Digested read: wasn’t feeling the running lurve today, too cold, too lethargic. Then I went to Graves junior parkrun and bathed in the parkrun love and then I went for a run which started badly and ended well, and I made a new friend, and I found a running pace and you know what? Running is fun again! Yay. My maranoia might not quite be mended, but it is most definitely in remission, for today… No doubt normal service will be resumed shortly.
What a difference a day makes eh? First thing today I was staring into a void of disillusion and despair. If I thought running a marathon seemed an impossible dream 16 weeks ago, roll forward to today and I felt a pang of nostalgia for those dizzy days of rose tinted positivity that induced me to commence training in the first place. Honestly, what was I thinking? This marathon malarkey is never going to happen. I have no idea what I’m doing. The regime I laughingly refer to as my ‘training plan’ appears to have a) led to zero improvement to my running – in face I’ve got progressively slower, and b) I lost my long run last week due to the aftermath of an ill advised sports massage. It’s all going horribly wrong! Woe is me. I am a failure as a runner, as a human being, in life – the only thing I’m really good at is personalised pity parties. Bring on the bulk buy hot cross buns and find me a sofa on which to lie and weep the hot, not-very-healing tears of self-indulgent self-pity. At that at least I may excel…
and then … lots of running related fun came my way, and now I’m fine and tickety-boo. No physically fitter than I was this morning, but a lot more mentally positive. And they do say a lot of running is in the mind, albeit not all of it unfortunately. I’m thinking now that I’m just experiencing ‘maranoia‘ the paranoia that I’ll ruin everything in these last few weeks, and probably not even make it to the start of the London Marathon, let alone the finish. I reckon my maranoia is reasonably severe when it flares up, but I have the kind that goes into occasional spontaneous remission, for this I am thankful. It is still unpleasant and debilitating though, but hopefully survivable… Personally, I find what lifts my mood is basically being in complete denial about having to run a marathon, and just doing running related fun things. One of the saddest Facebook posts I ever read was on some discussion forum somewhere where someone posted that training for London had ‘killed the joy of running’ for them. I don’t want that to happen to me. I reckon I’m pretty safe on that score though, I can but dream of being over-trained!
So up early, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s day. Hurrah. Grapes disguised as mini creme eggs anyone?
My roof is leaking again. That’s not funny. Seventh leak now since I moved in. Not a happy bunny. In fact, not a bunny at all, and not for lack of trying. It being Sunday, it is of course, junior parkrun day, and it being Easter Sunday I was hoping to rock some bunny ears whilst on marshalling duties. I tried moderately hard to source some, but to no avail. The closest I got was in one shop where they said in response to my request ‘no, but we stocked loads of those last year‘. Not helpful Really not. I thought about repurposing my dragonfly wings, but in the end made do with sticking some undersized Easter chicks onto my hat. It was a start. Not quite a full on Easter bonnet, but a nod to fancy dress all the same.
Off to Graves park, oh my, how cold was it up there. I mean, I know it’s a micro-climate of apocalyptic ice-age proportions, but it’s not funny any more. The return of the Beast from the East isn’t supposed to be until tomorrow. Fortunately, despite cold weather there were warm hearts. I trotted off round with a fellow volunteer to set out the course, and that is my favourite job. It feels purposeful, plus you get a bit of stomp about to get warm, and you can check in on the animals. I couldn’t help noticing that most of these weren’t game for venturing out, they aren’t stupid, but I still find it calming being in the vicinity of them all. I mean obviously it would be better if there were goats and warthogs, but the donkey is vocal and entertaining and on dry days the porcines are always up for a companionable scratch. Not today though. Having a duvet day. Those animals that did make it outside weren’t looking overly impressed. I take their point.
En route with the flags I came across another marshal who was quick enough to not only notice, but also appreciate my Easter chick efforts. I feel such observational skills should be rewarded, so reached into my pocket to supply her with one of her own, on the understanding it should be sported throughout the run. Dear reader, I’m happy to report she carried out this promise with considerable aplomb. She is clearly a natural at having a plastic bird sit on her head. An important life skill I’m sure. Well, to be fair, it served me well at parkrun today for starters, so you never know when such capabilities may be drawn on.
Once I made it back to the start, which is also the finish
oh joy. International parkrun celebrities in evidence, all the way from the legend that is Tralee parkrun, and sporting a most excellent array of bunny ears. My hat chicks were a gesture I suppose, but definitely more minimalist than was appropriate for the occasion.
Tralee parkrun incidentally is quite possibly the most friendly parkrun in the entire world, pathologically so. They have also taken parkrun to tourism to new heights as they head out across the globe, not as little ambassador / special envoys to other parkruns, but en masse. They quite literally took a plane load of 80 parkrunners to go on pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun back in January – that’s an impressive percentage of their parkrun regulars – their stats as of today say the average number of parkrunners each week is 169 – so that’s half of them. More really, as numbers fluctuate. What’s more this wasn’t even a one – off more a trial run. Next stop Germany. Plus, they did a Copacabana song and dance tribute to one of their runners / hi-viz heroes on the occasion of his 100th parkrun. That’s a service not all parkruns are able to offer. Impressed? I am. Let’s hear it for the World’s Best parkrun ambassador indeedy! They don’t skimp on balloons there either. Respect.
Anyway, was grand to meet up with the Tralee contingent once again, and swap a few parkrun tales before I headed off to my marshal point. I was in a different spot to usual, but it was just as much fun. I got to see the warm up and the start funnel of volunteers all lined up like a human pin ball machine from afar, and watch the runners stream off like ball bearings pouring out of a jar as they scattered down the first hill.
High fiving the runners storming by as they passed by the ponds on the way to the rear entrance to the animal park. There was a respectable turn out of bunny ears, and familiar faces. Hail fell at one point, but these juniors are made of stern stuff, they stormed round for the most part.
Only glove less accompanying adults looked close to tears… The official photographer had most definitely lost the use of his hands by the time he made it back to base, but I consider that to be a sacrifice well worth him making for capturing such glorious shots of our worthy juniors and esteemed visitors alike. His hands were always at risk of dropping off with frostbite eventually, so it’s just basically grand he got his shots off first. (Not a euphemism). There were some fine portraits available for download after today.
As the tail walker traipsed on by, all a-grin, I wandered back to the start in reverse, picking up another bunny eared volunteer en route. Turns out, a lot of us volunteers were rocking matching looks today, with blue under our hi-viz. A lack of consistency in head gear perhaps, but individual expression is important too.
We were in time to see the final finishers bombing down the mudslide into which the finish funnel had morphed. There was a lot of mud. Soft landings I suppose. There was some dissent about how many face plants there’d been at the finish, but most estimates were around the five mark, though no tears apparently, so that’s impressive. My favourite interaction of many this morning though, was when a young runner finished and the scanner asked for her barcode but her parent explained she didn’t have one as she’s currently too young to register being only three! We were all a bit surprised as she was tall for her age and physically had made easy work of the run. ‘When will you be four?’ enquired one of our hi-viz number, figuring it couldn’t be that many more weeks away. Well, without missing a beat she responded ‘at my next birthday‘ which is quite clearly a genius response with all its unintentionally withering accuracy. That told him. What a stupid question. Much hilarity ensued. Grown ups can be so dumb sometimes. She was very polite to give a civil response at all in the circumstances! Ha-de-ha indeed.
The course was dismantled as if by magic, and soon there was nothing but memories and muddy footprints where once the parkrun had been. I was lured to the cafe by the promise of latte and a final chance to debrief with our lovely Irish visitors. I was supposed to be heading out for a long run later – the forecast for tomorrow being heavy snow I really did have to get out today, but I figured there was time. But the cafe was cosy, the company fine. The tales varied. The Tralee junior tourists really made me laugh by telling me that their mum was so passionate about parkrun that any potential partners would have to pass the ‘but do they have a barcode’ test. If they did, a criminal record or similar misdemeanours would be no barrier, but no barcode, well, no result. We regular parkrunners all know that! Sounds a fair enough criteria to me! We had to talk about Lily the wonder dog, we had to pose for every possible variant of selfie and group photos. Those pictures won’t take themselves.
Then there was other chat about Bob Graham plans. There is a reason why this should be run in a clockwise direction I now know. Not that I’m likely to have to try this out for myself, but it’s nice to keep informed on such matters.
Upshot was, I didn’t get back until almost 12.
Now what. I needed to get out, but it was arctic blast cold. I wanted to do 10 miles at least, I thought maybe I should eat something first as a latte might not be enough. Channelling my inner wannabee millennial hipster chick vibe I had avocado and tofu on toast. I thought that would be healthy and delicious. It probably was, well definitely delicious, but also a bit much to eat just before a run, and now it was midday and I didn’t want to leave it two hours before I went out. The skies were darkening, the elements promised inclement times ahead. What to do? I did briefly consider abandoning run altogether, but in an uncharacteristic display of mental fortitude I rationalised I’d really regret that. Plus I was doing a virtual Easter Sunday run to nab some bling like this:
As a friend of mine had the genius idea of sending these out to people who do an Easter Sunday run in return for a £10 donation to the charity she is/was running the London Marathon for. Great idea. You make your donation, do your run, send proof, get sent medal. Nice. I like to think I’m not shallow, but basically I clearly am. Who doesn’t appreciate running bling, even if they claim otherwise, and I want to support my running buddy/ new running best friend acquired on a January trip to London.
I decided to be brave, strap on my shoes with my motivational bling:
and head out. I did head out. Oh. My. Gawd! That’s so cold. I actually (shhhush, don’t tell) put on my fleece and contemplated going out in that, but then the hail started, and although my fleece would have been roasty toasty, it isn’t waterproof, and to be fair, even I recognise I can’t run London in a fleece. Running coat it was, and multiple buffs, and pissed off expression. The chickens were coming too. Here is the unimpressed before shot for ease of reference:
I set off. Aaaargh, it was hard. My legs feel strong, my lungs are fine, but eating that close to a run. Terrible idea. What was really annoying, is that I knew that, before I even ate. What was I thinking. I mean if I was mid run I wouldn’t have bolted all that down. I was kicking myself for not just having had a naked bar and heading out earlier. Plus I was thirsty, because I hadn’t drunk enough, and cold, because I had to walk a fair stretch and wasn’t moving fast enough. I started to panic. This is NOT WORKING. Self doubt started screaming at me. So stupid, is there any point? I honestly didn’t know.
I am struggling a bit with what I’m supposed to be doing at this stage. Really I think I need one more long run – but then I’ve got the Sheffield half next weekend, so when can I fit it in? Plus, I’ve heard recently, and no, annoyingly I can’t remember where, that if you go out for longer than three hours at a stretch at this stage, you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover. This directly contradicts other advice about just reducing your mileage gradually down. Truth is, if I did the latter, I’d still be going out for 5 hour runs, and that is a long time on the feet, and it does take its toll. I just decided that some time on my feet was better than no time on my feet. I’d not beat myself up, just do what I could. Heading off on the ‘nice bit’ of the Sheffield half there was an element of verisimilitude in the experience as there were so many other runners out doing the same recce. I was constantly either being over-taken, or spotting runners on the return leg sprinting down the hill towards me. Oh joy.
At one point a driver stopped and asked me for directions, which I gave, at length, having forgotten all about the chickens on my head. She passed no comment. It reminded me of an interaction years ago when I was out riding with a friend. We’d taken horses down a track to a beach, and found perfectly grown wild garlic in abundance. We had no means to carry it but wanted it for cooking – I was working for her at a veggie B&B. We gathered up huge armfuls of it, and then basically stuffed it in our every pocket, tied around our waists with scarves, shoved it into the top of our boots, tucked it under the front and back of our saddles and stuck into the elastic bands around our hard hats. We must have looked like we were carrying out our own Green Man homage, plus we smelt to high heaven. As we did it, we were of course mindful of the comedic value of how stupid we must look, but after a bit, gently walking our horses home some hours later we’d forgotten. An American tourist drew up alongside us in his hire car to ask for directions. As my friend gave them, I watched his expression change as his eyes widened in disbelief. We were practically encased in this wild garlic, and he had no idea what to make of it. Was it some strange Welsh ritual? Was it a festival that he knew not of. My friend was completely oblivious to his increasing discomfort, as he was clearly beginning to fear what closed community he may have happened upon like in The Wicker Man for example. I wasn’t, but was enjoying observing his incredulity at what he was witnessing. I could imagine him once safely back at home trying to relate this story of the wild women he’d encountered on his trip with the wild-eyed passion of those who insist they have been abducted by aliens. Few if any would believe him, over time, he might not even believe this had happened himself. He’s probably still researching this phenomenon to this day. Maybe he thought we were just really scared of vampires. This is the destiny of those who bear witness alone. I found it hilarious though, so that was the main thing. My chicks were more understated and more easily explained, but I like to think they played their part in this mid-run interaction too.
It was something of a labour trudging up hill, feeling bloated. On the plus side, there were some cute spring lambs in abundance
I kept finding excuses to grind to a halt. It was very, very muddy going up along Ringinglow road and my road shoes were slipping all over the place. I really don’t want to be injured at this point so picked my way through gingerly, blaming the mud for my lack of speed, whilst inwardly thanking it for being their and legitimising my lard-arsed tardiness.
Crossing the road opposite the Norfolk Arms, there were so many cyclists and walkers around I couldn’t run either on the road or pavement. But my walking meant I did get to see this adorable little bird’s nest from last year, exposed in a hedge that had shed its leaves over winter. How completely perfect is this? I briefly considered putting one of my chicks in it as a sort of visual gag, but then thought the better of it as it could equally be perceived as littering. Took a photo though. You can’t see the scale here really, but it was tiny, the size of half a tennis ball maybe. Just adorable
At long last, I was on Sheephill road. I genuinely love this bit of the route. Finally, I started a bit of a trot, and found my rhythm and just loped along admiring the city-scape views. For a city marathon it’s pretty spectacular. It was cold, but the wintry showers had abated, and after a bit of undulation it started to slope downwards towards Dore. The route is increasingly familiar and I hit my stride, belatedly perhaps, nearly 4 miles in, but I felt strong and like I could have kept that up indefinitely. I know I wasn’t doing a long run, but it helped my confidence rally a little to feel that yep, my legs have remembered what to do. The secret really is to slow down, and not to worry that ‘proper runners’ might guffaw at me for imagining my sloth like movements constituted sufficient action to create forward motion, let alone merit the descriptor ‘running’. Mental strength people remember, mental strength.
My feeling of being strong was marred slightly by being constantly overtaken by speedy other runners, but hey ho, that is inevitable in my universe. Some of them were in shorts for goodness sake! Little wonder they were in such a hurry to get home.
Plod plod, trot trot. I felt good. Maybe I should have added on more miles, but I decided instead to just keep up a constant run for as long as I could. The miles ticked by, I’m starting to think it does take me about 4 miles to find my pace, which might be partly why my parkrun times are so increasingly lamentable these days. I suppose if I seriously wanted to improve them I could warm up before hand say, but that seems somewhat extreme. For today, I decided to just make myself keep on running, for as long as I could, and it was a lot longer than I expected. I am not sure I entirely welcome the findings of my increasing self awareness running wise, it seems that if I desist from pausing to take photos, and remind myself to keep on running up that hill as Kate Bush would have it, then I can go on and on like the Duracell bunny. I don’t tire, I just give up. It’s like my body cottons on to what i’m doing and draws my attention to the fact that all this exertion is entirely avoidable and unnecessary, and it would be so much more pleasing to just stop and gaze about. If I don’t give into that urge, it will reluctantly press on, until it becomes a habit. Cue sound of penny dropping – maybe this is what my marathon pace is supposed to feel like? I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s slow, very slow, some people can power walk faster, but it’s still faster than me walking and if i could maintain it for many more miles I’ll definitely be getting round London a lot more quickly than if I stop start with the frequency of an over-sensitive car alarm. Knowledge is complicated, with it comes responsibility. I genuinely have absolutely no idea how I’ll fare in London, but this slow pace running might actually be an option if the course is as flat as I’m led to believe.
I had to stop to cross roads though, and you no what, that got to be quite annoying. Though the spring flowers were nice. Shame about the dead badger(s) though. I suppose it shows there must be a population out there which is good, but sad to see not one, but two, taken out by cars.
Trot trot, plod plod. Through Dore, off down whatever road it is that takes you off Hathersage road, off on an almighty diversion and then rejoining the road couple of hundred yards later – one downside of becoming increasingly familiar with the route, is I’ve started to notice all the potential short cuts available, that call out to you on the way round. I want to run the distance, but presented with a way shorter route home it does seem pretty dim to deliberately add miles to an outing when that time could be reclaimed and channelled into sofa sitting time for example… I mean just look at it, definitely not the most direct route out and back is it?
It defies reason – no wonder even Strava gives the strava art thumbs down to that unnecessary triangle into Dore!
Eventually I was on the homeward straight, Ecclesall Road South and downward towards the city. A couple of miles from home another runner appeared alongside me. Oh my, that was fantastic. I normally hate running with other people, but it was a running miracle. She was quite genuinely running at my pace, having seen me a good mile or so back and really cracked on to catch up with me (that’s a first, me being the target for a faster runner) now she was tiring and nearing the end of an 18 mile run asked if we could run together for a bit to help the miles pass and – you won’t believe this – it actually worked. I have randomly found someone who runs at exactly my pace. It was great, no huffing to keep up and resenting being dragged round whilst my sense of personal inadequacy grows to the point it overwhelms me and I not only decide to give up running, but to never leave the house in daylight hours again, EVER.
We chatted, we swapped running stories. She’s preparing for Brighton but has previously done London, albeit a decade ago. She was still buzzing with memories and positivity though. Top tips from her, don’t worry about being slow and steady, it pays off. Apart from finding herself running between a pepperoni and a rhino at one point, she also noted that she ended up passing ‘faster runners’ who’d basically set off too fast at the start and blown up. I don’t think she meant literally as in spontaneously combusted, I think we’d have heard about that, but as in just burning out way too soon. There is something to be said for slow and steady where marathons are concerned. Other helpful comments included a warning that it is a stop start frustrating first 4 miles or so before people spread out enough you can actually run. Weirdly, that might favour me, as it takes me an age to get started anyway. It was really heartening. I started to believe again that I might actually do this, my maranoia seemed to lift. She also described the final stretch down the mall really vividly. Even though it was a decade ago the memory was still strong. There are no crowds on the Mall – I hadn’t twigged that point, anyway, it means it’s suddenly relatively quiet and contemplative, and she found herself reflecting back on all the things that had brought her to that point. Oh my god. It was so what I needed to hear. I can’t wait to experience that for myself. I think finally, it’s going to be such an amazing experience it shouldn’t matter how fast or slow I am, I’m just so very lucky to be able to go there at all. If I get to the start, I should get to the finish. Lucky me! Best marathon advice ever? Just enjoy it.
I left my new best friend heading off to Hunters Bar as I swung up towards Brincliffe Edge, but we have promised to meet up post our respective marathons to show off bling and share running tales. What a turn around from the start of my run, when I could hardly imagine setting foot out of the door, and now I’m all skippy and happy and Bring. It. On.
Don’t worry, the feeling will wear off pretty soon I reckon. My lobster red legs were not a pretty sight as they incubated chilblains, and my running chick buddy passed out on completion. Still, a run’s a run. 10 miles is better than no miles, and once again, my legs and lungs are feeling fine. There are worse ways to prepare for a marathon. The snow may come tomorrow, I would like to get one longer run in if I can, but then again I’ve already banked a 21 miler, and although that was two weeks ago now, I do believe I can do the distance actually, I just need to hold my nerve and not allow myself to turn to lard too quickly. Some people apparently climb the walls during the taper, all that pent up energy needing an outlet. I fear I rather embrace the resting and carbing up. Show me a sofa, I can lie on it eating donuts no worries. Trouble is, annoyingly, I’m coming to understand tapering is a tad more sophisticated than that. Shame.
Still, I’ve lived to run another day. Unlike chick buddy here. At least s/he saw something of the world before turning toes up.
Love running. Love running related fun. Love parkrun, Love my running buddies old and new and not yet met. Hoping I’ll love London too, at the very least it will be an adventure, and adventures are what make life interesting, so I’ll have a few of those please, if I can. So the final words of wisdom in terms of the best advice I’ve had so far with respect to tackling a first time marathon remain:
Just enjoy it.
I finally think I will! 🙂