Lon-Done!

Wow, what can I say! I’ve run (and I did run it all!) a bloody marathon!

I really don’t know where to begin or even how to put into words how I feel about the London Marathon but I will try my best with this post.

What I can say, is that it quite simply was incredible. I have so many emotions and thoughts about what I have just done and how I feel about myself. This post might be a bit all over the place but I want to get things down. It’ll be a long one so you might want to grab a cuppa (or something stronger) to keep you going!

Last week was a total up and down week. I made a heap of cake for the office in anticipation of me being more of a mardy cow than usual but then felt surprisingly calm during the days last week. Things were a bit more of an emotional rollercoaster in the evenings, I had quite a few things on ahead of the marathon, including meeting my friends gorgeous new baby for the first time! I was also sticking with the taper and not running so had more time to sit and stew about anything and everything marathon related.

Friday rolled round and I was a nervous wreck all morning. I was busy getting myself and various things ready for the weekend, including packing every bit of running kit I own because obviously I was going to use it…not! I was panic packing! David had kindly (and sneakily) arranged his clinics in a convenient way so he could clean the house for me, sorry, I mean, be a good dutiful boyfriend and calm me down. I made him clean the house like the dictator I seem to have become since taking on the marathon. Very soon it was time to bid farewell to Sheffield and more importantly to Ted and Cody and set off towards London.

marathon boys

David dropped me at the station and put me on the train (he couldn’t come as his cousin was getting married over marathon weekend) and then I was off on my way. It was then that it hit me that actually, I was about to go and do something pretty amazing. It sounds really daft but I had become so absorbed in my marathon that I hadn’t stopped for a little while to take stock that actually, 26.2 miles is a bloody long way. It was only when the girl in the seat next to me had asked me why I was going to London and was genuinely impressed that I thought, yeah, I am doing something pretty cool.

I had a good journey down to London and arrived around 2pm. I had arranged with my wonderful friend Jenni (this girl has been a rock to me for a long time now but what she did for me this weekend just proves how special a friend she really is) to meet her at her office to drop my bag with her and then I would head over to the Excel to go to the Expo. After a quick hello and bag drop with Jenni and a crafty peek at Student Services at another Uni I was off on my way to navigate the DLR and head East!

The London Marathon Expo:Excel Centre

I felt incredibly nervous on the train to the Expo. It was clear that lots of other people were heading there as well but that did nothing to calm my nerves. They were all with people or at least looked like they knew what they were doing. I just looked like this bedraggled mess (it was very rainy) that was wandering around with no clue!

Once I got to the Excel and got into the Expo I felt calmer. The process of collecting my number was incredibly easy and the ladies on the desk were so nice and very taken with my marathon nails!

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Once I had my number it was straight through to get my chip sorted and then that was it, I went through an archway of balloons and straight into the Expo. Throughout the Expo there were loads of opportunities to get photos with certain things, all whilst posing with the all important number of course! The organisation was great and everyone was so friendly. It was whilst I was lining up to have a photo that my nerves calmed somewhat as I started chatting to a lady who was also doing her first marathon and looked as terrified as me!

I decided to treat myself (I never need much excuse at the best of times!) to some bits and bobs from the official London Marathon kit selection. I got myself a lightweight (and very bright) London Marathon jacket, will be great for cooler running days and dog walking. I also picked up a t-shirt which says Marathon Queen on it and has a crown on the front of it. Quite fitting as it was also Big Liz’s 90th! I wanted to get a hoodie as well and whilst it was a victory in itself getting in a size 10 (all they had left) I decided to wait and get one in a few weeks when they get more in stock on line in my actual size. I also got myself a #oneinamillion mug to have my work cuppas out of. What is souvenir shopping without a mug?!

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The rest of the Expo was largely a lot of leaflets and samples and talking to other lone runners. There was also opportunity to pick up an official London Marathon goodie bag which the volunteer just handed to me on the basis of my ‘lovely smile’ he said. And there was me thinking I looked terrified the whole time!  There was loads to see and do at the Expo and a lot of bargains to be had if you were looking to stock up on more kit. There was also free beer which I did not take advantage of.

I took the opportunity to listen to a couple of the talks at the Expo. These were a great mix of calming people’s nerves, explaining what would happen on the morning of the race and also listening to my fellow Team Mind member, Dame Kelly Holmes, share her journey to the marathon.

I had arranged to meet up with a girl from the Mind Team at the Expo and it was great to meet her. Hello Sally if you happen to be reading! I think we helped put each others minds at rest about what lay ahead and it was also nice to meet in person after months of us all talking via Facebook.

Time was marching on and Jenni had messaged to say what time to meet her over at Shadwell so I had a quick look around the Virgin Money fundraising part of the Expo and a little sit down before heading back to meet Jenni and my case.

Friday night was spent catching up with Jenni and trying to calm the nerves which had built again.

When I woke up on Saturday morning I could really feel that I had done a lot of walking on the Friday through London and around the Expo. I had really stuck to the taper part of training and before heading to London my body and legs really felt nice and relaxed and very fresh. This feeling made me a little anxious about how my legs weren’t feeling as good as they could but Jenni and Charlotte kindly let me laze around their flat whilst they both went off running.

After a lovely brunch I left Jenni and made my way to my hotel ready to meet up with my sister who was staying with me. My aunty and uncle also text me during this time to say they had arrived in London ready and were currently cruising up the Thames so it was good to know the cheer squad was starting to assemble.

Emily arrived and headed straight off for dinner with her friend whilst I sorted my kit out for the marathon. I then set off for food and enjoyed a nice, simple meal of tomato pasta with a side salad. Throughout the day and the whole of last week I had been conscious of my hydration so continued to sip at water.

kit

Once I was back at the hotel I got talking to a man with a Blyth Running Club top on. I had made a bit of a beeline for him as I wanted to check if leaving at 7:30am in the morning would be sufficient for a good arrival at the start. I was almost knocked over by his kindness when he said that I could go on the bus he was putting on for his club the next morning. Amazing!

On Saturday night I actually felt incredibly calm and just pottered about whilst talking to Emily and watching a bit of TV. Obviously as soon as we turned the lights off my mind was racing and I started worrying about everything and anything, even if it wasn’t marathon related I was worrying about it! I fell asleep eventually but before I knew it 6:30am was here and Beyoncé was waking me up. I have a Beyonce song as my alarm, the woman herself was obviously not shaking me from my slumber.

I had taken my own breakfast of porridge and fruit to have on marathon morning along with a cup of tea. I wanted to stick with what I knew so as not to risk anything whilst on course. Time flew and I was actually having to scramble around a little bit as it was getting nearer to 7:30am and I didn’t want to miss the bus I had so kindly been offered a place on. Emily kindly acted as photographer for me but her effort is a little lopsided as she didn’t get out of bed! Can’t blame her really.

Off I headed downstairs to be greeted with ‘oh I was thinking about you in the shower this morning and wondered if I would recognise you’. Not necessarily what I expected to hear but nevertheless, at least I was in the right place for the bus! A man in a dress took me under his wing (I was very visibly nervous) and explained exactly how the start works and assured me he would show me where I needed to be when the bus dropped us off. A promise he kept.

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The bus ride was actually really calm, everyone was excited and it was lovely getting the odd ‘good luck message’ through on my phone every so often. After a fairly short bus ride we had arrived at the start and all of a sudden all my nerves went away. The man in the dress got me to where I needed to be and then I just followed the masses. The same friendliness that I experienced at the Expo was all around and I strode across the field to the Red Start with a real purpose, I knew I had made the right decision to be there, at Greenwich Park on Sunday 24th April 2016.

The start had a real relaxed feel to it. The energy and excitement were something I can’t explain, it was a very special feeling. The Mind Team had arranged to meet for a group photo and again, it was lovely to meet people in person rather than chatting on a group. I continued to have sips of water and at about 9am decided to have my second breakfast of flapjack. Obviously at this point a camera clocked me and the image of me stuffing my face like a greedy hamster was projected on the big screen for all to see. I have eaten that many oats throughout this marathon that I feel like a Shetland pony or something!

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A short while later my friend Nick, who was running for Shelter, turned up and it was great to see him! We have been in contact throughout our training to support each other and share the struggles! Time was flying and it was soon time to get the bags on the trucks which would meet us on the Mall. After the bag drop and a few more toilet stops we headed over to our pen (another reason I feel like a pony) and then all we could do was wait.

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As the pens filled up I was getting more and more excited. I knew it was going to be OK and I felt incredible to just be on the start line (or almost at it) of the London Marathon.

All of a sudden there was a 10 second countdown and then that was it, the marathon had started. All we were waiting for was everyone to get over the line. The feeling of excitement, and again, friendliness, was overwhelming. This was it, it was happening!

It was a very cold morning and I couldn’t believe people were already ditching their throw away clothes before we had even moved a step towards the start line. I kept my layers on and didn’t ditch them until right before crossing the start line. Any ditched clothes are swept up and donated to the homeless and charity. I had made sure that what I was bringing to dump was still of a decent standard that it would benefit it’s next owner.

It took about half an hour to cross the start line, much quicker than I had originally anticipated actually and then that was it. I pressed go on my Garmin and took my first steps of the London Marathon. I couldn’t believe it!

From the off, the crowds were great. There was a Priest throwing Holy Water all over the runners, people playing music out their windows and children eagerly waiting for high 5’s. It felt good. It felt special.

The first 5k passed by fairly quickly and then I started to need a wee. I was gutted! I hadn’t needed it on the start and knew there would be no opportunity for a ‘wild wee’ like I had been doing in training. (Too much information I appreciate). I decided to ignore my body and push on, I got to Cutty Sark and the crowds were wild. In fact, all the way up to Cutty Sark the crowds were just getting bigger and louder.

Running was feeling good, I was feeling good, I was smiling, I was telling myself over and over (because I couldn’t believe it) this is it, you’re running the London Marathon! The 5 hour pacer was in my sight and it was all going well, except I still needed the loo! I decided to carry on and go at 8 miles. This wasn’t a terrible decision as the queues were shorter here. Whilst in the queue I paused my garmin and messaged Emily to say that I had stopped for the loo and gave her an estimation of what time I would reach them at mile 13. I also posted very publicly on Facebook that I was in a queue for the toilet. I did not want people thinking I was stopping at 8 miles in for a rest. I was not!

Anyway, with that ordeal over I set off again but my garmin had messed up and needed re-setting. So annoying! I tried to not dwell on it though. I knew the 5:15 pacer hadn’t passed whilst I was in the queue for the loo and knew that I could work out what I queued for from texts and Facebook. Turns out, it was roughly 10 minutes. An important point to remember please.

Off I went again and again, I was feeling great. Still feeling elated I was there and still feeling unstoppable. I had a fan girl moment between mile 8 and 9 when I am 99% certain one of my favourite bloggers gave me a cheer and that just boosted me further!

http://www.therunnerbeans.com

Before I knew it Tower Bridge was looming. This was it, the iconic moment. I took my headphones out (I had music playing quietly throughout though to be honest, the crowds are so loud that’s all you can hear anyway) and off I went over one of London’s most famous landmarks. It was ELECTRIC! Like nothing I’ve seen or experienced before. It was passing in a bit of a blur but I was lapping it up, I knew my cheerleaders were at mile 13, not long to go now. Whilst on Tower Bridge I spotted the very handsome Ore, from BBC Breakfast Sport. Obviously I sped up and ran towards him, god knows what I was hoping for (don’t answer that), I certainly didn’t want to be interviewed. What would I have said?! ‘Errr can I just say hello and thank you to everyone who knows me but mainly to Ted and Cody…my dogs’. Not prime BBC marathon coverage material. Anyway, I needn’t have worried because bloody Bagpuss got in my way and got to Ore first. Cheers pal. I would later find out however I had been filmed as part of the BBC coverage on Tower Bridge and had to break the news to David that it was because I was running towards another man.

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Blurry photo but that is me there on the screen!

I knew that after Tower Bridge it wouldn’t be long before I saw the cheer squad as they had positioned themselves at mile 13 on the basis that we went past again at mile 22. I was looking and looking and listening out for them but I couldn’t see them. Before I knew it I was mile 15 and feeling deflated, not hitting the wall deflated  but sad deflated. I felt guilty. Guilty that my family had come all the way to London and hadn’t seen me. My mind then went into overdrive and I convinced myself something had happened to them. I tried to put all that out my mind and pushed on, I was still feeling strong and still loving every moment. At around mile 18 someone I knew from University spotted me and his cheer meant the world to me. The power of the crowd is unbelievable and the fact that strangers are calling out your name and pushing you forward is indescribable but seeing Kyle, and hearing him cheer me on meant the world because it was someone who I knew and I had missed seeing my loved ones.

After that, I felt a bit better about having missed my family and knew that they would be proud no matter what and that they would have had a good day cheering strangers on because it is so inspiring watching runners. Even my mum who is currently on crutches said that all she wanted to do was run! Luckily she didn’t! It was around this point that I spotted the Scunny Bunny and that made me smile and then I spotted someone in a St Lukes Hospice running top so I decided to tell her that I was from Sheffield as well and we both commented on how flat London is!

The miles continued and I knew mile 22 was looming, I was hoping that I would see my family this time round. As I approached the 22 mile stretch I heard someone start screaming my name and looked to my right and there was Jenni, Charlotte and Fiona. Armed with jelly babies! I couldn’t believe I was finally seeing someone I knew and loved! This was such a great boost and I carried on past them. And then I spotted my dad, I started waving frantically as I was so excited to be seeing my parents, sister, aunty and uncle. I was thrilled! I can’t remember what I did, what I said or what they said but I knew it felt brilliant to see them. I sped up after seeing them and knew I wasn’t far off now. I still hadn’t experienced the wall, yes I was feeling tired but I was feeling strong. I was feeling happy. The miles continued and then it was mile 25! I felt a bit sad at this point, I knew that shortly my marathon would be over and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

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One of my greatest fears throughout my marathon journey had been that I would finish at the same time as some crazy fancy dressed person, I was particularly worried that I would finish at the same time as the person dressed as a giant hairy testicle. Luckily they weren’t anywhere to be seen but the man dressed as the toilet was on my left. Bugger!

I knew I needed to get away from this toilet, after all I was annoyed enough at toilets in general as a result of mile 8, I certainly wasn’t finishing with a bloody toilet. I pushed forward but he was chasing me. I pushed on more and he was still there! As we turned towards the final stretch I just decided to go for it and get the hell away from Mr Toilet.

The Mall! Amazing! The Mall! I was here, the end, the finish line. I had done it! I had run a marathon! Running down the Mall towards the finish line is something (along with the whole course) I will never, ever forget. I started to get tears in my eyes but my smile was bigger than I have ever smiled before. I couldn’t believe it, my marathon was about to be completed!

There are no words to describe how I felt crossing the line. The lady next to me broke down in tears, I put my arms around her and congratulated her and then I started to cry.

I managed to smile again as my medal was put around my neck and even with that I still couldn’t quite believe what had just happened. I had run a marathon.

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After collecting my bag (amazing levels of organisation!) and heading to the ‘A’ surname meeting point I just couldn’t hold it in anymore and I had to have a cry, a happy cry. I was waiting to meet my family and Emily rang me to tell me they were waiting at letter ‘T’. Well of course they were, why wouldn’t you wait at ‘T’ when your name begins with A?!

When we finally found each other I felt so happy to see them, I cried again, said no to a bar of chocolate (I know!) and didn’t really have a clue what was going on.

Eventually it was time to head off back to the hotel. And that was it, my London Marathon.

I can not describe (even though I’ve waffled on for a long time!) how amazing this experience has been. I am still in a daze, as dramatic as it sounds I feel like I am grieving for the marathon. The marathon and my best friends wedding is all I have thought about so far this year and now both of these events are over.

Sunday was easier than I expected and for that I am so proud of myself. The hardest part of the marathon was the constant weaving as it is a very, very busy race. You have to be aware of what is around you to avoid any accidents. I am proud that whilst yes, it was the biggest challenge I have ever taken on, I am proud that my training got me through. I trained properly for what I wanted. I trained physically and I have found a mental strength I am amazed with. I felt ready for the marathon, I felt that it was my turn and I do believe that my head got me around just as much as my legs did. I believe anyone could do what I did but you have to want it and you have to commit to it. The event itself is the lap of honour, the training is where the medal is earnt.

Some people say that running a marathon is a life changing experience. I don’t know if it is that but it is a life affirming experience. I have seen the very best of human spirit amongst the runners, spectators and thousands of volunteers. It was incredible. Where the marathon maybe has changed me perhaps, is here. Generally (and I am not looking for sympathy here) I don’t like myself. I do find life a bit of a struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am incredibly fortunate to have what I have and to know the people I know but I struggle with myself. Gradually, since progressing through my training I have been able to tell that ever so slightly I was growing in confidence and right now, I feel like I can do anything. For the first time in my life… I like myself.

It has been an absolute honour and privilege to run the London Marathon. It has been even more of an honour to run the marathon for Mind. Mind are such an important charity who are there for all of us. The strength of support I have received from Team Mind, other runners and staff has been amazing. I feel like I have made friends for life even if I never see them again. We have done this together. Believing in the cause and supporting the cause helped get me through training. I wanted to do this to help the campaign for better mental health.

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Most importantly though has been the support I have received from my friends, family and colleagues. I am overwhelmed at the love and support I have had throughout this. I am proud of how people I love and care about have got behind the cause I chose which is so close to my heart, mental health.

Thank you!

Since Sunday it has been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve been very busy with various appointments and as I said before, I am getting used to not having the marathon anymore. I am actually off food, something I never though would happen! I am eating because I have to eat rather than I want to eat. I have no desire for a glass of fizz despite dreaming about a bucket of wine since around January and I find myself getting quite emotional at times. I am back to exercise and went to circuits this evening which was hard work. I shall also be running 3.2 miles on Sunday whilst on holiday in Menorca. I will be setting off at 11am along with Team Mind in memory of David Seath who fell with 3.2 miles of the course to go to the finish.

https://www.justgiving.com/David-Seath-London-Marathon

I have my medal hanging so it is the first thing I see when I wake up in a morning. Seeing it reminds me that I can do things, that I can cope, that I am a good person and that it is OK to be kind to yourself. Things I never thought possible before.

I’m never going to be the most athletic person out there and that’s just fine. What I am, and what no one can take away from me, is a Marathon Runner.

I will never stop running. I will never stop feeling like Sunday was the best day of my life and I will never stop supporting the quest for better mental health for all of us.

It has been amazing. Thank you for sticking with me through training, through fundraising, through Sunday and now through the longest blog post in the world.

London Marathon 2016=Lon-done!

Lots of love,

Marathon Queen!

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Until Sunday…

I’ve just come back from my last run before Sunday. Sunday, 24th April, 2016, the London Marathon.

Tonights run was a slow, gentle and short leg turner. I smiled all the way round.

I realised that Sunday is the lap of honour, the result of all this training. I let myself be proud of myself for a bit.

I am a runner. No matter what happens on Sunday, I am a runner.

London Marathon, I’m coming.

What I’ve learnt since training for a marathon

Yet again it has been a while since I posted! Quite a lot has been happening, I’ve done my longest run ever, I’ve hurt my back and my best friend got married! Busy busy!

This Friday will be my penultimate long run before the big day. My race pack has arrived and I am starting to make my preparations for getting to and around London for marathon weekend. It’s all getting a bit real!

I thought it might be nice and perhaps a bit funny to list a few things I’ve learnt since training for a marathon. See what you think.

  1. Running becomes life. All you think about is running, whether you are running, should be running, have been running. You’re always thinking of running. The only thing which will stop you thinking about running is your best friend getting married, and that’s mainly because you’re enjoying the weekend off from your new year resolution of not really drinking.
  2. As a result of not really drinking since the start of the year hangovers will hit you from the mere pop of a prosecco cork.
  3. Time is the enemy. There is not enough of it. When the mileage goes up so does the time that running takes. Even my weekends have become regimented in how I plan my days out.
  4. The marathon has made me very moody and very emotional. Ask David and my sister about this one.
  5. No one looks up. Everyone is face down in their phones (guilty as charged I admit). This makes me crashing into people very likely but has also made me more aware of how much I use my phone.
  6. Parents of small children who own bikes and scooters will never apologise for said small children pedalling straight into your leg. They will smile and beam with pride about how well their little darlings are doing at managing their new toys.
  7. The smile or head nod from a fellow runner (even the super fast super serious ones) will get you through at least another 2 miles.
  8. People’s generosity will astound you. Whether it’s from sponsorship donations or people simply asking how it’s going it really has been a much needed boost at my very low points.
  9. Eddie Izzard will somehow make you believe you can seriously do this thing but also make you a bit pissed off that he’s now made doing one marathon look like a walk in the park!
  10. It doesn’t actually rain as much in the UK as we all think it does. I can count on one hand (and have spare fingers) the amount of training runs I’ve had in really bad weather.
  11. You won’t lose weight. I had visions of being in amazing shape from all this running and eating well. Turns out I am just destined to be a fat lump all my life.
  12. You will always be hungry. I am generally a greedy person at the best of times but I’m always bloody hungry! And my sweet tooth has somehow gone out of control, I’ve always had a sweet tooth but never like this.
  13. Toe nails, and normal looking ones at that, will become a luxury and something that other people have.
  14. You will realise that many things in life are mind over matter.
  15. You have to dedicate time and passion to this challenge and accept that sometimes, you have to say no to other things if you’ve decided to take this on.

Thats it for now. I’m sure I’ll think of many more

Twinges

Well I think it’s safe to say I’m never going to become a successful blogger! It has been almost a month since I last put fingers to iPad and blogged!

To to say shit is getting real is an understatement. The marathon is now next month! Seriously, where have the last few months gone? I will never understand time, or have enough of it but then again, who does?

Largely, my training has passed by pretty smoothly. I haven’t any injuries (probably jinxed this now) and on the whole, I’ve enjoyed being out and about. Today however, I realised something. Whilst I don’t have injuries as such I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t aware of my body. Let me explain…

every day since around Christmas (when training started really) there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t felt some kind of twinge. Whether that has been a muscle aching, or a toenail dropping off (grim but true) and after this weekend…well, my boobs are suffering somewhat but I won’t go into detail.

For someone who doesn’t really like their body and isn’t very comfortable with it I am struggling with having to pay more attention to various parts of me. Coupled with this though I am learning to start to appreciate and indeed, respect my body a bit more. My legs might be massive but they are rock hard and have already got me goodness knows how many hundreds of miles under my belt since I first started running a few years ago.

I think the various twinges I’m experiencing are my body’s way of telling me if things are ok or not and I have to work out how much I can push on before twinges become something worse.

So in the final month and a bit before London my priority is to get a few more long runs done and really listen to what my body is telling me, even if that is to just sit down!

Thanks and love for the continued support xxx

A catch up

Hello!

It seems like ages since I blogged so I thought I would get a little update down on virtual paper about where I am up to.

Training is still going well although my demons are coming out. I am constantly telling myself I can’t do this and it is a battle to work against those. What I have however learnt over recent weeks is what a challenge this marathon is. It is a marathon in every sense of the word.

I’ve always know that physically, this is going to be a massive challenge. Yes I have a decent level of fitness which helps as a starting point but I am certainly not a fully formed marathon runner, that takes work and truth be told, I will never be a proper marathon runner. Running is the easy bit…almost. I also have to think about other training which compliments running and doesn’t confuse my muscles and as such isn’t counter productive to my running efforts. Training takes time, even if it’s just a 5km run it still takes time. Runs have to be scheduled in line with other things going on in life.

A couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a meltdown over the whole marathon thing as I realised that the 26.2 miles is actually the easy bit as crazy as that may sound. The hardest bit of the whole marathon experience is fitting it in alongside going to work full time, running a house, maintaining a relationship, seeing friends (something I am desperately failing at), looking after Ted and Cody, doing my grandma hobbies (knitting and sewing), feeding myself, looking after myself and maybe having a bit of a life. It’s hard work. Like everyone, I need and want more time. I am struggling with the fact that things are having to give, I don’t like missing out but I have made my choice to do the marathon and I need to stick by that. Even if it does mean other things slip down the list of importance.

I mentioned in previous blog posts that comparing myself to others is one of my biggest faults. This is really taking over at the moment to the point that all I think about is what I should be doing, or why I haven’t done something. There is a private group on Facebook for all the Mind runners and whilst it is supportive it is also proving to be incredibly dangerous to me. I analyse every post put on there. I have created images of my fellow runners and their perfect lives and that they are on the perfect training plans and going to breeze through the marathon with me trailing behind them. As much as I try to tell myself this is my marathon and I will get round it somehow it is still hard to believe that. It’s still hard to unlearn behaviour I have engaged in since being a child, comparing myself to the extent I do is what is normal for me but I’m my own worst enemy as I will never be good enough.

As we approach the end of February the marathon draws ever nearer. March is also going to fly by as I already have a few things planned and the small matter of being Bridesmaid for one of my BFF’s…resisting the urge to not hit the prosecco too hard will be a challenge! My plan of action is to carry on with the training, physically and mentally. If I can get my mind and my body to for once in my life work together then I think we might just crack this marathon thing.

Have a lovely weekend.

xx

 

 

Time to talk

Today, Thursday 4th February 2016 is Time to Talk Day.

What that means is just as the title suggest, talk! As I mentioned in my last blog post we all need to talk to each other and, more importantly, really listen.

So when you get home tonight ask your partner, housemate, dog, friend how they are and listen to what that means. Make them a cup of tea and sit down with them. Just talk.

You can find out more about Time to Talk here http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday

And yes, I ask my dogs how they are every single day. Sometimes they even answer 😉

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Why?

A dreary Wednesday afternoon seems a good a time as any to address the reasons as to why I am doing the marathon and why I am doing it for Mind- the mental health charity.

I kind of spoke in my first post about why I want to do a marathon. I’ve done a few half marathons now, I’m almost 30 (well, in a year and 2 months!), I want to do it etc. etc. but I haven’t mentioned why I am doing the marathon for Mind. This post might get personal; I’m OK with that because I don’t mind sharing my story but just warning you. I’m not looking for sympathy, or writing to indulge myself. I am writing because mental health is important…to all of us.

Mental health is something we all have, and just like our physical health a lot of us take it for granted. Even for the keenest sofa lovers we probably all think about our physical health far more than our mental health because well, it’s just that, it’s physical, we can see it. Mental health is hidden. We can’t see it and because we can’t see it we don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it we don’t understand it.

1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health difficulty at some point. Take a second to think about that, that’s actually a lot of people. There isn’t a physical fix for mental health issues either, a lot of it is talking therapy and challenging the way the mind works. The other part of it is so dependent on the individual who is suffering, so often treatment involves challenging that persons reality and that’s hard. It’s hard to believe something entirely opposite to what you have been telling yourself for however long.

Mental health is an issue which is important to me because I am very aware of my own mental health. I don’t know if I want to say, or should say that I suffer with depression. I don’t necessarily feel like I suffer, how I feel is a daily thing so in a way, it is normal. Perhaps that’s the issue though, the way my brain has conditioned me to feel has led me to accepting that the sadness, general melancholy and feeling low I experience every day is what normal is and that it is wrong to feel joy and happiness. Even when I do experience happiness my brain is adding another side in for me to process, a negative one and that is the feeling that then overrides everything else. Am I making sense? Probably not.

My issues started around 12 years ago, when I was 16. Things were different, stable groups of friends I’d had from being a tiny tot had all gone our separate ways and I think I struggled to adapt to the choices I had made. I don’t like change and I’d stuck with what I know which was the wrong choice for me. Things slipped and as a result, my confidence took a real hit. It sounds incredibly dramatic, and I really don’t mean it to, but I think since then I’ve never felt like I fit. I see myself as abnormal, not like other people, I have convinced myself there are things physically wrong with me and I can see these problems, even though those around me tell me they can’t, I can. That’s what I mean about challenging a persons reality above.

During this time, whilst I was still in good old Brigg, I think my mum probably knew I wasn’t overly confident but wasn’t too worried at this stage. Off I went to uni and things were OK, I was enjoying myself and met some good people. It wasn’t really until the second year that problems really started manifesting themselves. I was slipping academically for no reason, I was doing the work, putting the time in, understanding the concepts but not getting the academic rewards I should have been. Anyway, cut a long story short I was going to give up but my tutor suggested a dyslexia assessment. Turns out, I’m dyslexic but got to the age of 19/20 without a clue. Dyslexia hasn’t added to my mental health decline, it helped really because it offered explanation for some things but it made me beat myself up more and that I should have tried harder and I’ve again made mistakes.

It was also around the 2nd/3rd year of Uni that I first went to the Doctors about my mental health. I can remember going into the surgery with my mum, I couldn’t speak so she had to talk for me. The only way she could describe things to the doctor was to say ‘she hates herself, loathes herself from the first hair on her head right down to her toes’. Mum had hit the nail on the head that was (is) how I feel about myself. Of course, we all have things we don’t like about ourselves (even Beyoncé will dislike something about herself) but many of us are able to put two fingers up to our wobbly bits or whatever it may be and say ‘sod it, I’m a pretty fine package!’. My brain doesn’t let me do that. I genuinely can’t see anything good when I look in the mirror. I obsess when I walk down the street that people are looking, laughing and pointing at me because I am strange, I don’t look right, I am repulsive.

After talking a little more the doctor said ‘you have depression’. It sounds weird but I was happy they’d said that. It gave a label to how I was feeling, it helped me understand it.

Anyway, let’s cut out lots of in-between things and bring things forward to the last couple of years. In 2010(actually that’s not a couple of years ago-seriously, where does time go?) I moved into a new house share in Sheffield and in many ways, this was the making me if you like. I found my feet a little bit more, gained a little more confidence (not a lot) and had some great times in that house. Despite all that, my mental health seemed to get worse. I still thought the same about myself, still berated myself every day for making the wrong choice academically at 16 and still woke up over 90% of the time with an overwhelming feeling of unexplained sadness. Also, my worrying about every little damn thing also increased massively during this period. I have always been a worrier but now I worry about such ridiculous (and I know they’re ridiculous) things. I said earlier that I don’t cope well with change and that really is true. A lot of changes happened during this period and I struggled, big time. I would lose days to not wanting to get out of bed, feeling pre-occupied, my mind wandering and constantly telling myself I’m not good enough, I’m a horrible person, why aren’t I doing this or that? I don’t want to be here anymore.

Some people reading this (I’m still pretending I’m not just writing to myself on this blog) are maybe thinking, ‘you don’t seem like that’ and I kind of get that. Through all this I’ve become a really good actress. Pretending it’s all OK and just crying non-stop on my own or sending the worst text messages possible to my mum. Years ago, when I could still talk on the phone (over the last few years I’ve developed a bit of a phobia of the phone and avoid it where possible) I would sob to my mum for hours about how sad I was to put it simply.

The way I feel has impacted on every aspect of my life. Sometimes I don’t want to see people because I just can’t cope with the thought of being with other people and what they might think of me, I obsess about things I eat, if I go to the gym or not, I had to disclose things to work because of how I feel, my relationships are greatly impacted. David can’t give me a compliment, I shout at him if he does because of how uncomfortable it makes me feel.

I know all this might sound really overly dramatic and to some, perhaps like a silly girl talking but I wanted to say all this. This is my reality. My reality is that some days I genuinely don’t want to be here. Some days I find it really difficult to get through the day. Some days, the only thing that gets me through the day is Ted and Cody, my dogs. I have had help with various treatments, both medication and talking therapy, NHS and private. These have all gone some way to help me. More importantly than that I know I am incredibly lucky and have a wonderful, supportive family and incredible friends. The problem I struggle most with is because of how deeply I do loathe myself and as such, believe what my brain tells me I struggle to challenge it. The point I am trying (and failing!) to make is that we need to talk. All of us. We need to challenge our own thoughts and feelings to help ourselves and those around us. We need to not be afraid of mental health. We need to rid the stereotypes that people with mental health difficulties are ‘crazy’ and to remove the images which go together when we all absent mind use the words ‘they’re mental’.

Mental health shouldn’t be feared. If we broke our foot we would go to the doctor so why not go and seek help and support if you’re not feeling like yourself in terms of your thoughts and feelings?

Take ownership of your mental health. Help others feel empowered and confident enough to say when something is getting too much. Most of all, just talk. I might get loads of stick for having written all this. Some people will think ‘just pull yourself together’ but hopefully; I have shown that you can talk. Tell someone how you feel. It’s OK to not be OK.

This is why I am doing the marathon, to raise awareness. To raise money for a charity who has the ethos of talking and caring about yourself and others at its heart. A charity that wants to remove the stigma around mental health and give sufferers (and in fact everyone) the respect they deserve.

Thank you for reading. If you would like to know more about Mind and their work please visit http://www.mind.org.uk/

If you would like to donate to my marathon effort you can do so here

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=kathryn-axon

Thank you.

What is marathon training?

I thought it might be good to write a little post on what marathon training is. Now, I am by no means an expert. I haven’t even done a marathon yet! What I do know however is that there is a hec of a lot of information out there and quite frankly, it is overwhelming. Not helpful for someone who gets overwhelmed very easily and suffers as a result (more on that in another post yet to come).

To put it simply, I think marathon training is this…

DOING IT YOUR WAY!

What I mean by that is there is no right or wrong way to train for a challenge that is for you. Sure, if you’re wanting to run a certain time then yeah, consult a professional coach and get all the help you can. If however you just want to get round a course and take on a challenge for you then I think the above is a pretty good mantra.

(p.s I think the above also relates to any challenge, not just running a marathon)

When I first started looking into marathon plans I couldn’t cope with all the information out there. I am someone who takes too much on in life, I can’t say no to doing something, or helping a friend out. I can’t even put off the dusting! I also like to start trying out other new time consuming hobbies which stress me out (hello knitting and sewing. And yes, I am currently some weird cross between a 28 year old and a 78 year old). So really, I don’t have time to do this marathon, train for this marathon or look into the training for the marathon. Because of this lack of time I decided to stop looking at all the information. Instead, I met up with a couple of people who have run marathons before and downloaded a fancy app which worked out a plan for me.  I particularly like the app I have chosen because it has a good balance between training for time on your feet as well as increasing your distance. One thing I did notice when I was doing my own research into marathon training is the lack of importance placed on just being on your feet for a significant amount of time. Standing up isn’t easy, particularly in this day and age when many of us just sit at a desk all day. If you’ve ever worked in retail you will know how tiring being on two feet can be!

Anyway, on to a few more specifics about my training.

My ultimate goal is to get round the marathon by any means, running, walking, skipping, dancing, and crawling, whatever…I want to finish the thing. I have an idea in my mind which I am keeping to myself (although David does know but he probably wasn’t listening when I told him so it is still very much a secret). Whilst I would like to achieve the time I have in my head I really don’t mind if I do or don’t. For me, the fact I can actually run will always be more important to me than running fast. There are loads of cheesy things doing the round on Facebook and Instagram at the moment saying that a 12 minute mile is as far as a 7 minute mile etc. etc. and they’re true. (note: I am not disclosing how fast I can run a mile in, mainly because it alters on a mile by mile basis. Consistency is not a concept I’m familiar with apparently!)

Running is obviously a key component of any marathon training plan and I am currently running a couple of times a week with a longer run at the weekends. I plan my weekend routes according to a rough distance I would like to cover but mainly, how long I want to and need to run for. The beauty of the plan I have sorted out is that the weeknight runs are short enough distances that if I am being really wimpy I can go to the gym and rack up the miles on the treadmill if it is too cold or icy outside. Whilst I prefer being outside to in a gym running on the treadmill does have some benefits. I find my posture is better on a treadmill and I also like to play about with the speed I set and give myself little challenges to do. The only problem I encounter with the treadmill is being too damn nosy and looking round the gym and almost ending up in a heap after falling off the treadmill! Running outside in Sheffield though really does take some beating. We have some great countryside right on our doorstep and because of all the bloody hills you get some pretty great views! (The views would be even better if I knew how to take a decent photo)

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The other thing I am placing great importance on in my training is my strength. As well as the scheduled runs I am trying to do 3 other gym sessions a week. This is either a session with a trainer (great Christmas present! Although my trainer may think different because I’m a stubborn cow who says ‘no’ to quite a lot of things he wants me to do), classes incorporating weights or just me freestyling in the gym (the least preferred option: see note about being nosy above). Building strength ultimately builds stamina and if you read my last post you will remember that I completed the Great North Run 2014 pretty much on bootcamp sessions alone.

Rest is also important in taking on a distance run. Your body needs time to recover whether you are a super athlete or a shuffling turtle like me. Stretching is also key; foam rollers are great for this purpose. Two little dogs are a hindrance to this process when they think a foam roller is a giant chew toy.

Personally, I am finding the hardest part of training to be other people, or more accurately, myself. I compare myself in every aspect of my life. This is deeply unhealthy and quite destructive. I am comparing myself in my training as well. I compare myself against every post which goes on the Mind Runners Facebook group and to other runners out and about. I need to keep telling myself this is my training, my marathon and I am doing it my way! Much easier said than done.

I’ll leave it there for today. My lunch break is over anyway.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

In the beginning…

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I’ve decided to start a blog to document my journey towards the 2016 London Marathon. This is quite possibly the most stupid thing I’ve ever thought about doing, both the marathon and this blog.

I’m not a natural sporty person. I know everyone says that but I’m really not. I always walked cross country and my best friend and I actually won an award for being so gracious in never being picked to play netball…despite being on the team. So why the hell would I think I can do a marathon?!

Back in 2012 I decided to take the tentative (and slow) steps into running. I don’t know why I thought that running would be a good idea, let’s blame the hype of the Olympics in London that year and being from Sheffield…essentially I think I thought I was Jessica Ennis. Anyway, myself and a really good friend of mine started training for a 10k run in March of 2012. I can remember our first run, 3k and we ran into an unsuspecting lady coming round a corner. I couldn’t believe that I managed to run 3km! We kept going, did the 10k and carried on running regularly together after that.

Fast forward to mid 2014, I was bored one day at work and my mind started wandering. All of a sudden I had got myself a charity place on the Great North Run and apparently, I would be running a half marathon in September of that year. My friend and myself were still running together and also going to bootcamp twice a week so I wasn’t too worried about the run. Things changed though…throw in buying my first house, ending up a little bit homeless for two weeks, coordinating university arrivals for 10,000 new students and then actually moving into said house and well, training took a back seat. Somehow my friend and I managed to find chance to squeeze in one (and only one) 10/11 miler before the GNR and it was hard. Really hard. I wasn’t filled with confidence but knew I had no choice but to do it. Off I went up to Newcastle with my mum to stay with her lovely friend and before I knew it I was on the start line of the Great North Run (the start is actually a motorway, very odd feeling standing in the middle of a motorway!) along with 50,000 others. To cut a long (13.1mile) story short the GNR was ace! I’d recommend anyone to give it a go!

Following on from the GNR success, success being getting round it, entries for the new route Sheffield half marathon opened and my friend and myself got ourselves signed up for 2015. Training was good and much more constant than my previous efforts…until about two weeks before the event. Cue a complete crisis of confidence and I was almost cancelling my place. Turns out though I had to do it because the lovely guy from our local running shop had signed the two of us up to run with the local news anchor from Look North…very embarrassing. Sheffield half was tough but good. Sheffield is an amazing city and this event was testament to the organisers and the people of Sheffield. Off the back of Sheffield and with OKish fitness I decided on a whim to spend the spring bank holiday running the Scunthorpe half. Being a Lincolnshire lass I had high hopes for this event, Lincolnshire is flat which in my book is a winner and also Scunny is always sunny right?…wrong. How I didn’t get trench foot running this event I’ve no idea. This was such a great event, small, friendly and cake at the finish line.

2015 was rounded off (and my rounding off happened in June) with the Sheffield Round Run, a timed stages event along the route of the Sheffield Round Walk. About 15 miles in total. My friend and I were supposed to be running in a pair but I’m crap in comparison to her so we ended up as individuals. After getting over my initial tantrum and a bitch of a hill I actually really enjoyed this event. It was a really innovative format and again, showcased Sheffield at its best. And that brings us to now…

The London Marathon. As my running progressed last year I kept thinking about a marathon, could I do it? I wanted to do it but could I do it? I thought about it a lot. Truth be told I think about everything a lot, in fact I am a massive over thinker which does me no favours but that’s another story. I knew that this (as in 2016) was the year I needed to, and wanted to do it if I was going to and so that was that and here I am. Training for a marathon, training for a fantastic charity and training for me.

I know I’m not a great runner. In fact runner is to noble a term for me to use to describe my abilities, I’m a jogger at best but I give it a go. I can’t believe I can run for a bus, never mind that I can, and have, run 3 half marathons in less than a year. By the time April 25th rolls around I hope to be able to say I’ve run a marathon. At the moment it seems a long way off, both in time and distance but we all know that time flies by at a scary pace. This is it, I’ve started training, I’ve started fundraising and now I’ve told everyone. It’s happening and I’m terrified. Hopefully, this blog will help me document my training and help me remember this journey. I will try my best to keep it updated, even though it’ll probably only be my mum and my friend Jenni who read it.

I’ll leave it there for now. I think first posts are probably supposed to be fairly short but I seem to have rambled on.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂