I never thought I'd see the day when a 15mile run felt like I was getting off lightly. But it's arrived before I've had chance to properly process everything. Pardon the following incoherent brain dump...
I have to write this down and get it out: I'm running a Marathon three weeks on Sunday. In LA. Yeah, I'm not doing anything by halves this time around. I haven't wanted to mention anything on my Facebook page until after the race. When I decide to put the link to this blog on Facebook, it will hopefully accompany a photo of my big, cheesing face in front of Santa Monica Pier, holding a finisher's medal.
But this is the penultimate chapter of my Marathon journey, so let me fill you in on what I've been up to since the new year.
I've been doing a lot of running.
You seem disappointed that it's not been more exciting than that...
Whatever, tough. My first 15mile run felt treacherous. Everything hurt, a lot, and I'd really mucked up taking my energy gel (note, singular...should have taken more of them) far too late in to the run. It was hilly, my head wasn't in the game and the isotonic energy gel gave me a stitch that harked back to the days of being a lazy-pants and running to catch the bus. I realised then that I needed to get my shit together. I started trying a variety of gels and working out the right times to take them. Not like it says on the gels "15before, every 45" or anything...(it does).
I got that down to a fine art and then started upping my mileage every week on the long Sunday run. I kept my week day and interval training at the same level to avoid injury, as on the long runs I noticed I was developing pain in my hip not dissimilar to the symptoms of ITBS again. Aaaah, my old friend. But it's much more bearable and easier to stretch out than the knee pain was, and I'm managing it well so far.
On Sunday past, I ran 21miles, which is surprising considering how exhausted I've started to feel lately. Running on tired legs all the time really takes it out of you and I've started to get impressively stupid in the evenings. By a Friday afternoon at work, I'm struggling to piece a sentence together properly. Anyway the weather on Sunday was shocking - I was facing horizontal sleet, -7 degrees chill factor and 30mph head winds throughout the back 10miles. Edinburgh is also mighty hilly, so tackling a few steep climbs at miles 16, 17 and 20 was also a real test of my resolve. Having said that, I have never felt so proud to have not given up and to have completed a long run without taking any short cuts to get home. The old calves were screaming towards the end, and I was running out of water having necked four Gu gels, but I kept to the plan and I went the whole distance. I just can't believe I ran that far.
As soon as I got home I whimpered my way into the living room to prop my legs on two freezer blocks. 21 miles does not make you that tough and it was at the end of my longest week of mileage ever.
I think it was only after that long run, with the reality that I'd finally reached the holy grail of "tapering", when it really sank in that I am actually going to run a marathon. Very soon. I am going to run a marathon. (I can't wait until I can say "I ran a marathon".) The more I think about what I'm about to do, the more emotional I get. Just looking at the LA Marathon website makes me well up and I find myself stealing little moments every now and again to consider what I've achieved already. I've changed my lifestyle, made personal sacrifices, remained disciplined even if no-one would know if I had a cheeky bottle of wine on a Tuesday night, not cut any corners and tried hard to take good care of my injury. And I'm still trying my best at work and getting on with the normal household stuff too (I baked a sourdough loaf last night and made a batch of homemade energy bars loaded with hemp seeds and cashew butter). I'm also trying to be a good girlfriend, but poor Neil has become somewhat of a "Sports Widower" of late.
Am I allowed to feel proud of myself? Is that allowed?
People keep asking me if I get bored when I'm running, but I really don't. It's hard to get bored of Edinburgh's beauty - I run around Arthur's Seat (yes, up that hill), along Portobello Promenade, through The Hermitage, around the Meadows and along Innocent's Railway to name a few highlights. What's not to love? I have taken to running without music too, because my pace is more regulated and I like being able to hear my breathing and what's going on around me. It's more peaceful and I feel more relaxed, funnily enough. I never thought I'd be able to run without music because I love the stuff so much, but here we are, almost ready for race day and the headphones are relegated to the drawer.
Another question I get asked is what do I think about. Hmm, lots of things I guess. I tend to just indulge in daydreaming.
And on that note, I'll leave you with some much loved things.
This week's top tip: Always be honest in your efforts because it's only yourself that you let down otherwise. If you never try, you'll never know; believe in your abilities, and you'll surprise yourself with what you're capable of.
If you put in enough hard work and you stay true to your efforts, you can achieve some pretty awesome stuff. I am slightly overweight and certainly not built like a natural marathon runner, yet for some reason I can run reasonably happily for upward of 4hrs on a Sunday afternoon.
A colleague who does no running at all told me this morning "I could go out and run a marathon today. I'm really f**king fit". This entertained me hugely, as well as irking me slightly. I would love to see him try. I would just love it. I'd love it so much. I really, really, really want to take him with me on a 15 miler this weekend just for a laugh. What I'm trying to say is that nothing happens overnight and it's laughable and slightly insulting to belittle a marathon, but with a bit of self-belief and a lot of patience you really can push yourself to do pretty impressive things.
Top tune: Easy by Son Lux
Do yourself a favour and don't listen to this through crappy laptop speakers. Put your headphones in or better still, get it hooked up to a sub woofer. Then say goodbye to your inner ear for a week. I'm properly excited beyond all imagination about going to see Son Lux and San Fermin while I'm in LA. I think this trip is going to be positively stonking!
This week's reading: The Ascent of Rum Doodle by WM Bowman.
A Christmas gift from a wonderfully lovely friend who has just swanned off to Oz for 3 weeks to work on a vinyard. Really charming book about a fake mountaineer with a mightily enjoyable foreword by Bill Bryson. It may have to be put to one side for a little while as I work my way through the Tapering chapter of my marathon book...I was trying not to tempt fate when I started training, but now here we are.
Love you for reading this far, thank you. I can't wait to share my finish line joy with you too. And yes, I'll be collecting sponsorship...