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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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.

2013…My year in review

Like many, many other bloggers (and normal people) around the world, I’m using this strange between-holidays time to think about what the new year will bring. But also to reflect on 2013.

Any recollection can be incomplete and/or subject to misremembering. Or just blatant fiction-writing. So please excuse any of the former, while I try very hard to avoid the latter.

So, for me, 2013 was characterised by quite a few events of major personal importance. Yep, it was a pretty big year.

For a start, I got married.

11562203814_1a7a2f978f_oThat was pretty major. By anyone’s reckoning I’d say. After over a decade together, I finally made an honest man of @FrankDJS. And we had a fantastic honeymoon in New York. It was a long time coming (the marriage, not the trip to New York), but all the better for the waiting. We had it just how we wanted it – a very quick civil partnership ceremony, followed by an excellent dinner with our two closest friends at the Oxo Tower.

For a whole host of reasons, it was the best meal of my life.

Again, thanks to all friends and people who only know me through this blog or Twitter for all the nice messages of support. It made all the difference. That said, I’m still getting used to the words “married” and “husband”.

We bought our first home together.

Our New Home - 24Yep, another major milestone. After renting in the village-like atmosphere of Wapping for nearly 10 years, we upped sticks and moved “down the street” to Canary Wharf.

Compared to most people I know, the purchase and move appear to have gone very smoothly. It didn’t really feel like it at the time, but we got there in the end.

I can say with complete certainty that we haven’t looked back since. I smile daily waking up in this apartment (admittedly not immediately – I’m still not a morning person) and love the location, the amenities and the whole vibe of living here.

We went from arguing with the owner of the coffee shop underneath our old apartment, to being greeted by name by the concierges in our new building.

From looking out onto the strange sexual exploits of neighbours in buildings across the street to watching the sun reflect off the towers of Canary Wharf. Plus the whole pool, gym and sauna thing. Yes, I’m still addicted to the sauna.

Plus, I feel very grown up – it was bound to happen at some point!

310978_10151643583879187_968400615_nThe running

After running a load of half-marathons over the past few years, I ran my first marathon in 2013. Happily, it was the London Marathon, so I was running on home turf. I had trained like a mother-lover, but despite all my efforts I was still tripped up by a scumbag who pushed past me and left me with a badly injured knee.

I managed to finish, but a lot slower than the first half would have you believe – I crossed the line in 4:51, when I was aiming for 4 hours. But still – I completed it, and for the most part, had a ball. I also raised  about £1800 for Epilepsy Action – the main motivation to keep going after the injury.

It hasn’t put me off marathons, though I know it’ll be a while before I’m marathon-ready again. First there are some 10km runs to get under the belt, along with a few half-marathons. Maybe I’ll be ready by the end of 2014. We’ll see…

The surgery

11150292173_75939cfbf6_bAs a direct result of the afore-mentioned marathon, I ended up in surgery in late November – something I’m still recovering from. I suppose I’m lucky to have reached 37 without a running/sports injury, but the fact that I won’t be running again until at least mid-February 2014 still annoys me. Can’t complain about the medical care though – even though my career as a knee model is in complete tatters. Nah… just two very small scars.

Sadly, when they “opened me up”, they found quite a lot of scar tissue, damage to my femur and arthritis. All the same, I’m going to be 38 in a few weeks – should I really be surprised that my joints aren’t virginal?

Le Japonisme

10629335304_6776625975_hIn October, we enjoyed our first ever trip to Japan – 8 days in Tokyo. It was the first holiday in a while when I was seriously bummed to be leaving for home. Normally I’ve had enough of any city after a week. I can report with certainty that Tokyo has shot to the top of my list of favourite cities. I’m smitten! I know we’ll be back – though it can’t come soon enough.

I can’t narrow down my reasons for loving Japan so much, but would point to the unfailing friendliness of every single person I met, along with the cleanliness and efficiency of Tokyo. I know we’ve only scratched the surface of Japan – it’s a bit like visiting London and saying you’ve “done” the UK.

I couldn’t escape Japan this year. We visited an amazing exhibit of Japanese calligraphy while in Madrid in November and then stumbled across an exhibition of Spanish-Japanese relations illustrating how the two countries have influenced each other in trade and art. Back in London, we went to see an exhibition of Japanese prints at the Old Truman Brewery.

Actually, there was quite a bit of travel in 2013, with excellent trips to Madrid, Mallorca, Amsterdam, Dublin and Edinburgh. Not including the business trips that were sprinkled across my calendar in 2013. I got much better at packing, in terms of both speed and economy. Multiple two-days trips for business have turned me into a ruthless packer and an expert shirt-folder.

Looking Ahead

Looking to 2014, I wonder if it can top the roller coaster that was 2013. A few friends have commented on what a busy (and exciting!) year it was. I’m hoping 2014 is as much fun, but contains fewer injuries, illnesses and undesirable business trips. I’m looking for more fun travel, more music (watch this space) and bigger and better things on the work front.

But who knows? The best laid plans and all that…

If I – and those closest to me – can have a healthy and happy 2014, well…who could ask for anything more? And to you – you random hordes who seem to visit this blog in ever-increasing numbers – to you I say this: thanks for sharing 2013 with me. I hope you’ll hang around for 2014. And I hope it’s been as much fun for you as it has me.

Onwards and upwards…or as the great Stan Lee would say: Excelsior!

“The knee, it aches!”

EDI HalfSo with just a few weeks to go until this year’s Royal Parks half-marathon, I’m waiting on an appointment to see a specialist about my knee.

Those of you with long memories will remember that I was tripped up during this year’s London Marathon (thanks again, inconsiderate tool!) and wrenched my knee while trying to avoid crashing to the ground.

Months later, and I still can’t run more than about 2 or 3 km without the pain kicking in. I had self-diagnosed (thanks, internet) with ITBS based on the symptoms. I figured I needed some physio and specialist advice before heading out and running serious distances again.

One trip to the doctor later and I find I can’t see a physio until I’ve seen an orthopaedic specialist to ensure that…ominous pause…surgery isn’t required.

Arse.

So, no running for the next few weeks and probably (all going to plan) less than a month to get myself in a fit state to run the half-marathon.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Let’s hope it’s just some physio and a gentle return to the streets of London.

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.

Marathon Man!

I survived the London Marathon – but only just!

I know it’s been almost a week since I ran it, but the fact that I had to get up at 4am the following morning to fly to Jersey on business and the unrelenting workload since then have combined to make blogging about it all…a bit of a challenge.

In summary, it was the best event I’ve ever participated in and I don’t regret a minute of it. Yes, there were times I wondered to myself why the hell I’d signed up in the first place, but the feeling of running across the finishing line and receiving my medal made it all worthwhile.

Starting at the top…

The weather was amazing. If I’m honest, it was a little too sunny and warm for my liking, even though I’ve done a lot of training in Spain in much higher temps. This was going to be a hell of a long run – my longest ever – so I was hoping for cool, dry and still weather conditions. But the sun contributed to a great party atmosphere.

I’m glad I plastered a layer of factor 15 moisturiser on my very bald head that morning. By the close of business that evening, I was developing quite a nice tan there. My shoulders, which missed out on the sunscreen, weren’t as cheery and turned a lovely shade of cherry tomato.

This was my first marathon and I was very, very nervous on the day. But the supportive atmosphere from the other runners soon put these to rest and by the time I crossed the starting line, I was ready to take on the world. The first half was an absolute dream. I had opted, based on all the advice I’d received from friends and experts, to leave my headphones at home and just rely on the atmosphere and cheering crowds to keep me motivated.

I’m so glad I did. The support from the crowds lining the route was indescribable. I’ve never seen London from this angle before – communities  using the event as an excuse for a good street party, while cheering on random strangers. I was amazed at the impact this had on me. High-fiving people on the side of the road, exchanging jokes and just smiling as people hollered my “running name”, plastered on the back of my op…”Dr. Dick”.

The first half of the race was pure bliss. I felt on top form, was nice and hydrated and was genuinely enjoying every step of the way.

Then, disaster struck.

Running along Narrow Street, I was tripped up by another runner. I have to say, the most common phrase I’d heard fro other runners up until that point was “excuse me”, as they weaved their way through the packs in front of them. This guy, however, decided to use a more muscular approach and left me and a couple of other runners stumbling as he pushed through us. I did everything I could to avoid hitting the ground, but this stumbling and eventual banging of my foot off the kerb somehow wrenched my right knee.

I felt something grind against something else, which is never a good sign.

But no pain.

So on I ran. But by the end of the street, I was in agony. I needed to stop by a medical station and have it seen to. It was stiffening up by the second and I could barely bend it. The medic I saw was fantastic – thank you support staff! – and produced a magic bottle of something, sprayed it onto my leg and started to massage. I imagined it was some kind of topical painkiller, but unfortunately I saw the label.

It was just baby oil.

All chance of a placebo effect went out the window and once the massage was over, I hobbled on. I had the guts of a half-marathon still to run and my right knee was no longer working.

The sensible thing to have done would be to drop out and just chalk it up to experience. But that’s not me. All I could think about was the money I was trying to raise and all the time I’d spent training. I couldn’t just stop, so on I went.

Imagine running where one knee just won’t bend properly. That was me. I ended up in a kind of shuffle, interchanging that with speed walking.

I had been on pace for a 4:15 finish, keeping an eye on both my watch and the pace-setting runners with flags on their backs. But now, all that went up in smoke and I just focused on finishing the damned thing. I had some pretty dark thoughts as I hobbled along, but even cynical me has to admit that the crowd kept me going. By the time I reached Tower Hill and headed down to Upper Thames Street, I was once again enjoying myself.

Yes, the knee was still agony, but to be fair I saw lots of other runners in similar amounts of pain, so we kept each other going. Every time I slowed to a walk, someone in the crowd made eye contact and cheered me on. I felt so guilty, I’d start jogging again.

Once on Embankment, I hit my stride again – this was home turf. Most of my training runs have taken me along Embankment and around Westminster, so I knew every step of the way. By this point, I could taste the finish line and was doing everything I could to keep going. This involved any and all of the following: visualising the post-race massage, thinking of what I’d have for dinner, singing the George Gershwin back catalogue (in my head, obviously) and thinking what I’d do to the guy who tripped me if I ever met him again.

Turning past Buckingham Palace, I expected to be able to get my sprint on for the final stretch, as I have at every other race. But no. My body just didn’t have anything left. I had done all I could and I jogged the final few hundred metres and eased myself into a walk over the finishing line.

One part of my brain was bemoaning my shitty performance: 4:51 when I’d been aiming for at least 4:30. The other half  was screaming “YOU’VE JUST RUN A MARATHON YOU CRAZY LITTLE HOBBIT”.

Getting my medal and wandering up to the meeting point, I did a complete volte face. On the Highway, I swore to myself I’d never run another marathon. Ever. It was complete madness, a danger to my health and something I’m just too old for. By the time I was on Horse Guards, I was thinking about my next race.

And now for some thank you’s…

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me to run this marathon. I’ve raised almost £2000 for Epilepsy Action and the JustGiving page is still open if you’re minded to help me reach my target.

Thanks to my partner, @FrankDJS, who encouraged and supported me through all my training, helped promote my fundraising and watched my progress on the day. Sorry for scaring you when I looked in just rag order!

Thanks for my friends and colleagues for coming into London and supporting me. You’ve no idea what it’s like to see a friendly face in the crowd as you trudge along.

Thanks to the team from Epilepsy Action for your support and for the most welcome post-race massage!

Thanks to all the volunteers who made the day run so smoothly.

And thank you to all the Londoners who turned the race route into one long party.

As for my next marathon, who knows? But I’ve already got two half-marathons in my calendar for later in the year. All I know is, I’ve done one. I can always do another!

And yes – I do look properly knackered in this picture. Not my finest hour, but at least I’m still standing after 4 hours and 51 minutes of crazy activity in the sun!

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Marathon nerves…

It’s finally sunk in that I’m running the London Marathon this weekend.

Eeek!

Despite talking about it for (seemingly) months, and getting a decent amount of training in, I’m only now getting the butterflies in my stomach associated with big events.

It’s my first ever marathon!

Will I make it round in one piece?

Will I cramp up half way round and collapse in a heap?

Will hit “the wall” and fade away?

Hopefully none of the above. Time for some positive self-talk…

I’ve had some really good training runs. I managed to complete a half-marathon in the snow! I ran 30km a couple of weeks back and felt like a champion. Plus, no cramps or even significant tiredness. I’ve done enough training. I’m running on home turf. The adrenaline will carry me through. There’ll be plenty of support from the crowds and some friendly faces along the way. I’ve had some fantastic advice and support from previous marathon runners.

Most of all, I’m doing it for someone other than me. I’m running for Epilepsy Action and I want to do them proud. I’ve written all about why I’m running for them here.

If you can spare a couple of pounds (or more!) consider sponsoring me to run 26 miles around London. You can support my fundraising here.