Robin flew into London and once again left instagram in a whirlwind and took the city by storm. I love her company and nearly lost my shit when I realised that the “basketball event for women” she had invited myself and Bangs to was actually a real life, actual OLYMPIC EVENT at the OLYMPIC PARK. OMG. OMG. OMG. AND it was to watch TWO heats, INCLUDING Team USA, featuring real life, actual WNBA players. OMAG.
It was incredible to watch four teams of closely bonded women dominate the court and play on an international (not to mention Olympic-) scale. There were a few players on each team, like Seimone Augustus (Team USA) and Antonija Misura (Croatia), that I found myself impressed with for their beauty, their strength and the beauty IN their strength.
I have a thing for strong women. Strength that is physical or mental, or both. I always feel drawn to learn from them and I actively seek their advice.
Many of the women in my life are like this and have been phenomenal role models. I learn about hard graft, generosity and modesty from my mum; a sense of self, mental strength, confidence, grace, business-thinking and professionalism from Malee; motivation, perseverance, realistic goal-setting and prioritising from Bangs; determination and not accepting bullshit from Anjelica; physical strength and loyalty from Gabriella; and patience and consistancy from Laurel. This is like the tiniest list in the world, realistically speaking, as there are so many attributes to each of these women. I’m just highlighting those attributes that I love and feel that I have absorbed, or that maybe I already had but have developed to make me more successful in my actions. In short, they help me to learn more about me. Meeting women like Jessie, Robin, Crystal, Anna, Mali and Lynette from NY has added to this list in a more physical way, and I have found these connections invaluable in regards to my own attitude to health and being active.
Each of these women have been dynamic in my life, some of whom have known me since I was born, one since we were both 13 and rolling our skirts as high as possible in secondary school and some that I’ve met in the last 2 or 3 years. I think the existence of identified role models in your life makes it easier to set goals and therefore easier to achieve ambitions. I wanted to cross the finish line of a half marathon and Bangs got me there, contributing to that success a hell of a lot more than she is probably aware of. Jessie and Robin make me want to be a better athlete, which, if I’m perfectly honest, is the most remarkable turnaround for someone like me who previously would not bother to leave the sofa unless it was for a change of environment (moving to sit in front of a computer screen).
What this year’s Olympics has made me realise is the invaluable presence of women like Jessica Ennis, Paula Radcliffe and Victoria Pendleton to name but a few. In the last few years, in the build up to these international competitions, I have noticed a phenomenal shift in regards to women’s participation in sport. Sports Luxe has been all shouty (yet often in a very dignified manner) on catwalks for several seasons now, contributing to sportswear being ‘cool’ for women again. For someone like myself, who is NEVER out of trainers and menswear, I’ve always noticed other girls in sports shoes, and in the last few years there has been a huge surge of girls and women wearing trainers for fashion. The Evening Standard asked me my opinion on this once (not as random as you’d think, my friend Emma McCarthy - yet another tenacious and talented woman - writes for their fashion segment). Now, hopefully, after this summer’s events, the trainers will be put to use and they will be ran in, trained in, danced in and perhaps competed in.
I’m definitely acting on this current wave of motivation.
I’d also like to give props to the male mentor figures in my life, of which, of course, there are just as many and are obvz just as important. in particular, my dad’s generosity is second-to-none(-other-than-my-mum) and, for such an impatient man, I sometimes marvel at his great patience over the years. My brother, Chris, is way better than you at anything you ever hoped to be good at (by you, I mean me), and continuously (infuriatingly) strives to better every action. More than anything though, for such a young person, he is a brilliant teacher (although he’s pretty impatient too, come to think of it) and he’s really funny (which is tres important in life). Also featuring in my male-role-model-mini-list is Charlie Dark. More awesome than newspaper articles lead you to believe, he has quietly, yet effectively, helped me hone my perception over the past year and has, therefore, changed my life. His opinion, to me, is worth more than gold.
The Final Countdown… BERLIN HALF MARATHON!
Ah guys, I’m sorry, I’ve been AWOL. I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been working long hours, eating great food and not getting enough sleep. Living a kind of lavish lifestyle on my non-lavish budget. I’ve been scoffing even more burgers than usual, occasionally (quite often, in fact) tucking into some Japanese food with friends, eating my weight in steak and pulled pork sandwiches and I’ve even got back into the habit of dessert after every meal (I tried to stop this a few months ago). The food part sounds great (it was great, it IS great) but the worrying part is that I’ve been sleep-deprived for nearly 2 months now. I’m not the kind of girl who can usually function on 3-4 hours sleep per night, but since the beginning of February, that’s been my vibe. This is largely due to race but mostly non-race stress factors. It’s gotten to the point where I’m just used to looking and feeling like my eyes are glassy and my face is puffy and feeling like my body made of jelly and/or lead, depending on the time of day. This week has been the worst in terms of almost a complete lack of energy and therefore utter apathy towards everything ever in life. I promise I’m concentrating, I promise. I definitely heard what you said just now, uh huh…
That being said, I’ve still kept up the running. This is mainly due to Run Dem Crew (big up Charlie and Bangs keeping me in the game). If it wasn’t for those Tuesday runs, I would have lost my momentum a long time ago. 6 weeks of 4-6 miles every Tuesday night has shown me that this is the kind of thing I’m capable of. It has also shown me that I am most definitely a social runner because the support from that community has been phenomenal (for example, big up Orsi and her motivational text messages).
As a result, in my own time, although I sacked in the Bootcamp sessions over a month ago (probably to my detriment, but we’ll see), I’ve still kept up the running. The last two weeks have been crucial to my own development as a ‘runner’ (LOLZ! Sorry, I’ll never not find that funny) and I’ve had amazing cheerleaders. 2 Sundays ago I managed to run from East Ham to Hackney (6.5 miles - big up Ben). Then this Sunday I literally battled with myself, my brain and my legs to run-walk-run-walk-walk-walk from Bethnal Green to Woolwich, via Tower Bridge (10.6 miles - big up Ben again. Also big up Will and Mrs Will for the flapjacks and layers). Poor Ben, he really took some metaphorical, emotional and at least 2 physical blows from me as I whinged all the way from Whitechapel to Deptford and beyond. No sleep, stress and pure fear for this race have all made me one helluvabitch.
My brother has also been amazing throughout. He’s developed very painful shin splints and is deciding whether to take enough painkillers in order to still try for a new personal best or just to run slow enough to enjoy the experience. I’ve been trying to persuade him to just run with me (he would only have to walk). He’s annoyed, but making light of the situation by texting me worryingly gleeful messages that he has had to shave parts of his legs “for medical purposes”. Aside from that though, he has constantly checked up on my progress for which I have always been grateful. He knows I’m crap at this and the jokes have been as hilarious as the support has been unwavering. He even told me he would pick me up as soon as I hit my 10 mile target on Sunday night and offered advice in terms of direction and alternative routes through South East London to avoid the nasty hills.
At the end of the 10.63 miler on Sunday night, my brother met me on Shooters Hill and drove me the 2 miles to my parents’ house. My mum’s face, of absolute pride was almost overwhelming. I nearly cried while I (sweatily) hugged her and listened to her telling me (in 2 octaves above her normal voice) that she was so proud and happy for me. She already had the table laid out ready for me to sit and eat one wamp meal, full of chickeny goodness. Dude… so, so emotional.
Aside from the race, Berlin is going to be SO OSSUM. I’m looking forward to seeing my team! My #BangsontheRun3 girls! (Sarah, we’ll be thinking of you and Mia). I’ve already met John Law (YO, BIG UP!) from NY, member of the infamous NY Bridge Runners, and this weekend, the city is going to be full of Nike-affiliated run clubs ready to smash up the Berlin race course. The after-party is going to be WILD. I literally cannot WAIT!
This Berlin Half Marathon is going to be so worth it. I’m so glad I’m doing this.
In which we view ‘Perspective’ (20th March 2012)
20th March 2012:
If running has taught me anything, it is the value of perspective. I mean, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of this, but this ongoing development has solidified and enhanced my existing notions, undoubtedly for the better.
I have a habit of saying “PERSPECTIVE” in a joking tone when I realise how silly something is, but it’s not always a joke and sometimes you have to be a grown up and be serious.
In terms of running, my first experience of differing perspective was with the fact that I LOOK like I could easily run without much struggle, but the reality is I found it extremely uncomfortable up until about 3 weeks ago. So, to the external and internal viewpoints, things were seen quite differently.
My main issue with running and perspective is pace and timing. Again, I look like I can run well but the truth is I pretty much just jog, ambling along on 12 minute miles. I’m comfortable with that, but even then, at times, I’m pushed off the sofa in my comfort zone. Now, I’m very happy with my 12 minute miles, to the point that I’m ecstatic when I manage to run a 10-11 minute mile. I’ve not yet hit a 9-10 minute mile, but I’m not sure that I care. My perspective is that I’m happy with my pacing and I’m going to run a half marathon in 2 weeks’ time. My brother, before he started suffering from shin splints, was running 7.5 minute miles, and was working towards a sub-1.5 hour race in Berlin. I’m not looking to finish the race in sub-anything, or even work out splits to make sure each mile is completed in the right amount of time because my priority is just to FINISH. I’m not a racer, but I’m in for the long-haul. Hopefully, my brother, if he can’t face the pain of racing and finishing fast, will be happy to run with me. I doubt it, even his patience can’t be stretched to jog slowly for nearly 3 hours, but I’d rather he run slow now and save himself the injury and triumphantly smack down a triathlon at the end of this year.
Run Dem, with the help of Charlie, has brought to light several instances where perspective becomes a major theme. I have met some really great people through this community, all of whom have contributed towards my changing attitude and experience of running. Running is by no means an easy thing to do for some people, and because I have always struggled with it, and still continue to do so, it is very comforting to hear that you are not the only one not having fun. More importantly, it is particularly insightful, and refreshing to kick yourself out of that well of self-pity that you might be comfortable rolling around in, when you hear that there are runners within the group that have pulled themselves through remarkable and life-altering circumstances and are back on their feet and running, providing inspiration for others. I feel like I need a new word for ‘inspiration’ because it is in danger of becoming cliché, if it hasn’t already. But, regardless, at the moment, when you hear that you are sharing a bench with a woman who has pulled through cancer, has gone through chemotherapy and other stressful treatments, or a man who has been motionless for weeks due to an accident, you get a healthy, and very welcome, dose of perspective. There are stronger people than me who have experienced more unfortunate things than I have. Most often, I am not in a position to complain, and I do really appreciate everything and everyone that contributes to my life. There is sometimes absolutely nothing better than coming home to beaming parents, cracking jokes about your abysmal run. Times like this I remember friends who don’t have the same privilege and I can value the heartbreak that an individual is suffering. As humans, we aren’t always open to accept other’s plights, but perspective teaches me to never underestimate the weight of another person’s burden.
I have mentioned Candice on several occasions throughout this running journal thingy, but she is a very relevant person in my life in regards to my experiences of running. Not only have I run with her (behind her – she is an awesome pacer), but I have had the opportunity to follow her own progression, albeit only relatively recently in the last 4 or 5 months. She’s running a marathon on each continent, literally running the world. Candice is about to go and smash up the London Marathon in April, probably in batty riders, Raybans and lipstick. More fool you if you step in her way. She is a particularly motivating individual and I owe a lot of my own recent running achievements to her, Orsi and Bangs. These ladies, amongst others, have given me more much appreciated lessons on perspective over the last month or 2. If I could mend broken hearts and find you diamonds, physical and metaphorical, I’d do all that I could. Thank you.
Finally running with Dem dat Run.
Aside from the blah attitude to training as a whole, I’ve found one positive light in the last two weeks which has been Run Dem Crew. My motivation took a major slump, but my stamina can now at least take a mile and a bit, so I thought I should take up Charlie’s invitation from Summer last year lest it go stale and crumble into regret. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt two Tuesdays ago as I walked into Nike’s 1948 in Shoreditch. Jumpy, nauseous, exhausted, delirious, terrified, excited and exhilarated fit the description much better. It’s like walking into a room where everyone is super-cool and really good at sports and everyone already knows each other, and you’re the new dorky kid who’s shit at PE. Oh, wait…
I was anticipating an excruciatingly embarrassing introduction to the whole crew from Charlie and I wasn’t disappointed. So aside from the fact that 175 people, fresh from their post-work dash to 1948, which made the building toasty to say the least, my blushing was enough to melt the Nike+ Fuelbands being trialled by some of the Run Dem Crew runners. (Side note: Nike+ Fuelbands look so OSSUM in real life!) It didn’t help my burning cheeks when Bangs also pointed out to the crowd that “Mei could really do with everyone’s support because she really, really hates running”. So now everyone knows me as the girl who hates running but still showed up to the running club where everybody loves running. FML.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to cope in anything but the slowest group, so I put two hands up when Charlie asked who was running in tortoises, one for me and one for my stomach which I felt I was going to leave behind on the bench. I have never been so NERVOUS! But here’s why I love running with people. Candice straight away told me that she would run with me, slower than her usual pace, and Bangs leaned over and said she’d be right there with me too. That is LOVE. Both of these women are working towards different goals, but they still chose to amble along with me.
Denny, Mubi and Dom were there with words of encouragement and niceness. Elles, George and Rhalou were being really excited for me. Peigh was there being Peigh. Chaka was being chatty. And I was there trying not to throw up.
There were other newmans in my group. Janet was one of them, an old friend of Charlie’s, and I felt relieved knowing I wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t know my way or know how things run at Run Dem with dose dat run. We did a four mile loop from Shoreditch, passing Liverpool Street Station, running over London Bridge and along to Tower Bridge, over and back up to Liverpool Street then dashed back to 1948 to push ourselves right at the end. Absolutely brilliant. I kept a good pace and managed to get my running mojo to resurface. There is NOTHING like running in a group of people who like running, have experience in running and want you to like running too but aren’t overbearingly patronising. There is fresh perspective from everyone. The group runs steadily, slowing down to support those who aren’t having much fun, but still maintaining a good pace to keep momentum going.I didn’t really struggle as much as I thought I would. And, you know what? It is liberating to achieve new successes with your own personal running-demon beat-downs.
Post-run, I got some good advice on how to stretch properly from Mark and spent the next half an hour rolling around the floor, stretching my legs past their usual capacity while I waited for Denis to be ready to grab pancakes for dinner because it was Shrove Tuesday which means it is the law to eat pancakes, or else.
Two weeks in, and I can already vouch for the fact that there’s a lot about Run Dem Crew that makes it so enjoyable. There is a real sense of community where everyone looks after each other, making it quite a self-sufficient group. The benefit of its huge range of members being so (cool and) diverse and based in London is that there is literally at least one of every type of person you would ever need to meet within the group. If something needs doing, someone can always do or provide or knows someone that can. Plus everyone wants the group dynamic to work, so you can literally see people’s commitment. Charlie’s passion and energy is second to none and it’s motivating to be around that buzz.
The feeling is obviously addictive, because I went back for Run Dem run nombre dos last Tuesday. This time, the nerves weren’t so nervy, I wasn’t such a spaz and I was super happy with the four mile loop we cracked out again. I squeezed in two sprints with Janet and we both agreed we’re ready to try Slow Hares this week. Fleur hung back from the faster group she was running with after tripping over a broken lamppost (SORT IT OUT, HACKNEY COUNCIL) and I got a good chance to learn about her experiences of running half marathons (and stare at her beautiful face) as we ran the last two miles back to 1948. That run was my best yet, aside from all the leery drunk men (there were SO MANY! Why do they all assume that by yelling, “OI, DARLIN’, YOU DON’T NEED TA RUN, YOU’RE GORGEOUS AS YA ARE!” that we’re going to turn around, laugh and flirt girlishly and exclaim that we’d just LOVE to jump into bed with them?). I’m really glad I pushed myself to pick up the pace. I’m nervous about running in Slow Hares this week, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got a half marathon to run in less than a month (OMFG!) and I’ve got so much catching up to do.
- Run Dem Crew @rundemcrew
- Charlie Dark @DaddyDark
- Bangs @Bangsandabun
- Candice @CandiceBrownB
- Denis @denisyong
- Mubi @MUMBI_CT
- Dom @dmyrcr
- Elles @broke_grove
- Rhalou @rhalou
- George @wordsoparadise
- Peigh @PEIGH
- Chaka @Chakabars
- Mark @Chopbot
- Fleur @FleurDeGuerre
Last week feels about a month ago…
So much is happening in a short space of time and things are moving so fast. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, although The Oracle (Drake, HA!) does say that “working with the negatives can make for better pictures” (valuable lesson there, kids). I want to say I haven’t had time to run and train, but that’s not the only reason. Recently motivation to do this marathon has taken a major dip. Partly because exercise is not (YET) escapism for me and because I’ve been busy prioritising stuff, it’s slipped down to the Least Important end of the scale. Also, because I know I can now run 5.6 miles I’m pretty sure I can keep up the rest of my training and do the whole 13.
To be clear, after a week with an average of 2 hours of sleep each night, I bunked the early morning Bootcamp sessions in favour of dealing with my sleep deprivation. I have no idea why I couldn’t sleep every night last week. I’ve never suffered from insomnia and after the second night of no sleep I panicked. And then obviously I definitely couldn’t sleep because I was so worried I wasn’t getting enough sleep.
I had six days of walking around in a zombie state, so I didn’t run either. I literally could not bring myself to pull my leggings on and find the will to move anywhere at any pace faster than a shuffle. So I didn’t.
I got bursts of energy at weird times, like just before lunch. On two days I made my friend Jimmy run from where we work to the restaurant where we wanted to eat. We literally jogged. Because I said I felt like it. “LET’S NOT WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY!” We both wear trainers and (very carefully selected pieces of) streetwear to work so we probably looked like Azn hooligans running through central London. Good times. I also constantly felt like going for a run at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. But I live in Newham, and I’m not suicidal, so I never acted on that urge and just waited for the adrenaline to fade (which took hours).
Saturday came around and I told myself to get 6 miles done because, inevitably, I wouldn’t want to run on Sunday. I left it too late, and it got too cold. The Sunday run would HAVE to happen. Thing is, it kinda snowed on Saturday night, so that wiped out my Sunday long run too. PSYCHE! I didn’t want to run then either (not that I WANTED to break my face running and slipping in the snow).
I’m not giving excuses, I just didn’t want to run. And I’ve heard from countless people ‘run when you don’t feel like running’, but, believe me, I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO RUN.
This week will hopefully be better. Even if it’s not safe to run tomorrow I’m still going to go to Bootcamp and work harder than I usually do to make up for my absence last week (I’ve said it now, I have to).
I’m back on my training game. I promise.
Be Pretty on Rest Days
I so fully endorse this! Motivation at it’s finest…
It’s time for a fitness revolution. It’s time for women who train for the love of it. Time to get the focus off calorie counting and scales. Time to focus on how exercise makes us feel. Time to focus on being focused, determined, driven, goal oriented badasses who will race you to the bus stop and get in a lunch time press up competition with you. And we will win.
It’s time to not give a f**k who sees you in your lycra. It’s time to celebrate your sweat. It’s time to push yourself, to run so hard you leave your lungs on the track, throw your heels on after a session and walk home like a don.
Take the elevator if you want, we’ll be racing up the escalators, putting hand wraps on in the work bathrooms ready to go beat some pads come 5:30, clocking up miles between meetings, doing core exercises while we wait for the pasta to cook.
The time is now.
Be pretty on rest days.
Being ill really sucks when you still have to work, but it’s great for my favourite thing ever - non-running. It gives me a legitimate excuse, nay, REASON for not hurtling (bouncy walking, let’s be honest) along a wet pavement, death-staring anyone who tries to block my path.
However, the guilt is starting to set in now. And I’m beginning to feel scared (so scurrrred). Bangs just sent me and the girls an email packed with a call to action (why does this whole thing need to be so bloody self-motivated?!) and although I have been aware that there was a New Year’s celebration (mine was fun, how was yours?), it’s only just dawned on me that there is no huge procrastination post to get past now (“I’ll start in the new year!”). It’s officially the new year. Less than three months till race day. FML. Literally, EFF MY LIFE.
Most people say you can train for a marathon in three months, but these people are well-acquainted with the gym and the treadmill, and probably ran BEFORE they were dared to run a stupid half-marathon or had the offer of free trainers dangled before them. It’s different for them. They probably don’t cry when the running gets tough, whereas I feel as though I want to collapse into a sobbing heap and, if I have the energy, assault anyone who tells me running is fun and easy. These people probably don’t sit, chest heaving on the bus after a 50 metre dash to catch it (although this is probably partly due to my 12kg handbag).
Sexy in the City Boot(y) Camp starts next week. It’s going to be a struggle, but watch this space. I’m looking forward to it because my mind has tricked me into thinking I’m going to enjoy it. But realistically, it’s going to be so painful and embarrassing that I’ll want to smack a commuter in the jaw if they even so much as dare to push against me on the packed train to work straight after the intensive training session.
Request to the Secondborn: help me draw up a training plan? Thanks in advance.
Anyway, today I am feeling quite serene. Don’t know why. Might be the summer nostalgia I’ve been feeling with Frank’s Nostalgic, Ultra. Might just be that Friday feeling. Might just be that I’m so devoid of energy that I have no choice but to feel this way. I almost want to run again. I’ve been testing the water a few times this week with some mild sprints and jogs to the bus stop. My cold has been resolutely sticking to me (it wants me to fail, it’s a personal vendetta) and it makes running suck even more than usual.
But I’m nearly back to usual health (which is awake and not coughing or blowing my nose, but permanently exhausted) so I’m going to run on Sunday. It will officially have been two weeks by then and it will be fun for my brother to take me out running again (ha! It’s never fun for him - I go so slow that it doesn’t even get his heartrate up and he has to go for a 40mile cycle JUST to get any exercise for the day).
Hmmm. Whatever. Run run run. I’m going to get back on this. I promise.