Back once again.

The osteopath looked at me with disgust as he opened the door. Had it really been three months since my last visit? It’s his own fault. He shouldn’t be so good at his job.

As I stripped down to my underwear, I caught sight of myself in his full length mirror. I remember feeling acutely embarrassed last time around, ashamed of my belly and general air of unfitness. This time however, I stood there like a god. I’ve dropped nearly 20lbs since then. Workouts galore, more miles than I thought possible. And it all began right here in that room, in front of that mirror, in fact.

It only got weird when he walked back in, and for some reason I insisted on taking my socks off too. Is there an etiquette for having your bones pummeled back into line? I really do think whether I exposed my bruised toenails was the least of my worries right then. I explained the stair fall, and the subsequent attempt at a half marathon that ended in me paralysed for the rest of the weekend.

I followed his instructions. I leaned to the right. Impressively far to the right, I thought. I leaned to the left. Hmmm. That hurt. Was not expecting that. In fact, I had barely leaned at all. Backwards was the same. Forwards thought, No problem. Still couldn’t touch my toes, but then, I never could.

The Osteopath explained clearly without even laying a finger on me what I had done, and how he would put it right.

When I fell, I sprained something. I’m not sure what. It got technical. I also whacked the vertebrae out of alignment again.

So a hefty massage was coming. This wasn’t gentle. It was brutal. This is the kind of thing Jack Bauer used to extract information when he didn’t have a hacksaw handy.

And then.The moment arrived.

I knew it was coming. He moved my legs into position, one straight, the other bent at the knee. One arm went under my head like I was sleeping. The other bent straight back behind me. And then.

Pushing down on my hip, while pulling back on my arm, and possibly a knee in the small of my back.

Crack.

Crack crack.

Wow. A triple pop. That was awesome. Painful, but awesome.

“OK. Roll over, we’ll do the other side now”.

And it began again.

So… hopefully by Monday, I’ll be running again.

Not Dead, just resting.

Wow. I think that’s the longest hiatus I’ve taken on this blog since I started it. Five days. That’s embarrassing. So why the pause? Well, you may recall that in my last post I mentioned that I took a slight tumble down the stairs last Thursday…

What I neglected to mention is that it really was as bad as I hinted at. Not only did I hurt my arm, but also my right knee, and managed to damaged the already fragile discs in my back.

However, like an idiot, I decided that I could still run. I really couldn’t, but I tried anyway.

Want to know the good news? Well, there isn’t any. Actually there is. Kind of.

I did the same 13 mile route on Saturday that I took a couple of weeks before, and despite having real difficulty getting around, I was only two minutes slower than the previous attempt.

However, due to my insistence that I was actually OK, and not in any pain whatsoever, I soon collapsed into a heap onto the bed and remained there until Monday, physically unable to move. A week later, and the best I can manage are tiny pigeon steps that leave me walking like I’ve messed myself, and unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time.

A visit to the chiropractor who worked miracles last time around is imminent, however, will have to wait until next week. Kasia and I are in the middle of moving house, so priorities, priorities. Kasia doesn’t see it this way, and has call me quite a few choice words over the past week. What can I say? I’m British. It’s stiff upper lip time.

So no, I haven’t been running since. In fact, I haven’t even put on a pair of running shoes at all since the weekend. This has me worried that I’m going to fall dangerously behind in my training, but I’m trying to think of it as a mid-training taper, and still working on my core and trying not to lose to much more weight – I hit under 80kg (under 180lbs) for the first time in years this week, which for a tall guy like me is pretty good. My BMI (for what it’s worth) is now 21.8, which is well within healthy ranges no matter how you look at it.

That’s it for now. Just wanted to let you all know I’m still alive. Perhaps over the next couple of days I shall regale you with tales of my previous running exploits, as I doubt I’ll have any new tales to add for a week or two.

The Zone.

We’ve all heard about ‘the zone’. That mythical place where you attain equilibrium when you run. That moment where everything is working a it should, when you feel like you can run forever.

I get into the zone on pretty much every run now. But as soon as I notice it, it’s gone. I’ve got to find a way to trick my brain; to be aware that I’m in the zone, but also stay there.

It comes with a feeling that I’m almost weightless, that I’m barely touching the ground and my stride seems longer than ever. I check my breathing, my heart rate. I sense for discomfort in my legs, my feet. I lift my chin, and I run. Sometimes, the music go off. Sometimes, it gets louder.

But then, just a few seconds later, as I’m settling into this, I crash. I become all to aware and I fall back to Earth with a thud.

When I first started out running again, I found it hard to ignore the voice in my head that said ‘stop’. I defeated him, and I’ll find a way to get into the zone and stay there. Distance is a mental battle, not a physical one.

I never had a problem when I was young. I remember a day at the park a couple of streets away from where I lived the first time I discovered I was good at running.

The local park had a path that ran around the edge. It wasn’t a huge park; one of those inner city playgrounds with a tennis court and patch of grass that the bigger kids played football on. It was probably shy of 400m around the perimeter.

I was about nine years old, and I watched in awe as a couple of joggers ran around and around, were joined by a couple more and then went on their way.

I thought to myself I can do that, and so I did. I got up from where my brother’s and I were playing and I started running, just like the joggers, around and around.

“Wow, he’s pretty fast,” I overheard this guy say to his girlfriend as I passed them. I smiled to myself, and resolved to go even faster.

It was only some two hours later, when the same couple were returning from wherever they had been stopped me.

“Hey kid, have you been running this whole time?”

“Yes.”

“That’s incredible. Keep it up, son.”

Nobody had called me incredible before. Especially not for doing something so ordinary as running.

My older brother came bounding over.

“Why were you talking to strangers?”

“They told me I was incredible.”

“Well, you’re not.” And then I got a punch and a telling off for talking to people I didn’t know.

But the seed was sown. After that day, I ran everywhere. Need a loaf of bread, Mum? I’ll get it. Time me. Distance was no object. I never thought of not running anywhere.

I spent my lunch times and break times at school running around and around the edges of the playground, for no reason other than because running was fun. It was what I wanted to do.

As I got older, I ran less. Life gets in the way. But for years, night after night, I dreamed that I was in the zone, floating weightless inches above the ground, but still running, never tiring.

And every time I run, I get back there. However fleetingly.

Running = bad. Not running = worse.

I didn’t run last night. That seems to be a fairly regular statement I make on here. But yesterday was different.

I didn’t run. Not through injury or fatigue. Not through lack of time not circumstance. I didn’t run because I didn’t feel like it. Sure, I was full of good intentions on the way home. I was going to do a six mile run. I was going to go hell for leather and get as close to my personal best as I have in years. I was going to own the road.

But then, I got home. I started to cook dinner (you see, I wasn’t lying). Some vegetable gyoza and Kai Lan, with strawberries and homemade banana-berry vegan ‘ice cream’ for dessert. I made the dessert at the weekend, so I really didn’t have to do anything for that. The rest is a fairly quick meal, and oh-so-simple.

But as we sat down to eat, and we began looking for a new place to live (we have to move within the next two weeks), I felt the drive to go and run leave me. I was slowly losing interest, and started to justify not running to myself. I’ve still got a little pain in my left calf. I should rest it anyway. It’s 8pm. Remember what happened when you ran at 8pm yesterday? Yeah. Best wait.

You’ve just eaten. Give it until 10pm. 10pm? Far too late to run now. Let’s watch Netflix or browse Imgur until sleepy time.

OK, so maybe I didn’t say sleepy time. Maybe.

And I felt bad, actually. I love running. I enjoy every pain-soaked, sweat-caked moment of being free and having nothing to worry about except the next mile, the next sip of precious water, the two seconds I shaved off my last lap.

And I woke up feeling a little guilty. Kasia was at work early, so we were awake before 6am. I don’t have to leave until 8:30 to get to the office.

I could run now, I thought. Four miles, I’ll still be back before seven.

But then six turned to seven. A bow of Muesli, a cup of coffee. A browse of the news. A little core workout to ease my guilt. A Facebook update. Seven turned to eight. And then.

And then I ran down the stairs. What for? I can’t even remember. I do tend to run places though. Even when I don’t need to, I’m rushing about. I walk twice as fast as most people. I’d rather get where I need to be and wait for ten minutes. I’m one of those – I’d rather be twenty minutes early than one minute late. Even if my former employers would tell you otherwise…

So I ran down the stairs, because that’s what I do. And I slipped.

Not far, only five or six steps. But I panicked a little. I really didn’t want to hurt my legs. The thought of not being able to run rally worried me, so I stuck my arm out to stop myself.

My right arm hit the banister and snapped back behind my head, grazing right from my armpit, all the way down the inside of my bicep to just past my elbow. I’m making it sound worse than it is. It’s the physical equivalent of man-flu.

I like to think that this was karma, kicking my ass. No excuse for laziness. Get out there and run, Trevor.

Except tonight, we’re viewing a house at 8pm.

Where am I going to find time to run now?

More speed, less haste.

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I’ve just entered last night’s average mile time into coolrunning.com’s pace calculator. And I have to admit, I got a little scared.

Sustaining that pace over the length of the marathon would put me on course for around three hours, something that I thought was WAY beyond my abilities, and consigned to the ‘what ifs’ section of my own personal biography.

And I know what you’re thinking – “You ran four miles, Trevor. And it nearly killed you (and you needed to poop). Running that pace over the entire marathon is impossible.

But then, the more I think about it, the more the impossible seems possible. Every day, I get fitter and stronger. Every day I can feel my old pace returning (I have a PB of 29:52 for a 10k, set a few years before I gave up running due to my back issues). MY weight continues to fall at an almost alarming speed – I’m down to under 180lbs for the first time in years (I’m a tall guy, so although it sounds a lot, my BMI is well within the healthy range).

And the other mitigating factor? I still have ten weeks until my marathon. Injuries not withstanding, I’m only half way through my training. Looking at my training schedule that I dreamed up enthusiastically ten weeks ago (and haven’t updated for four weeks), I am surprisingly on target; without realising it, I’ve been running pretty much where I should be on any given day. The only factor I never really considered was speed.

Reading back over my posts since I started this blog, I do put a fair bit of emphasis on speed and that’s purely because I’m very competitive, not just with running but in most aspects of my life.

But with running, it’s more about being better than I was, rather than being better than someone else. I need tangible evidence that I’m improving constantly, and with running, those results are always obvious. It’s one of the reasons I analyse every run, and look for the positives even after a bad run or a poor performance.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have become rather obsessed with running. While I’ve always loved running, and found it one of the things I was good at without every really having to learn much about it, now that I’m older and wiser, I want to use every available trick to shave off every possible second I can.

And I will. Because I really don’t know when to quit.

The secret of my success.

Tonight’s run was once again without a plan. I had decided to go with Kasia back to the running group, but she managed to pull a muscle in her back yesterday whilst at work, so a text message as I left work killed that idea. Instead, I decided that I would go home, and then run once I got there. This was just one of my many mistakes.

Once I got home, we decided that we needed to go food shopping. So we did. Nothing interesting. Except maybe apricot falafel. They were nice.

Anyway, back on point, I went running while Kasia cooked dinner. I know. This all sounds horribly sexist, but it really isn’t. I do my fair share. Dammit. Stop distracting me.

I was running. Once again without a plan. I wanted to see how my calves would hold up in the transitional shoes, and after Sunday’s rather epic fifteen mile run. Well, as it happens, I found out straight away.

A pain shot up the back of my left leg with possibly only my second step. I spent the next thirty seconds deciding whether to keep running or just turn round. As always, a Scott Jurek quote fluttered into my consciousness.

“Run until you cannot run any more. And then run some more.”

So, taking this as sensible advice from someone who knows running, I kept running. My brain picked a route for me. I think it realised that if I did the one mile circuit, I would stop after the first mile, so it gave me the four mile park circuit to do. Thanks, Brain. I owe you one. Surprisingly, the calf seemed to just put up with this, and while it grumbled, it never had a full on hissy fit. Which was nice.

The park circuit is one I have a love / hate relationship with. The first time I ran it, it ended in a humiliating turn of events when Kasia sailed past me with about a mile to go as I stood coughing my lungs up by the side of the road. How times have changed.

The last time I measured the time it took me to run from home to the park, it was exactly nine minutes, which I was running at 7m30s per mile. Tonight, at my mile marker, I checked my time. 6m30s. I stopped and took a breather for 30 seconds, deciding that I should this quicker pace for some speed training. At eight minutes, I was in the park. Insane.

Every 6m30s I stopped for 30 seconds. I say stopped, I walked. Never stop moving.

I checked my watch coming out of the park. I figured that I could do the entire course in under 28 minutes, and I willed myself to do it. I ran fast, and hard, feeling myself gliding at times over the paving stones, and past pedestrians intent on tripping me up or just standing idly in my way as I hurtled towards them.

And then.

You see, one thing about changing my plans for the evening was that I was now running much later than planned. If I had run with the running club, I would have finished earlier and my next problem would never have materialised.

It’s kind of the unwritten thing with runners. We all know this, but we never speak about it.

Running makes you poo. And now, only half a mile from home, I needed to go. Urgently.

I looked at my watch and did some quick maths in my head. If I could just do this last half a mile inside three minutes, I would be ok. I don’t know why I thought that. I had no scientific evidence to back that up. I think what I normally would have thought is “The quicker I can get home, the less chance there is of me crapping myself in public”, but I was in run mode, so I had to set myself a challenge.

Well, I know you’re all keen to know what happens next, and there is a happy ending. There were no accidents, and I managed to launch myself through the front door and into the bathroom in one smooth move.

The best part though? Only after I’d sat down did I remember to press my stopwatch.

It read 27:55.

oh yeah. That’s some fine motivation to run fast. I don’t recommend it though.

Came in like Jurek-ing Ball.

I will credit this photo when I know who to credit - sorry!

I will credit this photo when I know who to credit – sorry!

I really should say something about Scott Jurek’s superhuman effort. Scott’s being such an inspiration to myself, and so many others, not just in the running or vegan communities, but throughout the world through his resilience, his determination, and his ability to dig deeper than any man believed they can.

Sure, it’s easy to say that ‘he’s just a runner’, or belittle his achievements as ultimately futile or pointless. But to do that is surely missing he has become: A symbol.

Jurek is our Batman. He’s the hero we need. He forces us all to look inside ourselves and understand that whatever we’re going through, whether it’s a 2,200 miles of mountainous terrain, or something more personal. Scott is the epitome of never giving up, no retreat, no surrender.

Over the past 46 days, we’ve seen Scott at his best and his worst. And his worst brings out his best. I really hope he’ll be releasing a book based on this adventure – The stories I’ve heard so far only scratching the surface of what a monumental effort this was.

In the first week, Scott hurt his knee. And then tore a thigh muscle overcompensating for it.

And then he ran another two THOUSAND miles.

Seriously, I cry like a baby if I stub a toe.

Jurek and his crew faced storms that fell trees, and held them up for days at a time. And yet they kept going.

There may be a little of legend growing here in all of these anecdotes, but I read a story about how on Friday they were so far behind that the crew had all but decided the record was up. Scott decided that the only way to do it was to pull a few all-nighters.

We’ve probably all read Born to Run by now. But Eat and Run, Scott’s own book is a different take on the same events. His personal journey has been one not without pain and hardship, and to see him truly excel, not just in this achievement, but in all races is an astonishing accomplishment.

I’m reminded of his Badwater 135 triumph at this point – Where, vomiting and crampng by the side of the road in 110 degree heat, Scott was told that he should give up, as to have any chance of winning, he’d have to run 80 miles faster than anyone had run 80 miles. Ever.

And with a smile, he got up, and did just that.

My running mantra, when things get tough?

WWJD – What Would Jurek Do?

15 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes.

I keep telling myself that it’s not about the pace, but the distance. Then I tell myself it’s not about the distance, it’s the time on my feet. I wish I’d make up my mind.

I feel decidedly average after this run. The time wasn’t great. The distance wasn’t monumental. But it was alright. I wasn’t that slow. I average 8m 40s over the entire course, which did include the notorious Highgate Hill. Well, it’s notorious to me.

West-Hill-Route-Elevation

Look at that. 11% gradient at it’s steepest. And I ran it. All the way to the top. On my toes. So I take that as a positive. I’m sure running somewhere flatter would have been faster, but I can do that next week.

So… Positives from this weekend’s major run?

1. Distance. 15 miles is the longest I’ve run in one sitting. Well, not sitting, but you know what I mean.

2. Time. Ok, so it’s not a fast pace, but add in that hill, and I think I averaged out ok. Certainly within my goal marathon time, of between 3:30 & 4:00 hours.

3. The transitional shoes. Yes, my calves hurt throughout the run. But after a massage from Kasia, they’re fine. In fact, I hardly feel like I ran 15 miles yesterday at all. I’ll be barefoot in a couple of weeks…

4. In fact, now that I think about it, I was hardly out of breath, and didn’t crash straight after either. Those core workout sessions are doing their magic.

5. Muscle mass. I’m down to 82kg, nearly 6kg off from when I started a couple of months back. I have lumps on my legs where I didn’t think it was possible to have lumps. Good lumps, by the way. Kasia approves.

6. NO MORE BLISTERS. Well, no new ones anyway. Which is something of an achievement, considering the distance. Looks like I was right about it being the shoes after all.

All in all, not a bad run. That Ultra is looking to be a distinct possibility all of a sudden…

Three miles, 22:00

Despite my resolution not to run this week, and give both my ankle and those persistent blisters time to recover, I’ve had one day off.

Thursday’s run was much like Wednesday’s – in that I didn’t have a plan. And it showed.

The tube strike really messed up my evening, and I didn’t end up eating until nearly eight-thirty. I debated with myself for a while whether to eat before or after the run, and decided that I just wouldn’t be able to run if I didn’t eat before. Unfortunately, I have to give it a couple of hours after eating before I can run, otherwise I cramp up in the most horrible way. So eating at 8:30pm is probably the worst possible time for me to eat.

I left the house at 10:00 sharpish, deciding to do just as many laps as I could around the usual 1-mile course. My calves still ached from yesterdays run, the transitional shoes really putting them through their paces.

But I felt pretty good as I started out, the ankle didn’t hurt me at all and I’d already removed the strapping that I’d had on it all day. The blisters were well covered with plasters, and they too seemed to be healing when I inspected them before.

But the aching in my calves was the real pain tonight, but one that I had anticipated before putting the shoes on.

I finished the first lap in 7:00, a fair bit faster than my usual pace, and then the second fell in exactly the same time. Two miles, fourteen minutes. Not bad at all.

The third lap though was a nightmare. Although I finished it in eight minutes, my goal marathon pace, I struggled the entire way around.

My head was full of thoughts as to the reasons – was it the shoes? The faster pace? Did I stretch properly? I decided eventually that it was because I didn’t leave enough time between eating and running – I really didn’t feel well at that point, and may have startled a few passers by when I thought I was going to throw up at one stage.

Still, three miles completed in 22:00 is not bad going, and again, I know I can go much faster.

Shoes. Shoes everywhere.

I realised the other night that the cause of my persistent underfoot blisters was the unusually high arch in my Brooks trainers. Despite the fact that they cost me £130, and hands down the single most expensive piece of footwear I have ever bought, they are completely useless to me.

With this startling revelation reverberating around my head and with the London tube drivers going on strike forcing me to take a bus, I spied from the window of the 149 a Sports Direct. I leapt of the bus, and headed in.

I hate that place. They are by far the worst designed stores on Britain’s high streets; overcrowded, and full of ‘sports’ wear, in the same way that WWE is ‘sports’ entertainment; it’s got little to do with sport at all. Not that I’m picking a fight with The Rock.

Sports Direct does, however, have a pretty good range of running shoes at pretty good prices, so I do tolerate them from time to time. They also own many of the brands they sell, and so have a fair few ‘exclusives’, even if their pricing strategy is full of false markups, complying with the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Unfortunately, I hit them just before closing time, and was told that they couldn’t get any shoes from out the warehouse for me, and I would have to take a ready boxed pair from one of their mountainous displays. I grabbed a couple of pairs, almost at random, paid and headed out the door. I was that desperate to run.

I picked up a pair of Nike Downshifter 6’s and a pair of Karrimor D30 Elite’s, not having the chance to try either one on.

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I got home, ate some of Kasia’s amazing homemade soup (She really should start a food blog), a skype call and a bit of Terraria with my son, and then headed out the door around 9:30

Wait. No. Before I headed out the door, I put on my new Nikes. And immediately took them off again and checked the size. A UK 11. I’m a UK 11. Then why are they so small? How is it that shoe sizes seem to be open to interpretation and not standardised? The Nike’s are going back to the shop as soon as I have time.

I had marginally better luck with the Karrimors. They’re a transitional shoe (more on that in a second), fit nicely, are very light, but they’re just… I don’t know. They don’t feel like a good shoe. I want to say poor quality, but I can’t quite put my finger on which specific quality is poor.

I’ve had Karrimor shoes in the past, and for a long while, I would run in little else. So it’s not a snobby brand thing; maybe it’s just the minimalism of them. They don’t have a dual layer upper, just a mesh that you can see clean through.

Out the door and into my run. no idea how long I’m running for, probably as long as my ankle will hold up (remember, I wasn’t supposed to be running this week…). I manage four and a half one-mile laps before deciding enough is enough. I trudge back the half a mile home. Usually, I’d run the last half in a stop-start fashion, putting in some sprints while I still have a little energy. I hit my standard 7:30 / mile on the nose on each of the four laps. Consistency is everything.

But tonight I just stopped and walked back. Why?

As I mentioned above, the D30 Elites are a transitional shoe; their designed with less padding, and have a relatively shallow base. As such, when moving to a barefoot style of running, you work different muscles. My calves have never hurt like they do today. The ankle held up, but is again sore, so it’s strapped up with Rocktape this morning, just as a precaution.

And the reason I wanted a transitional shoe in the first place? Because I’ve also ordered these:

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I should be able to try them out at the weekend – who knows whether it’s going to be a worthwhile experiment or not? Barefoot Ted would certainly approve…