Do Runners Inspire runners?

I’m a member of a few Facebook running communities, most have a mixture of very good runners and more beginner runners and the combination works.  Most Sundays are full of race results, pictures, medals and self congratulatory posts seeking approval from their peers.  I’m not knocking it as I have done exactly the same thing. They are in a safe place, a runners place and runners do understand runners and they know they will get a nice response because their real friends don’t care or understand about running.  I still post every run on my Facebook page as it’s an easy way of recording them if I ever want to look back again.  I even have a few runner friends who like my posts.  🙂

I have to admit that I tend to gloss over the very large majority of these posts as I only fleetingly “know” these people and even then it’s only on the Internet.  The posts I do look for are those of people I know and have met or members of my online running team as we actually communicate more than just race times and results.  There are also the posts from runners who have struggled or are struggling, the ones carrying a few extra pounds and the runners who just find it hard work.  I like them because I can relate, I was them, I still am them, I’ll probably always be them.

I can feel the pride of a first time 10k finisher, or a half or a full as I’ve been there and I remember the pride and relief of finally reaching a magical target.  For them time is immaterial, the finish line means more than anything else.  I celebrate with these people and congratulate them, it’s a mighty achievement.

Where I have issues are the runners who go online to tell everyone how they failed in achieving a certain time when that time “they failed at” is faster than 99% of the time all the runners could ever achieve.  The “failure” runner knows this and posts and waits for all the posts telling him/her how awesome and amazing they are.  STOP IT!!  We know you’re faster than us, belittle yourself somewhere else.

Do runners inspire runners?  Everyone is inspired by different criteria and no one is the same in thinking what is good or bad or inspiring.  Elite runners don’t inspire me, what they do, they do easily, it’s hardly an effort or so they make it seem.  Fast club runners and their 1:30 halfs don’t inspire me.  I can’t run that fast and never will be able to.  The runners that inspire me are the ones that push themselves but at a level I can relate to.  I know what a 6 hour marathon feels like, I’ve felt that pain that goes on for hours.  I can relate to someone who runs 50 miles and it takes half a day.  These are the runners who have to push themselves, they go to the start and know it’s going to hurt and hurt for a long time.  These are the runners who don’t realise they inspire other runners, they do it because they feel that they have to, they usually do it to raise money for great causes and sometimes they do it just to show other people that they can do it.

Who inspires you and why?

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Ealing Half Marathon

Another race, another hilly half marathon.  I really must learn to pick races that cater to my strengths and not my weaknesses.  I just can not run up hills.  I do try but unless the hill is short and not too steep, my mind and body kick into Ultra mode and I start walking.

I woke to torrential rain as the weather man forecasted, but he also said it would stop before the race start.  An hour on the bus to Ealing and he was right, the rain stopped and everything cleared up nicely.

I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Ealing Half before today, a lot of my friends have run it and they’ve all had good thing to say about it.  Apart from a very tight and confused starting corral, I have to agree with all of them.  Baggage drop off was painless and there were plenty of toilets. It would have been nice to have some water before the start but I had my backpack with me so I was sorted.

I met up with Kieron and Nicola and Crackers of course before the race and we took the obligatory pre race photos. Nicola decided to be Clive for the day, women, there’s just no understanding them sometimes.  🙂

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Having previously decided to run a 2:30 race I found myself in the starting pens next to the 2:10 pacer and I thought “Why not?”  With little warning we were rapidly moving forward and then we were off.  I have a habit of going off too fast and this was to be no exception.

Four sub 6 minute kilometres, feeling strong and for a moment I convinced myself that this would be the day that I held on and kept going.  Then the first hill kicked in and it was all over.  I did rally briefly but I realised that to survive I would have to walk the hills.  In hindsight the 12 miles yesterday and the fast 10 miles on Friday were a mistake, tapering has never been a priority of mine and I’m crap at it anyway.

I was overtaken by the 2:15 pacer at 11 miles and that was it, game on again, I did see the 2:20 pacer but there was no way I was letting that one past.  Official result is 2:22:06 so I guess it did pass me.

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Not only a PB at the half but also PBs at 15k, 10 miles and 20k so all in all a better day than I expected.  If only I could run up hills I could be quite good at this running thing.

The organisation was spot on today, the marshals were enthusiastic, the volunteers were fantastic wherever they were.  The people of Ealing came out in force to support every runner, the bands on route were great I lost count how many jelly babies I ate as well as oranges and haribo and there were just so many smiling faces.

Well Done Ealing, I will return and conquer your hills.

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22 PushUp Challenge

Can you do 22 Push-Ups in support of veterans’ mental health and PTSD?

Taking part in the #22PushUpChallenge is a great way to raise awareness of veterans’ mental health and PTSD, and at the same time make a donation to charity.

The #22PushUpChallenge originated in the United States to raise awareness of veterans’ mental health. Since the start of 2016, the challenge has been gathering a large following with people doing 22 push-ups and then donating to veteran mental health charities.

Increasing numbers of veterans are coming to Combat Stress every year for help with mental health problems. Your donation will help us deliver services and support for these veterans.

What can you do to help?

If you would like to take part in the challenge, you can post a video to social media using the hashtag #22PushUpChallenge, and donate £5 to Combat Stress by texting PTSD22 to 70004.

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I was nominated twice for this and, to my shame, ignored the first one.  I am currently on day 15 of this challenge and I have to say that, while not entirely enjoying it, I am doing much better than I expected.  Push ups were never my thing but bloody minded determination is and that is what is getting me through.  I know that my form isn’t correct but hey I’m doing them!!  Why don’t you start?

 

The Great North Run – an Experience.

The Great North Run is so much more than just a race, so much more than the World’s largest half marathon, it’s also one of those occasions where words might not be enough to describe the whole thing.  I shall try.

Of course it isn’t just about the race itself, it’s a whole weekend event.

For me it started at 11am on Saturday morning when, bag packed, I set off on the start of a six hour relatively pain free three train journey including lunch of champions at Kings Cross Station.  I met up with Miriam, a fellow runner from Running The Distance, an online Facebook running group, and we spend the whole journey chatting away.  On arrival in Newcastle we walked to my hotel, a few minutes from the station, checked in and then, after checking the map, decided to walk to Miriam’s hotel it being only one mile away.

This was to be my first experience of the hills of Newcastle.  That one mile to the hotel was all uphill and seemed to be much longer than one mile.  After checking Miriam in we retraced our steps back into the city centre on the look out for fellow RTD members and needed food.  We were unsuccessful with the members but food and beer were found in the Wetherspoons.  Good food and cheap beer always go down well I’ve found and a few beers later and we were flagging.  Miriam went off to her hotel by taxi and I returned to my hotel.

In hindsight, and I could have said this many times about things after this weekend, I would have paid a little more for my hotel.  The Albatross, where I was, was a clean hotel but was really a backpackers hostel, twelve to a dormitory room, shared facilities and noise, oh so much noise.  From squeaky beds to snorers, very drunk Irish lads sliding down the bannisters and party goers coming in at three am, it all combined together to not a great night’s sleep.  In fact I gave up at around six am and went for a run.  Cold and breezy it was to be the best part of the day, I always love running early before most people have got up.  The city market was just setting up and the smell from the bakery was divine.  I ran up to the start and watched for a while as the marshals and security arrived and set up.  Breakfast of Champions followed by returning to my room and chatting with fellow runners while changing for the race.

I collected Miriam at her hotel and we walked back up to the starting area to drop off bags and find our starting pen.  At this point the sun made its first appearance of the day.  Not in the weather forecast it caught a lot of people without sunglasses or sun cream, there would be a lot of red faces and shoulders by the end of the day.  We arrived at the pens early, thank you Miriam  🙂 , and found some shade and took loads of photos.  Although loads of people walked past us there wasn’t really a sense of the huge numbers that partake in the GNR and we were on the lookout for fellow runners.  I spotted the T-shirt footprint of RTD and Jason joined us for a while.

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At around 9.30am we entered our starting pen and the waiting began.  The sun blasted down and the entertainment started.  A massive TV screen near us showed pre race stories, interviews and charity stories, some very emotional ones too.  I did my #22pushupchallenge to applause in the pen and got to explain what it was all about.

And then at 10.40am we were off!!  Well Mo Farah was off, we wouldn’t start to move for 30 minutes and it’s only then that the scale of the GNR starts to sink in.  On the big screens we could see all the runners crossing the start line and still we waited and waited, slowly shuffling along listening to the commentator shout out name after name of charities being run for.  After 40 minutes it was our time to start racing, unfortunately the sheer number of people meant that for the first 200 metres nothing faster than a shuffle was possible.

We got into our stride and then the hills began.  I’ve never taken Newcastle to be a hilly city but it is, not big hills but long continuous inclines and they all seem to go up!  Miriam send me forward after 3 km but, in hindsight, I wish I’d stayed with her.  I chat to anyone when I run and I spoke to, among many others, a man with a fridge, a man in a dustbin, many superheroes, and people from all over the country.  The encouragement from the runners to each other was no less of that from the spectators who were out in force from start to finish handing out water, orange slices, jelly babies and much more that I didn’t partake of.  And those hills just kept on coming and coming.  It was tricky keeping a good rhythm up as people would suddenly stop running and start walking with no notice, I crashed, as did many other, into quite a few people.  I knew I wouldn’t be getting a good time when I found myself walking at around the 10km mark.  It was a long incline and I found myself with a lack of energy that never really came back.  At some point I caught and passed Jason who was visibly struggling, we had a quick chat and I pushed on.

Long story short and I came down the steep hill to the sea front quite tired and with heavy legs.  That last mile was a long one but I plodded on and overtook hundreds of people who had resigned themselves to a long walked finish.  Eventually the finish line came and that was that, quite anti climatic really.  A long walk to get medal and goody bag and then I waited for Miriam to finish so we could get back to the city.  Being on the sea front on a hill the wind blew hard and it was only the fact that it was still sunny that people didn’t start suffering from the cold.  Once Miriam arrived we collected her bag and found a bus back into the city.  Because of traffic it took an hour to travel the 8 miles and I slept most of it.  Another fantastic meal at the Wetherspoons before heading off to the station for the journey home.

Virgin Trains, you are shocking.  One train cancelled previously in the day caused chaos for all trains following.  We had reserved seats but no reservation slips were on seats and people from previous trains filled our train.  We found did find seats but the train was packed with people sitting on the floor and in the corridors.  Of the eight toilets on the train only four were working at the start of our journey, by the end none of them were, and the train guard could not have cared less.

I eventually arrived home at 11pm, 36 hours after leaving.  I was tired, hungry but full of the satisfaction that comes from overcoming difficulties to achieve something.

Is the Great North Run worth doing?  Absolutely.  Will I be doing it again?  Absolutely not!

How do I choose races?

Sometimes you choose races and sometimes races choose you.  Great examples of this are my next two races:  Great North Run and Escape from Meriden.

The Great North Run on Sept 11th is one of those iconic races, never good for a PB but for me it is a “tick it off your running bucket list” kind of race.  57,000 people can make a great atmosphere  but I can imagine it will be terrible for running it.  Too many people to be able to keep a nice pace especially for the first few miles, but it’s a race about fun and charity and I’ll be going up there just to have some fun.  It’s also one of the races that non runners have heard of.  🙂

On the other hand, Escape from Meriden, 19th November, flashed up on my Facebook feed and immediately I had to book it.  This is a race as far from GNR as it is possible to go and fits more with my style of running.  So what is it?

Escape from Meriden is a simple ultra race, Meriden is the traditional centre of England by the way, 100 runners start the race and have 24 hours to get as far away as possible.  There is no route, no plan, no aid stations, in fact there is nothing at all.  There is bling though and what you get depends on how far you manage to escape in the 24 hours.

Meriden to my house is 104 miles so even if I didn’t make it all the way there at least I would know that every step would be taking me closer.  All you mathematicians out there very quickly worked out that if I ran 0.8 miles more it would be 4 marathons.  🙂   4 marathons in 24 hours?  Why not?

Of course with this race being different, it comes with its own obstacles; no aid stations so food has to be bought along the route, the same goes for water.  Everything you need has to be carried, there’s nothing in the rules about not being allowed a crew but I can’t imagine any of my friends coming out for a 24 hour crew as none of them are runners.  One major thought:  If I have to stop through injury there’s no backup at all.  I bet all my friends and family turn their phones off that night.  🙂

24 hours on your own.

Not many people ever do that by choice, you have to be extremely at peace with yourself to want to be on your own for that length of time or extremely pissed off at the world.

24 hours running on your own. 

Very few people want to do that.  It’s a physical thing but it’s also a mental thing.  The desire to stop can become overwhelming and you need a reason to continue.  Running that kind of distance can hurt, I know that all too well and there’s not much you can do to stop it hurting.  Sucking it up is part and parcel of Ultra running.

2 races in 3 months, totally different but the same really, I mean it’s just running.  🙂

Training Marathon run report

I train slightly differently.  I have no training plan so I can choose to run whenever and for as long or short as I want.  This week I knew I wanted a long run at the weekend so ran a 10k on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as easy warmups and then took Thursday and Friday off.

The only plan for today’s run was to get to 30k and see how I felt.  I knew that I would be passing close to a few Superstores and a few smaller shops I’ve used before so I knew that extra water and food would be easily available.  I started with 2 litres of Tailwind in my backpack, it just works for me, and headed off.  The weather was calm and the sun was just rising as I headed off.  I rarely see any other runners on my morning runs and I didn’t expected that to change, at least not in the first 2-3 hours, maybe as I got further into the morning and headed into areas with more housing I might encountered other exercisers.

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1st Aid Station

At 15k I entered my first aid station.  I knew this had to be a quick stop and I was in and out within 5 minutes, orange juice, water and a bag of crisps.  The guys inside knew I was rushing and helped me out finding things.

At 22k I felt a hot spot forming and, knowing how quickly they can develop into a blister, I immediately stopped to change socks and use a Compeed plaster.  This was the moment that I realised that I hadn’t repacked my backpack after washing it this week.  No plasters, no spare socks, no spare buffs, no spare gloves, nothing at all, not even toilet paper.  So I readjusted my socks and thought I’d be okay as long as it didn’t rain.

Then it started raining.  I did have my waterproof with me so that went on pretty quickly and off I headed again knowing my next aid station was at 30k so I could check again then.  I always thought my waterproof jacket was in fact waterproof but it seems not at least not in that amount of rain.  I do have another one but it’s not quite as light. Sometimes running in the rain is refreshing but at other times, like today, it’s as much I could do not to drown while running.  Of course shorts get wet in the rain and thoughts automatically turn to the possibility of chaffing.  I do use Body Glide and I always use what I think is enough and then put more on but today was the first heavy rain test, it just about passed the test.

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2nd Aid Station

Again at the 2nd Aid Station everything went like clockwork and again I was out within 10 minutes.  The rain continued to pour down but my feet felt okay so I decided to continue.  Up to this point I had been using a run/walk program and it did become a bit more walk/run at this point.  Because I’m not in training for a marathon my thoughts are always monitoring my body to make sure I’m not expending too much energy too early.  There’s no point me finishing a marathon distance with no energy left when I’ll normally have at least one or more marathons still to go.  That’s when the mental stage of my running comes in I think.

So a marathon run, my feet came out unscathed, I have now repacked my backpack, schoolboy error, I’ll now have to do some runs in a new waterproof jacket but it’s nice to know that mentally at least I am ready to run some long distances again.

Great North Run in 3 weeks time, it’s a long way to travel for a half but it seems to be more of a fun carnival run, so I just plan to go up and enjoy it, no racing just to have fun.

Recovery Run? Do I look Recovered?

I first came across the term”Recovery Run” when I was training for my first marathon and I remember thinking when I saw it that I really needed an easy day.  Training was getting tough, the runs getting longer and I was starting to really not enjoy running.  The plan I was doing came with instructions for each day; how far, how fast, etc. but I only glanced at the entry after I saw “Recovery Run, 5k slow and easy”.  This is my type of run, slow and easy, I can do that.  Of course I later read the rest of the instructions when I was struggling to climb the stairs.

“Recovery Run, 5k slow and easy, after the long run yesterday you’ll be running on tired fatigued muscles.  This will hurt”

Back then I was young and naive, I thought I knew it all, I could run 5k slow and easy without breaking a sweat.  Oh how wrong I was.  After 20k the day before, the longest run up to that date, I set off with enthusiasm and, to be honest, completely unaware of what was to come.  1k in and I thought I was dying, muscles were already screaming, I could hardly catch a breath and I was sweating like a fat girl in a cake shop.  I gave up that day and had to walk home after less than 2km.

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Jump forward 2 years to today and not much has changed.  I did run 22km yesterday and today was a recovery run.  Only 6km but knowing that this time I could run the whole distance even with legs screaming to stop didn’t make it any easier.

It’s all about training on pre-fatigued muscles and training this way allows shorter runs but at a higher fitness benefit.  Or something like that.  All I know is I hurt and feel really tired.  Excuse me I must go lie down.