Friday, 30 December 2011

Dream runs

When the magic that is the internet publishes this post, I shall be in Norway, where the sun isn't shining and the snow is deep and crisp and even, where on the 7 January, I will run the Polar Nights Half Marathon. I figure if you're going to do something a bit tricky, why not make it fun?

Here's my dream list of events:
Medoc Marathon - I will do this once I have learned to drink better. Fancy dress is pretty much compulsory, it's hard to get into and fun and food is the name of the game. The course boasts: "22 refreshment stands, 21 food stands and special gourmet stands (oysters, ham, steak, cheese, ice cream, Medoc wine, etc.) and the presence of hundreds of disguised and delighted school children.£ I don't think the latter are for eating.

Running underground: Yep apparently in Germany there's an underground marathon. Actually there's a few. This needs more research to determine if I want to do the Untertage, the Kristallmarathon or Vessertunnel marathon. Ah those crazy Germans.

A marathon in my home country: At the moment, Rottnest Island Marathon is the favourite as it's closest to home and very beautiful. But the laps put me off!

An ironman: One day I would really like to do this, and I would like to do it before I am 40. So I need to start training pretty soon! Iron Man Nice would be a good venue.

A run in the mountains: Davos looks the most accessible for the moment and has lengths that I can manage!

Africa's Biggest 10km race - it's a long way to go for a 10km but if I can ever wangle a work trip for the Great Ethiopian Run, then I'm in!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Running for non runners

I know many people who don't run think that running is just putting one foot in front of the other. Actually there's also some very good runners who will say running is just about putting one foot in front of the other but that is because they are very zen and awesome runners. Anyway this post is for non-runners to appreciate just how much you have to think about if you're an aspiring distance runner like me, but not very good at it and therefore have to try very hard and concentrate a lot.

Eating and drinking: or fueling as we like to call it. Distance runners have to be conscious of what and when they eat(carbs 1-3 days before, protein after), what not to eat (anyone run 26 miles on a curry?!), how to eat when being a really slow runner (5 hours without food?), what to drink (sometimes water isn't enough) and how to get it all right when you have back-to-back long runs.

Social life: Your struggling distance runner will also contemplate if they should be having a big night out - after all a long run is looming on the weekend. It's also likely that they get smashed on two pints - I certainly seem to have trouble getting home on this level of alcohol now that my body is a slow moving temple. Also if you're planning a long run in the morning, is it safe to meet friends for lunch or is that just putting pressure on yourself to finish 13 miles under two hours, stretch, change and be social?

What you wear: Running into work? Then have two of everything or a wardrobe that can commute. If you run into work and have an offsite meeting first thing, your weekly schedule can change. In winter you need shoes and jackets at both ends. If you're going to stay overnight, or run somewhere and then shower and commute home, then these all require perfect logistics so you don't walk home without a vital bit of wardrobe. And high heels? After the first marathon I donated all my heels to charity; my feet deserve respect. Runners who go minimal will find that most of their other shoes feel like torture devices after running in bare foot style shoes. Or at best, your old shoes just won't fit anymore.

It's all in the head: struggling distance runners need a lot of mental toughness. After all, most of it's in the head. So what if you have a row, a hard day at work, or your best friend is on Oprah? All of this can effect a run. I also find when I train a lot and my whole body is weary, my ability to be grumpy and emotional increases in alarming measures.

If you're a non runner, don't let this put you off getting started. But if you are supporting a struggling runner like me, consider these potential things that keep your runner awake at night. And give them a little hug for still trying.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Start list


The start list for the Polar Night Half Marathon is out.

Try not to squeal with excitement folks.

Runner 1335.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Cool London things that occurred today

  1. Ran alongside the Horse Guards trotting down Birdcage Walk. At first I thought the police escort was for me.
  2. Ran through Westminster station. Twice. It's very warm in there but quicker than dodging the tourists ogling Big Ben.
  3. Exited Westminster station just as Big Ben was doing the 11am "bongs"; a beautiful sound.
  4. Bumped into @HumanRightsQC and Mrs HRQC at Blackfriars - beamed at them but didn't realise it was them. The beauty of twitter.
  5. Ran through the back streets of London Bridge and popped out on Tower Bridge Rd with the beautiful bridge ahead of me.
  6. Waved at a Chelsea Pensioner.
  7. Appeared in two tourist photos by accident - sorry!
  8. Eye-balled the Police assembling en masse outside Temple station, thinking "C'mon, give a brown girl running with a back pack a hard time and see where it gets you."
  9. Accidentally ran into Borough Market and nearly collapsed from food desire. Badly arranged.
  10. Startled by the high tide slapping up against the steps down a side alley along the north Thames Walk.
  11. Reminisced about walking the London Marathon route with the fabulous Anne Marie when she was training for Nepal and I was mostly unfit. Especially smiling at Broken Wharf.
  12. Wondered at the cool sounds that seemed to come from a Victorian prison with spooky lights and sound effects, once at the Clink and another, with sounds of the sea near Steelyard Passage.
  13. Danced in the middle of Southwark Bridge to "That's not my name" just to say I had.
  14. Ran 28km.
I also stopped in my tracks when a man walked past with two hyacinth macaws on his shoulders. This is not particularly London and not something I condone but I have never seen such big and beautiful birds close up - I actually thought there were puppets - and I was mesmerised.

Never forget the distance travelled

This morning as I eat my 5th rice cake I keep reminding myself how far I've come in the last six months: (the broken toe, pompholyx and the knees of misfortune - none are running injuries!)

So let's get out there and eat more rice cakes and run to Tower Bridge! And back again.



















Friday, 23 December 2011

A right proper moan

Tomorrow I'm going to run a half marathon as part of my training for London Ultra. And if i get to the end of it I will feel really pleased. Even though I have run two marathons and have many times run this same achievable distance. I will be pleased because I don't feel like a runner.

I feel like a nervous worked up ball of knots. A person who is caught up in a few mentalisms not appropriate for airing in public. A person caught in a big job that I am trying to deliver effectively to redeem some self worth - but whose delivery means a lot of effort. And some of that high expectation stuff I put on myself without realising it be it for fundraising, volunteering or just trying to be a decent friend. I've also got a bit caught up in the Thing that is Christmas, due to some personal commitments that are going a bit bonkers but essentially leave me a bit flotsam and jetsam-like and alone, and out of the house which isn't terribly buoying my spirits.

I am tired. I am thirsty. Or more to the point, I can't drink enough and I can't eat enough for my training. I am grumpy and emotional. I cry at the drop of a hat. I get a stitch while sleeping. I don't want to run. And I feel like I can't run. I have felt for the first time that I don't want to do this bloody event any more.

But Ii will. I will read my visualisation notes. I will put one foot in front of the other. And I'll use these runs to conquer some of the mentalisms and Christmas angst. I'll do it because the feeling at the end of the race will feel a million times better than the lousiness I feel now.

But I just wanted to ramble on about how awful I feel as I always try and be a bit upbeat and I thought having a bit of a whinge might help me feel better about it. Hmm did it?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Reached the half way point

Today I reached the half way point of the distance I will have to run on Feb 19th- 25km. It was a good strong run, though the last kilometre seemed to drag on for ages. I guess I better get used to that - there isn't going to be 100m markers counting down and throngs of crowds at the Ultra!

I ran today's distance in 2:29 which is ok - I'd like to finish within 5:30 (and especially 5:15) so adding aid and injury time, everything seems to be going very well. Behave Gods of Running.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Random spyhole

Silly things you do as a runner. Or I do anyway:

1) Wear plastic bags over shoes so I don't get mud on the carpet. I'm not quite sure what warranted this, as opposed to taking my shoes off but I don't make sense a lot of the time.










2) Writing road directions on my hand. Yes this makes sense to me! Marble Arch, Park Lane, Green Park, Bressenden Road, Vauxhall Bridge, Oval, right onto the A3, continue to A24.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A weekend of running

Please don't ask me what I'm doing this weekend. Not that you would because you don't exist, being my imaginary reader and all. But if you were real, don't ask me that question, because I'd cringe. Because what I do on the weekend is run. Around that, there's a little bit of this, and a fair bit of that. But it all fits around The Runs.

Saturday was 25km - this was supposed to be the big one of the weekend. I was in pretty good shape, well rested, well fed and in good spirits. Probably too good spirits. Last weekend, the prospect of back-to-back half marathons had me praying to the Running God at 4:30 Friday afternoon. This weekend I was so relaxed that I was texting friends seconds before the off and even had my camera in my hand to test out on-the-run snapping capabilities before Norway. Madness. I ran the first 10km at a good 10km race pace. Fine except I actually had another 15km to go and I crawled, ran-walked and whimpered my way through.

The day wasn't without joy however. 1) I learned to respect the distance. 2) It was bloody beautiful out there with blue skies, green and red leaves and silver frosty leaves and slippery ice puddles. 3) An old man ultra runner trotted alongside me to give me tips 4) Are you ready? Are you really ready: Chrissie Wellington ran past me. I kid you not. And yes she was amazing, of fabulous breathtaking presence and of huge smiles.

Smile.

On Sunday, I ran a sensible 20km (13miles). I sat closer to the 6 minute / km mark rather than a minute faster the day before, and only looked at my watch twice. I didn't hurt anywhere, I didn't need to stop and I felt like I had more fuel in the tank if needed. I was also joined on my run by a nice chap from Ireland called Ciaran / Keiran who helped me to a nice strong finish. If you're out there Ciaran, hello! And thanks. Good luck with your sub 3 Five Marathon Masters. (I do keep terribly good company on the weekends don't I?!)

So, guess what I am doing next weekend?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Confessions of a sing out loud runner

This is what I sing even when the ipod isn't playing...

Alabama Arkansas I do love my Ma and Pa
But not as much as I do love you
Holy Moly Me oh My your the apple of my eye
Girl aint never loved one like you
Man o Man your my best friend I scream it to the nothingness
that we got everything we need
Hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Aint nothin please me more than you
Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways and payphone calls
Home is whenever I’m alone with you.

Who's that (who's that) rapping?
Who's that rapping at my chamber door?
Mr. (mister) Raven!
All up in my grill like, "Nevermore."

Who's house?
Raven's house!

You know I do my best thinking when I'm flying down the bridge.
Humming to myself and kicking up my kicks

I thought I'd learned from my mistakes,
I thought he'd learned from my mistakes,
I thought you'd give me the right advice,
I thought he'd let me in for one last time.

There's only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti

I'd go the whole wide world
I'd go the whole wide world
Just to find her

I should be lying on that sun-soaked beach with her
Caressing her warm brown skin
And then in a year or maybe not quite
We'll be sharing the same next of kin

Four letter word just to get me along
It's a difficulty and I'm biting on my tongue and uh
I keep stalling, and keeping me together
People around gotta find something to say now

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
And long ago somebody left with the cup,
But he's driving and striving and hugging the turns,
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns.

He's going the distance.
He's going for speed.
She's all alone, all alone in her time of need.

With you I'm brighter, my eyes like lighters
They shine inside my Parka

But the dogs
Don't depend on a thing
They just lick your face
When they see it end
Oh, the dogs
Don't depend on a thing
And maybe that's why
They're man's best friend

But the dogs
They give nothing at all
They just lift a leg
As they watch it end

And yet it's because of the girls
When they've knocked us about
And our tears want to shout
That we kick the dogs out

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I'm glad you came

I'm in love with modern moonlight
128 when it's dark outside
I'm in love with Massachusetts
I'm in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night

18 years, 18 years
She got one of yo kids got you for 18 years
I know somebody payin child support for one of his kids
His baby momma's car and crib is bigger than his
You will see him on TV Any Given Sunday
Win the Superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai
She was spose to buy ya shorty TYCO with ya money
She went to the doctor got lipo with ya money
She walkin around lookin like Michael with ya money
Should of got that insured, GEICO for ya moneeey
If you aint no punk holla We Want Prenup
WE WANT PRENUP!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eye snapshots

On long runs I don't stop for photos unless super amazing. But this is what my mind camera saw today in the lovely canals of Uxbridge:

Striped with military precision in purples, brown and green, two little ducks: two fat-bottomed synchronised swimmers, webbed feet symmetrical.

A fallen oak leaf casting gentle circular ripples in the still of the canal. A new leaf sauntered from the tree, sideways, sideways, a parachutist looking for its mark, hit too far adrift from its mate - cast its own gentle circle, ripples reached out, further further, till the two circles met like a brief gentle kiss. I almost cheered.

A cormorant - wings out to dry, looking lofty and a little pompous - the canal's bald eagle waiting for a dollar or a flag to adorn. Coots collect behind its back sniggering, turning the cormorant's poise into comedy.

An untouched, unwoken part of the canal, black like sunglasses - a reflection so perfect that if you'd never seen a reflection, you would think it was something you could touch, and if you did touch it, and found your hand went through the other side, you'd be sure it was magic.

A widow's veil of midges lurking in the bend of a bridge surprise me: "Oh" - my mouth makes the shape it says, inhales, exclaims, and snorts out midges in a perfect arc of spit.

Running solo

I love to run alone. It means I can start whenever I like, stop whenever I like, cry by the roadside, do the runners blow and spit wherever I like. I can be fast if I can, and I can be slow when I can't.

Does it get lonely?

If it did, I'd have grabbed someone to run with, though how that would work out with the stop-start nose blowing above, I'm not sure.

Post-run is when you want company. It could be someone to put a medal round your neck, a stranger at the banana station who also wants to say well done, someone who crossed the finish line with you giving you a hug when all you share is that final timing mat beep.

But when you're not running a race, and especially not a big race, that doesn't happen. For me, that's where the other world takes over and the virtual pom poms kick in! It's amazing how excited you can get over a message icon post-run!

In addition to friends who text, facebook and wassap I am grateful for the company, support and inspiration of the twitter running community. They give advice, they make your jaw drop with their achievements, they coach, they make you laugh, they share, and they cheer. And you get to select them and them you.

Sure you could join a run club, but that's a bit too UK Boarding School Gym Class for me.

Great runners that tweet:
  • mrafletch - the politest nicest man on twitter and boy can he run!
  • canteenrun - my longstanding coach, mentor and piss taker
  • runner786 - just bow, bow now. Ultra runner.
  • conwild -who sent me running through the woods + falling in the bathroom. A barefoot advocate that doesn't sound like an evangelist!
  • romfordrunner - A French marathoner with a great philosophy
  • dimuntiverunr - Gunning for a sub 2.0 half and a great source of cheering.
  • dunsrunner - my source of all things Scottish and smiley
  • mrnimby - fabulously funny, organisers of the Xmas Day virtual run (see we're never alone) and heading towards a target of £50,000 for cancer.
  • hibbsy - so committed to his cause it will bring tears to your eyes. A great fundraiser.
  • nbsue - the runner I most want to have a cup of tea with, Sue radiates warmth from every tweet - how'd you do that?
  • Fattofinishline - Jen makes me smile - she's so real and achieved so much
  • noynek - half marathon training while bringing up kittens!
  • briwifruit - the happiest Canadian runner I've found
  • robsavva - a repeat marathoner running for his son's autism cause.
  • ericdol - my Istanbul virtual run buddy and lightning quick cross country runner.

I'm going to miss lots of people and probably people who have been super lovely to me. Then there are those who don't define themselves as runners but are awesome cheer squads (Dr Simon, Andy H, Tom A, Heloise, Fari) who are always with me in spirit and in humour.

You get the picture - it would be so crowded out there if you actually ran with people!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy half

Today was my first half of a weekend of halves.

I ran up the Edgeware Rd towards Colindale, a part of London which merits a medal just for visiting. It's not particularly awful just so non descript so that running along the road is a bit like Groundhog day: Asda, Mecca Bingo, car dealership, supermarket, Asda, Mecca Bingo, car dealership, supermarket... and so on.

Boring scenery aside, it was a great run - I took it really easy, focussed on a sensible and light forefoot strike and felt fine all the way through. The trick is to see if I can repeat that tomorrow.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Why am I doing this?

It's a double half marathon weekend. And it's a little scary. But I'm trying to keep some focus and perspective. Three months ago I could barely walk without painkillers (see gross pics on the stress reaction that occurred all over my feet) so whatever I manage this weekend is an achievement.

Mentally, I've found myself reminding myself why am I doing this. I go through lots of different reasons:
  • because I can
  • because this redefines who I think I was and who others think I am or was
  • because it shows I can do anything I put my mind to
  • because it helps me to raise awareness or funds on something I care about.
But the real reason I do it, the real reason I kept going when my skin blistered, why I pull on my favourite but stiff socks on a consecutive run day, why I loyally trot home to rest when I'd rather be sipping wine in a jazz tunnel, is because I can control this. I don't have to do it. I don't have to get up in the dark, run 13 miles, call food "fuel". And that's a really good reminder. When you find out someone you love has cancer, or you find out you've got some crazy arse ailment that pops your skin, or you realise that actually some people do really want to hurt you, you can forget all of that and take charge of something amazing or as Andy Mouncey says: you can tackle the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you.

So that's what I am going to remember tomorrow and Sunday while I clock up 22 and 20kms and be proud of any time it takes to cover that distance.

PS I am still a little bit nervous

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How *you* doing?

It has felt like a tough fortnight of running. Such a last minute training schedule has meant that any further injuries and ailments mean I have had to skip that training week and move onto the next. That has made even a few of the mid-week back-to-backs tough - and they are only 13km. Thank god for the "power ballad" button on the ipod.

Also it's near Christmas when you suddenly realise you havent seen people since last Christmas so you rush round to see them so you don't feel like you have completely let your friends down. And so you sneak in the odd glass of wine. Oh what an I saying, I feel so freaking healthy I would have a glass of wine at breakfast just for the chance of feeling a bit dirty! But social norms frown on that sort of behaviour so I'm all up for a tipple over lunch. Only I'm pretty slight of build and wth low blood pressure and a low alcohol tolerance and a tendency to forget to drink water, I think that a couple of glasses of wine really do slow me down the next day or get me walking home a little bit tipsy.

So I've put the wine glasses away for the next few weeks (ok maybe the odd tipple) and found myself a cafe that does mocktails and milkshakes so I can still sip something in an glamorous glass for the festive season. And I'll put in some extra stretching and swimming sessions to complement the running. And make a conscious effort to drink litres of water and eat peanuts and bananas like my life depends on it.

This better pay off..!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A toe in the water

The recovery plan for my oedema was to run 5kms on a treadmill, then 5km on the road and then a longer run and then it should be ok (as long as I do the 101 other things I had to do to aid recovery). So the dreadmill run was endured (with thanks to CBBC for providing something really mindless to watch); I’ve never panted or sweat so much in my life (and I have run in some very polluted and hot places)! How do people run in gyms?! Any way, instead of running 5km that evening on the road, I fell asleep. I know, that is what treadmill running does to you – bores you to a stupor.

So the next day, I had to be out and about for a good five hours, which really called for a long run in countryside, so off I went to Watford and reverse ran the half marathon off the weekend before. I tested out the foot at 5km and 10km; it seemed to still be attached my foot with behaving ligament so I did 15km and called it a day. Yippee!




It was a WONDERFUL day for a run. Even though I had planned for blue skies and 13C (never trust the BBC), I managed to dig out all my winter kit and extreme high vis because it was about 8C and foggy as Ripper’s London. As @mrafletch said, it was like running in Tupperware. about for a good five hours, which really called for a long run in countryside, so off I went to Watford and reverse ran the half marathon off the weekend before. I tested out the foot at 5km and 10km; it seemed to still be attached my foot with behaving ligament so I did 15km and called it a day. Yippee!

There’s something quite haunting about canals in the fog and other than Cassiobury Park where I started, the route was pretty desolate of company. I couldn’t even find my way out of the park to the canal without asking directions and when people found out I was running to Uxbridge, they thought I was brave. Me, brave?! No just silly. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do something that other people can’t even contemplate.



There was a patch of muddy orange leafed wooded area before I got onto the canal and I just span around in circles with my arms out going “this is all mine – and it’s mine because I run through it.” I get a little giddy when I can throw some clothes and fuel in a tiny camelbak and be out all day frolicking in the woods – it really makes you feel alive.






Would you buy me a beer for a good cause?

My running challenge started in Turkey a country that conjures images of whirling dervishes, sunny beaches, soaring minarets and bustling bazaars. But it’s also a country with a dubious human rights record and where sadly torture is still a present danger for certain groups of people. It seems a fitting place to start my series of fundraising runs for the charity Freedom from Torture.

Freedom from Torture, is the only registered charity in the UK which exclusively supports survivors of torture and organised violence. Operating for over 25 years, they aim to rehabilitate individuals back in to society where they may rebuild their own human dignity and worth. Their services adapt to meet the needs of torture survivors so they can find new ways of meeting their changing needs. Such services can be difficult to fund as torture is not an unappealing and challenging subject.

This first event in Turkey was a relatively easy one – 15km from the Asian to European side of Turkey. But it was still a challenge, because as recently as May I suffered from a stress reaction on the soles of my feet that prevented me from walking – not ideal for a runner! The next event will be a gentle step up to a half marathon, only it will be run in Tromso, northern Norway at the Arctic Circle and the town will not have seen sunlight for six weeks! Finally, I’ll be running in the UK – a 50km self-navigating and self-supporting run around a section of the Capital Ring

As I get up nearly every morning and train (four sessions of running, one of personal training one of pilates!) I’ll be keeping the clients of Freedom of Torture in mind. The softly spoken man reading poetry to express his pain, viewing drawings by children who have witnessed unspeakable violence, or recalling the proud smile from a client who has baked bread in a support group – these images will come with me as I run the streets, and hopefully will come to you as you consider a small donation to support the good work of the charity.

I run because "it's the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you." So my modest running debuts of 5km races were in memory of friends who had died of specific conditions and the charities that work to stop that happening. I've since tackled bigger running events, for bigger charities, small charities and grant giving organisations. I’ve been a supporter of Freedom from Torture for about five years now, and I am delighted to be running for this cause.

At many Freedom from Torture events, I've been able to meet their clients, people who have been victims of torture. I've never come away from one of these events with dry eyes. But I've always come away deeply impressed with the charity's work.

I've heard about the work they do, I've read the writings that come from expressive therapy, and creative writing classes. I've eaten bread made by a women's only group whose commonality is the dough they make and the pain they carry. I've smelt the tomatoes grown in their garden refuge, where stones mark tributes to fallen friends and spell out the word "Why".

I've heard from women just like me, and men who could be my father. I've met therapists and Chief Executives and stared in stunned admiration at their volunteer medical practitioners as they talk of their work. I've demanded loads from their communications and marketing folk and joined a local group.

I can't think of a charity that has made me feel more welcome as a supporter - imagine how they make someone feel who has been a victim of horrific torture.

So spurred on by hard working local group at Hampstead and Highgate, I'll be tackling these three events and donating all funds to the charity. My events will not incur the charity any money, other than fundraising fees set by the website, just giving.

I thought if everyone I knew, and everyone who reads this post could buy me a pint of beer equivalent for doing these runs, we'd easily hit the target. 75p of every pound donated goes to running services. You can do donate now.

Thank you.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Funky Old Oedema

Good news on the ligament front. I'm allowed to start running again. The decision (a loose variation of doctor's orders) is to run 5km on a treadmill (ugh) in the morning, followed by 5km on the road that evening, subject to the morning's run going well. The next day, if there is no pain, I'll run a half marathon. And if there is no further pain, I'll make up the back-to-back later in the week (as I was due to run 20km and 15km this weekend)

My Healer, Galina suggested 5km treadmill day one, 5km road day two, then back to training plan. My changes will allow me to test out the foot a bit more in a real ie non treadmill environment.

I'm so happy and really confident that the ligament will be ok. Now I know what's going on I can take good care of it. I've also been told to turn my feet over faster, shorten my gait, stay light when I strike and roll inwards more. Not much to think about then!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Funky Cold Oedema

So the crippling pain in my right foot when I walk, that's a ligament that got so swollen it's got a name - we call it oedema apparently. It means a lot of resting, icing and not running.

ARGH.

So I'm hitting the pools for running and swimming and if I get better maybe I can run in a harness (yes like a baby walker) on a treadmill, or on a treadmill, but maybe not at all. Nailbiting stuff eh.

I'm going to stay positive, enjoy the pool breaks and think of the long term plan.

On Friday I get the verdict of whether I can run more or not...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Doing things by halves

So immediately following my trip to Italy, I ran a half marathon. My feet had been playing up a little which I put down to scrambling over cobblestones in vibram five fingers. The half was organised by Purple Patch Running whom I had never heard of before but am now such a fan that I might go on holiday with them to run more. It’s an addiction folks.

The location was Uxbridge – a part of the country that likes to think it’s London because the tube goes there but really isn’t. It was a beautiful autumnal day, the kind you’d want to run 13 miles in even if you didn’t. I have to admit I was a bit nervous when I got there. Girls never tend to do events on their own (what is up with us woman folk?!) so you end up standing around like a lost pony amongst gabbling groups of girl friends and smiling nervously at some lone man who looks like he runs marathons for breakfast.

The course was very slow; canal towpaths being generally single file and the one or two stiles and locks we had to navigate proved a bottleneck robbing at least 45 seconds of time. But a sense of order quickly followed and it was useful to pick people to keep on the pace of or keep up with. I was careful to only let men pass me (there's got to be some element of competition!) and held my pace confidently as I moved up the ranks.

Feet behaved marvellously, I was beginning to think the problem is when I walk, not when I run! Fitness was great – being so close to other competitors I realise how other people sound like they are seconds away from a cardiac arrest. I kept deliberately conservative, not wanting to aggravate the broken toe any further (naturally it got stubbed in Italy and was a bit tender!)

Despite the route being spectacularly beautiful (who would know there are lakes in Uxbridge) I did get bored around mile 11. But mile 12 proved a bit of a slug so I had something to focus on. The last half a mile always seems like an ordeal and even at the 400m sign I couldn’t see the finish and hard to work at it. For some reason I depended to do a real sprint finish– not for any timing reasons but just because that is what one does, no? The result is some spectacularly awful gurning pics as I heaved my way to the finish line.

My time, including all stops for traffic, congestion etc was 2:11 and given that I had lots more in my legs and plenty of fire in my belly if I needed to keep running, I was really pleased. The feet and toes were happy and only my right IT band was whingeing.

Hooray for halves. I've got to do another one this weekend...(and a 15km the following day!)




Saturday, 12 November 2011

Firenze Training Camp (or what I did on my holidays!)

A four day holiday in Firenze sounds like bliss, and it was, but with only 15 weeks between now and London Ultra, I still had to run. So here's how the running elements of the trip were incorporated:

Carb loading: lots of fabulous ravioli, bursting with ricotta (also dripping in butter and sage). Spectacular pizza made by real Napoli pizza folk, including a Calzone erupting with topping. Cakes and biscotti for breakfast, daily.

Protein recovery: typical Tuscan bistecca Florentine (burnt edges, raw inside), Tuscan crostini (topped with liver, chicken hearts and anchovies), day old cabbage soup. Platter of cured meats including possibly a pressed head. Shudder. These Tuscans are hard core.

Interval training: 600m to 800m bursts from bridge to bridge along the Fiume and Arno rivers at sunrise, stopping to take pics of the amazing views. (see above)

Cross training: climbing up hills and clambering cobble stone streets for kilometres while sightseeing.

Breathing: focussed breathing exercises, comprising of Ooohs and Aahs when confronted with amazing art and architecture.

Inspiration: Friendly running community (only two weeks to Florence Marathon), mostly older men, very cheery and great for friendly waves across the bridge. Chiselled bodies of sculptures also very inspiring (though the men get great quads, the women got soft bellies)

Injuries: lots of foot pain from dodgy potholes and clambering around in Vibram Five Fingers. Gained a few extra kilos and will probably never regain the years lost to eating that much meat in a single night. All injuries treated with ice, or more to the point fabulous all natural gelati in closed vats, including pear and red peppercorns.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Viva Italia + then a half

So in 12 hours I will be on a plane to Firenze. I am going to eat cow's tripe that has been boiled in broth in a paninni (it's a local speciality) and my own body weight in gelati. I will seek out Napoli pizza and eat tiny cakes with fistfuls of cream. I will sip vino and campari like a fish.

Then, on Sunday, less than 12 hours after I land, I will run the Grand Union Half Marathon. It will be my furthest run of the year.

Somewhere in between these two occasions, I will probably ink myself with fear. Oh well.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Running in the wild

On Saturday I ran up the Edgware Rd for 8kms and then back again. For those with a basic grasp of London, running 8km out from zone 3 pretty soon delivers you into No Man's Land: an area of 24hour Asdas, Matalans and Mecca Bingos repeating every 2 km so that you lose track of where you are. You run into ringroads and overpasses and the space beneath them where rose sellers dwell. I'm not painting a pretty picture am I? So I was most struck with the plan of taking a train out of London and running in the countryside. I got some expert help on places to start, routes to take and then used MapMyRun to find my exact trail. The night before was some googling of epic proportions.

On Sunday I was delighted to make my way to Cricklewood Station, having learned that this station of no real geographical significance, is very close to me, and is an express to the Home County of Hertfordshire. I detrained (as they say now a days) at the quaint village of Radlett, a place where everyone drives a 4x4 and has a Very Big House. I suspect that Madonna owns a house like this for the days when she needs to be close to Luton airport; it is that kind of place.

I scurried up a road with some confidence, as the street sign matched my Google map and trotted off, jaw hanging open at some of the epic and beautiful houses, coupled with epic and beautiful gardens. The locals must be awful nice, as they were very patient with me pointing a camera down their

hedges and taking pics of horse manure, despite the massive potential for running me down in their 4x4s and them not feeling a thing.
My route map quickly ended with marked roads and disappeared into "green space" which I mistook for a field I needed because it was very well signposted. I had a little run in this field, but didn't know where it went (there are never clearly signposted exits in fields), so I ran out again and found someone posh to ask who confirmed I was running in the wrong direction. I then found a tiny waymarker (the little signs that English ramblers use to both navigate the countryside and test their eye sight) which split immediately into two paths. By this stage I was letting my Australian accent out in full force so I didn't feel half as stupid to be told by a Rambler With Dog that the paths reunited 25m later.

RWD and I came across each other again when I failed to spot what to do after a stile (I was in a field with horses). He explained that I should follow the river, dog leg after the smug oak, do something else at Park St and for god's sake carry an Ordanance Survey Map.

I immediately forgot nearly everything he told me, ran into a field, ploughed some furrows, got lost and ran back. I decided that RWD must have gone ahead by now and perhaps I could follow him. But he was nowhere to be seen. I repeated the field ploughing and emerged into another field. Jumped a stile. Ended up in a field. Between these fields are signs saying "this is really ever so posh Equestrian School's private training field and so you should not be there, commoner". This made me anxious to understand if I was in the right fields. I decided to keep to anything mucky and to let the Aussie accent talk me out of anything.

It really was a lovely run, or more like, a series of intervals. I kept stopping to test out the new camera - there were blackberries, rosehips, sloe berries and all those little English things that are still so exciting to me! There were little streams and stinging nettles and not a single poisonous snake or spider to worry about. And I never felt like someone was going to murder me (that's a Hackney reference yeah).

I really didn't know where I was going a lot of the time but I had such fun it didn't matter. I squelched in mud, fell over, stared at piles of animal poo. The only incident I had was when I ran into some cows. Not literally. I came over a stile, ran into someone's field, ploughed a furrow and there were The Cows. And I was wearing red. And some of them had horns. I don't like cows. Not because I think they're malicious like in a Far Side cartoon but because they are really big. In the same way a hippo doesn't want to squash you but you're in their way. So I spent a lot of time in that field with the cows, edging nervously around the edge of the field, with a keen eye and whispered mantra on what to do if one caramel fudge coloured beastie made a move for me. In fact Caramel Cow had such a glare about her, that she actually stared me out of the field, walking backwards and I went the other way around the field which was actually through a quagmire. But not to be mistaken for Sinking Mud, for I came across that too on my adventure. And a Smug Oak...

The run took me through Park Street, which misleadingly is not a street, but a village or town and is a bit chavvy if you ask me. But if you live there and read this, you didn't ask me, so please just ignore this statement. I ended up in St Albans, which I have learned has two train stations, a lot of people who have lunch on the weekend and no greasy spoon cafe (or at least not one that wasn't boarded up to turn into a brasserie).

As well as being thoroughly amusing, the run was great for my feet, ankles and knees, giving them some different terrain to get a grip on. I honestly think if I ran over those fields every run I'd be a way better runner than a canal runner. But I'd had to have words with the cows first...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Back to back

Gosh this blogging, fundraising, profile raising thing is quite tiring, especially if you don't know if you have an audience. I found another possible reader today though so let's try and make an effort.

The back-to-back runs seem to be going well, which is really saying something considering my toe is currently pointing due south.

This was my first week of a new training schedule (note: I revise my training schedule every 45 minutes) which contains four days of running (a back-to-backs midweek and on the weekend.). Along with personal training, that's five mornings where I get up early with the sole intention of training. That's not so difficult, what's really challenging is 1) making sure my laundry is turned around in time at the right time 2) making sure I have adequate clothes to wear when I run into work.

If you've ever run into work, you'll know that the best best is to bring your office clothes the day before, be all organised and check off socks and pants and such like. No one wants a pant dropping out of their camelbak on the Edgeware Road. Only as I do this on two successive days, I have to remember a few days in advance to have all the bits and pieces one needs. It's a a logistic nightmare, I tell you. Also if the weather changes I'll be left in a summer frock while the snow falls around me and forced to wear a hybrid of said frock with less than fresh running gear to get home without frost bite.

A veritable mine field. On Monday, I am literally moving half my wardrobe to the office. Expect there to be pants everywhere.

"It's the fifth golden ticket and I've found it!"


If you know where the Golden Ticket reference comes from, then you'll know how excited I just might be.

A few weeks ago at the prompting of RunEngland I entered the National Lottery Ballot for the Olympic Run, a 5 mile event, through the Olympic Park and ending inside the Olympic Stadium. It was a ballot but there were a few questions of the heartwarming kind so I told them about running in the original Olympic stadium at Athens Marathon to raise funds for the East London Community Foundation (which supports community centres in the 2012 Olympic's catchment area) and running in Berlin's Olympic stadium for another charity. I don't know if that meant anything but I also told them I don't play the Lottery so perhaps that evened things out.

Anyway, form submitted and duly forgotten about. But on the way home today a quick glance at twitter showed a fellow runner expressing disappointment that they had not been selected for the Olympic Run. My brain did a slow U turn as I realised: "I have entered that, but I haven't checked my emails today." I was literally on the tube home and fast approaching a tunnel, so while I couldn't download the lovely cheery message above I could read the words "Congratulations – you have secured a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." And yes I did the big Charlie Bucket whoop for joy and grinned like an idiot all the way to Finchley Park. Which for my fellow commuters is an awfully long way to endure a grinning fool.

Only 5000 of us will be running the course and I know thousands more entered. Gutted for those whose parents and partners got in but they didn't or vice versa and for those who really wanted this but didn't get it. Reading some of the disappointed tweets makes me aware how much this is a super privilege and I will savour every moment of it. I'll also tweet and pic and share the experience as much as possible.

Roll on 31st March 2012.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toe woes

Anyone would think this blog is all about feet. In a way it is. It's about feet that run, and then there was all the oversharing of pompholyx and now we have toe woes! Yes I've managed to break my little toe all very accidentally and incidentally. I sort of bumped into my personal trainer who's an awfully big body building dude. My toe wasn't so happy about this.

It felt a bit like blood was running out of it but as I was wearing Vibram Five Fingers at the time I figured I would know if that was the case pretty quickly. So off we went and I did my PT session. The next day, it was blue at the base and with some crazy tiny bruises on both side.

The SRO says there isn't much you can do with a broken toe - especially a little one. Apparently it's only a big toe one needs. So armed with arnica and ibuprofen off I went and ran on it. I can't forefoot strike and my other leg is mega compensating but it's just one of those things.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Race report: Constantinople

You know those hot beach holiday memories of Turkey you have? Put them aside. Think cold, grey, wet, cloudy, threat of hail and thunderstorm and you got the race conditions for the 33rd Istanbul Marathon (and 8 and 15km) perfectly pictured. Sadly I was running the 15km, having enter
ed as a marathoner, the pompholyx suffered in May and June had impaired my fitness and gait so much that even 15 was going to be a challenge.

But I wasn't thinking that last Sunday as I emerged from my Sultanahmet Pension, clad in cut-up pantihose and plastic raincoat. I was thankful that the wind had dropped, th
e rain had ceased for a moment and I was just picking my way through puddles and kittens heading towards other plastic clad runners emerging from the old city backstreets and forming queues outside the historic Aya Sofia, waiting for transport to the Asian start. The stray dogs barked to sunrise and the queue moved quickly; we were off on a fantastic 30 minute ride past sights yet unseen and dropped off 300m from the edge of the Bosphorous Bridge on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Highway barriers were perilously leapt over, portaloos were swiftly queued for, and the mass of humanity jogged
up and down the approach ramp as the organisers struggled to inflate the start arch. An enterprising type touted woolly hats and scarves. An hour we huddled, shuffled and bounced for warmth before balloons and a bang signalled the pro start and Turkish pop signalled the mass start: we were off, our timing cheeps a constant screech over the start line.

It was a slow start; lots of happy snappers on the suspension bridge and dodging slow runners (mostly overweight men with more ambition than fitness). It was glorious to be running over such a high bridge (210ft) and at 1.5km long, it was a good enough place for a warm up. As the bridge road led into highway offshoots, the rain came back to stay and running under over passes, I noticed that the spect
ators looked pretty glum. Pallets of drinking water appeared pretty early by the road side but the gypsies standing nearby looked like they were capitalists and not volunteers supplying refreshments. The SRO and I had each other in sights, running together despite running apart.

As we returned to shoreside it became clear we were running the exact route we had been driven, past the old university, Istanbul Modern Art Gallery, stunning mosques and decorative Islamic ablution blocks . I found everything fascinating and before long we were at the finish line for the 8km runners. The 8km finishers lined the road in matching green tshirts and finally there was some proper cheering as they sent us off for more.

The route took in one of my favourite spots in the whole world: Galata Bridge, so I was in my element as we approached, I knew I was over half way, I felt awesome and Kanye West was on the ipod! Fisherman lined the bridge, some took out mobile phones to film and I got my big friendly wave out to go with my ecstatic smile. Ahead of us, minarets soared from the Suleymaniye Mosque and the 16th Centu
ry "new" mosque and I was grinning like a fool; I didn't even notice I was running I was so happy.

After the bridge the route splits from 15km to Marathon. Even though I felt awesome there was no way I could do the marathon without impacting my now very tight London Ultra training schedule. So I crossed my arms in front of my bib (marked "marathon") so the marshals could be clear I had decided to do 15km. The first marshal was ok with that decision but numbers 2 and 3 on the turn off point were adamant I should be flagged into the marathon route. I cried out "on beş, on beş" (15! 15!) so frantically that the Turks running nearby had a good old laugh - at least I'd made my point.


The route then snaked along the waterfront alongside the railway line and I recognised it from a walk the SRO and I had done the other day and knew it was close to the hotel. I knew it was also on an incline so I kept my focus as we headed into Gulhane Park. In the park, I picked someone who looked pretty pro (he still had a run jacket on so I figured hadn't worked up a sweat) and stuck on his heels as much as I could given the crowds on the route. I snuck a glance at my watch and realised I was on 1:26 - set for a personal best. It was then that I decided I really wanted to finish before 1hour and thirty minutes. I didn't think this would be a problem until I exited the park to find that the route now became a little cobbled, narrow (we only had access to one side of the road) and featuring strange triangular speed obstacles to stop cars speeding down the hill. It was the last thing that was a problem as we were running up hill and while the 500m warning sign looked reassuring, it was at the bottom of this bitch of a hill. I hammered it up the hill as best I could, weaving through folk who had decided it was better to suddenly walk. My asthma - which had kicked in all weekend - now ramped it up a notch so I had to grab my inhaler and pump it up the hill, around the corner and into the Hippodrome in front of the Blue Mosque as I pushed myself into a sprint finish. More ventolin was pumped as I watched the clock tick over, and I flew over the line for a 1:29.

To say I was pretty bloody pleased was an understatement. It was the best run all year and fastest ever. Given that I walked with a limp in June this was phenomenal and even though it was gutting not to be running a marathon I had overcome a lot of stuff to get this far.



Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Medal time!

Let's get straight to the point: I ran a personal best, in the rain, full of cold and asthma, with a section of cobble stones and with a hill in the last 700 metres. It went really well, I loved every minute (even the cold and the hill), and I felt like I ran with my heart. Happy happy joy joy.

I'd like to do a lovely post telling you what it was like in Istanbul, with photos and funny anecdotes but I'm awfully tired. I came home (from the airport) late last night and ran a few kms. I went to work this morning, until the evening, and ran home 8kms. None of this was hard or tiring but sitting down to write a blog, to fundraise, to "build community" - that's pretty tiring. I need to think of who I am fundraising from, start writing for them, start researching more about Freedom from Torture and their work, start being a bit grown up about my expression of the running journey so I can somehow move people to part with cash. It's all quite exhausting, not least because that's pretty much my day job!

So I'm just going to say that I had a wonderful time in Istanbul and will tell you more in between running sleeping and raising money. All while wearing my medal.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Why Turkey?

Torture - Live and Well in Turkey as on InterPress Service
By Jake R. Hess

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, May 4, 2010 (IPS) - Six years after the ruling Justice and Development Party government declared ‘zero tolerance’ for torture, the practice prevails in Turkey, human rights monitors in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern region say.

As part of its EU membership bid, the Turkish government has expanded legal protections against torture, which is explicitly banned in Turkish law and now carries a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Detained individuals now have the right to immediately access legal counsel and limits have been placed on the amount of time they can be held in custody without appearing before a judge, though these provisions can be temporarily withheld in the case of terror suspects.

Despite such widely-acclaimed changes, torture is far from being history in Turkey.

According to data provided by the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), documented cases of torture dropped consistently in the years immediately following the announcement of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, before more than doubling in the year 2008.

Data for 2009 have not been released yet, but data obtained by IPS suggests that they’ll be slightly higher than in 2004, the year after the ruling party’s anti-torture initiative was adopted. That year, IHD recorded 1,040 incidents of torture.

"The biggest problem in Turkey is the problem of mentality," Necdet Ipekyuz, a physician who administers free medical treatment to torture victims on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), told IPS in an interview in Diyarbakir. "[Suspects] are innocent until proven guilty. This mentality hasn’t sunken in enough among security units in Turkey."

In 2008, the Justice Minister at the time announced that 4,719 people complained of torture, maltreatment, and being exposed to excessive force in the years 2006 and 2007 alone.

Sezgin Tanrikulu, a prominent human rights lawyer and former chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, told IPS that the most widely-used methods of torture in contemporary Turkey are physical beatings, forcing detainees to listen to music at extreme volumes, and threats.

"Torture takes place in the street, while people are being detained, in official and unofficial detention centers, and prisons," Tanrikulu said.

"In the past, people would be detained for 15 - 20 days, subjected to electric shocks, falaka, forced to hang [in awkward physical positions], cigarettes would be extinguished [on their bodies]," Ipekyuz, a former chair of the Diyarbakir chapter of the Turkish Medical Association, told IPS.

"These things still happen, but rarely," he said, adding that physical beatings and psychological forms of torture, such as threats and insults, are currently the most widespread methods.

The switch to less severe torture methods has been triggered by a de-escalation of the conflict between the Turkish state and PKK guerrillas, legal reforms undertaken with the goal of harmonizing Turkish law with EU regulations, and struggles for change carried out by civil society actors, according to Ipekyuz. Moreover, the purpose of torture has also changed.

"The development of technology has made it easier to watch and follow people, listen to their telephone conversations, read their mail, record their voices from long distances, and collect evidence," Ipekyuz told IPS. "The goal [of torture] is not to make people speak, but to make them own up to" what police purport to have documented them saying in monitored communication, he noted.

Another important change in Turkey’s torture situation concerns the profile of torture victims. According to Tanrikulu, children are currently tortured more often than they were in previous years.

Ipekyuz, the doctor, noted the same trend. "In the past, few children applied to TIHV for treatment," he said. "Now, children younger than 15 apply."

Minors are subjected to torture at demonstrations and verbally threatened and insulted when in police custody, according to Ipekyuz. "The police tell them, ‘we’re going to kill you, disappear you, we won’t let you go to school, you’ll never see your family again, we’ll do certain things to your mother and father, you’re a separatist,’" the physician told IPS.

In a recent report, Amnesty International notes that since 2006, thousands of minors have been arrested and faced prosecution as terrorists for allegedly participating in unauthorized demonstrations in Turkey.

Children are also subjected to beatings in police vehicles and in prison, where minors can be held in pre-trial detention for months, without access to school.

In January, through the agency of their parents, minors being held on terror charges at the Pozanti M Type Children’s Prison in the southern city of Adana claimed that officials there had sprayed them with cold water, beaten them with plastic pipes, and then poured salt in the resulting wounds. "Even the slightest problem can be a justification for torture," parents quoted their children as saying.

According to Amnesty, children previously held at an adult prison in Adana consistently complained of "severe beatings" during transfer to the facility, suggesting that there’s "systematic ill-treatment." Meanwhile, minors awaiting relocation from the adult prison to the one for juveniles asserted that they had "spent periods of more than one week in solitary confinement" before being transferred, according to the London-based human rights group.

One thing that has not changed about torture in Turkey, however, is that impunity is all but the rule for alleged perpetrators. "Administrative protection [for torture suspects] actively continues," Tanrikulu says. "Judges tolerate torture. Prosecutors tolerate torture. Permission isn’t given for investigations," the Kurdish lawyer told IPS.

Following a spate of particularly deadly demonstrations in southeastern Turkey in March 2006, the Diyarbakir Bar Association filed 76 separate official complaints of torture with relevant public authorities. None of them resulted in lawsuits, according to Tanrikulu, who was the Bar Association chairman at the time.

Impunity is not limited to the Kurdish southeast. An investigation by the human rights commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly found that only two percent of the 2,140 Istanbul police officials subjected to administrative investigations for carrying out torture and maltreatment between the years 2003 and 2008 received punishment.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Midnight Express

I’m writing this on the eve of my trip to Turkey – a country conjuring images of whirling dervishes, sunny beaches, soaring minarets and bustling bazaars. But it’s also a country with a dubious human rights record and where sadly torture is still a present danger for certain groups of people. It seems a fitting place to start my series of fundraising runs for the charity Freedom from Torture.

Freedom from Torture, is the only registered charity in the UK which exclusively supports survivors of torture and organised violence. Operating for over 25 years, they aim to rehabilitate individuals back in to society where they may rebuild their own human dignity and worth. Their services adapt to meet the needs of torture survivors so they can find new ways of meeting their changing needs. Such services can be difficult to fund as torture is not an unappealing and challenging subject.

The first event I’ll be running is an easy one – 15km from the Asian to European side of Turkey. But it will still be a challenge, because as recently as May I suffered from a stress reaction on the soles of my feet that prevented me from walking – not ideal for a runner! The next event will be a gentle step up to a half marathon, only it will be run in Tromso, northern Norway at the Arctic Circle and the town will not have seen sunlight for six weeks! Finally, I’ll be running in the UK – a 50km self navigating and self supporting run around a section of the Capital Ring

As I get up nearly every morning and train (four sessions of running, one of personal training one of pilates!) I’ll be keeping the clients of Freedom of Torture in mind. The softly spoken man reading poetry to express his pain, viewing drawings by children who have witnessed unspeakable violence, or recalling the proud smile from a client who has baked bread in a support group – these images will come with me as I run the streets, and hopefully will come to you as you consider a small donation to support the good work of the charity.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

On your marks...

All packed and ready to go. The alarm will go off even earlier than when I train (415am!).

I've packed everything, from arnica, to four safety pins. And running kit for all sorts of weather. Istanbul's forecast for hail on Monday has changed to thunderstorm. As long as it's Monday!

I'm so excited that I want to keep going to people "I'm going to run a race again!" Of course, it's not a race, it's a run, but I'm racing myself! That's pretty competitive.

I'm just too excited to type.

I should actually be planning how I can fundraise for the great charity Freedom from Torture but I am really distracted. I'm sure they will forgive me - and my two readers will contribute even a small donation...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I got my mojo back!

This morning I went for a run. And I didn't have to think about what I was doing! I got my running mojo back.

I am ecstatic.

I dedicated my little run to all the naysayers, the folk who said I couldn't do This Job and run a marathon, the people who have tried to stand in my way, the people with no perspective, and all their gang. You keep running around yourselves, I will run marathons!

I must remember to make a donation to the Eczema Society too, whose sense of community got me through the worse of the pompholyx.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Last run before the Midnight Express

What a great weekend! It was three day's long (for me), a special someone's birthday, @typecat ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and somewhere in between all the celebrating, I actually had a decent run!

This was great because it was my last weekend before Istanbul. I really want to finish mentally strong in Istanbul. Even though it's only a small race (15km) it will be a big spiritual boost if I finish with a smile on my face, and that will really help me go into my Ultra training feeling fabulous!

I've already started my baby steps towards training, by ensuring I went out on Sunday after my 13km run and doing a 4km tear around the block.

The Freedom from Torture running shirt was beautiful to run in, and I am pleased to report that you can buy them here! They are really lovely fabric and a really flattering cut. I'll post some pics soon as these printer graphics don't do them justice, but trust me all the ladies are coveting them!

Now that the Royal Parks is out of the way, the household is in preparation for Operation Midnight Express. For anyone planning to run overseas - do it! It's a great way to see the world and an additional challenge. Try to find pasta in Asia, or work out how reliable the weather is. Or transliterate Cyrillic. Or pack a small medical station and all your English brand drinks! Sadly, I know that the country I'll be running in does not have a good reputation when it comes to torture. For diplomatic reasons, I'll be posting more about Turkey once I've returned.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Running for a reason

If you've been here before you will know that I run because "it's the challenge that you choose, rather than the challenge that chooses you." So my modest running debuts of 5km races were in memory of friends who had died of specific conditions and the charities that work to stop that happening. I've since tackled bigger running events, for bigger charities, small charities and grant giving organisations.

I'm pleased to say that my charity for the three runs that are coming up (Istanbul trans-continent 15km, the Polar Night Half Marathon in Tromso and the London Ultra) are all to raise awareness of and funds for the charity, Freedom from Torture.

I've been a supporter of the charity for about five years now and been to a range of fundraising events.
At many of these I've been able to meet their clients, people who have been victims of torture. I've never come away from one of these events with dry eyes. But I've always come away deeply impressed with the charity's work.

I've heard about the work they do, I've read the writings that come from expressive therapy, and creative writing classes. I've eaten bread made by a women's only group whose commonality is the dough they make and the pain they carry. I've smelt the tomatoes grown in their garden refuge, where stones mark tributes to fallen friends and spell out the word "Why".

I've heard from women just like me, and men who could be my father. I've met therapists and Chief Executives and stared in stunned admiration at their volunteer medical practitioners as they talk of their work. I've interrogated their communications and marketing folk and joined a local group.
I can't think of a charity that has made me feel more welcome as a supporter - imagine how they make someone feel who has been a victim of horrific torture.

So spurred on by hard working local group at Hampstead and Highgate, I'll be tackling these three events and donating all funds to the charity. My events will not incur the charity any money, other than fundraising fees set by the website, just giving.

I thought if everyone I knew could buy my a glass of wine equivalent in sponsorship and everyone I didn't bought me a pint, we'd easily hit the target. 75p of every pound donated goes to running services.

Thank you.


If you'd like to ask a question before donating, please leave a comment and I will respond.

It's all in the mind

Well it feels like a long time since I've blogged and my two regular readers might be wanting updates. So, the new Ultra training plan is helping marvellous much. It feels very achievable (especially now I got the nice man from Finance to calculate my percentage increases each month in a spreadsheet). And it feels like I've cut that elephant into pieces. So that's one mental box ticked.

Then there's the other mental issues that come with just not having my fitness where I want it. So I'm reading a hippy sounding book called Running Within and have some affirmations and trigger words. Yep. Affirmations are things you say to yourself when the negativity or bad stuff creeps in. And trigger words are things you say to yourself to remind yourself to correct any bad habits. What you want to know what mine are? Cringe... Okay.

  • I get fitter every day. (See what I did there, not "my fitness is crap and I have a long way to go, but a positive reinforcement of what I can do.)
  • I can tackle anything I put my mind to.
  • When I reset I come back stronger. (So, sometimes when I run distance, I walk, especially at aid stations. I don't call this weakness, I call this a reset. And when I have timed my running runs against my runs with resets, no overall time is lost. Because you've gathered yourself to come back stronger.
  • The pain is just a reminder of how hard I am trying.
  • My legs are light and dynamite. (This is for when I have really dead legs).
  • I love hills
My trigger words are "glide", "tippy tappy" (a reference to raramuri running style) and my trigger action is to smile when it's hard and laugh when it hurts.

I know it sounds silly, and I am not really a natural convert but the smiling absolutely helps, as does giving permission to set reset breaks.

Monday, 3 October 2011

When the going gets tough

You know that song is on my play list. Actually quite a lot of bad confessions from the 1980s and 90s are on my play list. But that is not the point of this post. The point is that, while having my usual, eek 20 days to the race panic, it dawned on me that I haven't just lost the ability to run a marathon in the last few months, but I have lost those training weeks.

So as soon as I finish Istanbul, nay, before I start, I have to be an ultra marathoner in training. The training plan from this fabulous list of resources, will take about 20 weeks. That's quite soon really. So it's time to take oneself seriously. Not to skip meals or have beer at lunch and stuff.

The SRO was most helpful on the weekend pointing out how less stressful life is if you have fixed days for running, and not cram them in around a busy lifestyle. So I've got a spreadsheet for regular running days. It calculates my cumulative distance each week. If I can get it to calculate the % difference in cumulative distance week on week I've got it made in the land of Excel. But I am still struggling with the ABS formula function...

I need to eat like a machine. And very regularly, as I am only a slip of a thing. And I have to think ahead. For example this evening, I'm not too hungry but I am eating. Because in the morning I am running. Because at lunch I have too many meetings. Because in the evening I have an hour of pilates. See, everything is all very crowded in there.

I'm making my bulgar wheat lunch in advance - if I am not eating, then I'm cooking. Or washing run kit. Never ending isn't it?! I've got every superfood you can think of in the cupboard. Amaranth, quinoa, chia seeds. It's a lifestyle choice this distance running malarkey. I bet some people just eat hamburger, run when they feel like it and balance a big job.

But then they wouldn't have an excuse to put Billy Ocean on their play list. "Tough tough, tt-tt--tough."

Entered!

So I bought my entry to the London Ultra last night. It was very exciting, and the SRO gave me a cheer as I handed over my £40, looked up Grove Park and Perivale on the map and answered such questions on the registration form as "what is your expected finish time" (Sunday), and "what is the name of your running club" (I don't have one).

It's very exciting because it's a week later than I planned so that's one more week of training. It's only 20 weeks away so the pressure is on from well, now really. Also the start and finish have moved so the finish isn't just outside my house. And it means the whole field won't know where they are going! Eek.

I'm not sure about the navigation part. The helpful @canteenrun and lovely Baxter Hound said they got lost in a field in Harrow! And when the SRO and I went to watch the finish, the chap who came in third entered from a completely different direction to everyone else. So the potential to misplace oneself is very much there. The Recommended Kit List says one should take both a compass and a map holder. Useful if I knew how to use them to find and correct myself.

Anyway, it's only 20 weeks away but then it's still 20 weeks away so let's keep focussed on Istanbul and staying healthy and positive. And imagine what the nice Ultra medal might look like.

BIG SHOUT OUT: to Andrew Johnstone who finished his first marathon last weekend! The Lochness Marathon medal looks very cool! And he may have been initially helped by a training plan by Yours Truly!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Doing Big and Scary

With apologies to Andy Mouncey

So I was caught in the office extolling to some of my team, the reasons why I run and probably sounding like a bit of a tosser, but hey I am ten year’s older than my audience which I think gives me the right to sound like a pompous git.

Anyway, I run 1) because I can. Because I’m alive and I have a body that’s functional. It’s not athletic, or gifted or strong. But it’s a tool that you can learn to use and I don’t think many of us do enough with what we have other thsn hunch over a screen, a tv or a dinner table. 2) I like to use this body to create pain because actually it’s not that big a deal. I mean yes the training is hard and feels like a sacrifice and there are times when you cry, or hurt or puke. But you know it’s not cancer, or death or losing a loved one or anything major like that you can’t have control of. Or as the incredibly inspiring Andy Mouncey says: “it’s the challenge you choose as opposed to the challenge that chooses you”. Good eh?!

This makes sense to me because I started trying to wear lycra with authority after annus horiibilis when I had been to too many funerals, when I had failed to say goodbye, when I had wrestled with my conscience over my ability to watch someone slowly deteriorate, when I had accepted that death leaves us only with our own guilt and unease because the dead are dead and don’t care or feel.

I plodded through 5km for cancer, for heart disease, and I ran with my friend’s suicide, depression and long slow deaths at my heels. When I felt bonked at 35km in Berlin I cursed the dead for the guilt they leave behind. When I finished a 5km with my friend’s name on my back, it was all I could do not to cry at the finish line, and then enter another race when I saw my memorial run had been photographed for the next event’s leaflet. I run for my friends who have nursed and buried friends and family and who live in the shadow of cancer.

So today when my calf was burning with injury, I massaged it and swallowed some ibuprofen and told myself it wasn’t heart disease or brain cancer. And I dismissed my nausea as nowt compared to chemo. And my pain was temporary, you can insert whether you’d like death or glory to be forever. And then as I psyched myself up to keep going, I realised I was crying because actually it’s a bit bloody grim having these reasons to run, like keeping your ghosts fresh. So if you’d like a more positive take on that, then do check out Andy Mouncey who expresses everything far better than I.

But the point of this is: 1) Every can run, every can do it. Even big fat people or people built really unaerodynamically. I mean look at the bumblebee. Science says it’s not the right shape to fly. 2) it’s never the distance alone that will kill you (thanks again Andy). If you think about it, you can put one foot in front of the other indefinitely, it’s all the other things that make if challenging. 3) it’s really not that hard when you think about all the things in life that is really hard.

So I know that even though my health has been shit, my training hasn’t been as much as I had liked, I will be ok in Istanbul and go forward for four months of proper training for London Ultra.