Monthly Archives: February 2012

Week 2 – Running for ages

It took a couple of days to recover from my first long weekend run.  This was helped by plenty of donations towards my total early in the second week, mainly from Saints fans, most of whom I don’t even know.  Finally thousands of posts on a football forum pay off.  Although if I’d received minimum wage for each hour spent on there….probably best not to think about that.  Thanks to all Saintsweb users who have donated though, and those who donate later.  It’ll clearly mean promotion by marathon day.

I can blame Saints, and particularly the man below for the fact I never bothered with running when younger.  I assumed you could be good at football just by walking, confuse the defenders by standing still.  Unfortunately I failed to consider the fact that I was rubbish.  I believe the below photo was taken in about the 5th minute when Matt needed a breather.  Still, it was more enjoyable to watch football when skill was more important than fitness and pace.  Who knows, perhaps actually keeping the ball is better than running around like headless chickens for 90 minutes.  Probably why Saints are now better than England.

Matt Le Tissier - Athlete

Although my fundraising ideas remain slightly limited, I did contact every company and organisation I could think of this week to see if they’d donate any raffle prizes or items to auction.  I’ll mention any positive responses, but nothing to report yet!  Just hoping I don’t have to tattoo a Nike logo on my head or something.

While I managed to run most days this week, it is sometimes hard to find the motivation.  It’s not so much the prospect of physical exertion as repetition.  The same routes are particularly demoralizing.  I swear every direction from Eastleigh is uphill, plus it’s not the most scenic place, unless you’re a fan of pylons and warehouses.  I’m doing it a disservice; on a sunny spring morning B&Q can look quite beautiful.  So I start each run leaving Eastleigh and finding somewhere more interesting.  It’s a good thing I’m started running greater distances, as the constant looping around Chandlers Ford was driving me crazy.  Ironically so, given my chosen charity.  Now I at least get out to the delights of Southampton, Winchester, Romsey and who knows where next?!  In the back of my mind I’m considering attempting a run to Salisbury then getting the train back.  Nearly 20 miles I believe, so definitely the furthest I could go before the marathon.

I do miss running in London though, so the marathon will be a welcome change.  I’d love to run in some more idyllic locations at some point, maybe abroad, even if it means steep hills.  Trail running is generally a lot more fun than roads in my experience, although running in a big city is never dull as there’s always something to look at.   It almost helps to get a bit lost on a run, have the challenge of finding your way back and getting to know a wider area, far more than you ever would by car or train.  In fact the further you run the smaller places seem to be.

I managed 17 miles on the long Sunday run this week, further than I’d intended although I did stop a couple of times.  Once you get to a decent distance there always seems to be the motivation to see how much further you can go.  I find extra energy and it feels like better preparation, as keeping going after a few hours with heavy legs is what the marathon is all about.  The fact I have extra energy after these distances suggests I’m not pushing it enough.  I’ve never been very good at speed training, sprinting even short distances and improving my times.  I’m one of the few people that can run 10 miles and feel lazy.

While running I thought that after last week’s photo, it would be nice to take a picture on each long run, although often there isn’t much of great interest!  Oddly, about 5 minutes before running by this road below, I’d considered the prospect of finding marathon related road names.  Slightly ominous it was a dead-end though.

I see a lot of other runners out at the weekends, often with a smug nod in recognition of our efforts.  I particularly enjoyed being overtaken quite easily by a man of at least 70.  I’d love to still be able to run in later life, although right now I’m not looking past April.  If I get fat and lazy after that I’ll just wear my marathon medal everywhere to avoid criticism.  Still, I was reminded of the story of the oldest marathon finisher from last year.

The 100 year-old finished a marathon in Canada, having only taken up running at 89, and runs around 10 miles a day.  He said, “The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.”  Great advice, and perhaps I could run even further if I was happier!  As impressive as a marathon at 100 is, if I fail to beat his time this year then I’m clearly not going to live that long.  And please don’t leave it 70 years to sponsor me just on the off chance I might still be running then.

I can see how happy people might live longer though, and running isn’t going to make anyone sadder, so it’s a good step forward.  I’ve found it’s important to keep running when not so happy.  As with many things, depression can make you want to stop running, it’s draining and exhausting.  If you can learn to keep up the running anyway, it’s a huge help.  It’s not like you need to be sprinting around with upbeat tunes in your ears.  I’ve got through a lot of audiobooks and podcasts on slower, longer runs.  Sometimes it becomes easier simply because you switch off and focus on something else.  Or even just having some space to think, you don’t focus on the effort you’re putting into running in quite the same way.  It probably won’t help you improve your pace, but it shouldn’t stop you from getting out running, and in the long-term it will only be beneficial.

While on the subject of impressive older runners, I remembered this story.  I can’t believe a Daily Mail link has made it into my blog, but even the worst publications get it right sometimes.  A 70 year old many who has completed 1,000 races while pushing his son.  Bewilderingly impressive, and that’s before you discover they somehow finished a marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes!  This was supposed to be an inspiring story, but that might just make me feel pathetically slow.  It does show just how far people can push any limits though and while I doubt I’ve got a thousand races in me, I’ll definitely be running as long as I can.  Maybe we’ll have reached the bionic leg stage by the time I’m 70 anyway and even I can crack a 3 hour marathon.


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Week 1 – Late entrant

Hello and welcome to my marathon blog, which like my entry is a bit late.  I’d just about given up on getting a marathon place for this year, the deadline for waiting list places was February 7th and I had a place confirmed that day.  Despite the late notice and prospect of raising £1650 I knew I’d regret turning it down so that wasn’t really an option.  Plus I thought the stress and anxiety of raising that amount for a mental health charity would be pleasingly ironic.  Thankfully I’d kept up with training over the winter to some extent, on the off chance I did end up with a place.  That said, I now have a lot of work to do, trying to increase my distance every weekend and run 3 or 4 times during the week.

Last year was the first time I watched the London marathon with a real interest in running, having only taken part in my first event 7 months earlier.  I still had no idea if I could ever enter myself but I appreciated how far the distance is having run just a quarter of it.  I remember going for a run that evening in London and seeing people of all ages still strolling around with their medals looking exhausted.  I’m pretty sure a few people thought I was just a really late finisher…there may have even been a few cheers.

As stated on my fundraising page, I’m very happy to be raising money for Mind throughout this marathon campaign.  The funds are vital, providing support and information to thousands of people each year.  More information on where the money goes and the work Mind do can be found on their website.  Mind also helps run the Time to Change campaign that helps promote awareness of mental health problems.  This is partly why supporting a mental health charity is so important.  The increased awareness is just as important as the funds and too often people are left afraid to discuss their mental health issues.  While many people are very supportive, others fail to understand illnesses and conditions they can’t see, or suspicious when people are off work for mental health reasons.

Discrimination only serves to exacerbate the problem, make discussing the issue more difficult and ultimately leave people feeling isolated and desperate.  With increased understanding and support these people can make as much of a contribution to the world as anyone.  In fact, if ignorance is bliss then it’s the more intelligent and useful people that are suffering.  Wonderful people like you, who want to donate lots of money!

There remains a reluctance to talk about mental health problems.  ‘I don’t want to get tarred with mad brush’, to quote Alan Partridge.  Although Alan does find the courage to admit ‘‘I have mental health problems.  I won’t go into the details, but I drove to Dundee in bare feet after gorging on Toblerone and purchasing the rights to K-9, the robot dog from Dr Who’.  So help raise awareness, help Alan and the thousands of people who suffer from (albeit less hilarious) mental health problems every day.  For a start you might well question the mental health of anyone paying to run 26.2 miles.

Depression can be like a prison, and the lower you get the longer you have to stay.  It’s all too easy to pass judgment on someone else’s inner turmoil from a distance, to dismiss it, to rationalize it.  It’s difficult for some people to comprehend and you’re lucky in a way if you can’t, however the important part is at least to try, to ask and to listen.  Mental illness doesn’t prevent someone from having a valid opinion, and in my experience it’s always best to argue the point rather than the person or condition.  Mental health problems don’t negate intelligence, in fact often the opposite.

Given my career status the marathon is providing a great challenge at an important time, and with the charity fundraising it’s a good chance to feel vaguely useful again.  The lack of permanent job is doubling annoying in that they would have probably matched my donations and made the fundraising a hell of a lot easier!  Still, it’ll mean more this way…right?  Who needs Informa’s money?  Although if anyone from Informa is reading, I would very much like your money.  I have to say it’s easier to head out running when all that awaits you at home is endless job applications.  If there’s an urgent one to get done it can keep you running for hours, the same way everything on TV became so watchable when you had homework to do.  ‘I can’t write a geography essay now, a Quantum Leap repeat is on!’.

The mental side of running is often overlooked but it’s very important.  Maybe some people can block out their thoughts while running, but for me it’s a time when I think the most.  I often write in my head, including some of this blog, or stories, memories, plans, all sorts of random thoughts.  The difficult mental side comes when you’re not feeling positive, when a short distance you’ve run hundreds of times seems impossible.  I’ve found the first 5 or 10 minutes running feel more difficult than the second hour on occasion.  You can push through it, almost every time it’s a mental problem rather than physical one.  In my experience if you start thinking ‘I’ll stop soon’, you will.  Pretty much the opposite rule to eating cake.

Nearly everyone’s physical limits exceed their mental limits, that’s why we surprise ourselves so often.  A large part of training for various events has been steadily convincing myself I can run certain distances, or certain speeds.  I’m not about to sign up for an ultra-marathon or anything but if and when I complete 26.2 miles, I won’t be about to stop attempting more (don’t worry you don’t have to sponsor me again….for a while anyway).

I definitely came late to running.  I remember not so long ago being able to run for about 5 minutes at most.  I assumed I couldn’t improve that really, that running wasn’t for me and I was naturally unfit.  I saw so many people taking part in running events (all these annoying sponsorship requests right?) and didn’t think I could do it.  Then in 2009 I decided to enter a 10k event in London, giving myself plenty of training time.  I just wanted to see if I could do it, and was surprised at how quickly training helped me improve.  The distances seem tiny now, but just reaching 5k was a big step.  It’s easy to mock other people’s times/distances, but it all depends on the individual.  I’m sure a 3-hour marathon is rubbish for some runners, yet impossible for me.  Likewise achieving the first 5k or 10k is brilliant whatever your age or situation.

I hadn’t completed 10k in training before the race came, but I finished in 48 minutes.  More than merely the achievement of it, I enjoyed the atmosphere on the day and just wanted to keep running, like a less interesting but equally clever Forrest Gump.  Several more 5ks and 10ks came although last summer I suffered my first injury, largely due to not warming up and down properly.  I missed a half-marathon and had to stop running altogether for a couple of months, which I found quite difficult.  Running has given me more confidence, provided a welcome challenge, allowed me to think more clearly, feel more positive and sleep better.  Beyond the obvious physical benefits, there’s a comfort in knowing you’re doing all you can for your health and that has a knock-on effect in your mind.

I decided to take part in the Great South Run with just a couple of weeks training.  I didn’t push it that hard, didn’t finish that quickly, but it was still the best reason I can think of to spend a day in Portsmouth.  Perhaps I’ll run it faster in a Saints shirt this year, assuming there are any Pompey fans left to chase me.

Overall the injury made my knee stronger, and focusing on warming up and down properly has really helped.  I hear lots of people say running is bad for knees, joints and so on, but that’s only true if you’re not doing it properly, not giving yourself time to recover, or using the wrong shoes.  According to the ever-unreliable Nike+ I’ve run over 1200 miles in the last couple of years, and my legs have never felt stronger.  The warm up and warm down videos on this website really helped me if anyone is having knee problems.

I hadn’t run for a week when I heard I had a marathon place, so that was a cracking start.  Luckily my first light jog the day after hearing went smoothly, I managed to put the giant neon sign in my mind flashing ’26.2 miles’.  I’d planned to do one long run each weekend, increasing steadily until hopefully reaching 19-20 miles 3 weeks before the marathon.  The first Sunday I managed 15 miles somehow, partly the motivation of just seeing how far I could go, and more likely because I got lost.  Very lost.  I was sure I was running in the opposite direction to Winchester….until I hit Winchester.  Then on the way back taking a short cut through Shawford I had to sprint away from these things (see above, the benefits of running with an iPhone).  Quite good training although I’d rather not miss the marathon due to an angry bull attack.

Mind provided a ‘Guess my marathon time’ sheet as part of the fundraising pack.  It appears to start at 2 hours 45 minutes.  While I wouldn’t want to turn down sponsorship bets, if I finish in less than 4 hours it might be worth checking my Oyster card history.  Or perhaps I’ve broken the rules and worn Heelys for the day, holding on to a faster runner like Marty McFly on the back of a car.  Actually I can’t find anything against Heelys in the rules.  We’ll call that plan B.

I’ve never run this far and won’t be reaching near the complete distance in training, so this is very much just about finishing in one piece.  Obviously I’d be disappointed to crawl over the finish line in the dark but if that’s what I have to do to finish then so be it.  I suppose my main aim is to keep running the whole time and in the back of my mind I suppose 4 hours 30 minutes is a rough target.  I’m happy to accept any challenges though if there’s a financial incentive (for charity obviously!).

I received an anonymous donation within minutes of launching my sponsorship page and that was really appreciated.  The first week went well considering all I’d done is post a link to the page.  I hadn’t really got far with many other fundraising ideas with more time spent on training plans and registering for the marathon.  Any ideas for fundraising are still very welcome, if you know any businesses that can help, or can think of any events.  I’ll be continuing to raise money for a few months after the marathon so there’s no rush for donations, although I’d love to go into the race having raised as much as possible and knowing I have your support.  Thanks very much and I promise subsequent weeks on this blog will be considerably shorter!


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