Absence makes the heart grow fonder – how to rekindle my running love ?

bit of a story follows so maybe get a cup of tea first ūüôā¬†

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It is 9 years since I started running Рby that I mean it was in 2009 that I started running regularly and called it my hobby Рin May of that year I ran my first race. In the ensuing 9 years my relationship with running has been a good one Рand through running, I have found great friendships both in real life and online. Over the years,  me and my running pastime have had our ups and downs but largely my love of everything to do with running has been an enduring one.

Throughout this time – running for me has been first and foremost a social activity with an exercise bonus. I do enter races – but usually with a level of ambivalence and a love/hate relationship with the training regime. I enjoy having a goal to focus on or a challenge to complete and have done a few run streaks.

Following a few years of running 10ks and half marathons – last year I trained for and completed a marathon and found the experience of training for the distance and the race itself quite a watershed in how I felt about running.

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Devon sunset

During the months leading up to the race, I realised that running could no longer be mainly a social thing – 26.2 miles is a long way for anyone to run and for someone of average fitness and the wrong side of 50, I knew I had to take it seriously and respect the distance.

I had to selfishly focus on my training schedule and sideline the running I enjoyed the most – so I put my social runs on the back burner or when I could I weaved them into my training schedule.

While this was a bit of a blow,  as the weeks passed I did start to appreciate the feeling of gaining in strength and confidence as I followed a progressive training plan and listened to my coach. Over time I saw that I could run distances of 15, 17, 19, 20 miles and feel OK the next day. I started to see it as fairly normal to train 4 or 5 days a week Рand to rattle off a 9 mile session with some speed work ( YUK ) or a hill rep sesh.  I loved how when I went to a Body pump class or Pilates I felt a strength and confidence in my body I had not experienced before.

While adhering to my training schedule was mostly motivated by fear of failure – as the weeks passed it felt good to feel strong. This was a first for me – up till then –¬† I would describe myself as a reluctant sportsperson, and one lacking in any competitive edge. In May of last year –¬† marathon day – I am pleased to report I had a largely storybook ending – completing the 26.2 mile distance in a decent time of 4 hrs 40 minutes and joining the club of marathon runners.

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in my finishers tee shirt

After the months of marathon training – it was lovely to return to running without a purpose and to be back running with friends and without goals.

Freedom to run or freedom to not run – how joyous !

Post marathon – I got back into my regular weekend run routine – but had no desire to enter any races, despite the voices saying – run a half marathon after a marathon and you will get a PB – but the thought of having to push myself to run at pace just held no appeal.

And so it continued – the longer I was from the marathon the less inclined I was to set any goals, and my mileage dropped.

I think there are runners who on completing one challenge immediately look for the next one – whether that be to improve on a time or increase the distance – but not me. Others find the time post marathon to be a tough one, feeling a bit directionless and struggle with motivation and this has been my experience. Not only have I have lost the motivation sometimes to go out for a run but I have no inclination to put myself through any racing challenge or test.

Trying to shake this off, earlier this year I entered the Edinburgh half marathon thinking it would give me the incentive needed to reignite running love – only to bail out the week before.

So a bit late in the day, I am declaring 2018 the year of not racing – and perhaps acknowledging that I am going through something of a 9-year itch with my running relationship.

I do run – just not very far and not nearly as often.

Then about a month ago when on holiday I was out for a  hot, slow run on a stony path and twisted my ankle, spraining it badly enough to mean that running was off the menu for a full 2 weeks.

Well of course when I was not able to run due to injury –¬† I felt bereft and missed my dear old friend. I¬† wondered what I would do if I could no longer run, and of course, there seemed to be runners everywhere and I had a massive dose of runner’s envy and FOMO all rolled into one.

It seems that absence makes the heart grow fonder – even where running is concerned.

Have you experienced a loss of running motivation – and any tips for getting through it ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas cake baking – and running of course. Day 3

IMG_2451Today I decided to bake a Christmas cake. I used to get a bit hung up about baking the Christmas cake on a set day in November, but I decided it does not make any difference to the flavour so I just bake it a few weeks before Christmas whenever I can find some spare hours.

Making the cake is pretty straightforward – especially since I have started using a recipe recommended to me by my friend Sally at fitnaturally. Sally got this recipe from her¬†neighbour and friend – Mrs Williams – sadly no longer around – and it is both the easiest and nicest Christmas cake recipe I have tried. I also like the thought of Mrs Williams skills in baking being shared far and wide, and enduring. That’s¬†the lovely thing about baking and passing on recipes.

So Mrs Williams Christmas cake recipe¬†is kind of an ‘all in one’ method – where you put the fruit, sugar, butter and spices into a pot then heat them up.

Then you add all the other ingredients to the cooled fruit mixture, give it a good mix and that’s it!

I find the hardest part of baking a Christmas cake is lining the tin, and with the long slow cooking, it is important to line it properly.  But though it is a fiddly job Рit is an enjoyable ritual of sorts Рwrapping the cake in its jacket of brown paper and string. And there is something very comforting about the gathering of ingredients, the preparation and then the aroma of Christmas cake baking that gets me in the festive mood.

Before baking the cake – I went on my day 3 run with Alison. Today we went on another of our weekend routes where we run from Colinton to Stockbridge. It is around 6 miles and pretty much downhill all the way following the water of Leith – so lots of running through woodland. We then get the bus or a lift back, so it’s an easy 6 miles.

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We could run there and back and many runners would do this by way of a longer Sunday run, but I am not training for any race at the moment and one thing I have realised over the years of doing run streaks- is that there is no point adding in extra mileage if you don’t¬†have to.

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As it was, we had a very enjoyable social run rounded up nicely by a breakfast of fried egg roll and coffee at the Water of Leith bistro.

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Day 3: 6.01 miles

December total : 14.32 miles

Weather : fresh and sunny 4 degrees

December – Ho Ho Ho and the comfort of traditions

So here we are again – another year is coming to an end and my all time favourite month is here. I say favourite but it is a bit of a love/hate¬†thing. Mostly I love December – it’s my birthday month and I can deal with winter even if the older I get, the more I find the short days a tough gig and increasingly look to December sparkly excess to¬†carry me across to a new year and longer days.

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There is something about approaching a year end¬†that makes you even more aware of your unfulfilled life ‘to do’ list and take a reflective view of the story so far. Then for me anyhow, I just end up carrying forward unticked life goals into another year !

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Back when my girls were younger – December heralded a kind of rabbit in the headlights¬†– let’s just get through this month kind of vibe. In between badly crafting Nativity costumes, baking for the Christmas¬†fayre and watching the end of year dance shows, I poured flame on the December fire by creating extra, arguably unnecessary, traditions of ‘our family¬†advent’ and Christmas morning baking.

Then as my children became young adults – I switched my December madness to a different focus so for the past few years, I have opted to¬†run every day in December – following a Scottish based challenge –¬† the Marcothon – where you run a minimum of 3 miles every day in December.

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And just in case running every day was a bit too easy Рthe first time I did this, I decided to write about running every day in an aptly named blog Decemberism and found that writing about running every day was almost as hard as running.

Time passes and I am more of an established runner now Рbut alas not an established writer. It is tough to commit to running every day for sure Рbut I find it a lot harder to write daily, or even to just  get into a writing habit.

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So this year I am going to make a big fat effort to write more, and if I can I will run each day in December even if it’s just a run around the block on some days. I will keep to this daft December habit not least because, after 6 years of doing this, it has become a December ritual and maybe like many of us I find comfort in the salve of habits that over time become traditions.

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Small confessions of mild obsessions.

Mary Somerville £ 10 note Mary Somerville

Towards the tail end of October, I got caught up in one of my recurring running obsessions Рchasing a target mileage for the month . Although October is blessed with 31 days in which to run, come the last week I was ruing my slacker behaviour of the preceding October weeks when I realised how far behind I was in miles covered to date.
But with five days of October remaining, all was not lost. I had covered a fairly respectable 60 + miles so was confident that I would at least manage to reach a total of more miles than previous months 64 and 70 miles respectively.

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Although¬†not currently training for anything – I am trying to keep up a decent amount of mileage each month because I don’t seem to be managing to fit in any other exercise at the moment. Is very easy to talk myself out¬†of doing any exercise (even when I know how much better¬†I feel when I do), without some sort of way of being accountable.

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And having set off at the beginning of the year with big monthly numbers, I am motivated to keep running and recording miles as I am on track to reach an annual total of 1000 miles by the end of November ( barring injury ) Рa whole month earlier than I did in 2017.

So that is a target of sorts.

I know there are lots of naysayers around tracking exercise, league tables, wearable devices and the like – but my view is that on balance, it is mostly a force for good creating as it does for me anyway, a positive reason to keep going when it may seem pointless otherwise.

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Runners often have stated and secret goals usually where races are concerned¬† – (aka the¬†backup plan when the shit hits the fan) and so it is for me and my ambitions around¬†exercise –¬† I have a stated start of the month goal and as the month progresses and life intervenes I revert to my¬† back up or secret plan of what will ‘do’ for the month.

Throughout the year my graph of exercise ambition would be a jaggy profile characterised each month by an early peak of optimism usually around the first day and then as the month progresses a few more high spots coinciding mostly with weekend days when post-run, I am filled with euphoria and misplaced waves of invincibility.

The contrasting troughs of run reality and dips in the graph would be plotted next to those weekday work mornings when I opt out of a pre-work run in darkness, trading it for more time under the covers and telling myself that I will just run longer at the weekend.

( if I was not so shit at creating graphs – I would ‘insert diagram here’ – but instead here is a nice pic )

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Back to October mileage. For as long as I have¬†been kind of seriously running, and it being¬† my hobby of choice –¬† I have recorded¬†my runs on the Nike+ app. Like other running communities, you can opt to have friends who you share the details of your running¬†achievements with. With Nike+ there is a leaderboard including the stats of your chosen friends – and this provides a degree of competitive edge and encouragement,¬†as I monitor my run chums and their¬†mileage totals.

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While it is not really a contest I do check to see where I am in the standing of my own small league and yes I confess I have sometimes gone out running just to get ahead of a Nike+ ‘friend’ and wallow in the warm glow of satisfaction when I am top of the leaderboard.

So come the last week of October РI set myself the first goal of reaching 90 miles -more than the past 2 months and higher than any month since April. Then on Monday 30th I was at 87 and a bit  miles so if I ran 5 or 6 miles my 90 mile target would be comfortably achieved, and anything more a bonus.

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Monday morning and with a flash of inspiration I realised I could combine the objective of reaching 90 + miles in October with the workaday task of taking clothes back to Zara. So in one swift move combine two of my running loves – ‘running with a purpose’ and ‘running a set number of miles in a month’ – how lovely is that?

As I was running I was thinking about how to achieve one of the following mileage number – 90, 93, 95, 99.

So the run story goes like this – I did the run into town and got myself to Zara and exchanged the clothes – at that point by my calculations I was on track to do 95 miles.

After a meander round Zara – I set off to run far enough for 95 miles then after a run up to Calton Hill and down again and not quite knowing where I was mileage wise –¬† my phone battery died. I just guessed that I was most likely at around 95 miles and that was fine by me.

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Once I was on the bus home and had fired up my phone with back up battery¬† – I discovered my Oct mileage total was at 98.4 – so from a happy with 95 miles I saw that a tantalising 1.6 miles would take me to the magic 100 for the month and while I ‘could’ have done this extra bit the day after- I reckoned getting this done and dusted on this day was the better answer.

I got off the bus 3 stops early and ran the remaining distance home – wishing as I often do that I did not live on top of a hill.

Anyhow – my end of Oct total was 100.1 miles. the running was not always pretty but I did it with a day to spare. And thanks as always to my running challengers for spurring me on ūüôā

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You’re my first, my last*, my everything …Stirling marathon round up

This time last week¬†as predicted, I was walking a bit ‘John Wayne is big leggy’ and feeling not as fresh as I might – it being the day after the marathon. I was a bit tired – but this tiredness was more I suspect due to post-race champagne excess¬†and an early start for Monday work than the race effort. ¬†Yes – standing up after a time seated was a slow process, but I did not feel as destroyed or wrecked as I thought I might. ¬†The cocktail of euphoria, relief that it was behind me and an excess of adrenalin was serving me well.

Eight days on – the detail of my first marathon experience is both a fading memory and as clear as if it had just happened a few hours ago.

I have been reading other Stirling marathon race blogs – and is good to recognise similar versions of the day to my own, but also to read of a completely different race experience. Illustrating how with a marathon, or any mass running event, while it is a collective experience it is very much your own race.

Somewhere along this marathon journey – I came across this blog by Angela – That extra inch– Angela was also running her first marathon and her training sounded quite like my own. We exchanged a few comments and words of encouragement via our blogs in the latter weeks of training, and I enjoyed reading her race story.

Her account of the day had many similar observations and emotions to my own Рwe both love a good spectator sign, we both had a secret and not so secret time goal, and were both chuffed to join the marathon club Рand as we completed the race with only 7 seconds between us, we must have been pretty close running companions amongst  1000s of runners.

On the other end of the racing spectrum – I have been following the training and race prep of Owain Williams aka Scottish runner. Owain was training for a sub 3hr marathon which he achieved with room to spare and great aplomb – ¬†Bravo Owain! ¬† Reading his account provided a great insight to how to apply mental toughness and the benefit of good race planning, not to mention the deserved reward of dedicated training paying off. ¬†( Owain’s time 2.52.52 ) But ¬†– with his ¬†6 min mi pace and the ( apparent ) ease with which he dealt with the finish lap section and other obstacles ¬†– it brought home to me the difference between experienced racers and those of us who just look to get to the finish.

If you are a runner or a marathoner be it a first of 50th time – I think reading¬†the accounts of fellow runners’ race experience is both enlightening and fascinating, but I do appreciate that it might not be quite the page turner if you are not a runner.

Race start

As it happens¬†– my own race story is not one full of great incident or drama albeit it has a good ending ¬†– and as I was mainly trying to keep myself¬†moving for 26.2 miles, and it was raining¬†– I don’t have many pictures, except those in my head.

Maybe this is why it feels a little bit unreal, now I am back to normal life and have cast off both the marathon training regime and the overriding fear of failure that has been with me since I decided to do this many months ago.

But of course, there are a few moments that stick in my mind Рfirst off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying Р both with happiness and sadness Рso it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point Рalthough I think the acceptable place for a good greet should have been the finish line !

Instead, as I  lined up waiting for our wave to start, in the mildly surreal environment of a Safari Park I was quite overwhelmed and found myself sobbing Рproper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices Рit was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying Рbut a deeper level of emotion I felt about how far I had come to get to this point. And a quiet acceptance that I was definitely going to finish the race.

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My own race then went pretty well with some predictable setbacks but nothing too major. In the first mile, it was a crowded start so I was able to follow the accepted advice of start slowly, run slower. In fact, I was so slow that not only did I think that mile one was the easiest mile I had ever run – but my pace spooked my husband who was following me on the tracker because he thought I was going too slowly ūüôā

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So the first section is quite undulating and after a slow start, I did go a bit faster than possibly I should have Рwith my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day Рlooking out for supporters I knew would be at Doune which is about 4.5 miles in. The crowds on the race route in those early sections through Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan were amazing Рand I understand now how important crowd support is. I did as many high 5s as I could and hoped I was smiling, as advised( top tip from a fellow runner).  I do have a tendency to grimace in concentration.

At the Stirling Universty section, I encountered a rookie error of not having scrutinised the race route closely enough. I reckon I spent so much time worrying about the laps at the finish I did not bother to check much else. So I  was a bit derailed by the steep hill loop and by this time it was raining quite heavily Рso I decided to slow down and put on music- up until then I was not using headphones.

I thought this next section a wee bit tough but it marked the half way point which is a nice feeling. My half time was quite slow at 2.13. Miles 13 Р17 I expected to be a bit light on crowd support and as it is a long straight stretch these miles were a bit of a slog.  I tucked behind a group from Calton Athletic and just tuned into my Van Morrison on repeat!

By mile 17 ¬†I could see Stirling and what I thought was the start of the lap section. Much has been spoken about this and it was a bit of a mental test to run 2.5 laps at the end ¬†– but for me, the biggest challenge was knowing where the laps started. As I ran into Stirling I was looking for the gantry and not seeing it, then seeing a 21-mile marker, and a 3hr 30 pacer, I panicked that I had somehow taken a wrong turning. So I crossed over to a race official who told me I still had to keep going to reach the gantry ūüė¶

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Confusion aside, coming into Stirling the crowds everywhere made me feel like a proper runner, even if my arrival in the city coincided with me hitting a bit of ‘a wall’ at mile 18 and nicely timed as I caught sight of my family and friends. Of course seeing people who have come to support you is a massive boost – even if I was dealing with the reality of legs that did not want to work, a dodgy tummy and 8 miles to go.

The good thing about the lap set up is knowing you will see supporters again Рthe not so good thing is the course had a  few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots Рand this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk Рbut between miles 18 and the finish, I did resort to walking some sections. My pace dropped to a slow as 12 min miles, and I was reassessing my finish time from the ridiculously optimistic Chariots of Fire 4 hrs 30 to just finishing before the sweeper,  to fingers crossed do it in under 5 hours.

I was wearing a watch – but I am never very good at doing the maths or reading the dial or even properly knowing what I have to do to reach the desired time in races, and I think in this case I was going a bit woolly of thinking.

Not much else to report other than my phone battery almost ran out and with it my sounds. I started developing cramps in my legs as I was doing the last few miles ( think I was drinking too much water ), but then once I had passed mile 25 I found a wee boost of energy and while I won’t say it was a sprint finish – I am proud of how I ran the last 1 mile 385 yards.

As I was approaching the finish line I caught sight of the gun time and saw it edge to 5 hours – and was a bit gutted – until I saw that the pink wave time was 4.40 something.

Hallelujah – I crossed the line over the moon to be comfortably under 5 hours and full of I bloody well did it and other end of race exaltations of delight (no tears).

My time was a sweet 4.40.00 which I was very happy with.

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While I have been training for this race I have thought of lots of analogies around journeys and other life changing or transformative experiences. When I was in the latter stages of training and dreading the inevitability of the full marathon distance, it felt a bit like when I  was pregnant with my daughters and full of the fear of childbirth, while knowing I had to go through with it. Now having completed a marathon I can say from my experience of both that childbirth is much harder and unpleasant ( sorry sisters ).

What it felt more like was studying for my finals – when you have to try very hard to keep studying and it all gets a bit boring and you try to remember stuff you learned 3 years previously – and know that it might just not come back to you on the day of the exam. I am very glad to have had a training plan and coach to guide me through a first marathon and I am sure that Sally’s ¬†training not only got me through the marathon but has helped with my recovery. ( as has my general health and nutrition since following the eating plans from fitnaturally¬†)

Likewise in the days after the marathon, I have felt that same mix of giddiness and mild hysteria that I remember after my university exams were over. Alas, I have a day job to go to which means I have not been able to party to the same extent as I did after my student finals – but I have made a brave attempt ūüôā

Will I do another one? I don’t think so, but I do understand now why some people do go on to run multiple marathons.

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* one and only marathon as promised to husband

A BIG THANK YOU – to everyone who has sponsored me or made a donation to¬†Smalls for All¬† using¬†MyDonate¬†or Scottish Women’s Aid via the ¬†Justgiving page¬†¬† Through your generosity I have managed to raise ¬£ 522 for Scottish Women’s Aid and ¬£ 326 for Smalls for All. I am a bit behind in my thank yous and admin generally, but to anyone I have not managed to thank personally, I really appreciate your support.

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snow, socks and a stitch

img_7656Into week 7 РI  think of marathon training and by now I was expecting it to just be running, running and more running, which of course it is, but the running is punctuated by new discoveries and all sorts of learning that I have to hope will all help me come the big day.

Weather so far this year has been a winter of the unrelenting grey and bleak variety – cold as a given- but with hardly any uplifting crisp, frosty, days to offset the drab – just a shed load of Pantone 442.

And as I am following a training plan of set days – sometimes my run days just don’t¬†coincide with the odd sunny spot.

No matter Рthis training in all weathers is all helping me to develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

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This phrase is a recurring one in marathon training, and I imagine any race training Рand I think I get the message. It seems I will need bucketloads of this mental strength come race day. I just can not begin to imagine (and have no intention of finding out) how much mental toughness you might need to develop to do some ultra distance or these races that have you running through the desert or in the depths of Death Valley or across Scottish mountain tops. Respect to all of you guys out there doing that kind of thing, but its a no from me.

To come back to this week and my weather obsession – Thursday was my hill repeat day and snow was forecast. These days storms all have names – and Doris the storm was going to bring winds, rain and for some parts of Scotland a shedload of snow.

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Hearing that forecast – I had the same kind of feeling I used to get during¬†summer when rain was forecast. By way of explanation – ¬†I grew up on a fruit farm and in the summer months worked there during the raspberry harvest. Of course, as a family we did not want it to rain during the raspberry season, but sometimes I did just long for one rainy day to get me out of a day’s work.

And so this week I had much the same feeling when watching the weather forecast on repeat  Рmaybe it would be just too windy/ snowy/ dangerous to train Рyippee! A day off for me

But then unlike getting a day skiving off work, skipping a training session is not really helpful in the long run РI know I have to put in these long cold hours to get me round 26.2 miles come May.

As it turned out storm Doris did bring some very windy weather but in the part of Edinburgh where I live it also brought a welcome snowfall Рby that I mean just enough snow to be pretty but not enough to interrupt things too much.

Was a nice change to run in cold crisp air and amongst a snowy hilly landscape.

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After the previous weeks training when it felt as if it was all coming together, this week I thought it was unravelling. On Tuesday I cut short a planned pace session as I just could not get my legs to move fast enough and could not get warm. I had done a different body pump class the day before and my legs were heavy, but truthfully it was more my head that did not want to play ball.

Mental toughness was in short supply on Tuesday.

My snow hill session was invigorating, but not sure it could really be classed as a genuine example of hill repeats, as I spent quite a bit of recovery time taking pictures. then on the way back from the hills I took a tumble and landed heavily on my knees Рno damage done save for some grazing and technicolor bruising.  Falling and getting up to keep running is a good way to develop mental toughness though !

Then on Saturday, I was to do 10 miles steady on a hilly route but in the afternoon. I am not so good at eating for exercise when the session is later in the day, and as a creature of weekend running habit – it feels a bit weird to be sitting around reading Saturday papers at a time when I usually have my running done and dusted for the day.

But I had a route planned and was also going to try out running in my new compression socks – so I downloaded the podcast of Cerys Matthews R6 show and following what I thought a decent interval after a brunch of poached eggs, bacon and toast – I headed off.

Not far into running, I got a bit of a stitch. This was something new and so I just slowed down but the stitch did not seem to want to budge. I was trying to put it to one side and at the same time try and remember self-cure for stitches. Neither of these mental actions made much difference so  I just kept going Рand made it to the Meadows where there are public toilets.

Even after a comfort break, my tummy was not feeling great but I had completed almost 6 miles, so more than half way. I had opted for a route into town partly to get some hills, but also to have some distraction as I  was running alone. The route I often do is an out and back along a trail path Рand while a favourite run route Рyou are much more on your own.

Is good to have distractions sometimes but the downside of running into the city is knowing that at any given point I could hop on a bus and get myself home – and when I was feeling less than 100% it was tempting.

But of course come marathon day this will not be an option Рso I just did a tried and trusted method of breaking down the miles left into songs Рusually 3+  to a mile. Fortunately, Cerys Matthews Sunday show is just perfect for this as she has a very eclectic music selection and good chat between songs.

So I made it to 10 miles – including 3 uphill return miles that at least took my mind off the stitch, and was pleased to have completed the session even if it was not the most enjoyable.

Later when discussing my stitch and tummy trouble with Sally – she told me I had eaten completely the wrong things before my run ( largely because I ignored what she had told me to eat )! – so that’s a lesson learned. But a run chum was a bit more forgiving saying that finishing a run when you don’t want to and are feeling out of sorts is a great way to develop the necessary MENTAL TOUGHNESS -an essential component of marathon success.

It’s that old chestnut again.

As to the socks – I have no idea if they are making any difference, but at least I know they did not cause the stitch !

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When s**t gets real – and technology fails you

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shiny new sports watch

So after the irrational decision making and mild euphoria that accompanied signing up to do a marathon Рsome time in a land far,far away Р and with the excuses of December excess and family celebrations behind me РI found myself at week 1 of training for the marathon.

AKA when shit got real – although I am way too polite to use that kind of colourful language ūüėČ

So it is January 9 and a full 4 months or 19 weeks or 131 days till May 21. By any measurement , quite some time till I have to stand on the start line and ask the question “why I am doing this ?”

Knowing that it is both a serious undertaking and one that I am taking seriously, I was quite excited to read what Sally had in store for me.

Earlier Sally had asked casually – “so you have a Garmin do you?” ¬†– to which I replied that no, I did not own a Garmin and actually had a bit of a fear of sports watches.

I tried one a while back but could never understand how to set pace, time, distance, the final frontier Рwhatever Р and furthermore I  could not read the screen when I was wearing my contact lenses and as to changing the time when the clocks went forward in Spring  Рwell that was never going to happen!

I am fond of a bit of statistical insight – loving as I do counting the miles covered using my Nike+ app and I am partial to some gadgets, but as my family will testify, I do have some ‘issues’ around technology.

Added to this – when I did run with a sports watch and heart rate monitor, it was constantly beep, beep, beeping at me in a panicky kind of way and I could never get my heart rate into a range that did not suggest I was about to keel off my perch.

But Рit turns out that as part of the marathon training  we are going to share data and Sally will then adapt my training plan for the following week, depending on how well or badly I am progressing.

She will watch my heart beating,and my little legs running from afar, and be my very own spy in the cab. In the nicest possible way, big sister will be watching me .

So I bought a Garmin.

I could easily write a whole separate¬†post on the subject of the vortex you can descend into when trying to choose a branded sports watch – but let’s leave that for another time.

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Currie Kirk

Back to training. ¬†Week 1 plan asked me to do as a start -10 steady miles wearing Garmin and HR monitor – to set a benchmark. I was not too fazed by the prospect of the distance, particularly as the term ‘steady’ sounds nice and cosy, but with hindsight, it might have been a smarter move to go for a short test run wearing the Garmin to get the hang of the controls before attempting ten miles.

Instead I took delivery of the Garmin at around 11am – spent an hour and a bit waiting for it to fully charge then set out on my run.

Sports watches have got better than I remembered and the Garmin Forerunner 25 does look quite smart – if you like that kind of thing. Importantly it has a nice clear face with big numbers and reasonably straightforward interface and menu.

Having never used a Garmin or completed this kind of techno enabled test before – I was not sure if it was OK to stop or if stopping would mess up the readings sent to Sally, or even worse end the run before 10 miles. And if I was pausing it all over the place as I tend to do on my regular weekend meanderings, Sally might think I was fitter, and faster than I really am.

And as this was the first time I was using the watch, I was not completely sure what button to use to stop and start it again !

Having this fear of technology did provide an unusual ¬†incentive to just keep running and at a decent pace. ¬†I had to abandon my usual whimsical pauses for photos or observations, as this was a serious training exercise ūüôā ¬†So I was very pleased to see that after 5 and bit miles I was managing an average pace of just over 9 min mi – ¬†fast for me.

But at the turning point I took a risk and pressed the stop button- which it turns out does pause the recording, so I took a few minutes to eat a disgusting gel and then did the return 5 miles. I had opted for a known route – an out into the wind gradual incline , followed by a downhill with wind behind you, return leg.

On the return leg I  felt I was properly running like a proper runner Рand with the wind at my back and endorphins buzzing I was visualising breezing  or at least managing to get through the marathon 26.2 miles ( after some decent training obviously). It was a good feeling to be fit enough to manage 10 miles at an OK pace having been mostly doing shorter runs in December.

Euphorically I reached the 10 mile distance and triumphantly pressed the stop button – kind of hoping for a cheer , but definitely expecting to see some kind of summary of stats. ¬†I was keen to see if my heart was working ( even tho obviously it was ūüėČ and my inner running nerd was firing up to get my report card of pace, cadence, elevation and the like.

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twilight

But instead of a list of accomplishments Рthe screen went a bit funny and pixellated and the numbers were all mangled, the display was frozen and no amount of button pressing was making any difference.  Even when I got back to the house Рthe screen was still set in the same way.

Looking on the Garmin support page – it helpfully suggested ¬†‘if screen has frozen try resetting it – but THIS MAY RESULT IN A LOSS OF DATA

Sad times

Luckily I was also wearing my Nike+ app Рso  proof that those miles really did happen,even if I still did not know if my heart was working as it should.

So 10 mile run done ‚úĒÔłŹ- but I did kind of fail the first attempt of training with technology and I sense this may be a recurring theme of this adventure.

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Notes

In May am taking part in my first marathon – the inaugural Stirling Marathon and following a training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally

 

Mid life marathon training tales – with bonus horoscope feature !

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It turns out that those of us with star sign Capricorn are sure-footed late developers. I am definitely given to a bit of pondering and weighing up of options on significant decisions before jumping right in – but whether this is written in the stars or just how I am depends on how much store you may put on astrology and other unscientific interpretations of life.

Astrology aside, in a rare impulsive moment ( following a year-long debate with myself), I signed up for a marathon. I don’t want to fully admit to going through a bit of a mid-life wobble – but how else to explain why I voluntarily forked out ¬£ 55 to let me run for many hours covering a distance of 26.2 miles on my own 2 feet ?

I have no idea !!!

Having running as my hobby of choice for 8 years, I have often thought that a marathon was maybe something I should really do at some point – a natural progression as it were. But when discussing the marathon experience with fellow runners – I can’t say it got a ringing endorsement !

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And unfortunately as a moderately experienced runner and reluctant competitor – when it comes to thinking what taking part in a marathon might entail – I do not have the benefit of blissful ignorance. Not for me that unfettered happiness, or joyful optimism of just setting out to ‘do a marathon’ with no insight as to how shit I might feel before the end.

I have run a few half ¬†marathons – and I know and remember how tough it can be to keep running for a long time in a race and just how much you have to dig deep to find mind tricks to help you cover the distance. Maybe if you are a proper runner who runs a 10 miler daily as a small ‘amuse bouche’ of your running diet , or you are a dedicated competitor who loves winning above pain – then this overrides any negative self talk.

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But as I am neither of these, each time I have completed a half marathon – at around mile 10 or 11- I think ‘I am not doing this EVER again’ followed quickly by the recognition that of course to get to the end ¬†I just need to keep going for about 25 or more minutes or the equivalent of just one ‘December run’ or I try to break it down to how many songs in 3 miles ¬†– 7, 8 ?

Then of course as I cross the finish line, I experience  a level of euphoria that is hard to convey Рbut never at that point have I had a desire to just loop back and do it all again.

But as the most excellent Erica Jong said – Feel the Fear and do it anyway, and so I am ūüôā

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Notes

I am signed up for the inaugural Stirling marathon on May 21st – if I finish it I am guaranteed a PB and if I get the marathon bug ( unlikely ) I could be one of those folk who do it every year until I crumble into a crinkly heap.

To help me make this big leap РI am working with Sally at fitnaturally who is providing a training plan and to be honest she has helped me have the confidence to even contemplate this big challenge.  I will  be writing about my ventures into this new territory.

 

 

 

Get out the bunting,make a fanfare – it’s day 18 !

Such is my inconsistency when it comes to writing, I find that I have arrived at the magnificent day 18 milestone without so much as a mild “TARANTARA” fanfare or other equivalent outpouring of joy.

In December running days past – I would be stringing out the metaphorical bunting as soon as I got to the end of week1 – and of course making a big fat “TOOTAROO” once I had reached the magical day 16 half way point.

But now as a veteran run streak participant – I have a degree of ambivalence about this type of ‘run everyday challenge’ that seems to set in shortly after I agree to take part. ¬†Maybe the more often you do something the harder it is to summon up the motivation, and it feels less challenging somehow.

That said even for someone who runs regularly throughout the year Рmaking time every single day to fit in a run, and upping my monthly mileage from 60 to 100+ miles is a bit of an effort of time management if nothing else, and yes my legs  do get weary.

True, like the running trainspotter I am, it is satisfying to tick the days off and to be mildly smug that I am exercising daily and to not have to make any choices over what kind of exercise to do. It removes the internal dialogue I might be having over whether to go for a tough or an easy session, or TBH to do any exercise at all ! It saves me pondering over what distance, pace, level of effort or route – but even with all this simplicity of routine – as the days pass the repetition starts to suck the joy out of running.

Maybe this is a signal that my days of taking part in running streak challenges are over, and time for some new goal.

With this in mind – and after quite a bit of soul searching – I finally signed up to a marathon. In May of next year I am going to take part and hope finish my first marathon. I have opted to do the inaugural Stirling marathon which fortunately right now feels like something in the far away mists of time.

As I get through December I am consoling myself with comforting facts and motivating self talk around the fact that I am already running the equivalent to 4 marathons distance, and in a month that includes short days, wintry weather, Christmas parties, Christmas Day and my birthday.

This while also trying to forget that in a marathon you do have to do this weekly mileage in 4 and a bit hours !

Back to the here and now Рa recap of December  running efforts

Day 6 – evening run in the village checking out Christmas lights. Weather was a bit Decemberist and wet, but was nice once I was out

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Mileage 3.15 Cumulative 28.99

Day 7 – trying to integrate these daily runs into everyday life – I ran to the Post Office then took a detour back home via a different Dell route. Saw some folk having a winter lunchtime BBQ, as you do – why not ?

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Mileage 5.09 Cumulative 34.08

Day 8 – met an ex work colleague for coffee , so decided to run there – its downhill so arguably faster than the bus.

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Mileage  4.03 Cumulative 39.07

Day 9 – joined my good chum Alison for a short run in the Dell – one of our usual routes.

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Mileage 3.05 Cumulative 42.22

Day 10 – as before , 3 miles on one of our regular haunts. Squeezing in around other December commitments.

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Mileage 3.0 Cumulative 45.22

Day 11 РI decided to run  an extra bit to meet Alison and Lil to give a 5 mile total

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Mileage 5.05 Cumulative 49.21

Day 12 Рrunning again to meet a friend. 6 mile to the Meadows including important stop to order Christmas turkey.Then, as taken by this running everywhere kind of vibe, I continued my run into town, then  took a wee wander up Calton Hill for the views.

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Mileage 6.01 + 1.02 ( battery fail ) Cumulative 56.24

Day 13 – up early to get ‘run out of the way’ as I was meeting a friend for lunch ( this is a recurring theme I know), it is unusual for me to be a ‘lady who lunches’ – but I am not working at the moment.

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Mileage 3.51 Cumulative 59.75

Day 14 Рwas in London meeting my daughter for lunch Рas it was her birthday ! So had to run in the evening in Cambridge, where I was staying with my other daughter.Was dreading this as had been up since 4am and it felt way too cold  and dark in Cambridge. BUT Рthere was a most beautiful moon, and Cambridge is so flat, and that evening without a breath of wind, it was a most magical run. I even stopped mid run for a pint of beer in a lovely pub.

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Mileage 5.24 Cumulative 64.99

Day 15 – got up early to run along the River Cam – I love a Cambridge run. Was misty and dreich, but always good to run by the river seeing the rowers out early.

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Mileage 4.40 Cumulative 69.39

Day 16 – HALF WAY POINT ! Nice easy run with Alison back on home turf.

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Mileage 3.04 Cumulative 72.43

Day 17 – did a variation of a run route to give us a nice easy route ¬†after a tiring week ( and¬†Alison¬†had been partying at her work Christmas party night ¬†the night before). Very enjoyable run in cold, bright sunlight, and I bumped into someone I had only ‘met’ on Facebook previously – which was a nice bonus. Was one of those days when it felt as if everyone we knew was out running or cycling by the canal.

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Mileage 3.19 Cumulative 75.62

Day 18 – Jingle Bell Race. Second year we have done this fun race – organised by Pitreavie AAC in Dunfermline. Is a 5k ( almost ) race where the route makes the shape of a sleigh. I am no fan of 5ks and especially after almost 3 weeks of slow plod daily running. But was fun to dress up in Christmas leggings and Santa hats and run with my chums.

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Mileage 3.12 Cumulative 78.74

Only 13 days of running in this year left –¬†TARANTARA – TOOTAROO and maybe even HALELUJAH ! ūüéČūüéČūüéČ

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December running – 5 day round up

Five days into December and running everyday verdict is so far, so good. This is not the first time I have taken part in the challenge, so I do know the score. But this year is a bit different for me as I recently left my job after 8 years, and have the freedom to run at whatever time I like and for how ever long I choose – which is a new sensation and one that is taking a bit of getting used to, but is mostly a good thing.

This being the 6th time I have taken part in the marcothon, and for once not needing to weave my daily run around work commitments РI did consider adding a bit of icing onto the December run challenge cake. Maybe trying to run somewhere different every day or completing my December runs in an appropriately advent themed costume Рbedecked as a lycra Christmas tree or Santa. Or I could have perplexed myself with some kind of a curious run = number of days = phase of the moon  mileage combination Рbut on balance I thought better of it.

As it happens my December running is already something of a challenge within a challenge Рas I am attempting to run further in 2016 than I have in any other year since I took up running in 2009 Рand have set a target of completing  999 miles by December 31st.

And it turns out that even though I don’t have a regular 9-5 to fit round, or business travel, office parties and the like to attend, December is still quite a busy month. Newly out of my work routine and between my next assignment starting – I am finding it very easy to fill my day before and after running in all sorts of ways, and very much enjoying catching up with friends old and new.

Weather has been cool, but so far no snow and ice and to my mind Dec 5th had the best wintry weather as temperatures dropped to minus 4 – creating a beautiful frosty landscape and a face tinglingly cold run.

Day ¬†1 – combined my first December run with meeting my newish Instagram friend Linda (@occasionalscotland) for coffee and a walk round ¬†Edinburgh’s ¬†Botanic Gardens. Easy day one downhill run to the Botanics along the canal, then weaving through the New Town.

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Mileage 4.03 Total 4.03

Day 2 – Friday run with running chums Alison, Lil and Emma . Did a new variation of a route ( Emma’s 10k route ) ¬†out along the Dell path by the Water of Leith then up a level to Blinkbonny for an uphill loop before rejoining the path and back along the Dell by the river.

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Nice to do a variation and lots of opportunity for different conversations and pace.

Mileage 6.36 Total 10.39

Day 3 – Saturday run with Alison – one of our weekend regulars -out along the Dell then back up past the new equestrian centre and Campbell park to loop back to the start – nice out and back on a cool morning.

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Mileage 5.07 Total 15.46

Day 4 РSunday run with Alison Рwe did our other regular weekend route Рthe Balgreen  Рout through Craiglockhart woods , past the allotments to Balgreen then back via the canal. Cold with bright sunlight

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Mileage 5.14 Total 20.60

Day 5 – cold, crisp and frosty run – as on my own I chose to run at midday , to get the best of the sunshine and did a circular route from the house down first to the Dell path, along westwards towards Currie then up towards the Pentland hills via Poets Glen and back home via Clubbiedean and Torphin reservoirs.

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Mileage 5.24 Total 25.84