Which is silly and self-induced.
Starting with hurty brain games. Little London Marathon gremlins who sabotage with negative self-talk. Over and over. Wittering on.
And then it gets easier as you realize you’re actually moving at a reasonable pace. You feel motivated. So you smile at the lovely supporters and high-five children with melted jelly-babies and snot stuck to their palms.You think to yourself how lucky you are to be able to do this. That your legs work and you are breathing and alive. Life is good. The London Marathon is just an extraordinary experience.
Then somebody elbows you in the tits, not once but twice and suddenly it’s a hateful bloody race with too many people invading your space and tarmac and smelly deep heat and body odours and no cows, sheep or mud. So you decide this is the last marathon you will ever run. And you start to feel better because you’ve made a sensible decision.
Now all that’s needed is to get to the end.
But you’re only at mile 5 and there’s another 21 to run. Have a gel. Distract yourself. Grab some water. Try not to choke as you run and attempt drinking at the same time. Or gag on the gel. Or Face-plant. Daren’t stop or will be trampled to death.
That’s better you think. More energy. Ooh look nearly 6 miles. And wow how does that man run with a bloody fridge on his back? Respect.
The sun comes out and the gentle heat cheers you up, someone shouts your name so you look into the crowd to see who it could be and become impailed upon a rhino’s large horn. You apologise because you love rhinos. But the rhino just bounds off into the crowd ahead.
You hear some wild drumming and a steel band is jamming under the flyover. The beat carries you and you decide that you like drums. It makes you want to dance.
Elvis gallops by in his white and gold lycra – the crowd goes bonkers, you’d think he was the real thing. Superman and a semi-naked leprachaun trot beside you in deep conversation. You try to eves-drop. And fail.
After what feels like forever, you’ve counted your steps, backwards, forwards, in French… Tower Bridge looms large like a film set. You grab your phone and take a picture. Except you only manage to get the back of someone’s sweaty head. So you try again. When home you realize all your photos are of white lines and feet and somebody’s handbag.
Crossing the bridge is awesome although you hope you won’t be grabbed by the BBC for an interview because you’re not sure that anything would come out of your mouth other than dribble.
The crowds are louder than ever. Louder than you remember. Too bloody loud. You want them to shush! There is no doubting the extraordinary support – the balloons, banners, flags cheering on big bird, monkeys, penguins, the eiffel tower all sorts of unrecognisable wild life. If you like that sort of thing. Which you don’t. You like silence. And meditative running. So why are you actually running the race? Oh yes, for charity. That’s it. Raising much needed funds. Good. That’s okay then.
You need a wee. But you put it out of your mind.
A boat with red indians floats by. Well it doesn’t really float. Because they are running. The supporters start making red indian noises. The runners don’t look happy. You drunkenly grin at them and look around and once again try hard to take in the atmosphere and forget your need to wee which you were only imagining anyway.
Then your hamstrings cramp and you stop smiling. Never before has this happened. You stretch. But every time you stop to stretch somebody behind the barrier yells in your ear that you’re doing fine, keep going, nearly there…Which makes you limp on and swear.
You need a poo. But you put it out of your mind because this is totally unacceptable.
More music lifts you up and carries you forward. You like the live music. A spray of cold water hits you in the face, it’s refreshing. Somebody is making loud grunty noises behind you. A camera ahead makes you grin and lift your arms in the air because you are, after all, a poser, despite the grumpiness. A dinasour shaped penis strides across in front of you. Or is it a penis shaped dinasour? This keeps you occupied for all of two minutes as you try to work out what it is trying to be.
The miles are passing slowly. The cramp is cramping quickly. You realize a pb is not within your reach. Was it ever? You realize too that actually you are not going to run anywhere near the time you reached when you last ran the race. But it’s not a race you remind yourself. It’s an ‘experience’. Hrrrrmphand buggerit say your gremlins. So you walk run. Head down and get to the end. Remembering to lift your heavy head, smile and point your finger to the sky as you cross the finish line.
Because you are One in a Million.
You collect your bling and through the post-marathon brain-fug-silly-walk-drunkfunk, work out where to go to collect your bag. Only determining the bag numbers corresponding to the correct lorry takes you a very long time. Then you sit down on the gravel with a thud and think thank F**k for that and eat your body weight in chocolate.
You take a selfie and tell everyone on Facebook how truly wonderful the London marathon is.
Until the next one.
This time next week I shall be lining up with over 38,000 (yikes) other runners, rhinos, supermans and jolly people at the start-line of this year’s London Marathon. This will be my 4th time of running it and 8th marathon overall. But right now it is taper-time. The time that every runner dreads because we have to cut down on our running to rest our eager-beaver bodies in order to be ready to run 26.2 miles. That .2 is a killer by the way…
Psychologically it is hard; being a running addict I am dependent on my running to keep me sane. It makes me feel happy and strong and not old. So please don’t ask me to stop. Or cut down.
So this week the doubts about ability that started small begin to loom large. Withdrawal symptoms include delusions about weight gain, irrational and ungrounded fears of knee problems that I already visualise starting as I cross Tower Bridge and the sudden need for a hip replacement before next Sunday. Not to mention the fear of an unexpected urge to poo mid-race with no portaloos in sight. All neurotic symptoms of this mad marathon non-training period.
The hard work has been done. But suddenly it feels as if having a week or two of less running means that we’ll be lucky to drag ourselves as far as mile one.
But it will be be fine! Of course it will.
And then it will be over. The endorphins and post-race adrenalin will be coursing through our weary bodies and we’ll head straight to the internet with our medals still hanging around our necks to enter another marathon. Even though we said this was the last, the first, the only one this year…
Madness. All of it.
But nothing beats it.
See you on the other side.
I love the peace I feel when focussing totally on my breath and encouraging my body to feel strong. The only sounds I hear are the birds and distant traffic noises, interrupted by the occasional quack or squawk from the water.
If I could, I would run like this, off-road, every day of my life because it grounds me, makes me happy, confident and is totally and utterly life-enhancing.
You should try it.
‘The word confidence means to be self-assured about one’s qualities. Both running and meditation give us this feeling. In both activities, confidence naturally ensues because we are experiencing self-assurance. Runners know this, because running is an optimistic sport: fundamentally, we believe in the power of the body. Meditation is also an optimistic tradition: fundamentally, we believe in the power of the mind. In Tibetan, confidence is known as ziji. This word can also be translated as ‘brilliance’ or ‘to shine’. Ziji expresses how confidence feels and looks: mentally we shine, and physically we glow, Both running and meditation bring out our radiance’. Sakyong Mipham ‘Running with the mind of meditation’.
‘Ageing is changing. Governments, health service providers, insurance, leisure and construction industries, even the United Nations are addressing not just a growing older demographic, but also the value of an increasingly active and healthy senior population. And yet, in the media, the over 60s are still more likely to be portrayed as infirm, immobile, silly, redundant, sick, spent and sad’.
Alex Rotas’ recent photos are of veteran sports women and men – it’s wonderful to see these positive images challenging the stereotypical view of older people. They remind me that age really is just a number and gives me hope that the negativity surrounding the ageing population is perhaps changing. We all get old and none of us like it. But we have no choice, so to find a positive and active way to live our later years needs to be encouraged. And Alex Rotas is flying the flag.
Let’s keep on running into our eighties…and nineties..
Take a look here at more work from Alex Rotas: http://alexrotasphotography.co.uk/#about
Possibly not a regular habit?
Unless you attend one of my Pilates classes of course, where you are subjected to much footy fun during the warm up.
Whether you run, walk or sit all day I think we take our feet for granted. But think of the impact they endure as we walk, run miles and miles, wear unsuitable shoes (some) or boogie the night away – they need TLC if they’re to last intact and pain free for our lifetime.
So what can you do to keep your feet in good shape? Apart from sensible footwear, which is probably far too boring, regular exercises that are quick and easy to do are the way forward.
So here are a few of my suggestions….
Ideally performed in bare feet – when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or brushing your teeth, slowly raise yourself up on the balls of both feet, hold for a second and then slowly lower your heels back down to the floor.
The ‘slowly’ is always the challenging part. It’s not easy but will strengthen your Achilles tendons.
When you’re sitting at your desk or flopped on the sofa watching tv, rotate your ankles first one way and then the other. Draw a circle with your toes so that your ankle joint is rotated through its full range of movement.
Finally, another simple exercise that is easy to fit into your daily routine and that will improve flexibility and blood flow – again, whether you’re prostrate on the sofa, at your desk working at your computer (and in bare feet) scrunch/curl up your toes and then relax – repeat several times. You could even try picking up a towel off the floor or try using your toes to pick up a pen!
Your feet will thank you!
Today’s inspirational running blog interview is with the lovely, very funny (as in humorous) and wonderfully honest Fiona O’Donovan who is running the London Marathon this year for the charity Variety – if you need motivation to keep going, this is it!
When did you start running and why?
I started running twice.
In 2010 The Penn 7 made Aces Wheelchair Basketball Team the beneficiary of their race. My son plays for Aces and absolutely adores the sport. It’s given him the chance to compete, to burn off the energy small boys have and to make new friends and learn new skills.
Anyway…it was felt that some people from Aces should enter the run, show appreciation and support. Trouble is none of us were runners. Clare Strange (now Griffiths) was coaching one night and set about rounding up some victims. She got to me and asked if I’d run it and I explained that I couldn’t run. She asked why not. Well, the truth of it was I probably could, in theory, run. My legs do work, I am able bodied. So..ye-eees I suppose I could run. ‘Excellent! she said, at which point I realised what was happening and bargained her down to the 5k Fun Run as opposed to the 7 mile race. Phew, That was close.
I sort of trained, in as much as I wheezed and lurched round a 5k loop a few times. I bought ridiculously expensive trainers which did absolutely nothing. No jet packs, no wheels, NOTHING! I could have got a taxi for a fraction of the price. I started the race, I ran/walked the course and I made it to the finish. Despite my glowering, swearing and muttering I admit to a little moment of triumph when I crossed the finish line. Clare gave me my medal and I thanked her and told her I was never EVER running again. Ever. Ask someone else next time. If they were having a wine drinking competition I was in, but no running. She grinned and didn’t look at all apologetic. Rude.
I got home, threw my trainers to the back of the cupboard under the stairs and forgot all about dreams of athletic prowess and podium moments. Stupid running.
That New Year there was the usual alcohol consumption, the usual memories popping up on Facebook. I was on Facebook as some lunatic had given my husband a new computer game for Christmas and he had been locked in an on-going battle for survival since Boxing Day. Facebook, ‘Your Year in Review’ Wine…somehow ended up in me entering The Great South Run the following year.
I woke up to 2011 with that sense of impending doom, never a good way to start a year. I groaned, groped for my phone, and my fears were confirmed. I’d entered AND Facebooked it. Crap. if you’ve put it on Facebook, you have to do it. It’s the rules. I have a feeling Harri was hoping for inspirational reasons. Sorry H, it’s guilt and alcohol.
How did you start?
The first time I did it on my own. For the GSR I plucked up the courage to join Handy Cross Runner’s beginners group. It had been advertised on Marlow Parents and sounded ideal.
Join a beginner’s group. Whether it’s part of a running club (they’re not all full of budding Olympians and good friendships can be made). It’s scary as hell going along the first time but you will benefit, I promise. I don’t know if it’s different now, but when I was at school we weren’t taught how to run. There was nothing about pacing or gradual increases in distance. You just rocked up on the field (or those who hadn’t perfected their Mum’s signature did) and ran until your lungs were bursting and you could go no further. The naturally athletic did fine, it wasn’t an inspiring process for me. You have to learn how to run, how to go slow and build gradually. Blazing off the start line will leave you exhausted and trying hard not to puke on your own shoes in a very short distance. A group with a good coach will teach you how to be able to run further and faster in your 40’s than you could in your teens (assuming you weren’t one of the athletic crowd). You’ll learn that the start is the very hardest part, the first mile when your body is just warming up is hard for everyone, but once you settle into it you get to chatting with your group and nosing at the houses you don’t see when you’re in the car, your fitness will build with you barely noticing.
Every time you run you’ll improve. And, whilst you are out running you are not avoiding eye contact with the ironing pile, finding the 67 millionth thing your children have lost, trying to get a field of mud out of football boots or staring into the fridge for nutritional inspiration that the kids will actually eat.
You’re running the London Marathon in April for the charity Variety – tell me a bit about why you chose this charity.
My son PJ is a wheelchair user, the NHS provide rubbish wheelchairs. I love the NHS, I do, but they’re crap at wheelchairs. So, we found the chair that would best suit my active son. Then we all fell over at the price tag, £2300, and set about finding help. Keep in mind that children outgrow wheelchairs like they outgrow everything else. This is a huge, and ongoing, expense. Variety stepped up quickly and offered to fund the whole amount, just like that.
If I tell you that this chair is what allows PJ to be himself, and to lead his life as independently as he does, you can understand my gratitude to Variety. PJ hates being pushed, I really wouldn’t recommend ‘helping’ him unless he’s asked you, you might lose fingers. You’d get a similar reaction if you tried to take the hand of any other 12 year old as they walk down the road, the intention is kind but they won’t thank you. His Ti-lite chair is light, strong and very easy for him to manoeuvre. The frame is also adjustable so it should last him a couple of years. I know Variety help, and we want to help them help more children. Despite all the negative press surrounding disabled people it really is true that, given the tools, most of them will go on to achieve and contribute as much to society as any able bodied person. Possibly more, these kids have been pushing themselves to keep up and fit in from Day 1. They are dedicated, hard-working and have endurance I can only marvel at.
You’ve recently started attending Pilates classes – are you noticing anything different in your running or how you feel as a result?
I am a convert! I feel lighter and more supple at the end of a pilates class. I admit to being very sceptical of the benefits of lying on the floor and waving my limbs about (that was my perception of pilates, not what actually happens) I think a mix of TRX and pilates might be the ideal runner’s class, but I am no expert. I’m happy to do both, but despite buying a trx system I admit to not using it much at all. Just go to a class, then you will do it. Shhh about this bit (men should avert their eyes – that includes Mr Tania)but pilates totally fixes your pelvic floor. Honest! You won’t need to worry about leaks, even on the downhills. Take it from me who ran 26.2 accompanied by Tena (you do not want to hear about the chafing). Pilates is like the best plumber ever. No leaks.
You were injured last year, how did you cope with your injury.
Hmmm…I got stroppy, drank wine, ate cheese and moaned. A lot. Then I listened to you and stretched, and got back into it. I know now that I need to warm up. I spend a lot of time dashing about, dropping my children here and there, getting to work etc etc. I then just go headlong into a run on catch-up mode and inevitably something pulls or tears. I have zero patience or tolerance when it comes to myself, everything should just work. Except…it doesn’t, a bit of respect and care is required.
This is tricky. I love a group so long as I don’t feel I am holding them back. That worries me, that I might hamper someone else’s run, spoil their training. I get quite stressy about it. My favourite run of the week right now is your improver’s group, they help me with my pacing and, hopefully I help with their distance. I am useless at running solo, I either procrastinate until it’s too late or go out sprinting and run out of steam. The only thing I have found that works is to start a long solo run on a downhill, a nice warm -up and no way will I turn for home when it’s all up, and having a good audio book takes my mind off the miles. Then I can run long on my own.
I love to laugh and talk on a run. It’s a social thing that hopefully keeps me fit. I like to use the time to have fun. We all have so many demands on our time that it’s important to get what you want out of your own time. That could mean improving your distance and times to a set goal, or just enjoying being out there. None of it is wrong, just do what is right for you. Just do something. Sitting still and not moving is not good for the endorphins.
Thank you so much Fiona! If you feel you can sponsor Fiona her Fundraising page is here: https://www.justgiving.com/Fiona-O-Donovan4
I’ve been running for many years but sometimes my enthusiasm for the sport can wane and I lose my mojo. Often it’s because I’ve been overdoing things, work has become very busy, everyone wants a bit of me and suddenly going for a run feels like it’s taking up precious time that I could be using more gainfully. Which of course is rubbish, as anybody who runs knows.
But the best thing you can do when your brain is frazzled and life stuff is interfering, is to go for a run! Because afterwards everything feels so much better.
When you’re feeling knackered a run is possibly the last thing on your list. Phone/text a running mate. Meet up. Go for a short trot, nothing more, and you’ll suddenly feel the magic return.
Discuss your loss of running love with your friends who run. Runners are a tightly knit group and very supportive of each other. There’s always somebody who can pick you up and encourage you to run. And don’t forget to chat and laugh too. You’ll feel so much better.
Did you know that you could save money, earn points and vouchers by exercising regularly? No, neither did I! But apparently you can…
Free to join – and Bounts turns all your exercise into points that can be exchanged for vouchers. Tracking your activities via their app whether it’s running, cycling or walking is easy and will earn you their ‘Bounts’. These can then be swapped for M&S, John Lewis, Pizza Express or Waitrose vouchers to name but a few high street stores who are part of this scheme. Pretty good incentive to get off that couch I’d say!
RUNNING HEROES https://uk.runningheroes.com/
Running Heroes is another exercise incentive driven app to get you moving. This time it’s aimed at encouraging you to run (well, obviously…) and when you do, rewarding you with points to spend at various sports stores. Companies who offer discounts for points earned include Ashmei, Polar, Buff and Sis. But there are many others too. So get your kit on, sign up and redeem your points!
EARTH MILES http://earthmiles.co.uk/
Likewise, Earth Miles too encourages you to be healthy and fit by using their app to log your excercise which they will then reward you for. Their rewards all come from healthy, responsible companies who care about the earth and your wellbeing. You can exchange them for discounts at places like Planet Organic or Embody Wellness, or on products like Nakd bars, Clearspring Organic foods and Primal Bars. There are even discounts on kit from Runners Need and Tiny Fish. I like this app the best – it’s environmentally conscious and encourages a holistic approach to fitness and health. So come on, what are you waiting for!
How did you start running and when?
I started running when I moved to New York years ago. I was working for the Australian Consulate and some of my colleagues were training for a marathon. I picked up a training sheet from the NY Cardio Health Board and was impressed by the fact that they started with a 3 minute walk and then a 3 minute run and began and ended with a 5 minute walk. Slowly but surely they built you up to 5 mile, 10 mile races and then half and full marathons. I had always thought that running was an efficient way to keep fit – you can do it anywhere, don’t need equipment (except good shoes) and you can do it alone or with company. I couldn’t afford to join a gym at that time so it seemed like an easy way to start looking after myself. I also thought I would lose weight! I then got married and moved to San Francisco and discovered lots of wonderful places to run and I took part in my first 10k race. I also joined a gym and started to use the treadmill too. I adore running outside but the treadmill was a good alternative when I missed my opportunity to run in the daylight.
My weight has fluctuated all my life because of the craziness of the 60s and 70s when we all indulged in grapefruit and egg diets and living on thin air. I discovered that running for me is a joy and keeps my fitness level high – now it is no longer a means to reducing my weight but instead a way to clear my head, lift my energy levels and keep me healthy. Lately, I’ve been injured, suffered a couple of problems such as adrenalin fatigue and I let the running slide away. I miss it so much. Yes, it was hard to actually get myself up and out there again but when I did it, the feeling was simple euphoria. Like meeting up with an old friend again. I am busy building up my miles and time again and it is great fun. I will not even run with my dogs because running is MY time!
When you are doing as I am now, and building up my miles and times, or when you are training there is nothing better than working on the core muscles and feeling your strength supporting you as you run. That is where Pilates is irreplaceable. You can hone in on tension spots and really stretch out any problem areas whilst at the same time maintaining and improving your strength.
How often do you attend a Pilates class?
Not as often as I want to or should! I like to go to one class a week but two would be superb. When I am on holiday or don’t have access to a class/gym, there are plenty of exercises that I feel confident to do on my own.
Yes, I do! I love the camaraderie and the atmosphere and the sense of achievement. I am quite determined to enter another half-marathon very soon. I am not a marathon runner. I trained for it once but the training became a chore and was taking the joy of running away from me. I am also scared as I am not a young slip of a gal anymore!
How do you motivate yourself to get outside and run when it’s cold and wet?
Well, I grew up in Glasgow so cold and wet is par of the course for me! I suffer more in the heat. I simply look forward to the lovely warm bath or shower that I will get at the end and that wonderful tingling glow that I’ll feel when I’m bathed and dressed. I also verbally insult myself if I have second thoughts!
I am and since I have not been with that group I’ve felt quite bereft! When I said earlier that I was injured and had some ‘health’ issues, I was also very unmotivated and hid myself from the group because I thought I couldn’t keep up. Since then I’ve turned things around, the welcome from the group, the support and the laughs has made me realise what a twit I was not to have just gone along anyway. I also help out with beginners – Sarah B.mentioned in one of your previous interviews that she ran at the back with me and I was thrilled to bits that she remembered that! When I see beginners take off with their running it’s so rewarding and thrilling! And it is also nice to have familiar faces running at the back with me – nothing wrong with that!!
Yes, I feel that it’s always good to have an alternative form of exercise and Pilates and Running do go together like that old horse and carriage!
It is never too late and running keeps me young – another great advantage of being in a group is that if I’m racing sometimes people will hold back and run in to the finish with you or wait for you and give you a big cheer. And we all need a great big cheer now and then!
We do! Thank you Valerie!
And I really, really love to laugh. It is so important in this life of ours. Without a sense of humour, I feel life must be a tad dull. Being amongst people who laugh or make you laugh is life-enhancing and so necessary.
I’m lucky I come from a family with an outrageous sense of humour. So it’s in my genes. When I was a child my brother could make me cry with hysterical, uncontrollable laughter (just thinking about these times make me smile) and actually he’s still the funniest person I know. Next to my husband, who after very many years of marriage, still makes me laugh.
Lucky for him.
Anyway, moving on…
According to a Dr Lee Berk from some odd sounding Public School of Health in California, laughing reduces stress hormones…We can all benefit from a bit of stress reduction in our lives I’d say. Dr Berk also says that laughing can reduce blood pressure, improve cardiac health and it stimulates the immune system.
So, like running, laughter also produces those addictive feel-good endorphins that I for one certainly crave. Also, people who laugh were found to have a more positive outlook on life too.
So here’s a joke:
I cleaned the attic with my husband the other day. Now I can’t get the cobwebs out of his hair.