Sunday 8th April - train to Paris…
(Sorry this is late, I forgot that I wrote it)…
A week after my first half marathon in Berlin I’m on a train back in Europe, with someone for whom running has quite vastly changed their life and perspective in the last three years for the better. My life is coloured by friends, some of them relatively new, who share the same view and this has definitely had a positive impact on the way that I view running and fitness. I also feel that it’s largely due to a big turn within the fashion and beauty industries where there has been a subconscious (or maybe not) shift from female attractiveness derived from the skinny and hungry looks to the well-toned physiques I now see everywhere. Looking and being genuinely healthy is tres fashionable now. Who knew?! Having said that, because I’m not modelling so much anymore and my interests have always been in casual trends, sportswear and beautiful people, maybe this isn’t so circumstantial…
Regardless, my point is that my perspective has changed over the past few months and I find myself wanting to move and be active. I want to tone up and be able to run miles without passing out. I have no interest in dieting in order to stay a certain size, but I do believe that just because you’re slim, it doesn’t mean you’re healthy and I would much rather have nice arms - firm, not massive, obvz - than triceps the consistency of Angel Delight. I don’t eat (a lot of) junk food, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I’m pretty boring actually. My vices are cake, dessert, tea and biscuits. I’m a really cheap date. Unless we’re eating steak, in which case I like good quality, beautiful cuts of medium-rare meat, if that’s alright with you.
This might just be my half-marathon high talking. I still haven’t come down yet and I kind of wanted to leave this post to be written when I was grounded and back to my usual grumpy self. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have had a week of wanting to run and be surrounded by runners. I haven’t actually DONE any running - I should probably make that clear, because I’m sure that means something - but where there’s a will, there’s a way. I work for a company that does everything it can to make things better for the athlete, professional or not, and this has been a very large contributing factor in my attitude to running. Add to this the past few weeks with Run Dem and Bangs and I’ve realised that running is very likely to remain a prevalent activity in my life, for the next few months at the very least, whether I work for Cadbury’s or the Prime Minister.
There is nothing like running a half marathon (except for maybe a whole marathon, but I’ve never done one of those, and my pain threshold is pretty pathetic so comparing my half-mara experiences to other peoples’ marathon stories kind of just sounds the same). Firstly, I can now finally see why people do these things for fun. When I say ‘fun’, I just mean that they do it without having a barrel pressed between their shoulder blades, forcing them to move (except I do now know people who do this kind of thing for fun). The sense of achievement you feel when you (finally) cross the finish line is incomparable. The achievement only really appears to me in waves as the predominant feeling for me was relief, but it’s the sense that I’ve done a whole three miles on foot without hijacking someone’s car (and believe me, in certain areas of Berlin I was often reminded of Jason Bourne and wanted to parkour over a few taxis onto a tram) that makes me think wow, I just did a half-marathon and I only cried once (technically the other three times were post-race).
The nervous energy that built up last Sunday morning had me nearly losing my nut when I couldn’t find the bar where Run Dem Crew were holding fort, pre-race, with the Bridge Runners, NBRO, Graviteam, Precinct 5, RC8K, Harbour Runners and the Paris Running Club guys. I was scared I would miss Charlie’s Run Dem mantra, which delivers a dose of adrenaline to my bloodstream and fire to my resilience. It was a packed bar and the vibes were electric. My nerves were soothed and the smiles and hugs made my pre-race prep a whole lot easier. Waiting in the pens with my brother, Marcus and John from the NY Bridge Runners was a laugh. Rachel, Dani and Christiana were just behind and I ended up dancing because I felt so restless and nervous. It felt like a very serious and badly themed carnival.
The race started well. I managed over two miles before I slowed down to walk, a personal best. Nothing remotely glamorous, but a private victory. I then ran and walked my way through the city. Making sure I was running past all the drum bands banging out battle beats. If I wasn’t running, I was dancing - I was adamant that I would make some parts of the journey fun.
It didn’t take long for me to get bored. The constant stream of inappropriate jokes from Chris helped immensely though – as did the tea, which I thought was beer at first sight. That tea, in fact, was like a syrupy hug at times. Loaded with honey and lemon, it got the bad taste out of my mouth and distracted me for a minute or two each time I slowed down for a re-up.
So, basically, I ran and walked the race. I was doing 12 minute miles on average so I did alright. I got to 12.5 miles and cried though. I couldn’t help it. I knew the finish line was close and it made me feel a sudden burst of confused emotions that were expressed through awful and embarrassing childlike tears. I had to cover my face. I was so pissed off that I was STILL on the road and that it had taken so long. I was very aware that I was testing my brother’s patience and I was trying not to let him down. I was also aware that I had very nearly finished a whole race without giving up. I was watching finished and happy racers walking back along the pavements. I was tired. I was embarrassed. I was looking forward to hugs from everyone. I was annoyed that I didn’t train hard enough, that I couldn’t commit (for whatever reasons). I was overwhelmed by the new experience and the sheer relief that it was nearly over. There was so MUCH running through my mind that I cried very loudly for about a minute. And then I was fine. I literally just needed the physical cathartic release in order to break free from the bad mood and sprint.
Then my brother pointed out a big white archway, which I was pretty sure was just a sponsorship thingy, but I pegged it anyway. I even picked up speed when two guys stretched big plastic streamers across the road and I sprinted through them because I thought it was the finish line and then nearly doubled and pummelled their faces when I realised that they were being idiots as it wasn’t the finish line.
I rounded the final corner and saw the real end in sight. My brother pulled out his phone and moved ahead to film me finishing the race. I ran. I saw Candice screaming madly from the sideline, waving a Run Dem Crew cowbell, with a wide berth around her. She was bursting ear drums of other supporters and I nearly burst into fresh tears when she yelled my name (God, I’m PATHETIC!). I went over the finish line with my arms waving triumphantly (haphazardly) in the air and then immediately started crying again. The lady who gave me my medal hugged me, slightly overwhelmed by my overwhelmedness. Poor thing, I think I scared her.
Bar Babette was rammed when I walked back in to grab my bag. A million faces smiled at me and a spabillion arms grabbed me and hugged me. I got upstairs to see Charlie and thank him for getting me to the start line and over the finish line and ended up crying again. I definitely scared Charlie, Mark and Wayne and had to explain they were happy tears. I sat down to stretch and saw Bangs climbing over RDC runners to get to me. I cried again. Then Orsi came over and she cried too. There’s a drought in the UK because Orsi and I took all the water and cried it all over Berlin. We’re sorry.
I spent the afternoon trying and failing to relax and then spent the night dancing until my running-related knee pain became a dancing-related one, then took myself home. If you want to know what happened at the after party, ask someone else – this post is already of mammoth proportions. All I’ll say is that I sweated more in the club than I did on the streets that morning. Half-marathons are hard yo, but challenge me to dance all night at an after-party and I’ll win every medal there is. My marathons are on the dancefloor.
In which we have finished our very first half marathon.
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.
So, as I lie here on the carpet still sweating and breathing like a rhino, after 1.82miles of whiney running, my only thoughts are of the FML variety. I have under 3 weeks (THREE WEEKS?!!?!??!!!!) until I have to run the Berlin half marathon. I could only manage a mile before I had to walk because I could feel the Nutella I just ate before I set out creeping back up my throat. Note to self: don’t ever eat spoons of Nutella and drink lychee juice together again - they may taste like fatty kid heaven, but they will curdle and taste like bile. As I was running just now (at 11:45pm on a Monday night), my lower legs were in agony. They still ache now. I preferred it when my knees felt like they were constantly on the verge of dislocating. I have no idea why, and I sincerely hope they don’t hurt like that tomorrow at Run Dem. More to the point, I was really struggling. I was running at a considerably faster pace than my usual amble, but still, OUCH. I was really glad to touch base again and once more it looks like I’m back to hating running. How the EFF am I going to run 13.1 miles in 3 weeks time?!
I think I need to learn how to swear in German because at the rate I’m going, I’m going to be touring Berlin city wheezing expletives and sobbing as I stumble around the half marathon race course.
I currently feel as though 13 miles isn’t very long, but that’s only because last Friday evening I hit out a good four-miler on my own and without much walking. Ratings to me.
Except I should really be comfortable on at least 8 or 9 miles right now. And that I am not. So I hereby give back those ratings that I so hastily bestowed upon myself. Soz.
I’ve been slacking a little bit (a lottle bit) lately. In fact, you could even say that I’ve fallen completely off the training plan. Sexy in the City Bootcamp training has been unattended for weeks now because of work, house-hunting commitments and last Wednesday I went to James’s funeral. Running has been ignored in favour of repaying my constant sleep debt. Sit ups and press ups have been done only in my dreams.
It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I just have more pressing issues and emotions at hand (urgh, I sound like such a girl). And then I’m so tired and stressed out that the last thing I want to do is wake up at the crack of shit to travel an hour and a half to go and do reverse lunges and be told that I’m doing my planks all wrong. I’ve also only recently realised that I hate the build up to running. It feels like a chore. I have to make sure I’ve eaten a huge meal at least an hour in advance and hydrated myself just enough that I won’t dehydrate too quickly or need to turn back half a mile in to sprint home to pee. I have to pull on both knee supports (tres glam, I know), climb into leggings, strap up in both sports bras (ladies, you need to take care of your assets, you know?) and layer up in DriFit and/or HeatTech and choose which windrunnner I’d like to skip (ha!) along in. Then there’s the pre-run stretching which, let’s face it, I never remember to do, and then finally, the most dreaded - The First Mile.
I now have four weeks left of training, in which I need to get up to at least 11 miles so that I know that I can stay on my feet, moving in a forward direction, for the (yet undisclosed) amount of time that it will take me to run/walk/run-walk/stumble 13.1 miles. FML x a baspillion.
Does anyone have any pre-race and mid-race food suggestions? I can’t run more than 4 miles on a bowl of porridge and, judging by my calculations, I’ve worked out that I’m going to need to pull an all-nighter and eat a bowl of meaty pasta every 2 hours just to have the energy to last the whole 13 miles in the morning.