My Marathon disaster

A week ago today, I ran the London Marathon for the second time. My first race, in 2013, was ever so slightly ruined by being tripped up after the half-way point. I managed to finish (in 4 hours 51 mins) with a right knee swollen to the size of a large grapefruit. As a result, I ended up getting knee surgery to repair the damage, which was a whole heap of fun.

This time round, I was once again running for Epilepsy Action, but better prepared and in a really positive frame of mind. I secured my place in the race a months later than most – thanks to Epilepsy Action – so training was slightly curtailed. The sheer volume of business travel I had during the last six months was also a real challenge to maintaining a training schedule.

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Pre-race confidence and smiles

As a result, I ran across the Dutch countryside on Christmas Day (!!), jogged through Singapore in deathly humidity and ran in Malaysia in a non-air conditioned hotel gym. My final long, slow run took place across the Spanish countryside. All to get in shape for the big race.

I started this year’s marathon in great shape. My right knee (the one I had surgery on) had behaved itself all through training and my mental prep had me visualising the run, my pacing and large swathes of the course. I was on home turf, after all.

I was aiming for an injury-free completion, but deep down I wanted to beat my previous time by quite a bit. I would have been delighted with 4 hours 30mins or quicker, given my training, my previous injury and (let’s face it) my general level of fitness.

I really enjoyed the first few miles and the crowds lining the route were a big help. The mood among the runners was positive and light-hearted. By the time I crossed Tower Bridge, waving t the Epilepsy Action support team lining the pavement, I felt like I could take on the world. A few miles later and I was at 17 miles, waving to @FrankDJS and another friend who came to support me. As you can see form the below, I was in good form!

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Still smiling at 17 miles…

Sadly, it wasn’t to last. By the time I got to Limehouse, I was crippled with pain. Not the suspect knee, actually, but my left hip. I think – with hindsight – that I had been subconsciously favouring my left side throughout the race, putting to much strain on my left hip. Searing burning pain and a grinding feeling almost stopped me in my tracks a few times. Whenever this kicked in, I slowed down, moved to the side of the road and stretched.

This gave a little respite the first couple of times, but after that, absolutely nothing. The pain was as if someone was sticking a hot poker into the very centre of my hip joint. I was loose, confident and pain free throughout the rest of my body, but it felt like someone was putting my left hip through a vice.

After slowing down to a walk for about the fourth time, I stopped by the side of the road in Limehouse before we rejoined the route on the Highway. I briefly – very briefly – considered stopping completely. It was a chilly day and my body temperature was rapidly coming down. I began to shiver and stiffen up all over.

So I kept moving.

A shuffling kind of walking run. Anything to keep moving. By the time I got to Lower Thames Street, I was in agony. Absolutely agony, all centred in that damned hip. Somewhere I’d never had even mild discomfort before. I could have almost forgiven my right knee if it had given way, but it was fine.

And so, I slowed to a walk. For the final 12 kms of the race. It was hell. And every few minutes, I’d look at my watch to see the time ticking by and Westminster apparently getting no closer at all.

I was really cold at this point, but pushed on just to finish the damned thing. I had also spent the previous four months pretty much begging people for money for Epilepsy Action, so there was no way I couldn’t finish. No way.

The walk along Embankment and past Westminster was deeply, deeply unpleasant. Something I’d never want to repeat. I can say without reservation it was the most painful running experience of my life. Putting any weight on my left side was now agony, even when walking. So my final shuffle up to the finishing line (I wasn’t going to walk over the line!) was sheer, brutal agony. And there it was. A painful and humiliating end to the run, in a dismal 5 hours, 41mins.

A painful walk past packs of smiling and joyful runners later and I was at the Epilepsy Action camp, lining up for a sports massage. That in itself was incredibly tough on my body, but I assumed it was the best thing to do. I got congratulations from everyone around me, but I felt like a fraud. I had walked a vast chunk of the run and missed every single one of my targets, including crossing the line without injury.

Yes, I passed people along the way who were completely out of the race. Yes, I managed to finish it in the end. But I didn’t take a single piece of pride in finishing it. Instead, I couldn’t get home fast enough. I just wanted to put it behind me and get in a hot shower.

I’m not over running, but I’m over marathons. I’ve done what I set out to do, but from here on in, it’s half-marathons for me. When I remember all the enjoyable training runs I had over the last few months, I know I can run well and run for fun. I think the marathon is a step too far.

I’ve rested for most of the week, but I’m still hobbling a little. Stairs are still my enemy. So time to get back in the sauna and jacuzzi this evening. And time to start planning some post-summer half-marathons.

The single positive point from all of this is the fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues, I raised over £1,300 for Epilepsy Action. The fundraising page is still open, so if you’d like to add to the fund, you can by clicking here.

 

 

A post-Xmas recovery run

I flew back from Scotland yesterday morning, having spent a few days absorbing calories from the very air around me.

It was a typical post-Xmas scenario: in just the three days spent in Scotland, it was meal after meal, battling the Scottish cold and damp and eating more to feel better. This included meals out, a trip to an Xmas market and the requisite roast pork bap, a visit to Yo! Sushi and ingestion of my own body weight in Cadbury’s Roses.

I also got very little exercise. While I managed a cross-country run while in the Netherlands, my running gear was left unpacked while I was in Scotland. So after an early morning flight back from Edinburgh, I was keen to get unpacked and hit the streets for a run.

I was so very lucky.

While it was freezing outside (literally – I came across ice on the streets and floating ice in various docks and canals) the sun was blazing in the sky, making London look stunning – the Thames in particular. Even with the sun, I was glad of my gloves and new running tights. There was a riverside wind that could cut you in two!

And I wasn’t alone dashing through the streets: it seemed that half of London had decided to get out for a run too. It was a mix of slightly disdainful-looking pros and obviously new runners, trying out the running kit they got for Christmas.

But company is company, as I had plenty of people to pace myself against and, together, we battle the various obstacles along our way: toddlers, dogs, buggies and tourists, especially near the Tower of London.

The run was enjoyable, but I broke one of my own running rules by stopping a few times to take some photos. Thankfully, Nike+ now automatically pauses when it senses you’ve stopped, so these brief stops to capture the moment didn’t have a negative impact on my overall timing. But not a good habit to get into while I’m training for a marathon!

Here are some of the pics I took along the way:

I managed just over 10km in a little under an hour and felt very comfortable all the way around. I once again sought out variety and made my way along the Thames as far as Tower Hill. I then nipped into the City and ran through the deserted streets before looping back and running home via Tower Bridge and the throngs of tourists.

That definitely slowed me down. It broke my rhythm and was not the smartest move. I’ll be avoiding that particular route from now on, unless it’s very early in the morning.

I felt great after it and was pleased that I was so keen to run again after days of inactivity and festive sloth.

Looking at the next four months, my main challenge is going to be keeping to my running schedule while on many and varied trips for business. Running in Singapore and Malaysia is going to be interesting, considering the temperature differences to London!

But it’s all in a good cause: an enjoyable, faster and injury-free London Marathon, raising funds for Epilepsy Action. If you’d like to support my run, you can drop me a few pounds/dollars/euros via my JustGiving page here.

And don’t forget: moral support is most welcome too! So please share the link on your social media channels if you think others would like to support me. Thanks!

A marathon mince-pie run

Like some sort of crazy person, I went for a run on Christmas morning. To add to the madness, I ran 11.6km across unfamiliar Dutch countryside.

Thank jeebus for GPS and Google Maps is all I can say.

Getting a last minute entry to the 2015 London Marathon has shocked me into action. That and the need to raise £2000! So I couldn’t really justify a morning of just sitting around. After a hotel buffet breakfast, I headed out into the cold.

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I had actually planned for some holiday running and brought along some nice new running gear. Which I’m modelling in the above awkward, anxiety-filled photo.

I invested in some new running tights and some long sleeved tops from Decathlon. I can’t fault either. Both very, very comfortable and did a great job of keeping me warm in the inhospitable Dutch countryside.

The thing is, there are no hills. You may be familiar with the flatness of The Netherlands? No hills, but a wind howling across the flats that would cut you in two.

So I managed a fairly okay 10km in 57mins – only getting lost once and almost hit by a bike twice – followed by a much slower 1.6km trying to find my in-laws’ house in the maze of streets in Abcoude.

One hot shower and plenty of stretching later and I felt great. I have to admit, the challenge of finding my way across the countryside was quite fun – much more so than running alongside a major road in London.

Now in Dunfermline, I’m aiming to get another longish run done before heading home to London. And then back into a more regular routine of runs to build up distance. My training for the 2013 Marathon really worked for me, so I’m going to replicate that, but maybe build up distance a little sooner and ensure I do more tapering towards the end.

And in 2015, I’ll make sure I don’t get tripped up halfway through the race and also that I don’t have a business flight planned for the first thing the following morning!!

If you’d like to help my fundraising efforts, you can do so via my Just Giving site. Every single pound/euro/dollar will help the efforts of Epilepsy Action to de stigmatise Epilepsy and provide valuable information and support to people with Epilepsy, as well as their carers.

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Setting the target

As per my last post, I’m working towards a big goal: completing the 2015 London Marathon on April 26th. Not to be taken lightly.

After my last marathon experience, I’m looking simply to finish injury-free and faster than my first time of 4:51. Not too much of a stretch, hopefully. I’d love to get in for about 4:30 or faster. But we’ll see how training pans out.

I kicked off training yesterday with a nice 5km run around Canary Wharf in the Winter sunshine. “Nice” because I felt very flexible and confident – no stiffness in “the knee” – and because I made it around in a comfortable 26mins. I could have kept going, but had things to do and also didn’t want to overdo it after a few weeks of no running.

So I have a training plan in my calendar, all working towards the big day in April, as well as a sponsorship page up at JustGiving, so I can raise money for Epilepsy Action. I’m easing up from 5km this week and bravely anticipating some running over the Christmas holidays.

I’ll keep you all appraised of progress here on MacPsych.me, hopefully avoiding boring you in the process.

If you can spare a pound, click here and help me help Epilepsy Action.

Exciting and petrifying

Wow. I had all but given up on the idea of running a marathon in 2015, when I got the call. One of the very nice people over at Epilepsy Action got in touch this afternoon to ask me if I wanted to have one of their charity places for next year’s London Marathon.

I said yes in a heartbeat (two quick heartbeats, really) then scanned my diary for any potential conflicts. Thankfully, I was free, so now I’m looking towards April 2015 with a mixture of trepidation and glee.

Trepidation in that I have less time than I’d like to get marathon ready – yet it’s still do-able. I ran the Royal Parks Half-Marathon in October, injury free and enjoyed every step. Could have kept running, in fact.

But still. Can you ever have too much time to prep for a marathon?

So yes, some trepidation.

But also, glee. I’m excited to have the opportunity to kick the ass out of my one and only marathon time. I ran the 2013 London Marathon in 4:51, due to being tripped up half-way through. And of course, the ensuing knee surgery was an absolute laugh-a-minute, not to mention the physio.

Not one of my best races. Considering I’ve run a half-marathon in 1:42. So pretty much anything I do – while avoiding clumsy runners – will ensure I cross the line quicker than in 2013.

(I sincerely hope I haven’t just set myself up for massive disappointment.)

And the quid pro quo here is my need to raise some valuable funds for the excellent work Epilepsy Action do. I live with epilepsy and so I know first-hand the support they can provide to people living with this most common of neurological disorders.

I’m very lucky in that I can live a full and enjoyable life, despite the occasional seizure. Many people with epilepsy can’t.

I’ll be setting up a fundraising drive for this run in the coming days and would welcome anything – anything – you can give in support. Every pound or dollar will be welcome and put to good use.

Meanwhile, I’ll get training like a madman (in a healthy, sustainable style obviously) and keep you up to date on my progress here.

Royal Parks shenanigans

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Right. No more messing about.

I’m running this October’s Royal Park’s half-marathon in aid of Epilepsy Action. Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve lived with this condition for years and have found the support from Epilepsy Action invaluable.

I ran the 2013 London Marathon for them, but in the process sustained a nasty knee injury. That, and the result surgery and rehab, have kept me out of running for a long, long time.

But now I’m back. So I’m committing to running the Royal Parks halfie and, once again, looking to raise a few shekels for Epilepsy Action in the process. I’ve set up a Just Giving page, through which you can sponsor my efforts. Even if you can’t – and I really appreciate that we all get lots of pleas for sponsorship and charity donations these days – please consider simply sharing this link on your various social media outlets.

Now all that’s left to do is get back into running longer distances, starting this week. While simultaneously avoiding another injury to my knee.

(“All“, he said!)

Now that I can finally walk, run and cycle pain free.

Am I mad?

310978_10151643583879187_968400615_nI may well be…

I’ve just entered the ballot for places in the 2014 London Marathon! I know I had a really tough time of it at this year’s event, but I’m confident I could shave at least 30mins off my time next year.

(If I can avoid getting tripped up and injured again!)

I won’t know until October, but by then I’ll have run at least two more half-marathons and will be ready to up the training to the required level again.

I’m even considering the Amsterdam half-marathon this year, in addition to the Royal Parks London half in October and the Run to the Beat event in September.

Have I been bitten by the marathon bug?

Perhaps.