I’m not done yet

Is this the longest time I haven’t blogged since I started? It might be. I’ve barely run since the last post. I am still not through 500 miles for the year. You could say the wheels came off. Back in August I tried to hit the re-set button. Well that didn’t work too well because here I am nearly 3 months later and not much has changed. I could go over it all, analyse it, try and make sense of it but honestly it’s just bla bla and more bla.

I last tried to run properly throughout August but usually ended up walking a fair bit and my achilles or calf muscles were often niggly and very tight. I went to Keswick with Dad for a couple of nights and I ran a little while there – run/walk/run with lots of walk. I was grumpy about running. I went to a conference in early September and tried a run – it was fairly horrible and I walked lots and my calf was proper painful. It all seemed pretty pointless. And that sense of pointlessness continued through October. The notion that I might run, never mind be a runner just felt laughable. Still does in a way.

I haven’t blogged because I have nothing to say. As I stopped running or rather just gave up trying to run, I felt relief more than anything. Right, let’s all just stop pretending this was ever going to work. I’m not a runner, we’ve established that now so let’s just move on… I’m actually quite an effective couch potato! Term started, I didn’t miss running. I felt no pangs of envy as Kath pulled on her trainers and headed out. I didn’t even get a rush of excitement scrolling through websites looking at reduced trail running shoes. Nothing, nada. In fact really the only thing I felt was tired and a bit grumpy and a bit angry at the world and fed up and upset at everything and edgy and tense. And then I remembered:

‘You have depression you fucking idiot’ I reminded myself one morning a few days ago and a rare moment of perfect clarity. ‘Depression wants you to think that you can’t run, that it makes no difference, that it’s all pointless… but you can’t be sure it’s real’. Well maybe I had a point. So I went through all the things I was thinking and feeling about how generally crap I am at everything by listing them in my head and then (also in my head) marked them like I would a student essay – which basically meant going through the list and writing ‘unsubstantiated assertion’ in the margin over and over again and ‘You have some interesting ideas which are presented in a relatively coherent manner but your argument lacks evidence, contains factual errors and you do not appear to have consulted even the basic data available to you’ in the (imaginary) comments box.

So after giving my own argument a hard fail I decided it was worth going to my second strength and conditioning session with Katy from RunRight (more on them, why I didn’t want to go but did and how it’s been so far later because they really do deserve their own post) and then the next morning, in spite of soreness in core muscles I had no idea even existed, I went for a run.

We went to Bolton Abbey and we ran the short loop using 30 second run/ 30 second walk intervals. We stopped for photos, we soaked up the colours and we enjoyed being out. I see things differently when I run than when I walk. I see more. That might sounds counterintuitive but it’s true. When I just go for a walk I get too lost in my own world and thoughts. When I run I am much more focused on the surroundings, the colours, the sounds, the smells and I am much more likely to see the wildlife, the birds…

So I ran. It was slow and ploddy but it was ok. I’m not done yet. I did miss it. I just didn’t know I did.

Dopey 2019 Day 4: Marathon

I didn’t manage to blog on Marathon day. It’s the end of the day after now but I’ll try and capture how I felt about it all immediately after and save reflections etc to a later post.

I woke up before the alarm again. Before I even moved I scanned my body wondering what would hurt from yesterday’s half marathon. Nothing. I didn’t quite trust that. I got up, made coffee, felt terrified. I was fairly sure that there was no way I could run a marathon. Both of us were anxious. I felt sick. I got ready. It crossed my mind that it would be easy to just crawl back into bed and just not do the marathon. After all, I already had 3 lovely medals and a fabulous half marathon personal best. But I didn’t come her for personal bests and I didn’t come here for three medals. I came to do what I don’t think I can. I came to do the impossible. I came to do Dopey. I know I completed it in 2016. I know I finished the London Marathon in 2016 but it doesn’t seem real, maybe it never will. I still don’t see how it is possible that I did that. Dopey always has and probably always will seem impossible. Yesterday we proved (again) that sometimes the impossible just needs to be done.

Anyway, we were both a bit of a mess but I think we both started feeling better once we got dressed and out the door. I’d not been too bad until runDisney had issued a weather advisory for warm and humid for the marathon day. That did not settle nerves and I was worrying about hydration and fuel and heat and and and. Still, we were doing this. in the lift we met a group of lads coming back from a night out and they were confused and impressed that we had been to bed and were heading to run. The little exchange with them lifted my spirits. We got on the monorail and to the Race Retreat tent. It was far too noisy. The music was really loud, there was nowhere quiet and it wasn’t really relaxing. We had our breakfast, went to the loo a couple of times, got organised and checked in our bags. Then we walked to the corral. F again for this one. I didn’t really feel any more settled.

We were both quiet, creating our own bubble and shutting out the world. I was trying to pretend that this was going to be fine, that 26.2 miles was no big deal but I wasn’t really kidding anyone. Finally the national anthem came (better version than any of the previous three) and things started moving. There seemed to be two waves per corral which made me worried as I tried to figure out how big my time buffer was exactly. It looked like I would be in F1 and so there would be another 5 waves behind me. I just hoped that that would be enough. I needed to pee. We set off. There is something completely bizarre about setting off to run 26.2 miles. It’s just so totally insane. I laughed at myself but as I started moving I also realised that I felt ok. I had no ill effects from the half marathon. I could feel the humidity and it was a little warmer than it had been but fundamentally I felt ok.

We stopped at the first toilet stop. We’d jogged to there, gently finding our pace with Kath reassuring me that we were being sensible and had slowed down from the previous day’s pace. It was all good. We ran on and dropped into run/walk about at mile 2. Ok, so far so good. Last Dopey I’d had enough at this point so I was already doing better. The first part of the route followed the same path as the half marathon so this was familiar. I was ok with this and 3 miles, then 4 came easily. The pace was consistently sensible. We ran past our hotel and the Magic Kingdom came into view, Mile 5 ticked by as we entered through the font gates. The castle looked spectacular and kept me moving forwards up Main Street USA. We made our way through Tomorrowland and back round through the castle and out of the park through Frontierland. 6 miles done. 20 to go. I felt ok. Not great but ok.

Kath had been encouraging me on, talking to me all the time, telling me the pace was sensible and good, giving me little reminders about form, telling me I was doing great. At times it felt like it was just me and her running. The sun was starting to come up and the humidity was beginning to really get to me. I was finding it more and more difficult to get enough air in and over the next 3 miles or so a couple extra walk breaks sneaked in. Still, we’d made good progress really. I was concerned about how hot I was feeling, how dehydrated I was getting in spite of drinking at each of the frequent drinks stations and how energy zapping I was finding the warmth. Kath kept talking to me, reassuring, urging us onwards. She had also grabbed a small bottle of water in the Race Retreat and was carrying it. She kept passing it to me for little sips in between drinks stations and she refilled it several times throughout the run. Without it I think I would have been in trouble.

I began having serious doubts about mile 10. I fought the battle in my head. I pushed on and made it to the animal kingdom park. Running through the park gave me a bit of a boost but things were starting to tighten up and hurt. My hips weren’t happy at all but mostly I was just too hot, too thirsty, too hot, just too hot. After the Animal Kingdom I mostly walked. Kath kept us moving by making sure we were striding out and marching not just ambling along and by putting landmark to landmark runs in, short ones, but effective ones. Running 2 minutes was now out of the question but running from street sign to street sign seemed possible. Somewhere around 15 and a half miles or so we found ourselves with a run/walk pacing group who we’re running 30 seconds and walking 30 seconds so we briefly thought we’d try and fall in with them but their runs were too fast and their walks too slow, it just didn’t work for us so we went back to doing our own thing.

Then suddenly we were approaching ESPN Wide World of Sports. I hated this last time. It was just endless. I was determined to enjoy ESPN this time. As we entered it the DJ was playing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. It gave me a boost. I picked up the walking pace. I managed some more lamppost to lamppost running and we had a giggle through the ESPN complex. I even ran some on the track and in the stadium. I also got gravel in my shoe. I wondered if I should stop and empty it out but I was scared to stop, I did t want to risk losing momentum. It’s easy to keep moving if you’re moving! We exited ESPN and hit the 21 mile marker. Just after that we saw the balloon ladies and sweepers heading towards ESPN. We were a little over 4 miles ahead of them and according to Kath still ticking off each mile within Disney pace. I dared to hope.

Kath kept a little protective bubble around me. She got me water at drinks stations, she carried a cooling towel with her and re-wet it along the way so she could wipe down my shoulders and arms and the back of my neck, she grabbed cooling sponges for us and poured water down the back of my neck. She always let me have the shade and she kept talking to me, telling my head to shut up, telling me to stride out, nudging me to jog little sections. Without her the heat would have been too much. I would almost certainly have been poorly.

The last 5 miles are a bit of a blur. I remember seeing Hollywood studios. I remember running a bit through the park, the cheers of the crowd lifting me. I remember exiting and hitting the walkway between Studios and Epcot. I remember people encouraging us and telling us we were so close. I remember willing every muscle in my body to keep working. I remember the Boardwalk and I remember a slope onto a bridge that we did during the half too that had seemed like nothing. Now it seemed soooo hard. I heard Kath telling me to power up it. And then we jogged down. There were people with signs, signs that were making me cry. Everything was making me cry. I was in danger of being completely overwhelmed with about 2 miles to go.

I got a grip as we left the Boardwalk and entered the Epcot backlot I’d seen twice before. We entered Epcot proper through the UK but then turned right towards France and went the opposite way round the World Showcase than we had in the 5 and 10k. It seemed to go on forever. I managed a few more little jogs. Kath was urging me on and reminding me to look around and take it in. Before the start of the Dopey Challenge I’d thought crossing the finish line with a beer or margarita would be fun but there was no way I was going to stop or that I could even contemplate drinking anything other than gallons and gallons of water. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I used the energy from the crowd to jog a little more. I walked the short backlot stretch as we left Epcot and then we could hear the cheers, started jogging, turned the corner and saw the finish line. I could feel the tears coming, we were going to cross that finish line. We’d done it. Kath had got us round. Together we were doing the impossible. We crossed the line holding hands.

Then I stopped my watch and as I did I saw the time. Then the tears came. We had just smashed our marathon personal best by about five minutes. As I now know, Kath kept us within Disney pace for every single mile of the marathon. Her protective bubble kept me safe and her encouragement kept me within pace. It was not pretty, it wasn’t a good marathon, it was messy and it was a very fine line between doing it healthily and risking heat stroke or something. I got away with slight sunburn on my shoulders and heat rash. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t actually have a melt down. I probably went mentally before I started struggling physically but although the doubts were there, they were not the only voices to be heard. There was also a quiet determination, just something refusing to give up and also refusing to be controlled by fear and doubt. I remember saying to Kath that I wasn’t sure how much I could run but that I thought I could walk with some jogs and that that way I could take it in, maybe even enjoy some of it and stay healthy.

Anyway, reflections on it all over the next few days. For now I just feel incredibly proud to have run half marathon and marathon personal bests on back to back days but I am in awe of a Kath who really did all the hard work. All I did was put one foot in front of the other as best as I physically could. Kath did the mental and emotional work to get us both round and the mental and emotional work required for a marathon is, well impossible to explain but we got there, somehow, together and that’s bloody awesome really.

Dopey 2019 Day 3: Half Marathon

Quick ish post about the half today: I am really tired so excuse typos etc and lack of real detail. Things step up a gear on half marathon day at the Walt Disney World marathon weekend. The number of participants about doubles to roughly 20000 people. Everything is just bigger. Anxiety was kicking my butt this morning. I didn’t sleep as well as I had previous nights.

Once sorted we got ourselves downstairs and onto the monorail to Epcot. This time we had a bag packed for after and we were heading to the Race Retreat – a large tent with somewhere to sit, food, loos and changing areas. I was not a happy bunny. Anxiety levels were through the roof and I was struggling to stem the rising panic. I did not want to be there and I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was also really not looking forward to the crowds. The monorail was quiet though and because our bags we security checked as we got on it, we didn’t have to go through the main security check when we got to the race village. In fact we came into right next to the Race Retreat.

I settled eventually but not completely. We had a multi grain croissant, water and then a banana in the tent, multiple toilet visits and more toilet stops as we walked the half mile or so to the starting corrals. We were in F for this one. We got in there about 5.10am and watched as people were still streaming into the area, the crowds seemed endless. Eventually, after an even screechier version of the national anthem than yesterday, the first wave was off, people were still streaming in. Volunteers started turning people around and directing them to the last corral, including an elite runner who was less than happy. The instruction actually clearly say you must be in your corral by 5am so there’s no excuse.

Then we were off. We ran the first mile or so and then dropped into 2 minutes run and 30 second walk intervals. I didn’t feel too great. Ok but not as confident or strong as I had for the 5 or 10k. Still, mile one came and went as did mile 2. At just after mile two I realised I had settled and was beginning to feel fine. We kept to the intervals throughout except through water stations where we jogged until we had water and then walked to drink it. There were a few section where the course narrowed and the easiest thing to do was just to fall in step with those around so we skipped the walk breaks. Before I really knew it we passed 3 miles and then 4 and went past our hotel and turned left to enter the Magic Kingdom at just after 5 miles. We jogged through the park mostly. Running up towards the castle all lit up is quite stunning.

We had a toilet stop in the park – the toilets are much nicer than the porta potties along the way and the queues move faster. I felt more comfortable after that but the problem with sweaty running pants is that they don’t really pull up again very well and I couldn’t get them to sit right – chafing is a thing people! The rest of the park is a bit of a blur but I remember humming along to the songs being played and smiling lots. We left the park around half way.

The next stretch is quite narrow because they close just one lane of traffic (the other lane is open but I think only for official and emergency vehicles) and I felt like I was losing my rhythm completely. Instead of taking walk breaks I just slowed a little and kept running. A look at Kath confirmed that this was ok. she was responsible for pacing and keeping us sensible and getting us round. She was awesome, constantly talking to me, reassuring and encouraging. Between miles seven and eight there was a sudden call for a medic which and we saw a woman on the ground. she was being helped by others and it looked like a trip and fall rather than her collapsing so we kept going. I freaked out a little bit but managed to settle quickly.I was surprised to still be going as strong as I was at 8miles, and then 9 and then suddenly we only had a parkrun left. The last couple of miles were a little hard but I knew it would get hard at some point so I kept telling myself that this was going to happen and that it was awesome that it was only now happening. With a mile and a half to go I felt strong.

We entered the park and ran the Epcot loop and to the finish last little bit was tough. I was getting tired. I wasn’t pushing the pace or anything like that, I was being sensible but I was at the end of 13.1 miles, I was tired. I crossed the finish line and was a bit overwhelmed. My Garmin suggested we’d actually covered 13.38 miles in 2 hours 46 minutes and 27 seconds. Faster than almost the same distance at Toronto by a smidge over 2 minute sand my Garmin also informed me that I did in fact run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours 45. 2 minutes under apparently. That’s quite a huge personal best there. I’m excited about that. I knew I could go under 2 hours 45!

I was expecting to feel happy and proud to have done the half. I was expecting to not really massively enjoy the actual doing it. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it is a proper challenge but it doesn’t break me. Well that’s absolutely still true but now I can honestly say that I can also enjoy running the distance. I had fun out there. I enjoyed seeing the characters out on course (again no photo stops, that’s just not me), soaking up the atmosphere and hearing the music. I should also say thank you to all the really enthusiastic staff and volunteers cheering us on and particularly to whoever was driving monorail red this morning – turns out the monorail horn makes a very encouraging noise!

The rest of the day has been about eating and sleeping. Tomorrow is simply Mind over matter. The is a weather advisory in place for warm and humid but we’re prepared, we can do this!

Autumn Running Hamburg and Home

In the last post I mentioned our Ernie-cat. Ernie cat got worse. He was a really very very IMG_2284poorly cat. We finished his course of antibiotics but if anything her was worse – so back to the vet it was and this vet felt a mass in his tummy that shouldn’t be there. We put pretty much everything on hold, nursed Ernie for 48 hours and then took him in for surgery. Two big lumps were removed from his intestines and then the silly little bugger wouldn’t eat at all. It took us another 2 days to tempt him. Running was – unsurprisingly – hit and miss. I managed 5.5 miles on the Wednesday before his surgery but then nothing until the following Tuesday.

IMG_2825On the Monday though I did do something running related. I went for a counselling session to talk about the running meltdowns I seem to be having on every long distance run. It was really useful to chat things through. I can’t even recall the detail of our conversation now but the upshot is that I am probably just putting too much pressure on myself and that I have internalised some of the objective measures of ‘good’ running such as pace even though I would logically (and rightly) say that pace doesn’t matter and that #myrunmyrules is the mantra to run by. I felt loads better after that chat.


On Tuesday I was working home and Kath had already run in the morning but wanted to go to the gym so I said I’d run a loop and then meet her there. I ran 5k faster than for a long time. It’s not a PB as such I don’t think but I never really kept track – my Garmin tells me it’s a new record so it’s the fastest this year. I wasn’t trying to go fast. I just realised as I went down a gentle slope that I could just stretch my legs a little more and that felt good so I kept going. I felt it but it was a good sort of feeling it. Then on Wednesday I went out again to clear my head and switch from one work task to another. I felt strong and comfortable running and I purposefully didn’t look at my watch trying to get back to what a good run should be about – being outside and enjoying the movement. I felt really good until about 5 miles, then a few tummy rumbles and cramps set in and I started to feel quite uncomfortable. By 5.5 miles I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep running the entire 10k. I really wanted to though. By 5.75 ish miles it was clear that continuing running would be a mistake. I stopped to walk a little, and then alternated sprint/walk/sprint in short bursts until I hot 10k. Then I walked back home. A new 10k PB – and this might be a real PB. Again I’m not sure because I’ve never really kept track but I don’t think I have ever run 10k with a consistent 12 minute mile pace. It felt good.

IMG_2665I didn’t make it out on Thursday and on Friday we flew to Hamburg early in the morning. Very early. We had a lovely weekend staying at Dad’s, wandering round Hamburg a bit, seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk and getting a couple of runs in. These were good runs in the real sense – not in the pace or distance sense. They were good because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On Saturday morning we set off from Dad’s flat and  went through residential streets basically in a straight line until we hit the Alster. Then we went clockwise round the Aussen Alster stopping for views and to take pictures and chatting away as we trotted along. Running didn’t feel hard, it felt like a nice way to spend a gorgeous sunny morning. Before we knew it we’d covered 3 miles and I still felt absolutely fine. Eventually we came up from the Alster crossed a bridge and stopped for a couple more pictures of the city sky line and then made our way back down and anti-clockwise round the Binnen Alster finishing IMG_2828on Jungfernstieg and getting the bus back. We’d just missed the number 5 bus which was the most direct route and while waiting for a bus for a whole 6 minutes might be nothing here, for the busiest bus route in Europe that just seemed unacceptable so we jumped on the number 4 instead. We then had to get off earlier than anticipated because roadworks meant the stop we wanted was out of action – that did give us the chance to go through Kath’s favourite and undoubtedly best named tube station in the world – Schlump.

The rest of the day was all views (from the Elfie), cake and afternoon naps before heading out to the Arena to see Toruk (it was fab).


Sunday was meant to start with a run but Kath had a nasty migraine type headache so running was out. After we established that horizontal was worse than sitting or standing we went for a walk and slowly the air and gentle movement eased the headache and nausea and she began to feel better. We walked along the Isebekkanal for a while and did a loop coming back past my Oma’s old flat and then did a loop in the park ‘Am Weiher’ opposite across the main road just because, said hello to a couple of geese and then headed back for breakfast.


IMG_2758A little while later Kath said she felt better and would like to run so we got ourselves sorted and got the bus out to Planten Un Blomen which, bizarrely, I had never taken Kath to before. We started off running round the outside of the park mostly stopping on and off to take pictures. We past the ice-rink that gave me the scar under my chin. I’d forgotten the ice-rink completely and if I’d thought about it at all I don’t think I would have said it was there but as soon as we ran towards it, I recognised it and remembered skating out into the middle, turning round to skate back, making it to the edge, reaching for the edge, thinking I had it and then searing pain in my knee. None of us realised until a good few minutes later that my knee wasn’t the problem
but that I actually had blood pouring out of my chin which had spectacularly split open. The only other thing I really remember about that day is that it ruined my at the time favourite yellow top because there was blood all down it and it had to be cut off me because it couldn’t go over my head.IMG_2752


IMG_2774Anyway, I digress. We ran past the site of my first ever sporting accident (hm) and chatted away, stopped for pictures and looked at the autumn colours. It was stunning. We made our way past the museum of Hamburg History and looped round the end of the park before doing another little loop just for fun so we could run on a little trail and cross some stepping stones. Then we looped randomly round the gardens stopping to spend some time in the Japanese Garden with stunning colours. Then we hopped on the bus back, had some food and later drinks with the parentals.  Monday we flew back home.

A Run in Numbers

9 miles

2 minute running intervals

30 second walk interval

7 heron sightings

3 individual herons – at least

1 mole

1 plucky ducky and lots of ducks

1 proud swan

1 sleepy cygnet

2.5 ish miles of resurfaced canal towpath x 2

9 dogs

4 bikes

7 canal bridges (counting each only once), 2 crossed

1.53.57 moving time

12.39 minutes per mile pace

0 tantrums, 5 times I swore under my breath

1 huge hole in my sock so 1 pair of socks binned

0.5 x 2cm patch of chafing under my right boob that really stings in the bath

500ml of Tailwind recovery drink