Posts Tagged With: maranoia

London Marathon 2018 – the final countdown.

Digested read: Hottest marathon on record?  Kill me now, I’ve moved beyond maranoia now into complete panic.  Trouble is, only one cure, getting to the end of the route on Sunday.  Aaaaargh.

This is getting serious now.

It’s no longer maranoia that we can chuckle about conspiratorially, sort of masochistically relishing the range of symptoms that are common amongst runners facing their first (maybe even any) marathon, that are part of whole marathon experience and help make it real.  What I’m now is experiencing full on panic!  In addition to the standard marathon angst of being fearful that I’ve not trained enough; conjuring up random niggles; and the growing realisation that I have no innate athleticism gifted to me by my genetic inheritance I have added, super sized angst from the addition to the mix of the likely DLR strike over the marathon weekend and a forecast of a sudden heat wave on the Sunday which I’m completely unprepared for.

It looks likely that the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) planned strike action by the RMT union will affect services over a four-day period from 04:00 on Friday 20 April until 03:59 on Tuesday 24 April.   As this line services the ExCel centre where the London Marathon expo is held, and every runner needs to visit, this is going to impact plenty of people.  Even so, regarding the DLR strike, I’m actually (at the moment, could all change when I get there) reasonably philosophical about this.  Workers do have the right to strike, and I’ve been on strike myself, so it would be inconsistent of me to object to others doing the same.  Of course they have more leverage over the London marathon weekend, so who can blame them for upping the ante then.  Funny how it’s always workers who get the blame for going ahead with a disruptive strike rather than employers for not addressing issues that have led to any dispute in a timely fashion.   The DLR strike I can’t do anything about.  It matters, because it will make getting to the Expo centre to register for the marathon a complete pain.  However, in this instance there are tens of thousands of other runners in the same situation.  Logically therefore, there must be some contingency plans in place.   Indeed there is some talk of extra buses and some limited information on alternative routes.  I wasn’t too impressed though with the advice:

We advise runners to register for the race at ExCeL before strike action takes effect where possible. The Expo is open from 11:00-20:00 on Wednesday 18 April and 10:00-20:00 on Thursday 19 April.

Not all that helpful if you don’t live in London and/ or have any kind of occupation or daily responsibilities.  I get their point, but really?  Bottom line, I can’t do anything about this beyond allowing time to find an alternative route and trusting the London public transport system to provide a solution.  I’m glad though, that I’d already planned to go up Friday afternoon, as that does give me some extra lee way.  So I’m conflicted.  I say I’m philosophical about all of this… but actually, worrying about the logistics has left me crapping myself, which is not helpful for maintaining either electrolyte balance or dignity pre the event.

Not to worry, I am distracted from focusing exclusively on the transport challenges, by self-defeating trauma over the weather forecast for next Sunday.  Pretty much all my training has been dogged by ice, snow and blooming freezing conditions.  I’ve been in a constant battle to avoid hypothermia, and only in the last couple of weeks have I been able to run even without a jacket.  Now, it seems likely that on Sunday, the weather forecast is not just in double figures, which I’ve not seen all year, but could even hit 25 degrees (depending on which weather forecast your believe). That’s crazy!  It’s actually dipped down a little just now to a ‘mere’ 21 degrees on the BBC website, but even that is going to feel really, really tough. I’m rubbish in the heat at the best of times, but with zero opportunity to acclimatize, it’s not going to be pretty.

weather forecast

The problem is, that mantra ‘don’t do anything different on marathon day‘ is really, really important, and yet… if it’s really going to be 15 degrees hotter than I’m used to, and with sunshine, maybe I do need to think about electrolytes? Gels and sports drinks might be the ‘obvious’ answer, but I can’t tolerate those and haven’t used them in training.  Obviously I’ve sweated a bit, but I think the highest temperature run I’ve done to date would be significantly under 10 degrees.  Plus, running in the heat will slow me down, so I could well be out there for even longer than anticipated based on my training to date?  What about a hat and sunglasses?  I hate running with a hat, but that could be my best defence against the sun’s rays, similarly sun glasses, I can’t imagine running in them.  Aaaargh.  Whilst it is beyond my control to order the elements to deliver up better meteorological options, at least along the route, there are some precautionary measures I could take, but they all represent changes to kit, nutrition, hydration and pace, all things you really shouldn’t do pre a marathon and definitely not as a hat trick of variables to mess with all at once.  Also, if it was within my power to control the elements and conjure up rain or clouds at will, then it is arguable I ought to harness those powers for the greater good.  Some people, granted maybe non-runners on the whole – might argue that controlling the elements to reverse climate change or relieve drought might be a higher purpose.  Tough call though, faced with the forecast for London.  I like to think I’d do the right thing, but, having to choose between perfect weather for my first and only marathon or reverse climate change and save the world in perpetuity, well, let’s just agree it’s lucky I don’t have to choose!

Not to worry, there is plenty of advice on-line Runners’ World issued an article ‘what hot temperatures do to your running and how to cope‘.  I’m sure it was a well-intentioned article, but it did nothing to reassure me.  The key points seem to be to give yourself a week to ten days to acclimatize, and you will cope best if you weigh about 7 stone (spoiler alert, not applicable to me dear reader) and/or have high surface area to body mass ratio.  Don’t be solidly built basically, bit late to do owt about that either.  It also provided grades of awfulness of conditions, starting with anything about 10 degrees C as impacting negatively on performance, over 20 degrees, might as well lie down and die on the spot is the general gist I think.  I am not feeling confident at all.


This post by Ben Parkes has a few more practical suggestions relating to running London in a heat wave.  There are some showers en route.  Note to self, find a place to stash dove shower lotion to make the most of these on the day.

I’ve done a few things in anticipation to try to help me to cope.  I’m going to put electrolytes in my water bottles that I carry, so if desperate I can use that. I  can’t tolerate gels or sports drinks, so daren’t risk suddenly switching to them. I’m also going to try to identify and carry some sort of salty snack – nuts maybe, as I think that would be OK. I’ve got a sun reflecting cap I bought to wear when I was working in Cambodia.  Honestly, I never really got on with it, plus it’s deeply unflattering, but it is a running cap, and it’s light so could be a practical option.  I’ve also bought sun block, as that’s an easy thing to sort, though of course I have to worry about sweat causing it to run into my eyes and blinding me en route.  Oooh the angst, it’s unbelievable what I can find to stress about.

However, shallow as it is to take comfort in such things, I do console myself with the thought that at least I’m not running in a rhino costume.  Or a the back-end of a camel.  Or giant ostrich costume, or carrying the angel of the north.  All of which just goes to show that a) I don’t know what the green dinosaur/gruffalo thing is and b) there is always someone worse off than yourself.

Geronimo is officially my running buddy, we are in it together, at least as a giraffe she, unlike me, should have some genetic adaptations to cope with the heat.  Also, if I do fall to the pavement, she will cushion my fall.  Also, it may yet be that the salty tears streaking down my face at the pain and horror of the heat might actually help, providing a cooling effect as they evaporate, and allowing me to lick them off my face in order to re-ingest the salt.  Thinking about it, I wonder if that’s an acceptable alternative to carrying electrolytes? Just gathering up the tears of fellow runners in a vial under the pretext of offering them comfort, and using them to replenish my lost salts instead?  I’m feeling more hopeful now.   Perhaps there are some proactive steps I can take after all!  We’ll fly round, just like at the Sheffield half, only for twice as long and with worse race photos at the end of it.  That’s not so bad.  As long as I make it round in time for the bling, that’s doable…

I’m also not feeling well.  Sore throat, which has properly transitioned to shivers and sleepless nights.  The only comfort I take is that I’ve still got a couple of days to go.  Lovely Martin Yelling, who has been doing fortnightly marathon training pep talks has kept saying that this last week wont make too much – indeed any – difference in terms of fitness, so I probably gain more from rest and allowing my body to recover than from forcing myself out to try to ‘keep things ticking over’.  I’ve lost hope that any part of my body will tick over properly ever again anyway.  Right now, as of this moment, I couldn’t spring up to answer the front door, let alone spring round a marathon route.   Even so, I tell myself that once I’m at the start, I’ll have to get to the end to pick up my stuff so might as well just put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.  To be on the safe side I’ve googled ‘running marathon feeling ill’ and basically got loads of people saying they got round and it was horrible but that way no regrets.

Personally, given that I can’t defer again anyway, whatever the weather, however rough I feel, I can not, and will not let this opportunity pass me by.  I am so grateful for this chance, and mindful of other talented runners who either missed out on the ballot, or, arguably worse, got knocked out in training by injury or illness.   It’s hard to say why, ultimately it is only a run, and an inherently pointless activity.  The thing is though I’ve watched this event on the telly for years and years thinking how amazing it would be to run London but with the sub-text ‘but I could never do that.’  Contrary to popular belief, I am not completely delusional, I know I am an unlikely candidate to get round a marathon.  Nevertheless, I’ve trained, I’ll try, and if I can do this, it matters not whether the result is pretty, what matters is that it will be a minor victory for the underdog.  If I can do this, then maybe it shows me and others too, that we can all do more than we think.  We wont know what unless we plunge out of our comfort zone and give it our best shot, you only know your limits when you’ve tested them. There is no getting away from the symbolism of completing a marathon, it’s supposed to be testing, that’s sort of the whole point…. I  suppose  I was just kind of hoping the test would not involve running in heat like an ant trying to flee from the focused rays of a magnifying glass. That seems a little harsh.  But hey, there’d be no point if it was easy would there?  And think of the anecdotes?  All will be well, or not.  But we get to find out really soon now.  Aaargh.

I need to keep it in perspective.  To help me rationalise this, I made a little list to try to see my situation objectively.  You should try it, it really helps, basically, I reckon the only things I really need to stress about are the following:

Angst (all variants); Boiling hot weather; Chafing (everywhere); Dehydration; Electrolytes (take/dont take; Fancy dress fails; General malaise; Hydration (over/under); Injury (pre/ during and post even); Just everything really; Knee niggles – why is it doing that wobbly thing NOW also KIT what to wear; Looking stupid if I don’t make it round (or looking stupid anyway) and/or Leaving Geronimo behind somewhere; Missing my supporters (if any) en route; Niggles; Over emotional (becoming); Precautionary pee opportunities; Queues (for loos/ start/ registration); Running; Sunburn, Strike, Socks choice, Shoe lace tightness and Sore throat; Temperature; Trainers, Timing device and Tomtom malfunctioning, Travel plans; Underwear (see chafing); Virgin London Marathon (being required to run it); Water stations – Where are they? Watch – will battery last; Xcel arena – how to get there; Yes, basically everything – Zikes, not quite what I was looking for in putting things in perspective!

The only real comfort is that this day is coming round ready or not.  It will be what it will be, and being part of the adventure is going to be amazing.  That part, I’m confident about.

I’ve been trying to distract myself by checking out other marathon stories.  Mercifully this has been a feel good week marathon wise – unless you are talking about the Callum Hawkins at the commonwealth games which we wont.  Apart from to say they were running in 30 degrees and it was a lot more humid but even so, seven out of the 24 runners did not complete the marathon.  We need to treat the heat with respect at least!  We wont look at this picture either, bad for morale:

Callum Hawkins commonwealth games

Instead, let’s talk about the Boston marathon.  There is much to celebrate there.  First off, let’s have a whoop whoop for the runner-up.  Sarah Sellers, who, despite working full-time as a nurse romped in to second place in only her second ever marathon.  Now, I’m not saying that I’ll definitely do another marathon after London, but food for thought people, food for thought.

whoop whoop for sarah sellers

In a possibly even more pleasing result (I know, hard to imagine) the first place man was none other than Yuki Kawauchi, known to some from marathon talks, but shamefully not to me.

Yuki kawauchi

The important thing here, is that this man who will henceforth become a living legend in his own time because, get this

Yuki warmed up for the Boston Marathon by running in his home race, the Kuki half marathon, dressed as a panda. He had previously set an unofficial world record in the same race for 13.1miles in a three piece suit. In his panda costume, he ran 1hr 10min 03sec, finishing second, and beating his brother Yoshiki

70 minutes for a half marathon.  In a panda suit.  Genius.  Faster than front runners at Sheffield half, just goes to show, fancy dress really helps you put a wiggle on, just saying.

panda suit yuki kawauchi

I think race organisers are cottoning on to the fancy dress speed premium. That’s why one marathon at least has made it compulsory.  Dear reader, I bring you the marathon du medocFancy dress, and 23 wine and food stops along the way, according to this Guardian article so it must be true.  The theme for 2018 is amusement park apparently, so ferris wheels and carousels at the ready everyone.  Still time to enter, it’s September each year.  It may no longer be a well-kept secret, but it does sound a hoot!  There;s a little video about it here.  Ooh, you know you want to people…

And you know what?  Reading these accounts puts the joyousness of it all back centre stage.  It’s going to be a great adventure.  Everyone taking part, in whatever capacity, running, supporting, spectating, working will have their own micro adventure on the day. There is still something joyful and optimistic about 40,000 people, or thereabouts, launching themselves onto the streets of London, to stream past so many iconic landmarks and find out first hand what a marathon means to them.  I still can’t quite believe I’ll be one amongst the masses too!

My biggest challenge is no longer will my legs and lungs hold out, but how will I manage with the heat.  And the sun, I can’t bear being out in the sun, I think I’m part vampire somewhere along the genealogical line.  I suppose that’s where the mental preparation comes in – or not.  I’ll have to remember what I did to keep going on the long runs when it was cold and horrible, or I felt faint and queasy but dug deep and did it anyway.  To be fair, often it was because there just wasn’t another option.  I can find that mindset on Sunday too.    Also, a fellow London marathoner, who sounds like she’s in the know, tells me that nice London people will give out ice pops en route!  Maybe things are looking up…  Plus, if it’s hot, then it’s going to be a slow one for everyone, at least I’m used to running slowly.  I came across a blog from someone who collapsed at London in heat at mile 17, he shares his lessons from that experience, the main one being, just finish safely.  That’s a good point well made!

So now, I just need to check and lay out my kit, again.  And keep on fretting, because despite all advice to the contrary, I’m increasingly thinking that this is an unavoidable part of the marathon preparation process.

Oh, and two more things. There is an app available now, so people can track your lamentable progress on the day from the comfort of under a sun hat in their own gardens, and also an automatic Facebook page alert.  I’ve signed up for this.  It sends ‘real time’ messages, posting automatically on my Facebook page when I cross the start, half way point and the finish line.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m fearful my facebook friends will assume the technology has broken as the sloth like nature of my progress is flashed up for all to see.  Oh well.  I can only do what I can do.  We shall see…

Probably be harder being Mo to be fair, he really has got some pressure on his shoulders.  Setting out to break the British Record on Sunday, in all that heat, that’s real pressure.

lovely farah

Mind you, he doesn’t have to do it carrying a giraffe does he?  Not comparing like with like are we.  Just saying…  I’ll still be too star struck to speak if I see him.  Not that that’s very likely at the start to be fair, but maybe at the expo….

The course map is here by the way.  Eek.  And if you want to know the route from the ground, check out this video time-lapse of the London Marathon Course from the lead car.  I’ve just watched it.  Gulp. Seems an awfully long way, but on the plus side, you get to run through some tunnels!  I’d forgotten about them, and I love running through tunnels.

You know what, with them predicting the hottest London marathon on record I’m truly scared, but I’m also pretty determined to do this.  I’m afraid of course, but you know how it goes

But what if I fall?

Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

Might be hope over experience, but I want to see if I can fly.  Even if I’m a bit earth-bound, I’m relying on the gusts of good will from the London crowds to give me a bit of an uplift!  I’ve heard it often enough that this will carry you round, I was just hoping for being carried a little bit more literally than I now understand is on offer.  Oh well.

Ready or not.

Bring it on!

At least I’m not wearing the rhino suit.  With apologies to those who are!



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Maranoia mended? Running fun rediscovered, but it took a while to come into view…

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

finish funnel

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tralee-parkrun-edit.jpg

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.

is there a medal

I decided to be brave, strap on my shoes with my motivational bling:

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.

wild garlic

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?

strava route

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!  🙂

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On a quest to catch pearls of running wisdom … mingling with the stars and the onset of maranoia.

Digested read: time is running out now.  Mistakes are being made. Went to Nicky Spinks talk. Sigh, she is such a legend, that helped me believe (temporarily) that of course I can run a marathon.  Had a sports massage.  Ouch. That made me lose some training and with it confidence in myself that I can do this thing. Then I read a book and tapped into support from friends and got some motivational running bling, and well, who knows?  I’m beginning to think the actual marathon will be the easy bit, if I make it to the start, it’s all these mind games and faffing about in advance that is the real challenge.  Oh well, I am where I am, and only time will tell how this will  unfold. Did you know there is an alternative definition for maranoia by the way?  See if you can work it out for yourself!

I’ve contracted maranoia now.  I’m becoming so risk averse it’s a miracle I can even venture out of the house.  My London marathon virtual running buddies (there’s a group of us spread around the UK who met at a London running weekend and now share a Facebook group) seem to be similarly suffering.  Whatever the scope of our London marathon training programmes to date, as the countdown to London seems to be speeding up, so too our individual and collective anxiety seems to be increasing.

As I understand it, with about 4 or 5 weeks to go, you probably can’t do all that much to increase fitness in the time remaining, but there’s plenty of time to jeopardise everything through injury, illness or an over or under enthusiastic taper.  Of course I don’t feel I’ve done enough training.  Constantly rubbish weather has really not helped, I’m so over snow now, can’t believe there was ever a time when I enjoyed the beauteous novelty of it all.  The point is, I can’t change what’s happened up until this point, so instead I’m becoming totally obsessed with controlling those things I can. With this in mind, I’ve reluctantly pulled out of a Smiley mass trip to take part in a running event in the Lakes the week before London.  A mass cohort of us went to the lakes over the summer, and that was epic taking on both Helvellyn and a route round Ullswater.  At the time of booking I was thinking it might be good to hang out with Smilies whilst tapering, and a 10k is modest enough to keep the legs moving.  Now though, I’m fearful of falling on unfamiliar ground, but more so, the thought of two sleepless nights in a dorm, and not being able to control what I eat and drink and I think it’s just not worth it.   This London Marathon is a once in a lifetime opportunity, being a Smiley is a permanent state.  Not just for Christmas, but for life indeed.  It’s like joining a (hopefully) benign cult.  Once touched by its embrace, you can never leave.  I was a bit sad about pulling out of the Lakes, I may have got something in my eye whilst typing the email cancellation note out – but having seen some photos of the terrain it does look gorgeous but treacherous.  Those are ankle breaking stones I’d say.  Normally love a good trail run, but not with this timing.  Also, part of the route is known as The coffin trail.  Not a moniker that instils a runner with confidence about taking on the path with vigour…  Having made the decision, I actually feel quite relieved, so that means it must be the right thing for me anyway.  Looks lovely though doesn’t it?  Fortunately there is always next year…


I’m also seeking advice from all over the place.   I don’t know if this is actually helpful.  The problem is a lot of advice is contradictory or relates to faster, fitter runners with different goals.  There is also a huge temptation to just keep asking loads of different people what they think I should do until I land on the person who tells me what I want to hear.  Maybe that’s what we all seek ultimately, some external validation of our thoughts and experiences.  Fragile creatures aren’t we?

Anyway, in the spirit of advice seeking, and also finding things to do which might help my running without actually having to put myself to the trouble or unpleasantness of actually running, I got wind of the chance to go to a talk by the living legend that is Nicky Spinks. She of the double Bob Graham challenge.  Hosted by Kim Baxter physiotherapy it had the promising title of ‘how to stay injury free and run further with Nicky Spinks‘  The blah de blah said:

Nicky Spinks is a British long distance runner, specialising in fell running, who set women’s records for the major fell running challenges the Ramsay Round, the Paddy Buckley Round and the Bob Graham Round. She is the holder of the overall record for the double Bob Graham Round.

She returns to talk for the third time due to popular demand. This time her talks takes on a new theme and focus – she will be giving you her best tips and advice on how to run longer distances and train for ultra marathons whilst staying injury free.

A great informative informal evening for those who like to run, thinking of upping their distance or for those who just want to be inspired!

Nicky left us truly inspired last time, and we cant wait to see and listen to her again.

Though frankly she could talk about anything at all, just to be present within her orbit would surely be enough to gain endurance by association?  She exudes such straightforward positivity that I reckon it would just radiate outwards from her and so anyone in her vicinity would benefit.  Unless you were wearing lead underwear that prevented the rays from reaching you I suppose.  Lead underwear is more a diving thing than a running thing though, so I reckoned it’s be ok.

I stomped up to the venue which is up Ecclesall Road.  I’d forgotten just how long that road is.  I mean it’s only about a two-mile walk from where I live, but what a trudge.  It occurred to me that I’m going to have to run up this route – and back down again – in a couple of weeks time for the Sheffield half.  I loved the Sheffield Half marathon when I ran it two years ago, but for the life of me I was struggling to remember why that was as I walked upwards and onwards.  Hope I feel a bit livelier on the day.

A fellow smiley had prompted me to go, and got a ticket for me.  She rang me as I was making my way up, and said I just needed to mention her name to gain entry.  I joked that I was rather hoping that mentioning her name and mine too would lead to a plush red carpet being rolled out and a glass of chilled champagne being pressed into my hand.  Oh how we laughed.

So I arrived at the place up at Parkhead shops (entry round the back) and gave my name and… guess what!  No really, guess.

That’s right! We were indeed given a glass of prosecco on arrival.  This was great news.  It’s the first drink I’ve had in months too, I’ve been completely abstemious during training.  I wasn’t about to turn that down though, and it went straight to my head, I’ve got a low tolerance to alcohol anyway, but the benefit of that is just a single prosecco  bubble up my nose and my body thinks it’s an instant party.  The downside of this is that I crash and burn quite quickly, but then again, no hangovers.  It was great arriving, an intimate sort of space, nicely set out and welcoming, and the place was packed out with people I knew.  People from woodrun, people from Smilies, people from parkrun. This is most excellent.  I saw some I’d hardly seen all winter the weather has been so grim, so it was good to catch up on people’s running goals.  A fair few are taking on the Sheffield half.

Eventually, we were called to order and Nicky was given the stage. I’ve seen her Double Bob Graham film ‘Run Forever’ before, and heard her speak before as well, but I enjoyed this event the most. It was very informal, and Nicky (yes, I feel we are on first name terms now) comes across as very genuine and ‘grounded’.  Her physical achievements and mental fortitude are astonishing, but even so, she admitted to at times being intimidated by other people’s strava records, and harbouring self-doubt.

There are too many points to summarise, but a few things stood out for me/  For example,  how relatively low her mileage was given the ultra challenges she takes on. Hence, train smarter not longer seems a wise mantra.  On an easy week she might just be doing 24 miles, up to say 45-50 on a hard week (though of course she is working from a base line of phenomenal endurance and experience already banked).  Some things sounded like common sense when she said them out loud, even though they went against some accepted wisdom.  I’m thinking of her observation that you should train to what your body needs and responds to and not just blindly do things because a training plan says you should even though you are exhausted and your body is crying out for a break.  She also tends not to ever do three hard weeks in a row (lots of training plans advocate three tough weeks, then pull back for the fourth).  She showed us some of her plans, and indeed it was true, only ever two or three at a push hard training weeks consecutively.

She told us that ultra marathon running is more an eating contest than a running one.  She recommended learning to eat at weird times, sharing how a breakthrough moment in her training programme was waking up in the middle of the night and feeling peckish. Result, her body was getting used to shoveling down food in the small hours. Staying awake all night and dealing with sleep deprivation goes with the territory of being a farmer, she seemed to be able to cope with that with at least resignation if not enthusiasm.  The main thing though that I got from her talk was a sense that you don’t know your limits unless you try things, and you shouldn’t assume things are impossible from the outset.

It astonishes me really, that you can come away thinking you can do anything after a talk from Nicky Spinks because she is clearly super human.  However, there was something in her demeanour that made the likes of me believe that there is certainly no harm in giving things a try.  When it comes to covering distance, you might surprise yourself with your endurance potential.  You don’t have to train insane distances, you don’t have to slavishly follow programmes that don’t work for you, but you do have to have an inner quiet tenacity and for endurance at least, a team to support you.

Inevitably, there was a fleeting moment of disillusion.  I’ve always been particularly impressed with her ability to down chips and curry sauce mid the double Bob Graham round.  Alas, today she revealed the devastating news that she is apparently ‘known’ for being sick on her runs!  Turns out it’s not just an eating competition, eating is only the first part of the dual challenge, you have to keep it down afterwards for long enough to gain some nutritional benefit, the initial ingestion is just the start.  She went on to explain that initially this used to bother her, now she’s learnt to just have a little gander at what’s come back, and from that revise her nutrition planning according to what may now need replenishing!  I’m never sick, well, hardly ever, consequently I don’t think I could be that laid back about the whole thing, but good to know that there are strategies to be deployed should the situation arise.

The talk went quickly, and afterwards, a few of  us shamelessly asked for a photo.  In my defence, I thought we were all supposed to be doing The Cabaret Pose, I hadn’t understood the whole thing was a set up.  Oh well.  At least I have a celebrity picture.  I still have a gap where I want one with Jessica Ennis, (oh the photo that got away) but what with this of Nicky Spinks and the one of us Smilies with Paul Sinton-Hewitt I’m doing OK.

hanging out with the great and good nicky spinks

We left bubbling over with enthusiasm about the talk and feeling inspired.  Somebody, I can’t remember who, said ‘she’s the sort of person you just want to go up to and say please let me be your friend‘. I know what they meant.  However, I’d be happy just to follow her around gazing on her from afar, and being allowed the honour of passing her her sick bag for review when the occasion required it.

Despite being inspired to do loads of ultra-runs in future, clearly it is tremendously important to pace myself properly, so I availed myself of a lift home.  Tomorrow is another day after all..

One consequence of going to this talk, was that everyone who attended got a voucher towards either a physio session or a sports massage.  I’ve been wondering about getting a sports massage pre the marathon, so took the opportunity to sign up for one the following Monday.  I did check first that I’d still be able to run the next day.

Well, I duly went for the massage.  There were good points to this, the high point being when I asked the physio if she could feel anything untoward in my legs.  I don’t think there is anything, though my calves are really tight, I’m not aware of anything sinister.  Well dear reader she just said – unprompted – ‘no they’re fine, they just feel like runner’s legs‘.  Get in!  Get me and my ‘runner’s legs’ not a label I ever expected one of my body parts to be prefixed with.  This was very exciting indeed.   It also turned out that she’d done the London marathon herself, so loads of me downloading everything in her brain to learn from her experience.  Fortunately, she was massively positive about the whole thing, and about my capacity to complete it – albeit based only on what I said about my preparation, and really who knows until they do it.

Then the actual massage.  The thing is, I’ve not really had one before, not a full one hour massage.  I’m sure it was ultimately beneficial, but oh my it was like doing a legs workout.  I expected to feel it a bit at the time, and to be a bit spacey in the evening afterwards. What I hadn’t expected, was to feel completely wiped out for the next two days.  I was supposed to be doing a long run, but I just didn’t feel my legs had it in them, and reasoned it would be foolish to head out if I was in trouble just walking around the house.  It took a few days for them to settle.  So frustrating.  I can’t regret the massage entirely, because it was reassuring that there are no niggles there, and probably the deep tissue massage did make them loosen up a bit by the end of the week.  However, I am most definitely not taking the chance of having another one between now and London.  I hope it wasn’t a mistake, it has cost me one long run, but then again it’s done now.  I suppose if I was used to having them regularly then it might be different.  Oh well, not being able to tolerate them will save me a fortune in my future ultra running career.


I tried to keep my running spirits up by reading inspirational literature, and by sharing needy messages to my London marathon superstars Facebook friends.  Interestingly, a lot of us seem to be struggling this week with cumulative fatigue and drop in confidence.  The end is so near yet so far I suppose.   The thing is, I look at all they’ve done and its ‘easy’ for me to see that for them, of course they are exhausted, they’ve trained really hard, they’ll be fine after they’ve tapered.  I on the other hand, well, obviously my fatigue is entirely different.  In my case it’s my body saying best not bother, I’m way out of my depth and this is not ‘fatigue’ it is my body actually disintegrating in protest in a last-ditch attempt to thwart my intention to get to the start of London Marathon.  It will do whatever it takes to prevent me joining the line up.  It’ll probably find a way to hide my photo id if I make it as far as the expo, no photo ID no race number.  The pre-registration email instructions are adamant on this point.  I need to watch out…

Happily I got this book in the post the same day I had the sports massage.

running the smoke

It was recommended to me as something of an emotional read.  I don’t know what I was expecting quite.  I mean the accounts are impressive, but honestly, I didn’t find them all that relatable. I was explaining this to a fellow Smiley ‘the thing is, I just can’t directly identify with the woman recounting how she felt after winning London‘,  ‘well of course you can’t!  she quipped back ‘you haven’t run it and won it yet so you can’t know!’  Good point well made.  Joking apart though, I was hoping for less heroic recovery stories, and more, well middle-aged women, who’d come to running late who were just going to give it their best shot to find out if they could get round and then they found out they could and they did.  The stories were amazing, how these people overcame adversity of the most extreme situations imaginable (surviving genocide, losing your hands and feet to frost bite and/or terrorist attacks) to get to London, but it catapulted the tales into the ‘extraordinary’ category,  we are not sharing the experiences of mere mortals in this  compendium of collective London marathon experiences.  Hang on – here’s some of the blah de blah:

Running the Smoke tells the story of what it’s like to take part in the London Marathon in the most enlightening and enriching way possible: from the perspectives of twenty-six different runners who have been there and done it. Michael McEwan delves to the heart of these runners’ stories, discovering their reasons for running and revealing the drive that has seen them cross the finishing line. From global superstars Sir Steve Redgrave and Michael Lynagh to legends in the running world such as Liz McColgan and Dick Beardlsey, from fun-runners like Lloyd Scott who ran the 2002 race in a deep-sea diving suit, to heroes of a different kind in multiple amputee Jamie Andrew, 7/7 terrorist attack survivor Jill Tyrrell, or Sadie Phillips who has twice defeated cervical cancer, Running the Smoke lifts the lid on an array astonishing stories that are often heart-breaking, always heart-warming – and endlessly inspirational.

See what I mean?  Just to be clear, running in a diving suit doesn’t sound like a ‘fun run’ to me either, and Lloyd Scott who did this, was actually a professional footballer at one point, so not really starting off with a C25K (Couch to five k) fitness baseline.

lloyd scott marathon

Impressive yes, but not an account that helps me believe I could do that too.  I’m going to put it out there and say that I’m confident I most definitely couldn’t.  Some challenges cannot be achieved by positive thinking alone.  Fact.  Consequently, right now I want to hear stories from the more seemingly mundane end of the spectrum of human experience.  Of the apparently ordinary people, who stepped out of their comfort zone and found they could take on London too.  People who might actually make me believe I have the capacity within me to get round also.  I think it’s still an achievement to get round even if you didn’t have to triumph over adversity to get to the start line.  Plus, actually, I believe that most people have their own remarkable stories that might not be quite so immediately headline grabbing, but are truly inspirational nevertheless.  Everyone I know who runs, runs for a reason.  The book also has a strong focus on elite athletes, again, their achievements are impressive but way out of my league in terms of providing personal inspiration.

The book also has a disappointingly high proportion of accounts from  men, it’s not that I’m not interested in their stories, but it wasn’t very inclusive, and I need to hear women’s voices right now. It made me wonder what the gender split is for London.  I asked Google and haven’t tried that hard to research it, but it seems there is most definitely a majority of men who take part, around two thirds of marathon runners are male according to this Guardian report from 2015.  I think it’s shifting though, interestingly, there is a suggestion that women do better with endurance events – though that may be they are less likely to take them on unless they’ve trained adequately in advance.   I think only five or so of the 26 runners stories were from women, not very inclusive.  Having said that, it did make me want to get there. It also made me want to redress this imbalance.  I wonder if I could somehow gather together all the women I know who have run marathons, and get their stories.  Most people I know who run, run for a reason, some are indeed amazing athletes, but others have achieved great things through sheer bloody minded tenacity.  Juggling running goals alongside a myriad of other practical demands (work, family, physical and mental health) and physical as well as mental challenges.  Those are the stories I want to hear and share. We should celebrate the achievements of those within our own running communities, there is just as much tears, tenacity, triumph and talent closer to home as further afield.

I also note increasingly how runners, well, the women I know anyway, support one another hugely, we are back to external validation perhaps?  I have found I really need people around who tell me this is achievable for me.  I don’t care if they are crossing their fingers behind their backs as they say so, I need to hear this.   Thank you everyone, from the bottom of my heart who has not laughed in my face when I have outed myself as attempting to tackle this, and more thanks a-plenty to those who’ve nurtured me along the way.   Running a marathon isn’t as much of a solo endeavour as you might think.  Maybe on the course, but getting to the start, that’s a different thing altogether.  For me, training for this marathon has been contradictory.  In some ways it is by its very nature isolating, especially if like me you can’t find a runner of a similar pace to train with, and ultimately, only I can get out the door and do the training runs myself.  On the other hand, I’ve been astonished by the generous support, advice and encouragement others have freely offered up.  It is an amazing thing this marathon voyage, it seems so many of the clichés are true.  It is indeed a journey.  It will be an emotional roller coaster, and yes, I will probably cry all the way round. That’s the annoying thing about clichés though, they become clichés for a reason, because they do reference common truths.  Oh well.  I’m happy to embrace any number of clichés or motivational phrases if that’s what is needed to get me round!

believed she could

Speaking of which, a gift came in the post from one of my London marathon superstar buddies, and it gave me a fantastic and timely lift.  I won’t be running London alone at all, I’ll have my running buddy with me every step of the way!

support every step of the way

Not long now.  I need to channel all the positivity I can.  Guess I have to train my mind to be positive as much as train my body to keep moving forward.  In the meantime, I leave you with some alternative definitions of maranoia.  Maranoa is also a region of south-west Queensland in Australia. That could get confusing, they don’t seem to have a running club there.  Coincidence?  I think we all know otherwise.


You’re welcome.

Counting down now, counting down.



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