London Marathon 2017

Settle in, guys. This is a tome. 

I’ll paint you a picture. 

Last year, all I had to look forward to for MONTHS was VLM. So the day came and I loved every painful second. I HAD to enter the ballot for 2017. I NEVER expected to get a place. 

But I did. 

Yay. *pained face* 

As this is an opportunity I’d NEVER pass up (because nails. And because biggest marathon in the UK) I gladly accepted and began training for my ideal goal time of 4hr30. I kept this secret. I’m glad I did. 

Come December, things started to fall off and by March I had all but given up hope of even going sub 5. 

Not to worry though, London is London. 

However… The run up, fraught with stress and worry and pain, completely detracted from the event and set me up for a tough day at the office. In my head. 

So. The day. 


Everything was ready. I’d had fun at expo, laid out my kit, eaten my porridge and brushed my teeth. 

I nervously made my way to Kensington High St Station. Then to Westminster. Then London Bridge. Then Blackheath. 

At London Bridge, I found myself walking beside a girl who looked excited and nervous. Her name was Rhian. It was her first. We immediately became Blue Start buddies and i answered her questions as best I could, kept her relaxed (which helped me stay calm!) and got her to the start line where we hugged and made sure we followed eachother on Instagram. (She had a blast and finished in 5:17. Absolutely incredible and so chuffed for her!!) 


At the blue start, I happened to notice two 4hr pacer flags and finally (FINALLY) after all these years of twitter chat, met the beautiful, mental Susie Chan. Fresh from the Sahara after completing her THIRD Marathon Des Sables…. what. A. Woman. A runner so talented that she’s able to pace the 4hr runners home in 3:58 WITH A SORE THROAT AND COLD. Legend. 

The Start 

Last year, I was Red Start. It took 39 minutes for me to get to the start line. This year, at blue start, I was over in 12. I was running London. Again. It was AMAZING. 

The blue route is different for the first 5km so it made for some newness and new distractions. I kept a good steady pace (apart from the woman who STOPPED DEAD right in front of me 500m from the start TO PICK UP A QUID.) and pretty soon it was gel time and timing mat time. 

I felt good. Calm. Zen, even. 

The first thing I noticed were the crowds. Last year it was cool but dry. There were many parts where there were no people. This was not the case this time. Every mile was 4-5 deep. It was oppressive at times. And often extremely claustrophobic. Sometimes it boosted me. Other times it made me panic. Hugely different experience! People will tell you that the crowd get you round. I really did need them several times, but I often felt panicky and freaked out by the sheer number of people. Hundreds of thousands. It was mental. 

Also. It is true what they say about having your name on your top. I decided not to do it this year but I really think it would have helped me. Saying that, the girl running beside me for most of the race was called Jenny which sounds close to Ginnie so I dined off her cheers for a good while. 

From 5km-10km, its busy but pretty featureless. It’s then on to Cutty Sark where the crowd was AMAZING. So loud. So so loud. I took on another gel. It didn’t sit right. I sipped water and decided to give it time. 

Cutty Sark to Tower Bridge

After Cutty, 15km came round quick and I now realised the gels were definitely not agreeing. Same gels as always. Same frequency. New discomfort. I felt bloated. And I darent chance a fart. This was not going to plan. I had to quickly re-evaluate and come up with a strategy that would give me enough energy and salts (on a hot day) to safely get me round the course without becoming a Poo Statistic. 

We jogged through Rotherhithe which was jam packed this year, and then to Bermondsey where I knew Michelle would be waiting. I didn’t see her!! I hoped she was ok. I’d never seen crowds like this and worried that the tube would be horrific. 

As with every run ever over 10 miles, my hips were now starting to protest. It’s agony but largely I can shut up and push through it. But this time, however, every little niggle felt huge. For some reason my head couldn’t focus on anything positive. Just on how far I still had to go. And how much of a battle this was. 

This was going to be a hard-earned medal. 

My plan at this point was not to touch gels until after half way. I couldn’t risk it. I felt so sick and bloated and I had to try and settle my stomach, so I chose to sip water gently and held onto a bottle from a water station until just before Tower Bridge. 

As ever, turning onto Tower Bridge road and seeing it looming over you is indescribable. I enjoyed the first half and managed to wrestle my phone out to film a bit too. Remembering the cameras at the end, I quickly shoved my phone back in my pocket and made sure I smiled and waved for the cameras. I didn’t want to be caught on film awkwardly shoving my phone into the pocket on the arse of my shorts. It would 100% look like I was sorting a wedgie. 

Tower Bridge to Isle of Dogs

This year, I was over the bridge in enough time to watch the GFAs and super fast runners on the home straight at the Out-and-back. I’m not an expert on these times, but I do know that for 18-40F it’s 3hr40 and my god, I can’t imagine holding that pace for 26.2 miles. On a hot day. 

The 3hr30 pacers sailed past and I clapped and cheered for the runners who all looked like they were really hating life. 

Out and back continues for a wee bit until you’re taken down into Limehouse. Just before the turn, the pain in my hips and the voice in my head forced me off the course into the longest queue I’ve ever seen for marathon portaloos. They are at very regular intervals but there were fewer this year despite over 40,000 entrants. 

14.5 miles was where I deeply considered quitting. I stood in that queue and sobbed. I was in agony, my stomach was cramping, I was hugely uncomfortable and for the first time in an event, ever, I truly wanted to give up. 

My head was filled with the negativity of a bitter, jealous “friend” and I could not shake the feeling that I was letting everyone down by running so poorly. 

I decided to consult with some friends and family. After fishing my phone out, I texted mum and dad in our group chat and was instantly met with love and encouragement. I texted my hardcore friend who I knew would kick motivation into me.  I texted my Marathon guru and dear chum  who immediately broke the race down into sizeable chunks for me. I read all the incredible messages of support and genuine love on Facebook.  I realised the love in my life outweighs the shit stuff and that I was DOING THIS. I COULD KEEP GOING. If you were one of the literally hundreds of people who took time to send me love and support, you genuinely made a difference to my day. You got me to the finish. Thank you. X 

Phone back in pocket, horrific portaloo experience over (how do you get shit up a wall?!) and I was off again. 

Running is largely uncomfortable for anyone and everyone in some way. Especially endurance. So by now I was sort of shuffling. But my pacing stayed fairly consistent. I knew if I could get to Mudchute I’d see Michelle. She’d asked me if I needed anything. I just said “a cuddle”. 

Adding to my growing list of sore bits, my feet had now cottoned on to what was happening and I felt like I was developing blisters. Which NEVER happens. 

The run from Limehouse down to the turn at Mudchute felt long. But when I ran up the hill under the 17mile marker and saw my friend I was elated. I then sobbed some more while she hugged me and lectured me on fuelling and forced me to gently and slowly take on a gel while she was there. “Just a little. You NEED sugar”

More words of encouragement given and popped under my cap and I was off again with renewed positivity. 


Once you pass Mudchute you’re back at Canary Wharf. The buildings tower over you. There’s music and screaming crowds and it is an assault on the senses. But you know very soon it’ll only be 10km to go. So you just keep going. Relentless forward progress. 

By now, with sore hips, sore feet and weary soul, I was getting hungry but gels were not an option. I sipped water and took jelly babies and tried them. No pain. Excellent. Orange segments. YES. Not sticky but sweet and refreshing. Then, a beautiful angel appeared from the crowd holding out a Tupperware. “You need this” she said. It was mars bar segments. 

Oh. My. God. 

If you asked me what my idea of race nutrition would be at 19 miles, I’d never ever say Mars Bar. 

It’s officially Mars Bar. 

I was saved. I nibbled it gently and kept taking on water with it. So tasty and easy to digest. For the first time all day I actually felt in control of the situation I was in. THANK YOU MARS BAR LADY I LOVE YOU. 

After this, I largely grazed off food offerings from the crowd. Jaffa cakes (amazing), more orange, tangfastics. You name it. It was like a very long buffet and I made the most of it. I took on enough carbohydrate to feel like I had some energy again and then, sticking to my plan, stopped once I knew I only had an hour to go. 

I don’t like the route after you leave Canary Wharf. It sort of out-and-backs through Poplar for ages and I tend to get a bit disorientated. You’re then in Tower Hamlets and almost back to the out-and-back at Limehouse. 

Still crowds. Still cheers. So many people!!

Limehouse to Blackfriars

The run back along the course to Tower Bridge was tough. The other side was being cleared now. The sweeper bus was carrying VLMs victims and there were injured and broken humans lying along the pavement being looked after by medics. A reminder of how easily it can all go wrong, and how lucky we were to still be soldiering on. 

I was reciting Eminem lyrics over and over in my head to keep a steady rhythm. I rarely run with music these days but I could have used some for this! 

The party bus that choked me up with Fleetwood Mac last year was playing Calvin Harris – Feels so Close. I REALLY missed my iPod. Music was helping me so much. 

Running back past tower bridge and the Tower of London, was incredible. Literally everyone lining the streets was pissed and hilarious. It was brilliant. 

(Although – side note – please don’t fucking blow your vape smoke onto the marathon course. I really did almost puke) 

As I passed the mile 23 marker I heard Michelle screaming for me! There she was! Another hug and a KEEP GOING YOU ARE SO NEARLY THERE. 

Down into the underpasses and on to Blackfriars tunnel. The Somme of running. No screens or music this year in the tunnel. Just people walking, crying, puking, stretching amongst mountains of discarded Pukozade bottles. 

The only thing I loved was the absolutely pounding choons that were drifting up the tunnel from the end. Chase & Status Blind Faith has NEVER  sounded so good. And as we emerged from the dank depths of Blackfriars, like that scene in 28 Days Later,  I finally got the adrenaline rush I needed. 

Embankment to the finish 

Ignore what everyone says. Embankment takes forever and you just want to lie down but you can’t because it’s almost time to finish. 

Not to be flippant, but by now I just wanted to be done. I got unlucky. Despite never suffering with chafing and wearing the kit I train in comfortably, well…. I had chafed. In my special place. And I really just wanted to sit in a box of ice and re-evaluate my life choices. It was not ok. 

Sure, it’s pretty epic to run along the Thames but I was conscious of all the sore bits. And that Big Ben should be there and it’s not. And not. And still not. And is that it? No. Still not Big Ben. 

After about 18 years I saw him. Standing proud waiting for me. Beckoning me towards him. 

(FYI Once you’re  passing parliament, you need to try and smile here for the photographers.)

My next big surge of adrenaline came as we were funnelled through onto Birdcage Walk. I didn’t get the rush of emotion here this year. I just wanted to see the finish line. But it’s such a beautiful section of the run with St James’ Park on the right and leafy trees above me. 

800m to go sign. Oh fuck. Nearly there. Smile for the cameras. SHUT UP LEGS. 

*raps Eminem inside own head*

What feels like an hour later: 600m to go…

Round the corner to Buckingham Palace, under the arch to the golden Victoria Memorial statue, then…. the greatest sight you will ever see:

The Mall. One of the most iconic finish lines in the world. If not THE most iconic. Resplendent with its flags all laid out. The gangtry and cameras calling me home. I try and look majestic but really it’s a death-shuffle. And you’re done. 

My watch showed a moving time of 5:16 but thanks to the toilet queue my chip time is 5:32. However, I was done. I really didn’t give a hoot about the time. A lovely lady gave me my HUGE medal and I was ushered over for a picture, then given my goodie bag and hobbled off to find my bag drop lorry. 

I wanted to take a minute alone before I started making calls and went to find Michelle. So I found a tree and gingerly lowered myself onto the dusty ground beside it to stretch. I sat in the dust and gave myself a pat on the back. My third marathon. None of which have been easy (they never are. For anyone) but yet again I pushed through my mental and physical barriers and proved to myself that I can do anything. Is it hard? Fuck yes. Does it suck? Also yes. But does it make me feel powerful and strong? Yes. Yes. Yes. 

The fact is that training has been hampered by illness and injury since December. Until yesterday my sum total mileage for the year was 154km. Since January. Most people run 5 times that to train for London. I had to rely solely on strength training and my inner fight. 25% of my annual mileage to date was done in one day. If that isn’t a testament to strength training, I don’t know what is. Huge thanks to my coach and dear friend, Jonathan Pain (of Painless Performance and Complete Human Performance) for his support and guidance. 

There is no doubt that running a marathon in 2,3 or 4 hours is an incredible feat of athleticism and grit. To sustain that pace for that distance staggers me. 

But. There is a great deal to be said for the 5hour+ runners. Who slog it out and enjoy it or hate it but get the job done with a smile. (Or in my case a hefty grimace) 

Having to lay aside my aspirations was extremely character building. I am my own biggest critic and my only competition is myself. So taking 5 minutes to have a word with myself about what I’d just achieved, yet again, was important. No one could take this from me. I had earned this medal. 

I phoned Brian to see how his 10 miler had gone in Edinburgh. I tried to stretch. I took my shoes off and slumped against a tree while my feet throbbed. I found salt and vinegar crackers in my finishers bag and inhaled them. Once I’d forced my swollen, battered (but weirdly not blistered) feet into my change of shoes, I painfully stood up and hobbled off to find Michelle. 

There she was. Right in the meeting spot. With Tailwind juice for me and all the hugs.  The meet and greet area was unbearably busy so we headed out to the street and wandered along for about a mile before hailing a cab successfully. 


Back at the hotel, I assessed my limbs during a salt bath. I immediately spotted the bits I’d missed with the factor 50. I have two burnt rings round my ankles where there’s a gap between calf guards and socks. It looks silly. My right forearm is burnt and my left hand, too. I am a patchwork quilt. 

Michelle was the absolute QUEEN of Bean-chaperoning. She ran me a bath and went out to get me food and Epsom salts. She then went for her own run while I tried to stretch and nap. 

So. London. I wanted to love it. I didn’t, this year. It wasn’t hot by London’s standards but I genuinely could not imagine how tough that would be on a properly hot day. This year my mettle was tested. I was pushed to my limit. But I prevailed against my own odds and showed myself, yet again, that I’m tougher than I think I am. 

And then there’s the bling. Always earned, never given. 

Special mentions to the marshals who tirelessly stood and cheered for 40,000 runners. The organisers for yet again creating a slick event where I felt completely safe and looked after. And of course the crowds who came out in their masses and made the atmosphere electric. Thank you, London. X 

Don’t. Give. Up. 

You know those dreams where you are desperately trying to get somewhere but you can’t run or something is in your way?

That. But real.

Sunday was my final big push for London. 3 hours, no prescribed pace. Bliss, you’d think! But no. A lap of the loch plus a little bit extra to get the distance up is normally my idea of heaven. I live in a beautiful part of the world. But the sloshing of the water in my hydration pack and the crunch of the loose gravel on the path were combining to do my head right in. My legs felt great (unsurprisingly. I’m literally SO rested right now…) but my mind just was not in it.

This may sound a little bit mad, but whenever I’ve undertaken one of these ridiculous endurance events, my head hasn’t really considered just how far 26.2 or even 70.3 miles actually is. It’s just not a thing I think about. If I did I wouldn’t enter these things. My commute is 27 miles. But I’d never dream of running to work. And yet I train to run that distance without thinking. Weird, innit?

This time, however, my mind is entirely preoccupied with the route. With which bits sucked and which bits I should look forward to. With where I hurt. With where I needed to pee. I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse. I’m dreading the stretch from Cutty Sark to Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. I’m dreading Isle of Dogs and Limehouse (WHY DOES LIMEHOUSE CONTINUE FOR SO LONG). I’m dreading miles 21-23 where my body really starts to hurt.

What am I looking forward to, you ask? Michelle waiting for me with a Five Guys burger at the end. That’s what… but seriously. I’m excited for the different start. I’m blue start this year, so I’m hoping to be over the line in under 40 fecking minutes. I’m excited for Cutty Sark. The crowd there is huge! I’m beyond excited for Tower Bridge because I still get goosebumps when I remember it from last year. I’m excited for the party bus at miles 13/23. I’m excited for Embankment because I know when to expect Big Ben this year! I’m excited for Big Ben, and the incredible sensory experience that is running down Birdcage Walk. Bucks Palace is next and the almost deafening crowd. Then the finish line looms and it is SO MUCH FURTHER AWAY THAN YOU THINK IT WILL BE…

More than anything, I’m excited to get that incredible bit of Bling around my neck and definitely NOT enter the ballot for 2018. Gurl, we have had ENOUGH of training for marathons. (What’s that? Number four is in October? Shit.)

So. Less than a week to go. 3 days of work. Glycogen depletion joy. Carb loading MEGA JOY and then London, I’m sort of coming to get you a bit.

 

Why Weight?

When I started this journey, my plan was solely to achieve weight loss. I was unhappy with my size and my weight. I needed to do something for my health and also to try and alleviate the chronic back pain and frequent illness that I was suffering from. Being told, aged 24, that the pain in my back may require surgery by 40, was quite the reality check. I didn’t want invasive spinal surgery. I just wanted to feel no pain and the doctor advised that getting fit would help. 

This decision to drastically alter my lifestyle was always going to have a profound impact. I have, for as long as I can remember, struggled with my body image. I’ve discussed it here before, but there’s so much more to be said. Body dysmorphia is so common that I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t experience it, to a degree. There would always be those well-meaning people who said “why do you need to lose weight? You look fine!” But the reality was, I was unhappy with myself I knew my health depended on the change. 

Looking back, now that I know what I do about nutrition, I roll my eyes at the choices I made. I think for the first month I survived off 2 bowls of cereal and one meal per day. I was tired, still sore (because I wasn’t feeding my body the right things to help it heal) and I was malnourished. 

But I had started to lose weight because I was in a calorific deficit. By quite some margin. 

And so began a new battle with the scales. I’d have what I thought was a great week. I’d stick to my food plan and I’d walked and exercised. I felt like I looked skinnier so I’d weigh myself only to see another few hundred grams ADDED. 

Then the downward spiral would start. I’d binge. Then skip meals. I’d cry. It was hell. I had zero understanding of my body’s weight pattern, of water retention, of macronutrients. Zero. Fuck all. Nada. 

By this point I’d signed up to do The Kiltwalk. So the added miles of walking really kicked the weight loss goal’s ass. I was soon down by 7kgs. I was delighted. I was still malnourished. 

And the war still raged. 

Over the coming months and years, I would yoyo by around a stone at a time. Thus creating the other problem I’ve had to try and address: my relationship with the Hate Step. Aka the bathroom scales. 

The hardest fight came after the initial significant weight loss. After the difficult maintenance phase. After the endurance journey started. 

The real battle is now, as I get stronger every week. 

In October last year I weighed 69kgs. Not small. But not big. I was pretty ok with that. 65 would be nice but 69 is ok. I’d come back under 70 again and I was pretty stagnant. But then illness. And Christmas. 

On January 9th i weighed myself and cried. 74.5kgs. Literally the heaviest I’ve ever been. Heavier than when I called myself “fat”. 

And yet, my clothes still fit. Sort of. 

I knew that a healthy weight for me is under 70. So I spoke to Coach, got myself straight and started weighing food and tracking macros in earnest. We’re now into march and I’m back at 71. My clothes DEFINITELY fit and I feel better for it. Still 2kg to go but I’m in control of it. 

Now. I must state that, for the record, this drop in weight is not for aesthetic purposes (That’s a big statement from me). It is primarily down to being as race-ready possible so I don’t obliterate my joints. 

But that whole approach has taken SERIOUS determination and I still struggle every so often with the girl looking back from the mirror.

I have to fight with the numbers constantly. Stare down the girl who fights against the numbers and try to show her how STRONG we are. 

I will never be as committed to food control as some of my peers. I mean, I’m not elite. I’m not a pro. And I have no interest in being the fastest or strongest out of any group. I just want to be a fitter, stronger me. Sure I could be even faster, fitter and stronger with obsessive control of food. But life is literally too short to not eat that piece of cake or enjoy a beer with my mates on a Friday night. Life is for living and good food is SO important. 

That has also been a big lesson. Yes it’s fuel. And in the run up to an event I will work to depletion and then loading macro goals. Because jam. But gradually I’ve learnt that it’s so important to be happy and healthy while enjoying what you love doing.

The best thing I’ve learnt through all of this is not to weigh myself out of vanity. My body is capable of amazing things. EVERYBODY’s body is capable of amazing things. 

The sooner we stop looking at numbers and seeing fitness, health, strength and endurance as the marker for improvement, the better. 

Famous Last Words…

In my last blog, I was busy coming to terms with the latest injury in a long line of broken stuff and illnesses. Impressively for me, I was cautiously optimistic that I’d make a fast recovery and that all would be well in no time.

(Lets breeeeeze past the tears and tantrums. Quickly, now.)

After all, I am a fully qualified drama queen (shocker) so I always make things out to be worse in my head than they actually are…. right?

Well….. The foot got worse. Like….. a LOT worse. Like….. so bad I googled my arse off and learnt all about the anatomy of the foot. Panic-stricken, I called the very next best thing to a doctor: my mammy.

Amongst all her talents is a qualification (and about 25 years experience) in reflexology and the weirdo KNOWS feet. Plus she knows MY feet (unfortunately for her). So that weekend, I gingerly placed my gammy, swollen foot on their beautiful Teak dining table and demanded she look at it.

After much prodding, she said the scariest thing a runner with a looming marathon can hear: “it feels broken. It feels like a fracture to your 5th metatarsal”

Oh. Dear. God. Sound the fucking alarms. Alert the authorities. There is gonna be a meltdown.

*hyperventilates*

It’s ok. It’s OK because she’s JUST being cautious. I’m seeing my lovely doctor tomorrow. He’ll sort it out. He’ll take one look and tell me it’s JUST a sprain.

The doctor delivered the following grave sentence with an expression on his face that said “please don’t cry”:

“Hmmm. Your mum might actually be right. We’ll get you straight up to PRI for an X Ray”

Well, fuck.

Off I hobbled. And attempted to bribe the radiologist for information. I was given the tiny glimmer of hope that she couldn’t see a break. FINGERS (but not toes, obvs) CROSSED.

4 days later and my doctor calls me to advise that it’s NOT a break but there is a build up calcium and possibly a small tear to the Peroneal brevis and/or longus. Rest for now but all clear to weight-bear and train if it’s not painful.

PHEW.

By this point I had already booked in to see Alistair Dall at Sports Podiatry Scotland for an assessment.

Alistair was FANTASTIC. One Thorough assessment and a diagnosis of Cuboid Syndrome later, I was sent off with a doorstop sized orthotic in my trainer and an action plan. Positivity returned. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I actually dislodged a bone. In my foot. While swimming.

*shrugs*

You would think that would be my run of bad luck finished, yes?

WRONG.
Let’s skip another week and I manage to tweak my lower back. (If I rolled my eyes any harder they’d get stuck in my head.) Of course, by this point my I AM NOT GETTING SICK LOOK AT ALL THESE VITAMINS I AM EATING approach to life meant I’d developed a bark. Fast forward three weeks to present and I am STILL COUGHING and it sucks. I am phlegmy. It is disgusting. An actual herd of elephants have made a comfy nest on my sternum and my colleagues are ready to kill me dead. Of course, the worst part is I have THE ACTUAL FUCKING LONDON MARATHON ON APRIL 23RD AND I HAVE RUN ABOUT 8 MILES SINCE DECEMBER.

Honestly. You couldn’t make this shit up.

It seems I am destined to never get my secretly-hoped-for time.

I mean I could defer…. but I have worked so hard for this. Realistically I have until expo to defer so I could just… y’know…. wing it until then. At least I’m rested right now….. VERY FECKING RESTED.

The plan is currently to wrap myself in bubble wrap soaked in Dettol and hope for the best.

Help.

Hobbled. 

I’m not one to overthink or anything, but…. I’ve been overthinking. 

I know. I. Know. It is not like me at all. 

(Cough)

Things have been going well. Too well. Sure, there’s been some bugs, a bout of shin splints, a projectile vomiting incident and some lost sleep, but largely I’ve been getting the hell on with it and kicking ass everywhere. It’s been ACE. 

This was until I was 500m into Tuesday night’s swim. A gentle push off the wall and OH HOLY CHRIST THAT IS CRAMP. 

Right foot. Shit the bed that hurts. I stop in the middle of the pool. The staff know me well enough now to notice this is not normal behaviour unless I have lane rage and I’m waiting to punch a chopper in the goggles. After a few minutes stood wincing in waist deep water, unable to move, the lad asks if he’s going to need to fish me out. 

Oh how I fucking laughed. But seriously, help. 

About 8 hours later I managed to doggy paddle back to the shallows dragging my misshapen claw-foot behind me. Slightly out of practise, having not had cramp for a few years, I began violently stretching the living shit out of Claw Foot until it eventually returned to its normal form. 

4000m of sporadic cramp later I hauled my carcass out of the water and home to eat the entire contents of the fridge. 

I slept the sleep of a person full of pasta and awoke at 5am to begin my morning ritual of “I HATE BEING A FUCKING ADULT SCREW THIS”. 

I put my feet down and OW. 

What? What?! My right foot felt like someone had driven a rusty stake through its ankle. 

This isn’t good. Try again. 

Nope. Fuck. 

Walking was, at best, a challenge. I hobbled about and managed to make it to work where I spent the day googling “WHY THE FUCK IS MY FOOT BROKEN” and learning about tendons and metatarsals. Self diagnosis was broken everything and ruptured other stuff and basically no more running ever again. Thank you, Dr Google. Serves me fucking right. 

Eventually the pain subsided enough to allow me to make the 100% sensible and not at all stupid decision to GO TO THE GYM AND THEN DO A THRESHOLD RUN. 

Good. Fucking. Work. Bean. 

Somewhat shockingly, this didn’t hurt. 

But when I woke up the next morning it was basically def con 4 south of my ankle. I was not getting away with training through this. 

Thursday was spent in a growing state of utter panic. Marathon in 10 weeks. Cannot walk. Oh god. Kill me. 

It culminated in the most epic meltdown when coach advised NO CARDIO. 

WHAAAAAAAAAAAT. NOOOOOOOOOO. BUT SWIMMING??? No. No swimming. 

Oh, well fucking kill me dead. 

There was ugly crying. There was texting friends telling them that THIS WAS IT I AM GIVING UP FOREVER BYE. 

Eventually Beardy appeared and quite simply stated “your foot’s been sore like a day. Calm the fuck down” 

*sniffles* ok. You’re right. 

No one ever likes to hear the words “no cardio” when they’re training for endurance, but I decided, seeing as I was told to continue weight training, that all would not be lost. 

Terrified of losing all the progress made with running and swimming, I gave myself a pep talk and decided against immediate amputation. It might heal. I’d rather not train for london with a bloody stump. 

So. Now we wait. We ice, elevate and stretch. We have been through WAY worse. Hell, we ran 25 miles out of 26.2 with 6 weeks training last year. #lol 

The swimming ban will hopefully be over inside a week. This is a huge relief. I’m nowhere near as quick as I could be. And certainly no where near ready to swim 10 fucking thousand metres. (What was I thinking) 

Fuck knows when I’ll be able to run on the Claw but I know if I can keep my strength up it won’t take me long to get the run fitness back. 

Onwards, with a limp. 

New Year, Same Me. 

Let’s be honest: 2016 was a bit of a clusterfuck. Especially for Famouses. It’s clear that Bowie and Rickman were holding the very fabric of the universe together…

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. In BeanLand (population ME) I did some pretty decent stuff and my awesome friends continued to be incredibly inspiring. 

Let’s just take a sec to admire my bling haul:


I love the positivity of new year posts. The “look what I’ve signed up for posts”. The “imma DO this shit” posts. All awesome. In the hazy days before we all drag our bloated carcasses back to work, where it’s no longer socially acceptable to start and end every conversation with “oh go on just one more Quality Street. Ok 5. 5 more. But that’s the last—ok 8.” It is fun to daydream about what lies ahead. Until you realise that you have precisely zero holidays booked. Fail. And those winter miles aren’t going to swim, bike or run themselves. 

*hefty sigh* 

So what does lie ahead? 

LOOONNNNNDOOOOOOOOON. AGAIN. I can’t even process how excited I am to have the opportunity to run the London marathon for the second year in a row. I can’t flipping wait. And I’m so excited to see where training takes me and my legs. Right now my legs are not happy. A muddy run in a field seems to have triggered shin splints. Which is super fun. Oops, I mean super shit. 

No need to worry though, my so-laid-back-I-might-be-sleeping approach to training is paying dividends with my base fitness and my coach is killing me one sufferfest at a time…. 

SWIMMING FOREVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN.  10,000 meters to be frighteningly precise. That’s basically forever. I hate to think about what nick my guns will be in by June but I’m assuming hench as fuck. On my long and scary road to becoming IronBean, I have several milestones in my head. Being confident to swim FOREVER in open water is a big box to tick. Open water is no fecking joke. Luckily Windermere should be warm (ish) and will provide a stunning location for this stupid, stupid idea. 

PUTTING DOWN THE FORK. The unthinkable has happened. I managed to eat such an alarmingly huge volume of chocolate over Christmas that I’ve actually, for the first time in 30 years, gone off the stuff. I’m sure the love will return, but currently I cannot face it. Which is FANTASTIC news because I have come out of the holiday season with a bit too much Squish. 

Not to sound smug, but I don’t intend to really change anything. Apart from making sure I relax and enjoy my training (I say “enjoy” I mean “endure with a big fuck off smile on my face because it is AWESOME!!!”) I’ve learnt the hard way that stressing over the fine detail is a terrible fucking plan. I can achieve so much more if I just chill and go with it. I can work my ass off but I also realise my body isn’t that of a finely tuned athlete. It’s just a body. Standing in front of a mirror. Asking itself to SIT THE FUCK DOWN FOR ONCE. 

My main goal for this year is to remain happy. And train hard. And work hard. And eat well. And maybe do some races amongst that. 

COME. AT. ME. 

No offence.

Now. Before I start, I want to make it crystal clear that I am not easily offended, nor do i ever really give a shit about what people choose or choose not to wear. Wear what you like and wear it with pride. But……

I was in a generic supermarket today (rhymes with Yaldi) and a woman walked passed me in some sweaty running kit. She’d clearly been for a jog as she was wearing her sweat with pride and the kind of smugness that shouts “yes I’m gonna buy this pizza and devour it and I deserve it”. What struck me about her was her t shirt slogan. I had to double take:

“It’s called running, fatty. You should try it.” 

Jesus. Now. I can see the funny side in literally almost anything. But I can’t see the funny side in that. 

Having recently had a vent about prejudice I experience due to my booty and what is left of my boobs (“gosh you dont LOOK like you train 6 days a week”) I was perplexed by this. Not wanting to be a hypocrite or anything but I couldn’t help noticing that she wasn’t exactly a whippet herself. I only had that thought because her horrendously catty t shirt made me take stock of her general appearance. Otherwise I’d have just shared a knowing smile with a fellow runner as I browsed the cured meats. 

What a fuck awful slogan. What a way to give runners a shitty name, you judgemental swine. If you own one of those t shirts, hang your head in shame. That is NOT supportive. 

It’s very easy to get swept up by the pride you feel when you tick off another challenge or race or distance, but don’t ever forget that literally everyone has a battle. She shot me a look when I was reading her t shirt that, had I not been wearing a finishers medal and sweaty appearance myself (I’d just run a race. I don’t just wear my medals although give me half a fucking chance and I would…) she may well have thought “yeah you, fatty….” 

It’s a complex and challenging subject that I’m not going to delve into in detail. We live in a society where obesity is becoming the norm. But there are ways to make a point about a healthy lifestyle that don’t point the finger of shame at others who may actually be trying to make a change as well. 

So before you make that nasty comment within ear-shot of someone you don’t believe conforms to certain norms, and before you pick up that “fuck you, fatty” t shirt cause it’s “funny”, even if you’ve lost 18 stone by getting fit and feel you have the right to belittle others…. take a minute to think about how it would feel to see your own insecurities highlighted sarcastically on a t shirt. 

Fin. 

Winter is coming. 

Actually, it is already fucking here. 

I know this because my toes are constantly cold, my nose is red and literally everyone in the northern hemisphere has a cough. 

En route to the shower, in the 8 painfully cold minutes it takes me to remove all the layers of PJs I’m currently wearing to bed, I’ve been doing some thinking about how much I fecking hate the winter. And the heat in summer. Am I ever happy?

Um, no. 

But at least in the summer you can cool off with a refreshing spritz from the garden hose or have water in the fridge ready to tank when you get home from a stiflingly toasty run. 


In the winter, training just seems to involve being perilously close to developing pneumonia, the flu and the bubonic plague all at once. Ice hitting your face feels badass for about 4 seconds until your teeth start to hurt and you start and to look like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. And how come puddles in winter just seem to find a way into my trainers? That’s not braw. 

Sure, winter training makes you tough but it also has a tendency to make you violently snotty. 

Another issue with winter training is tremendously inconvenient for us gals. And, ahem, that is why there needs to be more options for padded sports bras… (Panache do one, FYI and it is good. If a little uncomfy with your HR strap) 

And. Is there anything more horrendously shocking and painfully cold than putting on your Garmin HR strap??? No. there isn’t. That is a fact. 

So why do it? Why put myself through it if I hate it? (I don’t hate it). Why do anything that isn’t fun?

The first reason is mostly the very real fear that if I don’t keep working, my body will return to its natural state of “squish”. And the second is the practical issue of What Happens In January When I Start Training Proper? My body will have forgotten what running is and you can forget swimming. I’ll basically have just reverted to drowning. 

Of course, I’ll try and look on the bright side a bit. What do I like about winter training?

Crisp, bright mornings are lovely if you can avoid the ice on paths and pavements. Running in freshly laid snow is also a treat. (If you know where the puddles are beneath it) There is no time toastier than just post hot shower when you’ve put your 18 layers back on and you are beneath a blanket by the fire. And you know you deserve this joy. 

I’m also very lucky to live in the countryside in central Scotland. So, minutes from home, I can hike up hills for views like this:


Winter kit is also nice. Cosy long sleeved tops, buffs (i have been known to wear more than two at once), toasty socks & bobble hats. Layering is entirely key to survival in the winter. 

But balance is also necessary. The temptation is to wear AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE to avoid the initial shock of the cold, however I’ve found getting out and doing my warm up outside makes life a little less brisk. 

So now, as Scotland slips into almost constant darkness, it’s time to dust off my dayglo (JK, I never put it away) and get used to being constantly sniffly.

This is the one time of year when swimming pool changing rooms are WELCOMINGLY warm instead of feeling hotter than the surface of the sun. There’s a positive, at least. 

Roll on Spring, but……

…..COME AT ME, WINTER. 

Back to Where it Began. 

There are certain races that draw you back repeatedly. For me it’s MoRun in Edinburgh. Tied in with Movember, the race company donates proceeds towards the fight against Prostate and Testicular cancer and helps raise awareness of cancer and suicide in men. 

The MoRun 10k was my first EVER race back in 2013. And it always draws me back every year. Apart from last year where I’d torn a muscle in my back and was at home with my mum in a huff, eating French toast. 

2013

Time: 1:11.19

Post-Race Leg Status: unable to walk down stairs for 4 days. 

Recovery time: 2 weeks. 


2014

Time: 1:04.54

Post-Race Leg Status: had only just been given the all-clear to run by Physio. 6 months post first-marathon. Stairs not ok for 2 days. 

Recovery Time: a week. 


2015

50kg reps of Deadlifts on October 20th  ruptured a muscle in my lower back. I was out for 6 weeks. It wasn’t the most fun ever. 

2016

Time: 1:01:54

Post-Race Leg Status: Pain-free trudge back to Waverley. Pain free when moving from sofa to standing. Leg win!

Recovery time: TBC 

My stomach was on it’s arse most of last night and this morning. I’ve not been well this week and haven’t had a consistent week of training. The demons had truly got into my head. I really really almost stayed in bed. BUT. I am glad I didn’t. 


So, aside from the improvement in medal quality, and my times, what else has changed? 

I’m much stronger now. And tougher. You may be looking at that time and scratching your head because it’s not *that* fast for me. I’ll explain: the route is 2 laps of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I’ll say only that. And share a knowing grimace with the Scots among you. 

I’ve no idea why I want to do this race every year. That hill. Twice. 

The race itself hasn’t changed. Although there were LOADS more 5k runners this year and a lot less 10k runners. The double loop of the hill is pretty nasty, though, so I can’t blame anyone for opting for the single loop. 

Brian’s dad ran the 5k. His 3rd medalled race in 30 years. He’s diabetic and has made HUGE improvements to his fitness recently. He ran a great time and enjoyed the event. Awesome effort, Mike!

Brian, having spent the week unable to digest solid food after a tummy bug, managed to keep it under 55 minutes. Good effort for someone who admits to not training consistently! 

And, as always, it was ace to bump into friends. Ella and Frazer both ran excellent races. And I ALMOST caught Frazer up! 

The weather won the day. The forecast had been shite. But the sun shone and it was warmer than the week had been. I only needed one layer and, obviously, chose my VLM adidas long sleeved top. 

The video Mike got of me crossing the line shows me stumbling. I can’t remember much about finishing except that I really really wanted a nap. I learnt the hard way that, even though I ate enough by normal standards before the race, I should have made more of an effort given that the days running up to the run had fallen WAY short of my normal calorific intake. My blood sugar plummeted after the race and I was dangerously low on glucose. Luckily, Mike was on hand to feed me sweets until I could muster the strength to wander about. 

Another great event from MoRunning. Let’s hope they move to a flatter route eventually! 




Being Mentally Fit. 

A recent post on my training team’s Facebook page got me thinking. What IS good training for an endurance athlete…. like….. in general? 

I could sit here for hours and preach about strength training and distance work, but I’m going to look at the bigger picture: Not just particular training methods, but actual life stuff. Stuff that’ll put hairs on your proverbial chest. Give you the mental edge. Make ya tuff. 

1. Two words: Lunge Jumps

Fucking dry heave. The minute I clock these in my programming I want to curl up and die. Give me 1000 hills to climb on my bike. Give me 40 burpees and 300 kettle bell swings. But please. Please. Dont make me do lunge jumps. 

Searing heat in the quads. HR through the roof. These usually come at the end of a heavy leg session and are the precursor to a threshold run. 

If you can endure 5 sets of these bastards then you can endure a marathon. Word. 

2. A season of Grey’s Anatomy. 

Probably the one with the shooter. Or when Denny died. Or the plane crash. Or George and Izzy. 

The emotional roller coaster, frustration, sheer joy, laughs, tears, blood and other bodily fluids will fully prepare you for most endurance events, I’d imagine. 

Plus you get used to using proper actual medical terminology so that you can impress* medical staff upon your frequent visits to doctors and hospitals with yet more injuries and gross toenails. 

*irritate 

But don’t mock. I could absolutely perform complex surgery. I know ALL the terminology. 

3. The Magic Fifty.

…. or similar. My lovely coach likes to throw these at us occasionally. My equally lovely, but mostly mental pal Chris, absolutely loves these workouts. He asks for them. One time he requested The Magic ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY. 

They involve many reps. Usually featuring a few similarly horrible exercises. With as little rest as required. And generally you do these workouts once a week for a few weeks to try and get your time down for the total effort. 

There is nothing like the mental battle when you’re only 20 swings into 50 of with the kettle bell. You’ve got another two rounds to go. Your hands are basically bloody stumps and you just. want. to stop. 

But you DON’T. That’s what makes you NAILS. 

It’s entirely acceptable to puke after one of these. 


Me. Dead. After The Magic Fifty. 

4. Applying (or trying to apply) for Jobseekers Allowance. 

I was very fortunate that my obsessive search for a new job came to a swift end in May. Because I lost one day. One ENTIRE DAY to this farce of a process. And many have lost MORE than one day. 

Name. Age. DOB. Redundancy details. Not accepted. Name of first dog. Wrong.  Name of first neighbours pet hamster. Air speed velocity of an unladen sparrow. Nope. Wrong. Death. 

Honestly. It was the in the top ten most harrowing experiences of my life. But it taught me RESILIENCE in the face of adversity and you definitely need this for endurance. 

Me at the job centre. Aka Bridge Of Death. 

5. Shit-Awful Runs. 

You know the type: Lead legs, no energy, dog shit in your trainer tread. 

These make you head-strong. Not at the time, like. Cause at the time you just want to be on the sofa eating beige food, but honestly they do make you better at coping when the endurance stuff starts to hurt. 

6. Winter Training. 

Now I’m not going to say it’s tough in Scotland because in the grand scheme of things, a few weeks of ice and maybe a few snow days are nothing compared to a few months of solid night time and 8 feet of snow. 

However. 

In Scotland, we seem to be blessed with the type of weather that feels mild to begin with but then you find a puddle with ice at the bottom and because it’s so fucking dark and there are so many manky leaves everywhere, and you find out about this puddle as you wake from a coma with a broken hip. 

Winter training makes your lungs hurt. Makes your toes cold. Makes everything cold, actually. It makes your nose stream and your ears ache. But it definitely makes the summery runs feel better. 

As long as they’re not too melty…..

7. If it makes you hate life, it’s good preparation. 

And that sums it up, really. I love a good workout, but the ones that make all the difference are the ones that make you want to cry and stop moving forever. 

It’s the subtle things too, like that Economics Lecture you sat through at uni, determined for the stuff to stick. It didn’t. You tried. But it taught you that LITERALLY NOTHING is worse than that. 

So. Do more stuff you hate, and then nothing will seem as bad as that! 

(Not really…..)