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 – chasing 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 ) – a 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 – I 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 🙂

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Runspotting

More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.

I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.

Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !

With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as  I do by running in different places.

So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus –  and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.

Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.

September London

Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.

Sept 24 Inverness

Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.

Sept 26 Belfast

A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.

Sept 29 Edinburgh

Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.

 

 

 

Banish the blues – I love running !

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This past week I have been trying to get back into running more regularly and to rediscover the joy and peace that, until recently, I found that running brings.

2017  has been a year of change for me. On the professional front, I left a job after eight years with the same company. Moving on from the comfort and security of working  where I understood how the business worked,  and with the friendship of good colleagues, to trying to work out what next, navigating job hunting, rebuilding a network and the like has been something of an emotional rollercoaster and a game of snakes & ladders all rolled into one big fat metaphor !

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In family life, our youngest daughter graduated, and with that came the acknowledgment that our job as parents was entering a different chapter. The education years are well and truly over, our girls are all grown up and the fledglings have properly flown the nest.

But beyond work and family – there was running. Running is my thing and as someone who has scampered between a myriad of hobbies and interests over the years, running has been the constant – a touchstone- and my ‘go to’ when the rest of life was a bit chaotic.

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Then post marathon – even the constancy of running seemed to change.

After the elation of finishing a marathon – I  found it harder than I expected to see the point of running and it stopped being something I looked forward to doing.

People talk about the post marathon blues, but during training, I was sure this would not apply to me. Towards the end of marathon training, what kept me going was looking forward to a time when I could say cheerio to prescribed training sessions and hello to running whenever I wanted to. Choosing to run for however long a distance and with friends who were happy to stop and run slow, take pictures – just about everything I was not able to do during training.

But it turned out I did succumb to post marathon blues, just like lots of others before me and kept finding excuses to not bother going out. Briefly, I considered signing up for another race to reignite running love and give me a new goal – but I just could not face it. Having spoken before about my ambivalence over races, competitions and the stress of pushing for PBs, chasing a new target is not the answer for me right now.

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In short – I was not managing to get back into a running groove. The routes I have run for years and even with repetition – managed to enjoy and see something new each time – had lost their appeal. When I was running, every yard seemed harder, I was puggled and weary after the first 10 minutes, I cut short planned distances, walked up hills I would have run before and felt every niggle like a heavy weight.

But as I believe in the power of running as a cure all – I persevered, and this week I think I turned a corner. On Tuesday summer arrived in Edinburgh and I did a toasty 5 miles along the canal – allowing myself the luxury of lots of stops, and even took the bus home. Then on Thursday, an otherwise pedestrian run was enlivened by both a wardrobe malfunction and finding some field mushrooms in passing.

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Friday and Saturday I ran with Alison and rediscovered my favourite kind of running – the stream of consciousness run chat 🙂

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Then today by way of a grand finale – I joined a visiting friend for a run in a completely different part of town, to run 10 glorious rain drenched miles, and with it, the post marathon blues washed away into the cloudy skies.

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Two for joy

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One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy  MAAAAAG PAYAYAAYYYY

For those of us of a certain age, this 70s interpretation of the nursery song is, along with many other TV theme tunes and advertising jingles, embedded in our collective hard drives – or is it just me who can recall and recite verbatim TV advertisements and public information film lyrics – 40 plus years later?

I was mostly a Blue Peter fan, but I did occasionally venture across to the other side to watch Magpie – partly because I had a bit of a crush on the male presenter – Mick Robertson and his incredible hair (quite a contrast to John Noakes that’s for sure). And also because the pop graphics of the titles and theme tune were pretty memorable.

Maybe an early indication of a career in marketing 😉

But it would take more than a trendy hairdo and tight jeans to shift my loyalties from the land of sticky back plastic, silver bottle top appeals and of course the quest for a Blue Peter badge. ( successful ).

MAAAAAG PAYAYAYAAYYYY ….

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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 – we 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 – and 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 – first off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying –  both with happiness and sadness – so it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point – although 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 – proper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices – it was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying – but 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 🙂

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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 – with my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day – looking 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 – and 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 – so 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 – 17 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 😦

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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 – the not so good thing is the course had a  few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots – and this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk – but 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 🙂

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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The loneliness of the long distance runner and dreaming of the finish line

race number Stirling
4864 is the magic number

So I have taken a  while to write this – for some practical reasons – I started a new job in Glasgow four weeks ago, so what with that and marathon training and commuting and life – time to write about running kind of evaporated.

But also because in the last few weeks of training, it feels like not only have I been running for what seems an eternity,  but I have been talking about running constantly and even I am bored hearing myself go on about the bl**dy marathon!

Still, the end is in sight – and this is both an exhilarating and alarming thought.

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This time next week  – I hope I will be savouring my achey hips and relishing, in addition to a big fat medal, the curious badge of honour demonstrated by a John Wayne  is big leggy stair descending gait and body chafing in who knows where ?

I will be reflecting on how earlier in the day I had managed somehow to run a distance of 26 miles 385 yards, ( always assuming  I am not crawling on all fours to the finish with the sweeper van behind me).

So the plan is to try and enjoy the day, to get to the finish, to tick off the marathon and join that club.

 I am almost scared to write it down.

As I enter the phase of inevitability and with race day drawing ever closer, my desire for talismans, good omens and whatever other nebulous support I may need to get me through increases daily. In the past few weeks, the signs of panic have been building. I have been hoovering up as much information as I can on other people’s marathon experiences – good and bad, which I am not sure is always a wise idea.

Some of the bad experiences are really bad.

I have also been researching both sensible advice and hokey top tips – evaluating the merits of possible last minute nutritional aids like eating beetroot from now till May 21or putting butter in my coffee. ( Sally – rest assured I will not be doing any of that mad stuff 😉 )

My health has become a big focus and I have been looking to increase my odds of survival by eating more than my 5 a day and dosing up on Echinacea. Not to mention hiding from sneezing colleagues and washing my hands more often than Lady Macbeth as ‘maranoia’ and my fear of bugs sets in big time. Walking cautiously everywhere I go, lest I trip on a marble or such like because let’s face it –  how much of a scunner would it be to break an ankle this coming week?

The rational part of me knows I have been reasonably diligent with my training schedule and have covered a fair few miles- in all kinds of weathers and through a cold, miserable winter- and aside from the weather more importantly in a wide range of moods.

While there have been some moments of joy and a real sense of accomplishment, the truth is I have not loved ‘every’ moment of training and having done most of my 500 +  training miles on my own, thinking and observing as I run and listening to my inner voice – sometimes that voice can get quite tiresome.

While running is a physical exercise requiring a degree of fitness competency to complete, most runners will admit that when it comes to races and contests, much of the success or failure lies with how you deal with what is going through your head.

Following a training plan for the first time, I have had to cast off my inner free spirit and stick to the script. This most excellent script provided by Sally has got me to where I am, but I appreciate not without some petulant questioning and less than gracious acceptance on my part.

On this voyage of running self-discovery I have realised the following;   I don’t like running faster than my natural pace ( but I can if I have to – or more importantly if I know I have to report back to coach Sally).  I don’t mind running up hills – even if running up and down the same hill 14 times is a strange thing to do, and the long run – well that is just one big mental mindfest !

Oh the long run – so many hours to think – or to not think, to try to not freak out at the distance, or the hours ahead of just putting one foot in front of another. To zone in and zone out – to catch a glimpse of other lives , to hear the birds, play mental arithmetic tricks, chopping up how far to go and how far covered, listen to random podcasts – watch the country seasons change, overthink your clothing, weep as you run into horizontal rain or a strong easterly, then if lucky have a brief pointless chat with a fellow runner or anyone  who happens to be on the same path as I pass them at mile 11,15, 18…

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Sorry to all the strangers I encountered and just started telling them my marathon story.

I have not completed all my training on my own, as for most of my long runs, my patient and mostly abandoned running buddy Alison joined me for the last hard miles – and listened to my ramblings and stories I had stored up for the 12, 13 or more miles previously.

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My long runs have been a mixed bag, but mostly quite satisfying as I have progressed through ever longer distances. It seems like a different lifetime when I wondered how I might manage to run 15 miles – 2 whole miles longer than I had covered before, and then to find me just 2 weeks back running 22 miles – who would have thought it ?

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So with 6 days to ‘M’ day, I am as ready as I will ever be and looking forward to the last of my taper.

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Post marathon – after a modest celebration 😉 I am looking forward to getting back to my social running and have a few ideas for some new run adventures providing the marathon does not put me off running completely.

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I don’t think it will 😉

Taking part in this marathon is for me, mostly a personal challenge, but I do also hope to raise funds for two charities that support women and girls in different ways. One of these is Smalls for All  – a Scottish based charity that collects and distributes underwear for women and children in Africa and is also hoping to fund an education programme to help girls.

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

Any donations will be very much appreciated and will definitely help put a spring in my step come May 21st .

sunshine parkrun

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I have spoken before of the love / hate relationship I have with parkrun, and none more so than when it is included as part of my marathon training session. Not for me just sauntering along to parkrun to soak up the family atmosphere and by way of a footnote, benchmark my time over the 5k distance.

When parkrun is included on my training schedule it is because Sally wants me to run fast. And to me being asked to do parkrun is the equivalent of when, as a teen, my maths teacher would announce without warning that there would be a quick test of how well we were doing in calculus.

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I wonder how many marathon newbies feel the same way  – and rather than dreading the long run, instead look forward to the relief of running 17 miles at a steady, conversational ‘slow is good here’ pace over the prospect of running 3.1 miles as fast as possible.

The course in the original Edinburgh parkrun is along the Cramond foreshore, and is a pretty nice out and back on a flat, even surface – it can be windy, but out and back is better than multiple laps I tend to think.

On Saturday I arrived at parkrun a bit early – my game plan was to try to run for a couple of miles first to settle my nerves and kid me into seeing the second 3.1 miles as just part of a regular run. (this was contrary to Sally’s instructions which were to warm up with several short sprints – or strides but it seems I like to live with the danger of reprimand ;).

The sun was shining, the air was calm – amazingly there was not a breath of wind.

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I felt myself go clammy at the prospect of having no valid reason to not do as I was told namely – race it and go full pelt at the final section.

Soon it was time to start – and surrounded by the warmth of happy runners of all ages, shapes and fitness levels, I set off. Somehow I had managed to be further to the back of the pack than I maybe should have been, so it was a slow start. I knew I was not going very fast weaving my way through, so as the field spread out, I started to gradually increase my pace and move forward, kind of picking off runners ahead of me.

I did not have the pacer set on the Garmin, but Nike + told me that I was doing around 9 min mi pace after the first mile, which was not really accurate but it did feel like a pace I could sustain. All I had to do was stick at this pace and hope I would still have the legs to go full pelt at the end!

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Whether because of the lack of wind, or me getting over nerves, or perhaps I have gradually got better at running faster – but I was able to sustain the pace and continued catching up runners in my own tortoise-like version of racing. I  was pleasantly surprised that it did not feel too bad.

Not to say it was a walk in the park, as I was putting in a decent effort, and then as I can never quite remember where the actual finish is, I knew I had to keep to this pace beyond a wooded section whilst not pegging out.

I reached the finish and my Garmin showed a time of 26.22 – which is not a parkrun PB, but a decent time and meant I was doing just under 8.5 min mi pace.

Queuing up to give my token – a fellow parkrunner thanked me for my pacing that had helped him in the latter stages – this is something of a compliment for a runner, and even more so when coming from someone who was sporting a parkrun 100 teeshirt.

As usual, after finishing parkrun – the relief that it’s over means I start to love it a bit more, and I do understand how  it helps you to run at a faster pace.

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Later that day the results came out and confirmed my time at 26.21 – so no new parkrun PB ( which remains at 26.05 ), but I was amazed to discover I was 3rd in my age category  !!! This is the closest I am ever likely to come to any kind of ‘podium’ position – and I was super chuffed. I was 3rd from a field of 20 in that category and even though I know this result was largely due to my chum Alison ( and other better runners than me ) not racing that day – it still felt good to see that in print.

Maybe after my marathon is over, I need to switch my goal to holding or improving on that  podium spot and getting a new  parkrun PB 🙂

 

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Notes

I am taking  part in Stirling Scottish Marathon on May 21st and it will be my first marathon. To get me ready for this challenge I am following a  marathon training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally.

fitnaturally offers a range of healthy eating plans that can help with weight loss and sports nutrition. They provide bespoke training and nutrition for people taking part in sport at any level. I have been following fitnaturally plans for over a year and I have become leaner and fitter, losing more than 20lbs in weight and a reduction in body fat% in a gradual and sustainable way and by eating normal and enjoyable food !

Fundraising

Through my marathon efforts,  I  am hoping to raise funds for two charities – Scottish Womens’s Aid and Smalls for All both of these charities work to help women in different ways. If you would like to support either of these charities, please consider making a donation, however modest by following the link to my Justgiving page  ( Scottish Women’s Aid )  and Mydonate  ( Smalls for All ) pages.

Thank you

Big miles milestone

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It is easy to fall back on cliches when I am writing about my adventures in marathon training. Saying that you are on a journey is an oft used phrase these days and by folk embarking on all manner of personal changes or goals.  And maybe because we hear it so frequently stated – the meaning of the phrase has become devalued.

But cliches aside, this does feel like a journey for me – it is certainly a road less travelled. My journey so far I might describe as following a winding path encountering small victories and a few setbacks on the way, and then, as happened this week, a sense that progress is being made.

A milestone

In reverse order the biggest milestone was me managing to run further than I have ever done before in one session. 15 miles !! That felt good, even if I did almost spook myself by overthinking it.

I completed the run feeling OK and if I had paid proper attention to Sally’s fuelling instructions I could maybe have managed a mile more – who knows? I planned the run to include the  ‘harder to me’ extra 4 miles at the beginning – uphill into a headwind and on my own. I then continued for 4 more downhill with a nice tailwind – then I met my good running buddy Alison who ran with me for the remaining 7.5 miles. She kept me company, motivated and pacing sensibly for the rest of the distance.

Yes, my legs felt heavy from about mile 13 onwards – but I reckon that was a combination of not taking the extra gel and giving myself a fright about how far I was running. There is so much head stuff going on in this marathon malarkey, I have to keep reminding myself that if all else fails I can stop, or walk.

While reaching the longest distance is the most obvious milestone on this marathon path- cautiously I am beginning to believe I am making progress. And even better I this week I enjoyed what I got out of each of my runs. There were just 3 sessions but in each, I felt I had ticked the boxes.

The paced run while not quite ‘a walk in the park’ – is beginning to feel a bit more natural. And the hill session I did on Thursday was hard but exhilarating. After finishing my last rep and running home my legs felt so good  I was sure I was speeding along ‘gazelle-like’ ( this is of course what happens when you run on the flat after 10 reps of a long hard hill ).

The week started with 2 rest days – and while this did feel a bit odd,  I reckon the rest helped me to get the most out of the other training sessions, and it also meant I was able to fit in some non-running sightseeing to the National Wallace Monument and a visit to the Joan Eardley exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

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Notes

I am taking  part in Stirling Scottish Marathon on May 21st and it will be my first marathon. To get me ready for this challenge I am following a  marathon training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally.

fitnaturally offers a range of healthy eating plans that can help with weight loss and sports nutrition. They provide bespoke training and nutrition for people taking part in sport at any level. I have been following fitnaturally plans for over a year and I have become leaner and fitter, losing more than 20lbs in weight and a reduction in body fat% in a gradual and sustainable way and by eating normal and enjoyable food !

Fundraising

Through my marathon efforts,  I  am hoping to raise funds for two charities – Scottish Womens’s Aid and Smalls for All both of these charities work to help women in different ways. If you would like to support either of these charities, please consider making a donation, however modest by following the link to my Justgiving page  ( Scottish Women’s Aid )  and Mydonate  ( Smalls for All ) pages.

Thank you

pacing and parkrun

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In my fourth week of marathon training, my true love gave to me a pacing session and a parkrun in a pear tree …

Like many novice runners, I am not very good at pacing and I have spoken before about how I fear speed. These are not good qualities in a would be marathon finisher, as whilst I am not planning on running very fast for the 26.2 mile distance, I need to understand what pace I am capable of running and be confident I can maintain some consistency. And I think the idea of a race pace session is that by making yourself run at what will be your race pace – it helps to imprint the feeling of running at that speed and gives you an understanding and memory for race day.

Anyhow – what pace I was to do my race pace training sessions has been a bit of a topic of discussion between me and coach Sal, with Sally  putting the fear of death in me setting  me what seemed like an impossible pace and for an inordinate length of time  – e.g. run 75 minutes at 8.55/ 9 min mi pace – and me responding that there is no way I can run that fast for 15 never mind 75 minutes.

So this week  – Sally put the ball back in my court and asked me what pace I thought I  could manage to run at – well the truth is I don’t really know, but I reckoned probably slower than 8.55min mi !

But it turns out my lovely Garmin has a virtual pacing feature, so if I programme a set pace, as I run it tells me if I am ahead or behind that. I imagine any half serious runners, or lovers of sports watch technology reading this may at this point be saying – did she even read the manual before she bought the thing ? (answer no ).

On Tuesday I decided to try a run with the virtual pacer and in another quirk of kidology – I set it to 9.15 min mi pace, as was pretty sure I could maintain that.

I set off with my little pacing chum- on a rather grey and overcast day. The weather was a bit of an issue because in dim late January Edinburgh light there is not much contrast on the watch screen, so when glancing at the message I had to peer a bit to see if I was AHEAD OF PACE or BEHIND PACE and in scowling at the screen found myself REDUCING PACE.  But after a wee while I got the hang of it, and soon did not have to slow down to read the message. I even began to understand how it felt to run at a particular pace – which was the point of the exercise.

And while it is early days, I think I kind of get it – when I think I can’t maintain a pace of say 9 min mi, it is because I am not running consistently at 9 min mi – but am shooting off too fast then of course as I can’t really run for any length of time at 7 min mi or whatever, I drop right back only to shoot off again and this is not really pacing, and more importantly not a very enjoyable or sustainable way to run for any duration.  This coming week I am going to try it at 9 min mile and see how I get on.

Flushed with the success of beginning to understand pacing – I did my hill reps the day after and that was OK – although in an ongoing comedy of technology errors I forgot to hit the lap key at the top and the bottom so made it tricky for Sally to see what HR effort I was achieving going uphill.

One day I will master Mr Garmin

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parkrun Saturday

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parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k race /run held all over the country on a Saturday morning. It is a wonderful thing and has got lots of people enthused about running and is enjoyed by runners at all levels for different reasons. That said I have to admit that although I understand it is a good way to improve your performance and give yourself a regular test –  I really don’t enjoy doing parkrun- and it has become one of my running ‘bogeys’, and something I find all sorts of reasons to avoid doing.

But parkrun was on the training plan, and when I mentioned my dread of it to my non-running husband, he asked “how far do you have to run – and I said 5k – to which he replied  “that’s nothing to you why are you so bothered about it? ”

What he does not appreciate is how much I hate having to run fast, and when it is only 5k and it is a race – you really do have to run as fast as you can.

Or as Sal had helpfully said:

” run as fast as you can – it will feel horrible but it will soon be over”.

Anyway, I persuaded Alison to join me on a parkrun outing and it turned out to be not as bad as I was dreading. While I did not get a PB, my time was  26.05 and around 8.20 min mi pace, and during the run, I felt my pacing was a bit better ( hard when it is windy ) – so  overall not so bad for a slowcoach and maybe a sign of some progress.

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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 – some time in a land far,far away –  and with the excuses of December excess and family celebrations behind me – I 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 😉

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 – whatever –  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  – well 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 – it 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 🙂  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 – and 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 😉 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 – the 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 – the 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 – so  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 ✔️- 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