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

 

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.

Lockdown: You do You

Everything is weird. I haven’t really run since my last post. Some days I have done my strength exercises, most days I haven’t. Some days I have done some yoga, most days I haven’t. I’m not really sure why. Doesn’t matter. When the announcement finally came that we were in lockdown and should stay at home as much as possible and only exercise locally once a day I suddenly felt like getting out every day would be important. It’s funny how an announcement, a rule can suddenly change how we think about things. It actually changed nothing for me. I’d already been working at home and had already limited going out to essentials. But the actual lockdown announcement changed something about the way it felt to me.

So obviously I am starting the running thing again at pretty much the beginning. It’s fairly horrible. It’s frustrating and annoying and I miss my marathon fitness – both the physical fitness and mental calm that comes with the ability to just keep running and having a forever pace. But dwelling on that is not helpful. I have made a deliberate decision to pause anything that is about changing my running form etc. I just need to be out. I appreciate that I am shuffling rather than running with good form. I appreciate I might undo the work already done with RunRight but right now everything is about mental health for me. And I just need to be out and if that means shuffling round our loop for 40 minutes then shuffle I shall.

So how is everyone doing? I’m finding it weird more than really anxiety inducing or stressful. I am randomly unsettled and have a really short attention span. It’s like I can’t hold on to a thought long enough to finish thinking it. I’ve struggled to focus on work but have kept some stuff ticking over but really put everything apart from student support on hold. I’ve been reading lots of stuff about how to adjust to working at home and how to keep connected during self isolation/ lockdown. I’m sure lots of it is really useful for lots of people but there are three things that keep jumping out at me that I am just not sure about – stick with me, I will come back to running and how this links.

So the first thing is the advice to stick to a routine or timetable. I think I probably agree with this in very general terms. But these are not normal times and so far I have not found a routine at all and I have not found planning helpful. I have tried to plan my days – both in detail and loosely. All it does is stress me out when I inevitably don’t follow the plan. I am rubbish without structure and I am even worse with it. A list of things to do as I remember then fairly randomly and firefighting emails will have to do for now in terms of work. Staring into space, sitting with the frogspawn, watching too much TV and swinging between the urge to deep clean everything and trying to remember how to put on a bra keeps general life at just about functioning. One day at a time, useful planning might come and if it does that’s fine. I might find I want to and need to plan for some sense of control. I think my point is, we need to stop saying that having a clear routine and plan is what helps us all here because that is underpinned with a number of assumptions about productivity, possibility and everything working the same way for everyone. It’s absolutely fine to plan if that helps you, it’s also ok to be a chaotic mess.

The second bit of advice is about the importance of staying connected, about how we are social creatures and need human interaction to stay mentally well etc. Ok, I don’t disagree although I think the extent of social interaction we need differs from person to person and luckily for me I am perfectly happy with very little of it. So as all these new ways of connecting are suddenly popping up and being forced on us I sit here grumpy. Over the last two weeks I have had to engage with zoom (hm, ok), Skype for Business conference calls (ok – but people do overuse video capability), Skype (was nice to see Dad in his living room), Adobe connect (hm) and Google Hangouts (couldn’t connect) and that is me trying to stay away from stuff. More and more I have the urge to just use a fucking landline, I don’t need to see people sitting in front of their screens with dodgy camera angles. The more we are being told to connect, the more I want to hide under my duvet and not see or hear people. The more these new (ok new to me) ways of interacting online are pushed, the more I retreat to sending a text, using messenger and general Facebook and Twitter posts. I have also realised that the number of people I actually want to interact with during this lockdown is really quite limited. What I need is quiet and peace and my cats. Not people. I appreciate that I am lucky. Kath is here with me, I’m not on my own but as we push this online connectedness, let’s remember that it might not work for everyone.

And finally – the importance of keeping up a good exercise regime, of staying fit. Again I agree in general terms but do you think we could be a bit less preachy about it? Also of course the idea of ‘keeping up’ is quite funny here. I mean seriously, for lots of people this is likely to be ‘have a go at’. There is definitely a link between mental health and exercise for me – maybe there is for everyone, don’t know. But that link is not always positive for me. Trying and failing at a workout, not being able to do a yoga pose as well as I’d like, not doing the exercise I had planned or struggling with just finding the energy to start at all can all impact negatively. Not always, sometimes I am very good at seeing the positive of having tried and sometimes I do trust the process and I know that the benefits come… but honestly, people are just trying to function. Let’s cut the list of must dos right down to ‘Do what you must to stay sane’ – for some that will be setting up a exercise circuit using every room of the house for several hours a day and for others it will getting up off the sofa every now and again. It’s ok.

And how does all of this link to my running. Well, as I was thinking about all of these things I was thinking about all the running advice, tips, invited and uninvited comments I have ever had. And while so much of that has been invaluable the most valuable advice has always come from people who have said ‘this works for me, try it and see if it also works for you’. The genuine help has come from people who have found their way but don’t insist that this also has to be your way. So the planning – people can get quite obsessive and dogmatic about their training plans, or whether to even have a plan. I like a training plan – mostly so I can ignore it and do something else though. The things is – plan or not – do what works for you. Why should anyone else care. And why should you care what others are doing? You’re not doing it wrong. Neither are the others.

The connectedness – people so often suggest that running with friends or in groups is a really good way to stay motivated. I think that’s lovely – for them. For me running with other people (other than Kath and possibly one or two others) just sounds like hell. And the staying fit mantra we’re currently hearing, well it reminded me of the complexity of our reasons for running or doing any exercise at all and how our reasons and motivations change over time. It reminded me of how now might be a good time to very consciously not reflect, to not think about fitness goals or how to achieve, to not worry about fitness lost while in lockdown or how on earth we’ll get back to where we were pre isolation… but instead to just do what feels right for us in the moment. I was thinking about how we set off to run but then walked the rest of the loop after the first mile because there were woodpeckers, and deer and wild garlic and the magic of spring. I was thinking about how sometimes I like staying in ‘Happy Baby’ for much longer than my yoga app generally holds it and how it’s ok to pause the app or just let it move on without me, how dialling things right down or really ramping them up as far as exercise is concerned is really fine. I was thinking about rules and that there really don’t need to be any unless you decide you want them. In fact the only rule there really should be is this: You do you and let everyone else do everyone else.

Stay Safe