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A chilly March evening run in the rain….or plodding out the miles!

So, it is one month to go today to the London Marathon, and I imagine that most of my fellow marathoners are just about to start tapering down as they have probably just put in their longest run, or they are about to this weekend – (a good way to run off those chocolate Easter eggs that I always tell myself that I won’t eat!).  Not me, nope I am finally just picking up my mileage as my training finally begins to look like it is taking some sort of shape.  And this evening after work I managed to convince myself despite the cold drizzle that it was better to go for a run instead of straight home.  So, as commuters were heading in all directions along Westminster Bridge, I started out for the Royal Parks.  My first mile through St James’s Park and up along Green Park is always a bit of a plod, and a stop start at all the lights and crossings until I get to Hyde Park, and then I begin to relax and start to find my stride.  My aim was to go cover somewhere over 13miles this evening, and so as not to make the run too monotonous, my first lap was around the outside of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  There’s a street at the bottom of Kensington Gardens that is seriously more like millionaires row, but it slopes gently up hill so quite frankly it could be a hovel for all the distraction it lends.  I always then enjoy the stretch along Bayswater – there’s something about running along against the flow of traffic that always makes it feel like I’m running quite fast…I wasn’t, although I think that was possibly my paciest mile.  As I turned back into Hyde Park and down the Park Lane side there’s always that desire to head straight for home as I reach Hyde Park Corner, but I was good and gritted my teeth and turned the corner and covered another two laps of Hyde Park, back over the corner and round Green Park, a lap round St James’s, and along the river up to Vauxhall Bridge, over the bridge and along the south side of the river back to St Thomas’s.  Bleurgh, I heard my watch bleep and glimpsed it but in the dark I misread it and thought I had only just about covered 12 miles, so my delight was quite substantial when I reached the door and it read roughly 16 miles!  I startled a patient covertly smoking in the shadows as I whooped loudly.  It took me roughly two and a half hours or there abouts…so only another ten miles to go, and roughly another hour and a half of running – if I can keep a consistent pace.  I fear that from about 16 miles onwards my pace is going to become a bit more ploddy. But you never know what can happen in the next four weeks.  As I’m building up towards London instead of tapering down to it I’m intending to peak for it perfectly on the day (unlikely, but I’m being ever so optimistic), and also simply regard it as a long old training run for the Atacama Desert which is growing slowly in the back of my mind as October creeps ever so much closer!

Adding on 4 miles cycling home in cold wet rain wasn’t quite as much fun as running in it, it has to be said, especially when about 10 mins into cycling home I realised I’d left my wallet at work.

But I’m home now, mildly regretting that I have arranged a training session with Jon tomorrow morning at 8.30am, I’m sure I used to have more energy a few years ago and back to back training sessions evening followed by early morning seemed like a fun idea!  Right now I am questioning my sanity.

Still, 4 weeks to go, and after tonight’s run things finally feel like they are progressing.  After all the niggling setbacks, not to say my time at The Third Space gym coming to a rather abrupt and somewhat unprofessional end, (a long story for another entry if I can be bothered, suffice to say at this juncture that after giving 12 years of dedicated hardwork which I passionately believed in training others for races from 5k to 100miles to mountain and desert races, to be told 1/2 an hour before what was to be my last class that I was being “let go” was a little peeving, not to say lacking in any sense of professionalism & respect – but I won’t dwell on that now), it has been a tough training route so far.  I just hope that the next four weeks are smooth and obstacle free.   

Happy Easter one and all xxxxxxxxx

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I am a machine….apparently!

So a morning’s training session with Jon, Mr Commando Active.  My 3rd session with him since I starte up training again in the last month, and I’m sure during the first one he said something along the lines of relatively easy sessions to ease back into it all as I approach Christmas….I’m not sure that today’s session was ‘relatively easy’…it certainly didn’t feel like it had been easy by the end.

My training sessions with Jon always begin quite relaxed, consisting of some limbering up, loosening up exercises (although he does insist on sneaking press-ups into the mix every week!).  Today after warm up I had to do five sets of pull ups interspersed with five sets of overhead weighted squats.  Now that might all sound pretty easy to anyone reading this, but pull ups have never ever in all my years of training come easily to me.  One pull up is normally my limit and then my arms are dead and I can never get the second one.  Well, Jon has a sly way of making me do at least 5.  I balance on a thick elastic band that gives me some sort of purchase, resistance to help me get into the momentum of the pull up.  On the first two I can just about get my head above the bar right up above me, and it takes quite a lot of gritting teeth and puffing to do it a further 3 times.  On sets 4 and 5 I did actually manage to hit 10 reps, but I think that Jon’s goading has something to do with that, especially as he knows how competitive I can be.  The overhead sqats are another matter, holding a 15kg weight I had to squat low holding the weight in front of my chest then push up to standing and raise the weight high up over my head – bleurgh.  15 times in each set…a couple of minutes rest and then back to the pull ups!  This is all meant to be making my upper body as strong as my legs – but my arms have always been weak and it never feels like they will improve – I certainly can never envisage doing a pull up more than once without an elastic band bouncing me up! But to be fair I did once say that about press ups, which I can now do several in a row without collapsing in a heap – I just protest loudly everytime I am made to do them.

That all seemed relatively easy when faced with Jon’s next activity for me.  The club where I train with Jon has in its vast facilities very long thick ropes.  Jon attached one of these at one end to a fairly heavy metal sledge like piece of equipment. I had to sit at the other end and pull the sled towards me, as fast as possible, then immediately push it back down to where I had pulled it from…from that I had to go to the next piece of rope which was looped round a pillar so that was holding both ends, which I had to bounce the ends to make big ripples down the lengths of the rope – sounds easy, well I assure you it isn’t, especially when your arms are beginning to feel tired.  I had to do this with alternate arms for 10 on each arm, and then 20 times with both arms together, with Jon demanding really big ripples when using both arms together.  After this I had to go straight to a table that is about 3ft high, and stand up onto it leading with the right leg for 10, and stepping down with the right leg….and repeat on the left leg for 10. And then breathe….  gasp for breath, gulp down water, mutter something derogatory to Jon about not planning on taking thick heavy ropes with me to the desert, or pulling a sledge in the sand (let alone round the London Marathon!) I had to do this not once, not twice or three times, but five times. However, the 4th & 5th times I had to do back to back without pausing for breath! And, very sneakily, when pushing the now extra weighted sled back to where I had pulled it from I suddenly felt it get tougher to push – this would be because as it was still trailing the long thick rope Jon thought it a good idea to hold onto it and add himself as extra resistance!!!  He’s kind and thoughtfu like that.

All in all it certainly didn’t feel like a relatively “easy” session.  But, I have to say that with the Atacama Crossing once again almost 10 months away, I sort of feel like I’m vaguely back on track or at least heading in the right direction, even if I’m not planning on lugging a sledge across the desert!  What felt good, was when another trainer smiled and said to me “you’re a machine”…I assume in fitness terms this is something akin to a compliment – Jon assures me that it is  🙂

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Marathon motivation… I hope

This time last year I had completed the Nice to Cannes marathon for the fourth time. It was one of the toughest marathons I had ever run. I was tired and training hadn’t gone quite accordingly to plan, although I was fit. I just didn’t have the distance in my legs and after about 11 kilometres the darkening French skies began to dump their heavy rain clouds on the runners for the rest of the race. Despite the pouring rain, my ever faithful and loyal fan club that has followed me around all of my European marathons, was at the finish line in the pouring rain. My darling Daddy, under a massive umbrella, was waiting to give me his big bear hug. My wonderful Mummy was there too, I hasten to add, as she was guarding the car from French parking police, as well as keeping out of the rain. They have always, always been at the end of all my UK and European based races. Not ever at the starts – which was a running joke, especially when the hotel we stayed at once in Dublin actually overlooked the start of the race! I could almost always make out Dad’s voice or even spot him occasionally in the crowd of onlookers. I remember the first time I ran the Dublin marathon as I came round one of the final bends. Dad was right on the corner and gave me a big thumbs up and I heard Mum’s voice a few metres later… That was when I ran my fastest marathon in 3 hours 26 minutes and I remember the spur of speed their support gave me at the end.
In the four London marathons I have run, it has been difficult to see them in the crowd. Although Dad’s bellowing voice was always quite unmistakable, along with that of my sister’s crazy whistle which must nearly deafen whoever stands next to her. They all even managed to sneak into the VIP stands one year and saw me “sprint” to the finish line.
I have somehow managed to secure a place in the London Marathon for 2016. It is with mixed emotions that I look towards the next six months of training. For 8 weeks I have not been for a proper run. I look at my trainers on my kitchen floor waiting for me to put them on. I will have to – there is no doubt about that. I’ve been teaching my classes for the last three weeks at my gym and as I haven’t collapsed in a heap on the floor after the indoor group cycling classes, I know that I haven’t completely lost my fitness – and I apparently seem to have made them tougher in the last month, so one of my clients told me between gasps for breath!
I will be running the London Marathon for a charity, one which helped my Dad a bit on his cancer journey and which has given some strength through support to my Mum. It is Maggie’s Centres, a wonderful charity who support people and their families going through cancer. You can drop in for a chat, advice, a coffee and biscuit. They provide a place of calm to combat the whirling emotions that come with cancer. So watch this space as I will start my fundraising at some point…
I’m also hoping that running the London Marathon will help keep me fired up and fighting fit because my place in the Atacama Crossing has been transferred to 2016… The team at 4 Deserts have been very supportive in transferring my race entry. So, the journey begins again!!!


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A different sort of night shift…

So, not exactly a blog about running today but it’s 4:15am and I thought I’d share my thoughts. 

A few months ago I did not think that 2 weeks before the start of the Atacama Crossing race I’d be in the position that I’m in today. I thought I’d be champing at the bit putting together my last few race preparations and becoming giddily excited. Instead this past night has found me sitting beside my beloved Daddy in his hospital room, with my mother resting on a hospital camp bed at his side.  I had to keep my excitement at Roger Federer coming back in the second set of the men’s US open final very low key…just a silent fist pump. Although the night nurse came in moments afterwards and my darling dad asked me what the score was!  And sigh, Federer has now lost…boo!  

Both my parents are sleeping, and aside from the incredibly noisy oxygen pump all is quiet.  I have time to sit and contemplate.  In perspective I’m a very lucky person, I have a truly wonderful family, and our supportiveness and closeness has become so strong in these last few weeks.  I have wonderful and amazing friends who are all on the end of a phone or willing at the drop of the hat to go and feed or catsit my slightly grumpy cat who is somewhat bemused at my constant coming and goings between London and Oxfordshire, but is rather good at being long suffering. Monkey (dodgy cat’s name I know) has perfected the feline eyes raised to heaven expression, but has also become quite amicable with extended cuddles when I’m back.  I have a career in the best profession in the world…made even more clear to me as I watch the nurses looking after my dad. (He’s doing a little bit better now than he was a few hours ago).  I must remember to thank both my mum & dad in the morning for giving me so much, I won’t wake them just now 🙂

Watching them both here together – they make me feel that I could jump up this morning and run a marathon  for them straight off…only I left my trainers in London so I think perhaps I won’t…

I was meant to work a night shift, it’s odd though, as on a night shift I often long to go to sleep but tonight I’ve just watched darling dad.  

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