The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

My name is Running Wolf

on April 15, 2014

650,000 spectators lined the streets of London on Sunday to cheer on the 36,000 runners taking part in the 2014 London Marathon.

If you have ever been one of those spectators, there’s probably a chance that the thought of giving it a go next year has crossed your mind. There are probably just as many who would never want to give it a go. But if you are one that has thought about it, then I urge you to.

When Husband and I moved to Singapore, I also packed up my three London Marathon medals too. All your worldly possessions and all. In five and a half years they’ve sat in a box in a cupboard and have gone a funny colour.

20140415-215852.jpg

Still, they give me no less pride than the days I got handed them.

I’m no sporting person and I don’t possess a natural ability for any one sport which is a shame. I can’t even follow a step aerobics class. After leaving school and to my mid twenties, I can honestly say I barely did any exercise apart from the odd swim.

It was Ms Beefy who sowed the idea of running into my mind. She and I and Nana Moon took part in the Women’s Light Flora Run back in 2001. It was a 5km distance, a warm up jog for people like Big Brother Li. It felt like a long way at the time having put all that kind of nonsense behind me at school.

Then 10km felt like a long way.

Then I decided to jump straight in for 26.2 miles because I was one of those spectators cheering on a team of people running the London Marathon to raise money for people with muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting disease affecting over 30,000 people in the UK. Many young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that only affects boys, barely live beyond their mid twenties and lose mobility by the age of ten. It can be a very powerful emotion watching people take on such a physical challenge for a cause that you are committed to.

In one moment, I thought perhaps I could do this too. Of course it’s about personal achievement but I definitely wouldn’t go through such a gruelling training programme for almost four months if I didn’t feel like there was something else to achieve too. In fact £53 million was raised for charity through the London Marathon in 2013 alone. Often charities come under fire for stipulating a minimum sponsorship level of around £1,000 if you want to take one of their places when you don’t get through in the ballot. On one hand it’s much needed income and on the other it determines your commitment.

Running for a charity is the best support you will ever get to accompany you on what can be a rather lonely 16 weeks of training. There is always someone keen to hear how you are doing and understands the effort and energy that goes before the final 26.2miles. It’s also good to be reminded of who you’re actually doing it all for. Then there’s the extra support you get along the route.

I’ve heard people say that running is dull and boring and bad for you. Sometimes getting the motivation to get out is dull. Sometimes where you’re running it is boring. Sometimes it can be bad for you because you’ve not prepared yourself properly.

Who would have thought running isn’t as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. You need to wear the right shoes, eat the right food and strengthen other parts of your body that never crossed my mind were vital to running well. Then you need to have the right frame of mind.

I followed a basic 16 week training plan and by the end of week 5, the weekend run was already half marathon distance. Plus fitting in three or four runs during the week. In the days before an app existed for everything you could possibly need was available, I became obsessed with my London A-Z and a piece of string. Diligently working out a route that fitted in with the required distance of my training run.

Running isn’t dull but I certainly became it.

I became acquainted with carboloading, energy bars or energy gels, cold baths, the pain of deep tissue massages, PBs, micropore taping up body parts at risk of continuous chafing and constantly smelling of Deep Heat. I gave up alcohol the third time just as another challenge, good practice for being preggers I guess. I ate so many oat cakes and porridge, I never really yearn to eat them now.

But I’m so glad I did start this thing called running. As part of training and sometimes just because, I’ve ran along some beautiful country lanes in Buckinghamshire and a good bit of dual carriageway in Reading. I realised Clapham Common isn’t that far from Muswell Hill. I got to spend more time with friends like Ms Beefy who became my partner on many a run around Hampstead Heath and along the Thames.

I’m glad I discovered I have the focus to do something physically challenging being fearful of most other sporting activities.

Since having #1, 2 and 3, I haven’t the inclination or energy to want to run any great distance. Plus living in the tropics, it’s quite difficult to run, or I should correct myself, to plod in 30 degrees heat is like wading through treacle. I went out for a 30 minute run earlier and I barely covered 5km. I understand now why Big Brother Li gets so excited running in ‘cold weather’. When he came to stay with us in London in 2004, it coincided with the St Albans half marathon which he decides to run just for fun. For fun I tell you!

20140417-085033.jpg

In my heart, I would have liked to finish any of my marathon attempts in under 4 hours 30 minutes. Even 4 hours 45 minutes. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The first time, you have no idea how it will go and just finishing is a bonus. I worried about the 5.30am start having a negative impact on my performance but the adrenaline coursing through you the days before and the morning itself more than compensates. It’s no doubt a thrill to be part of the crowd surging towards Blackheath. For one morning to be part of something with 36,000 other people.

It’s not so much of a thrill worrying about when that pre-run poo is going to come. Think Paula Radcliffe.

The second time did become more of a personal challenge with the intention of bettering the first attempt. Did it happen? Sadly not. I felt like I was doing ok the first half but then I hit the dreaded proverbial Wall. I knew all about it having read about in my Runner’s World magazine and on running forums. Oh gosh, I forgot about the forums. Forums are weird places. Good for lots of things and support and advice but when you start treating it like your best friends are there then that’s just weird. Running is solitary but not that solitary.

The Wall is when your muscles and liver become depleted of glycogen and you suddenly feel fatigued and weak with no energy. I took every step of training so seriously that I had never had it before. I was at mile 14 and unprepared for this sudden loss of interest, slight disorientation and feeling of nausea. Mile bloody 14.

There’s a stretch of the London Marathon where you’ve not yet reached halfway but you can see those passing mile 22 on the way out. On a good day, it could buoy you up with renewed determination or on a bad day like I was having, it just seemed impossible. I have no idea how I managed to get round to mile 20. A few episodes of throwing up by the roadside, a few stops in the St John’s Ambulance tents and bucket loads of goodwill from the spectators at the side. I mostly walked that latter half but made sure I could at least run across the finish line.

Did I feel disappointed? A little because I had started off so well. But at the same time not really. I finished it and therefore fulfilled the commitment to all the people who had sponsored me.

So I tried again a third time in 2007, the year we got married. I suppose it was to provide some distraction against the wedding planning. To make me appreciate lots of big events in one year. I injured my left knee nine weeks into training, it will never be fixed and apparently I now run lopsided. So starting that time was such a big unknown and to finish again became my only goal.

Long distance running on any level is about mind over matter. Once you lose the will, it can be so difficult to motivate yourself again. During the last stretch along Embankment, when you know it’s just not possible to stop and give up now but feeling like you’re barely clinging on, I bumped into Big D quite by accident. We were both pretty tired at that point, it was quite a hot day. Great for spectators, not so great for running. It was good to see a friend at that point, I can say.

20140416-233027.jpg

I will always remember feeling overwhelmed at the amount of good will there is along the whole way. Children high fiving, jelly babies in abundance, families setting up their own drinks stations outside their homes. Everyone is willing you to carry on. Even at mile 26 with just point two to go, there are calls of ‘keep running’.

Husband is my greatest support and whilst I got all the glory for doing the running. I am grateful for his support during the days of extreme tiredness (read grumpiness), for coming to out of town events and waiting hours for me to finish and for battling against all the other spectators along the way to wait patiently to cheer me on at various points as I pass by in seconds.

I think my marathon training days are over. I think they are. Right now, I haven’t the energy or commitment to even consider a half marathon, which is quite a good distance. Not far enough to make you cry but not short enough you have to sprint. But one day I’ll be ready for it and if there’s a running partner I would like to have, then it would be Big Brother Li. I would like to run a race with him because if there’s anyone who would have to carry me round should my knees give way then it’s my brother.

In the meantime I’ll take my half hour plods around Singapore in the 30 degrees heat. But when your route takes in views like this, then it does make it all worthwhile.

20140416-233902.jpg

If you’re wondering why my name is Running Wolf, well it’s because the night before I ran the London Marathon for the first time, I had this dream that I was raised in a tribe and my name was Running Wolf. Look what my friend Sprinty Otter got engraved for me.

20140417-085109.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: