Debrief #2

Home race! Sleeping in my own bed! Club mates to run with!

Still not my race, though.

Everything felt fine. A bit chilly & rainy at the start, but I wore a disposable long sleeve top for the warm up miles (not really disposable but I only decided to put it on last minute & didn’t want to carry it for the rest of the race), bursts of sunshine, some strong coastal breezes, as to be expected for a race that travels along the North Sea coast. No aches & pains beyond general fatigue, the wind was a bit strong sometimes but I didn’t feel too slowed down by it, nutrition went well & I had a really good last mile & a fast finish. Clearly can’t judge my own pace, though, as I came in a few minutes slower than London. 4:20:55 on Strava for the actual 42.195 distance, 4:22:44 on chip (with a distance of 42.7km)

So… following a 5-runs-a-week intermediate training plan has made me get steadily worse & I am a bit gutted. I’ve worked so hard & I really thought I could at least pb, even if a sub-4 wasn’t possible. To not manage either, & to finish the UK’s fastest, flattest marathon slower than London, is rubbish.

can’t be good

Positives, of a sort:

  • I’ve run over 1000km in 2019 so far, & will aim for 1000 miles by the end of the year.
  • I finished really strong, & aside from a few aches & pains I felt mostly OK on Sunday evening. My body can clearly cope well with marathons as long as they’re slow.
  • It’s a good medal
  • I had less mental anguish during this race, probably linked to not feeling physically ruined at any point. Miles 17-19 were still a bit dark but this time it was easier to count down from the half way.
  • I have stayed injury-free – a few niggles here & there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with more & better stretching & less running
  • I must visit North Berwick more often, the east coast is really pretty.
  • Now it’s time for weightlifting again

I’m taking a week off to rest, & then changing my training to all strength, all the time. I want my definition back, & I do not want to run as much as I have been.

Other positives, as ever, were the marvellous team & their continuing dedication. Fun when I’ve been able to train with them, & there were some fantastic first-time marathon finishers in this gang. Hugs & chat from folk who know why I’m so gutted is also useful post-race.

Also calf stretch time

Despite the weather forecast of heavy rain (plenty of it) many of us are sunburned. I genuinely do not remember it being sunny for more than a few stretches of 2 minutes. I know you can burn through cloud but it was forecast for continuous cloud & rain. I am coated in aftersun lotion.

Recovery will be plenty of walking & eating properly, & some long-term Netflix commitments to follow up. Knitting, reading, & indoor hobbies in general. Looking forward to indoor workouts too, when I get back to it. New goals will be set when I figure out how to deal with failing.

The best finish line…

… is the one coming up tomorrow. Now we’re talking. Spot the jump from maintenance cardio to the heavy miles at the start of the year. The last five months have been intense. Edinburgh Marathon is nearly here & then I am having a rest & a break from running & selfies.

So – here we go for another 30 mile week. Except 26.2 of them are all at once.

Monday: rest day, & working in London. This mostly involves trains, catching trains for very short distances & worrying about the timetable change, so it was physically restful but mentally a bit fraught.

Tuesday: more London. I’d asked the wisdom of Instagram whether I should run or not when I was away – results were mixed

but I had a busy day & plenty of walking to do, so that was enough. Glorious weather too, so walking was better than running.

Wednesday: home time: three miles easy & a strength session, keeping the weights low.

Thursday: another rest. Stretchy stretch time (& voting)

Friday: the intention was two miles steady along the river, keeping it the same as I did in London. However, the day before a long weekend plus the political excitement had the odds thoroughly stacked against taking a lunch hour, so I waited until the evening for this & then chilled in the garden afterwards.

Saturday: volunteering at parkrun, which is always very inspiring & good fun, & then brunch.

I like being able to bring coffee with me

The rest of the day’s been quite lazy, & the alarm call tomorrow is early. It will go how it goes. I wish I was looking forward to it more.

The weather forecast is problematic:

but I am prepped for an afternoon of celebration & an evening of watching the European election results on the sofa.

The best part of tomorrow will be the company. Although I am so grateful for support from anyone – I confessed to this marathon at work yesterday during ‘plans for the weekend?’ chat after a meeting, & the reactions reminded me that most people don’t spend their time doing this & it’s actually quite a big deal – but running pals are nice to have. London was awesome but lonely in parts, & with a huge club turnout for the official GFR spring marathon, I hope that those of us who are pushing for a similar time can keep each other going, as we’ve done in the past.

also beverages

Week whatever

Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.

Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.

Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.

Haven’t missed the palm callouses

Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.

Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.

Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.

Indoors is better

Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.

I get to keep an eye on the trains when I’m here too

Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.

Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.

lovely colours

Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.

After today, I disagree

Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.

Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.

Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.

I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.

But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.

“Two marathons in a month?”

Yes. London was a bit of an anomaly in the plan.

Headed out this morning for my first ‘proper’ run since London, easing back into a training plan that had me taking a couple of rest days & a couple of recovery runs before hitting the proper miles again. Now LDN’s done & dusted, it’s all about EMF.

more like East Lothian marathon really but

Edinburgh is one of the nearest marathons to me, and despite it being a bit of a boring route and a bit late in the year for a spring marathon, it has a good medal, a good atmosphere & I can sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a joy. I’ve done the half marathon twice, spectated & supported on a few more, & always had a decent race.

I noticed a few dual or triple marathoners last year on Instagram using the Hal Higdon maintenance plan, as well as getting good feedback from club mates who use these plans. This is why I went for a Higdon plan in the first place, starting from the point of view of more than one marathon and working backwards. There are a range of plans available; four weeks between seems a long time, especially after seeing folk on Instagram running Manchester & Paris/Brighton, or one of these and then London too, but it is not overly regimented & advises intermediate & advanced runners to keep the speedwork up but pay attention to how they feel.

Four weeks between has the speed work kept up twice a week, plus a couple of easy longer distances to remind your body of the long run feels. Set off this morning with the plan to do 10 miles minimum, & 12 if it felt OK.

Ended up as 15.5 because I joined the GFR group catching the train to Balloch, & that’s how long it takes to get back to my house from there. Not ideal as recovery, but the pace was very steady & I was fully prepared to stop earlier if I felt it was needed. The rest of the team are legends & did the full 23 miles back to the city.

It was nice to run the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon route in slightly better weather than last time, & running with company is nice. It struck me that during London I didn’t speak to anyone after the starting pen until the final corner, unlike any other marathon where I have always had company. It maybe had an effect I didn’t realise at the time.

Currently feeling pretty good, but slightly sore after today’s miles. Same quad ache that I had following the marathon, and calf pain has moved into the Achilles’ tendon on one side which is actually quite painful to walk on too, so I will be cautious. This is quite a lot to put my body through & still stay injury-free. Nutrition and sleep remain as important as getting the miles in – & it’s not ideal, as work has been chaotic & I have been skipping lunch, eating doughnuts & staying up too late since London. Getting back on track with a long Sunday run has helped me focus, although I’m typing this with a glass of wine in hand…

Weekly round-up:

Monday: rest, except for a brief saunter to Tower Bridge for a post-marathon medal photo & a slow walk to my London workplace which has SO MANY STAIRS I never noticed this before today. 4 hours on the train home was better than I thought it would be for soreness.

Tuesday: more rest. Some foam rolling, which was sore. A very slow jog as part of coaching GFR, which didn’t feel good at all: probably less than 500m covered in an hour long session but it was always very slow. Legs were achy.

Wednesday: a steady 3 miles before dinner. It felt a bit weird – breathing hard but my heart rate stayed low & Garmin called it ‘unproductive’. Slightly tender calves & quads were not great but this was loosened by running in a way that stretching hadn’t helped with, so that was a nice bonus.

Showcasing some of the ££££ I spent at the expo

Thursday: in the midst of a very busy work day, I managed a 4 mile jaunt up and down the Clyde, at a much improved recovery speed.

Friday: rest day. Went to see Avengers: Endgame, finally. Cried a bit.

Saturday: an easy 5 miles was the plan. Pace was all over the place, my Achilles hurt during & my hip hurt once I stopped. Recovery is weird.

Sunday: 15.5 miles down the River Leven & Forth and Clyde Canal. Point to point is fun for motivation, although on balance I prefer running out & then heading back with a coffee (unless it’s rainy). The chatty group on the train got quieter & quieter as we sped away from Glasgow towards Loch Lomond, realising just how far it is. But weather conditions were perfect & everyone did well.

Total miles: 27.7. Good, with so many rest days. No lifting or cross-training at all.

Nutrition: a few days off track this week. Wasn’t overly hungry on Monday morning, so just snacked all day & then got a takeaway when I arrived home. Didn’t get to the supermarket properly until Wednesday, so this week has been a bit off course & there have been too many poor choices. Back on it by Saturday with roast veg pasta.

Feeling: fine enough. Not too sore on Monday/Tuesday & kept stretching & walking as much as I could. Running fine by Thursday, mildly achy after the long run. Baths & stretching & kino tape required to keep me together.

My left foot is a bit damaged looking. Toenails are useful, I think – the toes without them are struggling. Otherwise all is good.

Higher mileage & higher intensity next week: hopefully I am properly recovered.

Debrief

Well.

Finished it! I am a London Marathoner.

& what a medal it is. Chunky, gold-coloured & a good shape. It’s still in my handbag and might stay there for a while in case it comes up in conversation.

Disappointingly, despite the wonderful experience, fantastic support from the crowd & all my training, I didn’t catch the time I wanted and was quite a way off. It was going well but I set off too fast. I am disappointed, but there will be other marathons. Or perhaps I will stop running them.

What everyone said about the crowds was true, & whilst a quieter route would have saved me a few seconds of not kicking people in the ankle/being kicked in the ankle/tripping over people, running with so many others was amazing. The sound of the crowd at iconic parts of the route was so loud it was overwhelming. That definitely carried the last few miles when I was mostly miserable. I have never been so pleased to see the crappy Tesco Express next to Westminster, although I would have never guessed it is a mile from there to the top of the Mall. Distances become so flexible in your mind, a mile can fly by in a daydream and a few hundred metres can seem very far indeed.

Getting the Palace behind you is always good though

So, mile by mile (almost):

Slept fairly well the night before, after re-reading the relevant chapter of Running Like A Girl. I first read this book before I had ever considered the distance & it is still just as useful. Breakfast was a slightly rubbish porridge pot, but went downstairs for a decent hotel coffee & found the hotel was providing bananas, porridge & water too. I still hate bananas but it’s a nice thought.

My cousin had booked us into a hotel near Tower Bridge to facilitate her own easy spectating, so I jumped on the tube to Charing Cross then a train to Blackheath. TfL is amazingly well organised for events like this & it was all absolutely seamless & cheerful.

Starting pens are always stressful. Held on to my kit bag for as long as I could & made sure I had all my gels and snacks. A few last minute additions to the playlist also happened at this point, & I also made some pals

Kat had never run a marathon before, but has run every London parkrun (which is now basically just a waiting game until another one starts up) and has embroidered the name of each one on her running vest. Rosie is a Six Star Finisher and has completed the Great Wall Of China Marathon. (She’s also Rosie Millard, & I didn’t realise this until the next day…) Half an hour of chat with these lovely women in the toilet queue was great for calming nerves & we stuck together until the starting pens separated us. However, we’ve all swapped details & have been checking in with each other for the last few days.

It wasn’t as chaotic as I thought it would be in the start pens, but it was cold & that made the waiting around seem longer. Kept my fleece on as long as I could before chucking it in the donation bin. The actual start & first few miles were a little underwhelming, like many races. The fun began when the starts all merged & it became busy. There is no room to move & get a clear path through. This is where I ended up going too fast, despite the crowds. Eventually I started to recognise the streets, the Cutty Sark loomed up ahead & the noise of the crowd was phenomenal.

unflattering

Buoyed by this crowd noise & knowing my family were at Tower Bridge, the next few miles were fine. Managed to spot my family which was fantastic. Tower Bridge itself was wonderful to run over.

Honestly, it was wonderful, I just look like a confused child

Heading towards Canary Wharf, I started to feel really tired. Looked at my watch and it wasn’t time for another gel, but I snaffled a couple of jelly babies and kept going. It was really quite difficult from mile 16 or so. Legs felt heavy, & the point where you’ve only got 10 miles to go is… not a cheering prospect. 10 miles is far. I gritted my teeth and sulked, knowing I would see people further along the route & determined to be going well when I saw them.

Canary Wharf messes up your GPS because of the height of the buildings. I’d heard about this but glancing at my watch & seeing it clocking 10 minute kilometres messed with my head. I knew I had slowed down a bit, but couldn’t gauge how much & this made me really miserable. The crowd support picked up again along the North Colonnade & it was way too loud for my mood. I ended up right in the middle of the road with a lot of space around me & paused my music as I couldn’t hear it. I did hear someone shouting my name with more enthusiasm than kind strangers, & looked up to see my cousin & her dad cheering & clapping. Definitely what I needed at this point, & easing into a slight downhill section here was also nice to get a bit of a speed pickup. Everything was hurting now, though.

I hung on for a few miles more, seeing my old Carers Trust colleagues who cheered me as loudly as their charity runners. The Run Dem Crew cheering section came up soon after & they are LOUD and amazing. I also spotted London Frontrunners & a couple of Glasgow Frontrunners, which was a nice boost but I was trying too hard to speed up & not look shit in front of club mates.

Coming back towards the Tower was a nice feeling, but after catching the tube from Tower Hill to Charing Cross earlier that morning, I knew that running that route would feel quite a bit longer so just got my head down. I don’t remember much about miles 21-24 except feeling sore & unhappy & worrying that I might have to stop and walk.

Three things happened in quick succession. I saw a Frontrunner pal cheering me on which was amazing; I saw New Scotland Yard & knew we were about to turn into Parliament Square, & despite the best efforts of the amazing marshals & first aiders to create a screen, I saw someone lying on the ground being defibrillated. At that point, nothing mattered more than getting to the finish line & seeing my family. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man on the ground for most of Birdcage Walk. There haven’t been any reports of deaths, unlike previous years, but the stark reality of the situation is still quite harsh. I very much hope that he is OK.

Right turn onto the Mall. Buckingham Palace to my left. Someone on my line of sight stopped to walk; I tapped them on the shoulder & said nah, not now. Run this now. I saw them vomiting at the finish line so I do feel a little guilty but always, always run the finish. More people screaming. My dad & cousin, somehow at the front of the crowd & smiling. & then the big red finish. It became easier to lift my feet & then walking was OK because you’re over the timing mats & it’s done.

oh my god you guys

Medal round my neck. Walking slowly & stiffly to the baggage lorries & being unable to recall my number or read it properly upside down, or speak in full sentences. Did I mention the marshals are wonderful & endlessly patient with the thousands of sweaty idiots stumbling around?

More slow walking towards the reunion area, more shouting ‘can you see a blue flag? I am under the BLUE FLAG’ into my phone. But suddenly everyone was hugging me and I had some water & put my hoodie on & then we went to a pub on Whitehall that was full of runners spilling out onto the street & it was lovely.

& it came in at 4:16:34. Basically the same as last year in Manchester, give or take some seconds. I am a bit gutted, & the post marathon blues are strong today as it’s no longer painful to walk down flights of stairs & people have stopped asking me how it went. I was rather well on track for a sub-4 until the final third of the race, so I am assuming I went off too fast & peaked too early.

So it’s over; it’ll never be undone. It was amazing, & it was really quite difficult. I haven’t entered the 2020 ballot but I think I might have unfinished business with this race. We’ll see.

Next is Edinburgh, in 25 days…

Race week

Marvellous. I am fairly well rested & spent most of Easter enjoying the sunshine, doing loads of laundry, gardening & spending time with family and friends.

Drinking tea & writing up training notes

However, with mere hours to go before the race, there is a lot going on in my head

  • very little patience for anyone coughing or sneezing near me
  • Minimum 4 cups of tea a day for hydration purposes
  • Walking up and down stairs very carefully
  • Going to bed at 10pm (waking at 5am as a result; *slow clap*)
  • What if I forget how to physically move my legs
  • Why did I think this is a good idea in the first place

Also lots of ridiculous non-questions, like can I run this far/can I run at all/am I too old/I also enjoy knitting & reading as hobbies, why not stick to that instead…

The fam group chat is way more excited than I am at this point and I had to mute it until a couple of days ago. Several questions about why does Mo Farah wear compression sleeves and do I need some (Because he likes them, and no…) Luckily I’ve had a busy week at work to keep me occupied.

I imagine, like a lot of other nervous runners, I am checking the long range weather multiple times a day & being cheerful or nervous depending on what it says. Currently it looks pretty good.

This week’s training:

Monday: rest. Easy to do in that lovely sunshine.

Tuesday: 2.5 miles as part of coaching a GFR session: most of it was steady but there were some bursts of speed. I also spent too long messing around on the canalside monkey bars & made my arms sore.

vibe

Wednesday: plan said 4 miles, but I wasn’t feeling too well & managed slightly under half a mile before packing it in. Not ideal, but running with a sore stomach will never really go well & I should have known better than to even try. That’s maranoia for you.

Thursday: got up early to fit in the 4 miles that should have been yesterday’s, & did enjoy it. I love running before work & will try for more of that this summer.

I haven’t done proper fasted cardio for a while, & the nervous energy meant I was faster than an easy run should be, but it was a nice confidence boost.

Friday: travelled to London, & managed a couple of easy shakeout miles along the river in the early evening.

CARBS

& now, it’s chill time.

Ironing the letters onto my club vest was more stressful and tiring than running. After unearthing the iron from the back of a cupboard, the receipt tucked in the box confirmed that I bought it in 2012, meaning it’s been through two house moves & I’ve still never used it. After a few minutes of failure, I realised the iron a) had different settings, and b) was on the lowest setting. That is why the first H is all messed up. Once the iron was firing at full power, progress was made.

Saturday will be rest day before heading to meet my family, go for a pasta dinner, & try for a good night’s sleep. Wish me luck!

Week four

Busy busy.

Monday: strength session with Allan, & a further light gym session in the evening because you don’t let gym buddies down even if your training plan no longer matches theirs. Worked on some Olympic lift drills, which was good for me as I have been doing some different strength work in December & January & neglecting the oly a bit, but it leaves interesting bruises and sore spots.

Tuesday: 3 miles intervals. It was very icy & sleeting at 6:30am which put me right off outdoor running, so I went to the gym for a treadmill 6×400 again & it felt way better than last week. Only felt like I was flagging on the last repeat, & I’d increased the speed for that anyway so it would be over faster. By the time I finished it was full-on snow so I’m glad I didn’t try to run outside. Mini strength session in the evening.

Wednesday: rest day. Rescheduled from Friday because of work nonsense, but I was glad for it because of lifting DOMS too.

I’d had a half serious thought to get up at 6am and do 6 miles before work, but no: still icy & unpleasant outside, & I didn’t get home from work until very late. An early 6 miles would possibly have finished me off. Some press-ups before bed were in place of a proper strength session, & that was bad enough.

Thursday: Wednesday’s easy 6 miles got shoved to today instead. Milder weather, which is better, & I went with Frontrunners, which is always better. It was still a bit icy in places, but running in a group is good for spotting & warning. I did get told to ‘fucking smile’ by a drunk woman in Govan, but them’s the breaks.

Never not posing

Friday: 3 miles easy; so easy it was basically still a rest day. Another strength session too. Then haggis & mash. I love Burns Night.

Saturday: 7 miles, 3 (the parkrun miles) at 10km race pace. Nice but muddy and sweaty. Stats show me getting slower during the parkrun, which isn’t ideal but meh.

Proud of this – an actual easy run/tempo run/easy run split

Sunday: 14 miles, & the first long run following a Saturday night out. It wasn’t a heavy night, but I have enjoyed my January hibernating too much. Running is way better with enough sleep and a quiet evening beforehand, not carb-loading on Staropramen & pizza. But it was a nice split of 4.5 miles with music, 4.5 miles with GFR, and 4.5 miles alone. The weather was absolutely beautiful and I tried to keep the pace as steady as possible.

Good company helps so much

I ended up running for 2 hours 15 minutes, which is fine as the long runs need to be super slow. The next few weeks, getting up to 17-18 miles, is a bit more of a psychological jump & always makes me feel more capable, but the thought of keeping it steady & being out for 2-3 hours is a bit grim, especially if the weather’s grim.

Total miles: 35. January’s total miles are already well over 100, more than December and November combined. I think I should probably be more tired?

Maybe I will sleep for days

Nutrition: good enough. Lots of prep because of being busy, & lots of work stress, which kills my appetite a bit. Not enough vegetables.

Feeling: OK. Work & life has been stressful, & running is mostly good for mental health but I occasionally get too caught up in negative thoughts & just go over the negatives repeatedly when I’m running and end up in a downwards spiral of doom. Lunchtime runs are good when I can fit them in & get away from work for a bit. All my longer runs have been with people, which helps that negative thought cycle a little.

My sleep could definitely be better, & I hope in a couple of weeks’ time I am just so shattered that the physical need to sleep overrides everything else going on in my brain.

Week 5 is, wonderfully, a bit of a deload. Mileage drops down a bit but the consistency of 5 runs a week remains. There will be an interval session and a tempo session if I’m feeling into it. Going to try and fit in all three strength sessions, giving me a good base for the increased distances that February will bring.

Glasgow FrontRunners

All of this running nonsense is down to Frontrunners, really. Every bit of it.

we run through this tunnel a lot

Before about 2013, I either ran as part of team sports, or just didn’t, except the occasional Race for Life. I found out about Frontrunners when I was working for Stonewall, & eventually got convinced to go along to try a 5km. I don’t really remember much about it – I couldn’t run further than about 50 metres without needing to stop and walk, & it was years before a C25K programme was established so I just had to go along with it. It wasn’t until several months later when I started attending more consistently, followed a training plan & saw a steady improvement.

The club has also changed over time – it’s much bigger now, & there are more varied session options than when I first started. Races like OUTRun & the annual Red Run & Rainbow Run are getting firmly established on the Scottish race calendar, & it’s nice to see the club evolving & growing. I did my Jog Leader training in 2016 and my CiRF training in 2018, & if a week goes by without going to a session, it feels a bit like something is missing.

We like pictures

FrontRunners is international. As well as Glasgow, I’ve run with FrontRunners in Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ll be running with Chicago FrontRunners later this year, which I’m really excited about. There are clubs in loads of major cities, and the socialising is just as important as the running at all the ones I’ve been to, or partied with. It’s great to have local running knowledge & friendly folk in cities that you don’t know well; even in London and Edinburgh, it’s nice to not have to think about a route or worry about personal safety. Just turn up and go.

I have tried other running clubs & we are really spoilt for choice in Glasgow, but GFR suits me best at the moment. I enjoy running alone (you pretty much have to, for marathon training…) but running with a group is good for when you want to push yourself, or when you need someone to push you. I have met some amazing people & made great friends through GFR & I love the diversity of runners that it attracts.

OUTRun 2018

It feels a long way from that first run several years ago, when I couldn’t run 5km, to getting the opportunity to run the London Marathon courtesy of the club. Our official spring marathon is Edinburgh, which I was hugely in favour of until I had to move my own training plan forward by a few weeks because of London! Hopefully I will manage some long runs with the marathon training team, because 20 miles is much easier with good chat, varied routes, & a cycling supporter with a rucksack full of Lucozade & fruit pastilles.

we are proud

Glasgow Frontrunners: regular runs on Thursdays and Sundays, training sessions on Tuesdays. Website & Facebook has the details. Definitely worth a try.

100 days to go!

All over Instagram today. 100 days until the London Marathon. That both seems like a long time & not that long at all.

Easy run in the cold

Tonight’s easy run with Frontrunners felt good, & the company was good. Not sure how I’ll feel in a few weeks, when I only have about 20 non-running days out of that 100. Feels like a proper countdown now though. Hotel is booked. New trainers will be bought before the sales are over. I still need to stock up on gels & Lucozade, but I am excited.

Transformation Tuesday

I never feel like I’ve had a particular running journey, as such. I haven’t overcome major hurdles, injury, or anything like that. I was speaking at a LEAP Sports seminar a few weeks ago – mostly based on this blog  that I wrote for LEAP a few years back – and went into a bit more detail there about how I’d got into running & why I’d stayed.

I wasn’t a particularly sporty child, but I played hockey & lacrosse at school & did lots of horse riding. I joined a gym as soon as I was old enough & have always enjoyed strength training, although back then was without a particular programme or goal in mind & just using resistance machines. I don’t actually remember that first gym having a free weights section, & I probably wouldn’t have used it if it did. I am envious of people just getting started who can find out so much info online or on social media.

When I moved to Glasgow – a place with more than one gym! – I continued to make a regular effort to work out, even in the student days. (I returned to the wonderful Stevie for a couple of years recently – it has changed beyond recognition.) But I rarely ran, although I still played hockey.

This all progressed into my early 20s & by that point I was a real gym rat; I spent most evenings at the gym five minutes from my doorstep. I wasn’t particularly healthy, as the weekends were spent working & drinking, but that is OK when you’re 23.

This all came to a halt when I was made redundant & had to move into a new place & find a job in a new city, alongside more disruption in my personal life. I had no time or inclination to exercise whilst I was sorting stuff out, & I was broke too so I quit the gym. Alongside working too many hours to eat well or exercise & getting used to a different lifestyle, I gained a fair amount of weight and wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t unhappy as such but got stuck in a huge rut for a long time.

Joining Glasgow Frontrunners happened a few months before everything else slowly got sorted out – I got back to Glasgow, got a better job, life improved. I joined the gym again & learned how to lift heavy weights. Running got easier, slowly. I was less exhausted & could afford to buy decent food again.

one of my first outdoor runs: that’s like 8:17min/km

I found out about Frontrunners through my job with the long commute & low salary, so everything has an upside. & now? It takes a proper look back to see how much better things are for me these days. Sometimes I do get despondent about whether I wasted some of my best years, especially given how exercise fits into my life now. There’s no revelation that you can’t sustain commute/work/pub/sleep on the daily for too long without it having an impact on life & health. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to get back on track, I suppose. Working hard is only part of it.

Things aren’t perfect now. I spend far too much money on gym memberships, trainers, meat, & protein ice-cream. My need to keep training when on holiday isn’t always well-received. Going to the gym or for a run after a long work day isn’t always easy to do. And I still wish I hadn’t had that break, or for such a long time. But I am so much better than I was five years ago, and I hope I am setting myself up well for the future. I don’t particularly care about how I look – I want to be strong, & healthy, & enjoy my life, avoiding injury or ill health for as long as I can. This becomes more relevant as I get older, aware of people my age & not that much older who struggle to get up a flight of stairs, walk a few miles or have general aches & pains. A lot of this is bad luck, of course, but I do want to do as much as I can to prevent this for me.

things change.