Monthly Archives: March 2012

Week 7 – Do It Yourself

I couldn’t help but notice the one blog I published on a Friday afternoon was viewed about ten times more than any other week.  Perhaps that was just a strong week, or more likely the people seeing a link to my blog on Facebook aren’t doing that much work anyway.  That was during colder weather too, so just how little work is being done now?  In my opinion you’ve already achieved enough merely by being in the office on a sunny Friday afternoon, so relax, enjoy yourself…unless you’re a surgeon or something.

Week 7 has been without doubt the warmest of the training campaign so far.  That definitely makes it easier to find the motivation to go outside, but the running part isn’t quite so easy.  I’ve always enjoyed running in the sun, but after this week I think I’d rather it be far cooler during the marathon.  Perhaps even some refreshing English drizzle.

I managed a short run in London on my birthday to start week 7, although it was rushed due to spending the morning writing week 6 of this.  Once the marathon is over I look forward to spending so little time writing about my life that I may actually have time to develop a life exciting enough to justify writing about.  Running at 31 proved suspiciously similar to running at 30, despite the sheer amount of food consumed on my birthday.  I even managed to minimise the Saturday morning hangover and run after practically no sleep.  That may have been in part due to the 2am chips in pitta I declared as ‘carb loading’.  I’m always unsure about running the day before an event, but it seems to be recommended to stretch your legs a bit.  My short jog the day before the marathon will definitely be a very careful one, perhaps in bubble wrap.  Anyway, once you get running the hangover goes away pretty quickly so I’d recommend it far more than my previous strategy of lying in bed eating crisps.

The clocks always seem to change on the rare occasion I have to get up early the next day, and my iPhone can’t be trusted to update automatically.  Besides losing a precious hour of sleep, the uncertainty really doesn’t help.  It was probably good training.  What chance as an insomniac I’ll actually sleep before the marathon anyway?  I’d planned to try this event as tired as possible to replicate later marathon stages although it didn’t quite go to plan.  I managed a half hour run before the race, which was definitely too much in that heat.  Then I failed to find any water before the race and cleverly started dehydrated.  I suppose training is all about learning from these mistakes.

Above we see the excitement and anticipation at the start of the Eastleigh 10k.  Or perhaps merely a queue for people panic buying petrol?  Thankfully as I run everywhere, I only care about the availability of Lucozade.  I made that joke to another runner who suggested a water shortage would be worse for runners.  Yes…but I’m not sure running is the main concern in that situation.  Unless the true tragedy of drought Comic Relief fail to mention is the cancellation of a marathon.

I was exhausted after about 2 minutes of that 10km.  Water wasn’t available until 6km despite the conditions and sprinting there didn’t seem like much of an option.  As with several other events I found a negative mindset crept in quickly, criticising my own performance, almost unable mentally to push any harder.  I think knowing you’re performing averagely makes it difficult.  Everyone has off days, but if you’re generally average you have to work hard just to stay where you are.  Despite not being rested and ready for the event, or working on speed training, I was fairly negative throughout.  I rarely get this on the longer runs when pace isn’t such an issue, so hopefully the marathon can help overcome it.

Another excuse and one I expected was the lack of music.  I’m not used to running in silence and found it very difficult, especially on such a quiet course.  I finished in 47:25 which isn’t too bad at all really.  The disappointment comes from knowing it’s about half a minute quicker than my first 10k, before a couple of years training and losing quite a bit of weight.  It’s not so much a case of competing with others or trying to impress.  Most times are good and bad for someone.  I just try to judge what my potential is and I know I can do a far better 10k.  I’m genuinely interested to see how fast someone can get after taking up running later in life and not being a natural at it; how much is genetic and how much down to training.  Working on speed is going to have to wait though as after 7 weeks of hard training my main marathon focus is on completion.  Although after watching the kids 2km fun run, I think the key to speed is not to understand that you’re supposed to

Still, more disappointing than any time is the lack of medals!  You’d have thought B&Q could have knocked something together themselves, but no, just this beautiful green tshirt that I will obviously treasure.  B&Q so proud of their creation they even tried to make their logo as small as possible.  Great work.

What do you want...a medal?

I thought I’d treated you to a photo of me in the event and nearly changed my mind after seeing how bad they are.  I seem to run with my thumbs up for some reason, meaning every time I pass a camera it appears I’m trying to be The Fonz.  Fonzie would never have run anyway, he’d have strolled, but still won.  Photos from other events have been as bad, so just imagine how good I’ll look after 20 miles.  And in a vest.  Squeezing the remnants of my 6th and final disgusting energy gel down my throat, calves knocking together and bum bag askew .  Actually my calves really are knocking together when I run at the moment, at least after long distances.  Has anyone else ever tripped over their own calves?  No?  Just me?  I also seem to wobble from side to side when running, although it’s difficult to analyse your own running style without hitting lampposts.  While I recall being a poor runner at school, at no point did the teachers ever show us how to run.  It might seem obvious, but it isn’t and I could have really done with some pointers!

In the spirit of exercise when exhausted, I played a couple of hours football after the 10km event.  Albeit a very slow paced game.  Okay it was pretty much sunbathing near a ball.  Still, I did manage to run another 10km that afternoon and didn’t feel too bad.  While I’m not a natural runner and not the fastest, I think I do have half decent stores of energy, at least when I’ve stopped for a while anyway.  Or perhaps I just always have reserves ready for football.  My friend Troy suggests stopping half way round the marathon for a couple of hours headers and volleys, but that can be a post-marathon challenge I think.   Perhaps to celebrate Saints winning the league…although that could be under a week after the marathon.  I’ll attempt anything for the right sponsorship though.

I’ve noticed a lot more runners around this week.  Clearly fairweather athletes as I didn’t notice them during the long cold winter months quite so much!  Anyway, despite Sunday’s effort I wanted to attempt a long run too this week.  Through a combination of too much sun and too much exertion I felt rough on Tuesday, but wanted to try and run anyway.  Despite stopping plenty of times and the weather being even hotter still, I managed 34km; my second longest run to date.  It was however, painfully slow…and very painful at that.  I think I was out there over 5 hours and wound up near Portsmouth unfortunately.  Hopefully I’ll feel the benefits of being infinitely more rested and fresh for the marathon.

As if I hadn’t had enough sun, I went to Bournemouth the next day, planning a short recovery run at some point but opting instead to fall asleep on the beach.  Don’t go thinking my life is all holiday though, I think that was my first day off from running and job applications in quite a few weeks.  Even now after all this training I think the mental impact and depression that crops up is more detrimental than the physical fatigue itself; that feeling that there’s always something else you should be working on.  Some people have suggested they wouldn’t have time for marathon training and I am fortunate to have plenty of time during the day, or at least the freedom to get work done when I choose.  However, I do think my training would benefit from more routine.  Plus, unless you have something to be off from, you never truly have a day off.

My last very long training run will be in a few days, then it’s tapering to ensure I’m fit and ready for the marathon.   It’s all gone very quickly so far but I can’t have too many complaints with my progress and lack of injury.  Fundraising continues to go well.  I’m not even sure of the exact total until I pay in some cheques and finalise my offline sales etc.  Hopefully I won’t be too far away from my target by the time the marathon comes which is brilliant.  Many of you have donated already and I really appreciate it, but if any of you haven’t then your donations will really provide a boost in the most challenging week of training!  Thanks again and have a great weekend.

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Week 6 – Getting too old for this…

I’ve got to be honest, nothing happened in Week 6, so this could be a short blog.  I did manage a few decent 10km runs and plenty more ice baths. I practiced the Eastleigh 10km course and it’s as enjoyable as I’d anticipated.  I’d hoped a relaxed weekend would lead to a good Sunday run, unlike the previous week. With just a month or so left this is the peak training time, especially as I need to taper it in a couple of weeks so there’s really not much time left.  In fact some training guides suggest your longest training run is 3 weeks before the marathon, giving me about 10 days of normal training left.

While I had plenty of energy to run on Sunday, I had no idea where to go. Having exhausted routes in all directions I felt a bit…well not lost because I know everywhere now…but uninspired. So I attempted the run from my first training week, because there’s nothing quite like 6 week old nostalgia.  While I was faster and planned to go much further, I found an unfortunate consequence of running late Sunday afternoon is a lack of shops to buy water. So rather than dehydrate completely I ended the run a bit early.

Hopefully I compensated for that with some speed training, attempting sprints every so often. The next day I tried a 5km run, which I always find the most difficult for some reason. I don’t think I’m built for speed, or perhaps I’m too lazy for that sort of exertion. I managed a 22 minute result though, which is good considering how much of it is uphill. I have absolutely no idea how people finish 10km in under 30 minutes though.

Week 6 finished with another run in London, 10 miles in the sun.  Although running by Upton Park in Saints colours probably wasn’t the best idea.  Another good reason to speed up though.

It’s probably a good time to reflect on training so far, with exactly a month until the marathon.  It’s also the tenth anniversary of my 21st birthday.  Perhaps I should run 31km to celebrate? Followed by a delicious energy gel and protein cake, with fizzy Lucozade as it’s a special occasion.  Although that might not sound fun, I’m just pleased I’ve managed to get to this stage with running.  Ten years ago I probably didn’t know how far a marathon was (see below) and couldn’t have managed 3.1km.  I probably couldn’t have managed it 3 or 4 years ago either.  I suppose your peak running years physically will be when younger, but if you excel then, you have the depressing realisation of age making you slower.  I’ve cleverly avoided such pitfalls by spending my youth unfit.  There’s a lot to be said for feeling fitter and faster as you get older.  I would also advise maintaining your youth by achieving very little and having few responsibilities.  Such action is cheaper than botox.

So far I’ve had birthday e-mails from six recruitment agencies (I’d rather have a job), a couple of gambling sites, the National Lottery, a chiropractor, Amazon, Boots and Cadbury’s.  I’m not sure how sincere these messages are but I imagine we’ll all be meeting up for drinks later.

I’ve probably lost a fair amount of time to depression over the years but there’s no point dwelling on that now and making past depression the source of further depression….which is often the case.  Things rarely work out as we expect and it’d be probably be pretty dull if they did.  I’m discussed the role of sport and exercise in battling mental health before, and it remains vital.  The challenge of running has provided a focus in what has otherwise been a particularly low 18 months or so.  There’s some comfort in focusing on runner further or running faster.  It’s certainly not an easier challenge than other aspects of life, but it is a simpler one.  It’s simultaneously cathartic and invigorating.

I hope I can inspire some people to take up running, whether it’s to improve mental health or not.  Working on physical health is a good place to start and it’ll always have a positive knock-on effect mentality.  The important thing to realise is that you can start at any age.  There’s no speed or distance you need to be aiming for immediately, just see what you can do and try to build on it slowly and consistently.  Most people will be surprised where they end up….quite literally if like me you don’t plan your route.

So a month to go and no serious problems so far.  I’ve not missed many training sessions and already run further than I ever thought I could.  Hopefully things will continue like that for the next few weeks despite my new age!  Let’s be honest, I’m a day older.  Knowing how much time and effort goes into training I can’t imagine how it must feel to get an injury just before such a big event.  If that did happen, and it would have to be serious to stop me running/crawling, I’m afraid there won’t be any refunds!  I would have to delay it for a year and run then, no doubt struggling through weeks 13-62 of the blog.  On that note though, I’ve also been really pleased with how many people have read my weekly ramblings.  Okay, the blog stats might only indicate people who came to the page and looked at the pictures, but lots of you have been very complimentary which means a lot.  Fundraising continues to move along very well too.  Starting late and with so much emphasis on training, I was hoping to reach £1000 by the day of the marathon and then focus on raising more funds afterwards.  Well I’m at £1070 with a month to go so thank you again for all your support.  Reaching my target before the marathon would be an unbelievable achievement and no doubt help me run a lot faster.  If anyone wants to celebrate my birthday with a donation they’re more than welcome!

Thanks for all your birthday wishes too.

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Week 5 – There and Back Again

I think I actually spent most of Week 5 writing ‘Week 4’.  Hopefully with some better blog training I’ll be up to date by marathon time.  Still, this was a useful week of training; the first I ran every day during the week too.  It didn’t start well either, with my iPhone jumping from its strap mid-run and landing in a puddle.  Surprisingly resilient devices though.

Although I felt good on each run I’m not convinced I’m getting any faster. As so much emphasis has been on distance, which has definitely become more manageable.  I’ve always wonder which races ‘slow and steady’ actually wins, because it’s not the 100 metres, and from the look of marathon winners, they didn’t follow that advice either.  This could merely have been propaganda peddled by tortoises.

I like to think I’m a bit faster now, partly because of the amount of weight I’ve lost.  I was pleased with my first 10km time and that was at a stone heavier (same sized calves though).  Still, I haven’t done nearly enough core work or cross-training.  Exercise indoors never appeals as much; even though I appreciate it’s really important.  I’ve still never been to a gym, which doesn’t really help the situation.  The winter months of running did make the prospect of gym running seem more appealing though.  I can probably get by with weights and a gym ball though most the time.  I’d be more tempted by the gym if I weren’t a pathetic swimmer, again largely because my calves don’t float.

This was again the week of my longest run yet, although not my longest constant run.  The long run was delayed too thanks to the decision to drink on a Friday night.  I assumed I’d be fine by Sunday and able to run as normal, forgetting my age and the fact I rarely drink anymore.  I’ve never really drunk much at home and completely cut out alcohol since training began.  I didn’t even drink that much, although Hobbit ‘cocktails’ were never sensible sports drinks.  This was over a week ago, so before The Hobbit became oddly famous.  I’m sure any newcomers also enjoyed their pint of Gollum….which looks suspiciously like Toilet Duck.    That’s no reason to force a pub to change its name after twenty years though.  Even Stephen Fry tweeted about saving The Hobbit.  As President of Mind he should really have considered what their cocktails had done to the training regime of a charity fundraiser.   I’ll stop mentioning hobbits now before someone in Hollywood removes my blog.

Drinking too much also seems to leave me depressed for a day or too.   That might partly be the knowledge of having spent your week’s food budget on drinks you didn’t need or like, and damaging your training in the process.  So lesson learned, probably.  I say that, yet it’s my birthday a couple of days before the Eastleigh 10k.  So lesson learned after that.  I’m almost hoping running with a hangover will make the marathon seem easier.  A lot depends on whether I actually manage to get any sleep the night before the marathon.  Plus, I’m still not managing to run early, so the start time could be a bit of a shock.

Anyway, after a couple of days sleeping and eating too much, I managed to drag myself out for a long run on Monday.  By the way, my ‘weeks’ in this blog tend to run Wednesday to Wednesday, simply because of when I started training and writing, I don’t just operate on a different timescale to everyone else.  It’s difficult to plan much else on a day you need to run for 3 or 4 hours.  At least it’s difficult when you don’t manage to get out the house until early afternoon.  I still felt tired but the warm weather helped.  The week before had been freezing and wet, while this week was dry and sunny.  I like the way it only takes a 16 degrees day in March to get everyone to the park in shorts.  Some might think it more difficult to run in hot weather, but I’m just generally happier and more positive with a bit of sun.  The lack of trousers of jacket does still provide a problem with where to keep the energy gels though.  I still haven’t opted for the bum bag solution, so this week attempted to hold 5 of them as I ran, with a drink in the other hand.  Not the most comfortable arrangement, and I’m still thinking of better tactics for the marathon itself.

Resting the calves at the beach.

Due to the nice weather I thought I’d try and head to the sea…or Southampton Water anyway; an imaginative name for a stretch of water in Southampton.  It definitely helps motivate you having a destination in mind, and it feels like you’ve run further just for being a fair distance from home, rather than running laps of the same local area.  Running along the coast in the sun was probably my favourite training moment so far; although by the time I reached Netley I needed to stop.  I doubt they have many beaches to rest on halfway through the marathon, unless I just dip my feet in the Thames for a while.  It was 21km up to that point, which is a half marathon.  Although exhausted, after a fairly long rest I thought it would be nice to save the train fare and just run home again.  Plus the sweat had dissolved my network railcard.  Having gone a slightly longer route on the way in, it wasn’t as far home, but still quite close to marathon distance.

They say Tower Bridge is a tiring stage of the marathon because you’ve run a long way but still have most of it ahead of you.   Well I bet I was more tired approaching the Itchen Bridge on the way back.  At least Tower Bridge looks nice.  I normally have an obsessive tendency to run in a loop rather than turn back again, so seeing the Itchen Bridge again was more depressing than normal.  Especially with it’s motivation signs (see below).

'You can't stop because you're running for mental health'.

I still stopped and walked a few times on the way back, including stopping at ASDA where I planned to buy water but came out with several bags of Mini Eggs.  If I’d thought I looked stupid running with a fistful of energy gels a few hours earlier, now I was running/limping with bright yellow bags of sweets in my hands.  By the time I got home I’d travelled about 23 miles, and been out for 5 or 6 hours.  Not the fastest run and probably too far to have gone in training, but possibly the most interesting training day so far.  Plus Mini Eggs are even better when they’re ‘just for energy’.

After the week’s exertions I thought I’d better put some extra effort into looking after my muscles so attempted an ice bath.  It definitely helps, the recovery time was a lot quicker and I haven’t had any problems, but those first 2 minutes in the water are very unpleasant.  I was optimistic taking a book in there with me.

I spent a lot of time working out what to sell to add to my fundraising this week.  eBay helpfully waive any fees for charity listings and promote items more, although I can’t be as complimentary about PayPal who take a chunk of my sales then make it very difficult to get a straight answer.  I’d really rather no-one but Mind profit from my work to be honest.  Still, I’ve found a lot of items to sell, I’ll even be saying farewell to most of my football shirts!  Hopefully the fundraising total should benefit in the next week or two from this.  If anyone else has any items they don’t want that I might be able to sell for charity, do let me know.  Even though I’m broke myself, I doubt I’d have put the effort into selling most of these items if it weren’t for the fundraising, so I’m sure people have things lying around they just never found time to sell.

It was another great week for donations too.  Every time I worry they’ll slow down people pop up with more generosity, so thanks again.  I’ve had donations from more people, and larger amounts than I could have ever anticipated.  Not to say that I don’t want lots more!

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Week 4 – Any change?

Apologies for being so late with Week 4, I hope you’ve all coped without it.  Still, better to procrastinate blog writing than actual training.  Not that the blog takes that long; it’s pretty much 10% of time spent writing and 90% spent thinking of bad running puns.

I think this was the best week yet for running motivation.  Any change in routine can help however small and this week started with new running shoes.  Perhaps not ideal to be breaking in new shoes with less than two months to go, but it was that or attempt the marathon in a fairly worn out pair.  It’s great that running shoes that developed to help with all sorts of running styles and types of feet, but it doesn’t make choosing the right pair very simple.  I’ve had the gait analysis contradict what I was told last time, but it seems I have fairly neutral feet.  I suppose having regular feet compensates for the abnormal calves, otherwise who knows how I’d end up running.  Once I had the new shoes I was still trying to analyse my feet while running, and nearly ended up in a hedge.  For any shoe enthusiasts, I’m wearing Asics Gel Nimbus 13s.  They have nice shiny blue laces.

Anyway, despite concerns over wearing them in, they felt fine immediately and I haven’t had any problems over the first week.  Giving them a test run made it far easier to get out there for the first run of the week.  It’s always the toughest for motivation, having completed a massive run just a couple of days before.  You know before you leave it won’t be your longest run, your fastest run, and you definitely won’t be seeing anything new.

New music helps a lot too.  Assuming it turns out to be decent music of course.  It becomes quite an effort to come up with an interesting playlist when you’ve listened to everything thousands of times.  Running 7 or 8 hours a week is a lot of music after all.  It’s rarely a good time to believe what iTunes tells you you’ll like either.  This week I did have the new Fanfarlo album though, one I’d been looking forward to.  Going for a run and listening to it a couple of times helps you get to know an album better than anything.  Just something small like that helps get you motivated.  I also went to see them a couple of days later and can’t say I advise standing at a gig for 4 hours as great marathon preparation.  Good gig though, crippling pain aside.

The role of music in running is interesting…at least I hope it is, as that’s what I’m writing about.  Most people I see out running have headphones in, many on race days do too.  One study suggested you can perform 20% better using music if applied correctly.  While I’ve no idea how they came to that statistic and it’s probably suspect, music definitely can help, although the key is ‘applied correctly’.  People seem to opt for upbeat music and fast songs to increase their pace.  Unfortunately that’s not exactly my taste.  In fact, looking at the track list for Now That’s What I Call Running (which just popped up on TV and interrupted my writing) I think I’d opt for silence.  Seriously, people run faster to Kenny Loggins?!  In Top Gun it just made them run in slow motion.  Although music weighed more in the 80s so wasn’t as helpful for runners.

Run To The Beat 1985.

I do have music that pushes me on to run faster though.  It’s just about music that means something to you and suits your mood more than anything.  If you’re feeling down then appropriate music can help you to keep running.  You probably won’t be setting any speed records but I’ve found I can run further just by drifting off.  Then the endorphins from running kick in and you start to feel better anyway.  Am I the only person that runs quite fast to Radiohead anyway?  I’m talking Idioteque or Electioneering here, these are clearly great running songs.  If there’s a good song you love, it probably won’t slow you down.  Actually my attempt to run to classical music didn’t work so well.  It’s not like I don’t have embarrassing upbeat pop on my iPod too though.  For some reason I run quite fast to Take That, and once on shuffle I was interrupted by Phil Collins.  But American Psycho made Phil cool, right?

This academic study looks at the science behind music and sport in terms of beats per minute but it’s surely irrelevant if you hate the song or aren’t in the mood.  It raises some interesting points but loses all credibility in one swift mention of ‘The Lighthouse Family’.  I’d have to stop running and beat my iPod to death if I heard ‘Lifted’.

If there’s one upside to depression, it’s that it gets some people writing great music.  No, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it and raise lots of money for Mind.  It just means we should limit the song producing potential of vacuous upbeat types on ITV.  That would be a far happier world.  In fact take all the money spent on X Factor and just give it to Mind, thus preventing and curing a lot of depression in one long-overdue swoop.

In 2007 the New York Marathon tried to ban the use of iPods during the event, for ‘safety reasons’.  This seems slightly odd, given you’re allowed to dress up as a giant squirrel or run barefoot.  While the guy in the photo below might be sweating to death, he could also have headphones in under there.  Stormtroopers probably pick up radio automatically don’t they?  So it’s pretty much impossible to police.  Most ignored it and carried on as usual, with the marathon just ‘discouraging’ the use of music from then on.  It does seem odd to be a safety reason when there aren’t any fitness checks for entrants.  In fact what’s safe about running 26.2 miles anyway?  Or running in a swarm of water bottles being thrown on the floor?  I particularly enjoyed the number of people running for Water Aid who casually disposed of their half full bottles.  Irony before charity.

Turn off your GPS watch and use the force.

I signed up to the Eastleigh 10km this week, my local event and possibly the bleakest course around unless you’re a massive pavement fan.  This is the first race I’ve taken part in that says no iPods, so we’ll see if I’m faster because of it.  Being 2 days after my birthday (22nd March if you’re planning a generous birthday donation) I have a feeling ‘hangover’ might be a more appropriate excuse.  Obviously you want to enjoy the atmosphere of events and I won’t have headphones in for the whole marathon.  If I were running somewhere more scenic I’d gladly enjoy the peace and quiet.  Yet in a 4+ hour run you need that extra motivation and distraction.  In Eastleigh you definitely need the distraction.  I was planning to run 10km before the event, just to experience event conditions when already pretty tired.  It’s also another good excuse for recording a slow time.

Another welcome change this week was spending a few days in London and getting to run some of the actual marathon route.  Without the crowds and spectacle of the marathon, some of the course is just a bit bleak.  Nothing against Deptford, but I definitely ran a bit faster than normal.  It was freezing cold and wet too that day.  Whenever the sun comes out in March I put my coats away and assume it’s summer because I’m optimistically thick.  Even running in different weather conditions makes a nice change though.  I took a break at Greenwich and warmed up at the Royal Observatory; it was like running into space.  If I struggle in the marathon maybe I’ll hide in the planetarium.  I’m hoping that hill isn’t on the route; that would be a pretty harsh start.  My attempt to capture the view over Greenwich and my new running shoes while making my numb hands operate a wet iPhone didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.  Still, with a couple of breaks I managed 20 miles around the route, which was further than intended.

Introducing my shoes to the start line.

Thanks again to those donating this week, and of course to all who’ve donated so far.  Donations picked up a bit this week, which provided a nice boost.  It really helps motivate me to get out there and keep training, and I’m sure it has a similar impact on anyone taking on such a challenge.  All combined, and besides the obvious vital funds for this great cause, your donations will really help me get round the course on marathon day.  I’m sure if I had a lot of money and could pay it myself it might be seem less stressful, but it wouldn’t provide anything like the boost I get from all your support, so thanks again.


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Week 3 – Wheyed down

The weeks are going very quickly, especially considering it’s advised you attempt your longest training run 3 weeks before the marathon, then dramatically cut the amount of running you’re doing.  Week 3 was a quiet week for fundraising unfortunately, although reaching £500 already has been fantastic, especially with so many unexpected and unknown donations.

Although I haven’t had much luck with donations or raffle items from companies so far, I did at least get some free samples of running products; thank you Maxifuel and For Goodness Shakes.  When I started running I’d just put some trainers on and leave the house, now it takes hours of thought.  Playlist, warm-up, the right kit for the weather, iPhone strap, Nike+ to measure distance and annoy everyone on Facebook, energy drink, maybe some gels, bank card in case you get lost/injured or accidentally run to the shops, maybe a laptop to write a blog as you run.  Heaven forbid you lose GPS signal while running.  Actually, if I do collapse during the marathon, I’d appreciate it if someone could press pause on my Nike+.

Before that you need to decide which running products to use of course.  They’re advertised all over the running magazines but that’s more about revenues to keep the publications going than actually wanting to promote decent products.  Yes you need good hydration and plenty of carbohydrates before and during a run.  Then extra protein afterwards, I understand that much.  But what exactly is whey protein?  Are they not just selling us the gunk that wasn’t good enough to become cheese?   Do we need sports vitamins to give us all the things we probably get anyway, a few extra bits we don’t need, and some more than might not actually do us any good?  I could write a whole new blog on false advertising, supplements and products without any supporting evidence, but you’re better off heading over to Bad Science, or the excellent Quackometer.  But I must point out, there is no such thing as a ‘superfood’!  Or a nutritionist for that matter.  An entire industry based on failing GCSE biology and believing the science of Popeye.

Despite my skepticism, I get through a lot of running products.  Perhaps it is partly placebo, but if that gets you round a marathon it’s fine by me.  I do find sports drinks more helpful than water, although generally can’t be bothered to carry more than one, which is a problem on longer runs.  After a few miles it starts to feel like weight lifting, so I end up buying water a couple of times per weekend run.  It’s really not a cheap hobby anymore.

Maxifuel man

The Viper boost gels are particularly effective if you avoid all caffeine the rest of the week.  Even after 15 miles you suddenly feel very awake and wanting to sprint.  I’ll be saving these for the last 7 or 8 miles of the marathon I think!  Placebo or not, I like knowing the gels are there on the longer runs.  Well, besides the running with bulging pockets part.  What is the solution to this?  I don’t want to be one of those people who runs with a bum bag and calls it a ‘running belt’.  Yet how many pockets do shorts and a running vest have?  Maybe I’ll just fashion some sort of energy gel hat.

I’m sure whatever products you choose, the far more important aspect is planning your training, strengthening your muscles, cross-training and getting decent rest.  For all the fascinating science behind it, there’ll be someone sprinting it in under 3 hours just on water having had a Big Mac for breakfast.  Or even people running bare foot.  It sounds fun, but surely the ‘evidence’ supporting it is more than a little skewed by the fact that all those injured don’t like to publicise the fact they did it ‘running without shoes’.  Goodbye sympathy.   Again though, my skepticism won’t prevent me being overtaken by several hundred people without shoes.

Training had been fine during the week with a couple of hour-long jogs and I was already writing about just how smoothly everything seemed to be going.  Then I attempted a Saturday morning sprint in the sun, and lasted all of 10 minutes.  The last time this happened it was because I’d forgotten my trousers and taken to the streets in long johns.  This time it was because my legs were killing me, although generally aching rather than any serious injury.  I’d hoped a day of rest and I’d be ready for the long Sunday run, but waking up late combined with a decent day of football on TV persuaded me to give it another day in bed.  The first slip-up on my schedule looked to be getting worse as I struggled to find the motivation on Monday either, not thinking I’d be able to go very far.  Still, I surprised myself once I managed to get outside.  Although I stopped to walk a few times, I must have gone close to 18 miles in total.  More impressive after running through the forest and what looked like solid mud, only to sink and spend the next 3 hours with soaked shoes in black sludge.  This may invoke flashbacks for veterans of Talybont 2001.

A dead end for investors.

After last week’s road name fun (not the highlight of anyone else’s week?), I was pleased to stumble upon an area of football stadium roads.  I always enjoy a random theme for an area, particularly a few streets in Brooklyn just named after fruits.  I’d like to see an area where each road is an element in the periodic table, which would have been more fitting with the vague science theme.  I also wish I’d published this before Rez suggested running to the football ground roads of Bishopstoke, which I’d already done.  He’ll be predicting next week’s blog any day now.  Anyway, if you’re going to name your roads after football grounds, please not this one, not in the SO postcodes.  Although apparently residents on this street only need to pay 20p in the pound for their mortgage, and even then they’re hopeful of even getting that down to 4p, so there are bargains to be had.  I’ll try to limit the football references for next week, promise.


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