knees when you pass them at your steady pace at Tower Bridge."

He asked me how I was getting on and I told him my mileage had improved from 16minute miles to 14 and that I could run for two hours now, which he calculated rapidly as an experienced runner as 8 or 9 miles - 7 I corrected him.  He said, there you are - 14 minute miles slipping already.

Seriously have you seen the hills in High Barnet?  My seven mile run is uphill for the first half.  Perhaps I should do it flat to see what I can really do?

So key number one - steady pace and that's what I shall work on.

Good running everyone!

Real runners!

I'm sure you've heard them all.  You're a real runner when:
  • you have black toenails
  • you spend more on a pair of trainers than any other pair of shoes
  • you schedule your life around running, not running around your life 
  • your fridge contains 'energy' products
  • you can never have enough safety pins
  • before you even have children you are considering how much a baby jogger costs and whether you would get dodgy looks propelling your infant around the park
  • your medicine cabinet contains ibuprofen gel, deep heat and stacks of blister plasters
  • you check the weather report so you know what to wear running and when to run
  • you have more running clothes than any others waiting to be washed
  • you growl when someone refers to 'jogging'
  • you have medals and t-shirts from various races that have no purpose, but you can't part with them
  • you know where all the loos are on your running routes (and failing that where the dense foliage is)
  • you can eat like a horse and need to
  • you have as many receipts from running stores as you do supermarkets
There are many more, but I have a new one and it happened to me in the dusky, wet park last night.
  • you know you're a runner when you swallow your first fly
You're definitely a runner if you see this as protein rather than 'ick'.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Something to amuse you

I came across this article via one of the Facebook running groups I 'like'.  It has amused me greatly so I would like to share these nuggets of gold with you.  If you would like to read the article please go to where Mark Remy's article is shown in full.

Running Rules of Thumb

1. If you see a porta potty with no line, use it. Even if you don't need to.
2. If you have to ask yourself, Does this driver see me? The answer is no.
3. If you have to ask yourself, Are these shorts too short? The answer is yes.
4. 1 glazed doughnut = 2 miles
5. You rarely regret the runs you do; you almost always regret the runs you skip.
6. Not everyone who looks fast really is, and not everyone who looks slow really is.
7. Nobody has ever watched Chariots of Fire from beginning to end. Not even the people who made it.
8. You can never have too many safety pins on your gym bag.
9. Running any given route in the rain makes you feel 50 percent more hard-core than covering the same route on a sunny day.
10. If you care even a little about being called a jogger versus a runner, you're a runner.

I find number 10 particularly true; I am a runner not a jogger (even though I often seem to jog!), but I have watched COF many times and in full - I love it!  For me the most important is rule 5 which kept me going in the early days and is true true true and must never be forgotten!
Let's repeat it together, after me now - "You rarely regret the runs you do; you almost always regret the runs you skip".

Off you go then - pick up your running shoes and off you go.  Free your legs!

Saturday, 25 September 2010


It's probably an exaggeration to title this post 'Illness', after all I only have the rampant cold that is going around the staff at school, if not the children.  However, this mild and rritating infection has really hit my training this week.  I have managed to keep going, but very slowly.  

Friends warned me about the strain on the heart (my heart certainly was beating faster than normal) and a running colleague warned that exercising when ill can do more damage than good. I had to keep going though, as I feared doing nothing would be undoing the good progress made so far.  This week I have managed a total of three slow miles.  Today is a sofa day and we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A confession

I need to confess.  I have been indulging in a new practice for the last four and a half months.  At first I didn't want to do it, but I kept on going.  Then a funny thing happened - I started to enjoy it.  I enjoyed the endorphins, the sense of achievement and the sense of a place in a community of like minded people.  I think I am hooked.

I now watch every person I see running, I look at their stride, their gait, their pace and often with considerable jealousy.  I watch running on TV and read about it in books and magazines.

My only wish, as I discovered whilst watching the Great North Run on TV today, was why didn't I discover this years ago?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

My second 5k race

I wasn't sure whether to go.  I had a stack of schoolwork to do and the beginning of term cold had just hit me (thanks kids).  Also, as the sun rose and my alarm went off this morning my bed was a warm nest of comfort.

Nevertheless I got myself up, donned my running gear plus ipod (it's not an official race, so there were no anti MP3 people) so I would have a beat to run to,  battered the mud off my running shoes and headed off to the local park.

There were lots of members of the running group already there, with friends and families there to support them.  I had two Lemsip Max capsules and a bottle of Lucozade to support me.

We did a brief warm up, mine was briefer than anyone elses as I took it as an opportunity to go the the toilets.  At ten o'clock we lined up to start. I made my way to the back declaring I might as well start there as that's where I was going to finish (don't say I don't know my limitations!).

It was a beautiful day, my favourite to run in - cool, but sunny and with that magical sunlight making all look wonderous. Up above the sky was blue with only the faintest white clouds floating high above.

I started the race at the back with three other ladies in pink, but despite their all being older than me, they all soon moved off in front.  I was definitely keeping up the rear!  

All I wanted from this race was to beat my Race for Life time from July - surely I must have improved in two months?  That thought kept me moving and kept me breathless all the way.

This race was two big loops of the park and one small one.  I smiled and said hello to the marshals as I slowly ran my way round. When I was halfway I got lapped by the race leader on his way to the finish.  By the time I was near the end I was the only one left running, but as I was racing my last 5k time (46minutes) and not other people it didn't matter to me.  Also, as I neared the last stretch I was able to go into what honestly was an amazing sprint finish.

My time?  42minutes.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

An accident prone evening

I tried to run further than normal after a day at school.  Before I'd even begun running I caught my foot on an uneven path and twisted my back; then I wandered into stinging nettles (when looking for somewhere to do a 'Paula') and finally I twisted my ankle which also had the consequence of twisting my knee.

After this run of bad luck/clumsiness I walked for a bit and wondered why I was not enjoying my run on what really was a glorious evening in the woods.  The air was fresh, the birds singing and the golden sunlight making all the trees look amazing.  Then I thought back to the last time I had a dreadful run - then I was very tired. 

After the weekend at PGL and several night's bad sleep I was once more shattered and this meant not only was I a rubbish runner, but could not enjoy the beautiful evening.  Our bodies just cannot work without adequate sleep, especially when we ask it to do something like run 6 1/2 miles.  Sleep is the runner's friend!

Ah well, at least I got a couple of hours fresh air in the woods!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A different kind of training

This (long) weekend I left the Big Smoke with 3 teaching colleagues and 25 ten year olds.  We went by coach to Swindon in Wiltshire where there is a PGL activity centre.

For four days we partook in a variety of activities and the children insisted we adults join in a few.  So, instead of running seven miles at the weekend I fenced, abseiled and screamed down a zip wire. I ache in brand new places. 

Jumping down the abseiling tower.
The most terrifying thing was letting go of the rail at the top of the abseiling tower.  My head knew I was attached to a safety wire with an experienced instructor at the other end, but my hand really did not want to let go.  It was a LONG way down.  However, once I had released my hand I could feel my weight safe in my harness and it did not seem so bad.  The children were really supportive and one was behind my camera taking photos.  However, once they knew I could do it they had a little fun with me.  The second time (the only reason I had gone up in the first place was to encourage a girl to have a go, she couldn't do it the first time so we went up for a second go) the children decided to have some fun:

"Miss Walter!  Quick!  The rope is breaking!"

"Quick Miss, it's fraying!"

Needless to say - that time I didn't have so much fun!

Altogether it was a great weekend, although I am very grateful to our headteacher for allowing today off to recover!

One of the instructors said something to one of my colleagues over the weekend that stayed with us all:

"Challenge yourself to do more."
How many of us are complacent with what we can do and do not make the effort to extend ourselves in some way?  Perhaps we should all try to do a little more?

The zip wire - not quite so terrifying after abseiling, but I still had a good scream on the way down!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

4 month anniversary

Yesterday was my four month running anniversary. Can you believe I have been runnng for one third of a year, religiously at least 3 times a week?  It seems incredible to me.

If you had told me on May Day Bank Holiday that in four months time I would run 7 miles this Monday and then again on Saturday I would have laughed.  To the person who was not even running a mile huffing for 45 second runs and then walking this would have seemed impossible.

Today I ran 7 miles, okay they were pretty slow and I did an OAP jog on the uphills - but I did it.

Happy running anniversary me.  It's nice to have something to celebrate.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Running pride

I feel so proud.  Wow, I can hear you ask, have you achieved a PB or run further than you ever thought possible?  Well, yes - but that's not the reason for my pride...I have my first toenail injury!  I am now a proper runner!  One of my toenails gouged a small hole in the next door toe - I feel so proud.

Now, excuse me while I go get the Savlon and a plaster. :) 

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Treadmills vs the outside

There is a lot of debate amongst runners as to whether treadmills are better or worse than running outside.  Personally I have always run outside because of the variance in the surface and cambers that better prepare you for races, which after all are also held outside.  However, the rains of autumn have already started and it won't be long before the nights lengthen and I will be spending the only daylight hours at work.   

As I'm sure you've got from my hints before, I don't live in the nicest of areas and running in the daylight is okay, but running around the park in the dark is an entirely different matter.  It is not something I would welcome.  How does one get round this?  Well, my running group will continue once a week so I can run with a group which will be safe, I can still do my long runs on Saturdays and that leaves one more run to find this side of Christmas (two afterwards).  I am seriously considering doing this run at the gym on the treadmill and I took myself there on Thursday for a little taster session.

I have run on treadmills before and did find I could run for a longer period than outside, hardly surprising when I lived on a hill.  This time I found I could walk at a fast pace so I really had to crank up the running speed.  The biggest challenge I found was having to run at a very regular pace, I could not slow down without resetting the treadmill first. The sweat poured off me and it was very tough going.  But it was also boring.  There was no breeze, nothing to look at (and you know how I like to let my eyes wander), no dogs to say hello to...all in all I was not enamoured and I know if I had to do all my running on a treadmill I just wouldn't have got the running habit.

I guess when the nights are dark and cold I will find my way to the treadmill, but I'm not sure I'm going to enjoy it.

Are youa treadmill or an outside runner?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Climbing trees

Okay, climbing trees - not really running related, eh?  Bear with me - in my thought processses there was a connection.

You remember the park I run in?  One of the things I love about it are the variety of trees and there is even one I secretly stash a water bottle in away from lunatics and urinating dogs.  I was thinking about this tree and I suddenly wondered why on earth I had never climbed it; then I realised I haven't climbed a tree since I was a kid.  

As a child I loved trees and if it could be climbed, I climbed it.  In my grandparents' garden there were many trees, my favourite was the apple tree - easy to climb once you learnt the secrets of where to put your feet.  There was one wonderous branch in that tree I could actually lie along and I spent many summer afternoons in that tree.  My brothers, cousins and I were intimately acquainted with all the trees in that fantastic garden.  We each had a favourite and often the trees would be an important part of our games and adventures.  Our parents were also the type that took us to the great outdoors at weekends and in the holidays and we made the acquaintance of new trees.  So you see, I'm a big fan of trees.  The strange thing is though - when did I stop climbing them?  When did we all stop climbing them?  I mean, honestly have you seen an adult who isn't a tree surgeon in a tree? 

Well it all changes now!  Tomorrow I'm going to the park and I'm going to climb me a tree!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bad running

I am a bad runner.  I feel awful.  On Monday I was scheduled to do three miles and all I could manage was one and a half.  My shin hurt, I was tired and had no energy whatsoever.  

"Why am I doing this?" I asked myself, "everyone is faster than me." And it is true, with my running group I am at the back of the pack (and I'm not the newest runner or carrying the most weight).   Note - I did not consider giving up.  You can just see some of my perfectionist character coming through.  I want to be better.  I want to be one of the fast runners.  If I do something I am usually used to doing it well.
Is running distance about speed?  Do we all have to aspire to be Paula Radcliffe?  I'd love to have one tenth of her style and speed.  Does not being Paula Radcliffe...or even one of the faster runners at my group make me hate running  or even want to stop?

I want to paraphrase and share a story with you now.  I read it in 'The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer':

Mark Block was a high school runner.  One day he was out driving with a friend, they were checking the route of a run he wanted to do.  Suddenly they missed a turn in the road and the car ended up in a ditch.  The full details of the crash are a little gory, so I'll spare you them.  The result was Mark was dead at the scene, but some paramedics had a go at resusitating him and to their surprise got a pulse.  He had head trauma, a broken neck and a partially severed spinal chord.  Needless to say his condition in hospital was touch and go for a long time.  When he came out of a coma he was paralysed from the neck down and people kept telling him what he couldn't do anymore, they told him he would never walk again and would probably be paralysed from the neck down.

I remember thinking "What have I got to lose?"  I turned the energy of fear into the energy of recovery.

 Nothing on his body worked, apart from his brain so Mark began to exercise that.  He imagined walking, what it felt like and what parts of the body moved.  Then he moved his right foot - the nurses told him it was a spasm.  Then he worked at sitting up and threw himself into physical therapy.   He left hospital using only a stick to help him walk.

Mark's amazing story could have finished there.  It doesn't.  He went back to university and decided to try and enroll on the 'Marathon Class' at the University of Northern Iowa.  The irony was he struggled to walk 20 feet to the door and yet had no doubts over joining a class to prepare him to run 26 miles.  The leader of the class was impressed with Mark's attitude and arranged for his goal to be to walk 10k whereas the rest of the class would be running the full 26.2 miles.  This goal was soon extended to 13 miles.

On the marathon day Mark was meant to start at the half marathon line, instead he decided to start at mile 11.  He started an hour early, but it was not long before the runners began to pass him.  During his last few miles even the traffic control and water stands were gone.

It took him 8 hours and 33 minutes to walk fifteen miles.  This is the man who was told he would never walk again.

If you want to read about his story in detail I suggest reading the book, it is certainly full of inspiration and tips for a beginner marathoner.  And I am going to try and remember his story when I beat myself up for not running 'fast enough' - I am running, isn't that enough?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Morning runs

I honestly don't know what to write today. I am pooped.  I had a late night so I got up late and went off on my 'long run' after midday, or 'morning' as it felt to me.  I just cannot run in the mornings!  This is a real pain as this is when the races always are and, of course, the marathon.

My calves ached from the off, having just been dragged out of bed, my pace was ridiculously slow...but I kept at it.  For an hour I plodded away, running up to Cockfosters and into Trent Park on all different terrains.

I want to run faster!  I want to run in the mornings like I can in the evenings!  And whilst we're on it, I'd like a little bit more energy please!

How does the time of day affect your running?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Weather vs the runner

Now, you recollect I began this mission in May?  The weather this May was rather lovely...if you like hot weather.  I am a true cold weather girl, I can't stand being too hot.  There is one advantage to summer weather running though - everything looks beautiful and it lends a real joy to getting outside.  Who could refuse getting up off the couch and out into the great outdoors with golden beams of sunshine making everything look so darn pretty?

Alas with the sun also comes humidity and hayfever - enemies of the runner.

Today was my first 'bad' weather run.  It began raining before I left the house so I donned the 'waterproof' jacket I had bought for just such an occasion and headed off.  Within eight minutes I was soaked through.  However, soaked as I was I just didn't care.  I was one of those children who loved rain and if there was ever a storm I thought all my birthdays and Christmasses had come at once.  I just ran.  There was no humidity or pollen to upset my breathing and no high temperatures to irriate my body.  I just ran.  It was great.

Bring on the rain!

What is your ultimate running weather?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Want it all, want it now?

Spending a week outside stinky London I had intended to do several rural runs, including along the beach at Southsea seafront.  However, after my first run down to the local castle I developed a niggle in my shin.  On my following rest day it bugged me, but then continued into the next day when I had planned to run the length of the seafront.  Following all the advice I had read about running I gave it another day of rest.  It worked.  The niggle went and I was able to run after a two day break.

So, are we our own worst enemies when it comes to our bodies?  Does our enthusiasm and the 'want it now' attitude of the new century affect the way we train?  We have been led to think that if we want anything we can just go out and get it instantly.  Want a new house/car/electric gadget?  Sure - no problem with the easy credit of the last decade or so.  Only now is our economy suffering from our 'want it all, want it now attitude'.  Our bodies can suffer too, we try too much too soon and injure ourselves or, as so many beginners find out, put ourselves off the idea entirely.  Years of misuse and lack of exercise cannot be repaired over night, it is a long process and we owe it to our bodies to do it right:
  • Don't run on an injury, rest it
  • Don't expect to be able to run one/five/thirteen miles overnight, take small steps towards a realistic goal
  • Beginners - have at least one rest day after very run day; your muscles and skeleton need time to adjust
If we do it slowly and properly we can get there, injury and stress free.  Sounds good to me!

Lessons I have learned

These are the things I have learnt about running through my reading and running itself:
  • Don't try to improve speed and distance; work on one at a time
  • Build up a good base, run 1 mile before starting a 5k program and run 5k before starting any other kind of training program
  • After running walk for at least five minutes to get rid of the lactic acid in your muscles, if you don't - you'll be regretting it for hours!
  • Get a good pair of running shoes from a running shop, if you start to get aches and pains your first thought should be whether your shoes are old/ill fitting
  • Don't beat yourself up over a bad day or one that doesn't come up to your normal standards - get over it so it doesn't ruin your long term goals.  We all have bad days, get over it
  • Book a race three months into the future and raise money for charity, that way you will have to do it and have to train for it - when that's done book in for another
  • You need to eat!  Carbs will become your friend, you need them for energy. Don't start a diet and start running at the same time, you need to get used to eating smarter, not less
  • Dry wicking tops are a great investment for a runner, they really do work at keeping you cool and dry
  • Don't try and run someone else's race or at someone else's pace - we are all unique individuals
  • Don't forget to take your hayfever tablets
  • Keep a piece of gum in your pocket so you can chew on it if your mouth begins to dry out
  • Tell everyone you are running, what you are running and who for - it's scary, but it makes it real
  • Celebrate your achievements, remember what it was like on week 1 day 1 and put things into perspective, okay you might not be where you ultimately want to be, but look at how far you have already come
  • Keep going; when I can't be bothered getting off the couch I remember this quote someone on a FB group found - "You'll never regret the run you do, but you'll always regret the run you don't do"
  • Yes, you can do it!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

My first 5k!

In the 8 weeks I spent following Personal Running Trainer's 8W25K I had never run more than 4k.  I knew this because I used Map Your Passion to measure my loop around the local park.  Door to door (including the 5 minute warm up and cool down) it took me about forty minutes.  I wanted to run my first 5k in under 50 minutes to feel like a 'proper' runner.  I know elite athletes can do it in under 20 and most runners sub 30, but as a beginner this was my personal target.

After Su and I shook on the marathon deal one of the first people I contacted was Vikki.  I've known her for years and a couple of years ago she got into keeping fit by running, kayaking and cycling.  She is now the fittest person I know and a real inspiration.  I messaged Vikki through Facebook and explained I wanted to start running.  She was a great source of encouragement and advice.  Through FB Su, Vikki and I became our own little running squad...who just never ran together.

Before the race (I'm the one in pink).
Su and I booked in for our first 5k and Vikki decided to show support by doing it with us (although she was now used to longer distances and faster speeds than I could do).  We all signed up for the Race for Life in Finsbury Park.  We began raising money as this was a sure way of making sure we kept up the training and actually did the race, we could not let down a good cause.  I also told everyone at work I intended to run the whole thing, with no walking.  If you start to tell people it begins to feel real.

On the 25th of July we met outside Finsbury Park station with my boyfriend James and Vikki's son FredE as our official bag carriers and photographers.

Of course the first thing to do on arrival at the park was to join the queue for the toilets, we then did a little stretching and watched as a crowd of women joined in the warm up that we decided would be too exhausting.   There was a great atmosphere, two ladies in pjamas and curlers, rabbit eared women and generally a wash of pink over the park.  Vikki confessed to trying not to read the backplates that stated who people were running for.  I read a few and then agreed it was probably best not to - so many people of all ages affected by cancer.  At least we were doing something about it - between us we'd raised £305 on justgiving and in our places of work.

Finding it hard  going!
From the off it was clear both Vikki and Su were fitter and faster than me, I also got distracted by everything as we wound our way round the park with the 'joggers'.  Who would've thought there were American Footballers in Finsbury Park?  Or a large pond?  Being good friends though they waited for me and encouraged me on.  We did the first 1k in 8 minutes which I thought was rather good having never timed this before.  At 4k Su pointed out to me I was now running further than I ever had before, I checked my watch and we had done this in 37 minutes, my PB! 

The last 1k was hard, I hadn't eaten properly, or drunk enough water the previous day (due to going 2 hours to Swindon and then back again in a car) and since a sleep study at the hospital on Wednesday I had barely slept.  If nothing else this made me realise us runners need to look after our bodies; we need food, water and sleep - without it we cannot function properly.

The finish line.
The last 500m was signposted so I picked up my pace only to realise there was a whole extra loop which had been out of sight.  We crossed the finish line together and I stopped my watch - 46'28", sub 50 minutes as I had wanted and I had not walked once!
My first finisher's medal!

Reading on running

I am a big reader and whenever I get interested in something I tend to do a lot of reading up on the subject. On Amazon I found a great book by Bob Glover, The Runner's Handbook, and although a little American and dated it offered me a lot of advice and inspiration. I recommend it to all of you who are thinking of starting on this journey. There was one thing I noticed in reading it though, Bob does not have much tolerance for those who are overweight and his instruction is to lose it.

After that I bought my first copy of Runner's World magazine and felt an absolute amateur and slightly out of my depth.

Out of this reading though I realised I was making the classic beginner's mistake - running too fast. When beginning running it is important to build up your stamina with distance or time, not to sprint yourself into a wheezing heap. So, I slowed down and actually started to enjoy myself. I also downloaded an excel running log (there are lots free on the net) as everything I read said keep a log.  If you are not sure where to start try looking at these links to free logs from the Serpentine Running Club.

On some of the early days I really didn't want to get off the couch and out the door, but I had to - for Su. Of course, I still expected her to cancel the whole plan but I would not be the one to let her down.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

8 weeks to 5k and new shoes

I weighed myself at the end of 4 weeks to 1 mile and this is when I decided on the 61 pound target.  Of course, I should have weighed myself at the very start, but I did not expect to stick with it.  I don't generally stick with new ideas.

After 4 weeks to 1 mile I decided to do the next program, 8 weeks to 5k, and downloaded this as an MP3 from Amazon. On day 1 it felt odd going back to interval training and only 60 seconds of running - after all I had proven I could run for 10 minutes!  I decided to work on improving my pace and then I realised the reason the intervals were so short was because I was working on running further.  The program was twice as long as 4 weeks to 1 mile, 40 to its 20, and this also made me wonder - have I got time for this? 

Again I made the mistake of trying to run too fast which I recognised after reading a book by Bob Glover, so I eased off the pace to work on the distance.

Halfway through the program my legs began to ache in an uncharacteristic way, this told me I needed new running shoes.  I had been surviving in an old pair of Nike Air but my leg ache told me the midsole support had gone and I needed to buy new shoes.  

How to buy running shoes:
  • Go to a running shop, not just a sports shop
  • Get them fitted, if there is no member of staff willing to help, leave the shop
  • Go later in the day when your feet are at their largest
  • Never assume a pair will fit because they are in 'your size' 
  • Get your gait analysed, most running shops will have a machine for this.  You need shoes for your feet; for your arches, for your pronation
  • Put them on and run round the shop
I would like to say I followed my own top tips, but the nearest proper running shop wasn't so easy to get to so I went to Sports Direct in Borehamwood which was recommended by a colleague.  I found a member of staff to help me, but he really was not much help. Thankfully I had read enough to be able to fit myself somewhat competently.  I went for another pair of Nikes as these seem to be the only make wide enough for my feet.

I felt the difference straight away when running, my legs no longer ached as they had done and I loved it that the new shoes were so light.  I think they made me feel like a proper runner.

As each week of 8W25K went by I mentally checked them off with a sense of achievement and felt I was getting closer to the ultimate aim of the program - my first 5k race!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Getting a place for the marathon.

Okay, so you remember the whole point of this journey?  Su and I shook on doing the London Marathon in 2011.  Well, it's a pretty popular marathon - one of the most popular in the world - and places are not that easy to come by.

You have to apply to the ballot to participate - the ballot automatically closes at 125 000 applicants.  This year it closed within one day, beating its previous record by two days.  Then you have to wait...and wait...and finally in October you hear whether you have a place.  For someone who has never attempted this before it is a long time to wait when you want a definite goal.

There is another way.  Lots of charities have race places for runners who can guarantee to gain a minimum amount of sponsorship for themAs a safeguard I looked into finding a charity place.  Some charities charge you a couple of hundred pounds for running for them which was out of the question for me as someone still repaying student debts.  There is also the question of minimum sponsorship; some charities ask for £2500, again quite a staggering amount to raise.  In taking a charity place I would feel duty bound to keep raising money until the final target was achieved and £2500 is a sum that is going to take some work.

They say when you decide to run the marathon you should tell everyone to make it real, I had tried to keep it a little quiet - after all surely Su would back out at some point and free me from my solemn oath?  Anyway, I chat to my colleague at school, Alice, about most things and the marathon came up. She suggested I try to run for a locally based charity called Aspire.  I had heard of Aspire because of some work they had done with our school and because Alice goes to use their pool every Friday evening (they have the only pool in the country with a wheel chair ramp into the pool).  Aspire work with people who have spinal injuries; from providing grants for decent wheelchairs (the NHS ones aren't up to much) to finding suitable accomodation so people can actually leave hospital and resume their lives.  

I emailed Aspire and a man called Andrew got back to me, he was really friendly and obviously a runner himself as he had lots of advice about the marathon and running generally.  He advised me to do a half marathon by Christmas and sent a list of possible races.  He also explained that he would need a breakdown of how I would raise the minimum sponsorship of £1750.

In conference with Alice I worked out, with the backing of the school, I could exceed the minimum and I booked in for my first half marathon in Gosport, not too far from my parents.  The Gosport course is flat, or so the Gosport Road Runners website informs, and ideal for PB.  I was very honest when I put in an estimated completion time of 5 1/2 hours and hope they didn't laugh too much as they banked my £18.

I put together my financial plan and emailed it off to Andrew who was spending the week in the middle of Snowdonia or somewhere for Aspire.  This Monday he emailed me and told me I had a place if I wanted it.  I was stunned, overjoyed and a little apprehensive if I'm honest.  

I plastered my news all over Facebook to make it real and everyone was really supportive.  Not one person suggested I was insane.  The main thing worrying me was that I had a place and my running buddy Su didn't.  She had already approached one charity and then asked me whether it was worth her contacting Aspire.

I checked my phone late morning today; I had a message from Su.  She had Andrew about our challenge and he called her right back and offered her a place.

We are both running the 2011 marathon and both running for Aspire.  I know together we will get ourselves through it.