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Motivation: delicious carrot or vicious stick?

3 February 2014

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.

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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.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6 miles with 8 x 40 secs hill reps
Wednesday: 7 miles
Thursday: booze
Friday: 6 miles easy
Saturday: 5 miles with 2.5 mile tempo in the middle
Sunday: 10 miles steady

Total: 34 miles

The Week I questioned my Sanity

27 January 2014

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.

Oh, sleep.

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.

This week:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 7 miles steady
Wednesday: 5 miles easy
Thursday: 5 miles easy (was supposed to be the hill session)
Friday: rest
Saturday: 12 miles slow
Sunday: 4.5 miles easy

Total: 33.5 miles

My New 3 “R”s: Running, ‘riting and Remembering to do both…

20 January 2014

“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.

I am still running, honest

9 October 2013

Every week!

Three times a week! Really, I am.

On Sunday I’ll be running my first post-baby race – the Great Eastern Run. I’m running it with my sister, to give her some moral support in getting around her first half marathon, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also dreading it. The furthest I’ve run in the past five months has been 9.5 miles, which was supposed to be 10 miles, but I just couldn’t do that last 0.5.

Oh dear.

The last time I ran the Great Eastern Run I’m pretty sure it was just called the Peterborough Half Marathon, but I was the Great Notajogger, busting out a personal best time of 1 hour 34 minutes. On Sunday we are aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes.

I’m taking flapjacks.

When I last wrote I said that “naps have finally arrived”. Can you hear the sound of hollow laughter? The one thing I have learned since having a baby is that you SHOULD NEVER SAY ANYTHING GOOD OUT LOUD because that thing will then immediately go wrong, forever. So, naps are out of the window, along with me, walking with the buggy. This means I am getting a lot more exercise, but also drinking a lot more coffee, and not writing any blogs.

The good news is that running has finally got easier. About three weeks ago I noticed that my joints were feeling stronger – when I turn back to look for oncoming traffic at a crossroads I no longer feel like my hips were going to slip out of place.  As soon as this happened I knew: it was time to see if I could run fast again.

I am not a slow runner. I realise that these things are relative and that I am no Usain Bolt, but what I mean is that I do not enjoy running slowly. I do not believe in jogging. It has therefore been somewhat challenging to my self esteem to get back to running after pregnancy.

From 8 weeks to 4 months there was no change in my pace. It varied between 9 minute miles to 11 minute miles during a run but it never, never got faster from run to run. There is a good, if slightly depressing article here which talks about why it’s probably not a good idea to try to run quickly post-partum, but this was not a choice on my part, I just wasn’t able to run at any other speed.

Three weeks ago (so at about 4.5 months post-baby) I ran fast for the first time. It was just a very short pyramid interval session, but I loved it. It felt amazing to be running at (relative) speed again and my painful ankle tendons were miraculously fine throughout the whole thing because I was concentrating on pushing with my thighs. A couple of these sessions and two tempo runs have improved my normal pace to about 8 minute 40 second miles. At this rate of improvement, I’ll be challenging Usain come Rio.

The “session”

Warm-up
1 minute fast 1 minute slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
3 minutes fast 3 minutes slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
1 minute fast 1 minute slow
Cool down

Finding the time to run after having a baby is hard. Finding the time to write about running…

4 July 2013

… is harder!

I miss this blog. I miss trying to put my running experiences into words. I miss having the time to think about how to put my running experiences into words.

I miss words.

Goo goo ga ga is all very well, but I’d like to try to retain the ability to express myself in whole sentences, preferably not containing the phrase “Sorry, I’m just so tired”.

I’m really not that tired. I mean, I am, empirically (empirically!) pretty tired, but not as much as I was in the first couple of months. My daughter is now 3.5 months old and has recently discovered napping and going to bed early, which is why I find myself at the laptop at 8.20pm with a glass of wine and the determination to nail this. If I could write this blog on an iphone whilst feeding a baby I would have written every day, but my brain can no longer process anything more than 140 characters. Damn you, twitter.

So, the facts:

15 weeks ago I had a baby.
9 weeks ago I started running again.
Last week I ran 7 miles without stopping to walk and it felt good.

I am running three or four times a week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays when Mr Notajogger gets back from work and one or both days at the weekend. It’s hard. You don’t get to decide whether or not you feel like it, you just have to do it right then. If the baby is having a bad day, you can decide not to run or you can just do it anyway and feel like a bad mother. Ideally you would do it anyway and not feel like a bad mother, but I have yet to achieve this.

The running itself is also hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I had this “magic four weeks” in my mind. Whenever I’m trying to convince someone to start running I say, give it four weeks, then everything will get easier. It hasn’t worked out like that post-pregnancy. My fitness is actually fine – I’m rarely out of breath during the run – but that’s mainly because I can’t run fast enough. At 15 weeks post-partum (ew) I’m no faster than I was at 6 weeks. My legs and joints still ache during and after the run and I can’t do any kind of lateral movement while running for fear of breaking something, probably my pelvis.

BUT. I am running, and running is great. With minimal training, I’m going to run the Great Eastern Run (half marathon) in Peterborough on my birthday (13 October) and it will be slow and painful but it will be both a shot in the arm (mine), and a kick in the teeth (of anyone who thinks I’m crazy for running).

I run.

I rule!

Now here’s a picture of my daughter showing off her future running skills.

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When is it going to get easier?

28 June 2013

Hmm?

I ran a couple of times last week but didn’t feel like writing about it.

It was literally nothing to write home about – the same as the final run of my first week back: ok for 15 minutes, painful for 20 minutes, slow slow slow.

My legs were heavy and after Thursday’s effort my left ankle was swollen around the Achilles’ tendon.
I decided to rest for a week and went swimming and walked instead. Basically I was back to being pregnant for a week, but without the license to pig out.

Yesterday I tried again and, guess what? It was exactly the same, with a slightly less swollen ankle afterwards.

Ugh. I really shouldn’t complain, but I thought I would see progress faster. I suppose I thought it would only take four weeks to get back to running to Regent’s Park at weekends. At this rate I’ll be lucky to finish a circuit of Finsbury Park without having to walk.

There are positives: my fitness is good, I’m still motivated, it’s great to be out there again and my kit is starting to fit better. On the downside: it really hurts!

Returning to running: week one

17 June 2013

Things I have learned in my first week of running after having a baby:

1. Running will not make you more tired. You are already so tired that would not be possible.

2. The first run will be the best. The second and third runs will hurt a lot more so if the first run is agony it’s probably a good idea to wait a few days before attempting a second, or go for fast/hilly walk instead to get your muscles working.

3. The week that you are (sadly) stopping breastfeeding is not a good week to go running. At least not without a sports bra several sizes larger than your usual one, and a whole lot of painkillers.

4. Walking is great preparation for (or replacement for) running in the first weeks after birth, and in late pregnancy. My muscles still feel strong despite not having run for 6 months thanks to lots of walks.

5. Your running gear will be tight and your belly will wobble. You will feel like people are staring but, if they do, you can shout “I just birth to a human being, what’s your excuse?”

6. It is great that you don’t wet yourself mid-run but that doesn’t mean your pelvic floor is back to normal. Try doing some star jumps and you’ll see what I mean.

7. Don’t work too hard to fit your run in to your day. Something will probably have to be sacrificed but it shouldn’t be your sleep, your dinner or your sanity. You could eat a ready meal though, and does the baby really need a bath? She smells lovely to me.

8. Don’t try and write a blog about your running at 4am. Even if you manage not to publish a blank or half written version (sorry about that) what you do manage to write will not make sense to anyone, including you when you read it the next day.