Why I am quite happy that my marathon plans changed…

So, in part one of How I Ended Up Entering a Marathon (despite always saying that I wouldn’t), I admitted that I had planned to enter one, just not this one.  I am happy with this change of plan and this is why…

Running Karma
Helen had to pull out of the Brighton marathon because of injury and then two weeks later she  soldiered on through London (dressed as the Twitter bird) to raise funds for three very good causes. I had been thinking to myself “It would be lovely to run a race with Hels as part of her challenge, I wonder if she’ll be doing a half marathon where I can tag along”. The gods of running defintely heard this one, but clearly went “LA LA LA LA LA LA NOT LISTENING” at the bit where I said ‘half’.

Running with lovely friends
So I get to do a tiny bit to support Hels, but I also get to run with other lovely people – there’s Cathy and Rachel for starters and then any other number of people who will be encouraged, bullied, bribed and cajoled into entering as well. The current rule seems to be, if we’re talking about it on Facebook and you comment on the conversation, then you’re in. Anyway, I miss running with friends. I have no running friends near me, they all live on Twitter (my real life friend who got me into running moved away for love, pah). When I see people meeting up for races I get a twinge of envy and so this is my chance. You may point out that I could make some running friends round here, but that would be scary and for now I will reply “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA NOT LISTENING”.

A year is a long time
Contemplating Manchester, my actual voice was saying “that gives me a year to train, that’s brilliant, I can take it slowly, build a good base, get fitter…” however my inner voice was saying “a year is a very long time, I have to wait for aaaages, waiting’s boring*…”.

But six months is just long enough
Would I be able to keep my focus for a year? Probably not. Will I be able to keep my focus for six months? There’s a marginally better chance. The other advantage of having six months to prepare is that it gives me a bit of wiggle room because I am dreadful at following training plans and…

I don’t have a training plan
And I do not want one. If I have a training plan that last for say 12 weeks, I will start it with 12 weeks to go until my race. Several things will then happen. Something will go wrong; I will get a niggle, a cold, go on holiday, be faced with extreme weather conditions, whatever, what it means is that I will miss a week or two. I will have bad sessions where I struggle and this will knock my confidence and I will struggle with the same thing the week after or I will simply abandon hills/intervals/whatever I have done badly. I will also see the weeks ticking down, 12, 11, 10… until I panic, feel that I will never be ready (because inevitably I have missed sessions) and I will sabotage myself by just not running. Training plans and I do not see eye to eye.

But I do have a plan
I am trying to run three or four times a week, one will probably be hills or intervals (dusting off the old Audiofuel Pyramid sessions again) and one will be a ‘long’ run. I’m increasing the distance of my longer run by a mile each week. I will keep doing this until my half marathon in September and then see how I’m doing.

I also have a book
I do love having a book. This is mostly due to my love of procrastination, but I feel reassured by having a book. My book is a second-hand copy of  The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer and I think that I like it. It has already spoken wise words to me, mostly about the psychological side of things because (and you may not have noticed this…) I do tend to panic and get a bit negative about things at times. At the moment though, I am quite positive and feel that I can do this thing…

But I am also realistic
I have been bubbling with enthusiasm and positivity since signing up and I am sensible enough to know that it is easy to do this when the marathon is still months away and my training is within the realms of my experience. However, I also know that when the doubts creep in (and they have been giving me a nudge this week) I want to be be able to look back at the bubbling enthusiasm and remind myself that I can feel like this.

Oh, and did I mention the bling…
It’s very good bling.

*A phrase trademarked by my five-year old niece

How I ended up entering a marathon

I’ve always said that I didn’t want to train for a marathon. The idea of finishing one and being A Marathon Runner? Oh I was fine with that, but the actual training? Three-hour long runs on a weekend? I don’t think so. The problem is, when you surround yourself with runners (and I am surrounded by some AMAZING runners, you know who you are) you look at their achievements and a sneaky little “I wonder if I could do that?” creeps in.

My transition from a definite NO!!! to a maybe…. to an actual click on a Paypal button has taken three years. It may have happened sooner if Mini-Ginge hadn’t come along, but he did and now feels like the right time to do this thing.

So I had come round to the concept, but how (I keep asking myself) have I ended up entering a marathon that is 290 miles away from my house? The answer my friends, is the same as why I ran my first half-marathon 290 miles away from my house. Put simply, the answer is “my friends”. Namely Cathy and Hels.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened (Twitter appears to have eaten our conversation) but I think I asked Hels when she was thinking of doing her next marathon after London, Dymchurch was mentioned, I offered to be head cheerleader and the next thing I know… Click.

This wasn’t my plan. My plan was to run Manchester next Spring, that was my plan. I had just come to terms with it (although I hadn’t summoned up the courage to enter) and then everything changed. And you know what? I think it’s for the best…

To be continued.


National Trust Night Run

I forgot to mention that I ran an actual race a few weeks ago. Well, it wasn’t really a competitive kind of affair, but I did get a medal and a goody bag so that makes it a race in my eyes.

The National Trust are keen to get people involved with sport at their properties and organised a series of night races over the winter months. I had originally signed up for one at Lyme Park until I ended up with a rare double booking in my social calendar. I emailed them on the off chance that I could transfer to another race, made a quick phone call to a lovely lady, paid a couple of quid for admin and was re-registered to the last race of the series at Liverpool’s Speke Hall. Rather wonderfully (and I’m sure that someone planned this) the final race was held on the last Saturday of GMT, the last chance to do a relatively early run in the dark.


My post-race enthusiasm hides the fact that I very nearly didn’t go… I’d not run for several weeks, my head was a bit gloomy and my spasm-wrought back had only just been released by the ruthless hands of my therapist. It was also raining. I took the positive step of ordering a torch from Argos with the plan that if I did decide to run, I could nip to pick it up on the way. I was that organised.

The torch was available to collect at 4pm, I needed to set off for the race around 5 so, perhaps inevitably, at around 4.30 in the afternoon, I decided that I would go for it. This was the first race that I have ever gone to on my own and I was more than a little bit nervous. I sat in the car park, fitting the batteries in my new torch and watching all of  the fluorescent-clad, head-torched runners arrive. I texted Ginge to say that it looked like a small race, I was going to be last and it was raining.

IMG_7217As you would expect from a National Trust event, the marshalls were all extremely friendly and helpful, cheerfully guiding us round to where we needed to collect our numbers. In my fear of being late, I had managed to arrive very early and had a bit of an explore. There is actually a maze at the hall, but I didn’t dare go in it for fear of never getting out again.

After sheltering from the rain, we were summoned to the warm up. I hate warm ups  and the following account is not a reflection of the quality of the warm ups (which I’m sure were lovely if you like that kind of thin). The first warm up was run by a local Clubbercise instructor complete with glow sticks. Whilst I quite like dance music, I am rubbish at the actual dancing part (having spent my formative years being more of a shuffling indie disco kind of person) and being on my own, I decided to hide in the hedgerow whilst everyone else stretched and shimmied. The second half was a bit more old school (rather than old skool) but I’m afraid I still didn’t join in. When someone demands that I do something and then tells me to “jog it out”, my natural tendency is to reply, “no thanks, I’ll stay here in my hedge if you don’t mind”.

And halfway through the warm up, I realised that I’d left my Garmin in the car, so I scooted off to get that. The run itself was weird but rather fantastic. After the starting section, there were three laps through woods and field and then a straight run down the road to the finish. Most people were wearing headtorches, but my little handheld one was just fine for me and was pretty essential for navigating some of the more treacherous muddy bits. I ended up following a couple of people and relied on them to know when the three laps were up (I’d probably still be going if it was up to me to keep track). For the first lap we were quite bunched up, but things did thin out a bit. Running on my own, I had moments where I felt like I was the only person in the dark, dark woods, an odd feeling when you’re used to running in well-lit, non-lonely places.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that having followed one particular woman all the way around the course, I found a little bit extra in the tank and overtook her on the home straight. And so, to the all important bit, the goody bag (branded drawstring backpack, water bottle) and the bling.

Did I tell you that it GLOWS IN THE DARK?!?!?

And yes, this was pretty much the entire motivation for running this race.

The Night Run season  has now finished, but it looks very much like it will be repeated next year and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who fancies a friendly, no pressure, family orientated (there’s a shorter route that was run by lots of small people), bit unusal, in the dark race with an amazing medal at the end of it.