Category Archives: Fundraising

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017

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I’ve decided I’m going to call this post “the least timely race report of all time”.

It’s a post I’ve nearly written a few times and almost finished once, but after a hard drive failure this is a whole new piece of writing…

As you might have guessed, I went into the race weekend feeling somewhat underprepared. The weekend before Matt & I were up in the Lake District and my knee was fine on our climb up Scafell Pike, so I was hopeful that it would hold up in London too. My overall fitness on the other hand… not so much!

We got to London late on the Saturday morning and intended to head straight to the hotel before going to the Expo to collect my race number. Unfortunately (and I put this entirely down to nerves as I’m usually very good at London navigation) I managed to get us to the wrong tube station and a couple of miles walk away from the hotel. Given that my anxiety levels were already pretty high, this was not helpful. The weasels were enjoying pointing out all of the ways everything could go horribly wrong, and I only just managed to hold it together.

Sufficiently warmed up, we dropped bags at the hotel and headed to the Expo, which was another short walk and a cable car ride from the hotel. I’d ridden on the Skyline before, but it was new for Matt, and evidently for the ladies who we shared a car with, all on their way to the Expo as well and chattering nervously about being so high up and hoping the “rope” didn’t break.

The Expo itself was… beyond my powers of description, honestly. The enormous hall was seething with people, it was hot, sweaty, loud and absolutely buzzing with excitement. I collected my race number and chip without incident (and somehow also without a queue – massive kudos to the organisers, it was truly impressive). It was immediately clear that we would not be able to see everything the Expo had to offer. Already tired from an early start, standing on the train into London and walking halfway across the city to the hotel, I was fading fast and knew that I really needed to rest. That said, I loved all of the official merchandise, and could easily have spent an absolute fortune there! The charity section where you could enter little contests to win extra sponsorship and have your photo taken was our only other stop, and then it was back outside to the relative calm and to the hotel to rest. I spent the remainder of the afternoon resting, eating pasta and laying out what felt like a mountain of kit for the morning. This was it…

As I was getting ready on race morning I checked on my sponsorship page and found that it had just ticked over my £2000 target, which seemed like a good sign! By this point my nerves had died right down (for some reason, I’m always worse the day before a Thing than the day of the Thing) and breakfast was uneventful, although I was amused at the sheer amount of porridge, Weetabix and bananas the runners were going through! You could spot a spectator a mile off – they were the ones loading up on the bacon and eggs!

The hotel was a short walk from the race start, and as we approached I watched so many other runners and wondered what their stories were. Were they prepared? Nervous? Was this their first marathon or their tenth? Who was walking beside them this morning? As we headed into the park I said to Matt “my ankle hurts”, and although I was dead serious, we both laughed at the clear manifestation of pre-race paranoia… (insert ominous music here).

I said my goodbyes to Matt and headed into the start area, which much like the Expo was impeccably organised and absolutely full of people. It was warmer than I expected so I ditched my kit bag early and grabbed a coffee to drink while I queued for the portaloos (and yes, those queues were just as epic as everyone says they are). I tried to absorb as much of the atmosphere as possible, listening to the buzz of chatter from other runners, looking out for other Team Mind members and enjoying spotting the more ridiculous costumes.

In the crowded huddle of the starting pens I checked my watch, started the GPS tracking, tried to ignore the fact that I needed a wee again, and ran my fingers around the 5 hour pace band on my wrist. I had to stand on tiptoes to see over the crowd, but the 5 hour pacers were a good way behind me. Good, I thought. My mission is to keep them there for as long as possible. With some rather distant sounding fanfare, we started gradually shuffling forward and then finally broke into a trot as we came round a corner to the start line. I fought back the urge to burst into tears, hit start on the Garmin and started to jog.

I don’t remember much of the early parts of the race. I remember the point where the runners from the other start merged with us, and what already seemed like an impossible number of people became twice that many. I remember thinking “hey, my knee doesn’t hurt” and a creeping sense of dread because “hey, my ankle really hurts”.

I got a boost around mile 8 where the main charity cheering station was, and was focused on mile 10 as I knew that’s where Matt would be. Sure enough, there he was, waving madly. I charged over for a hug and a gel, and was stunned and delighted to see that two of our friends – Suzy and Chris – were with him. At this point I was still ahead of the 5 hour pacer, and my friends sent me on my way with a renewed spring in my step!

Just before halfway, the route crosses Tower Bridge, and I can’t imagine a more iconic moment. So many people were stopping to take selfies on the bridge, and I just laughed and accelerated round them, such was the energy there. It was just a tunnel of noise and colour, completely overwhelming. I thought back a few years when I crossed the bridge as a spectator wondering how the runners felt. Well, now I know.

I was expecting to see Matt at mile 14, and by that point I really, really needed him. My ankle was excruciating, I was tired and hot and my mind was beginning to wander. As you can imagine I was gutted when I didn’t see him, and had to fight back the tears at the thought of having to face the lonely miles round the Isle of Dogs without a boost from him. By some miracle, though, he’d found himself at mile 15 instead, and when I saw him I think some more tears may have happened! And Suzy and Chris were still with him! I was ecstatic. “How are you doing?” They said. “I’m slow.” I said, “And hot.” I took more water, another gel, and Matt cheekily hopped over the barrier to give my ankle a bit of a rub. They told me my parents were stuck on the tube somewhere and would see me at mile 23. Mile 23, I thought. Will I ever actually get there?

As I had expected the next few miles were hellish. By mile 18 I couldn’t run more than a few hundred yards without having to stop and walk. This was partly due to my lack of fitness, of course (my longest training run having been 14 miles, nearly 2 months earlier), but also my ankle. It was hot, stiff, swollen and hurt to put weight on. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, and I plodded on.

Somehow the miles passed, we went through Canary Wharf, and I was on the home stretch, going back along the Highway and towards the Tower of London. I was having to run/hobble a little way, and then stop completely for a few seconds to breathe through the pain in my ankle. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I saw Matt, Suzy and Chris as planned at mile 22. While I’d been occupied plodding round the City, they’d acquired coffee and sweets, and though poor Matt still looked on edge, they were in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. I turned down more gel “I’m not lacking in energy” I think I said (!) “it’s just my ankle!” They gave me paracetamol and hugs, and told me that my parents were somewhere between miles 23 and 24. This spurred me on and I ran the next mile-and-a-bit without stopping. I spotted my parents before they spotted me, I could see them peering worriedly at a phone. They’d had quite a day, poor things, fighting with transportation! I got more hugs but didn’t stop for long, I’d got something of a second wind at this point.

Along the embankment the noise of the spectators increased again, and oh my goodness was it something! I passed another Mind cheering station, and their whoops and cheers as I jogged past were amazing. As I passed Big Ben I was just starting to reflect on the fact that I had pretty much completed a marathon, when I heard my name being shouted from the side of the road. This had been happening all day, since I had it written on my vest, but not with this much urgency. I looked over and saw Matt, Suzy, Chris, and a bunch of random strangers all waving madly at me! I bounded over beaming from ear to ear and got some bonus hugs and kisses which propelled me into the final half mile with unexpected vigour!

I will never, ever forget the finishing straight. As I turned the corner the voice of the emcee came over the PA system and said “the next song is up to the people in the finishing straight” and then said that we should raise one hand for some rubbish song or two hands for “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. Obviously everybody raised two hands and so I got the thrill of crossing the finish line accompanied by one of my favourite songs of all time!

I was in a bit of a daze after I crossed the line. I hope I thanked the volunteer who gave me my medal, I certainly meant to. I wobbled round to collect my bag and somehow went to the wrong truck, but luckily another volunteer spotted me and called me over to the right one! I finally got my phone out and checked through the messages that had been coming in. A couple of speedy folks, who must have been watching me on the tracker, texted their congratulations before I’d even left the finish area.

I made my way over to the meet and greet area and, after a brief worry about whether I could remember the alphabet I found our agreed upon letter and to my delight, Matt, Suzy and Chris were standing there waiting for me. Many excited hugs were exchanged, tears were shed and the impressively heavy medal admired. I parked myself on the ground as standing up any more was out of the question! My parents found us a little while later, and I sat in the sunshine surrounded by love and feeling just a wee bit dazed.

After Suzy and Chris took their leave, it was a long, slooooow journey back to the hotel for the rest of us. I could barely put any weight on my ankle, so spent most of the time leaning on whichever of my family members were closest. My parents couldn’t stay for dinner as they had a train to catch, so we said goodbye to them, grabbed a quick shower and headed out for dinner. I had been craving Nandos, so that’s what we had. I was too tired to be very hungry, though, and we ended up back at the hotel for a reasonably early night.

I was utterly exhausted and slept pretty soundly, although I did wake up at about 3am absolutely ravenous. I made Matt fetch me a cereal bar (because my ankle hurt too much to contemplate getting up myself) and devoured it in bed – crumbs be damned! Apparently this hunger carried through to the next morning, too, as I scoffed an enormous amount of breakfast. It didn’t feel that much to me at the time, but thinking back there were at least 3 empty plates by the end of it!

We splurged on a taxi back to Paddington Station, as I couldn’t face the ankle-hurting shuffle that using the tube would require, but it actually turned out really well as the taxi followed a goodly portion of the race route and it was incredible to sit and watch the sights go by, being able to reflect on what had happened the day before. I was a marathoner.

Oh, my time? It was 6 hours, 13 minutes and some change. I lost the 5 hour pacer around the halfway point, and that was the end of that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed with my time, but really all that matters is that I did it. For my friends, family, colleagues and everyone out there dealing with mental illness, I did it.

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Training recap week #8

trainingweek8

Week: 8/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 27.9

Legs: Ouch!

Mood: Thoughtful

And that was week 8! I’m now half way through my marathon training plan. Half way! Half. Way. HALF! WAY!

Okay, so that is a little* scary. But I’ve no reason to think I’m not on target – I completed all my workouts with some degree of success, and as I write this (it’s Tuesday lunchtime) I’m not too terribly stiff or sore in the leg department. Several really quite significant things happened this week, so I’ll take them one by one.

  1. I did my longest EVER run! Fourteen miles. Okay so it’s not a lot further than the 13.1 distance I’ve covered several times before, but psychologically it’s a pretty big deal, as my anxiety means that I feel the fear of the unknown more than most! Last week I would have told you that I couldn’t have gone further than 12 miles, and this week I could tell you that I couldn’t have gone further than 14. But I’m working on changing that thinking a bit. I think it’s more helpful and less scary to say “I don’t know if I could have gone further, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go next week” than “Nope, no way, nuh-uh, no! I was DONE.” Although to be frank, that second one is a lot closer to what went through my head at the end of 14 miles!
  2. My fundraising received a HUGE boost from Matt’s colleagues. I am humbled and overwhelmed by their generosity. Matt said some of them even chose to share their own, or their loved ones’, stories of mental health issues with him when he asked if they’d be willing to sponsor me. I think it’s incredible how the conversation can flow if someone is brave enough to start it. That’s the main reason why I’m doing this.
  3. I had another tempo run where I had to shake off the doubt instilled in me by looking into the runner’s crystal ball of negativity (which I’m going to talk about more in another post) and managed to completely smash it! I had to do 2 times 12 minutes at tempo pace with a 3 minute rest in between. For the first I held a 8:38 pace, and the second 8:57, and I am thrilled! I had pretty much given up on the idea of aiming for a 9:10 pace for the Bath Half in a couple of weeks, but now I’m thinking I might not be as far off as I thought. On Tempo Friday this week I have to hold a tempo pace for a solid 20 minutes, and I’m going to see how close to 8:30 I can stay!

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Storm Doris gave great post-run hair!

I wish that I could say I was feeling totally capable and positive about the coming weeks! But, of course it wouldn’t be true. I am very proud of myself, and my body feels stronger than ever. But the unknown is scary, and I can’t deny that I’m tired and hungry a lot of the time, which is very draining and lowers my mood quite a bit. But, I am determined, I know I’m much loved and supported, and I’m not giving up. Let’s go, week 9!

*This is totally true. At least it is if I redefine “a little” to mean “a whole damn lot”…

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #7

trainingweek7

Week: 7/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 23.9

Legs: A little tired and sore

Mood: I am runner, hear me roar!

Tearful outbursts: 0.5* 

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I was dreading this week a bit as I knew I’d be really busy at work and wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in all the runs I needed to do. But in the end, it got done. I even managed two before-work runs which is a pretty big deal for this definitely-not-a-morning person! I had short tempo intervals on Wednesday morning, which was fine, but I underestimated the length of the route, had to dash the last mile and missed breakfast, which meant that come coffee break time I was off to Costa like a bat out of hell!

Friday was a couple of 8 minute tempo repeats, and for the first time I kind of understood what it’s like to not let yourself back off when things get a little tough. I know 8 minutes might not seem that long, and I have run faster for longer in the past, but where I’m at right now, holding 8:56 pace for 8 minutes was hard. I managed to partially detach the part of me that was thinking and feeling pain from the parts that were keeping me moving, and a silent mantra of “I can and I will” got me through. It was a tiny bit of a breakthrough to notice that my desire to keep my legs moving could override my brain going “ugh, slow down”…

Sunday was actually my longest training run ever! Although I’ve run several half marathons I haven’t ever done more than 10 miles in training, and I’ve got to be honest, it hurt. Why? Well, here’s the elevation profile:

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Yeah. That last section was not pleasant on tired legs! (*This is where the half-a-breakdown happened. I panicked a little, shouting at Matt “I can’t, I can’t” but he wouldn’t let me have a full-on meltdown! He just kept telling me that I had more in the tank than I thought, and even made me pick up the pace for the last few yards for a mini sprint finish. I love that man!) It’s funny how the body can do things that the mind doesn’t think it can. Maybe that’s the theme for this week!

Next week’s long run will officially be the furthest I’ve ever run – 14 miles! Matt and I have the route all planned out and I’m looking forward to it. It feels like a particularly scary thing to do, to go further than ever before! But once I’ve done it, what’s to stop me from doing it again? Bring it on, week 8!

 

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #6

trainingweek6

Week: 6/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 23.5

Legs: Powerful

Mood: Buoyant (and chilly!) 

Boom! Week 6 in the bag! I don’t have anything at all negative to say this week. I did all my runs (although I did move Wednesday night’s to Thursday morning), battled my way through 8 “sprint” repeats (a lot of mental gymnastics was involved in that one – after the first fast 60 seconds there was no way I was doing 7 more, but somehow 1 became 2, became 4, became 7…), and did my first double-digit run of the year.

wp-1486919233417.jpgOne thing I did struggle with was the short intervals. It was okay on Thursday with 60 second repeats, I just stayed pretty much glued to my watch. But on Friday I was supposed to be doing 5 minute tempo repeats, but I couldn’t pay enough attention to the watch as I was running on unfamiliar roads. So for wp-1486919270821.jpgthat reason and because of failing battery power I have ordered a replacement for my old Garmin Forerunner 15. I went for the Forerunner 235 because I like the round face and the colourful options for the strap. This combined with a new pair of shoes (I want to alternate with my old ones so they’re good and worn in by April!) my bank balance is suffering a little this week! But… new toys! 🙂

I’m ready to square up to week 7!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #5

trainingweek5

Week: 5/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 12.7

Legs: Strong

Mood: Impatient

This week was a lighter week, which, according to my plan, would allow my body to adapt to the training. To my surprise I have really noticed that I was not running as much, and have been feeling a strange sort of impatience, almost like a craving to feel really tired! The good news is that the pain in my shin seems to have mostly gone away, so hopefully this week has done its work and I’m ready for the training to move up a gear.

At the beginning of the week I decided it was time to send an email to all of my work colleagues announcing that I was training for the marathon and why, and basically ask them to sponsor me. It was the first time I’d admitted so publicly that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and I was very nervous before I hit the send button. But I needn’t have worried. I got a really wonderful response, with several people emailing me to share their own experiences and to thank and congratulate me for doing what I’m doing. I had a fantastic surge in donations as well, with many more promised! I also got asked if I would agree to being interviewed for the staff newsletter, which will hopefully be another great way to raise awareness.

Next week, week 6, I will get my first taste of structured speedwork, which is both exciting and just a little bit scary. Let’s dive in!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #4

trainingweek4

Week: 4/16

Runs: 3

Miles: 17.6

Legs: Strong

Mood: Determined

Tearful outbursts: 4 or 5

Running related tearful outbursts: 1

So that’s the end of week 4 of marathon training, and for the first time I didn’t complete all 4 scheduled runs. As those that follow me on Instagram or Facebook will have seen I have struggled quite a bit this week with my anxiety. When I woke up last Tuesday morning it was like something heavy but restless had settled on my shoulders and something flighty, breathless and skittish had taken up residence in my chest. I couldn’t shake the dreadful anxiety that I was somehow completely unacceptable as a human being. The brain weasels took the biscuits I ate and enjoyed the night before and turned them into something shameful. They took the fun pictures of me running on Sunday and turned them into a horror-show of flabby thighs and cellulite. They took my long to-do list at work and turned it into a list of failures. They took everyday interactions with colleagues and made them feel dangerous. 

These kinds of feelings are no fun at all, but they’re not as scary as they once were. I know that sometimes they come, with little warning, but more importantly I know that always they go. 

In terms of running, I was damn proud of my Wednesday night (nearly) 6 miler. It was cold, dark, the air was full of dampness and mizzle, and I was tired after a day or normal work plus the extra drain of all that anxiety. But I did it, and I didn’t hate it, and I had pizza afterwards!

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All smiles on Sunday!

I ended up skipping my Friday easy run because I’d had a niggly little pain in my right shin for a while and it seemed to be linked to tightness in my calf that came on during Wednesday’s run. I was hoping that a rest would help it to feel better, but weirdly it actually got worse the longer I didn’t run on it. So on Sunday out we went, Coach Matt and I, for 90 minutes in the park. It felt incredible. My legs felt strong and my pace was pleasingly steady. Matt commented that my stride looked stronger and that I was picking my feet up much better than last week. I am definitely getting stronger, and my positivity about the marathon has returned. I can totally do this!

Next week, week 5, is a low-mileage week, in theory so that my body can adjust before some speedwork gets added in in week 6! Exciting times.

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #3

trainingweek3

Week: 3/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 19.14

Legs: Bruised and battered

Mood: Fearful

Scraped knees: 3

Tearful outbursts: 1

Week 3 is over, and I am very glad to see the back of it. I completed all the runs on my plan this week, even managing to keep to a 10 min/mile pace for a couple of sessions. But overall I am feeling a bit negative and afraid of what the coming weeks will bring. Can I really become a marathoner?

First, my body is shouting at me pretty loudly tonight, as I’ve managed to fall over my Friday and Sunday runs. On Friday I tried to really test my speed on a popular Strava segment, and then really struggled to get my breath back and find enough energy to finish the run. Whilst running tired I failed to pick my feet up, and went flying. I landed on a patch of rutted frozen mud, and bashed both elbows, both knees, both palms and all down the outside of my left thigh. Ouch. I managed to talk myself into completing the intended number of minutes, so there’s that… On Sunday, 20 minutes in to an 80 minute session, I tripped on a drain cover (Coach Matt tells me I veer to the left and so basically run myself into the rough edges of the pavement… sigh…) and hit the ground again. Scraped knee #3.It was around then that the tears happened!

But, attempting to look on the bright side, I completed all my runs and felt relatively okay during them. We even managed a couple of 4ish mile walks over the weekend to make the most of the beautiful sunshine. According to my Fitbit I’d done nearly 27,000 steps come Sunday bedtime!

I hope week 4 is kinder to me…

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #2

trainingweek2

Week: 2/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 17.5

Legs: Somewhat stronger

Mood: Determined

Week 2 is done and dusted! I’ve had a few up and downs this week, with my legs feeling much stronger at times, but one session that I nearly quit halfway through. I’ve had a bit of pain in my right shin as well, so I’ve been concentrating on recovery, doing lots of stretching and strengthening exercises. And I’ve been reacquainted with my foam roller (ouch!).

My long run on Sunday was one of those runs that just feel amazing. Matt came with me on his bike, and rode alongside the whole way. It was great to have someone to talk to (at least after mile 3 and I’d settled into the rhythm!) and the fact that he was willing to ride around for an hour in the rain made my heart feel very full, and I’m more grateful than I can adequately express.

Wednesday’s run was supposed to be “steady” pace. As my plan explains, this is the pace that requires 10-20% more effort than “easy”. I find it very difficult to assess my effort levels, especially in shorter runs where I don’t ever really feel like I’ve got into the swing of things. So I paced it by just pushing a little more than what felt like minimum, and didn’t worry too much about the actual speed! And then on Friday, for some reason I felt like I was flying, and I completed the same distance in the same time, but without having to put in nearly as much effort! As I go further with the training journey I hope I’ll start to figure out what makes different runs different, and learn a lot about myself as a runner!

Bring on week 3!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

I’m going to run a marathon!

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So, this is the big announcement that I alluded to in my post earlier this week. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write this, and it turns out that the right moment is the end of week 1 of marathon training. I guess now it feels real enough for me to “say it out loud”.

On April 23rd this year, I’m going to be running the Virgin Money London Marathon!

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This was a plan that hatched last spring, after running the Bath and Reading half marathons. I decided that I wanted to try and raise some money for charity, and to turn the good that running does for me into good for others too. I applied for a place in a charity team and found out in September 2016 that I was successful.

I’m incredibly proud and excited to announce that I’ll be running for Mind, the mental health charity!

The work that they do: providing support, improving education, raising awareness, and more… is truly amazing, and in these times when, because of incredibly high demand, our NHS struggles to provide timely assistance to those in need, also incredibly necessary!

I’ve pledged to raise at least £2000 for Mind, so please do sponsor me if you can! My fundraising page can be found by clicking here.

This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever attempted, and your support means the world to me!

Over the next 15 weeks I will post regular training updates, I’ll write about mental health issues and post plenty of photos for your entertainment.

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p.s. I can’t end this post without a huge thank you to Matthew,
my #1 supporter, unofficial coach, and very patient photographer!