Saturday, 24 March 2012

A change is as good as a rest

After a my week off I am happy to report that the running is back on track. Clearly giving both mind and body a much needed rest was the best plan, for me at least. On a gorgeous Friday morning I set out with two running friends, which added to the joy of being on the move again as one of them showed me the most delightful new route.

As he pointed out a new run is just the tonic you need when you are getting jaded. When you are traversing different scenery - and this route is mostly off road - you don't dwell on the hills you know lay ahead on your usual routes, or fret about how far you know you have to go, you just run. It was great fun, which is something running really hasn't been for me in a while.

I remembered the delight of discovering hidden backwaters in my local neighbourhood that I never would have known existed. It was also a real treat to have someone to chat to, although I am not sure my inane wittering was that entertaining for him, it was a good way to keep my mind off the niggle in my hip.

After planning a short 10K jaunt, I ended up going the whole 18-mile hog prescribed by my marathon training programme. I will admit that my muscles are howling in pain today, but it was worth it for the psychological boost it gave me. While I did wonder quite how I would hobble through another 8.2 miles once I pulled up, I also kind of feel I have it in me now - and any serious marathoners please don't ruin my illusions.

I know many say that 20-miles can feel like halfway, but hey, I am where I am and I can't, and don't want, to train hard for much longer. If I believe I can do it then I have the battle at least half won, and I do believe I can do it. I am not sure I will be able to walk afterwards, but never mind, I will celebrate by sinking into my sofa with sighs of relief, that is until my half marathon training begins again....

PS pop over to Girl on the River who has honoured me (along with a lot more worthy contributors) in a great series of posts about how to keep the weight off while training hard. You also get to see a particularly flattering (not) before pic of me in my pre-running days.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Taking a break

I know it's not orthodox - but then I am beginning to understand that when it comes to marathons there is no such thing as an orthodoxy - but this week, exactly a month out from my first marathon I am taking a break from running.

Some would condemn this as foolhardy, others would praise me for letting my body have a much needed rest. To be honest I don't really care what the conflicting experts have to say, I just know that for my long term love of running I have to get away from it for a few days.

When I first entered the marathon I had no clue how tough the training would be. I loved running, was up for a challenge and thought that would be enough to get me through. Well perhaps for some it would have been, but for me it fell woefully short of the mark.

In a year of pre-marathon running I was entirely injury free. I never even had a twinge. Since I started training I have injured my calf and my hip sufficiently to keep me off my feet for weeks. I also adored my runs. They were stress relievers and made me feel good about myself and the world around me. During training my runs have become something I dread and that bore the pants off me.

This is not good. I do love running and I fully intend to keep it up for as long as my body will allow me to, which is why I feel the need to step away from the pavement for a while and just forget about what lies ahead.

My husband is always ready with an 'I told you so' when I begin on a marathon moan, having always said it was a bad idea. I am not sure that he is entirely right. I had a marathon itch that had to be scratched, and I am full of hope that I will be ecstatic once it is over!

But the training has been hell. Time-consuming, boring, painful and all-encompassing. It has eaten away my free time, wreaked havoc with a body that probably wasn't ready, if it ever could be, to run such a huge distance and generally left me feeling exhausted and disheartened. I have put on weight and the careful diet I have stuck to for the past 18 months has been rocked by aching hunger pangs I just couldn't ignore.

All in all I am no poster girl for marathon running. But I am not too downhearted as despite my current bad patch I am still looking forward to the races I have lined up after the marathon, their chief attraction being that they are NOT marathons. I am dying to get back into the gym properly and have learned to appreciate how much I need a varied training programme - this woman cannot live on running alone.

So this week I have been to a class at the gym, which I throughly enjoyed and a swim, which made me realise that while I might be a bit off running right now, I like it a whole lot more than swimming. I am planning a relaxed trot for Friday - my usual long run day - and then next week I will be back with the programme, which thankfully segues neatly into a taper period the week after.

Perhaps this approach will mean that I crash and burn on the day, but I just needed a reset and to get out of my hamster on a wheel mindset. I want to love my running again and if that means I don't make it round the marathon as fast as I might have hoped, so be it. I am not going to fall out of love with running over one race.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Hunger

So the miles are racking up and last week I managed to do 35 miles (in total, not all in one go I hasten to add). This included my longest run so far of 17 long and arduous miles. I have to say I am not sure I am a fan of the long run. Plodding on for hour after hour around the drab streets of North London is just not that inspiring.

Plotting my routes used to revolve around finding the most scenic loops that would lead me from and to my front door. A few fields, trees and a bit of high end real estate was enough to keep me amused on a run. Now it is all about wending my way ever further from home to add on more and more miles. This is so dispiriting as I might find myself running towards home, only to have to switch back away from it again in order to tack on an extra mile or so.

I did consider another epic run into town, but on discovering that to cover 17 miles I would have to run from home to Tower Bridge I simply couldn't face it. The crowds of normal people in normal clothes are too much for me to navigate after sweating my way through a long run.

When I am fresh and full of energy I feel a certain smugness as I power past mere pedestrians, when I am tired and have had enough I don't want to have to push my way through crowded pavements, so I am stuck with the relatively empty streets that fan ever outwards from my house.

It is true that I have discovered a lot of new areas that I never knew existed like the bucolic common and chocolate box pretty village that lie sandwiched like a decadent and indulgent filling between two bland slices of suburbia. Or the gigantic footballers' palaces that turn an otherwise unexciting stretch of road into a mini Beverly Hills, complete with French chateau style residences kitted out with indoor pools and movie rooms, ranks of shimmering sports cars parked outside.

This strange form of sightseeing is fun for a bit, but not diverting enough to keep me amused for the many hours it takes me to run multiple miles.

But boredom isn't the the only disappointing side effect of marathon training - there is also the all encompassing HUNGER it seems to bring on. I have spent over a year trimming my body down by six stone. This was achieved by that tried and tested formula of exercise twinned with a keeping a careful watch over what I ate.

Now with all these miles I am covering I am simply starving. I feel as if I am slipping fast back into my old ways of scoffing until my stomach groans in protest. Despite the fact that I am burning off thousands of calories this pigging out is seeing me putting on weight again. Everyone assures me it's muscle, but I will admit it is pretty dispiriting to step on the scales after a mammoth run, only to discover I am literally piling on the pounds.

The trouble is that when 10K seemed like a long way subsisting on brown rice, grilled chicken and salads was doable. I could tame my appetite and keep a strict control over the calories going in. Now I fear I might gnaw my own arm off should I try to live on my old healthy diet. I am just scared that once I stop marathon training my appetite won't slow down as much as my running.

While most people might be counting down the days until the marathon because they can't wait for the big day, what I am looking forward to most is going back to a more varied diet of exercise and a more pared down diet of food.