Running

Lauren vs Brighton Marathon: round 2

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Sadly this ^ was my view of Brighton Marathon last year. I say sadly because although I had a fantastic day (and vantage point) as a volunteer, I had hoped I’d be running.

I ended up on the sidelines after I sprained my ankle in the December. I had to bow out pretty early on in my training and wasn’t able to run at all for months.

My ankle’s better again now, so I’m giving it another try. There’s 20 weeks to go and I’m starting to train in earnest. I’ve been running three times a week, doing weights and interval training in the gym, and a bit of yoga too.

I’m going to fundraise for the Red Cross Syria appeal. I don’t think I need to mention how terrible the situation is and how much the Syrian people are suffering. And I know it’s not much, but fundraising is something.

I’m hoping that running for charity will also motivate me. I’m feeling really apprehensive at the moment. All that time off because of my ankle means I’ve run far less this year and I’m not as fit. 26.2 miles seems totally unattainable at the moment. I know I’m more likely to keep a commitment I make to others than I am one that I make to myself, so I’m using that against myself! The more people donate, the harder I’m going to train to make sure I get across the finish line and don’t let them down.

If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do it here >>>> https://www.justgiving.com/lauren-pope-brighton-marathon and I will be very grateful.

 

 

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Bowing out

Sprained ankle chic

Sprained ankle chic

I’m so, so disappointed to be writing this, but I’m not going to be running Brighton Marathon this year.

My ankle isn’t getting any better, and with only 10 weeks to go I’ve had to acknowledge that I can’t get fit in time. Obviously I’m not doing the half marathon in a few weeks time either.

I feel really sad on both fronts. Training for the marathon has been a really big focus for me for the 9 months or so. I’ve put a lot of effort into it, and I feel cheated that this is what it’s amounted to.

I’m even disappointed about missing the half – I loved it last year and was so excited about running it again with a group of friends.

I miss running full stop.

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful for a number of reasons. Not being able to stick my trainers on and disappear up on the Downs or down on the seafront for an hour or two has been tough. It’s a good reminder of my overall running goal though – I want to be able to run for the rest of my life. This is one injury, only a few months out of years of running. It’s not the end of the world.

So I’m bracing my wallet, heading back to the physio and hoping I’ll have my trainers back on soon. I’ll sign up for Brighton Marathon 2016, and I’m looking at a few September/October marathons too.

Week ?: catching up and falling behind

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The beautiful (uncrowded) Dingle course.

 

I haven’t blogged about my marathon training for months. It’s not because I haven’t been doing any – quite the opposite.

The last time I blogged was just before Dingle Half. I was underprepared and injured, so I changed my goal from running it in a good time to running it truthfully: without lying to myself about what I was capable of and without hurting myself. I’m not sure if I achieved it or not: I got the most monumentally awful case of cramp I’ve ever had (my toes were doubled back under my feet and I couldn’t uncurl them), which I think I can attribute to pushing a little bit too hard on the first hills and skipping a water stop. However, I did finish without my injury flaring up, and I enjoyed myself, even with the cramp.

After the half, I was really enjoying running, training hard, working on my technique and pace and feeling pretty good about the marathon. The only reason I wasn’t blogging was time – work, plus home, plus running, plus yoga, plus strength training took up all of it. It was all going really, really well.

And then I ran over a cracked paving slab and sprained my ankle.

I feel pretty upset about it. It was over three weeks ago and I’m still not really running – I managed 2.5 miles yesterday, but I’m sore today. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do the marathon – it’s only 12 weeks away, and while I was up to half marathon fitness, it’s a lot of miles still to add. One paving slab means all those weeks of training and all that hard work don’t really count.

Not knowing if I can do it or not is frustrating – I feel like I’m in limbo. I don’t want to give up, but if I do managed to get to the starting line I know it’s going to be twice as hard because I’ve missed out on so much training and I didn’t want to go into this underprepared.

All I can do is rest up, wait it out, and be honest with myself if it gets to a point where I really don’t have time to train.

Week 21: running, yoga and failure

Picture has nothing to do with the post, except that I saw these pigs while I was out running.

Picture has nothing to do with the post, except that I saw these pigs while I was out running.

I’m blogging about a similar topic to my last post – what it means to fail at running, but it’s also about yoga too.

Dingle Half Marathon is six days away now, and I’m going in underprepared and a bit bruised and battered. The last few weeks of training haven’t been ideal. I was really enjoying be able to go out on longer trail runs for the first time in months, but got a bit over-enthusiastic. I pushed too hard in terms of distance, and by the end of last week’s nine miler, my shins were starting to hurt again. I twisted my ankle a bit at Notting Hill Carnival too, so I’ve had to rest for most of this week.

It’s made me think about running and how I measure my success. I’m not just running so I can do this marathon next year – I love running, and I want to do it and enjoy it forever. Races, times, distances should be my secondary goals – running without pain or injury should be the primary one.

Yoga has given me a bit of a framework for thinking about this. In yoga, teachers often talk about Patangalis’s yamas (rules or commandments) and three in particular really resonate for me:

  1. Ahimsa – non-violence; inflicting no injury or harm to others or yourself in thought, word or action.
  2. Satya – non-illusion; being truthful in word and thought.
  3. Asteya – non-covetousness; not wanting something that isn’t yours.

In yoga and in running I’m always on the verge of breaking these three rules:

  1. Ahimsa – I either push myself too hard and end up hurting myself, or I don’t push hard enough and beat myself up for it mentally.
  2. Satya – I lie to myself about what I’m capable of, overestimating, leading to the physical aspect of number 1, or I underestimate, which leads to the mental aspect of number 1.
  3. Asteya – I see other people who run faster or further than me with less training and I’m jealous of their achievements.

Yoga and running look like opposites, but they feel very similar for me. Yoga should a moving meditation where you join your mind and your body through the breath. A lot of the time it feels like an epic battle between the two for me; either my mind is willing but my body won’t bend, or my body’s there in the room, but I can’t stop my mind flitting off elsewhere. Don’t even get me started on my breathing. Running is the same for me – you need your mind and body to work together to keep your pace up, or carry on on a long run, and the breath is often the connection between the two; if you’re breathing deeply and steadily you know you can probably keep your legs moving. (Although I have been known to try yelling at my legs when they’re tired and quitting on me. Doesn’t work.)

I’m trying to keep these things on my mind next week at Dingle, and throughout the rest of my running. I have an injury, I haven’t trained. It won’t be easy, but can do this without damaging myself, if I accept my limitations, find the level I’m capable of. The only way I will consider this a failure is if I push too hard, if i let my pride take over and forget my boundaries.

Week 18: ‘At Least He Never Walked’

“Someday if I have a gravestone and I’m able to pick out what’s carved on it, I’d like it to say this:

Haruki Murakami

1949-20**

Writer (and runner)

At Least He Never Walked”

– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m trying something a bit different on my ‘long’ slow runs – a run-walk approach a la Jeff Galloway. A couple of people suggested that it might be a way for me to be able to actually stand a chance of getting round Dingle Half in a few weeks time, bearing in mind that all those months of injury mean I’m nowhere near prepared.

The rationale behind run-walk is that continuous use of your running muscles results in quicker fatigue, so the longer you run, the more fatigued you get and the longer it takes to recover. By throwing in walking breaks, you conserve your energy, put less pressure on your muscles, get an opportunity to reduce core body temperature and recover quicker. From the little I’ve read, it seems like some people achieve pretty amazing marathon and half marathon results this way.

I gave it a try today, and picked an arbitrary pattern of running for nine minutes and walking for one. It worked out pretty nicely; my overall pace was only a slightly slower than it would normally be because I managed a marginally faster pace when I was running. Touch wood, I haven’t got any aches and pains now either, despite adding a mile and a half on to the distance I ran last week.

There’s a hitch though…

As I think the Haruki Murakami quote above neatly demonstrates, walking is taboo for runners: it’s seen as a mark of defeat. When I think about doing it during a race, all I can think about is the eyes of other runners boring into my back as I stop running and start walking nine minutes in, or the people watching and assuming I’ve given up.

It’s partly linked to the fact that I still don’t feel like a ‘real’ runner – I definitely don’t look like a runner, and walking just confirms it. If I can get away from my odd sense of shame about walking during a run, I think this approach will work for me for the Half in Dingle and Brighton Marathon too.

Week 15: racing and recovery

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After doom and gloom last week, I have a more positive post this week.

I had what’s hopefully going to be my last physio appointment this week, and got the nod that it was OK to start cautiously upping my distance again. After a long stretch of only being able to run a couple of miles at a time, this feels like great news.

It was also good timing too, as I was signed up for a 5k this weekend – the Gloanna yoga run. It was a good run as it happened: it was a short course and I ran with some lovely friends. There was a yoga class, cava and sushi afterwards, which was great way to round it all off.

The next event on my calendar is Dingle Half Marathon, which is in seven weeks time. I’m not very confident that I’m going to be able to do it – seven weeks isn’t very long to get from running 3 miles to running 13 miles, especially given that I need to be cautious about over-reaching and ending up injured again. On the other hand, I know I’m capable of the distance and I’ve been doing lots of other cardio so I’m still pretty fit, so I’m going to have a crack and see how I feel in a few weeks time.

Week 14: running, sexism and street harassment.

From Hollaback! Des Moines

I wish I didn’t feel like I have to write this blog post, but I do. This is about running, sexism and street harassment.

I know plenty of men get abuse when they’re running too, and I don’t want to discount that, but I’m going to write specifically about the sexist abuse that I get as a woman who runs. (I get it when I’m walking too, but it’s far more common while running.)

Firstly, I’d like to give you an idea of the kind of stuff I’m talking about:

  • Physical abuse, including having mystery cups of liquid thrown over me and having my bum smacked. This doesn’t happen often – three incidents in three years of running.
  • Verbal abuse, which tends to be a variation on one of three main riffs: ‘I do/don’t want to have sex with you’; ‘Smile’; ‘You’re fat’. If I don’t respond in favourable way to the riffs, I get the chorus: ‘Bitch.’ Something like this happens to me about once or twice a month. There have also been some more severe incidents, including a borderline rape threat that left me feeling shaken for days.
  • It always comes from men. (This isn’t hyperbole.)
  • There’s no obvious common thing linking these men – they seem to come from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups, as far as I can judge from the brief encounters I have with them anyway.

I’ve complained about this a lot since I started running, and most people are sympathetic and supportive. A few people have tried to tell me that street harassment isn’t sexist, which I find infuriating. The harassers are male, and the harassment always focuses on the fact that I’m a woman, on my body, and on whether or not the abuser finds me sexually attractive. If that’s not sexist, what is?

Most women experience street harassment, whether they run or not. But as I mentioned, in my experience, it’s far more common if you run. Why? Maybe running makes us more noticeable and more of a target? Because we’re likely to run alone? Because we spend more time on the street and therefore are more exposed to it?

I think another factor is that to a misogynistic or sexist man there’s something threatening about a woman who runs. A woman who runs is doing something strong, physical and independent with her body. To these men, women are meant to be weak, passive, dependent. A strong, physical, independent woman upsets the balance, makes them feel weaker and off-centre on a sub-conscious level. So they try make that woman feel intimidated or threatened, that her body has no value other than being sexually attractive, that they have a right to dominance over her.

Pseudo-psychology aside, I hate it. I hate that it upsets me. I hate the idea that it might put other women off running. I hate that I didn’t call the police in the case of the most severe incidents. I hate that people tell me to ignore it.

Most of the time, I swear at these men and keep running. But I worry that meeting aggression with aggression like this might get me into a worse situation one day. I’m trying to limit myself to a more moderate ‘Not cool, bro.’ I might even get some cards like the one in the image above, or the ones from Stop Street Harassment to hand out, but that would involve getting a bit closer to them than I’d really like.

I’d like other people to do something about it too. It it happens to you, or if you see it happening to someone else, call it out. These men are a small but vocal minority; us normal, decent women and men outnumber them, but it doesn’t feel like it if we don’t speak out.

Maybe if we all speak up, we can help them see that this isn’t OK, and collectively shame them into stopping.

Weeks 9, 10, 11: running and attention

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to learn to run differently, in the hopes of finding a solution to my shin splints.

On the recommendation of my physio, I’ve been trying to up my cadence – the number of steps I take per minute – from a lowly 150 to a ( unachievable) 180. In addition, I’m trying to relax my calves as I run.

Both these things take a huge amount of mental effort; I run along, listening to a metronome trying to keep my feet in time. If I think about anything else, even for a second, I lose the rhythm. This makes the calf-relaxing pretty difficult, because when I move my attention away from my cadence to try and work out what my calves are doing, I inevitably lose the cadence.
Normally when I run, I stick some music on, start running and just let my mind wander. I find it massively therapeutic – I tend to find myself quietly processing things that have happened that day, or semi-subconsciously working through little problems. I barely give the running itself a thought, unless I’m going up a hill, or getting to the end and feeling tired.

I’m finding it so hard to actually focus on the running itself, and what my body is doing. It reminds me of when I try to meditate – matter how much I try to keep my mind on my breathing, other thoughts creep in. What you’re supposed to do is gently push the thought aside, but with meditation and this new kind of running, I tend to get frustrated with myself, which is in turn another thought, and another distraction.

I’m going to stick with it. I’ve heard people describe training the mind to focus as being like training a puppy, and that’s exactly how I feel. My brain is constantly sniffing after anything that looks interesting, examining it for a few minutes, then moving on – I need to teach it to focus on one thing for extended periods of time if I’m going to fix my running, and I think it’ll probably stand me in good stead in other areas too.

The plan is to run short distances three times a week, working on my form and stopping if I get any pain. I’m really looking forward to the stage where this new technique starts to become natural, and I can back to running as therapy.

Week 8

Photo c/o Ruth

Sunday 25th May – hot flow yoga

Monday 26th May – vinyasa flow yoga

Tuesday 27th May – rest day

Wednesday 28th May – circuits

Thursday 29th May – hot yoga

Friday 30th May – rest day

Saturday 31st May – 10 mile walk (with a horse on the way)

Still no running, as per my resolution last week. I did manage to more or less stick to my exercise plan for the week, minus one cross-training session that I just couldn’t fit on because of a busy week at work.

I’m pretty good at making time to exercise, even when I’m busy. Hopefuolly this will stnd me in good stead when the runs start getting longer and I need to commit even more time.

Week 6 and 7 – write off

Shoreham power station on my run

Down by Shoreham power station on a run

I skipped last week’s blog post as I ran out of time to write it, and I nearly did the same this week too. My shin splints are back with an absolute vengence, so I can’t run. My cross-training fall by the wayside too, as I’ve been feeling pretty frustrated, and I’ve also been busy with work and social stuff.

When I don’t exercise I feel tired and grumpy, so I need to pull out of this nosedrive. The plan is:

  • take another three weeks off running (I HATE writing that)
  • pony up the cash to go and see a physio
  • go to at least three yoga classes a week
  • do at least two low-impact exercise classes/TRX sessions a week

This should be achievable, and will be a marked improvement on the last two weeks:

Sunday 11th May – nothing

Monday 12th May – long slow run, 1hr 30mins, vinyasa flow yoga

Tuesday 13th May – nothing

Wednesday 14th May – circuits

Thursday 15th May – nothing

Friday 16th May – nothing

Saturday 17th May – nothing

Sunday 18th May – long slow run, 1hr 40mins

Monday 19th May – vinyasa flow yoga

Tuesday 20th May – nothing

Wednesday 21st May – nothing

Thursday 22nd May – nothing

Friday 23rd May – nothing

Saturday 24th May – nothing