Quick! What year is it?

Oh. Hello there. I didn’t expect to see you here. Have you been waiting long? Huh. What? Where was I? OK. Let me explain.

Right… so the last post involved me doing a 25km run. I remember that. And then I did another 20k the next day, and another the day after that. I remember my foot being a little sore at that point.

The Sunday rolled around and I joined the running club for our usual 11km. Of course, I ran there first, a good 6km. On the way there, I realised my foot was still a little sore, but ignored it.

Remember that part wher I told you that I don’t know my own limits? Hmmm.

I’m not going to bore you with too many details, but I ended up fracturing two metatarsals, and really, trying to run on them is NOT a good idea. It hurts. It hurts in a way that when the specialist touches your foot, your immediate reaction is to kick her in the face. Her reactions are faster, and so charges will not be pressed.

One of the benefits of living in East London was that I got to see the top people. The team that looked after me at the sports injury clinic are phenomenal. The centre was built for the 2012 Olympics and those guys… well, I doubt there is anyone better in the world.

So no more running for Trevor. I was told that I should realistically plan on running a maximum of 10k again by September this year. A whole year out with no running. Well, you can understand that I was not best pleased. I spent the next few months walking around with a surgical boot to immobilise the foot, which really is not fun, and ruined at least one decent pair of trousers. I got to keep the crutches though, so that was nice.

Oh, and the other thing that happened during this time was that I moved to Baku. In Azerbaijan. I know. It sounds like an Eddie Izzard joke, but it’s true. Kasia got an amazing job here, and I followed her.

And so now, I have begun running again. I started at 10 minutes a few weeks ago, running alongside Kasia.

This week, on Monday, I completed my first full 10k, four months ahead of schedule. I completed my second on Wednesday and third today. Today was my fastest, at just under 45 minutes.

I had a good chat with Kasia last weekend. We have new goals. No longer am I training for an ultra marathon. I don’t think she would tolerate me breaking more things. Also, I’m 39 years old. Sitting out another year really isn’t an option.

But 10k? The fastest I ever ran a 10k was eight seconds under thirty minutes. If I can run it in 45minutes, at 39, and 9kg overweight, and recovering from a broken foot, I wonder what I can do when I’m fully fit?

So that’s the plan. Get fit. Get Fast. And see where it takes me. I’ve got nothing but time to train right now, so lets do this.

Talk soon. Promise x

 

 

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Sunday run, 25km

I’ve had my Vibrams for a week now, and as a consequence of dropping to the barefoot style shoe, I’ve had to limit my running. The strain on my calves has been much more than I anticipated – The transitional shoes only affected me for a day or two before I got used to them, whereas the Vibrams have had me in agony pretty much all week.

Alright, so it’s my fault. As I’ve previously said, I’m not someone to do things by halves, and I know I’m supposed to limit my mileage at first when going to the barefoot style, but I just get carried away.

After running a 10k the first day I got them, I ran 14km with Kasia on the Sunday. I was a little sore (understatement…) for a couple of days after this, and a new work schedule meant that I managed to get in a run on Wednesday morning, another 10k. This finished me again for a couple of days, and I didn’t run again until Friday night, which happened to be about 12km.

I was working on Saturday, and then meeting friends for drinks after. I don’t actually normally drink any more, but I bowed to peer pressure, and had a few beers. It was a good night, and I didn’t get to sleep until 4am.

I woke with a hangover on Sunday morning, determined to go running with the running club on their weekly long run. Some strong coffee, a wholewheat bagel (with nothing on it), a shower and about a litre of water, and I left the house a few minutes later than I planned. Kasia decided not to run, perhaps wisely, considering the very late night we’d had.

Arriving at the bus stop, I find that the next bus to where the running club meets won’t arrive for another ten minutes. I’m going to be late. But not if…

I break into a run. I know my times. I know I can run to where the club meets at the other side of tower bridge in exactly 35 minutes. The bus takes pretty much the same time, depending on traffic. The club leave for their run in 30. I put a little more speed into my run.

The pavements are busy, but not overly so. I manage to avoid the worst of the foot traffic, and get to Liverpool Street two minutes faster than normal. I’m at London Bridge in 27 minutes. A run down the stairs, and across the pedestrian section (which is already busy with tourists), and am frustrated every time I’m slowed to a walk. I end up sprinting the last section, and only slow as I see the club members still milling around.

I manage to catch my breath and have a couple of minutes to chat before the run gets under way.

Almost immediately, I find myself with the leaders of the group. There are about thirty runners today, and within a minute or two a pack of four of us break away from the others.

As we extend our lead I realise something – I’m not racing these guys, but I am frustrated by the slower pace. This is probably caused by faster run to get there on time, and I want to maintain that pace. I soon begin to break away on my own, only slightly worried that I don’t really know the route.

I shouldn’t have worried. I soon begin to tire, and the three others soon catch me again. I glance at my watch and realise once again that I’ve forgotten to press start on the stopwatch. This is a common occurrence, when I’m running with others.

The group of three keep a steady lead about 50 metres in front of me, and I’m happy for them to stay there. I’ve already decided that I’m going to run home too, and should probably conserve a little energy.

Another club member runs past me. I make a mental note that I’m now in ‘5th place’, and immediately try to ignore that. We’re not racing, and nobody feels that we are.

One thing I’ve not mentioned so far – The area around Tower Bridge where we run has many cobblestone paths. While I love running in my Vibrams (and I’ll even go as far as saying they’re the best running shoes I’ve ever tried), running on cobbles in them is not fun. Your feet feel every single edge of each stone as you run over them.

We hit the halfway point, the other four runners arriving not long before me. I think to myself that I’ve not done too bad. I’m ten years or thereabouts older than these guys, and I’d already run seven kilometres at a fairly brisk pace before we’d even started. I make another mental note, to run a little slower on the way back.

The rest of the club come in to the turnaround in clumps, often three or four at a time, and a few minutes later we’re assembled for our obligatory club photo.

(I used to find it frustrating, to start running again after such a stop, but now I just get on with it.)

We begin the 6.5km journey back to the start, and I purposefully hold back, and am the last to leave the turnaround. I run at a much slower pace, but still find myself near the front as we make our way through those horribly cobbled streets. The leaders are almost out of sight, and I make a point of not chasing them.

I’m with a pack of about four others, and reluctantly I pass them all and find myself running alone.

And then… I did what I do every time running this course. I take a wrong turn. You’d think that I would know it by now, but no. I always make the same mistake, end up in a dead end and have to retrace my steps. Back out on the right path, I find myself running alone again, as the pack that was behind me disappear in front of me.

I make it back to the start, some way behind the seven or eight others who finished before me, but for once, I’m not bothered. It’s rare that I’m not racing people, even  internally, and I soak up what has been a long run.

After some lengthy discussion about my choice of footwear, the group disbands slowly, and we go our separate ways. I begin the 7km run back home, smiling to myself.

So after the longest run I’ve completed since the marathon, and by far the longest I’ve run in the FiveFingers, I’m a happy man. My calves are only half as sore as I expected them to be, and perhaps that Ultra is not as impossible as I thought. I’ve just got to remember to fuel right. A single plain bagel is not sufficient to fuel that kind  of distance. I was starving when I got home, and pretty much cleared out the fridge.

New Shoes. Again.

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Yes. No surprises here, I bought a new pair of shoes. My first pair of Vibram FiveFingers.

I’d decided to stay in the transitional shoes for the marathon, due to the problems I was having with blisters, but now I kind of see myself starting fresh, from zero, if you like.

I knew what going to barefoot shoes would do to my calves, however, I got a little carried away. I ran out of the door as soon as Kasia had left for work on Saturday evening, just for a quick jog around the block, which would have been my first run since the marathon.

Well, that quick jog turned into a full on 10k, which I found tough as I hit the turnaround. Any illusions of bouncing straight back after the marathon were quickly blown away. I was much more tired than I expected to be, and the cold was still lingering. I got back in around 50 minutes, which is much slower than I usually do, but nothing to do with the shoes – I hit the turnaround in 24 minutes, which is my standard time. Yes. read that again. My usual 5k split is 24 minutes, but 50 minutes for a 10k is much slower than I usually do. I normally run it with a huge negative split, only because I treat the first 5k as a warm up…

My calves ached, just as they had when I first dropped to transitional shoes, and although I was prepared for some discomfort, it still ached. It’s a good pain though – It’s one that means my legs are working as they should.

Sunday came, and I decided I would run again. I really had missed running quite badly over the week. Again, what started out as a quick jog with Kasia ended up being nearly 13k of canal routes as we explored the area around our place and got a little carried away. I’d even told her that I wasn’t going to run in the Vibrams because I wasn’t sure my calves would last the run. That changed as I saw them sitting looking at me as I was getting ready.

What can I say about them? They’re the most comfortable running shoes I’ve ever used. While the toe thing is weird when you’re sitting around the house looking at them, running in them feels the most natural thing. Also, no new blisters at all.

If you’re thinking of transitioning, make sure you go to a low drop shoe first, and slowly up your milage in a zero drop or barefoot shoe – running over 20k in your first weekend in them is not recommended, unless you’re some crazy near 40 year old who doesn’t know his own limits.

Like me.

After…

So where now? I am sure pretty much everyone asks themselves the same thing immediately after an event such as a marathon. My goal was always to use the 42km as a training run towards running ultras.

However, I don’t feel like I have conquered a marathon yet. Sure, I crossed the finish line, but the race didn’t go in any way as I planned.

One of the first things we did when we got back to London on Wednesday was talk through our running goals. Kasia wants to run a much faster marathon, as do I. We agreed to drop our plans for running ultras for now, and spend the next year training like never before.

We’ve pencilled in two marathons for next year, six months apart, and have already begun purchasing training equipment, and writing year long training plans.

The health checks we did prior to the race gave us both good news, and my metabolic age of 23 was the cause of much merriment (my cholesterol level of 118 actually made the doctor do a double take).

We’re both now following whole food plant based diets now, and our recovery times from the marathon were startling – we were both pain free within 48 hours, and have both been itching to run since Tuesday.

Eric Orton’s The Cool Impossible has been Kasia’s companion all week, and it’s going to be such an incredible journey, I might have to buy a video camera and make a movie…

Warsaw Marathon Review

It starts at kilometre 15. I decide that I can wait, and keep running. But the pain becomes worse. I need to go. I hold off until the next toilets at kilometre 20 (seriously – race organisers, please put the toilets AFTER the distance markers. It’s a psychological thing). I burst through the door of the portaloo. It’s not pretty. I lose a lot of liquid in various ways rapidly. ‘Immodium,’ I think to myself, ‘next time, pack Immodium.’
That’s it. My race is over. 15 minutes later I stumble back out into the daylight, unsure if the race is still going on. Technically, I cross the half marathon mark at 1h53m (this is what I was talking about. My half-marathon time was great up until the toilet break).
I soldier on. I’m dehydrated now. My mouth is dry. My hands have a strange tingly sensation, as if the circulation has been cut off. I pass the marker for the 22nd KM. And I throw up. The rest of my stomach contents now litters the side of a Warsaw motorway. I dry retch. There is literally nothing left. Someone hands me a bottle of water. I don’t know who. I don’t even look up to say thank you.
I swallow as much as I can, then bring it back up too. It mixes with the puddle already at my feet, and I fear, somewhat irrationally, that other runners will begin to run through it. A swarm of other thoughts go through my head, none of them good. I take the smallest sip of water from the bottle and limp on. Only another 20km to go.
Kasia was right. I was too ill to run. I’d gone to bed at 4pm the day before the race with head cold and a slight fever, and I’d woken up not any better. But the adrenalin had kicked in, and I’d convinced myself that I was fine, that I wasn’t going to throw away six months of training. Do or die time.
Another kilometre passes. Another dry retch, another tiny mouthful of water. My throat is red raw now. My insides hurt as much as my outsides. My head pounds with every step. Another runner sees I’m in trouble, and in Polish, offers to help me to the medical assistance. I wave him off. I make a little running sign with my fingers. I will finish this. Any medical assistance would mean I’d probably be pulled from the race, and that wasn’t a chance I wanted to take. No choice, but to keep going.
At the 23km I down an energy gel. I burns my throat. I look at the packet. Ginger? Why in God’s name would you make it with ginger? I grab my other energy gel and suck that dry too, just to remove the first flavour. It’s not much better, and I gulp water trying to preserve the skin in my throat. I throw up everything. I spit and curse along, running at the slowest pace I have in years.
Runners pass me on all sides. Well-wishers cheers us on with a chorus of “Bravo! Bravo!” from the sidelines. A few motion to me to keep going, shouting in a language that I barely understand. They have no idea of the pain I am in.
I see a sign for kilometre 33, and I brighten briefly. Hope has returned to my world, until I notice something else. Runners. Runners running in the opposite direction. They are at kilometre 33, not I. Turns out that I’m only a couple of hundred meters from kilometre 25. Hope dances off into the distance, gleefully unaware of how cruel she can be. I keep going.
Every few kilometres, water bearers and banana givers thrust their wares upon me. They don’t understand why I shun them. I’m running on empty, caught in a vicious trap; I need to fuel my muscles, but my body is rejecting all fuel. I begin to cramp shortly after, around kilometre 28. I want to cry. I even have a cramp in my ankle. I didn’t even know that was possible. I laugh at the new sensation of pain.
And then suddenly, Kasia is calling me. At first I don’t understand. I wonder if I have collapsed or lost consciousness. Perhaps, I’ve even died. I give my head a little shake, blocking out the thoughts. I look up. Kasia is on the overpass I’d run across half an hour before. She’s calling to me, smiling and waving. I laugh and smile back. I then make a ‘no’ sign with my arms, waving them across each other, telling her I’m finished. For added emphasis, I draw my thumb across my own throat. She laughs, and keeps running.
I press on, every step is like a punch to the head. No choice, but to keep going. Hitting kilometre 33, I’m surprised to see runners still going past in the opposite direction. Not many, but they’re still there. I’ve fallen way behind, but I’m still going. Less than 10k to go.
My mind plays cruel tricks on me at this point. I know I can run 10k in 40 minutes. It tries to convince me I can do it now. I can’t. Every ray of light my brain conjures casts shadows darker and longer than I thought possible. Slowly, so slowly, the kilometres tumble.
I’m on the approach to the stadium, so suddenly it almost takes me by surprise. Knowing I’m so close now, I speed up. I’m passing people. The cramps fall away. I’m running on fresh legs, desperate to get to the finish line, deep within the stadium.
Through the entrance tunnel, and into the arena. Crowds line the sides of the track. They’re all shouting. The atmosphere is crazy. I speed up further, passing people left and right. As I hurtle towards the line, I catch a blue blur to my right. A quick turn of the head, like I’ve done so many times when running. Someone is racing me. I smile, and go turbo.
I’m full on sprinting now. The last fifty meters. Blue is left in my wake. He can’t keep up. The crowd are roaring. Cameras flash. Little kids are jumping and pointing. I cross the line, and look back. Blue crosses the line a couple of seconds later, but doesn’t acknowledge me. I smile again. I wait for a few minutes, savouring this small victory on a day that ended in defeat.
My time hardly matters now. It’s much closer to five hours than I ever wanted to be.
But I have run my first marathon. I’ve lost three kilos in the process, and every part of my body hates me, but I’ve earned my first medal.
I’ve already signed up for two and three.

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Apologies for not looking our best. I’m sure you understand.

The final long-ish training run.

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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.