Tuesday 22 October 2013

Running my first marathon: WHY?!

A few weeks ago I arrived home to this:

My initial reaction: I'm in? I'm in?! Oh my God - I'M IIIIIINNNN!! *tweets, Facebooks and makes phonecalls until the WHOLE WORLD knows that I’m doing the London Marathon*

My delayed reaction: Uhoh. I’ve told everyone about it so now I’m actually going to have to do this. 26.2 miles of what can surely only be described as self-inflicted pain. WHY?!

Obviously I WANT to run a marathon: I entered the ballot. Well, I watched the London marathon last year and thought it looked like fun (!) so I threw my hat in the ring. Nobody gets in first time, right? I know people who have applied 8 times and haven't got in... and now li'l ol' me is in! I'm not gonna lie - this realisation fills me with both excitement AND dread. Let me tell you why... 

why I should NOT run a marathon

Yes, I’m a runner. I can declare this because I run about, sometimes for fun, sometimes in a race. However, I’m not anywhere near what you would call ‘a proper runner’. Y'know, one of those runner kinds that need to be in the brackets; one of those lithe, lean individuals who make running look like a breeze. Who nimbly overtake you on your slow Sunday slog and, as you watch their tiny arse and slim-but-muscular calves disappear into the distance, drive you to think: that’s OK. I could never run like that. They look like they’re 'a proper runner’. Although I still feel my chunky calves burn with envy. Well it's either envy or it's the lactic acid - who can tell?

Running for me is hard but I do enjoy it; even if I don’t enjoy it during the run I love the feeling of having been a run AKA ‘the post-run smug-fest’. This smug feeling usually ensues within minutes of finishing 5-10K and can be known to last for days beyond if a medal was achieved at the end.

Just-finished-10K smug-fest

Beyond 10K, however, or – to be precise – 8 miles, my body begins to ache. My knees are notorious pains in the ass. Body-movement logistics meaning that, obviously, this is a figurative statement rather than a literal one. The ladies of my family have a history of knee troubles and it seems I am following suit. In fact, the knee issue is why I stopped running about 3 years ago and have had to build up again over the past 6 months or so.

Surely running 26.2 miles – 18.2 miles beyond my ‘knee comfort zone’ – is a bad idea?! Hmm...

So, here’s why I SHOULD run a marathon

I’m 29 for christ sake. I should NOT be letting my knees stop me running (unless medically advised to stop, as has happened to one of my friends who no longer runs over 10K – if concerned about any aches or pains then please check with your doctor and physio, peeps!). Perhaps in the long term I will have to stop, but for now I’m fortunate that my knee issues can be counteracted through joint supplements, good running trainers, strengthening the muscles that support my knees while running and – importantly – ensuring I have a good running technique.

Focussing on technique, I attended a Marathon Masterclass talk at Sweaty Betty last week where Mike Antoniades – founder of The Running School – took us through his tips for effective marathon running. 

Technique is top of his priorities, and I learned a few key things that I need to think about in my running, such as to stop swinging my arms across my body and to run from my glutes and hamstrings rather than my quads and hips. My friend Zoe put together a nice list of the key points from the talk here – thanks, Zoe!

I also have a few personal driving forces to run a marathon.

I love the London Marathon. I’ve watched the coverage on the telly box every year since I was a wee girl. As those who know me can testify, I’m not a ‘crier’. Droplets do not form easily on these ol’ eyes very often (well, unless I’m fuelled with wine, in which case the floods can be biblical); however I blub my eyes out when I see the joy on people’s faces as they cross the finish line and I  well up reading about other blogger's achievements, like getting new PBs. But cry at Bambi?! Pah! Bambi needs to get some miles in before I’ll shed a tear!

I'm also stubborn, so when people tell me it'll be ‘too hard’ or ‘too far’ it makes me want to go and do it just to prove them wrong. I want to be crying along with the other finishers and feel that sense of collected survival – we did not succumb to the road! We made it!

In all honesty though, more important that my selfish desire for long-term bragging rights and race bling, I want to run this marathon for the same reason as so many other runners of marathons: 

I want to run it for someone else.

Be it through illness, disability or absence, there are many who can’t run a marathon, for whom the decision to run a marathon is not there for the making. My friend Sarj is one of those people. 

We spent three years as desk buddies during our PhDs at Edinburgh Uni – Sarj ‘affectionately’ referring to me as his ‘bench wench’. We had some good times:

Sarj was knocked down on his way home in October 2009 and did not recover from his injuries. He was 27 and had just qualified as a teacher. I can’t explain how tragic this loss was to everyone who knew Sarj; he was a beacon of fun and full of mischief. Our lives are better from having known him and I feel sad for those who never had the chance to meet him. 

Inspired by Sarj's outlook on the world and his approach to life I moved from a small town in Scotland to London, and I try to live my life to the fullest. Which, evidently  means throwing yourself head-first into a marathon and giving it a bloody good shot!

Wherever he may be, looking down on me and waving a banner he’s made – I imagine it says ‘Run, Bench Wench, Run!’ or some borderline-offensive, politically incorrect, cheeky comment - I know it will amuse Sarj greatly to see me break myself while running around London on his behalf. It is this belief that, in my hours of pain during training and in the race itself, will remind me just exactly WHY I’m doing this: I’m doing it for you buddy.

So! Knee pain or not, I WILL be completing 26.2 miles around our great city next April. Now I just need to work out the small issue of how...

Katy | City Girl Fit

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