Thinking, Planning, Panicking…

ZeEF%DznSiO%e%mKWvVt+QRight, well, it seems I didn’t dream signing up for another marathon. Oh well. It’s taking a little time to fully sink in and I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I went for a little walk/run up towards the Moor earlier but turned off to run/walk a loop rather than straight up and back down when I saw how many people were walking up/down the road to Keighley Gate. As I was walking I was thinking about the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon and how on earth to get ready for it.  26.2 miles is just such a bloody long way. Remember what I said after London when I was reflecting on the things I learned out on that course? I said ‘You have to really want it’. After Dopey 2019 I said ‘I am really not a marathon runner’, after London 2016 I said I was done with the distance and after Dopey 2016 I said ‘I have done a marathon! And yes it was awful for the most part…’. After every marathon I have had both a sense of achievement and the sense that I could do better. I have also felt like I didn’t really want to do another one even though I am yet to run one where everything comes together in really good conditions. Dopey 1 was overwhelming, London 1 was ok but with patches of feeling poorly and was too soon after Dopey, that same pattern repeated in 2019 (but you can’t choose when you get a London place!) and Dopey 2019 was close to perfect but marathon day was so hot… London 2019 was just horrible…

I have been thinking about all of this and wondering whether I want another 26.2 enough. I think I do – we’ll see as time goes on I guess. My Dopey 2019 marathon is the fasted I have done at 6.18.49. Part of me really really wants to go under 6 hours and London 2019 suggested that was within reach until I fell. Anyway, while I was thinking about that I was also thinking about my training plan. I was settled on the Disney plan until my silly little brain caught me off guard. As I was thinking about the plan it occurred to me that running two 30-45 minute runs during the week and then a long run at the weekend getting longer every 2 weeks was actually not a huge amount of training. I panicked about whether that’s going to be enough, whether I need more. But then I remembered the London training plan I used last time – it didn’t work for me. It was too hard (mentally I guess) so I ended up skipping runs and going in under trained. If I can stick to the Disney plan, I can run the marathon. I know this. So I tried to put that particular little wobble to bed.

Then came the next one. I have been struggling for motivation. I feel like I was waiting R3NzJfMTTuK8GnIFHbqsnAfor the plan to start and didn’t quite know what to do with myself in the 6 weeks before that. Rather than taking pressure off it seemed to be putting it on. I felt like I needed to be somehow ‘plan ready’ although I have no clue what I think that means. That feeling lost and not knowing where to start was so overwhelming that yesterday I never made it out for my run in spite of having looked forward to it all Friday. So today I had a little re-think. There is no reason why the plan can’t be extended a little. It would solve to things that we’re obviously bothering me. First it would solve the waiting and being plan ready problem. If the plan starts now, the plan starts now. Second, it would allow me to build in some consolidation. I like the plan because it is gentle in one sense. It has a long run and the week after drops to low mileage at the weekend and then increases mileage the next weekend and so on. It’s like one week on and one week off. However, the mileage on the ‘on’ weekends increases pretty relentlessly and arguable in relatively big jumps. Looking at it jumping from 15 to 17 seems like big jump, never mind 17 to 20 miles. I have re-written the plan, starting this coming week and have added some repeats of distances at regular intervals to consolidate and build confidence.

The reason I like a plan is the same reason I like rules – so I can do something different… No, more seriously, the only thing that makes me less likely to run than having a plan is to not have one. If I have a plan I tend to do something even if I am constantly changing the plan, moving things around and making a new plan. If I don’t have a plan I don’t run in any way consistently at all and consistency is going to be key. So while I have mapped out each week until marathon day, I fully expect things to change, for me to decide I don’t need a consolidation week at a particular distance and just crack on, just to find that the next distance seems impossible and needs doing more than once. I feel happier now there is contingency built in for niggles, colds, can’t be bothered days and I didn’t quite make the distance runs. It feels safe. And maybe because of the current situation with Covid-19 or maybe just because I no longer have the luxury of not really knowing what a marathon entails, having a safe feeling training plan is important. Without it I simply won’t go out as much as I need to.

jtHQDqJPRue1IKKqqBGavQSo, week by week rather than in bigger chunks I will share my plan with you and then check back in to see how I am doing with it. Oh and I am bringing back Sunday Weigh-Ins. Expect I will do them on Monday mornings because I don’t want to ruin Sundays! I usually get some stick about talking about weight loss and weighing myself etc so before you feel the need to get in touch, let me be clear, this is not about being thinner or looking any different, it’s simply that I know what running feels like at this weight and at my, let’s call it Dopey weight and the latter is significantly easier. I have more to say on running while fat but that’s another post. For now, here’s the plan for the coming week:

  1. Monday – 30-45 minute run: Run the long way round to the Co-op to get some shopping
  2. Wednesday – 30 -45 minute run: Head up the hill for at least 30 minutes and try some run/walk rather than just walking up, then run down pushing the pace a little
  3. ‘Long’ run Saturday – 3 miles so maybe get up early enough to run the sheep look without fear of people.
  4. Yoga of some kind every day

 

The RunDisney Universe decided – it’s 26.2

It was runDisney registration day today for the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January 2021. Remember this, the most awesomest present:

I’ve been changing my mind about which adventure to pick ever since Kath gave me this. Together we ruled out Dopey – too much standing around for the 5k and 10k, too much holiday time taken up with sleeping, queuing or running – but I really didn’t know whether I wanted to run the half, the full or both (Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge). I kept changing my mind, thinking ‘just’ the half would be lovely, a challenge but nothing that dominates the trip, another 26.2 would be another chance to nail that distance and put London gremlins to bed and doing both would be one of those un-possible things I like to do every now and again. Registering for Goofy would make sense – I wouldn’t have to run both after all and if I didn’t, I would have simply paid for the privilege of choosing not to run (and of course we all know that in the end I would, obviously, have run them both).

So while listening to my staff meeting run past the 3pm finish time set for it, I loaded the website, hit register now as soon as it became available and watched the little dots go round and round in circles (You can’t see them on the photo but they were there).

My staff meeting finished and Kath had also finished and joined the registration queue on the iPad. The iPad got there first, Kath logged in and we completed all the details for the Goofy for us both. We were settled and agreed and all was fine. She hit pay and we got a notification that Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge had sold out. While that was happening I had got into the registration site on my laptop, we looked to upgrade to Dopey but could see that was already sold out. The half marathon was showing as still available so we input all the details for that and hit ‘pay’…. sold out. We looked at each other. I think we both knew that this meant our 26.2 journey was set to continue and we tried completing the registration forms as quickly as possible. And this time, when we hit ‘pay’, it worked.

So, I am never doing a marathon again, except I am. In January. Of course we are presuming here that it will be safe to travel etc. For now we will just hope that that’s the case and if it isn’t, well then it’s not. Registering was ridiculously stressful and initially it sort of floored me and I sat for a while not knowing whether to be disappointed or excited. We knew that the races often sell out and that individual races often go on the first day but when we registered for the 2019 Dopey, places for both Goofy and Dopey were available for a long time after registration opened so we weren’t quite expecting not to get a Goofy spot. When we didn’t we were a bit taken aback. Eventually disappointment wore off and now the excitement as well as the ridiculousness of having registered for another marathon is setting in.

So now the planning starts properly. I’ve been looking at plans on and off focusing on the half mostly as I was going to leave the final decision about distance until later in the year until I had a few decent length runs in me. So I’ll need to have a bit of a re-think and shift in mindset. I’ll use the runDisney training plan with one or two little modifications I think. I can get my head round that and it feels safe and familiar (and I tried different for London and, well, let’s just say that maybe I don’t like different). I won’t go the full 26 before race day like the plan suggests, I never have, and I’ll add some speed and hill to the mid-week runs. I can do this. I’ve done it before. That doesn’t stop me from being terrified though.

Spring time lockdown running

Ok, let’s have a post that’s actually about how the running is going shall we. The last run I wrote about was the run that didn’t go to plan. Honestly, getting out and running has been a struggle. After that run and the fall I didn’t make it out for just over a week. Partly I was sensible and waited for the worst to heal and partly it was an excuse. I was anxious about running. I was anxious about people, I was frustrated with my spectacular lack of fitness and motivation. Recovering from a fall is a legitimate thing to do… but not for weeks on end.

But in the end the pull of the bluebells was too strong. Kath had been telling me about them, how gorgeous they were and how the mix of bluebell and wild garlic is just so evocative of here, of home. I dragged my butt out of bed early to make sure people wouldn’t be an issue and then we set off on a tentative run/walk to the wood. We walked the narrow path through the bluebells and it was a stunning morning and absolutely worth getting up.

I managed a repeat early start a couple of days later allowing me to run our sheep loop without worrying about people on the canal towpath. It was really hard and my ankle was stiff – it has been on and off since the fall but seemed particularly bad that morning. My hay fever symptoms were also through the roof making breathing a bit tricky. Still, early mornings along the canal with ducklings and lambs and busy little birds everywhere is always worth it. Just need to remember that.

I had another couple of short 2 mile-ish outings at the end of April. I’ve been trying to play with intervals and other things to focus on because my brain has once again decided that I can’t run at all. Some of the runs have been 30/30 intervals which is fine but feels stop start at the beginning and then doesn’t actually seem to get me much further in terms of endurance. Instead I have tried to sometimes run for the first mile and then pick landmarks, other times to run to a certain landmark or place before dropping into run/walk intervals (this used to be mentally different from running a certain distance but I am now getting to know the distance of those points so it’s not working as well as it was) or running for a certain amount of time – just to give my brain something else to think about before it spirals off into ‘you can’t do this so why bother’ mode.

For my first May run I decided to go up towards Ilkley Moor. I have never actually been able to run all the way up but I certainly can’t now so my plan for that particular route at the moment is to walk up to the top and then run back down. I was thinking that doing it once a week would be good. It’s a pull and if I do it every week I will start to feel the benefits of the hill on the up and running down gives me change to get used to running at a slightly faster pace than I could manage on a flat or undulating route. I had 2 miles up and 2 miles down in my head and enjoyed the lapwings and curlews as I walked up. As I got to about 1.75 miles I could see people up ahead and it started raining. The rain was actually lovely but the prospect of catching up with the people, passing them and then doing the same again not long after as I turned round did not seem appealing. I turned early and gently jogged down in the rain. It was gorgeous.

My other two May runs so far have been short. I wrote about yesterday’s run last night. It was a tough run. I have really struggle to run continuously. A few days ago I went out and decided I would try and run 15 minutes continuously, whatever the pace. I made it to just over 17 minutes at a painfully slow trot. Yesterday I wanted to run the loop as far as the bottom of the steep hill to come back up home. I nearly gave up so many times but the reason for running was at the forefront of my mind – particularly because I was/am still not entirely comfortable with it all. It seemed wrong to not make it to the hill. Disrespectful somehow. I made it, so just over 21 minutes of continuous running and I even managed a few more little bursts of running on the way home which is not something I have managed recently.

So why the continuous running at the moment? I know I am not running with great form, that I should work much more on strengthening and building up the muscles to run properly and that I don’t have the strength to run for more than about 30 seconds in proper running form… Yep I know. I know that I am increasing the injury risk. I know I am not running efficiently and I know that I am probably undoing some of the work towards good running form that I had put in. But honestly, my brain is full. I don’t want to go out to run thinking carefully about form. I don’t want to run concentrating hard on knee lift and foot placement. I barely have the brain power to make myself go out at all. I am already thinking more than I want to about possible routes and how to avoid people. I don’t want to think about running. I want to run so I don’t have to think. I want to run to give my brain a rest. Now is not the time for me to be worrying about perfect form. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s important or that I am ignoring it totally. I have short bursts during my runs where I try and concentrate on form. I am also doing some of my exercises some of the time. Right now though, the relaxation yoga, the stretching, the breathing and the being able to run continuously are more important for me to stay mentally healthy. If running right now was just about drills and form and strength exercises I wouldn’t be running and that doesn’t seem like a good option.

Running feels different. It is back as something I want to do rather than something I feel like I should. It’s that old favourite book which just sits and waits to be picked up again and while for now I am content flicking through it, gently reminding myself of the favourite bits, the easy passages within it, the chapters with which I feel at ease, I am beginning to wait for the next phase. I am waiting for the little hint of ambition, the readiness to tackle the more difficult passages, the willingness to get stuck in and work harder, the wish to be more systematic and focused, to start at the beginning and work towards the end of volume 1, chapter by chapter. It’s there in the background. I can feel myself mentally preparing for it without really being conscious of it at all. One day soon I’ll wake up ready to once again become a runner.

2.23 miles and virtue signalling

Oh, it seems I haven’t posted anything since I had my fall. I have been a bit rubbish at writing – not just this blog, generally. It’s not so much a question of time as headspace. Anyway, hands and knee/shin healed well. I haven’t run many miles at all but I am getting out more regularly with 9 runs in April as opposed to the 6 in January and March and 1 in February and in May I have been out 3 times so far. But that’s not really what I wanted to write about this evening.

This evening Kath and I went out for 2.23 miles to take part in the #IRunWithAhmaud or #IRunWithMaud thing happening today. For those of you not aware of this, you might like to look at the Guardian Article here. Ahmaud was a young black man who went for a run in what is described as a white neighbourhood in Georgia in the US and was shot by two white men, father and son, who decided he looked guilty of something or other or maybe just fancied shooting a black man that day. This happened in February (on the 23rd, hence the 2.23 miles) and until now the two men guilty of the shooting hadn’t been arrested. I think this piece on the shooting by Alison Mariella Désir is worth reading.

I was thinking about #IRunWithMaud all day, for the last few days really. I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about his murder, why this was not on my radar, why it took until the end of April for me to really know about this. I wondered what running 2.23 miles today really means and I wondered that in the context of VE Day, clapping for the NHS and a national feel where virtue signalling increasingly is everything but means nothing. I thought about the many people who yesterday stood on their doorsteps clapping the NHS and today abandoned social distancing to have weird nostalgic and to me rather sinister street parties to celebrate some weird notion of the end of a war they mostly know nothing about.

So having made my position of clapping and VE day pretty clear all round – what on earth am I doing running 2.23 today? Am I not just engaging in a rather similar totally meaningless virtue signalling sort of exercise? Isn’t that what this is? What can a white woman with no connection to Ahmaud Arbery running 2.23 miles in northern England possibly mean. What does posting the fact that I have run the distance and tagging it with the designated # on all the social media accounts (I haven’t) achieve other than show a few of you that I did it and reaffirm what you hopefully already know – that I think a world where Ahmaud Arbery was killed because of the colour of his skin is a fucked up world.

As a white woman with no experience that possibly comes close to what it feels like to be a black runner in Georgia, isn’t running 2.23 today a little off? What does it mean? Is it something I should simply let others do and support but leave well alone as not mine. Or is it a question of the more support from the running community the better. I don’t have the answer. Questions, emotions, not conformable ones, but difficult, awkward, what’s my role in the whiteness of running here on the outskirts of Bradford sort of questions have been with me all day. Questions that won’t go away however much I shrug my shoulders and come up with the ‘yeah but I don’t run with people or a club anyway, I run alone or with Kath and just for me’ excuse. It’s a pathetic excuse. I am still part of a running community that is overwhelmingly white and I am keenly aware that often I have to force myself to see that whiteness and question it.

In the end I decided that going out and running 2.23 was somehow important. It felt important to acknowledge the fact that I can go out as the sun gets ready to set and not risk my life. I’m still not entirely sure this isn’t some sort of virtue signalling but all I can do is what I feel is the right thing to do – and I tried.

When the #DinoRun doesn’t go to plan

A little while ago some fellow #Run1000Miles runners started what has now become a fun little running game of taking their dinosaurs out for a run and taking a picture. Kath and I thought we should do that for a bit of fun too but it turned out we didn’t have a dinosaur. I mean come on, how does that happen? How do we not have a dinosaur? Then Kath found a dinosaur while sorting out a box for the loft but I never made it out for my longer run yesterday because of a rather dodgy tummy and the day before that I had some other random excuse. In short, the #DinoRun still hadn’t happened.

Today I decided I would get out. Kath and I made beetroot chocolate cake and I took some to drop off at Kath’s Mum’s with a gentle run/walk so as not to turn the cake into crumbs on the way. We had a quick chat, obviously at the requisite distance. After that I walked up the hill passing a couple of dog walkers and enjoying seeing the views from a different vantage point. I don’t often go that way and when I do, I go the other way round the loop I was on.

It somehow felt wrong to take Kath’s dinosaur so I nicked her idea instead and took the closest thing we thought we had to a dino – a platypus. She sat happily in my pocket on my right thigh looking out, every now and again reminding me to perhaps at least try to go a little faster. About half way up the hill we had a little break and look out over the valley before continuing on. I walked up the hill. I’m not actually sure that I could have run it even at my fittest but today was not the day to try. I just wanted to enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze and being out.

When I got to the top I crossed over the road to stay the required distance from a couple walking and once crossed back started run/walking – fairly half heartedly to be honest. I didn’t quite trust my tummy and I was enjoying being out without worrying about effort. I ran/walked for a little stretch. Stopped to look at a sleepy lamb and take platypus out for another look around. She was quite insistent about sitting on my shoulder and I had to negotiate hard to get her back into my pocket.

I carried on run/walk and was just thinking I might manage the next little up slope before enjoying a longish flat and down when I suddenly caught sight of a little lamb gang bouncing around in the field. I briefly thought ‘ooooh look lambs’ and was still smiling as I hit the tarmac and wondered how the hell that had happened. I landed with an oomph and just stayed still for a minute. Then I think I swore. I picked myself up off the roadside and brushed off the worst of the gravel and dust. There was a cyclist who came past me without making eye contact as I just started walking on. He must have seen me fall and pick myself up. I shouted after him: ‘I’m fine thanks’. There, always feel better for a bit of pointless passive agression.

My left hand felt bruised, my right was grazed and my left knee and shin took a bit of a battering too. I called Kath to explain I was hobbling home and to ask her to run me a bath so I could clean myself up and pick the gravel out of my hand and knee. So my planned 6ish miles didn’t quite go to plan. Because my tummy wasn’t quite playing ball I had already decided to cut it short and then I threw myself on the tarmac because I was distracted by lambs. I literally tripped over nothing – I checked – I fell on the most even part of tarmac on the entire stretch of road. Muppet.

Anyway I shall have to try another #DinoRun or rather #PlatypusRun that is worthy of the platypus. And I need to make sure that next time I fling myself at the ground I do it somewhere more forgiving than tarmac. Trails are definitely safer! I’m also going to have to find some of the yoga sessions which do not involve downward dog or anything like that because my hands are quite sore.