You know you’re hooked when…

You take your trainers, stopwatch and running gear on holiday with you, just in case

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You take your trainers, stopwatch and running gear on holiday with you, just in case…
All you can think of on a random working Tuesday is getting out for a run. And when you do get out, even though you’re running on dead legs and determination for the last 15 mins, it’s still the best part of your day.

Getting to the bottom of things

I’ve visited Ros at Blue Soul Feeling twice now for treatment and she’s brilliant. Not only does she take the time to understand which bits of you hurt and do her best to make sure you leave feeling better, but she’s also happy to talk things through on the phone.

I’ve visited Ros at Blue Soul Feeling twice now for treatment and she’s brilliant. Not only does she take the time to understand which bits of you hurt and do her best to make sure you leave feeling better, but she’s also happy to talk things through on the phone, to try and help you out when you’re having a bit of a panic that those niggles are never going to un-niggle themselves.

She was recommended by a work colleague – isn’t that the best way to find someone to help you? And I really feel like she understands us daft souls who develop a passion for some kind of activity and put our bodies through stress to try and reach our goals.

I first went to see her in February, just after the ‘ouch‘ incident and she sorted me right out with a good deep-tissue massage and a prescription of rest with a side order of ibuprofen. And, lovely and helpful as she is, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to see her again. But I did.

About a week after my triumphant race I went out again on a glorious summer day, feeling brilliant and ran further than I’ve ever run before. I was strong, really got into my stride and kept on going for 12k, proud of myself for building up the distance, focusing on the next goal of the half-marathon.

Should have known that pride comes before a fall, and the following day I was feeling it in the arch of my left foot. I iced it, took the tablets and determined to take it easy for a couple of days. But it left me hobbling. I could limp along on either my heel or my toe, but moving my foot through a natural walking motion was incredibly painful. So time to go back to Ros and get some more advice.

Once more she worked her magic, breaking up the build up of tension in my foot and leg and reassuring me that I hadn’t done anything too horrendous.

Trying to get to the root cause of the problem, she took a good look at the way I stand. And it seems like I pronate. This is something I’d heard runners talk about. It basically means that your foot doesn’t hit the ground straight on, but tends to veer to one side or the other. In my case, it looks like I invert with my left foot – that means I lean in towards the inside of my leg. And it would explain the series of niggles I’ve had all down that side. At least I hope it does.

Now I need to go and get another expert opinion, from a podiatrist. I’m hoping it will be something that’s easily fixed with insoles that will make my feet behave themselves. But I’m also a bit nervous in case it’s severe enough to prevent me training for that longer distance goal.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m chuffed to bits at what I’ve achieved so far. And I wouldn’t have believed I could get to running 10k so comfortably in three months since I really started focusing on that goal. But I started this with the aim of completing the big Geordie race. And I’d really like to do that. Just once.

I don’t intend to go on and start training for a marathon. But, having seen and felt the unique and wonderful atmosphere of the Great North Run so many times, I would like my story to be part of it too.

I’m still running and training and so far, not bad. But my fear is that this underlying problem will come back and bite me again. So, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed when I go to see the foot expert and hope to put it down to just another learning experience.

The Race

There will be other races. But never another first race. I’m excited nervous. Just a bit twitchy…

There will be other races. But never another first race.

I’m excited nervous. Just a bit twitchy, like a small child anticipating a treat, but knowing I’ll have to be good to get it. I wake well before the alarm and go into my preparation plan, kit laid out the night before.

The sun is shining and there’s barely a breeze when I look out the window. But it was like that yesterday and still chilly when I ventured out. I opt for long sleeves, but change my mind after less than half an hour. All the kit’s been tried and tested, so I know it’s comfy. Today is not a day to try something new.

Porridge and banana – the breakfast of champions. Yello’s ‘The Race’ on the CD player puts the butterflies in my stomach to flight. A good round of stretches and some breathing focuses my attention. Kit in my bag ready for the finish line and it’s time to go.

Driving part of the way along the route, watching marshalls in fluorescent vests set out cones, it all becomes very real. Seeing runners in coloured vests and shorts filing towards the sports centre and I start wondering if they know. Can they tell I haven’t done this before?

Looking for a familiar face among the assembled throng. Starting to identify club runners. The green vests, red white and black bands, the bumblebee stripes. All this lot are pros. They greet each other like old friends as the distinctive hot tang of Deep Heat spikes the air. I feel alone in the crowd.  

I’m kidding myself I’m not nervous, but my body says otherwise. Queueing at the portaloos is an odd way to pass the time, but it does. And with less than 10 minutes to go I walk to the start. Here there are smiles, and laughs and chat. I bounce up and down on my toes, just wanting to be off, wondering what it’s going to feel like.

It’s all quite low key. A short countdown, a few strolling steps to the line, hit the start button on the watch, a bit of a verbal gee up, and I’m away. Amazed to be surrounded by so many people. Shirts of all colours stream away into the distance. It didn’t look like I was that far back at the start. Stick to the plan, don’t go off too quickly, keep it easy.

Down the hill to the quayside, stick to the left, stretch out the stride. The crowds start to spread out. The first mile goes by in a flash. I’ve got my pace, got my space. Away along the promenade all I can see is runners, stretching out into the distance.

Approaching the hill, you can sense it. We all know it’s coming. We’re all facing it in our own way. Beside me I hear a girl coaching her friend, “Small steps, keep it coming…” I listen and dig in a little, moving past bodies up to the Spanish Battery. The hill beside the priory is no threat now. I know I can tackle this one. Just a little extra effort. A minute’s worth, that’s all. The trick is just to keep moving at the top.

There are people along the course now, watching and smiling and no doubt thinking “What fools!” Beside the surf shop a small boy calls out “You’re nearly there”. The three mile marker shows we’re just under half way.  

I’m now on familiar ground, the route of regular runs. But hearing other runners beside me panting and struggling for breath is distracting. And now my watch keeps showing me the time, which I don’t want to see, and won’t show me my pace, which I do.

I focus on a runner ahead. A girl in a red vest with white blonde hair. She doesn’t look like a club runner. Can I keep up with her? I unravel my headphones and decide to run my own race. The music kicks in and the coast goes by in a blur. Just focus on the runner ahead. Stick to the right hand side away from the traffic and enjoy the tunes.

Dodge a couple of lampposts and benches. Avoid the people crossing from the beach to the road. Find the space, find the rhythym. Extend my stride and smile. Approach the sandcastles by Spanish City – another marker tagged. There’s a bit of an incline ahead, but I know I can deal with it.

Along the Links more people clapping and urging us on. I’m really enjoying it now. Pass the girl in the red vest and focus on one in orange and black stripes. Can see the lighthouse clearly now. Running my own race, leaving a couple of squaddies behind me and feeling strong. Passing the buses. Seeing the runners who have already finished making their way back and cheering us on.

And there’s the finish line. Turn from the Links and it’s just there. Only a couple of hundred metres left. And I’m grinning, smiling. Take the headphones from my ears to hear the buzz of the crowd, watching and running. Ready to sprint now a couple of hundred metres.

And there’s Ian and Kelda, standing by the barriers, watching me sprint to the line, big daft grin on my face.

What a buzz! Gary captures me on camera as I cross the line. I stop the watch and check the time. It looks good. I barely register anything beyond the finish line, pick up my goody bag on auto pilot and head back in the sunshine to find the car. And I’m surprised at how good I feel. Not stiff, not achey, not particularly out of breath. Like I could do it all over again.

Great North Run? No problem…

Crossing the finish line

Race night

So tomorrow’s the big day. My first ever road race.

So tomorrow’s the big day. My first ever road race.

At 10am tomorrow I’ll be hitting the road with around 2,000 others following a route along the coast to the finish line at St Mary’s lighthouse.

So, I’m excited and a bit nervous. But more excited, nervous than worried, nervous. I know I have the distance in my legs, and I’ve already achieved so much, anything else now is a bonus. So I just plan to get out there and enjoy it.

It seems to have come around so quickly. If you’d have told me back in October that I’d be running 10k or 6.6 miles on Easter Sunday, I’d have thought you were crazy.

This week has been about preparation. After getting myself back in the groove, following a bit of a stumble from the training plan, I’ve actually taken it quite easy this week. My last run was on Monday and that was only 20 minutes. But I managed a great training session on Thursday morning, so I know I have the strength and endurance. 

Ian finished the session with a gentle warm down run along the sand, picking up some running coaching points.  It was a great reminder of how far I’ve come since I first started training with him. My first couple of sessions, that run felt like the end of the earth. I was lucky if I could make it half way. Now it’s a gentle jog at the end of a good hour of resistance and cardio.

And tonight we have pasta on the menu, fuelling me up for the morning. Then a bowl of porridge and a banana and I’ll be set. The weather looks set fair. Not too windy, which was my main worry, and hopefully not too wet either.

Of course, I have a time in mind. I’d like to do the distance faster than I’ve done it before. But I’m not going to tie myself to the stopwatch. Just go out there and run my own race and enjoy it.

First 10k

It was a strange Tuesday. A day of disturbed patterns and disrupted routines. A day to front up and be bold. A significant day for a number of reasons.

The reason I choose to remember came with the mid-afternoon sunshine, in the freedom and ease of putting one foot in front of the other, gently rolling out the miles.

Finding the pace, not forcing it. The breathing rhythmic. Key markers passed in conversation with my red-shirted guide, keeping thoughts from the anchor of the stop watch. The steady unwatched tick of distance.

Reaching out beyond boundaries. The breeze cooling, not dragging. The clouds looking kindly on the return. And the home straight. The approaching nearness. Knowing with absolutely certainty, saying out loud, “I can do this”.

And the feeling that I could do it again.

A good day to reach a milestone.

Musical inspiration

I haven’t blogged about running for a while. I guess you could say I’ve had other things on my mind. And those other things have knocked my running a bit.  I had a couple of tricky sessions where I really struggled, feeling like I did when I first started, unable to catch my breath, muscles tight, just not really getting it together and I knew it was a mental, rather than a physical block.

So I listened to some good advice, took a bit of time out, and have just picked things up again this weekend, having put myself in a much better frame of mind.

On Sunday, I hit the treadmill again, setting myself a goal of 20 mins. I stuck on my iPod and selected a playlist I’d set up some time ago. Truth was that I couldn’t really remember what was on it.

But it worked. And I found myself smiling. No, grinning as the tunes kicked in. A random assortment from New Order through David Bowie and Madonna. And I don’t know if it was the music, or the fact that I’d fought my way through that mental block, but it felt easy. It felt good.

And the music carried me. The lyrics seemed particularly relevant, inspirational even. So when Eminem kicked in towards the end of my planned 20 minutes I just kept going. In fact I boosted the speed, using some of the aggression and determination I’ve been pulling on over the past couple of weeks and pushing the run further and faster.

And you know what? It felt easy. Fun even. A real adrenaline buzz. A reward for battling it through on Friday night, coaching myself around a 45 min session, knowing I’d be really cross with myself if I didn’t hit my goal. Sure I was still sweaty. Sure, running on the treadmill is a bit tedious, but just running felt good. I felt strong. Confident. And that’s something that’s good to hang onto.

One of the things I like about using the Nike+ system when I’m running is the feedback you get through your headphones. So there’s a nice voice helping you keep track of your goals of time or distance, telling you you’ve completed 10 minutes, or only have 5 minutes left to reach your goal.

And when you’ve done something worth celebrating, you get a celebrity boost. So on Friday evening I heard Paula Radcliffe in my headphones congratulating me on my longest run ever.

I ran for 30 mins on Sunday, and I wasn’t expecting any celeb feedback, so it was a great surprise to hear Lance Armstrong saying well done on my personal best for a mile. Guess what track was playing when I hit that!

It’s good to focus on the positives. So I was happy just to have reached my 45 minute goal on Friday night’s run. But it’s important to remember how I had to talk myself through it in my head. How I had to think about controlling my breath, lengthening my pace. And not just once, but several times. So I know, even when it’s not as easy as it was on Sunday, I can still do it.

Ouch!

Yesterday I felt a bit of a niggle in my left thigh after a pretty brutal attempt to run intervals in a headwind. A bit of a stretch, a hot bath and I pretty much sorted it, or so I thought.
It came back with a vengeance today.
I met Ian as usual for our Thursday lunchtime run. Everything started well. I felt strong, got a nice breathing pattern, long strides, steady pace.
The first time we turned into the wind, I put my head down to power through it. But it whipped away my breath and I started to struggle to regain it.
And it continued like that pretty much the whole way back. No matter how hard I tried to push through it, it just kept pushing me back and to be honest, there were bits where I would have been faster if I was walking. But Ian kept encouraging me and I clocked up another 6k.
But once the euphoria and the adrenaline of the run wore off, that little niggly ache turned into a real sharp pain down the top of my leg. I limped back to the office, downbeat and sore, dreaming of ice packs.
I’ve settled it with myself now. A couple of days rest to get things right and then back to the training plan. But I was surprised how much it mattered, how much I resented being forced to stop, even just for a while, for my own good.
I have definitely got the bug.