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16 Apr


I did it. I completed a marathon. I am a marathoner. Four months and 260 miles of training runs culminated in a fantastic day.

The night before was pretty disastrous. We had an early dinner at Pizza Express, much to my chagrin. To be in a big city and faced with such options as Las Iguanas and Yo Sushi was frustrating when I knew I could only eat something pretty basic and spiceless. An evening by the seaside couldn’t be wasted, so Barney rode the carousel for the first time, grinning gummily as it whizzed round.


Hey Mum! Where's the sand?

We got back to the hotel around 8, to find that our room was filled with the thumping sound of 90s classics from the function room downstairs. When we asked reception, they said that they would turn the music down and that the party would only go on until 11. Not ideal – I’d hoped to be asleep by 10 – but bearable. The music went on until 12:30 and got louder and louder as more drunk people grabbed the microphone and sang along with the music. Barney’s sleep was horribly disrupted, and so even though the music stopped, he spent much of the rest of the night awake. Bearing in mind that he has slept through the night since four months, having a baby attached to me all night was pretty gruelling!

Still, I managed to get up, ready and fed with toast before I headed off to the start line. I was in the slowest corral, and held back so that I wouldn’t have to be packed in and have a million people overtake me over the first few miles. I have never seen so many people in a place where there aren’t usually that many people, if that makes sense. I believe that there were around 9000 runners and apparently 100,000 spectators expected for the day!

Twenty minutes after the gun, we got moving. My number one priority was to try and ignore what everyone else was doing and stick to my own pace. I knew that I was aiming for between 7 and 8 hours, so I aimed for a 17 minute mile. It was hard! I didn’t manage – I stayed at a steady 16 minute mile for the first 20 miles. Patrick met me after 3 miles; a couple after that, he and his mother, Alison (and Barney!) jogged with me for the worst hill climb. I then left the centre of Brighton and headed out towards Roedean School. The view out there was beautiful – an imposing, Mallory Towers-esque school, looking out to sea. Our first u-turn was at 8.5 miles. I still felt strong and steady, while other people zoomed ahead and fell behind. At mile 10, she joined me and stayed with me for 8 miles. My mother-in-law does *not* fit into the stereotype at all!

I pushed myself a little hard running next to her. I think it’s because she is a runner – I was a little embarrassed at being so slow – but if I hadn’t had her amazing support I don’t think I’d have achieved such great (for me!) times in those stages! My sister, Dad, uncle and Granny were all there to wave me on a few miles on.

Reaching halfway was quite hard – I think that the “out-and-back” nature of the course was mentally challenging, because I had already turned back and was running very close to where the finish line was, but with the same again to go. The next stage took us into a residential area, and while supporters were thinner on the ground, a number of people were having marathon parties and came out of their homes to cheer us on. Brighton is such a friendly and beautiful city!

At around mile 18, I was starting to suffer. Patrick took over from his mum, and stayed with me to the end. These are the perks of being slow – you can have your cheering squad alongside you at all times! The final leg took us around an industrial estate, which started with the 20 miles marker and an official race sign that read “To Hell and Back”. I don’t know if that was supposed to bring out a wry smile, but for me it was the point when I realised I simply couldn’t run any longer. When I was pregnant, I was referred to a physiotherapist because of problems with my pelvis being misaligned, and I could feel those symptoms flaring up again.

The final 6 miles were through an industrial estate with a power station, steelworks and what smelled like a sewage treatment centre! Only the hardcore supporters remained in this area, and the NSPCC (the charity I was raising for) crowd were there and full of enthusiasm. As I headed towards the group, I heard “it’s one of ours!!!” and the cheers were music to my ears! The final stretch was upon me, and I hobbled along, pausing every so often to scrunch up and stretch out my aching muscles.

I knew that the finish line was at the new pier, just along from the skeleton of the old, burnt pier, and that broke up the distance. Each mile absolutely crawled by, at this stage. The mile markers were almost painful, as each one was met with a “seriously? It’s only been a mile?!” I had started Patrick singing rugby songs through the industrial estate, and Chicago and Yogi Bear had carried me through some tough times so far. By this time, Granny and Alison had joined us, so the nature of the songs had to reflect their audience a little better! Green bottles were the answer, so we sang 20, then 30, then 40.

I made it to the finish line, which they were in the middle of disassembling, and it was incredible. I had finished, and I wasn’t last – those were my goals for the day, and I had achieved them. There honestly hasn’t been anything in my life for which I’ve set a plan, stuck to it and followed through to completion in this way. I feel like I can do anything.

We place so much value on the skills and attributes that come naturally to people – this actress has never had to diet and hates exercise; that sportsman is “gifted”. The truly glorious feeling is to achieve something you never, ever thought you could. I remember the feeling of every exam result – a sense of relief that I’d “got away with it” again, that my natural academic skills had got me through. The feeling yesterday, continuing into today and beyond, is so much more than that.


20 Miles

27 Feb

I don’t think I need to say much more than that! But I will…

On Saturday, I ran 20 miles. OMFG. Especially as I skipped my 30-minute run on Thursday because I just didn’t feel like it. Take that, Thursday!

I decided to try out a different route as the one I had been doing was making me a little crazy on long runs. Ok, very crazy. I am yet to encounter the endorphin high. I tend to get exercise-induced rage. I have actually walked out of spinning classes because I build myself up into such a “this is so f-ing stupid! We’re on bikes and we’re not going anywhere! And we’re listening to really awful music!” So, the beautiful tunnels (see header) started to look very similar and I’d think I was closer to home than I actually was, and I’d start to get angry with myself for running, Meg for finding it so easy and not just running the distance I was doing but up and down the banks at the side as well, and Richard Beeching for having closed down the railways that meant I was running along this former railway line.

So, I tried out a new one along the canal. It was super pretty…

I’m really happy with the choice of route. I think I’d start a few miles further west, as the first/last 3 miles were a bit uneven, which was fine when starting out, but not so much when I was exhausted towards the end. I turned my ankle a few times, and my knees are feeling a bit dodgy. Being so inexperienced in the field, I’m quite nervous about telling the difference between a “man up and push on through” and a “you’ve actually hurt yourself”.

Choosing to run west along the canal was the most intelligent decision of my life. I started at midday, so the sun didn’t bother me too much, and then when I turned around it was behind me – perfect. The people I encountered, who were out enjoying their boats, were absolutely lovely – friendly to Meg and encouraging to me!

I’m still so nervous about this race. I am slow – see above – but I need to push that thought out of my head. If I have to run on the pavement when they start reopening the roads, that’s not the end of the world. I’ve started thinking about how I will feel if I am actually the last person to finish the race, but it can’t be that bad. I’ll have run a marathon! It’s a big thing for someone like me – someone who starts projects but doesn’t finish them; someone who gives up if I can’t do something perfectly. I have to ignore the many, many articles out there complaining about slow runners ruining marathons for the experienced ones and just focus on my own personal goals. As I wrote a while ago, the internet is full of people trying to create their own, exclusive club because they’ve been excluded before; but that’s 100% their own issue, not mine.

The biggest surprise of this training is how important the mental side is. I have been blessed with a mostly-functional body, and anyone with that can run as far as they want to. That’s a really cool thing to learn – so much more exciting than how my bottom looks in jeans, which is, incidentally, much better than it did before I started training.

A Belated New Year Post

17 Feb

I forgot to share my resolutions with anybody. As I usually share them with people and tumble off the wagon anyway, I’m not too worried. I’ve been doing well so far!



1. Follow WeightWatchers. I have been documenting my food intake religiously, and with the assistance of two bouts of winter vomiting (yay!) and a lot of running, I am 7.4 lbs down since new year. It’s slow, but it’s steady, and it feels manageable. I’ve also enjoyed some pretty awesome meals out, and at least four curries, so I’m certainly not being deprived.



2. Stick to the Jeff Galloway marathon training plan. I’ve been doing extremely well at this, having clocked up 66 running miles so far this year. The delightful stomach bugs have meant that I’ve skipped a few, but I’ve got back on course with relative ease. With only two more long runs to go before the Brighton Marathon, I’m really starting to feel like it’s real. On the day, I’m sure I’ll feel like a kid on the first day of school, not feeling like I should be there. I’ve never run with another person before, so I’m not really sure how that’s going to affect me. I know that I am slow (averaging a 17 minute mile on longer runs – don’t laugh!) so I don’t want to fall in line with someone else’s pace and then be exhausted by mile 3!



3. This one’s a little different, as it’s not as SMART as the other two. There’s no “you either are or you aren’t” about it. I’ve been figuring out the stuff that drags me back into the unhealthy rumination and dwelling upon things I simply cannot control. Racists and homophobes; Daily Mail comment threads; dimwits with no understanding of basic economics; masters of self-promotion; “the only way is my way” mothers and many members of the Republican Party.


The Serenity Prayer seems to sum it up – 


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.


There’s just no use in getting stressed about things unless I’m going to get off my behind and do something to change them. And frankly, I don’t know what to do about them. I don’t really think words have the power to change anyone’s mind. Nor do statistics – we seem to accept the ones that confirm our beliefs and disregard those who don’t. The only think that can make a difference is experience combined with the employment of logic, and people who lack either of those things simply cannot hear.


I’ve taken a step back. I’ve unsubscribed from stuff that stresses me out. The TV remains off. I have to confess that it has been a delight. I have no problem with having my ideas challenged and taking the opportunity to learn, but I do not need to be preached at by people with an extremely narrow world-view. I’ve even become skeptical of journalists who appear to share my opinions, simply for the icky taste that reading any kind of one-sided article leaves. Are there no writers who explore both sides of an argument any more?


And if I need any help lowering my blood pressure, there’s always this little guy…




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