The final long-ish training run.

12042869_10153121914041630_8957415356211362230_n

That’s me in the middle, at the back, hiding in Green.

Yesterday was our final training run, one week before the marathon. It’s scary to think how far we’ve come in such a relatively short time.

The running club runs a 12km route on a Sunday punctuated by a pause half way through for a photo opportunity, as demonstrated above.

It’s the first time I’ve run with them on a Sunday, and any fears about the running the distance were alleviated by the fact that I know I can do that kind of distance in my sleep now. Well, you know what I mean.

As we set off, we quickly fell into a pattern, and not knowing the route, I held back slightly, so that I could follow the more experienced guys. This however, turned into a problem as I quickly found myself way out in front with three others, and the rest of the club trailing far behind. I had a choice – stick with the fast guys, or slow enough for someone to catch me and follow them instead.

As you probably know by know, slowing down isn’t really my thing, so stick with the front runners I did.

I realised at some point that I had forgotten to start my stopwatch, and began to fall behind the pack at this point. I really had no idea where we were going, nor how long we had been running for. But, just as I felt hopeless, I realised that the pack in front of me had also slowed slightly, and I was catching them rapidly. The last 500m or so, I was back with the pack, and running right with the fastest guys (all of whom are much younger than me). We hit the halfway point at exactly the same time, but while they probably felt fresh, my lungs were bursting. I clearly need more speed work in schedule.

We waited for the others to catch up, which the last of the runners did some ten minutes later. Turns out we’d run the first 6km in about 20-25 minutes or so, which was blisteringly fast considering it was a Sunday morning.

On the run back to the start, I deliberately stayed with Kasia at the back of the group, but quick found myself saying goodbye to her, and running at my usual pace. Once again, I found myself passing everyone until I was with just one runner at the front. We stretched our lead to about 100m over the next runner before…

“Hey. This is my first week. You know the route?” I asked.

“Actually, this is my first week too.” He replied.

We slowed and allowed the next runner to catch us. Luckily, he wasn’t such a noob, and we stuck with him for a while. Soon though, the other new guy broke ahead. Although I had dropped back, I soon caught the second guy, and pushed on towards the leader.

I followed him back towards the waterfront, when suddenly, he appeared running BACK towards me. Apparently, we’d taken a wrong turn towards a dead end. As we ran back towards the road, I felt my strength sap. I was done with this now.

Running back to the start, I realised where I was and was soon feeling better. I picked up the pace and finished strong.

Strangely though, I was the second finisher. The other new guy seemed to have taken another wrong turn, and never arrived. Still, a strong run, followed by a 5km walk home, meant that my muscles feel great today, and only a tiny new blister to show for it (caused by a crease in the Rocktape strapping my foot).

Salvation in the form of Lieutenant Dan.

Last night’s 15k was always going to be bad. I wasn’t in the mood for it before I started, I had not eaten properly, and it was already 9pm before I left the house. Add to this my preferred running gear was in the wash, my foot was hurting and I was still achy from my previous runs this week.

But something in my head was telling me to get out there. That noble voice that says you’ll feel better for it, you’ve got a marathon coming up, that tells you to run even when you don’t want to is better, is somehow an achievement. So, against my better judgement, I ran.

I felt sluggish from the off, but quickly fell into a standard 7:30 / mile pace. Although I wasn’t particularly enjoying the run, I kept going. The thought occurred to me that maybe I would feel better if I ran longer. Even now, this doesn’t make any sense. I guess that I was trying to get something positive out of the run.

Down to Liverpool street a little slower than normal, and at London Bridge a full minute behind my normal pace, I decided to run over to Tower Bridge.

When I got there, I turned around and ran back. Not something I’ve done before, I usually run in a loop. The stairs at London Bridge nearly finished me. I ran up the first flight, feeling like Rocky, but the second set was torture. I barely made it to the top.

I continued on my run, and was back at Liverpool street when I took a tumble. I’ve only ever fallen a couple of times whilst running, the worst spill a few years back when I lived out in the country, and ended up in a drainage ditch by the side of the road.

I assume I hit a curb or something tonight, but I stumbled, and barely managed to stay on my feet. I continued running, but within a few yards pulled up with a pain in my foot. The fourth toe on my right foot had lost it’s nail last week (the one that was hanging on by sentiment alone – remember that?) and I had managed to hurt in my near fall. There’s a lot of pain there, even now, even if I have nothing to show for it.

I tried running again several times, but just could not muster the will. Catchphrases and motivational posters beamed themselves into my head, but it just wasn’t happening. It’s a long walk home when you’re defeated.

And then… He appeared.

I called him Lieutenant Dan in the headline, but he could just as well have been Jesus if I was religious. Hair down to his shoulders, and a thick Grizzly Adams beard. He wasn’t that fast, in fact I would have usually run past him in the hope of deflating him completely, giving him the gazelle treatment. But tonight, I was broken.

He ran past, at his slower-than-me pace, and it was like a red rag to a bull. I ignored the pain as I resolved to catch him and annihilate him. Which I did. I then panicked as I thought that now he was behind me, and I had embarrassed him, I would have to keep running to make sure he stayed there.

The pain in my foot suddenly came back into my thoughts, and I pulled up and started walking. A minute or two later, Lieutenant Dan was running past me again. I smiled a little, and began running, without really trying to catch him this time.

At a set of traffic lights a little later, we were waiting side by side. I removed my headphones, and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey man. How far you going?” I asked.

“From Liverpool Street, about six miles. You?”

“15k tonight, but I’m dying. I hurt my foot back there and am really struggling.” I pointed to my foot as I said this, forgetting that it had a large blood stain on it from my previous adventures. He took this as the issue.

“Wow. Looks bad, man.”

“Look, I haven’t got far to go, but I need some motivation. If you don’t mind, I’m going to shadow you just to get me home. Cool?”

“Sure thing, man. Whatever gets you through.”

The lights changed and we were off. Lieutenant Dan cruised at his pace, and I tried not to get in his way, running just off his shoulder.

We didn’t really talk any more while running, other than a few pleasantries, but I was soon turning off for home, and thanked him and waved him on. In turn, he wished me luck with the marathon.

I got home and inspected my toe. No real outward sign of any new damage, so I’ll just have to suck it up. More importantly, there are no new blisters at all, which is outstanding.

It was an unusual experience, running with someone else and not having to beat them. Sure, I’ve run with Kasia, but never really run with anyone else to keep pace. It could have so easily been an adversarial run, with us trying to compete, and ending up thinking bad things about the other, but in the end, it was a great run, even if I didn’t enjoy it up until that point.

I think I need to find me a running buddy or two.

I am El Burro Loco, and I like to run fast.

I’m limiting my runs slightly this week, in a part – taper, part – allow my foot a chance to heal type deal. After Sunday’s long run with Kasia, I decided I’m only running a 10k on Tuesday and another on Thursday before next Sunday’s 16km final long run before the marathon. We fly out to Warsaw on Wednesday, so there may be a chance to get a couple of 10k’s in before then, but I’m really not worried now.

But yesterday, after reading another blog (this one: http://bit.ly/1Ff8drQ ) and being rather inspired, I decided to see how fast I could run a 10k these days.

Back at my peak, I PB’d a 10k in a fraction under 30 mins (29:52), but that’s a few years behind me now. I’d picked up the name “El Burro Loco” back then, based on my old Xbox sign-in, and the fact I run “like a crazy ass”. It’s not a name I’ve used in a long while though, kinda like Obi-Wan.

I’ve spent the last few years wondering what could have been, and now I’m running again properly, I really wanted to know what I’m capable of at 38 years old.

I left the house with Kasia at exactly 8:20 she began jogging ahead, and as I caught her, she said her customary “GO!” and off I went.

I set off way too fast. I was vitrually sprinting around the first bend, and within a minute, Kasia was out of sight behind me. I felt the first pangs of tiredness aroud four minutes in (I checked my watch at my first landmark – I was already a minute ahead of where I usually am), but did that thing where you just keep running.

My pace slowed slightly, but I soon caught my breath and turned the power back up again. I seemed to hit every traffic light on the route, and the streets were unnaturally crowded with people, soaking up the very end of summer. It seemed every few feet there was someone else standing in the way, or oblivious to the giant running up behind them, or just lacking the basic ability to walk in a straight line.

Caught between legitimate reasons and excuses for being slower than I wanted to be, I resolved to run even faster. I hit the turnaround at Liverpool Street at 21 minutes.

(Regular readers will probably know I hit Liverpool Street at around 25 minutes at my usual distance pace).

It was still far too slow. I sped up. Yes, 5k in and I sped up. How things have changed in just a few short months.

I was hurtling along now. I passed Kasia just as I got stopped (again) by someone unaware that they were managing to take the entire pavement. I was about 3.5km from home at this point. “Are you walking?” She asked, confused as to why I had stopped.

“Not if I can help it. But right now, yes.” I shot a glance at the guy who had got in my way, who was still oblivious.

“Alright,” Kasia said “I’ll catch you on the way back.”

I checked my watch. Still another 3.5k to go. Time to go.

I set off again, annoyed that I’d lost more time. My calves were burning, still tender from Sunday’s 20k. The open blister on the side of my foot was rubbing under a makeshift bandage I’d applied before we left (gauze & Rocktape). I didn’t know if it would be enough protection, but my feet were heavily coated in talc.

(I just realised I forgot to inform you all – That toenail removed himself from my company late last week. He will be missed.)

I gritted my teeth, and pressed on. I hadn’t run hard like this in, well forever. It felt so good to keep pushing, despite the pain and the burn, and the annoyances that are other people. This is the downside to running in a heavily populated area. It’s not geared to runners going full pelt.

I turned the last corner. I switched to a full on sprint. It was way too close.

I pressed stop on the watch as I reached my house, but ran a little further, slowing down and then turning around to walk back.

I took a look at the time.

39:52

I took into account all the pauses, all the people, the dodging and weaving. My sub-30 had been done in the early morning, on country lanes with no traffic.

I could probably take a little time off to compensate, right? Either way, I had set out to run a sub-40 and I had done it.

I’m still a runner. I’m still El Burro Loco.

A Week of downs and ups.

I blogged previously about a terrible run I had. I came home deflated and defeated, no longer sure of my own abilities. I thought long and hard about what my next move was going to be, and I decided that I would try running in my VivoBarefoot running sandals. Yeah… that went well…

Thursday night, I decided that a 10k run alongside Kasia was what I needed. A simple run, nothing too taxing, at a pace I could handle without ever really trying. Forget the times, get back to running. I liberally applied anti-chaffing balm before putting on the Sandals (without socks). I wasn’t taking any chances with the blisters I already have.

It started so well. The sandals felt a little strange, and due to the barefoot feel, I was running constantly on my toes and the very front of my feet. It felt a little weird, and I could feel the pull on my calves, much as the transition from ‘normal’ running shoes to minimum shoes had felt. I knew this would pass in a day or two, so it didn’t bother me.

As we approached Liverpool street, our turnaround point, I told Kasia that I would run ahead for a while. The Vivo’s felt so natural, like running on carpet. They consist purely of a thin plastic base, with no cushioning at all, and I was surprised how soft the ground felt under my feet. As I waited for Kasia at Liverpool Street, I drew a few glances for my choice of footwear, most of them in disbelief. I don’t think many of them were admiring my choice.

Kasia arrived, and we started heading back. About halfway, she could see the look in my eyes, and just said “Go” and gave me a little push. And I was gone.

I ran like I hadn’t in years. I felt freed, and after the poor run earlier in the week, it felt great to be able to run like this. I was zoning pretty much constantly after that, and made it home still feeling great.

I decided to walk back a little to catch Kasia, who was about ten minutes. It was then I noticed the pain. Running hadn’t been an issue, but now walking was virtually impossible. People I had run past were now going in the opposite direction past me, and to me, the look on everyone’s face was “That’s what you get for running in shoes like that”.

I met Kasia, and we went home. I explained to her I was in real pain, but was unsure why. I had felt great running, but now my feet were killing me. As I sat and removed the sandals, the reason became obvious. The inside of each dripped with blood as I took them off.

Basically, running in a plastic shoe, without socks, for a long distance, at a fair speed, had meant that rather than blisters forming, the friction had effectively burned my feet. And when the distance had continued after that damage was done, it just rubbed away the burned skin.

So now I have a huge open blister on the side of my foot, three burned toes, and a missing toenail. The other foot is strangely unaffected though, and has but a single blister on the underside, and one burned toe.

I launched the shoes across the room. I really thought they would be the solution, but instead had made things worse.

I didn’t run again until Sunday. My feet were too sore, my calves still hurt, and frankly I didn’t want to.

But by Sunday, I was going stir crazy without running. We planned properly, eating right the night before, and again in the morning before the run. I went out, bought talc and applied it even more liberally than I had the anti-chaffing balm before. I was running back in my regular shoes, the minimal ones, rather than the Vivo’s. I put plasters around every single toe, and bought extra strong blisters plaster to cushion what blisters were already there. Worried about the talc making the plasters fall off,  I filled only one sock with talc before putting them on. I reasoned that at the very least, it would make an interesting experiment.

We set off at 1pm, and I stayed at Kasia’s pace, or maybe just a little faster than her usual pace. I felt great, but Kasia was really up against it. She later confessed that it was good I was pushing her, but she certainly wasn’t enjoying it to the same degree I was.

After about 10k, we started snacking on the power bars, bananas, dried fruit and various other treats we’d brought with us. I was using my running backpack, with a waterbag built into it, and I’m glad I did. It’s much more comfortable than a running belt, and also had room for all the extra things I brought with me – namely more talc and blister plasters.

Our run was 20km altogether, taking us out from Central London to a friend’s mother’s and grandmother’s house out in Essex. I’d lived with them a while back, and we’d recently received some bad news about his grandmother’s health, so it was time to pay her a visit. She’s been like a grandmother to me over the past year or so, and I was genuinely upset when I heard her diagnosis.

We ignored our time as we ran, using it only to check our water intake rather than our pace. This was about distance today. This is Kasia’s longest run since she started training, and this was the reason for her discomfort. She’ll be fine come marathon day, I have no doubt, but she did need this push today.

After a pleasant afternoon, we got the bus home, and Kasia promptly fell asleep on my shoulder almost as soon as we sat.

Removing my shoes after I entered our house, I feared the worse.

First the left shoe and sock. No new blisters. No further damage to the existing one. The burned toe looked exactly the same. This was the one with the extra talc, so this strategy obviously worked for me. This is great, and I know what I’ll be doing come race day.

The other shoe wasn’t quite such a success, though. While the old injuries hadn’t got worse, there was one new blister and, although small, was rather prominent, filled with blood, and nestled on the top of the only toe on the foot not to have a plaster around it. Ironically, it appears to have been caused by rubbing on the plaster on the adjacent toe.

But I came away feeling great from the run. Although tired from the run, I felt like I could have run much, much further.

I feel like I’m ready for the big one…

A bad run.

Kasia needed motivation, so I offered to run with her on her 10k route. Well, at least part of the route, anyway.

My legs were still a little tired, although not that achy from my 18-miler at the weekend, and unfortunately, I’ve developed a rather nasty blister that likes to get worse with every run (see previous posts).

A stroke of genius hits; I take a craft knife to the insoles of my Brooks that I stopped wearing a couple of months back. If the arch support was too high, and giving me trouble, then I’d simply get rid of it. No more blisters… Right?

So we head out, together. We don’t run together as a rule; our paces are too different. But I’m not really in the mood for a run, and want to take it easy, and I can motivate Kasia, who, it has to be said, has not trained anywhere near as much as she would have liked. Although, she does have the benefit of running marathons previously, and knows precisely what she is letting herself in for.

My Brooks feel weird under my feet. I’ve got used to running in the minimal shoes, and the extra cushioning is now both uncomfortable and unsettling. I feel unstable, like I’m running on a trampoline, and my gait suffers. It’s strange how these shoes once felt like the greatest thing I’d ever put on my feet, and now it’s almost like I’ve betrayed myself. Without resorting to punning, I feel like I’ve taken a step backwards.

After about two miles, I tell Kasia that I want to run a bit further, to test myself a little, as I have hardly broken a sweat running at the slower pace. This would be my second mistake of the evening.

I ran off into the distance alone, my feet a little uncomfortable, my stride stretched and unnatural. I hated to admit it to myself, but I was really struggling in those shoes.

Kasia was running as far as Liverpool Street, and the far side of London Bridge was my goal. I’d cross the bridge, turn round, and try to catch Kasia on the way back. As Kasia didn’t have a door key with her, I couldn’t let her down.

My feet hurt. There was no getting around this. The cheaper blister plasters I’d bought from the chemist just weren’t doing their job, and although both feet were bound and the plasters secured with Rock Tape, I could feel them slipping around inside my shoes.

I crossed the bridge, trying to forget about my feet and try and enjoy the run. It wasn’t working. I turned around and ran straight back, and was outside Liverpool Street inside fifteen minutes, which is about standard. I ran as hard as I could, scanning the distance for any sign of Kasia. None.

I’m about a mile from home when the pain in my feet becomes to much. The Rock Tape has now attached itself to the sore skin and is tugging with every step. Where the plasters are now, I don’t know.

I limp home, feeling the worst I ever have after a run. Not just physically, but emotionally. I begin to doubt myself, wondering if I can even run a marathon, let alone the ultras I have planned for next year.

Kasia’s waiting for me on the doorstep. She says that she’s been there nearly ten minutes. Which means that if I’d kept running just a little further, I would have caught her. She must have been right in front of me at the time I stopped and began walking. I feel even worse.

Once inside, I take my shoes off. It’s not pretty. There are blisters on top of blisters. The Brooks nearly get thrown across the room in frustration. I’ve never been this low after a run. I’m depressed, and can only see setbacks in the week to come. My ankles hurt, and I have a pain in my knee too. My calves actually feel worse than they did on Saturday. It’s amazing how much my style has changed running in minimals.

And then. Kasia pulls my pair of VivoBarefoot’s out of the closet. I’d completely forgotten about them. They’re running sandals, virtually no more than flipflops. They’re the reason I was running in the transitional shoe in the first place. I’d not worn them as the elasticated strap that keeps them  on was way too long and needs adjusting.

“Perhaps these are the answer?” Kasia asks, “I’ll fix them tomorrow.”

Well, they cannot be any worse. Here goes nothing.

The Perils of Failing to Fuel, or How I Attempted to Run 20 Miles Without Eating.

The pain comes suddenly, like I’ve been hit by a bullet. Both calves cramp simultaneously, each one curling in onto itself, forming the smallest possible shapes they can. MY legs buckle. I grab at a nearby lamppost to steady myself. I don’t fall, but it’s close. For some reason, I look at my watch. I’ve been running for exactly two hours, thirty one minutes.

I’m eighteen miles into my Saturday run, with just two more left to go. Up until this moment, I had been running incredibly well. In fact, just moments before, I was telling myself what a great run I was having, and maybe I could tack a few extra miles on, maybe even do the entire marathon distance.

In many ways, this was a good run. No, a perfect run. I’d left home at 1pm, the cool September weather perfect for running in. I had my favourite T-shirt on, the right shorts. I’d even strapped my feet with Rock Tape and blister plasters. I’d stretched and warmed up, charged my headphones and was actually excited to be heading out for the longest run of my entire life (so far).

The first twenty-four minutes passed without incident. Straight down to Liverpool Street, passing my landmark a minute inside my usual time. I slowed a little, remembering how far I still had to run.

London Bridge dead on thirty minutes. Not too many tourists about, due to the sudden end of summer, but it’s still pretty crowded. I run down the steps that take me to the pedestrianised waterfront walk, taking them two at a time and not breaking my run. There are two flights to run down, the second set at a 45 degree angle. I’ve become rather adept at taking these stairs while running over the past few weeks, and I draw an audible gasp (even over the strains of R.E.M.) from a group going up the stairs in the other direction. A guy at the bottom actually claps his hands in appreciation as I hit the ground running and continue on my way. I am on fire today.

Straight through the walkway, dodging left and right through groups milling around aimlessly, and only having to walk behind an oblivious couple on the stair leading back up to the top of Tower Bridge.

As I hit the iconic bridge, another runner goes straight past me, wearing a T-shirt with an ‘Ironman 2015 – Finisher’ logo on the back. I don’t know what ironman he did, and frankly I don’t care. He’s too slow, and I while I would struggle in an ironman, running is what I am built for. He gets gazelled, and is already out of sight behind me as I descend the stairs at the other end of the bridge.

Through the cobbles past the Tower of London, I take a stumble as my foot hits awkwardly, but recover in a step and keep going. Passing back under London Bridge, past the building works, and up the step hill back to towards Liverpool Street. I am feeling really good still, and only swig from my drink (water, with a rehydration tablet in it) as I pass the station. Up a flight of stairs, I know a little side path that keeps the tourists out of my way. The down side to this of course, is going back down the stairs at the other end, which I do with my characteristic sideways run down them, and hit the ground running, twisting my body back the right way as I land.

From there I deviate from my normal route, and instead of running back towards home, I turn left, and head towards Old Street Station. Once there, I keep going, little knowing that I’ve taken a wrong turn away from where I should be going on my planned route.

I realise fairly soon that I’m not where I am supposed to be, when I see St Paul’s Cathedral down a side road to my left. Knowing roughly where I am, I plough on, keeping a straight route that heads vaguely North-East through the city, until I come to a few familiar landmarks and I know exactly where I am. New Oxford Street. As I hit the famous corner, I turn right, and head up Tottenham Court Road, leaping in front of a bus when I tire of not being able to cross the road. I hate that ‘treading water’ feeling when waiting for the lights to change, hopping from one foot to the other, trying to keep some momentum going.

At Googe Street station, which I hit at 1h20m, I remember I have packed an energy gel into my zipped shorts pocket, and I have to walk while I retrieve it. The only other thing in that pocket is my house key. I’ve never tried an energy gel before, but have read that many runners swear by them. Many don’t too, but as they are giving them away during the marathon I’m running in three short weeks, I thought I’d give one a try.

The gel is almost sickly sweet. But it taste so great. It may be the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten, and I suck the package dry. I feel a sudden surge of energy, which is probably unrelated,and another swig of water, and I’m running again, and I’m at Euston before I know it. I’m back on track.

I turn left, away from Camden, and towards Baker Street. Past Madam Tussauds, which is brimming with tourists, spilling out onto the pavement. I take a right, and head back towards London Zoo and Regents Park. I never run through the park, just around the outside perimeter wall. Odd really.

A sharp pain starts in my stomach. I retch, but nothing comes out. “Is this the energy gel?” I wonder. But as soon as it comes, it’s gone again. I feel an urge to poop, but manage to suppress it. Less than fifty meters later, however, a new pain comes. A cramp. In the middle of my back. This is the worst, as nothing I do can get of it. I stretch like a madman in the middle of the pavement. Maybe thirty seconds later, and it’s gone.

I set off again, a little wary, and a little weary, but very soon I’m back into the rhythm of the run.

I cross the road just before the zoo entrance, and notice an elderly grey haired runner up ahead. I marvel to myself that all through the run so far, which is just passing the half marathon mark around here, I’ve seen only four runners.

I think I’m struggling, although I am catching him quickly, but this guy in front of me looks like he’s having trouble keeping his shorts up. His hands keep pulling them up, and they keep sliding back down again. He’s not having a good run. I intend to call some words of encouragement as I pass him, but before I do, he crosses the road, and disappears into the park.

I turn right and back towards Camden station. A huge crowd outside a pub having some sort of beerfest, and I’m forced to cross to the other side of the road. I check my time outside Camden Station. I remember being impressed, but right now, I have no idea what time the watch said. I keep going.

Camden Hill sucks almost all the energy I have left. This hill has defeated me before. It’s not that it’s particularly steep, it’s just that it keeps going. But I persevere, scaring another bus driver as I decide that I can make the gap between him and the other side of the road.

The top of the hill, and I smile. Another thirty minutes and I’m done. Four more miles. I coast down hill, aware that I’m still running, still enjoying it, and nothing feels particularly wrong, despite the moment earlier.

Another big junction, more treading water, and then Seven Sisters Road. Up past Finsbury Park, a route I’ve not run since we moved over a month ago, and it feels somewhat nostalgic, a little quaint somehow.

Past Mansion House, and I really begin to tire. I remember everything I’ve read about running the last eight miles of the marathon with your head. Or is it heart? I keep going, albeit very slow.

I realise my water bottle is nearly empty, and decide to conserve what I have left for the last few miles.

And then… Boom.

As I turn the corner into the road where we used to live, my calves cramp in the worst way I have ever felt. It is sudden, and unexpected. I grab at something to stop me from falling. If I fall, I’ll never get up. My head feels light. I realise instantly that my body is crashing. There is nothing left for it to burn for fuel.

I’m two miles from home. Every step is agony. Every now and then my knees buckle slightly and I think I’m going to fall. I get some strange looks from people passing. I’m past caring. I actually consider crying for a short while. But decide that one help at all, and instead start thinking about what has just happened.

At first, I think of it as failure. I wonder to myself how am I going to run a full marathon, if I can’t even do 20 miles? And I’m considering running ultras? Am I mad? Perhaps I need a new hobby.

But then, somewhat slowly, which I am putting down to the lack of fuel getting to my brain, it dawns on me. All I have eaten all day is two small toaster waffles and an energy gel. Yesterday’s dinner? A wrap with some cheese and a pickled cucumber sliced in it. That was it in the last twenty-four hours. No wonder my body gave up.

I walked the slowest two miles I can remember walking. It takes me another thirty minutes (which actually isn’t that slow, now that I think of it) to get home, and I open the door and call to Kasia. She’s not home. She’s gone running. Of course.

I know exactly what my body needs, and it needs it quickly. So, grabbing some money off the table, I head to the shop and buy Bananas, Cherry Cola and Salted Potato Chips. That should cover me.

I get home and devour a banana in record time. I open the Coke, and drink like I’ve never tasted it before, and then open the chips and stuff them into my mouth.

Fifteen minutes later, and I’m asleep. And I dream about running. When I wake up nearly an hour later, I weigh myself.

I’ve lost two kilograms since this morning’s weigh in.

TIme to eat.

The Man With One Red Shoe

“This can’t be right,” I thought as I ran confidently back past Liverpool Street Station, “How am I so slow today?” My watch read 59 minutes into my run. Knowing my times meant that I was still at least 25 minutes from home. I pushed hard to pick up the pace.

It made no sense. How was I so slow? There had been no tourists on Tower Bridge, and certainly no walk breaks at all. Had I really run at a much slower pace the entire time? Was running ten miles a day too much much on my already tired body? Was I attempting too much in one go?

As I willed my legs to run faster, I noticed that they weren’t even aching. Sure, my foot hurt a bit where the blister was, but I wasn’t worried. It wasn’t stopping me from running. I checked my breathing. Not even out of breath. I’m eight miles in, and feeling good. There was no explanation.

I spy a runner in the distance, a couple of hundred metres away. He’s getting the gazelle treatment, I decide. Impressing even myself as I stride towards him, sneaking up from behind, I notice that he’s clearly struggling. I feel bad. And then I leave him for dust. Can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen, right? When did I become so mercenary? I don’t look back. He’s not the first runner tonight who I’ve left in my wake. But still I’m behind schedule. Must try harder.

This problem was caused by a conscious decision early in the run not to check my time. After missing out on 1h20m the last two attempts, I was in danger of getting hung up on it. I needed to just run, and enjoy it. But I’d made the mistake of checking my watch as I passed back by Liverpool Street Station, and was not desperate not to miss the 8 minute mile target. This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen.

I tore through the streets, diving into the road, and running in the cycle lane when the pavement ahead became full of slow moving walkers. They became obstacles in my path. No time for pleasantries – I had to move.

I checked my watch again. 59 minutes. Wait. What?

So I had completely misread my watch and almost killed myself in the process of trying to make up lost time that I hadn’t actually lost? Damn. I laughed to myself. This was a good run.

I kept going, now confident that I was going to beat my 80 minute target, but I did ease off completely. I was now running at a very sedate pace, and I didn’t care. I soaked up the run. The feeling that I had accomplished what I set out to do, even if it was by accident. I still had a way to go, but now it was inevitable.

I was almost at walking pace myself by now. but I kept going. Ten miles completed in 1 hour 18 minutes, without a single walk break. Finally, I felt able to say that I am a runner.

It wasn’t until I got home and went to take off my shoe that I noticed the blood…

red shoe

It looks worse than it is, a small blister (about the size of a fingernail) had burst, leaving a rather dramatic stain.

Here’s to another 10 mile tonight!