Tuesday, 4 November 2014

I don't think anyone thought I'd actually do it ....

When I announced at New Year 2013 that I was giving up smoking as the first step in training for the Berlin Marathon my family smiled kindly and said "well done - you go for it, love".

But I don't think they thought I would actually do it.

For the first 7 days in January, I allowed myself to eat and drink whatever I wanted and in whatever quantities I wanted. I'd been a smoker for 29 years and not smoking was leaving a huge void that somehow needed filling.

Then I remembered the last time I gave up smoking.

In the space of 2 years, I gained 3 stone. In the four years after that another 2. Clearly, there were other factors in play too, but still. I had managed to lose a little of that by taking up smoking again, but in January this year, I was still approaching 14 stone. There was no way I could afford to gain even a stone.

So on January 10th, I launched the second stage of my Marathon training plan. I gave up drinking and I gave up cake. And sugar generally. And crisps. And whatever other rubbish was playing too big a part in my diet.

When friends asked how my training was going and I said "great, I've given up cake", they thought I was nuts, told me well done, and talked amongst themselves about how I was never going to be able to run a Marathon.

But what did they know?

Without fags, without sugar, without booze, I had a powerhouse of energy coming alive inside me.

Enough to power 10km brisk countryside walks. Probably enough to run, but I was too scared to run.

Scared of not being able to do it, scared of what I'd look like, scared of hurting myself. Scared.

But I stayed off the fags, lost a stone and kept my drinking to a minimum. By March, I really had no option but to start running. Thank goodness for the Couch 2 5km app.

The groundsmen at the football pitch opposite my house got quickly used to the sight of me plodding my ass round and round in circles. And I got used to feeling like an idiot.

I knew deep down I was going to make it in Berlin. I had such a clear picture of myself smiling in elation crossing the finishing line. I had made a sponsorship commitment to Save the Children and to those that had sponsored me.

There was no way I was going to fail.

In the end, it took me 5 hours and 58 minutes. I smiled the whole way, apart from the last 2 km.

So now I'm going to have to do it all again, to live that vision of smiling across the line.

This time, I'm going to Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

10 days to Berlin Marathon and I'm finally back on the horse

Ever since I finished my longest run ever on 24th August, things have gone a bit wrong.

With only 5 weeks to go to the Berlin Marathon, my son's father moved his international girlfriend from overseas into his home, giving me only 2 days notice and throwing arranged access and therefore training schedules into disarray.

As if it's not tricky enough to fit in long runs, cross-training, short runs, bringing up a child, working to pay the bills, looking after a home, etc etc.

She is apparently a very delicate flower and was therefore to be protected from me at all costs. I on the other hand was threatened with court and forced into agreeing for my 2.5 year old son to be entrusted into the care of someone I had never met. Naturally, his father claimed that our son would only be in his care, but I can't see that that would be practicable.

The overall emotional distress from the situation itself was compounded by being bullied into accepting a course of action that I wholeheartedly believe is wrong. It totally took the wind out of my sails. I could barely put one foot in front of the other, never mind put on my trainers and run.

And even if I had, the pain in the top of my foot caused by my new trainers was adding to the urge to eat cake rather than run. And a pain in my groin/inner thigh seemed to be getting worse.

After 2 awful weeks of wallowing and with only 3 weeks to go to the marathon, I pulled myself together (just a little) and resolved to get myself onto the treadmill at least. On the way to the gym, I called in to my local running shop and indulged in a bit of retail therapy ... another pair of new trainers.

What is it with running shops and their obsession with "correcting" what mild over-pronation with shoes that feel like concrete blocks??? I'm convinced that there must be a better way ie learning better running form. I'm sure some of these stability shoes actually create more problems than they solve - at least, that has been my experience.

Please, Saucony UK - can you hurry up and bring your wide fit shoes to the UK? That's what I need - the wide-fit Saucony Guide 7. If you have a high instep or any other type of problem on the top of your foot, I seriously recommend trying Saucony shoes. All these other shoes I've been sold, barely cover the top of my foot. The tongue's aren't wide enough to provide protection from lacing. All the Saucony shoes I've tried feel wonderfully soft across the top. It's like wearing slippers really. But they're just not wide enough.

At this late stage, I've had to make a decision between getting a big blister on my big toe joint or inflamed tendons across the top of my foot. I've chosen the blister. Some Compeed will help a bit and I'm going to try out putting one on the inside of the shoe over the stitched area that causes the problem. Hopefully that will do the job. I've worked out some rather nifty lacing that keeps things really comfortable across the top of my foot and allows me to tie them at the outer side rather than in the middle. I just need to make the decision on socks - single skin or double skin ??? not sure yet.

I think I'm there with the new Guide 7s. And they are by far the most pretty of my recent shoe purchases, which is a smile-inducing bonus. So that's the shoes sorted.

And I finally found a bright royal blue running top that makes me think of dad.

I've worked a few things out in my head that bring me back into control of my personal life. Work is moving along fine. The last long slow run that was scheduled for last week didn't happen, which is a bit worrying, but I'm not going to let it get me down anymore.

On Monday, I headed out for a relaxed 10km over quite hilly terrain. I did the same route today. Both runs went quite well and I'm thinking that the flatness of Berlin will make the first 10km feel a lot easier. I know that once I've cracked the first 10km, I'll be well settled and in the zone. I'm hoping I'm alert enough to recognise a few of the sights I've worked so hard to pick out along the way.

With a bit of prodding and poking, I've got my donations up to £950, which is just £50 short of my £1,000 target - woohoo! It definitely helps that I've never done anything like this before. Friends, family and work colleagues have all been so generous.

So finally, with 10 days to go, things feel like they are coming together again. I've got a couple of 10km runs to do, a long long walk, and a few swims. I've got an appointment with my physio and one with my hairdresser. I've indulged in a bit of retail therapy, so my non-running Berlin wardrobe is sorted. The support team is booked on flights and in hotels. The post-race drinking meet-up has been organised ... assuming I can still stand.

All I need to do now, is run the 42 and a bit km from the Brandenburg Gate to the Brandenburg Gate.

Oh how tempting to take the short cut!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

2014 Berlin Marathon Route Sights

It's taken a bit longer than I thought to pull together a route map for the 2014 Berlin Marathon complete with landmarks, but it's almost finished.

It's here on my 2014 Berlin Marathon Pinterest board.

I'll be adding to it a bit more over the next two weeks when I get time and I need to finish the last couple of kms - I hope that's not the story of my race!

I'm only a second time visitor to Berlin, so I'm bound to have missed some interesting stuff. If you've got some landmarks to add, I'd be really pleased to hear from you.

Happy racing!