Gait Analysis, New shoes, and a Crime scene.

Saturday saw me get up early. Again. With another crazy idea. Again.

“Let’s go to the marathon store at Liverpool street,” I said with far too much enthusiasm for someone who was not fully processing thoughts “I think it’s only a few miles away. We can get the bus there and run back.”

“OK. Great idea,” replied Kasia, much as before. I really don’t know if she thinks it’s a great idea, or if she’s just callng my bluff.

I check on Google maps; the store is EXACTLY four miles away, door to door, and before I know it, we’re dressed in our running gear and heading up to the bus stop, stopping only for a bottle of water and a few bananas.

The sights of Dalston on that Saturday morning were something to behold, but more on that later. It’s one thing going past a crime scene on a bus, and quite another having to run past it.
The marathon store is quite something. It’s the first time I’d ventured in and was a little overwhelmed as I realised what I had let myself in for.

Memorabilia adorns the walls; A rhino costumes stands in the doorway, guarding the entrance, a divers helmet languishes in a perspex box while street signs from the London route line the walls above each bay of brightly coloured running gear. Make no mistake, this just got serious.

Downstairs is where the Adidas “26ers” have a locker room. From what I understand, it’s a running group full of elite types who train to win. Feeling a little more intimidated than I was before, I sheepishly reply “just looking” when a sales assistant asks if we need any help.

We sidle over to the display of running shoes (there aren’t trainers here. These are all hardcore running shoes). and watch through the glass wall as someone goes through the gait analysis process.

I feel very self conscious at this point. I know I can run. I know I can run quite fast too, but all of a sudden, I feel like I’m on show and want to melt into the background.

Another sales assistant ask if we need any help. She’s six-feet tall, with an Eastern European accent, and I get the impression that she runs ten miles to work every morning, and runs them home again. There isn’t an ounce of fat on her. Any of them, in fact. All of the staff here look like the eat miles and poop personal bests.

“I want to do the thing,” I stammer, somehow forgetting how to speak.
“The gait analysis?”
“Yes, I guess so.”

She explains the process to me while Kasia, who has done this before just sits and laughs for the next twenty-five minutes.

some preliminary questions before we start (how often do I run, what distances are we covering), and I explain that we have a marathon coming in September. She’s not impressed, of course. This is an everyday occurrence for her. Somehow, this makes me feel worse as I remove my shoes and socks.

The first step is to mould an innersole to the foot. According to the scan, my arches are much higher than I thought them to be. I had always been under the impression that I was somewhat flat footed, but apparently not. Once the scans are complete, the innersoles are popped into what can only be described as a toaster to warm them, and make them pliable, and then they are moulded to my feet in a curious form of massage, which I am sure, this poor sales assistant does not get paid enough to do.

Impressed with the imprints my feet have left on the new innersoles, I start to feel a little better, but now comes the worst part; the gait analysis itself. This is where I’m going to be told what my running form is like.

The innersoles are placed into a pair of neutral shoes, and I slip them on and head towards the treadmill.

“What speed do you run at normally?” I’m asked as I stare at the treadmill in fear.
“About 7:30 per mile,” I reply, using my slower pace from the training sessions.
“That’s nearly thirteen km an hour,”she replies doing some very quick maths in her head. “That’s a little fast. I’ll set it to eleven for now.”

A little fast? That actually makes me feel better. and I step onto the treadmill with a new confidence.

As the machine picks up speed, I run for about thirty seconds, watching a video of Mo Farah running relentlessly through London’s Streets.

The machine is stopped, and I jump off, and walk over to the screen where a video loop of my ankles is playing over and over.

“Your right leg runs with no over or under pronunciation at all. Your left has the tiniest outward movement, but is only a degree or two. This is perfectly normal.”

I contemplate asking whether my back trouble maybe has caused it. But then think better of it. It’s normal, so don’t worry.

“Actually, I thought you were joking about the pace. But you run perfectly,” the assistant adds as Kasia comes in to look at the video.

We pick out about four pairs of trainers for me to try. I explain that Adidas seem to give me blisters, and we reject them instantly, leaving three pairs; Brooks, Asics and New Balance, all of which are over the £100 mark. I’ve never spent that kind of money on shoes in my life.

I try the Asics first. Kasia bought a pair the day before. I jump back onto the treadmill and run for the required 30 seconds, again staring at Mo Farah trying his hardest to inspire me.

I get down and go over to the video.

“Look at this,” the sales assistant says. “The consistency is amazing. You really do run perfectly.”

I’m looking at a side-by-side comparison of my two treadmill runs. Frame for frame, they are identical. Without the two different pairs of shoes on my feet, you wouldn’t have known you were watching a different take.

“Cool,” is the only response I have, my already huge ego getting another boost that it really didn’t need.

Next, the Brooks shoes.

Back on the treadmill, Mo Farah replaced by someone I probably should know but don’t. It doesn’t matter. I run perfectly.

Not much more to be said, it becomes about how I feel in the trainers, rather than how I run.

I opt for the Brooks Glycerine 12 shoes. They’re very expensive, but rather than seeing them as something to cover my feet, I see them as an investment, a tool to help me on my journey. But then I remember something.

I have to run four miles home.

We apologise to the sales assistant, but I make a promise to come back and pick them up later the same day (which I do), and head out the door on my long journey home.

Kasia is soon left behind (She cheated and took a bus in the end, still struggling with pain a little), and I battle Saturday afternoon crowds, dodging and weaving the best I can to avoid stopping.

I passed the crime scene I mentioned earlier, literally running alongside the police tape. There really was a lot of blood, covering the pavement, and the detritus of paramedic equipment still littering the area. I can only guess as to what happened at this point. It’s when I see the running shoes lying in the middle of the pool that something hits home.

I want to leave it there for today.  Whatever happens, nobody ever deserves to die like that.

Baby, we were born to run… (I promised myself I wouldn’t use that as a title. Sorry)

It’s been a god week for running. For me, anyway. As I said at the beginning of the week, I was going to use the shorter midweek runs to try a faster pace, but that isn’t exactly how it happened…

I ran three miles on Monday evening, at a steady pace of around 7:30/mile and was fairly happy with the results. Running slower, I can run far more consistently, and can feel my endurance levels building all the time.

 Tuesday I decided to rest. Monday is officially a rest day, but I got bored, and felt the need to hit the streets. But by the time Tuesday came, I’d had a rough day at work, and needed to veg out with a beer and a movie instead at that point, so I’m glad I’d run on Monday instead.

Wednesday came, and I headed out for my evening run quite late. Kasia was working, so after I’d spent the evening on the Playstation with my son, it was time to head out. Running four miles at 10pm at night is actually a really good feeling. This run on Wednesday was when I finally realised how much progress I’d made in just a couple of weeks. I ran four miles, each one hitting 7:30/mile like clockwork. You could have set your watch by me.

 A little secret though – knowing my split times, I realised I was flagging on the final lap and upped my pace, to hit the target. This was the first defining moment of the week; I realised I still had much more in the tank.

I removed the blister plaster before my shower that evening, and examined my foot. It had healed to the point that, while sore, the wound was closed and I could leave it open. This was to be the second defining moment of the week, although I was yet to realise it…

Thursday’s run was arrange with Kasia on my train home. We would get read and run straight away, around 7pm, thus leaving our evening free. Well, we eventually left the house around half past seven, but Kasia pulled up almost instantly with a pain. She said she was fine, and would walk it off, leaving me to run alone (She is fine, by the way).

About a mile in, I realised that the pain in my knee had gone, that it had been the blister plaster on the underside of my foot changing my gait slightly, and putting stress on my knee. Now it was gone, I was running as I usually would.

It was only a two-mile run tonight, and accordingly, I upped my pace. I finished both miles in 13:30, an average of 6:45/mile, which while much slower than my best, is still a vast improvement on the sluggish runs I was completing a fortnight ago, after 18 months out.

Friday will see a three or four mile run (I have yet to decide – it’s Playstation night with the boy again) which I hope to complete at the faster pace, with a rest tomorrow, and then an 8-mile run on Sunday, which Kasia, rather conveniently, is away for…

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.

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?