Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I am a marathon runner

Its taken much consideration on how to write my marathon blog. It feels like there was 42.2 different themes that appeared for me on the day. From flat out denial, early bird wakeups before a marathon, perhaps over resting prior to race day, extreme use of meditation, body to brain pacing (instead of watch interrogation). Toilet management with a case of the upset tum. How to manage heat and whirling wind over 42.2km Treating endometriosis at 22km of a marathon. Dealing with the crowds when you are seemingly the only runner left on the road and they would rather cross the street than wait for a slow coach runner while there were no cars on the street. When all the small cheering children make you desperately homesick for your own nieces and nephew. How to run in a foreign country whilst you don't understand the supporters cries. How to converse in English, Spanish and Italian during the course of a marathon. The love and support from around the world that motivates you in the final stages,

The best marathon supporters I could have asked for.
The brothers from other mothers who travel the miles to cheer from the side lines without being judgey at how damn slow you are as a runner (Thank you Evan and Mike my love for you both grew that day). How an Italian man helped motivate me for the last 9km holding my hand in triumph as we crossed the finish line together. How I now know how Ebola is caught (marathon toilets...runners will understand). How my name is Jo not Yo; but 'give me hope Joanna' felt pretty special sung by a cowboy costumed supporter. How I could hear my niece shout "Just. Keep. Running" over and over for the second half of the race after a pre-race Skype video message. How being told that I have a beautiful smile at 34km (all be it hand actions when he realised I didn't understand) made me realise I was smiling through the hardship. Perhaps I could have covered the Devil Jo and Determined Jo's I found in a portaloo at 30km, how deal making with these beasts got me across the finish line and on the plane home (currently mid-flight as I type!), by the Andrew incarnate offering Cervesa (beer) with a steel drum band at 31km....how my oldest friend pops up in my life always warms my soul, or the Scandinavian man's encouragement at 29km committing to seeing my 5km hence giving me a strange sense of responsibility.How taking on water from 5km due to the heat had me anxious I might over hydrate. The inspirational man who ran with me in his wheelchair using just one hand to propel himself. How I had an entire central city crowd cheering for me as I was the only person on the road - my very own Spanish crowd. How useful my friends words of advise were to follow the line which tracks the shortest route of the course which I found 300m into this epic race. How I dedicated a Km to friends and family and that helped to focus me (at times and distract me at others).How I am too polite to pee on the side of the road (my school mates might note I haven't changed from wagon days!), or how my body got into such a rhythm I felt I could run for ever. How I ruined my finishing photos by being an aeroplane.  By being embraced after the race by a fellow runner for helping to egg him along despite not sharing a language just pats on backs (Carlos !OlĂ©!). How a young English runner told me he was going to follow bums to finish (as he ran beside me and my voluptuous Marathon bum). How old ladies blew me kisses several times and called me Guapa (result!). How I heard an English guy telling his girlfriend how tough it was being a supporter as he jogged briefly beside her....you cant imagine the expletives I withheld from him - a man who actually spoke the same language as I do! How I said Gracias and gave hundreds of thumbs ups to the kind supporters. How crying for 8km in the middle of race was a first (in a long run at least) and I that couldn't explain why the tears propelled from my eyes, but that I was mortified beyond belief. That I finished a marathon but all I could think was how I didn't reach my time goal by a long shot and how disappointed I was in my body and my soul. How I felt sad for days afterwards and didn't want to talk about it.

 The smile belies the emotion
 I could write about each of these things lyrically, critically but perhaps I should just sit with this accomplishment. And celebrate the lack of chaffing, for completing one of Europe's flattest marathons in my old home Valencia,  where the streets were lined with hundreds of good spirited (often still drinking from the night before) supporters and steel bands who engulfed me every few km's and as I crossed the line the PA rang through "Walking on Air".

I will try and remember it all, for what it was. A marathon. And I am now a marathoner.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

one week to go....

The very thought that this time next week I will have completed a marathon is rather exciting. I am doing my best to contain this excitement. I feel I have done everything I can for the big day.

One of the key things I am trying to concentrate on at the moment is how small this challenge is relative to my previous endeavours and those my friends are undertaking. I spent some time with an IronMan last week, and this week one of my inspirational mates has taken off on a solo circumnavigation around the world, he is also a marathoner and an IronMan, a Channel swimmer and a celebrated Kiwi. Then there is my friend who just had a baby (in the past fortnight not unlike the rest of you Mum's just the most recent in my life and also the most present!). When I think of a woman's endurance in child birth it makes me focus on my own mission and how this is altogether a lot easier than the challenges cast their way.

I have climbed to Everest Base camp, battled altitude sickness and endometriosis. My pain threshold and my perseverance have been tested. Next Sunday however, will be the greatest planned challenge of my life. I know each training run has led me to this day, each experiment with nutrition, hydration, sleep, rest, pace and mental tools have kept me in good stead. And each little morsel of support I have received has only helped the last part.

I have a race plan and the last piece of advice I had was "no matter what stick to the race plan" so here goes....

Monday, 10 November 2014

Miles and Miles and Miles

You may laugh but I went for a 20 mile (32km) run and all I kept thinking was "my dear friend is having her baby, this is surely much easier than what she is going through". Now in the still light of humanity with the joy of a smiling child nestled in her arms I'm pondering what I fuck did I go for a 20mile run for, am I crazy?

And the truth is I am (for the record said labouring friend has run longer and harder than I ever will!). Thats the thing with marathon training you push your limits on what you can and can't do. I now accept I am a plodder. I have always suspected. I have even in high altitude moments been delighted with my Turtle like behaviour. But understanding that I am slow does not mean I wont finish. What my training has taught me is that if you get out for a run each day you will improve yourself. It might be that you discover the only thing you did right was drink enough water the day before, or that you bought your Oyster Card to get home! But its still a positive and affirmation that your Girl Guide days really did ensure you will always "Be Prepared".

Here are some of my lessons so far

  • Contrary to popular opinion in long distance training going out slow does not work for me. Steady yes. Slow no. 
  • Hydration is king. 
  • Nutrition is Queen. I learnt early on my favourite crisps give me the runs after a run (TMI sorry, but it was a well learnt lesson and has made me eat better snacks).
  • Eating before any run (no matter how short) is a great idea. And this comes from a strict no running after breakfast kind of girl! Porridge is awesome.
  • The stitch can be cured. Keep running and breath through the run (many people saw me running with one hand in the air for about 6 weeks, this helps too!) 
  • Comfortable clothes are great and don't cost the earth (and in my case honestly never were meaningfully matched forgive me on race day!!!)
  • Bra's are more important than shoes. Get it fitted. If its too tight it will stretch. But if someone wants to invest a Garmin Heart Rate/Shock Absorber Bra that would be awesome I have hideous chaffing (thank god I'm single, although I'm sure there will be scars if that's what your into!) 
  • Shoes are as important as Bra's. Get them fitted
  • Gels are awesome. I love them. Now. I was a big "they're a gimmick" person. But now I get it. They really boost you in a way Fruit Pastilles don't - although I still would take FP's on a half marathon!
  • Knowing your route. Although fun to be carefree it really helps if you know where you are going and where there is a toilet and water stop. I pushed my limits on a couple of long runs without these facts. 
  • You don't need to run with an iPod. Mine has for lack of a better word Died. I'm seeing this as another thing that has prepared me for the day were you are encouraged not to run with a devise and hell I need all the support I can muster!!

I am about to embark on the longest run of my life. I am likely to do it slower than any living person I know. But damnit I am doing it. No
longer the screaming supporter I am the one running. I want to achieve this distance not the time. But if I get under 5 hours I would be delighted.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Rest is best for Fitness (and Marathon training)

I'm still hot and mildly sweaty (despite wearing sweat retardant clothes!) from a 5km run and it was easy. Now that sounds weird. I find it very strange to think running for 5km is easy. A year ago I could barely walk to the bus stop without taking a pause on route (not due to lack of fitness if you have followed the blog). And today as I return from one of my last runs before my marathon I feel a bit mah <ambivalent shrugged shoulders included>.

I know that "mah" is not a word but it feels like I have just been for a walk to the shops. Although easier, cos I haven't had to carry the bags back the 2km and up my 3 flights of stairs. I guess this is the all illusive "fitness" I have been working my way towards.

I have languished in 4 days inside my house. Over the weekend after my nearest and dearest being ill from various contagious autumn bugs, my body decided it wanted to hibernate. Ok so maybe it was my mind, but none the less I haven't left the 60sqm flat in 4 days and by god has the weather changed! Last week it was balmy 15-19degrees and well today its outright cold, puddle jumping, mud sliding miserable. These few days inside will probably do me the world of good for a few reasons.

  1. I have rested my body. And after a lovely lunch with a successful multi-IronMan any miles I put in now will really only be to keep the body in motion. Training now is only fatiguing myself for the day. 
  2. My body needs a break. I made it to the illusive 20miles a week ago so I have reached the training nirvana and with more energy in the legs after the run this seems like I have done everything I can for the big day.
  3. resting my niggles. Like all runners we get niggles and one that keeps on popping up for me after long sustained pounding of the pavement is a netball knee injury from 1998 (now I feel old!). 
  4. Nothing worse to run on low energy. And that has been a real problem this past week. I've boxed set it out. I have tried to push all my other problems (like unemployment, migration and life bewilderment) off the agenda for the lead up to the big day. I've made time to meditate. 
I can't say I'm enjoying this taper week. I want to start eating carbs and get to Valencia but for now I am moving onto making cushions for a friend and talking to more over excitable under-delivering recruitment agents. Roll on Wednesday!

Oh my gosh that was glib....I'll work on improving this!!!!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

All Creatures Great and Small

Running my first half marathon in 2010
What always strikes me when I attend a race of any distance, is how it takes all shapes and sizes, creatures great and small. And I am no exception.

There are people who are young and old, of every race and religion, men in turbans, women in headscarves, topless and toned, slim and leggy, rotund and rouge red, bouncing, compact and flailing. But like all things in life, if You put your mind to goal then it doesn't matter what your genetic code you're going to do your best to complete that challenge.

I had lunch yesterday with a dear friend and we discussed how we describe our body shapes on dating websites. She is a completely different shape to me exceeding 5'11 and with a booty I think JLo would covet. I am 5'6 with all the right curves in all of their respective places (I wish I had the confidence to say all the right places!). We both described ourselves as curvy....yet she thinks I'm skinny, sporty skinny but skinny. Whilst as a girl I swooned a thanks, I am comfortable enough to know I aint a Skinny Bitch (the title of a great book not a slur).

Perfectly formed for a marthon....
with one of my running role models
But it bought me back to an uber ride with a very educated man and explaining why I know my way through The City of London I said "I run". He cocked his head at me and said "but your not a size zero". And he is absolutely right. I am a size 14. I have cellulite and boobs, that despite my best efforts I can't run off! I have Kiwi girl thighs and an hourglass waistline and (as yet tested) childbearing hips. I've had to learn how to manage with the body I have. I had thought that training for a marathon would change my body shape more than it has. I have slimmed down my waist (more bra shopping required, oh joy!) and my legs are very firm - this has a more to do with my loathing the foam roller than I should, so I assure you this is not a good thing. My upper arms are slimming and I have a sense of being more firm generally but otherwise my hips are wide and I can't fit my skinny skinny jeans but I can run 27km. And in a months time I will make it around 42.2km.

See thats the thing readers, runners or otherwise, it doesn't matter what size you are, its about how you approach life, each step at a time. Are you pushing yourself physically? Are you stretching your mind? Are you being kind? These are things that only we can answer for ourselves truly. Noone else knows our potential more than ourselves.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Running is my life (no really thats what I do at the moment!)

I've let my blog go a bit dormant over the past year. This last few months have not really been terribly travel blog worthy but more a tale of running. I entered in the Valencia Marathon back in January and 10 months later here I am a month out from the big day.

I'm not going to lie, the training has been hard. Some days are definitely worse than others and some are quite simply the best days of my life. Curiously I have just read an article on Manic Depression and I think this is how my running feels while I am on the roads/towpaths/tracks/foot tunnels to bring in the miles of training that one needs to do to prepare for a day where you run 42.2km. But there is one thing for sure, every time I climb my 3 floors to home and I gulp back water I feel better. A sense of achievement sweeps over me and I recall the grafitti ("Have a nice day" was yesterdays discovery), the smiles and raised eyebrows of acknowledgement of fellow runners, fierce geese chases, disgruntled canal cyclists and clapping supporters.

My wee patch of poppy planting
at the Tower of London
Since July and an unceremonious fall down stairs at work where I sliced open my chin and immobilised my right arm for a month and my senses for longer, I have been unemployed. I decided to leave my job because I lost any sense of purpose, a deep loathing for the management style and a hope I could earn some man money for a change. And like anyone who has had a period of unemployment this can cause you to second guess every minute detail of your life. In a recent chat to my Mum I blurted "what do I care, I can't relate to anyone at the moment, I don't have a job, I don't have a partner, I'm not planning a wedding, building a house, raising a child/ren, and as for a mortgage I don't give a shit, I'm training for a marathon and noone wants to relate to being tired, let alone what motivates me to do it to myself!'. Poor Mum didn't know where to go with this, so turned my attention to charitable work she is doing instead. Bless her. I signed up to lay poppies at the Tower of London the next day to commemorate the start of the First World War.

When I signed up for the marathon I had a few friends suggest I do the run for charity. As is commonly done here in the UK people have to do something physical to gain funds. Suggesting its really useful to focus the mind when the going gets tough. This would involve asking all my friends with the above responsibilities to give to a cause of my choosing. No, I was running this marathon for me. It is My challenge. I just didn't realise how much of a challenge it would prove to be.

In the count down to the day I plan to keep a wee note on here of my progress and the tools I use to get me across the finish line.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Citizen of the World

Its hit me like a bolt from a the blue. Something I have never really considered but just now as I take a quiet Monday evening moment, I have realised I am a citizen of the world.

I qualify for this less than legally binding membership, simply by noting I have no ONE place in the world where my friends all live. No metropolis large or small that I can call on more than one of my favourite friends (who actually know each other!). There is the one I met at work who resides in London, the one I met in a hotel lobby who resides in Barcelona, the one I met at Kindergarten who resides in my home town, the one I met over break-up tears who resides in my University city and the one who I met at a sailing regatta who resides in the big smoke. These are just an example of the many best mates I have scattered around the world....but will those centralised in the City of Sails really want to spend time with me when I get there? Will they make the time and effort of those I have in London? Will I still share things in common or has our lives diverged beyond return? I have no partner nor a child to share interests with. I have no money for a mortgage or its requisite lawn mowing weekend chores.  I don't have a power career, just a collection of scattered friends in countries I love to visit.

This makes it all seem so impossible as I make up these pros and cons lists, committing to change. Begging questions like, where shall I live? how I will adapt? See with all these friends in all these places I am spoilt and like a cherubs bow will break hearts in my wake....this is by no means a romantic notion as noone likes a arrow through a vital organ but the sadness that comes with leaving friends makes my decision seem unbearable.

And then as I did do just that by ripping the band off, mentioning my thoughts of relocation hand shakes sealed deals, wine glasses were chinked and plans were hatched. If I am going to be a citizen of the world, then I am darn well going to live in it, for it and love every moment of it and meeting in the middle is definitely a mighty fun plan....