Saturday. Pre breakfast.

After a two day rest, I was itching to run again. I woke up at 7am on the dot (without an alarm. I never use an alarm), and decided there and then that I was going to do my four miles today. Right then, in fact.

I leapt out of bed and instantly regretted it. A pain went shooting through my right knee, causing me to sit straight back down on the bed. ‘Uh-oh’, I thought, ‘this could be serious’. I straightened my leg and felt the same pain again, and quickly reverted it to a bent position. I tried to wiggle my knee-cap, but as you know, your patella doesn’t move so much when your leg is bent. I straightened it again and the pain, whilst still there was not anything like as sharp.

I took a walk downstairs, and then back up, thinking that if I can cope with stairs, it cannot be that bad. It seemed OK, but just didn’t feel ‘right’; not a pain as such, more just a tightness.

Management decision time. We are going running.

So I got ready, and I went. By this time it was around 7:45am. I had not eaten since around 7pm the night before. I did, however, imbibe about two thirds of a bottle of wine around midnight, which probably has something to do with my poor decision making at breakfast time on Saturday.

After a thorough stretch, a glass of water, and a final look in the mirror (hey, I know it’s early, but I gotta look good…), I headed out of the door, without really deciding where I was going.

I ran a four mile route with Kasia last week (see previously), and it went bad, and our regular one mile route can form a series of laps, but both start with the same road section, so off I went.

A couple of minutes in, and I decided to do the laps, purely because I wanted to measure my times better, and stick to the slower pace.

I have to tell you that this was one of my favourite runs ever. I felt good (if tired and a little hungover), and I stuck almost perfectly to a 7:30 / mile pace for the entire four laps, meaning that I got round without walking once. I also had no pain from my diaphragm, or my back, or my foot. Or even my knee.

Having read even more this week about running theory, apparently, running the longer distances time and time again will naturally build up the muscles and endurance, and the pace will find itself. So while I know that I can run a mile at around 5 minutes, I don’t need to. Yet. Eventually, my pace time will pick itself up. I’ll keep you posted…

We hit the magic 120 days mark today. Officially I’ve got that many more days before the race, which in reality gives me around 100 more training days, as the last couple of weeks before the marathon are designed as a taper, to stop me from wearing myself out before the big day.

The next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking into my diet a bit more, now that I know what I’ve been doing wrong with the actually running. I don’t eat meat, and Kasia is vegan, so we’re pretty good at what we do eat (except for my afore mentioned peanut habit), but even then, we can step up our game, and fuel our bodies rather than just fill our bellies.

Luckily, both of us are good cooks, and adventurous with it (yeah, I know I just said we’re vegetarians), so we’re always finding new things or trying out new recipes.

Right. Back to bed for an hour. I’m moving house today.

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OUCH.

I signed off yesterday with the statement that ‘Compeed blister plasters may be the greatest thing ever’. Yeah, about that.
As you may well know, I have a blister, on the underside of my right arch. The blister split at the weekend, and I removed the loose skin, and cover with the blister plaster. I then ran three miles, and it was fine.
Yesterday, I ran another three miles, and it was not fine. The plaster shifted at some point during the run, and reattached itself slightly askew, so that now it stuck crossing the exposed under tissue. To say that it hurt when I had to remove it, and it took a whole load more skin away with it would be an understatement.
So now I have a rather large hole on the underside of my foot, which I have no choice but to walk on. I did recover with another plaster, but running is going to be out of the question for a few days. I’m moving house on Saturday, so maybe it’s a good thing.
The danger, of course is that running with any injury puts strain on other parts of the body, you end up compensating, and running differently. This increases the risk of another, more serious injury, and it’s really not something I need.
I slowed my pace on last night’s run, not due to the foot, but just to concentrate on my breathing. Everything was wrong from the start: I had eaten late, and didn’t actually leave the house to start the run until nearly 11pm.
But the good news is, that with the slower pace (7 minutes per mile), I ran a full 2 miles before my foot hurt and I pulled up. When the pain eased, I broke into a series of short sprints, which probably exacerbated the blister.
Doing the maths 7 minutes a mile sounds a little slow, but would get me around the course in about three hours. That’s a time I’d be happy with, so I think I’ll stick to the slower pace and work on the distance. Many marathoners use a run/walk combo but you know me; I am way too competitive to be ordinary…
I have ordered a new pair of running shoes though (below). They’re to get me through training. I’m pretty certain they won’t make it to the race. I’m itching to try them out, but I know it’ll be Sunday at the earliest. I’m not running again before then, and have a six-mile run planned. My first 10k in nearly 2 years.
mmmm.. sexy. And cheap.
It’s a little daunting, if I’m honest, but it really is time to step up. There is no going back now…
   

Come in number 2550. Your time is up.

We did it. We signed up. Kasia and I are now officially participants in the 2015 Warsaw marathon.
It’s the first time I’ve signed up for a marathon. I was a little shocked when I had to enter my expected finishing time to the nearest ten minutes. 
Should I play it safe, and go somewhere around the 5 hour mark? Or push myself to the limit and try for a sub-three hour time. After all, if I’m running 3 miles in 20 minutes now, 262 in 180 works out, right? I can do maths.
So I played it down the middle, and aimed for four hours. Well, a minute under to be precise. I can finish faster, but damned if I’m finishing later.
My race number is 2550. Kasia’s was in the 7000s. We quickly surmised that this must be down to expected finishing times, as it would a little odd if 5000 people all happened to signed up on the same day. I think I’ll be happy just to get around the course in one piece and survive long enough to enjoy a couple of days sightseeing in Warsaw.
As we signed up separately, I paid my 60 Euros fee, and read that if I wanted an Adidas branded T-shirt, it would cost me an extra 30 Euros. I declined this amazing offer, and stuck with the generic one. Kasia later informed me that she paid in Polish, and her fees were nearly half of what mine were.
Oh well.
I did my three mile route last night, slightly slower than at the weekend. The diaphragm cramps returned, although not as harshly as on Sunday. A little research at Google University tells me that I need to adjust my breathing. This makes sense.
In my first couple of posts, I mentioned that I have a lot of work to do on my cardio and breathing; it seems that while my legs can run and hardly feel fatigued even after the longer runs, my breathing technique is struggling to catch up. This needs to be my focus over the next couple of weeks, to settle into a routine that will see me through the entire marathon.

On another note, Compeed Blister Plasters may just be the greatest thing ever.

…And a not so good one.

So after Saturday’s success, I was all buoyed up for my four miles with Kasia on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday is the endurance run for the week, in that it’s designed to get the body used to running much longer distances. As this was the first week of training, this extending run was only actually four miles, one mile longer than run on Saturday.
Well, it started bad, and got worse from there. Bravado got the better of me, as it often does, and seeing Kasia run ahead without warming up or stretching made me think I could do the same. A few hundred metres down the road, and I realised that I didn’t actually know the route. We were running close to where Kasia lives, and although we had discussed the route beforehand, actually running it was different in practice.
I waited patiently for Kasia to catch up. She runs at a much slower, but more measured and constant pace, whereas I tend to run intervals over long distance. My overall times are much faster, but I’d love to be able to run smooth for 26.2 miles come September…
Kasia directed me across the main road, and in the right direction. I knew where I was headed again, and took off at great speed, and Kasia was soon far behind me. Sorry Kash. That was my biggest mistake.
Knowing that the bulk of the run was a path around the park, before heading back the same route, I saw the park up ahead. This isn’t a park I’m familiar with, it has to be said, and the gate that I had expected to see wasn’t there. So instead, I ended up running AROUND the outside of the park, a much greater distance. And I still couldn’t see Kasia. A panic started to set in as my diaphragm locked up. I should have stretched. Now, I couldn’t breathe, felt like I was going to puke, and was somewhat lost as to where I was supposed to be.
I slowed to a walk. My legs, still heavy from the previous days efforts refused to start up again straight away. I jogged about ten metres, then slowed again. The pain in my midsection was severe. I took a swig of water, couldn’t swallow and spat it to the ground. I stretched a little, and the pain seemed to go. I tried running again, and this time found that my legs also agreed, and was soon back up to my normal pace.
A rear entrance to the park was in front of me, and I was soon back on track. Literally. Even an unexpected funfair straddling the route didn’t faze me, and I ran around it (lengthening my route once again).
And there, some way behind me, was Kasia. I ran off ahead again, but then soon ground to a halt. The pain in my midsection came back with a vengeance. And I lost it. Afer that, I could barely walk. I stood and waited for Kasia, who was closing in.
There was some concern on her face, and in her word, but I assured her that it was just down to not stretching. I ran alongside her for a while, out of the park, and back down the side roads we had run on the way in.
Knowing my route now, I took off again at speed, only to pull up a minute or two later, my legs burning from using short paces at Kasia’s side for so long and could do nothing but walk (and shrug) as Kasia, with her measured pace swiftly ran past, even chatting to a couple of passers-by without breaking her stride. I hung my head as I walked past them.
I ran again, and passed Kasia as we reached the main road. As we got into the last stretch, I forwent the pavement, and took to the middle of the road. I felt a sudden burst of clarity in my middle, like the cramp was finally gone, I broke into a sprint over the last few hundred metres. Finishing strong seemed to dissipate the sense of failure that had dogged me the last couple of miles.
As we sat on the sofa, and I surveyed the ruins of my blister (I mentioned it a few posts back. It’s really not pretty now), I analysed the run over and over in my head.
Too much too soon? Was I that unfit? Can I really run a marathon?
And then I realised.

It was all because I didn’t stretch properly. Lesson learned.

A good run…

I set out at 9am Saturday morning for a three mile run, having tracked a route on Google Maps beforehand, and knowing I still had to go into work afterwards.
Stretching fully in the kitchen, a normal morning routing for me all of a sudden, and chowing down a banana, I felt great. One of those mornings where you know it’s going to be a good run. Maybe it was down to the rest day on Friday, but I was itching to hit the road and test my body in a short(ish), fast run.
I headed out the door, Kasabian’s ‘Shoot the runner’ playing in my earphones (It’s a great pace setting tune, and the title adds a little irony to make a smile). The first few hundred metres of this route being slightly downhill, it’s all too easy to pick up a fast pace and peak too soon, so I was acutely aware of  trying to run a little slower (see my previous entries for more on this).
Hitting my stride and the hill bottomed out, I turned the corner onto the longest straight run, which, incidentally also runs slowly back up hill in a gentle climb. Done. Round the bend, and onto the high street, past the café, with people eating full English breakfasts at street tables. I offer them a glance that judges them as a sprint by, in full stride now. A couple of kids watch in awe as I blur past them as they wait with their mother outside the bank. I imagine one of them says “wow”. He probably didn’t. I don’t know – The Charlatans “Forever” is way too loud for me to notice.
At the other end of the high street now, and round another bend and into one of the worst sections – it’s next to a main road, with nothing but residential houses, and no real feature or landmark to push towards. Through that, round another bend, and past a few shops. My bus home goes this way, so I know every building. This helps.
A pub, on the left, then a group of builders taking up the entire pavement. I dodge into the road, and narrowly avoid a car creeping up behind me. Maybe I should’ve turned the music down a little.
At the crest of another hill, I go straight down the other side, round another bend, jumping over a guy sprawled out on the pavement, head under his car and tools spread haphazardly around him. I doubt he even noticed me. Into the final straight, about two hundred metres slightly back up hill and I’m home. Opening the door. I stop my watch.
Just less than 21 minutes. Its way off my personal best, but boy, it felt good.

Sunday’s four mile run with Kasia was a different story though…

My mind is running all over the place.

Today is Friday. According to my training schedule, this is a rest day. And you know what? I’m going to take it. Obviously, I’m still at work today, but I’m looking forward to having an evening off, even if it does mean that I have extra to run over the weekend.
It’s probably why I’m having trouble concentrating right now, so this update is a little all over the place. It’s kind of a train of thought thing, so good luck making much sense of it…
It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK, so I have the next three days off. Monday is a rest day too, but between now and then, I have a three mile run tomorrow, and a four mile run on Sunday. This shouldn’t be too hard; the idea is to get round the course, not to kill myself doing it, so I should take it at a nice gentle pace.
Yeah… This is something I’m having trouble with. I tend to run like the proverbial bat out of hell, as Kasia found out the other night as our plan to run together lasted approximately ten seconds. Luckily, she’s a good sport and didn’t dump me on the spot for leaving her to the mercy of the night.
I need to slow it down a little; be the tortoise not the hare. I love running, but I hate jogging. Does anyone else have this issue? Maybe it’s my competitive nature. Nothing by half, right? It’s probably for this reason that a half marathon doesn’t appeal to me, similarly a 5K race holds no interest.
All or nothing. Go big or go home.
Back to the back. My poor back is a non-issue now. Yes, I have little flexibility, cannot touch my toes (I never could), and struggle to sit for more than a few minutes at a time without some discomfort, but when I run, you wouldn’t know there’s anything wrong. When I announced at work that I was running a marathon, many people asked “…but your back? You can barely walk!” I’m sure they thought I was faking it all along.
Oooh… what else. Aha! I got a blister. Shortly after boasting that my super light running shoes had never given me a blister, a couple of miles later there it was. Right in the middle of my arch. Luckily my rest day should clear most of it up, but it won’t be the last one, and it’s certainly not the first. They don’t tend to bother me in general; I’ve posted pictures to Facebook of my blood soaked trainers in the past, like some sort of grisly badge of honour.
Oh well. I was planning on getting new running shoes this weekend anyway; I’ve read that you’re supposed to replace them every 400 miles or so. These probably haven’t done that, but everybody feels good in new shoes, right?

Now, if only I could get the boss to pay for them…

No news is good news…

Switching to an evening run has been a lot easier than I remember; maybe it’s because of my regular work schedule now, but going running at 10pm at night for a few miles doesn’t seem to kill me like it used to do.
And that’s a big relief. I can go home, have a meal, relax after work, then hit the road, and not feel like I didn’t have time to run.
I started out at a fairly slow pace last night, interested in extending the run for as long as I could, rather than getting round a course as quick as possible. I didn’t even take a watch or a phone with me to check my time. I was literally just running until I had decided I’d run enough.
Well, turns out, about 20 minutes was enough. Based on my usual running pace, this is a little over 3 miles. Which is good. It means I’m on track.
My lungs weren’t burning like they were earlier on the week either. It looks like that first run shook away the cobwebs somewhat, and my respiratory system is remembering how to breathe during that kind of exertion.
But then, there’s my back. This is the longest I’ve actually run since my back troubles got serious. And you know what?
I felt fine. In fact, I woke up this morning in less pain that I have for months. I still couldn’t bend to do my shoelaces easily, but hey, one step at a time, eh?
(Who knew making running puns would be so easy? They’re virtually a walk in the park…)
So anyway, seeing as I have nothing really to say on that training run other than it went ok, I thought I’d fill you in on the next development.
I’ve decided to run in aid of Save The Children – it’s the charity we support where I work. We raised nearly £1,000 last year, and I want to match that on my own this year. A big ask, I know. Anyway, the link is below if you’re enjoying reading these updates, and want to contribute:
I should see if any of you can guess what ‘SPRF’ stands for…

Saturday should involve a visit to the Marathon shop in London for gait analysis and a new pair of shoes… That’s going to be interesting.

A rest is as good as a change.

So… No early morning run today.
I’ve always run around 6am, getting up early, warming up and then running on an empty stomach. I just prefer it this way – I seem to have better results, and feel more motivated for the rest of the day if I start out with a few miles knowing everyone else is still sleeping or staring bleary eyed into their cornflakes.
But not today. Today I decided that I’m going to run in the evening. With Kasia. This is another big step for me, but I’ll come to that in a minute.
Having worked in retail management for many years, I’ve always worked odd shifts, with weird days off, and my current job has been no different; 6 days a week, sometimes not returning home before midnight. That was up until a couple of weeks ago, whereupon I transferred to an office based role (go me), and now work regular Mon-Fri shifts, and have my evenings free.
So now I can finally get an evening routine together. The problem with an early morning run is that unless it’s your day off, you’re going to be on a time limit, even if you start at 6am. It’s not conducive to training for a marathon, and it probably isn’t that great for your body to go from sleeping to a punishing routine in a matter of minutes, regardless of the warm up.
So yeah, Evenings are where we’re at now. I did feel kind of restless this morning though, staring at my running kit laid out ready, and doubtless feeling betrayed. Somehow, maybe because I thought I had more time, I ended up being ten minutes late for work anyway.
Back to running with Kasia. I’ve always run alone. Well, as alone as possible. I tried running with my brother about ten years ago, but it was clear he wasn’t really into it, and ran about half my pace. He introduced me to a friend of his, who he assured me was “the fastest guy I know”, and although I enjoyed the company for a few weeks, he too soon gave up.
Running clubs do not appeal to me; don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of them, but they’re not for me, mostly because I can be rather competitive. No, I like the solitude of me vs. road.
So running with my girlfriend is going to be a new experience.
Is there an etiquette for it? 

6am, Monday morning.

Although I only decided to run a marathon yesterday, I’m jumping in with both feet. Or I would be if jumping didn’t hurt like a big ol’ hurty thing.
As I mentioned previously, Kasia has already got one marathon under her belt (and at least another half marathon too), and lucky for me has a multitude of books on the subject. So, grabbing one at random, I begun finding out just what I’d gotten myself in to.
Well, it would seem that I actually do a lot of things right. I’m vegetarian (Kasia is vegan), and together we’re careful about what we eat. We’re aware of our protein intake, and limit how many empty calories we eat (although I must confess to a secret peanut habit…) and I do know I should drink more water.
I’m 6’3” (191cm) and weight roughly 85kg (185lb). I’m a non-smoker (never have) and am in pretty good health for a 38 year old, except for my back. My back issues stem from a slipped disc about ten years ago, that I never sought treatment for (I was young and invincible), and I’m paying the price now. It’s generally manageable, however I am prone to pull muscles in my lower back, and a few years ago I tore a hamstring running as a direct result of changing my gait instead of stopping while it healed.
With a little trepidation, I went out for my first real run in 18 months this morning. Only a couple of miles, according to my training plan. In the old days, it would have barely registered as a warm up. But now? Now even heading out of the door was scary. I felt my back pulling as I warmed up in the kitchen, at which point I switched the kettle on, just in case I came back sooner than I expected.
Cuing up my start up tune (Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’), I headed out the door…
The first few steps, as I was finding my stride, and I noticed a red car driving up the road in my direction. I picked up my pace, and before I knew it, I was running like I hadn’t just taken a year and a half off. No back pain, no unexpected twinges. 
But that red car still hadn’t passed me. A cursory glance over my shoulder, and I see that the car is still there. Still driving, albeit slowly, in my direction.
And then I realise. They’re watching me. My legs may be a magnificent sight at 6am, however, I was feeling particularly self-conscious, and trying to concentrate on all the things I needed to be aware of (I will explain), and so, cutting across the road IN FRONT of the moving vehicle, I headed down a side street. Note – this isn’t something I recommend as it can – and does – often result in serious injury.
Those things I had to concentrate on? Well, there was pain, first. Was anything hurting? If so why? Can I manage it? What about my back? This will continue to be my biggest concern throughout the coming months.
Secondly, there was technique. I noticed a couple of minutes in that I was running on the balls of my feet, not landing with my heels first. This is something I do when jogging, rather than running. Being rather tall, I have a long stride, and anything less than full stretch, and I tend to run with my feet landing front-half first. So I lengthened my stride, and got stuck in to the serious business of running.
A mile and a half later, and I could barely breathe. My lungs were burning. A cough developed. I was using parts of my respiratory system that had lain dormant for months, and they weren’t happy about being woken up. I pretty much crawled back to the house, hacking and wheezing, fumbling for my key.
And then, back in the safety of the kitchen, kettle being hastily reboiled, lungs bursting and aching from being stretched, I realised something.

I cannot wait to go out and run again.

Another Fine Mess.

Yesterday I woke up, as I do most mornings, with a brilliant, if crazy, idea.
.
“Morning. We should run a marathon,” I said as I turned my girlfriend, who was already significantly more awake than I was at 7am on a Sunday.
“That is a great idea,” Kasia replied. Not the usual response I get from one of my harebrained schemes. Especially when they involve her.
We spent the next hour looking for the ideal race. London is 11 months away. New York is expensive. Budapest, Bucharest, Ljubljana was an early front runner, if you’ll pardon the expression, but then there it was.
The Warsaw marathon. Exactly 19 weeks away, the perfect time to get in shape, and at the end of September, neither to hot or too cold. Perfect running conditions.
Add to this the fact it’s in Poland, the country Kasia grew up in, and where many of her family remain, and it was perfect.
And that was that. Kasia, I should explain, has actually run a marathon before. I was a very active runner in my youth, and took up running again in my early 30s. My personal best for a 10k run was a shade under 30 minutes, at the age of 34. Not bad going at all.
I should point out a few other things at this juncture too.
I used to run, right up until about 18 months ago, when my back pain became too much to continue. Under medical advice, I stopped running completely. Except for the odd treadmill session in the gym, I’ve not run a single step in a year and a half. I’ve since learned that the medical advice is faulty – Running shouldn’t actually make an awful lot of difference to my spinal health, as long as I’m running right, not overreaching and training properly.
With my back trouble (poor disc health from doing lots of things wrong), I struggle to put my shoes. I have to sit in a certain way just to get my socks on. I get the classic symptom of shooting pains in my legs. I cannot sit comfortably for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m 38 now. I feel 88 some days.

Can I actually get fit enough to run a marathon? And will my back hold out?