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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Post-Marathon Blues

What now?

Post-marathon blues have kicked in. All of the running, scheduling running, blogging, chatting on the forum, asking the coach silly questions and the countdown to the start line of the marathon ... all gone.

I was buoyed up by my result ... it still doesn’t seem like MY time ... but one that a quick runner would do. Me? I’m average. That’s not my time.

I ran the day after the marathon, through the tiny cobbled streets of Paris from Montmartre cemetery up the steep hills and steps to the Sacre Coeur Church where I paused for breath and looked out at Paris laid out below me like a patchwork quilt. The spike of the Eiffel Tower on the horizon.

How could I top that as a final run?

I’ve entered the New Forest Marathon as an antidote to the blues but it doesn’t seem quite real yet -  it’s months and months and MONTHS away. How can I look forward to something that far in the future? It’s like waiting for Christmas! A sweaty, runny, 26.2 mile Christmas.

I stopped eating my 3rd Cadburys Flake of the day yesterday and realised I was using the post-marathon blues as an excuse to be lazy. I don’t run to fill time. Or to get skinny. Or get rich. Or even to prove anything. I run because I love it. And I need to get back out there and remember that I love it.

The thought of climbing onto a treadmill and running on the spot doesn’t appeal at all. I’ve got no wish to go to the track and run in circles like a hamster on a wheel. I need to just get my trainers on and go. To run in the lanes and on the trails. To smile into the wind and smell the rain. To remember WHY I run.

(Stops typing ... goes to get trainers ...)

Boston Marathon

I logged onto Twitter last night for a catch up with my running friends.My timeline unfolded and it was full of the same thing.

Piecing it together I learned that 2 large explosions had happened at the finish line of the marathon and among the dead was an 8 year old boy waiting to cheer his Daddy over the finish line.

The bombs weren’t set off to catch the elites or the professional runners, it was timed to kill and maim the ordinary runners and their families. Our friends. The charity runners, the ordinary people who had trained long and hard to get to the marathon and to raise money on the way. Aimed at us.

As Jen J said, it felt as though someone had punched me in the gut. These were runners and their families. Ordinary runners. People who ran because they loved it, or who didn’t but ran despite that. To complete a hard task. And someone had taken their achievement away in the worst possible way and killed and maimed them.

Running is joyous, it often hurts, sometimes we don’t want to do it ... but do it anyway. We strive for bigger and better goals, targets, for PBs. And along the way we form, running groups and running friends to share the love of running with. Someone had aimed right at the middle of our community, at one of the most prestigious marathons and deliberately set out to hurt people.

I’m equally angry, upset and sad.  I have no words. I can’t write down what I want to say.

But sometimes it takes something dreadful to happen to realise our strength.

The Telegraph published an article on the Boston Marathon heroes: Kindness and humanity amid the carnage’ and described how the community had come together. Apparently so many of the runners continued to run across the finishing line and onwards to the Massachusetts General Hospital, in a rush to give blood, that they had to be turned away.

People opened their homes, a Google document was set up with offers of help such as “we have 2 double beds set up ...”, “we have a couch and a futon, can host 2-3 people...”. The stories of support, of love, of people trying to help ...

This is what I love about the running community. We pull together. We probably run too much, we overshare – especially with tales of nervous running tummies and photos of hard-won blisters -, sometimes we are focused too much on our PBs ... but when it matters we all pull together.

Love you guys.

(Post written Tuesday 16th April)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Being Asked Questions by a PROPER Blogger!!

I’ve been asked to do a Q&A by a PROPER blogger!

The lovely Goldilocks Runs is doing a series of Q&A posts on her fabulous blog … and guess what … she asked me!!

I have to admit to feeling like a fraud answering questions about running on a proper blog … I’ve not even been running for 3 years and tend to eat far more crème eggs than a person should be able to manage … but I still feel all proud!

However, she then described me as a “pocket rocket” and a “Paris superstar” so I have a horrible feeling she’s asked the wrong person the questions … shhh don’t tell her!

You can visit her blog here:  

Getting a Bit Lost, a Pity Loo and Patronising Apps ..

Today was to be my first long run since Paris

I’ve been hugely lazy so far. I’ve had almost 2 weeks off and in that time I’ve eaten fifteen – yes fifteen – crème eggs and done precisely 2 runs. Of 4 miles each. Quite frankly although I may fit into my lycra, it may well be the case that anyone that actually sees me in it may wish that I hadn’t.

Enough was enough. One of my running buddies WolfRunner  has signed up for her very first half marathon – woo woo!! So in the spirit of helpfulness - and of not causing retching when I ran past in my over-stretched lycra – I decided to do a 9 mile run this afternoon with her.

I’d worked out a really nice run - along Cycle Route 50 starting at the village of Walcote going through the villages of Swinford, Stanford on Avon , Clay Coton, Yelvertoft and ending up in Crick. It was all through quiet country lanes and pretty villages. Perfect.

Windmills by Walcote
WolfRunner  wanted to run between 10 – 10:30 min/miles and as such had set her mobile phone to helpfully tell us the pace, distance and time every 5 minutes. It was also set up so it would tell her how far in front – or in our case behind - pace we were. I don’t know whether it’s the programme or whether the woman whose voiceover was used for the application, but I can honestly say that every time she told us we were behind pace she got more and more patronising. By the end of the run I was ready to drop kick that virtual cow-bag through the hedge and into the next county.

However, I’m pleased to say I restrained myself and no mobile phones (or bloody irritating applications) were harmed during the run. However, if that woman is ever behind me in a queue at a shop or I hear her voice across a crowded room I will not be responsible for my actions. Seriously Computer-Lady, run and hide. Run and Hide.

As is usually the case with me, as soon as we got into the middle of nowhere I needed a wee. I had - of course - packed emergency loo roll but decided that if I could need a wee for an entire marathon and hold it, then 9 miles shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Besides, I passed the place where I watered the hedge on the run last time and I hadn’t realised quite how … um … see through the hedges were. I got a tad embarrassed about the thought that I’d probably inadvertently flashed everyone passing by last time. It’s amazing how much the thought of past humiliation can stop you needing a wee.

However, a couple of miles on we passed this.

It was as if the God of ‘Holding it In’ had seen me and magicked up a Pity Loo. However, in the interest of stopping with the flashing passers by I restrained myself. Thank you for the offer but I think I can hold it this time.

It was of course London Marathon day today so we had the obligatory “Lost on the way to the finish line?” and “You’re a little way from London” comments from everyone we passed (Small old man, couple with a toddler). Nice that we look as though we’re fit enough to run a marathon … even if they wouldn’t trust us enough to ask directions. 

I’d run this route once before and had got lost. Well a little bit. About 4 miles lost. I remembered this at the top of a big hill and stopped briefly to check the map. Ah yes … déjà vu … We’d wandered off course a bit. WolfRunner  was kind enough not to swear horribly at me when we had to run back down the enormous hill I’d just made her run up (Hills are good for you, honest!). Finally found the path and realised we were already over the 9 miles I’d promised her for a run… whoops. 

Decided the best plan would be to add incentive and we ran to the next village and dropped in at the first pub we saw. It’s amazing the speed WolfRunner  can muster when promised a drink at the next pub. We sat and drank a coke in the sunshine. Bliss.

When we got back to the car I realised I had yapped the whole way. Poor WolfRunner. At least she can look forward to the relative calm of the race. Cowbells being rung, loud cheers, clapping and cheering. And absolutely no irritating running buddy chuntering the whole way round about toilet stops, gels and the importance of bodyglide.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Too much chocolate and not a lot of running ...!

I'd like to say that the reason I haven't posted for a week is because I've been far too busy running and haven't had a chance to get to a computer because of this but ... actually I've been mostly sitting and eating creme eggs.

Naughty, yes. But also flipping lovely. I've had to make up for time not eating them while training y'see.

However, in fear of never fitting into my lycra again ... I have been out running (yes, yes ... ok ... only 4 miles) and will be back to normal shortly.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Paris Marathon 2013 - Race Report ... needing a 26 mile wee, an invisible Alex and a personal portaloo...

Today was the day. The alarm went off at 5.30am after what felt like an hour’s sleep. But today it wasn’t a nuisance ... it was a call that something amazing was going to happen today. After 16 weeks training, today was the day. All the midnight runs, the miles in the snow, the times I’d had to climb into my running gear when I’d wanted to climb into bed instead. Today was my reward for all of those miles.

I’d had some new running bands printed to go with my others that were specially for France

New bands: "1 min ,3:30 = 1 creme egg" and "1800 wanted this"

We were all meeting downstairs at 7.30am and we were getting taxis to the Asics area near the finish line. It was such a treat being in the warm in the Asics lounge at the start rather than shivering in the cold. AND we had our own loo. We decided we had finally made it. This may be the pinnacle of our running careers. Our very own portaloo. Get us!

Us all milling around by the taxi.

We left a bit later than we should have as once we left that was it. We were on our way. I started to leave then realised under my pre-race jacket, bin bag and poncho, I didn’t have my race number on. Face palm. Undressed again, pinned number on, dressed again. Sigh.

Nerves kicking in ...

We started walking to the start area in our white matching ponchos, surrounded by 40,000 other runners all dressed in identical ponchos. We looked like we were on our way to sort out a crime scene all dressed in white, wipe-clean outfits. Alex went on ahead as he had a bit further to go to get to his start pen near the front. We passed the baggage area and the Arc de Triomphe and stopped and got a picture of all 3 of us. I would like to reassure everyone looking at the picture that it does in fact say JOGGING on the front, not DOGGING which is what someone commented later ...

Me (left), Ady (middle), Mel (right)

We all started walking in a civilised way to the pens, Mel got to her time pen and disappeared in amongst the crush of runners. Ady and I kept walking and all of a sudden someone started running, then the whole crowd was running. I don’t think there was any rush but it was contagious! We were all in our running gear, about to run for miles and we just wanted to get out there and RUN!

We got to the pen entrance ... and nothing. There seemed to be no way in. The entire pen was jammed solid and no-one was moving. Nothing else for it ... Ady and I pushed and managed to move up the right hand side before we got stuck behind piles of discarded clothes and ponchos. The entire side of the pen was piled high with these. I was worried that it might be a bit of a trip hazard when we started moving but Ady was cool as a cucumber and said we’d be fine. He was right. A happy voice behind us and a lady introduced herself – RacingJules as I later found out!

We started shuffling forward and the start line came into view ... and through! We were off! The surface flying beneath our feet as the road opened out and the crush became less ... briefly! Then back into a crush of people and past supporters lining the sides of the road. Passed a sign being brandished which stated:  “Finishing is your only f*cking option.” Nope. Not finishing. Finishing SUB 3:30, but I appreciate the sentiment!

It was a very crowded course, already in about mile 3 I was passing people doing about a 10 minute mile. Either they’d got into the wrong pen, or they were being VERY optimistic about their negative split. This continued the whole way around the course and it seemed as though people had either no idea of their finish times or had assumed that the pen times were optional and had just aimed for the front.

Ady and I planned to run together as our finish times would be very close as we’d both trained for around 3:30. I’d assured Marathon Coach Steve that I would be sticking with 7:55 – 8 min/miles the whole way, but Ady was aiming a bit quicker and my Garmin was showing 7:45 min/miles which I was a bit concerned about this early on. However, with my pre-race nerves I’d forgotten to programme it for marathon so ended up doing this on the run which might have had something to do with it!

Due to the crowds, I lost Ady around mile 4 but he reappeared just in front of me at around mile 10. He was still going strong so ran with him for a while. Again our Garmins seemed to be showing different times. Mine was showing we were running at about 8:05 min/mile and while I liked having company, I didn’t dare risk it so sped up slightly to bring it back into my time range.

I missed out the first water station. The weather was beautiful with clear blue skies and bright sunshine, but I had run most of my longer training runs without water and knew I was already well-hydrated. The water stations were all mayhem. Although there were clear signs showing where they were, runners were cutting across others and tripping people up and the lids of the bottles hitting the road sounded like dominoes falling. There were plastic bottles and orange peel all over the road and I heard a runner go down behind me. 

I’d heard people say that this route wasn’t well supported but I found it brilliant! People were ringing cowbells and shouting “Allez, allez”. Until about mile 6, I didn’t realise this and misheard it. I thought there must have been a really popular chap called Alex just behind me.

People saw my name on my T-shirt and shouted “Go Sarah!” and “Allez Sarah!” It was fantastic! Runners World had printed some pretty salmon pink vest tops for me and Mel. The front had our names on and ‘Asics Target 26.2’ and the back had ‘Follow Me’ ‘’ .  A French chap overtook me and shouted back “Ha ha! Now YOU’RE following me.” I smiled back at him and thought “I’ll see YOU at mile 20...!”

The en-route entertainment was also brilliant. There were bands and drummers frequently and it really made the atmosphere! I had previously thought marathons were meant to be hard work from beginning to end, but the enthusiasm of the bands and drummers was infectious and I wasn’t the only runner having a quick dance along while running! There were Firemen lining the streets with their firetrucks and at one point a hose arced water across the road cooling down the runners. I was hot but decided that hot was better than blisters and avoided it.

Marathon Coach Steve had told me that the marathon was 2 runs. A 20 mile warmup run and a 6 mile race. I’d heard this before, but when Steve said it, it had really struck home. It really helped as it gave me a countdown. At the halfway point, instead of ‘only’ being halfway, I had 7 miles left to enjoy the trot before I could really let go and get the speed up a bit. I kept thinking like this. The speed was easily maintainable and it really was a comfortable speed. I had all of these people running with me – all of whom also loved running and I would get a big medal at the end of THIS long run! What was there not to like?

My only real potential problem was a toilet stop. I had needed a wee from the beginning, but while there were plenty of urinals at the start taking care of the chaps, there didn’t seem to be any portaloos ... or any time to find any. My Garmin was on average pace per mile and distance, so if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to work out whether I would be on for my time. Right. Think positive. I’d once been stuck on the M1 for 7 hours needing a wee. This wasn’t as long as that and I didn’t have to go to work at the end of this. Positive thoughts. My evil conscience reminded me I wasn’t running on the M1, I was sitting down in the car but I ignored it. And sure enough by about mile 10 I’d forgotten all about it.

I knew that this was a truly International marathon and about 5,000 of the 40,000 runners were Brits. It was lovely seeing the different club vests and the familiar charities. I saw a chap running for the Dorset Doddlers and we had a brief chat (he lived about 15 mins from where I’d grown up!), Eynsham AC, Reading Roadrunners and a Bristol club vest.

When I got to Mile 20, I decided it was time to up the speed. I’m not very good at running the same speed for a long time – treadmills are my idea of HELL – and it was nice to be able to change the speed a bit. I also knew that this was the 2nd part of the run and as soon as I entered the woods – Bois de Boulogne - at mile 21.5 I was on the home stretch. The woods were beautiful and although the support wasn’t as much here, it was lovely to run under the trees. I also found the route mostly downhill which is always a nice treat when you’re running home.

I ran out of water at about mile 22 but didn’t like to throw the bottle away and I carried it as comfort almost to the finish line. I find us runners can be a superstitious lot, this bottle was empty but what if I got thirsty? I wouldn’t have an (empty) bottle to carry! It really did make sense at the time.

Coming up out of the woods, I’d passed the 25 mile marker and knew I was nearly there. Cyclists had been riding up the pavements, ringing their bicycle bells, ringing us home but this was the toughest mile.  I was looking out for the Arc de Triomphe as I knew the finish was near this but I couldn’t see it through the heat haze. I decided to count. By the time I reached 100, I’d be able to see the finish.

98,99,100 ... Arc de Triomphe? No. Bugger. 200 then ....
198, 199, 200 ... Arc de Triomphe? No. Bugger. 300 then ....

I got to nearly 350 before I saw the finish. It was very low so although I’d been reasonably close I hadn’t seen it ... and the Arc de Triomphe was nearly a mile behind it. OK. I’m probably not the best person to ask for directions.

Crossed the finish line. The lady beside me burst into tears. It just felt surreal. After all of this build up, all of the training, 557.2 miles run and 117 hours of training ... this was it. I had crossed the finish line.

A package was thrust into my arms containing a blue plastic poncho and an electric green finishers T-shirt. I walked forward a few steps and a rotund and enthusiastic French chap placed a medal around my neck and then kissed me on both cheeks and congratulated me. A wonderful French finish to a wonderful French marathon. 

I had no idea of my time as I’d had to restart my Garmin and the timer on the finish gantry wasn’t working. The tracking app hadn’t updated my time so it was all a bit of a mystery. I decided to get back to the Asics area and sort it all out there. The Asics area was next to the start line, right? I started walking towards the Arc de Triomphe. Luckily before I got there I got a “where are you?” phone call. Yep. I was walking the wrong way. Asics was next to the FINISH line. Nearly 2 miles later I was walking the right direction and the cramp that had threatened my arse had disappeared. See. There can be bonuses to having absolutely no sense of direction. You get to walk off cramp.

All of a sudden, a vision in a blue poncho was calling my name! Richard Langton came over and introduced himself saying he’s been following the forum. It was a lovely surprise and he had done really well and enjoyed the course too.

I got to the Asics area still wearing my blue poncho. Alex and Shady Ady were already there .. and I was being congratulated. My time had appeared on the tracking application – I was sub 3:30!

... in fact was 3:25:06 !!

I may be slightly excited in this picture ...
Decided the only way to celebrate was on the roof of the Asics building with a very cold beer. We all headed up into the sunshine and watched the finishers pour over the finishing line.

What now? There was no more training schedule ....

Couldn't remember the last time I'd had a beer ...

I would worry about that tomorrow. Tonight we celebrate. 

Avg 7:24 min/mile

1.       7:51
2.       7:46
3.       7:51
4.       7:56
5.       7:54
6.       8:01
7.       7:51
8.       7:51
9.       7:51
10.    7:47
11.    7:48
12.    7:45
13.    7:48
14.    7:48
15.    7:43
16.    7:45
17.    7:18 (Time slightly wrong as Garmin confused by underpasses)
18.    7:57 (Time slightly wrong as Garmin confused by underpasses)
19.    7:48
20.    7:32
21.    7:43
22.    7:46
23.    7:31
24.    7:13
25.    7:27
26.    7:15 (0.71 mile)

Note: Garmin had to be re-set about 1/2 mile in

Paris Marathon - Friday & Saturday before...

I first realised I might have slightly overpacked when I had to for help to get the suitcase out of the car ... However I did feel that 3 sets of running gear, huge amounts of snacks ... and a 3 pack of crème eggs WERE essential items. Friday may have been a rest day but I was DEFINITELY counting getting the suitcase up  and down the tube station stairs as cross training.

I arrived at St Pancras ... 2 hours early. I was so worried about being late that I was now ridiculously early. But it seemed a good excuse for an early lunch. A 10.30am kind of early lunch. But breakfast had been 5 hours ago ... and I’m supposed to be carb loading, right?

I’d promised Ruth Nutritionist I’d have a jacket potato. Most places sell these ... don’t they?

Walked around St Pancras and found a French-style cafe with little tables and chairs and proper menus called Le Pain Quotidien. Got settled and had a look at menu ... ah. Hadn’t taken proper notice of the name of the place ... A specialist bread cafe. Not entirely sure this was the best option for someone with a wheat intolerance a couple of days before a big race. For the sake of the people who would be running behind me - or using the race portaloo afterwards - I vacated the cafe quickly before the urge to eat overtook me and I started shoving bread rolls into my mouth. 

Walked around and tried 7 or 8 other cafes. Not a single one within St Pancras sold jacket potatoes - or even potatoes of any description ... except MacDonalds. Wasn’t entirely sure I could count ‘Large Fries & Hot Apple Pie’ as sensible pre-race fuelling and was a little bit scared that Ruth Nutritionist would come and hurt me if I chose this so ended up looking further afield.

... And eventually found a greasy spoon cafe. Perfect! Cheap, cheerful and enormous portions. I had a jacket potato the size of my head filled with tuna and sweetcorn. Delicious! And mushrooms on the side. After checking out all those cafes I was feeling a bit peckish ...

Arrived back at Eurostar departures and after a few minutes of panic that I’d been given the wrong time, day or even that that Asics & Runner’s World had changed their minds about inviting me I spotted Tom the photographer (@photosmudger) and everyone else started arriving. Phew! Looked as though I’d be running in Paris after all!

After drinking lots of (decaf! Ruth, decaf!). I decided to go and find the loo. It was all dimly lit stainless steel, lined with sinks on one side and panels on the other. I followed the lady in front of me down to what I assumed was the entrance of the loos to find I’d accompanied the poor lady into the stall by mistake. Luckily she found it funny. I was mortified and scuttled off to find an unoccupied stall.

The Eurostar was quick and easy apart from the problem of trying to fit my enormous suitcase into a miniscule luggage rack. I hoped the acceleration on the train wasn’t too fierce otherwise I’d probably see it going the other way down the central aisle. I’d decided to treat the journey as an enforced rest and to sit there listening to my audiobook. However 2 minutes into the journey – due to too much tweeting - my phone battery died. Sulk. I resisted the urge to kick the seat in front of me and demand sweets and looked out of the window instead. However, there isn’t much to see in an underground tunnel.

Got into La Guardia and straight out into the sunshine to wait for a taxi. Paris was buzzing and mopeds were darting everywhere. It took about 10 mins to get to the hotel and we had literally 5 minutes to drop the luggage in our rooms and dash to the Metro station. We needed to register and pick up our race numbers tonight before it shut in an hour’s time otherwise we’d be waiting for up to 3 hours at the busy expo on the Saturday.

Got to the station and as Chris spoke fluent French, he got the tickets and Kat handed them out to us. It was like being on a school trip. But without the packed lunch. Several people ran past us and vaulted the turnstiles. The ticket attendant didn’t even blink. We wondered whether it was necessary to pay after all but decided our poor delicate marathon runners’ legs probably shouldn’t be vaulting just before the marathon.

Through the tiled tunnel and down the steep stairs to the murky platform ... and Kat realised she no longer had her wallet containing her cash, cards and passport. She’d been pickpocketed ... in a group of 16 people and not a single one of us had seen a thing.

The Metro was busy but we managed to corral one corner of the carriage. We had 30 minutes to get to the expo to pick up our race packs and numbers ... and 12 stops to go ... it wasn’t looking likely. Steve Marathon Coach decided that he wasn’t too keen on this uncertainty and taking advantage of the technology available was timing the station splits. I think he was reasonably impressed with the train driver as he was managing a perfect 1:09 between each station and the visit to the expo was looking more likely. Let down by the final station and we had 3 minutes to get to the expo. Which was 5 minutes away.

All of a sudden some loud music started up. It was like Muzak but on HIGH volume. Looked down the train and a chap had set up with a stereo and a trumpet! It made conversation impossible, but was nice being serenaded to the expo... definitely made it feel like more of an occasion. Until the trains slowed, and looking through the window, I spotted a train going the other way with an ENTIRE oompah-band in a carriage. Reckoned we’d been ripped off.

Off the train and into a sprint. Flying up the stairs, skidding around the corners in the station ... and a u-turn as we realised we were going the wrong way. Back around the corner and up more stairs. Flying through the gates and down the hill to Pavilion One. All the doors were locked and runners were streaming the other direction with their race packs as we flew past.

One by one, I was overtaken by the boys. This didn’t look good. I was supposed to be running a marathon on the Sunday and I’m being out-speeded and out-distanced easily. Twigged I was running flat-out in high heels. That would be why then.

Mel (left), me (middle), Alex (right)

Got to the expo and an Asics man was holding one of the doors open for us. We flew through and skidded to a halt in a great big hall. There were a row of booths ... all now almost deserted in number order. Showed my convocation which was a medical certificate from the doctor saying I was fit to run and my passport and was given my race pack. Through the picture on the front I could see my name underneath ‘Sarah – RunnyRunRun’. My heart speeded up.

Ambled back to the Metro at a more leisurely pace. Clutching my race pack in case the pickpockets decided to turn over a new leaf in marathon running and mugged me for my race pack.

All chatting and more relaxed now we’d got our numbers and could relax. Did a headcount and realised we’d lost Steve and Dan the cameraman on the Metro. Did anyone see them get off? Were they being held hostage by trumpet man? Maybe Steve had got so involved in counting the splits he’d missed the stop ... Got to the top of the stairs and they were already there looking smug waiting for the next train.

Had 5 minutes at the hotel – again literally – before the table booking so we put the phone on charge and dashed out again. The tiny restaurant was 5 minutes walk away down a cobbled side street. We got there and were asked to wait – in the street –for 10 minutes while the restaurant owner persuaded the diners to leave so we could sit down. Nutritionist Ruth had chosen an Italian restaurant which should have been perfect for carb loading. The first course was wonderful ... an enormous plate of rocket salad with mozzarella, hard Swiss cheese and artichoke hearts – delicious! But choosing the main course – in an Italian restaurant without having anything with wheat - caused a couple of problems ... However I decided on veal in a tomato sauce – which seemed to be my only option – with salad and tomatoes. Delicious.

This was the sort of food I was living on - was delicious!

Marathon Coach Steve decided we were going to keep our minds firmly on running and pronounced a DNF on meals not finished. No-one wanted to tempt fate with a DNF so food was finished. I however, confirmed I had in fact produced a negative split – eating the lamb much faster than the salad. Dedication!

I set my alarm for 7am on Saturday ... which caused me a bit of a pang as the previous day had been so busy – but Runners World & Asics wanted pre-marathon photos of us all on the roof of the hotel with Paris spread out behind us. Couldn’t believe the view from the terrace – it was AMAZING! We could see the Eiffel Tower, the business district rising like Manhattan Island out of the mist and the streets all laid out below us.

View from the hotel terrace

Tom the photographer had laughed because he’d checked with the desk clerk that we were ok to use the terrace for half an hour and the clerk had expected some cash for the privilege! Luckily the hotel director had given the go ahead and hadn’t expected anything at all.

The terrace was on the 7th floor and Shady Ady told us how he had shown his grasp of languages to his wife by pointing at the label on the lift: “Look – Otis means down in French.” Candice wasn’t taken in however and said, “It’s the name of the lift manufacturers, you muppet.”

Photographs were taken and we each had an interview but I was so excited about the marathon tomorrow that I gabbled and chattered and talked complete twaddle. I think my crowing moment was when I was asked something like “What was the highlight of the campaign?” And I just looked blank then shouted “All of it.” Sigh. I’m hopeless.

They turned it all around add we had a chance to ask Kate from Runners World some questions. It would have been nice to think that we had some tough questions for her, but Katie had been so amazing and helpful that we couldn’t think of any hard ones at all! Although I did quiz her about when I can upload pics again! Katie answered all the questions and she was so genuinely enthusiastic about our group of 5 runners and how we’ve progressed. At the end of the Q&A she said she’d felt like a Mum! Watching our progress and finally getting us here – to Paris!

Tom - photography (left), Katie - Runner's World (middle), Dan - Cameraman (Right)

We had 2 miles on the training schedule so me, Mel, Ady, Alex and Steve all went for a run with Marathon Coach Steve around the streets of Paris. We did a lap of the streets near us and it was just so lovely running in the sunshine. There were plenty of other runners around and we all shouted and greeted each other. It was a real festival feel. On the second lap we decided to take a detour and ended up at the gate of Montmatre Cemetery. Marathon Coach Steve decided to chance it and we made it about 10 steps inside the gate before being chased out again by the security guard. Whoops! Luckily he couldn’t catch us.

Montmatre Cemetary

Got back to the hotel and 6 hours of relaxation before dinner ...  decided climbing the Eiffel Tower probably wasn’t what the Target 26.2 team had in mind when they built 6 hours of r&r into the schedule so crashed out in my room. It had been pretty non-stop since we arrived so it was nice to have a bit of down time. And eat Pick n Mix. It was on my nutrition plan ... Nutritionist Ruth said so! (Hooray!)

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant. Are you seeing a theme? However, we hit a snag. Because it was such a tiny restaurant and it was a dinner for runners they’d put on a reduced menu ... full of pasta! Eeek! Not good for someone who can’t eat wheat before running! We narrowed it down and my only option was a lasagne made with aubergine ... which was absolutely delicious! But unfortunately no potatoes in any forms were available so I had to hope that this would be fine as my final carb loading meal.

We were on a table with Mel and Sam Murphy. If Sam offers you a cough & cold cure, check what it is first. Apparently one of her friends swears that sticking a garlic clove (Well I hope it’s a clove, not a bulb!) up her bottom as a cure for a cold. Well I suppose it would make you forget about the cold. 

Walked back to the hotel and set the alarm ... for 5.30am and the final long run.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pre-Marathon Hypochondria - Stay Away I have Anti-Bac Gel & I'm Not Afraid To Use It!

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a hypochondriac ...

My new Best Friends

Poor Bacon Steve has been suffering with his knee on the First Timers Asics 26.2 thread and while I sympathise greatly, I didn’t draw any parallels when my knee started playing up last week ...

I’ve just read Sam Murphy’s comment about her developing plantar fasciitus 2 weeks before London Marathon one year and now my right heel hurts ...

I read earlier about Mel (Busy Lifestyle in Asics 26.2) having an infected toenail so I’m expecting several of mine to drop off any day now. They’re all looking a bit suspiciously healthy at the moment but that’s probably only to lull me into a false sense of security. Even my problem toenail (which would be a rebellious teenager of a toenail if ever there was one) is looking almost normal in a manky kind of a way.

I’ve realised that I’ve become one of those irritating hypochondriacs. You’ve got a sore throat? Mine is sore too ... AND I’ve got a cough (coughs irritatingly). You’ve got measles? Me too. Mine may LOOK drawn on (hides red pen) but that’s only because they’re bigger and more sore than yours. And mine come off in the bath. I’ve got so paranoid about falling ill - again - before the marathon that every little twinge is a potential disaster and I really, really am doing everything I can to avoid catching anything else.  

I’m wielding antibacterial hand gel like a weapon and refusing to open any public toilet door without a protective piece of loo roll. I’m smuggling so much Andrex around in case of unexpected doorhandles I’m looking like moulting Egyptian mummy. It’s not a good look.

Also I’m getting strange looks after clawing my tongue when I realise that I’ve accepted a cup of tea from someone with a cold and I’m trying to work out the best way to purge my tongue of flu-y germs without a) offending the person who made the tea or b) spitting tea over expensive laptops, delicate instruments or industrial equipment. Customers apparently don’t appreciate drippy tea on their things.

I’ve got a sore throat from screaming after forgetting about my anti-bac-ed hands and rubbing my eyes. I’m so nervous I’ve started biting my fingernails – another revolting germ-y habit and I’m so busy straining my neck to check there isn’t anyone with flu in a 150ft radius I’ve given myself a crick. I’ve decided that I’m probably best off just getting on with my life normally and trying to forget about germs, bacteria or other creepy things.

So Ady (Asics 26.2 On a Plateau) and Alex (Asics 26.2 sub-3) ... I’m sorry I haven’t nipped onto your threads today, but I’m worried that if you’ve suddenly developed a niggle or a twinge that it will suddenly appear on ME ... and I don’t dare push my pre-marathon hypochondria any further ....

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Week 16, Day 2: 16 x 200m

Week 16 (WEEK SIXTEEN??!! Eeeek), Day 2

Goal: 16 x 200m in 45 seconds (6:02 min/miles) with 60 seconds jog (4 miles total)

Actual: 16 x 200m in 45 seconds (6:02 min/miles) with 60 seconds jog (4 miles total)

This was a nice session as it gave me a chance to have a bit of a run but with a nice long recovery in between. Perfect – almost lazy – intervals.

I did these on a treadmill as the last time I’d run (Sunday) I’d cut it short as I’d had a bit of pain behind my knee and I wanted to be able to stop if this came back. But there was nothing – no twinge, no ache or anything. In fact I didn’t even think about the knee until I got back to work ... so it was obviously a Taper Paranoia twinge! Appears mysteriously and disappears just the same.

15 x intervals at 5:56 min/mile (16.2kmph)

Jog recoveries at 10:43 min/mile (9kmph)

1 x interval at 5:08 min/mile (19kmph) ... it was my final interval before the Paris marathon! Had to go out with a bang!

Week 15, Day 7: Running Turtle, Knee Pain & Rats

Goal: 13 miles
Actual: 7 miles

Drove all the way to Weymouth for this one and had decided on a lovely route from the old Harbour all the way to Portland and back. It should be peaceful and calm, barring incidents with ducks or cyclists.

It was absolutely freezing. I had appropriated a buff which was hanging around (Thanks RunningForChocolate) and was doing my best impression of a turtle peering out of its shell. The Mr was swathed in running gear with only his eyes showing looking like a chav ninja.  Or someone who had been mummified using only Sports Direct.

Passed the place where the cyclist had run me off the path last time ... nothing. Had visions of a tearful now-recovered cyclist presenting me with my well-washed buff and apologies for his behaviour last time. Nothing.

Ran up the first incline ... and up ... and up! Looking down onto the athletics track far below on the right and down onto the roofs of houses and across to the harbour on the left, gleaming blue between the chimneys. Looking up to an old stone railway bridge. Last time I’d done this run I had been listening to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and running it again between the high overgrown banks and Victorian stonework., the route still seemed slightly magical and enchanted.

Starting running downhill towards the Old Castle and Portland and a pain started behind my right knee. A new pain. Just what I didn’t want in taper and in the final few days before the marathon ... Ran on for a while to see if it would ease but I could feel it with every step.

Decision time. I was on a route that didn’t allow cars and if I ran on for the next mile and the pain got worse I would have to hobble the way back I’d come – or hop! - without any hope of a taxi or any other form of transport other than Shanks’ Pony. A one-legged Shanks’ Pony.


Turned around and headed back. Stopped for a stretch, walked for a few metres and stretched and ran on. It wasn’t a sharp ‘I’ve pulled something’ pain but sharp enough for me not to want to add miles onto this run.

Ran back around Radipole Lake. The evening was drawing in now but it was peaceful with the occasional bird noise and the rustling noise the reeds made as the wind blew. Then with a clatter a heron rose from its hiding place among the reeds and flapped ponderously away. I’d managed a leap of shock that felt gazelle-like (but which probably looked like a zombie-lurch) but had somehow managed to avoid falling into the lake.

I do love Weymouth, even in the winter and despite the cold wind, it was a clear evening. However, maybe it was because of the first glimpse of sunshine, or maybe people had been out eating chips but I’d never quite realised just how ratty Weymouth is. Running around Radipole Lake ... saw a rat. Then onto the Rockwell Path ... more rats! I know it’s a port and had been one of the first outbreaks of Black Death ... but running around there I felt like the Pied Pier ... or maybe it was just because my feet just smelled of cheese.

I had a quick run along the promenade and passed a fun fair set up by the Theatre. A sign propped up outside told revellers that the fun fair would run until 7th April ... a thrill ran through me. This time next week the marathon would be finished. Whatever the outcome, it would have been decided and finished. Unless everything went horribly wrong, I’d probably still be wearing my Paris Marathon Medal and be the proud owner of a new PB ... and a Boston Qualifier.