The Marathon Hunger has set in. I remember it vaguely from last time, but between then and now my body has been hopped up on fertility drugs, confused by pregnancy and baffled by breast feeding, so it has lost all sense of what normal hunger feels like.
On Friday I left the office at 12.30pm to work from home for the afternoon. On my way to the bus stop, I picked up a sandwich and some popcorn to eat at home as a Friday treat. Eating a shop-made sandwich at home is the height of decadence for a new parent.
By the time I got home I had eaten not only the sandwich and bag of popcorn, but also an entire baguette purchased at Waitrose on the Holloway Road, a supermarket I had no intension of visiting, and which involved crossing several roads to get to, then getting a different bus home. It pulled me in with its ‘aisles of wonder’ tractor beam. I wandered around in a food-fixated haze, unsure what would satisfy the intense need to stuff my face.
I felt so hungry, that afterwards I started to worry that I might be pregnant again, even though it is a medical impossibility. After eating the baguette, I still wasn’t full. Mitigating my gluttony shame, I can at least say that I did not also eat the cinnamon bun purchased in addition to the baguette. It stayed in the bread bin as a reminder of my secret carbohydrate festival until Sunday morning when I scoffed it after my long run.
I suspect some of this carb craving could be averted by eating more protein, but protein is expensive and bread is cheap as chips. And nuts are all very well, but only when covered in chocolate and packaged by Cadbury.
It’s the end of a long day and time to leave the office. You ate your lunch five hours ago. You haven’t drunk any water. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s raining. It’s dark. You just want to get on the train and sleep, but you have to run home.
So why should you? Because the run-commute is the best run you’ll ever do!
It’s a multi-tasking genius of a run which gets you home and gets you fit; it ticks all the boxes without ticking off your partner or kids; it saves you money and it saves you time. You will never regret doing it, even if you arrive home drenched, freezing and exhausted, because as soon as you’ve showered you will have the rest of the evening to sit around and bask in the knowledge that you no longer have to get up and go out for a run.
I will admit that it is a pain working out what to pack in the mornings and remembering your sports bra and not forgetting to wear your trainers and making sure you have smart shoes at work and wearing a light jacket instead of a heavy coat and taking it all home again the next day. But it is all worth it.
I should really get a running rucksack.
Tonight I’m running 7 miles home, via Camden and Regents Park outer circle, and even though I’m molto exhausto, I expect to enjoy it approximately 100x more than last night’s 4 mile plod around Crouch End at 7.30pm. For after I’ve done it, I am going to eat chips and drink rosé on the sofa. So there.
When we were little, my dad was the King of Competitiveness. Racing us up the street, he would hang back until just before the kerb and then pull a Mo Farah and beat us to the pavement at the last minute. When playing cards, he always used his superior skill to trounce our measly efforts and, when he couldn’t, he cheated. He hated games of chance. “There’s no skill involved!”, he would moan, as our tiny hands won at snap.
I say all this with affection. Never has there been a lovelier man, but the thing that he loves most of all is to win. He used to have a duffel bag full of trophies which we occasionally emptied onto the bed, practising our Oscar acceptance speeches with the one for ‘G Flight Darts Champion, 1979′. The man had a trophy for every sport: football, cross-country, boxing, ice hockey (ice hockey!), squash, cricket. There was nothing he couldn’t win at.
I have inherited this competitiveness gene. My daughter is still too little for me to test it in full – about the same age as me in the photo – but I suspect my turn to cheat at Hungry Hippos may not be far off.
On the whole, I’m grateful. You say competitiveness; I say caring. For what is the point of playing a game of cards if you don’t care who wins? Non-competitive people make very dull playing companions. They forget who is dealing. “Who is next?”, they ask time and again, “what’s trumps?”, “oh, does that mean I win?”. ARgh.
Sometimes, though, I will admit that it is not a blessing. The desire to beat your personal best running times can be a great motivator, but it cannot be switched off. In Spring 2012 I ran a marathon in 3 hours 28 minutes. In Spring 2013 I had a baby. In Spring 2014 I’m running another marathon, and I have just had to accept that I should not attempt to better my best.
A small voice inside, even now, is still saying “really? Why not??!!”, but it must be ignored. On Saturday I ran what my training plan called a “half marathon race” and what in reality was a steady 13.1 miles. I completed it in 1h 43 minutes. Not bad, if you ignore the fact that it nearly killed me. The thought of doing that, at that speed, twice, is unimaginable. I could try it, but I would surely fail. If I tried to run the Milton Keynes marathon in 8 minute miles I could possibly manage 15, maybe 20 miles, before blowing up like a pulverised balloon at my daughter’s first birthday party. For the first time, my desire not to do this is stronger than my desire to win.
So, my new goal: finish in 3 hours 45 minutes and ENJOY THE RACE. Still a bit competitive, obviously. I’m not giving up who I am, after all.
Tuesday: 6 miles with 200m bursts
Thursday: 7 miles with hill reps
Friday: 4.5 miles easy
Saturday: 13.1 miles “race”
Sunday: 4 miles recovery run
Total: 34.5 miles
I love him.
If you haven’t read his book on running, then I am very jealous of you.
This interview with him from Runner’s World is inspirational, in that he’s just an ordinary runner, and possibly an ordinary person.
How, then, does he write such extra-ordinary books?
Could it be all the running?
I love him.
Sometimes all it takes to make me run is the promise of coffee and cake at the end. Here is Sunday’s. It was warm, tasty and swiftly inhaled at The Spoke on Holloway Road after a fast, hard 10 miler.
Most of the time there are no cakes at the end of a run, though, are there? There are no prizes for running 6 sodding sodden miles home on a dark Tuesday night, only dripping trainers and beans on toast again.
This week I ran five times. Twice I came home in the pouring rain, picked up my daughter from nursery, gave her warm milk and a lovely bath, then put on my kit and went back out into the rain to run 6 or 7 miserable miles in the dark. After doing this on Friday night, on Saturday and Sunday morning all I wanted to do was stay in bed, even though the sun was shining.
So why didn’t I? No-one is forcing me to run. I signed up to train for a marathon with absolutely no cajoling from anyone. Most people, including my family, think I am mad. So what is forcing me out of the door?
I don’t need to “lose the baby weight” (and nor does anyone). I’m not unfit. I’m not unhappy. I don’t need a goal. I’m not being pushed by anything negative. I’m motivated by the biggest, most delicious slice of cake and cup of coffee imaginable: finishing a marathon a year after having a baby. Just doing that – proving to myself, and no-one else, that I’m still here. I’m still a runner.
Tuesday: 6 miles with 8 x 40 secs hill reps
Wednesday: 7 miles
Friday: 6 miles easy
Saturday: 5 miles with 2.5 mile tempo in the middle
Sunday: 10 miles steady
Total: 34 miles
In December I decided to run the 2014 Milton Keynes Marathon.
Today, I would like to know why.
For some people, juggling a full-time job with an 8 month old baby, an occasional social life, the need to finish the last series of Breaking Bad, sleep for at least 6 hours a night and a contain a nascent caffeine addiction might be enough. Apparently not so for me – I feel the need to train for and run a 26.2 mile race as well.
The sleeping. It would all be going so well were it not for the sleeping. Or the lack of sleeping. Or the sleeping for 1.5 hours at a time.
In every interview I ever read with a top runner, they talk about the importance of sleep. Paula Radcliffe has a nap every afternoon. All the Kenyans do is run, eat and sleep. It’s a way of life. Alas, not my way of life. Instead of a nap, I have a diet coke. My body hates me.
My body is just about holding it together. Three weeks into my training plan, I’ve made it to 33.5 miles, over 5 runs with the longest being 12 miles. I missed my hill session on Thursday – it felt like a bad idea to push it in my zombie state. Weirdly, the easiest run of the week was the 12 on Saturday – mainly because it ended at Monmouth Coffee. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for coffee.
Can I continue in this fragile state? We will find out.
Tuesday: 7 miles steady
Wednesday: 5 miles easy
Thursday: 5 miles easy (was supposed to be the hill session)
Saturday: 12 miles slow
Sunday: 4.5 miles easy
Total: 33.5 miles
“Your domain is about to expire!”, my emails have been warning me for a month. “You are giving up on notajogger.com!”, they accuse on a daily basis. “You have nothing left to say about running!”, they cry. “Your creative impulses have been sucked out of you like breastmilk!” (sorry). “You are running in a silent void! Run all you like, no-one cares any more!”.
On Friday (payday), I will silence these voices. For $25 I will be furnished with both the means and the reason not to run unheard and alone for another year. Even when I’m not writing the blog, which I realise is almost all of the time, it is still there in the back of my mind like a little motivational push every time I hesitate between my bus pass and my trainers. When I am writing the blog, it brings me pleasure, sometimes even joy, when I’ve managed to put my running into the right words.
So. A new start.
Hello again! How are you?
I’ve been busy. I am well, but tired: working full-time and running four times a week. On Monday 5 May I’ll run the Milton Keynes Marathon. I have no idea how fast I’ll run it, but would settle for 4 hours, be happy with 3 hours 45 minutes, and delighted with anything faster. On four runs a week, I suspect this is ambitious.
My training will be so different from my last marathon. Gone is the dream of 50 mile weeks, 8 hours sleep a night, running every day, at any time of day, napping on the sofa to recover. This year I will run when I can, no matter how I feel or how tired I am.
It will be hard. Will it be worth it? I think we are about to find out.