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, 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. 

4 weeks to 1 mile - my first training program

I'm not very good at motivating myself, so I found an MP3 on Amazon called Personal Running Trainer. Personal Running Trainer recommended starting at the 4 weeks to 1 mile program for complete beginners, so this is the first program I downloaded.

I hated the electronic music instantly, but it provided a good beat and I felt better swearing at the instructor in my head for his sh*t music as well as the pounding he was putting me through.

Day one was a five minute warm up walk followed by 45 seconds of running followed by 2 minutes of walking; this was done four times and there was another five minute cool down walk at the end. I can honestly tell you those 45 seconds made me wheeze and I needed the 2 minutes to regulate my breathing again.

Like all beginners I felt like bit of a tit starting running. Then I realised it didn't matter - because I was wearing sunglasses. I am one of those people who can't open their eyes in the sunshine without them and I realised the added bonus was that people ignore you because they can't see where you're looking. No one looked at me, no one said anything.

During 4 weeks to 1 mile I developed something I still refer to as 'OAP style'. The reality is though, there are several pensioners in the park who can outrun me. When I felt really tired, or the day was hot and humid I still went out for my 'run'. It didn't help that this May was particularly warm (up to 30 degrees into the evening) and I am a cold weather person. My body reacts to heat by swelling up - you should have seen the size of my feet when I was once on holiday in 40 degrees Italy, I couldn't even wear flip flops because I couldn't get them on!

On the 28th Oof May I graduated from the 4 weeks to 1 mile program, 25 days after starting. I ran for ten minutes straight, with a little bit of an OAP pace in the mix. I was so proud of myself - I ran for ten whole minutes with no walking!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Running outside London.

I live in London, as far north as you can go before tripping into Hertfordshire.  Hertfordshire is a very beautiful and green county.  London isn't.

Opposite my flat there is a high tower block full of charming people who only come out to scream obscenities to each other in the wee small hours.  Traffic speeds along the road and the police seem to be on some people's speed dial around here; and when they come they certainly come en mass.

St Alban's Abbey
There is one thing I am grateful for - my local park.  It is large and has a variety of beautiful, different trees.  Originally it was covered with oaks, but these were felled several centuries ago to build St Albans Abbey.  There is even a cafe at one end and should I ever fancy it tennis courts, a bowling green and some kind of golf.  If I do a wonky figure of eight I can run 4k within the park, taking in a particularly nasty hill that I run up very slowly.

The park has kept me running, I have some personal space to think through the day and I can say hello to as many dog walkers and fellow runners as I choose.  I can also monitor how well I am doing, it is a good day if I get to the bus stop by 35 minutes. 

However, there is one thing I am struggling with - the air.  I developed hayfever quite randomly a few years ago and dose myself up with Piriteze every summer and yet when running I still struggle to breathe.  On the flat of the hill I almost try not to as the fumes come right out of the car exhausts and into my lungs.

The old airfield in Whitchurch.
Today I was at the in-laws just outside Bristol, Somerset.  For those of you who don't know England this is in the west and in the countryside.  Rolling hills were golden in the sunset, ancient plough ridges rippling shadows on the fields and two balloons floated overhead.  As I ran around the old airfield (where the US air force landed its Dakotas in WW2) I realised I could breathe.  The air was absolutely clean and rushed straight through my nose and into my lungs.  It was amazing.  What was more amazing was that I have been breathing in polluted air for three years and had got completely used to it.

One last note on clean air - and this is for the tourists - when you come to London and go on the tube, blow your nose afterwards and keep blowing into the next day.  You'll see what I mean.  We call it 'tube nose'.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


I'm not athletic, I'm not fit and most of the time (due to sleep apnea or so my GP thinks) my favourite thing to do is sleep, sleep and sleep. I won't run for the bus - in London there'll be another within ten minutes so what's the point? Last summer a friend and I tried surfing, I managed a glorious nano second before falling off. What we realised then was that we just lacked the upper body strength to keep getting on the board. Since then my job has kept me really busy and I can reel off a list of excuses for my inactivity:
  • Stress of a job
  • Ill health
  • Lack of time.
Now I can see those for what they were - excuses. It's time to awknowledge them as such and move on.

I have tried running before, in Y7 at secondary school we had to do cross country which I did diligently the first time and thereafter cottoned on to the fact we were outside of school, away from PE teachers and could walk chatting all the way. So I did. I also once tried running as a young adult, but I lived on a hill so that really did come to nothing.

My previous career was as an actor (no, you won't have seen me in anything) and I was once on tour with a dedicated runner. Even after a long and exhausting day at work he would throw on his running shoes and go off for hours. The rest of us were inspired to attempt to follow his example, but we didn't really know what we were doing. I just ran/jogged/walked through Fife listening to the Stereophonics, but not for long.

So you see, I'm not a runner and the past year has even seen me stop my regular yoga class (see excuses as listed above).

I'm unfit and...overweight (I much prefer that word to FAT). I won't tell you how much I weigh but at the beginning of this process I decided I wanted to drop 61 pounds, so that should tell you a little.

So, the aims are:
  • Loose 61 pounds (minimum)
  • Run the marathon in April
No more excuses!

The start of it all - April 2010

Su only had an hour, 11am. This was too early for me on a Saturday morning, but I hadn't seen her since a mutual friend's wedding the previous summer. It was now April.

I wandered in a tired daze to my local train station to change onto the Piccadilly line at Finsbury Park. Whilst on the train I had an image leap into my head from nowhere. It was like a photo of me - in navy blue and white running gear finishing a race. I looked slim and fit (unlike the present me) and I had shorter, dyed hair. This picture came from nowhere. Perhaps part of it was influenced by the recent London Marathon. Like many people I watched the marathon on TV (never yet having bothered to go and watch it in the flesh), sat back on my sofa, drinking my tea thinking "I'd like to do that". I've thought it every year since the marathon has been going.

At Covent Garden I was early so I wandered into Monsoon to remind myself it was out of my price range and look at clothes I could not afford. I stepped outside to call Su and ask her where we should meet. She's in Monsoon.

We go to Starbucks and drank calorific specialities. For some reason we got on to the subject of the London Marathon and both confess to having always wanted to achieve this. I have a hazy recollection of what happened next, but the consequence is we shook on a deal - to do the 2011 London Marathon.

Of course, I didn't take this seriously and thought Su would forget all about it. She doesn't. Then it hits me and I start panicking - I am really going to have to RUN!