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!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A million pairs of running shoes and not a pair to wear

Today I bought my third pair of new running shoes in 5 weeks.

I loved the pair of Saucony Guide 6 that I started out with, but as I upped the mileage, I started to get blisters on the big toe joint. I've got really wide feet which apparently aren't particularly well-catered for by Saucony. I'm also a bit of an overpronator and the chap in the running shop told me that the extra movement of the foot can cause the big toe joint to rub more on the spot where the insole meets the side of the shoe. Sounds feasible, but what do I know?

One of the reasons I really loved Guide 6 was that it was really comfortable on the top of my foot. I've got a high arch and instep and a lot of weird sensitivity following the birth of my son nearly 3 years ago. The top of that shoe just felt like a duvet on the top of my foot. The tongue is wide and not too fat and just seems to fit perfectly. And I'm gutted, because I can't seem to find the same comfort in any other shoe.

I really had to change them. I'd had them for 7 months and I needed to get a new pair worn in properly before the Berlin Marathon. When I went to get a new pair, I did the whole gait analysis thing and we tried some shoes with a bit more stability. I ended up with a pair of New Balance which had loads of toe room, but not very much room on the top of the foot. They were really comfortable on the sole, but I should have backed off when there was hardly any lace left to tie. The tongue wasn't wide enough to protect the top of my foot from the top lace holes.

I didn't really like them from the start, so the last time I was in London, I made an impulse buy in London when someone showed me the Saucony Triumph ... why did I buy them? Because they didn't have the stitching on the toe box that I thought had been causing my blisters. But that wasn't what had been causing my blisters. And so even though the top of the shoe was once more lovely and comfortable, my over-pronating foot was rolling around in them like nobody's business and those nasty blisters were back with a vengeance.

The New Balance have seen me through some long runs recently. I've adapted the lacing on the right foot to take the pressure off the top of my foot. Which of course then meant my heel was wobbling about all over the place. By the time I took my shoe off at 30km, I had a blister the size of a tomato. That was 2 weeks ago and it's still healing. And the top of my foot was getting more and more sensitive.

So today, I went out and got the third pair of new trainers in 5 weeks. And I really don't know if I'm convinced. This is a high stability Asics Gel 11. Apparently it's fab for wide-footed over-pronators ... but no-one's said anything about sensitive top of footers .... I'm wearing them in as we speak. And they feel really hot. I hate having hot feet. And they feel rather heavy too. I gave them a few minutes run on the treadmill after I'd bought them and somehow I'm now sounding really heavy-footed. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty chunky, so I'm never going to sound like grasshopper when I land, but somehow there seemed to be more of a thud.

I've always been barefoot during the day as much as I possibly can be no matter what the weather and I'm worried that such a high stability shoe is going to somehow cripple my feet. I'd much prefer to work on fixing the over-pronation through exercise and then try out the barefoot running shoes. My foot naturally seems to want to go for a mid-foot strike, but these Asics seem to be pushing me back on my heel.

Hopefully I'll get used to them quickly, but just in case, I think I might try out a pair of Saucony Guide 7. If I order them from the US, I think I might even be able to get a wide fit! That could be my dream shoe.

Who knew finding the right shoe would be quite such expensive hard work?!?!?!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Horror week of non-training

Last Sunday, I was elated.

I'd run 30km - further than I've ever been on foot before; and I wasn't even particularly sore.

I felt great.

Right up until 9.21pm on Tuesday, when I got a text from my son's father to say that his Russian girlfriend was arriving two days later and would be moving in with him. I've been expecting it of course (we've been separated for over 18mths), but I didn't expect to have just two days notice.

I'm not bothered about him moving on and not jealous about them being together. I wish him well and hope they are happy. But it is complicated when there is a child involved.

William's father thinks I should trust his judgement and release my 2.5 year old son into the care of someone I don't know for weekend visits. I have a lot of well-founded reasons for being concerned about his judgement.

I don't want to go into the details here. Let's just say that we fundamentally disagree on when and how children should be introduced to new partners.

I had my last 5 weeks of training mapped out to the day. I was so pleased with myself for getting this far without needing time off for injuries. I didn't see this coming, although I probably should have. Suddenly, everything was thrown up in the air. It looked like my weekend long runs would be history and potentially I would have to pull out of the event because I would need to be here to look after my son.

Things really did look bleak for a while.

Thankfully, I did not smoke a cigarette. Phew!

But I did no runs last week.

I drank more wine than I'm used to, now that my body's a temple!?!?!

I ate cake, chocolate, biscuits .... anything sweet that I could get my hands on.

All of which just made me feel worse and worse.

I discussed the matter endlessly with friends, professionals, relatives. By Friday afternoon, I really was in a desperate hole. Really not the kind of hole I want to feel myself in again.

And then suddenly, just before bedtime, the final answer came to me and it was like a weight lifted and I could finally get up off the floor, and shake off the virtual kicking I'd been taking for years.

I spent yesterday settling into my new ideas and got up this morning ready for my first run in a week. I only did 8kms, but it was a really really good 8km. Not fast or anything, but strong and confident, and deeply pleasurable.

There's no more wine and no more chocolate in the house. Mum has volunteered to stay and look after my son rather than coming to watch me in Berlin. I'll move work around a bit so that I do my long runs mid week. I'll get a bit of extra help in from friends and family at the weekends in particular.

I will do the best I can for my son. I have lots of options. I won't be backed into a corner and forced into a course of action I am deeply uncomfortable with. I will set and hold boundaries and keep control over my life.

Everything's going to be fine.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Reclaiming my body, reclaiming myself

It occurred to me the other day when I was on my long slow run that for the first time since being in my early teens I actually felt like my body was my own again.

Running and training for the Berlin Marathon was putting me back in control of my physical being, in a way that I remember being as a kid. The freedom of tearing around on a bike or on roller-skates or in the swimming pool or on a ski slope used to give me such euphoric pleasure.

Boys, cigarettes, cake and wine (in that order I think) were my undoing. From that point at around 13 until last weekend, I had really lost myself. On many levels I'd given myself away. Lost myself in throwaway moments of no long term value to anyone.

Life's pretty tricky at the moment, but running's helping me through it.

And if I can regain that blissful physical freedom I remember from my pre-teen years, I think I may well fly.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The poor woman's mid-life crisis? Endurance sports!

Eight months ago, I couldn't run for a bus.

Two days ago, I ran a 30km (18.5mile) training run in preparation for the 2014 Berlin Marathon, which takes place on 28th September in less than 5 weeks.

Along the way I've ....

  • Stopped smoking 
  • Cut back dramatically on the wine
  • And the cake
  • Lost 20lbs
  • Fixed my post baby body
  • Repaired an old back injury (tipsy topple down the stairs of a double decker bus)
  • Made new friends
  • Built self-esteem and a greater sense of possibility and accomplishment
  • Gained the strength and energy to be an active and involved 43 year old mum to a very active and energetic 2 year old
I'm still 20lbs overweight and my running pace is slow slow slow. I don't look pretty when I run, but I sure look happy and I get to the finish line in my own good time. 

One of the reasons I've got this far, I am sure, is that I have always included walk breaks in my runs. From the beginning, I used the couch to 5km iphone app to get me going. At the start, running for 30 seconds felt like climbing a mountain.

When the app pushed forward to running all the way, I stopped using it. Put simply, I needed those walk breaks and I quickly settled in to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes. It felt comfortable and I was convinced that it would only be a matter of time before I could ditch my walk breaks altogether.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway's book "Marathon: You Can Do It". Based on my pace, Jeff was telling me that I should be running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute - what a result. He was also telling me that it was a perfectly fine strategy for completing a marathon. Being a bit of a geek, I ran the numbers on a spreadsheet and sure enough, those 1 minute walk breaks would make very little difference to my overall time.

What a result!

And that's what I've been doing ever since. All the way to 30km. Whoop whoop!!

So much of this running stuff really is in your head, it turns out, and Jeff lays out strategies for that too. Of course, something else may work better for you. We are all so different physiologically and mentally. But my point is, that if a really overweight and really quite sad person like me as I was can do it, then it has to be achievable for so many other folks too.

The one thing that has supported me all along the way (apart from family and friends of course) has been an underlying belief that I could do this. One of the foundations for that belief was laid by supporting other people at endurance events. Seeing the participants of all ages, shapes an sizes finishing events that sometimes lasted 15 hours, really gave me the sense that with committed training I could complete a marathon. 

Once I had decided that I was going to run the Berlin Marathon in 2014, I had to act. I gave up smoking just like that after 30 years. It turns out, that I had just needed to find something that I wanted to do more than smoke. And something that I wanted to do more than drink buckets of wine. And something that I wanted to do more than eat cake for breakfast. And at the beginning, taking control of those things felt really easy compared with the prospect of running 26.2 miles. 

Squeezing in the training has been tricky at times. I'm a single mum and self-employed full time in the headhunting sector, so there's not a lot of free time in my days. But it has so been worth it and I hope that one day I'll be running races with my son. Hopefully, I'll be a little bit quicker by then, but I actually think I'll get more of a buzz out of running further. Every time I run further than I've run before, it just blows my mind and my recent half marathon at Kimbolton Castle was one of the best days of my life so far.

Or maybe I'll swim the channel.

As someone said to me recently ... "ah yes endurance sports ... the poor man's mid-life crisis".

That may well be so, but I feel better, stronger and more alive than I've felt for 30 years, and I'm planning on feeling even better next year. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Longest distance ever covered on foot ...

by me, that is ... not globally in the history of the planet or anything!

I went out yesterday for my long slow run with a goal of 17miles and actually did 18.5miles or 30km for all the metrics out there.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go as my longest run to date had been the half marathon that I did last week. To be honest, I really wasn't looking forward to it. Part of me was suddenly worried that I might not have what it takes to really go the distance. Maybe completing a half marathon was enough for me?

Also, my right hip flexors have been a bit uncomfortable for a little while now. It's fine on the treadmill, but once I'm outside on more uneven surfaces, a niggling discomfort starts and it gets a bit tiring to run with. It kicked in a 2km on the half marathon because it was so hilly I think.

I had a really good and restful day on Saturday, drinking loads of water and eating little and often, so as to get that glycogen crammed into my little muscles. Bedtime was earlyish at 11pm and my sleep was peaceful and uninterrupted. The alarm went off at 7am and after a tiny dose and a quick shower, I threw on my kit despite the background doubts and headed downstairs for my pre long run breakfast routine, which went something like this:

7.30am 2 max potency Rhodiola Rosea with a pint of water
8am coffee and bagel with almond butter and a little grind of salt
8.30am a Barocca in a pint of water with 2 desert spoons of chia seeds, + supplements of turmeric, lysine and arginine (who knows whether these things work, but they're part of my routine now)
9am finally head off after multiple loo breaks and a bit of procrastination

Last week I tried out Huma and SIS gels. This week I tried out PowerBar (the packaging really puts me off, but they are the ones available on the day, so it would seem sensible to try them out) and Vooma Energy gels. I took three of those water bottles which have the hand hold bit. I can comfortably slot two of them on my bumbag and carry the third. Spot the amateur!! I must look a right sight, but they give me comfort and a sense of control, and I'm not aware of them while I'm running. I also have the lemon and lime electrolyte tablets dissolved in them, which I find to be refreshing and again somehow comforting. The other thing that I tried out was the Sport Beans.

Once I'd arrived, got parked up, set off my ipod and assembled my mass of running paraphernalia, I was ready for the off. I don't usually use my ipod for running except on the previous long runs I've done on the treadmill. On those occasions, I've opted for listening to books as I find that I can tune in and tune out when I feel like it. That's not always great for following a storyline, but I find music quite intrusive when I'm running. For this run it seemed appropriate to continue with Anna Funder's Stasiland.

Sure enough, the old hip flexors started bothering me right from the outset. It doesn't hurt enough to stop .. just a nagging niggle. And it's definitely better on the flat and worse on the cambered part of a pavement or road. I've got a physio session tomorrow which will hopefully help to sort it out because it will be really boring running with that in Berlin. Although, as the course is so flat, I'm hoping that the niggle will keep its head down.

I've still got some trainer issues, which is frustrating. My New Balance don't have a wide enough tongue for my high instep and if I do them up too tightly I get discomfort in my shins and my toes go numb! I used to like my Saucony until they started giving me blisters. Then I thought I had found the answer with some Saucony without the toe box stitching, but it turns out that wasn't causing the blisters in my first pair. Aaarggghhhh sooo frustrating. During the half marathon I picked up a new blister on my heal with the NBs. Foolishly, I thought that was a one off, but it wasn't and came back again with a vengeance during yesterday's run.

To be honest, I'm really impressed that I didn't give up yesterday with the hip / thigh pain and then the blisters, but after a while I didn't really notice them too much. It was such a beautiful day and I was getting a real kick from completing those 4.5km laps. I think that's a good distance to work with for me as a marker, so I'll be plotting out landmarks to spot at 4km intervals I think. Hopefully, Berlin will oblige me with something noteworthy to look out for at such specific intervals.

Pace-wise, I was going slow slow slow as directed by the Jeff Galloway method. That meant run 3 mins walk 1 min run 3 mins walk 1 min .... and on and on and on. I was doing 8min/km to 8.5min/km and got to 30km in just over 4 hours, putting me on target to finish in under 6 hours. That must just sound so horribly long to an experienced runner!

In terms of fuel and hydration, I had a bag of sports beans during the first hour with 500ml of water with an electrolyte tablet. I then topped that bottle up at a water fountain and had a loo break - I do hope there are portaloos on the route in Berlin! At an hour and a half, I had my first PowerBar gel (strawberry and banana - yuck), another at 2hrs, a third at 2hrs 30. Then I switched to Vooma at 3hours and another at 3hours 30. I made sure that I drank to thirst, but also drank more with the gels.

My verdict? I loved the zingy taste of the sports beans - I'm definitely taking some of those for the first hour of the Berlin Marathon and also some for the last hour. The flavour is so intense that I think that hit could be useful towards the end. The PowerBar gels (although disgusting tasting and with horrid packaging) seem to have the best affect on me. I did seem to notice a little rush of power to my legs and a sense of well-being restored. They are also quite small, so I can get a lot of them in my bumbag, and they open easily. I wasn't aware of how important that last point was until it came to trying to open the Vooma gels. With the first one, I could only get the top torn partially off and ended up wearing half of it down my shirt; with the second, I could hardly get the top off at all and ended up biting a hole in it. The whole wasn't quite big enough though and in the process of trying to squeeze the contents out, it ended up slipping out of my hand ... flipping useless! So, I definitely won't be using them. Also, it says you need 285ml of water with each one, which seems like quite a lot considering I like to sip as I go.

So, that's a yes for Sport Beans and a yes for PowerBar. No adverse stomach effects noted, and both seem to provide some physical and mental kick. Hurrah!

The four hours slipped by rather gently. Mentally, I actually felt great, which meant I could push through the leg pain and blister discomfort. Each lap was another great achievement and going past the half marathon distance was amazing. From that point on, every step was a step closer to my Berlin target. At 25km, I decided I had at least one more lap in the tank, so I went for it and finished up at 30km. I think I could have gone round again, but my objective through all of this has been to complete this marathon without hurting myself. So, I'm saving that extra lap for my next and last long run in two weeks time.

After a 5 minute cool down walk and a good 15 mins of stretching, I headed back to the car for a bottle of yucky protein heavy chocolate milkshake and a banana and some raisins. I'm not sure I could have managed anything else straight away, although I made up for it later with the biggest meal I think I've ever eaten!

Over the next two weeks before my next and possibly last long run before Berlin, I'll be doing a load of stretching, yoga, squats, sports massage and 10km short runs. My legs feel pretty good today. I'm sure that living in a town house with a tonne of stairs is actually helping somehow, but let's see how I feel tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Perfect day before a long run in training for 2014 Berlin Marathon

For what feels like the first time in my training, I have a perfectly free day the day before a scheduled long run.


William is off with his Dad, there are no family parties to attend, no friends visiting, no errands to run.


Tomorrow I'm going to run walk run a la Jeff Galloway 17 miles at a very very slow pace. So today, I've given myself permission to relax. Well, physically at least.

My half marathon race fuelling experiment seemed to work out last week, so I'm just going to tweak that for a longer distance. I'm also going to try out the PowerBar gels because those are the ones that will be available on the route in Berlin.

That doesn't really leave a lot to do today except read, write, listen, eat, drink and nap.

Although I actually lived in Munich in Southern Germany as a child from 1976 to 1980, I know remarkably little about the country's history. The little I do know was learned studying for a history 'O' Level that was completed before the Berlin wall came down! In any case, our syllabus covered from Bismarck until the conclusion of World War II ... so basically, I know a little bit about 80 years out of thousands of years. I'm hoping that if I know a bit more, some of the landmarks, road names, buildings, squares and monuments, will mean something when I spot them and add some much-needed color and life along the 42km route.

This morning, I've had a little look at the 300 years or so up until Bismarck. And it really is a little look! I'm no historian, but it's given me a bit of context. While I'm writing this, I'm listening to the audio of Anna Funder's book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, which tells the first hand stories of East Germans living behind the wall at the mercy of the Stasi. There's a good summary and review in The Guardian.

While I'm indulging this new interest in all things Berlin historical, I'm stocking up on plenty of water and doing a few yoga poses to stretch out my legs, back, and whatever else I can. I'm eating a small comlex carb based snack every 90 mins or so and am looking forward to an uninterrupted afternoon nap at 2pm.

What a fabulous day!

Oh, and I haven't even changed out of my pyjamas!!

Berlin ... a very quick history from the rise of Brandenburg to Otto von Bismarck

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the state of Brandenburg was a rising star among the loose federation of German states. Brandenburg was ruled by the house of Hohenzollern, which from 1657 also ruled Prussia. When Friedrich III, the head of the house of Hohenzollern, crowned himself King of Prussia as Friedrich I in 1701, all of the lands under his control became known as Prussia.

During the 18th century, Prussia became the greatest rival to the Habsburg Austria empire, which had been the major force among the disunited German states. In 1740, Friedrich II, also known as Frederick the Great,was crowned King of Prussia. Under his rule, Berlin became a major European city.

Throughout the 1700s there was deep rivalry between the two, until the rise of Napoleon finally pushed them onto the same side, but not until Napoleon had defeated Prussia and entered Berlin in 1806. The Seventh Coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom was the final stage of the Napoleonic wars and culminated in Napoleon's ultimate defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The wars of liberation against Napoleon had led to a growth of nationalism and democratic awareness, as well as a desire for unification. The March Revolution broke out in 1848 in protest against the traditional, autocratic political structure of Germany's independent states. The urban middle class wanted more liberal policies and the working classes sought radical improvements to their working and living conditions.

The people of Berlin made their demands for democracy, unity and freedom of the press to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. He agreed hastily to quell the unrest that had led to battles between demonstrators, police and the Prussian army.

A Constituent National Assembly was elected in May 1848 and gathered as the all-German National Assembly in Frankfurt. The majority of the assembly were academics and liberals. Their mission was to find ways to unite the various German states into a single nation and to write a constitution, but they struggled to make any real decisions.

Although an elected Prussian National Assembly was established in May 1848, it was dissolved 6 months later when the King unilaterally imposed a monarchist Constitution as a way to undercut the democratic forces. Otto von Bismarck was elected to the very first Landtag under the new monarchical constitution.

Otto von Bismarck was a conservative Prussian statesman and in 1862 was appointed by King Wilhelm I as Minister President of Prussia. He was a dominant political force across Germany and Europe until 1890, skillfully engineering a series of wars against Denmark, Austria and France that united the German states into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership in 1871.

During this period, known as the Second Reich, industry boomed and the economy flourished,  leading to a rise of workers' movements inspired by Karl Marx. In response, Bismarck established the world's first ever welfare state in an attempt to undermine the growing popularity of the socialist parties. He was committed to preserving peace in Europe and cementing unification. He remained as Chancellor until he was removed by the new King Wilhelm II in 1890.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Wimping out just a little

I need to do a long long run this Sunday in preparation for Berlin on 28th September. I had it all worked out ... the lovely Rutland Water is right on my doorstep and the pathway around it is supposed to be 17miles or 25 if you include the peninsula.

Rutland Water

We took the kids there today to the new beach area at Sykes Lane. The weather was wonderfully typical for an English day on a beach .... a bit of sunshine, a lot of cloud, the odd chill wind and sudden drenching downpour. Of course that didn't stop us from paddling, building sandcastles, riding bikes, playing football, eating a sandy picnic and enjoying ice-creams. 

But, I digress.

The point is, I had assumed that most of the pathway around the reservoir would be flat and I assumed that the mileage given for the circumference was accurate. It turns out that neither of those things is true.

I discovered exactly how hilly (for me) the route is because I drove around it today on the way back to give William a little more time to sleep before we got home. And now I've just plotted it out on MapMyRun I see that it is in fact only 15miles!!! What happened to the other 2 miles???

The other option is to include the peninsula which ups the mileage to 23miles. That's too far for this week, especially given the hills.

It's a bit of a shame because I was kind of looking forward to achieving that full loop, but I think I'll put it on the list for another day. This Sunday, I shall instead be looking after my knees and clocking up some very very flat kms doing 3m loops round a local pond. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Story of Berlin Reading List

I've been to Berlin once before in 2012. I'll be going again in a few weeks and this time I'll be better informed!

I've written about my plan for picking out interesting landmarks or points of historical relevance along the 2014 Berlin Marathon route here. And I'd like to put those markers into  proper context, so I've set myself a bit of a reading list. This is definitely not a definitive list. If I have time, I'll add to it.

For now, this is what I'm planning on reading:

  • Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin by Alexandra Richie
  • The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape by Brian Ladd
  • Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor
  • Stasiland by Anna Funder
  • Berlin at War by Roger Moorhouse
  • Hitler's Children by Jillian Becker
  • The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor
  • Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean
That looks almost as ambitious as me running a marathon!

2014 Berlin Marathon Route Sights

When I told a serious runner recently that I planned to do a bit of research on the sights and history associated with the 2014 Berlin Marathon route, they thought I was nuts ... "you're not going to have any time for smelling roses and admiring architecture".

To be honest, given the pace I'm planning on run / walking at, I'll have plenty of time for sight-seeing. Whether I'll have the inclination or the ability to recall non-essential information is another matter though. I can't help thinking that being able to drag up something interesting about whichever part of the route I'm on will help pull me through. Moving from monument to building to street to square and not just from kilometer to kilometer.

In the coming weeks, I'll be reading up on the history of Berlin and trying to find interesting things to know or to spot along all 42km of the route including:

  • Großer Tiergarten
  • Straße des 17. Juni
  • Berlin Victory Column
  • Ernst Reuter
  • Landwehr Canal
  • Spree
  • Moabit
  • Reichstag Building
  • Platz der Republik
  • Reinhardstraße Bunker
  • Torstraße
  • Rosenthaler Platz
  • Mollstraße
  • OttoBraun Straße
  • Karl Marx Allee
  • Michaelbruecke
  • Koepenicker Straße
  • Heinrich Heine Straße
  • Moritzplatz
  • Oranienstraße
  • Oranienplatz
  • Kottbusser Tor
  • Kottbusser Damm
  • Hasenheide
  • Suedstern
  • Gneisenaustraße
  • Yorckstraße
  • Heinrich von Kleist Park
  • Grunewaldstraße
  • Martin Luther Straße
  • Rudolph Wilde Park
  • Rathaus Schoeneberg
  • Hauptstraße Schoeneberg
  • Rheinstraße
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Platz
  • Wiesbadener Straße
  • Suedwestkorso
  • Breitenbackplatz
  • Hohenzollerndamm
  • Fehrbelliner Platz
  • Kurfuerstendamm
  • Breitsheidplatz
  • Tauentzienstraße
  • Wittenbergplatz
  • Nollendorfplatz
  • Buelowstraße
  • Potsdamer Straße
  • Potsdamer Platz
  • Leipziger Platz
  • Leipziger Straße
  • Jerusalemer Straße
  • Hausvogteiplatz
  • Behrenstraße
  • Friedrichstraße
  • Unter den Linden
  • Brandenburg Gate
Suddenly, those 42kms look very long!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bird's eye video of the 2014 Berlin Marathon course

If you're running the 2014 Berlin Marathon, you might be interested in this bird's eye video of the 2014 Berlin Marathon course.

I've used the official course map to put it together with the help of Mapmyrun. Select the "view 3d video" from the menu on the right hand side and take visual tour around the course in a matter of minutes. What a contrast that will be to the day itself!!

Here's the official course map:

Monday, 18 August 2014

Triumph at Kimbolton Castle Half Marathon

What a fabulous setting for my first ever half marathon and my first race since a 10k in 2005.

Kimbolton Castle Half Marathon

Although the weather looked more like this ....

torrential rain

Thankfully my brother had suggested taking a bin bag to wear and then discard at the start ... what a great suggestion! It kept us wonderfully warm and dry until the rain miraculously stopped two minutes before the race kicked off.

My friend headed off towards the front, while I hung out at the back - she had serious medal potential, while I was just looking to finish without hurting myself!

Even though I was at the back, I still ended up going off a bit faster than I've been running in training. The urge to keep up is quite over-whelming and the safety vehicle bringing up the rear is a bit unnerving. Thankfully there were a couple of lads carrying 50lb packs who were run walking at a slightly slower pace even than me, so it wasn't long before I settled into my 3 minute run 1 minute walk rhythm.

The course was described as "undulating" ... actually, it was what I would call hilly! Despite that I managed to run up them all bar two of the steepest.  The scenery was stunning and although the roads weren't closed, there was very little traffic to disturb us.

My pace was reasonably steady at about 7.5 minutes per km and managed to overtake 3 people in the first half of the race .... I kept hoping I might be able to knock off a couple more like the hare and the tortoise story, but no chance ... the rest of the field was way ahead.

I carried my water bottle with a nuun lemon and lime electrolyte tab dissolved in it. The wonderful helpers at the 3, 6, 9 mile water stations topped it up for me each time I passed by. I think I will stick with the nuun - it's got a refreshing taste and isn't sweet. It kind of reminds me of a citrus alka seltzer, which I've always been quite partial to the morning after the night before. Funnily enough, I got the same feeling of elation running that I used to get from dancing all night.

The slight discomfort that I'd felt in my knee the day before didn't amount to anything on the day which was a relief. But, the top of my right thigh was giving me some jip almost from the start. I really need to get that sorted out if possible. It's not bad enough to be a real problem, but it did interfere a bit with my enjoyment on the day. It would be a pain to run the whole of the marathon with it. I think I'm lacing my trainers a bit too tight too because my toes were a bit numb to start with. I picked up a couple of little blisters, but nothing major. This was despite twin skin socks and using the Compeed stick. I think I might have to try some other combinations.

It was the first time I'd used any gels on long runs. I wanted to try a couple of things out, so I picked up some of the Chia Energy gels from Huma and a caffeine boost one from SIS. Chia is a bit weird until you get used to it, but I've been trying it out on a daily basis and I've got used to the slimy texture. I'd had a bagel with almond butter at 6.30am with a cup of coffee and then 500ml of water, honey, lime juice and chia in the car on the way there. Just before we headed off to the start line, I had half a little bottle of Multi-Power caffeine boost energy drink to give me a little zing at the start ... I think it did the trick. I had my first Huma gel after 1 hr and the second at 1 hr 40 mins. Half an hour later and with 5km to go I had the SIS caffeine gel. I can honestly say that I have no idea whether any of them had any effect on me whatsoever!! The good news is that none of them had any impact on my stomach, which was a relief. PowerBar gels are available at the water stations for the Berlin Marathon, so I'm going to get some of those to try on my long runs. If they don't cause me any problems, I think I'll just use those ones as I'll be able to get them on the course if I need to.

There weren't any portaloos on the route, so I did have a sneaky pee behind a bush. I probably could have finished without going, but I wouldn't have enjoyed the last few kms. In fact, I got so emotionally choked over the last km, I might have found it impossible to concentrate on not wetting myself.

The last 500m was really hard work ... all ever so slightly uphill - how cruel is that?!?! Crossing the finishing line was just amazing. I am soooo excited about doing it in Berlin.

In the meantime, what went well?

1) Have an early breakfast of bagel, almond butter and coffee
2) Follow with water and chia seed, lime and honey
3) A bit of multi-power caffeine energy drink just before the start
4) No adverse reactions to the gels I tried and they went down fine with some water
5) Recovered well from brief emotional chokes
6) Smiled A LOT
7) Kept drinking and felt hydrated - I think I started hydrated and then drank to thirst with a bit extra after the gels

What do I need to look into?

1) Sock choice and general anti-blister measures
2) Lace my trainers so that my toes don't go numb!
3) Remember to press start on my Garmin Forerunner 10 as I cross the start line!! (which reminds me ... I must look into battery life as I think it only lasts 5 hours in training mode ... oops)
4) Make sure supporters remember what colors I'm running in so they don't miss me on the course
5) Get physio to sort out right upper thigh, hip flexors etc
6) Not sure I kept a good enough check on how much I was drinking or not drinking
7) What was the headache from?
8) About 200m of feeling like I was wading through treacle, but it passed quite quickly - was it a gel that fixed it? who knows!

Big thank you to mum and sister and kids for being there to welcome me over the finishing line; and amazing performance by medal winning friend.

This was a great first race and I'll be back to do it again next year, and aiming for a new PB!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Dodging the bonk

No, not that kind of bonk ... I'm talking about the other one ... the Wall ... the one feared universally by novice and experienced runners alike.

The one that can stop you in your tracks anywhere from about mile 15, although for most people it would probably come a little bit later at mile 17-18.

Basically, you just run out of energy. Sometimes it's your muscles that give up; sometimes it's your brain; and often it's both. 


Nothing left ...

Lie down on the pavement and give up ...

Talk to the little green men that have materialised apparently out of nowhere ...

I haven't been through it (yet) and I'm sooooo hoping I can avoid it. So I've been doing some research, because simply hoping that it won't happen to me is no way to give myself the best chance of enjoying my marathon without it.

As with all the running information I've looked at, there are many many different theories and bits of advice. How on earth do you gauge what's going to work for you? I'm going to pick a side that seems to make the best sense to me and then try some stuff out on long runs.

The following is a summary of a good article on the subject written by Paul Scott for Runners World back in 2007. It's the best I've been able to find yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open in case there's been any important breakthrough findings since then.

1) The carbohydrates you eat are almost entirely used as fuel by your body. Unlike protein and fat, they have virtually no other use. It takes about 10 metabolic steps to turn carbs into energy and 20 to convert fat, which can really slow you down. (I'm really not sure I can go much slower!)

2) Carbs pass from stomach to small intestine where they become glucose and are absorbed into the bloodstream and head straight for the liver. The liver holds on to about 100 grams which is enough to feed the brain for about 4 hours.

The rest of the glucose in the bloodstream is used as first choice fuel by the muscles. Second choice fuel is the glycogen which is already stored in the muscles themselves. 

Your muscles hold 300 - 400 grams of glycogen, but your running muscles only hold about 100 grams, which is enough for 2 hours strenuous running.

Once your liver and muscles are fully stocked, any surplus glucose in your bloodstream triggers the release of insulin, which causes the leftover sugar to turn into fat.

So, what we want to try and do is encourage our muscles to stockpile more than their usual share of glycogen in the days before the marathon.

3) Which brings us to carb-loading. Taper your training in the 2-3 weeks running up to the event so you are not depleting your muscle glycogen stores on long runs; and for 3-4 days before the event aim to get 75% of your calories from complex carbs.

4) The brain only burns liver glycogen and it can only hold enough for 4 hours. There's no way that's going to be enough to keep me sane on my 6 hour trek. Apparently, if I run out, it will take only 50 grams of carbs and 10-15 minutes to get myself back to normal. 

I think I'd prefer some preventative action though! I'm not sure I want to wait until it all goes wrong to try and do something about it.

It looks like a high GI snack just before the race will help get sugar into my bloodstream right from the start and because I'll be a bit active and jittery, I will apparently avoid the insulin spike.

5) Traditional advice has always been to eat simple carbs during exercise to keep the liver stocked to feed the brain and to spare the glycogen stored in muscles.

6) More recently, work has been done to investigate whether protein has a part to play. Protein actually helps with the process of restocking glycogen stores. It also stimulates insulin release, which reduces the release of the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates blood flow to the muscle. You have about 30 minutes after exercising to get a protein portion eaten that will give you a real boost replenishing your glycogen stores.

7) Studies on cyclists demonstrated that those consuming a 4:1 carb-protein solution could go almost a third further than those consuming a simple carb drink and nearly twice as far as those just drinking water. Does that follow for runners though? The researcher went ahead and designed Accelerade, which is the one sports drink promoted by Jeff Galloway, but it's got a pretty bad reputation for taste and some scientists have conducted studies showing that it makes no difference. I think I'll have to give it go for myself.

8) Drink little and often and right from the beginning. Even slight dehydration slows the movement of food from your stomach into your bloodstream. A good drink at the beginning will stimulate this movement from the start and then drink something every 10 minutes to keep the fluid flowing.

You can find the full article here. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

1/2 marathon fuelling experiment

It's time to start thinking seriously about how I'm going to fuel my long runs, so I'm going to try a few things out this weekend at the Kimbolton Half Marathon.

If it the plan agrees with me, then I'll incorporate it into all of my long runs from now until the big day. I've deliberately opted for as much of a natural approach as I dare take. So far, I've been running on jelly babies for long runs, but I'm keen to try out the Huma Chia gels and I hear that caffeine shots towards the end can make a real difference. So let's see how this goes.

7am Breakfast

  • Bagel with almond butter
  • Banana
  • Coffee
  • 8oz water
7.50am Drink
  • 8oz coconut water with 1 desert spoon chia seeds

8am Head off to Kimbolton

9.30am Drink

  • 8oz water with 1 desert spoon chia seeds

10am Race start

10am - 11am Drink

  • 16oz water with electrolyte tab
11am Eat
  • Chia Gel
11am Drink
  • 8oz water 
11.30am Eat
  • Chia Gel
11.30am Drink
  • 8oz water
12 Eat
  • Caffeine Gel
12 Drink
  • 8oz water

Hopefully, I won't explode despite all that lot!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

HydroPower - drink to run

In the old days, the answers to questions around what and how much I should be drinking would have revolved around types and bottle quantities of wine.

Alas, no more.

These days, what I'm wondering is exactly how much water I need to be drinking to keep myself well-hydrated on long runs.

There's plenty of different advice out there and I'm guessing that's at least down to the fact that we are all different. I've looked at lots of research and tried a few things out, so I'm getting a sense of what works best for me. What follows is the plan that I've put together for me, based on a number of different sources and some trial and error. You might need something a bit different depending on a load of factors including gender, the weather, and your fitness and activity levels.

Of course it's important not to drink too much water too as it can cause hyponatremia, which disturbs the body's delicate electrolyte balance and which can have serious health consequences. I saw that happen to my brother during a triathlon and it's pretty scary. He loses a lot of salt when he sweats, so he's recommended some electrolyte tablets to drop into my water for long runs, just in case. I'll look into that a bit more on another post.

Weeks & days before the run
  • In the days / weeks running up to the long run, drink at least 2 liters or 8 glasses spread over the course of each day - more if you've had a particularly sweaty day
  • Apparently you should be aiming for at least 6 heavy flow light straw colored pees a day
  • If you get to the point when you can hear sloshing about in your tummy, you've had enough
Two hours before the run
  • An 8oz glass (about half a pint) of water about 2 hours before run start
  • A second glass an hour before run start
  • Third glass 30 mins before run start, but stop if you hear water sloshing about in your stomach
  • Apparently, your body will get rid of what it doesn't need before you set off ... I'm not sure if I'm entirely convinced my body's that efficient, so I'll trial it and see
During the run

  • 10 - 12oz over the course of each hour drunk during my walk breaks
  • I'll drink more if I'm particularly thirsty, but not more than 20oz an hour and I'll stop if I hear water sloshing in my tummy

After the run

  • I'm planning on drinking a cold cold cold liter carton of coconut water, washed down by plain water until I'm no longer thirsty

So, that's my plan for this Sunday's half marathon. I'll see how I get on and then tweak it for longer runs as necessary. I just hope I don't spend the whole time trying to find porta-potties!!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Marathon: You Can Do It! by Jeff Galloway

Marathon: You Can Do It!

When I started my training, I used the C25k app which was basically about getting couch potatoes up and running without hurting themselves. It was all about the run walk method, which was a great place to start. As training progressed, I kept up with a bit of run walking, mainly because it felt right and I was keen to avoid hurting myself if at all possible. So I did a lot of my training running for 8 minutes and walking for 2 minutes. My view was that at some point I'd dispense with the 2 minutes walking, but secretly, I was dreading it.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway - phew! I think this is a great book for the beginner runner who has set their heart on completing the marathon distance, preferably without hurting themselves. You'll find much of what you need to know to get yourself around the course. The book convincingly explains both the how to and the why of the run walk method. It also covers running form, hydration, nutrition, mental preparation and race day planning.

It's really easy to read and there are plenty of references to other resources so that you can deepen your knowledge if you wish.

So far, Jeff, so good for me - thank you. I'm loving my running and you've shown me the way! I've completed my first half marathon at Kimbolton Castle and I'm on my way to the 2014 Berlin Marathon on 28th September.

Impending doom at Kimbolton Castle

I'm signed up for the Kimbolton Half Marathon this coming weekend.


It's my first "race" since running a slow 10k around Victoria Park in 2005.


It's all part of my end of September Berlin marathon preparations, so I'm actually secretly looking forward to it - just a little bit. Or I was until I read the part about the medal ceremony taking place at 12.30pm or after the last finisher crosses the line. Which will probably be me. I'm wondering if the potential risk of public humiliation will help me find the extra speed to finish by 12.30pm?

To help me on my way, I've been out and got another pair of new trainers because the New Balance ones I bought a couple of weeks ago just aren't doing it for me. I feel like I'm running with solid plastic lumps on my feet. The tiny over-pronation they are supposed to be fixing on my right foot just isn't worth sacrificing the comfort of my left foot.

Thankfully, I stumbled across an updated version of my favourite Saucony shoe that is now glued rather than stitched around the toe area ... so I get the glove like fit without the blister causing stitches.


I also took the opportunity to grab a few different types of gel to try out and some sports beans. I'm looking for a rocket fuel effect, but I think I may need to manage my expectations a little. I'm also mindful of the nasty effect such items had on my brother when he first started taking on endurance events.

It's Monday now, so that gives me 5 days to prepare for race day on Sunday. It's time to practice pre marathon eating, drinking, training, sleeping and dressing; and maybe a bit of hypnosis for good measure. Who knew there would be so much to it?

There's a lot of conflicting advice out there,but I'm going to do my best to get to the bottom of where current thinking lies on race preparations. I suspect there will be a certain level of bias as I'll undoubtedly be drawn more to the research that makes better sense to me. 

I'll share what I discover. I'd be grateful for any corrections or shared experiences. I need all the help I can get!

Friday, 8 August 2014

I'm such a geek

Who would have thought there was so much to learn about running?

It's surely just something that we do? Something that we were designed for?

That may well be the case, but when you've spent much of your life sitting on your bum, while filling yourself with all kinds of yucky stuff and stressing yourself out with work and life, it's worth searching out a few pointers to get you started.

And basically, I don't have time to get injured, so I found some expert help and did a bit of research. I got a couple of IronMen to put together my training plan, booked in for monthly sessions with a sports massage person, got properly fitted running shoes, improved my diet, and ran slow and steady.

I've read some inspirational books including Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, A Life without Limits by Chrissie Wellington, Spark by John Ratey, and Marathon: You Can Do It by Jeff Galloway.

With 6 weeks to go, I'm really enjoying my runs. Slow and steady. Run ... walk ... run ... walk. Kilometer after kilometer.

Now I've got a whole raft of new questions to answer:

  1. Is there any avoiding gels and sports drinks? 
  2. Will Jelly Babies and coconut water be enough?
  3. Why am I so emotional the day after my long run? 
  4. How can I avoid having a dicky tummy on long training runs and on the big day?
  5. How best to up my speed just a little without causing injury?
  6. Why have I stopped losing weight despite all the training?
  7. Shall I get new running kit before the big day or stick with my rather tatty but reliable training kit?
  8. Exactly how much stuff am I going to be able to carry on the day?
  9. What's this whole thing about getting your body to be better at fat burning?
  10. What are the best things to do to speed recovery after a long run?
  11. Why does it feel so good when I lie with my legs up the wall?
  12. How do I get to the starting line uninjured?
  13. How do I build the mental strength to get me to the finishing line?
  14. Will I be smiling or sobbing when I cross the line? both probably
And plenty more besides.

I wasn't expecting running to be an intellectual exercise, but it turns out if can be if you want it to be.

I'm such a geek.

The joy of running

Yesterday, I ran 22km.

Ok, so it was on the treadmill, but who cares ... this time last year, I couldn't run for a bus! Not that there are any buses to run for here.

I decided a while ago that I'd like to run a marathon, but it's taken a little while to get on with it. So on 28th September 2014 you'll find me sitting at the back of the field in Berlin waiting to step across the starting line.

I'm only running to finish. I won't be racing. If I make it across the finish line within the 6hours 15 mins cut-off time, I will be over the moon. I've still got a lot of work to do to get there, but the journey so far has been amazing.

  • December - gave up smoking
  • January - cut back on cake and alcohol and lost 20lbs
  • February - started walking ... a lot
  • March - started running using the C25K (that's couch to 5km)
  • April & May - oh dear .. moved house and dealt with some traumas
  • June - back on track, but a bit behind
  • July - as daytime temperatures rose, got on the treadmill - 8km, 11km, 13km, 16km
  • August - so far .... ramping up the long runs 19km, 22km
  • September - a couple of really long runs, 2 weeks tapering and then the big day

My mission on the day will be to finish. It's not going to be pretty, but there's other years for that. 

I'm aiming to enjoy it. 

All of my running so far has been run / walk. That just felt natural for me given my low starting fitness level. As far as is possible, I think I've checked my ego at the door, so even if I'm last on the day I shall be grinning from ear to ear.

I've just discovered Jeff Galloway's books on the run / walk method and it soooo works for me. If you'd like to run, but you think you could never go further than a 5k, then read one of his books and try out his suggestions. Just suspend disbelief and give it a go. I think you'll be surprised.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Slowly does it at Rutland Water

Rutland Water

What a beautiful morning for a run around Rutland Water. Well, not exactly around .... that's about 25 miles if you include the sticky out bit! It was more of a flat 3.5km out from the car park and 3.5km back.

I'm running the Berlin Marathon in September this year and doing ok with my training plan so far, but there's an awful awful long way still to go. I'm a bit worried about my knees, so I'm trying to engage bum (ie glutes) when I'm running, rather than just relying on my legs. I am beginning to wonder whether my slightly sore knees are more a result of the hundreds of stairs in my life ... maybe I should get a Stannah stairlift?!?! Someone else suggested a jetpack, which I quite like the sound of for marathon day.

Running on the treadmill has definitely helped me up my speed and I knocked 5 mins off my 5 km time today, which is great progress, although it just means that I now run very very slowly, instead of very very very slowly.

The first half of the run was pretty horrid. That's my own fault though for having a late night drinking on Friday. Drinking and training definitely don't mix, so I'm off the booze now until after I cross the finishing line. I'm fantasising about having a liter Stein of German beer when it's over. Until then, I think I'll leave the wine in its bottle.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is highly regarded internationally for her research into vulnerability and shame.

In The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion and Connection, Brené outlines how our mistakes actually contribute positively to our kids' development, well-being and sense of place in the world . Brené summarises it like this "It's actually our ability to embrace imperfection that will help us teach our children to have the courage to be authentic, the compassion to love themselves and others, and the sense of connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life." This is the wholehearted life.

According to Brené, it is impossible for us to "give" our children what we do not have ourselves. So if we want our kids to live a wholehearted life, we must first be doing so ourselves. To those of you that are already living the wholehearted dream - "you're amazing" (and you kind of already but humbly probably know it) - to the rest of us "you're amazing" (you just don't feel it yet). Here are Brené's 10 pointers for wholehearted living which are actually taken from her most recent book Daring Greatly:

1) Cultivate authenticity and let go of worrying about what people think

2) Cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfectionism

3) Cultivate resilience and let go of powerlessness

4) Cultivate gratitude and joy and let go of scarcity and fear

5) Cultivate intuition and trusting faith and let go of the need for certainty

6) Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison

7) Cultivate play and rest and let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8) Cultivate calm and stillness and let go of anxiety as lifestyle

9) Cultivate meaningful work and let go of self-doubt and supposed to

10) Cultivate laughter, song and dance and let go of being cool and always in control

You'll get a much better idea of what she's all about from her TED talks like this one on vulnerability

If you can make the time, I thoroughly recommend reading / listening to any of her work.

St George's Cross & Union Jack Crochet Cushion

In the run-up to the World Cup and to Wimbledon, I thought I'd get a bit patriotic and use up some old red, white and blue yarn that's been knocking about.

The plan was to try out some new granny squares to make a St George's Cross on one side and then somehow design a Union Jack pattern for the other side.

I really thought that I'd get enough viewing time out of England's World Cup squad and Andy Murray to be able to complete it.

Hmmmm .... that didn't go quite to plan, did it?

Union Jack

St George's Cross

What am I thinking?

It often depends on what I've been reading.

So, I've added a new page ... Inspiration ... where you can find quick summaries and useful links to author's blogs, TED talks, book reviews etc.

Over the last couple of years I've read and listened to a lot of books on my quest to understand the workings of the world better. If I enjoyed them, I'll be including them. I  might even throw some of my favorite craft books in for good measure!

It's a bit sparse at the moment, but I'll keep adding to it.

The kindness of strangers

A heartfelt thank you to knitnrun4sanity for her lovely message.

It got me thinking about the importance of connection and the tremendous impact that people can have on you consciously and subconsciously.

I hadn't really given it much thought until now, but it's partly down to her posts about running, that I've got off the couch and am training for the Berlin Marathon in September. Thanks for that too!

Missing ...

.... has anyone seen my last two years?

I'm not sure where they went.

A lot's happened since my last post. And so I find myself in the kind of position I would prefer not to be in. Maybe I'll write about it one day, maybe not. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to show that kind of vulnerability.

Let's see if I can climb out of hibernation and get back to this blog.