Taper Time

Whoah, it’s April. Marathon Month. How did that happen? Seems like it was only yesterday  that I inadvertently signed up for the London Marathon 2013 via facebook.

Lucky for me, training for the marathon has been more consistent than writing about it, though Facebook & twitter has been with me through every step of the way. Fundraising is going pretty well too.

After two helpful training days under my belt [Asthma UK and London Marathon respectively], my first (and only) half marathon [adidas Silverstone Half Marathon] and my longest run before the big day, my trainer has handed me my Final Program – the tapering off one.

Tapering will allow my body to reach optimal performance before the marathon by decreasing the amount of exercise I do in the lead up to the big day. The trick is to ensure the muscles are kept in good working order but also have a chance to rest.

So as much as I hoped it was going to be three weeks of telly watching, sleep and chocolate – my plan looks more like this:

Final phase of Marathon Training

Final phase of Marathon Training

Not bad, eh? Very doable. And the best thing is, I think I can squeeze in some telly watching, sleep and chocolate too.

Running with the Running Community

At the beginning of November I ran my first ever 10K at the Mornington Chasers Regent’s Park 10K Winter Series.

Having (unfortunately but sensibly) forgone friends’ parties respectively celebrating 40th birthday and hen do the night before, I turned up at Regents Park at 8am in preparation for a 9am start. A valuable lesson I learnt from my first ever 5K.

The weather was heinous. Super cold with torrential rain.

Lovely.

But it didn’t matter really. It just added to the excitement of my task that lay ahead. Besides, I had psyched myself up sufficiently. Luckily Chris, my trainer, had bestowed a few words of wisdom the night before when the panic in me began to rise as a head cold suddenly developed.

Runners (of all ages) started piling in to register their number. The feeling that I had been internalising became a shared group experience as more than 250+ people gathered and excitedly talked to friends and strangers alike. The atmostphere was thrilling. There was a real buzz. Everyone was so friendly.

And that’s one of the things I love about this new hobby of mine. The running community.

I didn’t really know it existed. Or rather, I wasn’t fully aware of it’s magnitude or reach before I spontaneously decided to run the London Marathon.

But I love the running tips you receive from different people – either online or face to face – as they share their own experiences of the sport (a reason why I started this blog)

I’m indebted to:

  • the woman who registered my number and advised me to only wear a vest top and waterproof jacket (3 layers she said was overkill – and she was right);
  • the 45 year old man I met before the race began who broke down the race into laps (that got me through the difficult second ‘already halfway there’ lap and gave me an unbridled energy for the third ‘practically home’ lap);  as well as
  • the unflinching encouragement of the stewards who stood in the pouring rain and spurred me on when I felt like stopping.

Running is a strange beast. You get a sense being truly part of something and yet we all have to run our own race. Even amongst all those runners, the only person we are truly running against is ourselves.

When I crossed that line at 1: 09 the feeling of achievement pumped round my body with the same robustness as the blood in my arteries (and I sprinted the last 200m). Although I did stop three times to stretch my calves with each lap, there were even times where I entered into a meditative state. (albeit briefly)

The next one is on Sunday 2nd December. Will you be joining me?

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Overcoming a Mental Block

As I reflect upon my second organised 5k park run this morning, these last few weeks have presented an incredible number of firsts:

And now I have experienced another first; how to run past a mental block.

This morning’s park run was HARD. The weather was fresh and the sky deep blue. A stupendously beautiful morning with colder than cold air.

But last night I hosted a dinner party and we all got carried away with the prosecco, red wine and cheese. Slumber didn’t arrive until the very small hours of the morning. As I hit snooze for the umpteenth time, I realised I was going to be late and jumped out of bed.

Turning up to the race with only 5 minutes to spare meant I didnt have time to line up my music – my rhythmic driving force  – and was still faffing with my HRM watch when the race began. I was also holding on to my ipod instead of it being neatly tucked away in the case strap on my arm.

My body felt so tired. I hadnt rested properly. The 15 minute run before the race to ensure they wouldn’t start without me didnt make things any easier. I was struggling to catch my breath. Struggling to muster up some energy into my muscles.

I must have walked for half of it. Felt like I was taking forever. All the stewards had gone, I felt like a failure. I kept starting and stopping. Berating myself for not being able to run, not being able to breathe deep enough, not sticking to water the night before a race, not getting an early night. But as I saw the other runners mill around the finish line, I realised I had 25% of the course to go. “Not long to go now” I said to myself, “don’t worry – you’re here and doing it” I kept repeating and I soon found myself at the finish line.

I ran the first 5k in 36.09, the second in 37.02. Not bad considering I walked for more than half of it..

So when the running angel and walking devil are vying for my attention, I know that mind over matter and a strong focus will help to get me through. That plus more sleep and less alcohol.

5K and beyond

My plan was to start a blog right at the start of my Marathon journey. Not only to fully document my progress but also hold the virtual hand of any other running virgins who have suddenly decided to take up running.

But now I’m 7 weeks in to my training. Gah! I have a new 6 week plan and an actual running race under my belt. A 5K one to be precise. At Ally Pally. With other people!

Admittedly they all sped off into the distance as soon as the race began. I just managed to overtake one red-faced runner, but that second to last place – at 37 minutes – felt glorious. To think, at the beginning of August I could only jog for 30 seconds before my chest felt like it was going to explode. So Im feeling pretty good right now (and trying hard to forget that it’s not even one eighth of a marathon).

Park Run organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world and are open to everyone. All you have to do is register.

You can check out my route at Ally Pally. The hills were a bit of a killer – especially in terms of controlling my breathing –  but I’m due to do it again in a few weeks time so let’s see how I get on.