Archive

life

Oh dear, nearly two months since I last posted! Shocking!

I’ve done a few races, but my training has been hit and miss, to say the least. Kielder Marathon is creeping up rather quickly and I need to get back on track and put some proper effort into running. It just seems so hard at the moment! There aren’t enough hours in the day, and it’s too hot, and I’ve discovered cycling …. the excuses go on!

But I do need to make more of an effort, not least because my jeans are getting a little tight and I’m losing fitness rapidly.

So apologies for falling off the radar, and do stay tuned! I’ll get round to writing up my recent race reviews soon, promise!

Advertisements

It’s been a month now since I completed the London Marathon. I’m still digesting, analysing and generally getting to terms with the whole thing.

People keep reminding me that I’ve run a marathon. Which is great, except that technically I ran most of the 26.2miles, but walked several bits towards the end. Not that this bothers me or makes me feel like I didn’t do my best, but it’s an important point and one I am very aware of.

I don’t feel that I’ve completed a marathon. It’s almost like it didn’t happen. I did try how to explain how it went and put into words the noise, crowding, and intensity of the thing in my London Marathon review post. And now, the more I consider it, the more I think that because I didn’t feel part of it at the time (because it was all too big and overwhelming and there was too much sensory input for my boor brain to compute), it makes sense that I don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon. How can I have memories of something I didn’t feel part of at the time?

And another thing has occurred to me – the monotony of the flat, urban course did not help. Running puts a lot of stress and strain on the body – it is repetitive enough as it is – but doing it for 5.5 hours and all on the flat makes it worse still. I think that’s why I walked a lot towards the end – my body just needed to feel a slightly different movement, to allow for a bit of easing off. I probably should have stopped to do some stretches.

What this all adds up to is that my head is still a bit mashed and I have absolutely no emotional connection to that day. I enjoyed it in many parts. But I still recoil in near horror at some bits. In particular – a group of women outside a pub who were encroaching on to the road, Champagne in hand, leaving us weary runners very little room. I could have smacked them, not only for making me feel boxed in, but for having the nerve to stand there with such delectable refreshments that I could not have!

I am now also a bit annoyed at the marathon for stalling my progress – I am definitely getting slower at the moment! On the one hand I don’t mind too much as mass road races where I chase a time are falling out of favour with me anyway, but on the other hand I would like to set at least a couple of PBs this year! But I do have to remember that a month isn’t really a very long time in terms of recovering from a marathon. I still get very tired quite quickly on days after running and I need to work on putting more good things into my body to help it get back on track.

Although I have been continuing my usual road and towpath runs out of necessity, what I really crave is greenery, hills and changing terrain. Which is why recent races like the Hot Cross Run and Bluebell Trail have been so damn brilliant, and why I’m running the Ilkley Trail Race next week.

Marathon distance remains a challenge and a source of huge excitement for me, and for this I am very grateful. I LOVED my long runs in training and am very glad I have already signed up for another marathon. I will be doing Kielder Marathon in October, which is an incredibly scenic, and hilly, route around Kielder Lake in Northumberland. It will be quiet and pretty and so not dull. Training starts next month – the countdown is on and this makes me very happy!

I’ve been a bit slack with blogging recently. I have been running, although I’m not working to any specific training plan so I’ve just been going as far and as fast as I feel like (which is not very, as it happens). I should be doing some work towards my next half marathon – Chester on May 18th – as it’s only a few weeks away. I’ve got some speedwork and interval sessions in mind, and I’ll be giving it my all for a sub-2:00 on the day, so I best crack on!

For now, just to prove that I am still here and still running (and still loving it), a few photo highlights from the past week or so.

01b8a165914e588ed3b682ed8c86d4afa4a37ef8a0

I love cherry blossoms. I like to wear cherry blossoms in my hair when they arrive. This was after Leeds parkrun on April 19th, the day I wanted to run forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

01245dbb376271ed16c30f404c844c2c2984ffec93_00002

 

Views at Swinsty/Fewston reservoirs where I had a wonderful Bank Holiday Monday run with my good friends Jill and Laura. It was incredibly therapeutic – we had some deep and meaningful conversations, but we also swore and laughed a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

01197843abafd43d3202f5e6a740e850403df81ffb

This is my friend Stevie (Helen’s boyfriend). He runs regularly but doesn’t race or do parkruns, so I’ve been nagging him to give them a go. I finally got him to come to Leeds parkrun on April 26th, and I think he enjoyed it! It was a bit drizzly but we had good chats.

 

 

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about whether I have a “calling” with regards to running. Nearly two years into my running experience I have enjoyed every type of race and every distance, from one mile on an athletics track to a half marathon on a motorsport track and everything in between. I like bumbling along muddy trails, the all-out effort of 5ks, half marathon consistency; any kind of running seems to work for me.

But I have been starting to wonder whether at heart I am a long distance, maybe even a crazy-long distance, runner.

I may not have run a marathon yet, but this time last year, when I was just a few months into running, the idea of an ultra was already appealing (a marathon didn’t appeal – go figure). I love the thought of taking off into the world and being out there for hours on end.

Whenever I drive over the M62 I get a strong urge to pull over and disappear on to the moors. I would run/walk/scramble up a hill, take in the view, then head off down and up again in another direction. That sounds pretty fantastic to me.

And on several long runs and races I’ve abandoned my usual close-watch on my pace and stopped to walk sometimes just because I felt like taking things in a bit more fully, or snapping some pics or chatting with supporters and marshals.

I just want to run, and enjoy the world along the way.

Marathon training seems to be a key driver behind this slow-and-steady-soak-it-up attitude. Building myself up for 26.2 miles has meant a change of pace. Big time.

I have loved making huge leaps forward in my speed and knocking minutes off PBs, and I am now missing that a bit. But I have entered a different mindset and am focusing on strength and endurance. Speed is on the backburner.

Running for distance rather than time is an altogether different beast, and both have their merits. But at the moment I am happy to be the human hunter and chase down the gazelle over miles and days until he gets exhausted.

My legs will carry me as far as I ask them, and I’ve a twisted desire to find out just how far that might be.

PS When I grow up I’d like to be Catra Corbett. She has run 100 miles more than 100 times and wears the most awesome running outfits. She is fit, feisty and fun. Now that’s my kind of runner.

As this is Eating Disorders Awareness Week I thought I would take a minute to reflect on and share my own experience. I have done this before in a difficult, but necessary, post on eating and food, so today is just a brief note on where I’m at now and how I feel about it.

The number on the bathroom scales does not trouble me like it used to. It has become a bigger number in recent months, but that’s OK, because that’s just how my body needs to be to do the things I ask of it.

I know my body is stronger, fitter, healthier and sexier than ever before, because I feel it.

I make informed, rational, and sometimes poor, decisions about what I eat and don’t eat. Disordered habits do not control me, although they are still there at times.

 

So there you go. As with all the mental health issues I have encountered during my lifetime I don’t expect I will ever be able to say I am fully recovered with no chance of relapse, but I am doing well. Very bloody well.

For information, advice and support on eating disorders, please do get in touch with beat.

 

 

 

 

 

An article in the Telegraph today from an interview with Helen Grant, Tory MP and sport and equalities minister, has sparked some debate.

It suggests she is encouraging women to take up sports that allow them to retain their feminine charms, such as cheerleading and ballet. The feeling of the article is that women don’t take up sports because they don’t want to lose their femininity. Miss Grant’s helpful suggestion is that they can wear sparkly socks while rollerblading (preferably while they’re on their period too, one imagines).

She says via her Twitter account that her comments were taken “completely out of context” and that she was “making the point that there is a sport or type of physical activity out there for all women”.

This is what I would like to say to Miss Grant:

I don’t run to feel feminine. I certainly don’t run to look feminine. I sweat, I go bright red, I huff and puff. I pee in a bush if I get caught short, I constantly have to pull my knickers out of oblivion, I wipe my nose on my gloves.

But I challenge you to find a stronger, more confident, determined and capable woman than me at the finish line of a race.

I am all woman, and the sports I enjoy neither preclude nor promote that. I simply run because I like to run, and it doesn’t matter how I look, because I feel great.

Today is Time to Talk day, an initiative launched by Time to Change to encourage and support people to talk about their mental health. Up and down the country there are all sorts of things going on today and through the weekend, from roadshows in shopping centres to groups of friends getting together for a brew and a natter.

I had hoped to join in one of the organised events in Leeds, but time and other commitments have conspired against me. So instead I am playing my small part by writing this brief blog and calling on anyone who reads it to get in touch.

From the Time to Talk site: “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it. Sometimes it’s the little things we do that make a big difference – like having a chat over a cuppa, sending a text or inviting someone out. And on Time to Talk Day we’re encouraging people to do just that. In fact, we’re hoping to spark a million conversations, and we want your help to do that.”

 

And that’s about it really – come talk to me. About anything. I will listen. Because I know this is a hugely important part of life – talking, and knowing that you are being listened to.

In my own mental health experiences there have been occasions where I have not felt that I was being taken seriously or even that what I was saying was being heard. One example that sticks in my mind is a doctor who told me to ‘get on with it’ because he wanted to go home. The rest of that story is very long, but needless to say his attitude did nothing to help, encourage or support me to get better. It was simply awful. I was at my lowest ever point and there I was feeling like a paid professional who was supposed to be there to help me did not even have the time, the compassion or the basic good nature to listen.

I have lived through my experiences of all sorts of mental health issues and, so far, I keep coming out the other side. The days when I talk to people about things are the days when I feel most positive.

Let’s talk. It’s time we both stopped running away.

Get in touch by email: gemmaruns@gmail.com

Or find me on Twitter: @gemmarathbone