Je suis Charlie

Janathon day 11

Today was a fabulous day to be out running. Cool out with a stiff cold breeze, but the sun was shining and the skies were clear. I opted for a long sleeved shirt and my gillet, not because it was cold as much as the gillet offers more wind resistance than a second shirt does. It wasn’t just me that thought today was a good day to be out and about either, the tally of active people included 2 runners (one who waved cheerily from the other side of the road and second who was running on the wrong side, but took the advice that she swop sides to face oncoming traffic in very good part), 4 bunches of cyclists (I’m sure the collective noun for cyclists isn’t bunch, but I’m struggling to think what it might be!), a pair and 3 lone peddlers. Not just me being a nutter out in the open then.

After Friday’s rediscovery that running off tarmac is not quite the same as the on tarmac stuff, I decided that today would be a good day to extend the distance I covered. So once I got to the pylon, I turned right to follow the footpath into the next village, this means I run more of a P shaped loop, rejoining my longer out and back route at the manor house. The extended distance is all to the good, but the thing that makes it a really good workout is that it’s off road. Depending on the season, this route can be of varying quality underfoot, as it is a mixture of paths across or round fields and unsurfaced farm tracks. Today it appears that it’s not been long since the top field was ploughed as there was no obvious path across the furrows. It meant that the soil was fairly loose and the recent rain meant it was quite damp. An ideal combination for most of the field to decided to stick to my shoes! So not only are you trying to make progress across something quite uneven and yielding, but you’re doing so with feet that weigh three times as much as usual. My shoes have big cut outs in the heels, I assume for lightness or cushioning. The downside of these being that they soon fill with mud and I end up running with what feels like half the shire attached to my feet. Like I need any further handicaps… But it’s good for the balance, the core gets a good work out, it’s kinder on the joints and is just kind of fun (in a mildly masochistic kind of way). Pretty much stuck to the 5 minutes run with 1 minute walk intervals, so that’s good, especially as this is the furthest I have run since May 2012! The extended loop took me to 4.08 miles and I covered that in less than 54 minutes.

In a departure from my usual style, I would like to associate my run with the Unity Run for Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité. I don’t know what comfort it brings to the families of those who have been killed in the terrible events in France last week, however I am fully behind the notion that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press is important enough to stand up for. I have never read the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo, in fact a lot of satire leaves me feeling mildly uncomfortable; it can be cruel, the sensation that you’re laughing at someone , not laughing with them. Although I can appreciate that a lot of the targets of satire need to be laughed at, otherwise you’d cry or despair over them; I don’t have to like it to see that it has its place in society.

The assumption has to be that the attack on the office of the magazine was a result of the magazine’s decision to print some cartoons that depicted Mohammed in a less than favourable light. You don’t have to like or agree with the cartoons, in the same way that I don’t have to like or agree with everything you say. I don’t believe any person can deny the right of an individual to hold and express an opinion. And individual freedoms are only going to be present and protected when the press is free to comment, report and criticise whoever and whatever it deems appropriate. There can be no sacred cows. The down side of freedom of the press is that we also have to extend that freedom to the Sun and the Star, but, to paraphrase from a Toby Ziegler speech in the West Wing, “That the Star can publish what it likes is the only way I know that the Times/Telegraph/Guardian can publish what it likes as well”. Freedom of the press mirrors personal freedom of expression, one will fall without the other and to suppress either results in restrictions that are unacceptable.

The side effect of a freedom of expression is that every one else also has the right to express the opinion. With the right comes the responsibility to accept that there are a myriad of views that can be expressed. I have no more right to suppress your opinion, should I disagree with it, than you have to suppress mine. What you say may well offend me, but I have no right to suppress what offends me simply because it offends me. With the right of freedom of expression comes a responsibility to accept that we can and will be offended. Get used to it, it’s part of being an adult in a functioning society. There is a famous misquote by Voltaire that sums this up.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That is a summary of Voltaire’s views on freedom of expression, it’s not from Voltaire himself. What was actually written in Voltaire’s Essay on Tolerance was “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”. But that lacks the panache, the hyperbole, the dramatic flourish of the misquote. I think that for most people within the Western world, that has become part of our expectation. It hasn’t always been the case, as this Viewpoint article from the BBC explains. We’ve come a long way in a few hundred years, but that’s not to say that the freedoms we currently enjoy are universally acknowledged, welcomed or even considered rights at all.

What we are certainly not accustomed to is the idea that to express an opinion leads to physical consequences. That someone could take such offence that they would resort to violence is outside our realm of common experience. To hit out at a view in the heat of the moment is possibly more understandable than the concept that the terrorists concerned could plan and execute their act of revenge in response to the publication of something they found offensive. I’m sure lots of people may have found those publication offensive to various levels. Including the first person to be shot a policeman who was a muslim. Was he offended by the cartoons? Would he prefer they were not published? We’ll possibly not know, but he died doing his duty first and foremost. The appropriate response to something we disapprove of is not violence, it is to produce a rebuttal, to respond so as to show the thrust of the publication to be foolish. Gunning down 12 people and causing the deaths of 4 more is not an appropriate response. The pen is mightier than the sword, goes the saying.

The pen is mightier than the sword

The pen is mightier than the sword

That might not be true in the short term – the gun certainly trumped the pen in the case of those killed. In the long term the case is less clear cut; the magazine Charlie Hebdo is being published this week from temporary offices and the cartoon community has responded with a series of cartoons – they are not suppressed by the threat of the gun. In a few months the name of the magazine and the target of the shooters will remain known, the names of the terrorists will live in few memories.

The right of expression is worth standing up for and, as with all rights, it needs protection; otherwise we will one day wake up to find they have been removed, little by little, without our noticing. In the UK press there is an increasing tendency to demand an apology or retraction from someone who expresses a view that a person or social group finds offensive.  Obviously if you say something that is criminal (incitement to violence, libel, making threats etc) there is recourse to the law and that should be used. To censor expressed views simple because a social norm doesn’t approve of them is a highly undesirable trend; the thin end of the wedge, at the other end of which lies Orwell’s thought police. The whole point of freedom of expression is that all ideas and views are expressed without let or hinderance.

Adams from The Telegraph. An example of a cartoon that will offend no-one

Adams from The Telegraph.
An example of a cartoon that will offend no-one

That I find your view offensive should have no impact on your right to express it. Demanding an apology from a politician or other public figure who expresses a view that could be considered offensive is a sure way to suppress those views. It is a form of censorship and it risks limiting all of our freedoms by making some views taboo. This is, in it’s own way, as undesirable a response as a resort to violence. It is far less obvious, far less dramatic, but it is a more insidious form of suppression of expression.

There is another undesirable element of communication in the modern world that runs counter to the freedom of expression. It takes the form of compulsion – the “if you’re not with us you’re against us” phenomenon. There is an expectation that people on social media will all voice an opinion that has been decided by the masses as appropriate. Freedom to express an opinion means the right exists to choose not to voice an opinion. The social media compulsion seems to exist in the expectation that everyone will voice support for a particular cause. However choosing not to voice support for a cause should never be equated  with supporting the opposite case. The world is not a place that exists in black and white, there are an unlimited shades of grey that exist between two polar opposites.

Lucile Clerc

Lucile Clerc

A culture of censorship would no doubt have never allowed Charlie Hedbo to publish the cartoons, or probably a significant amount of its content. But that is the price we pay for a valuable freedom; it’s a price I think we should expect to pay. That I am able to spout whatever rubbish I choose in this blog is how I opt to exercise my right to express an opinion and I stand in solidarity with anyone who stands up for that right – even to the point of dying for it. Je suis Charlie

Rafael Mantesso

Rafael Mantesso

The answer is blowing in the wind

Tonight’s run was a little bit windy. Strange weather all round really, but it was the wind that captured the attention. Not really cold, it was quite humid, but really very blowy. It had not long rained; I drove home in rain, and there was a covering of cloud in varying shades of grey, but that was scudding along above the tree tops at a fair old rate, propelled by the wind.

It wasn’t blowing so hard that you couldn’t stand up, nor was it capriciously peeking round corners and caressing the skin. This was wind that meant business, it was getting from A to B and nothing, not even a short podgy runner, was going to get in its way. So the question that I pondered tonight was why, when running an out-and-back route, does it seem to be a head wind more than half the time? My current outing is approximately an backwards L shape, where I start at the bottom tip of the horizontal, run 0.6 miles, turn to the left by about 90 degrees and run at least 0.7 miles before turning and retracing my steps. So what strange weather phenomenon causes at least 3 of these legs to feel like a headwind? All I can think is that I register a head wind most noticeably on my face, I don’t register a tail wind on the back of my head in anything like the same manner. A tail wind would have to be significantly harder to be noticed to the same degree. Similarly, a cross wind may register as a head wind because the sensor faces front. I’m not going to claim that I clearly run fast enough to create a head wind in the manner of a speeding bullet. I’d like to, but that would be exaggerating.

All of which was going through my head as I ran out and back into various degrees of wind. Today was the first run at my next step up in run ratio – a move to 5 minutes run for every minutes walked. This is getting serious, the entire outing was accomplished in only 6 run segments; I forewent the last 15 seconds of walking I would have been allowed and ran into the end of the road. It wasn’t easy, I was checking the watch several times in each run section to see how far I’d gone – never quite as long as I thought I had is the generic answer. And the walk breaks were most welcome and not quite long enough to be entirely comfortable and rested by the time the minutes was up. But having said all of that, it wasn’t awful. I didn’t feel I was about to expire and I didn’t feel the need to add any extra walks. Another step in the right direction, even if that was into a head wind.

Strange magic

What makes a good run into a good run? Difficult to say, but on some days the alignment of the planets is just right and it all comes together. You feel on top of the world. Today I felt I was on a roll. Well I was, but the parts of me that suffered undue movement last time out have been firmly restrained. I did battle with the shopping crowds and and inclement Saturday weather to visit a specialist purveyor of intimate garments for the, ahem, larger lady. As a result I now own what looks rather like a medieval implement of torture, but is, in fact, a sports bra. Once into the item (which is an exercise worthy of a contortionist) things are not going very far, let’s put it that way. If I’m completely honest, the adjustment on the shoulder straps are at their tightest and I’d like it a smidge tighter, so a couple of tucks are clearly in order, especially to give some room to take up any stretch. But compared to last outing, this was divine.

Whether that is entirely as a result of the new underpinnings or not it is difficult to say, but I had an epic run today! Set off in the middle of the afternoon, which is an odd running time on a Sunday. But what with ringing first thing and a coffee shop stop, a quick foraging session in Sainsbury’s, the Grand Prix (recorded & watched on catch up; eventful, but no one wants to see that sort of accident) and lunch, it was gone 3 pm before I set off. By this time the morning’s ground frost had long since departed, leaving blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It wasn’t quite as warm outside as it looked from inside, but no way could it be described as cold – not yet, anyway. It should be the final outing at 3 minutes run to 1 minute walking and it really felt like it was time to move up. The run sections felt fine, the pace was good. Once again I ran past the pylon to turn at the beginning of a walk segment, meaning that for the first time since I picked up running again I managed an outing of over 3 miles. Whoop Whoop.

Distance: 3.02 miles
Time: 38:51 minutes
Ave Pace: 12:52 minute/miles

Which is hardly speedy, but is the first time I have averaged less than 13 minutes to the mile since returning to running – which at least shows improvement in a positive direction. And it felt just really good out there. The running was not exactly easy, but it wasn’t lung bustingly difficult either. I felt I could have gone on for longer and returned feeling that post exercise rush of euphoria that makes the good runs so very very good. These are the kind of outings that I used to so much love running for; the days that make all the pain, discomfort, blisters, chafing, rain, cold, miserableness, (insert your pet hate here),  worthwhile. This is what I’ve missed. This is why I will be out again next week, just hoping that magic happens again…

You never can tell

I had all my excuses all lined up before I headed out the door tonight as I was expecting this run to be awful. It’s an evening run, after a day’s work, so you’re never as fresh as you are in the morning. It’s been a busy day; what with yesterday being my first day back after 2 weeks off, I’m still playing catch up. Working at home (the main road to work reported an accident before I left this morning, with queues already back 15 miles, so I decided not to try and get into the office and worked from home instead) means that often my hydration goes a bit haywire – I’ve got no prompts to have a break and a drink when I’m on my own at home. As a result I forget to drink, then overcompensate and, well, I won’t go on. It was the first run at a longer run interval, 3 minutes running to one minute walking. There you go, all my excuses all nicely prepared. And they can all go back in the box, because it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Which just goes to show that you never can tell.

Setting off after 5 pm does run into one small problem, that’s the queue of traffic at the roundabout which I have to cross; managed one arm OK, but had to wait for the second on both the outwards and return legs. That slightly interrupted the first run segment, but from there on I stuck to 3 minutes of running. I won’t claim it felt easy, on the return leg I was looking at the watch after less and less time had elapsed in a sense of increasing desperation for the three minutes to be up (they never were). I also extended the run slightly from those so far. I got to the turn round point at the pylon and had just about a minute of a run section to go. I decided to carry on in the same direction to the end of that run section, then cross the road and start coming back at the start of the next walk. That meant that I could actually take a moment to look over my shoulder and check for traffic, rather than turning into something coming at a high rate of knots down the road. Meaning that the stats show 2.84 miles in 39:09 minutes. It’s not desperately quick, but that’s not exactly the point: it is done, it’s yet another small step in the right direction. Having expected an awful outing, I’m quite pleased with that.

More sideways than forwards

I posted earlier this week that, “I know there will come a time when I won’t improve on consecutive runs,” and today proved the truth of that statement. Today I was over a minute slower over the 2.7 miles than I was last time out. Still taking a 2 minute run, 1 minute walk approach, I consciously tried to set out at a more controlled pace. And the data set shows that I managed to control the initial pace,  but it doesn’t show how heavy my legs felt. It was just such an effort today; the weather felt rather oppressive, being warm and humid, which never makes a run feel better. Whether the heavy legs has anything to do with it only being 1 day after I last ran, I don’t know. Possibly it points to I need to stretch more, I know my hips and back have been feeling tight as well recently. Maybe it’s about time I made sure that I’ve hoovered the floor so that I can spend time contorting myself into all sorts of inelegant poses to try and stretch everything out. Thus far stretching has been a bit limited to calves & thighs. I know these are the ones that do the bulk of the work, but I’ve never been very good at stretching. Not being a very bendy person, it can sometimes be hard to get the stretch where its supposed to be; nothing worse than somewhere else complaining that we simply don’t bend that way.

But let’s end on a positive note, That’s the third outing in 3 weeks, and I didn’t give up when the going got hard. I may not have got going very fast, but I did get to the end following the planned run/walk ratio. It’s another small step on the road, even if this one was more sideways than forwards.

This is getting to be a habit

Today was one of those days that make you think September is late summer, rather than the beginning of autumn. Lovely blue skies with some white, fluffy clouds for added contrast, it was lovely to be out. Home from work (via the library to return this month’s book club book and an audio book – all before their return date) then in, change and out again in fairly short order. Certainly no sitting down – that’s my downfall; once I sit down I seem welded to the sofa for the evening.

Having done 2 outings last week using the run/walk pattern of 1 minute run to 1.5 minutes walking, I wanted to move the ratio towards running and set out intending to run for 1 minute again, but to reduce the walk breaks to 1 minute as well. And so it proved. Same route as before, so ~ 2.7 miles and this time that came up in under 38 minutes. Making today’s outing a whole minute faster than last week. I’m sure that’s not because the run sections are faster, I think that improvement is solely down to the reduction in the amount of walking. All of which makes a positive difference.

Having reduced my time, what else has changed? Not necessarily since last week, but since I was last actively out and about as a runner. Well I notice that I’m still as easily distracted by what’s going on around me as ever. Today’s excitement was the rather long queue of lorries trying to get into one of the warehouses I run past. Looked like one couldn’t get out, so none of the others could move and the ones arriving were queueing out onto the road. Much hooting and tooting – which I happily trotted past on the other side of the road. I also note that the paddock that occasionally held Llamas today had chickens in it. I realise that a Llama isn’t something you expect to see in the heart of the shire, but I promise they were not the product of an overheated brain. And I’m fairly sure even I couldn’t mistake a chicken for a Llama, so chickens they most certainly were. The fields have been cut and the farmers were clearly making the most of the relatively dry spell we’ve been having, as there were a number of tractors running around the fields. One was ploughing. I’m no country girl, but even I can recognise ploughing when I see it – if only because they’re followed by a flock of whirling birds. The other was doing something that clearly comes after ploughing, breaking up the coarsely turned earth, and leaving a great cloud of dust behind him. I suspect the second part of that was unintentional, but running through a dust cloud was an interesting experience! That’s one of the things I did enjoy about running in all seasons and weathers is that the view is never quite the same. You can go up and down the same path and it will look a little bit different each time. The more I go out, the more I remember why I used to enjoy it. And I’ll enjoy it again. Keep on running.

This ‘n’ that

Just one of those random musing posts – not a lot of running been going on recently. Partly that’s work, I didn’t get home on either Tuesday or Thursday in time to get out again to club night. I could have run Monday, but it rained and on Wednesday we had the supermarket delivery. See, I’m nothing but excuses…

However, I have been thinking about running. I seem to have “volunteered” to give a talk about running my first marathon to the local library friends group. oh dear. I’m currently wondering how to structure this and what to say. I can guess that the most likely question is going to be “Why did you do it?” I think I know, but it’s gone a bit vague through the mists of time, possibly it seemed like a good idea at the time. I remember passing a lady dressed as a carrot at Silverstone half and saying “That looks like an idea born in the pub” and she agreed – she wasn’t looking too happy at that point! If any one out there who’d care to reply with an answer it might help give a view of the range of reasons for wanting to put yourself through something that, realistically, the body isn’t really designed to do!

Then there’s this: link. You get to run 3.2 km, then eat 3 (yes, three) Krispy Kreme doughnuts before running the remaining 2k to make a 5k that’s definitely different! It should be right up my street, combining running and eating, but I’m not sure I could manage 3 Krispy Kreme doughnuts at all, let alone then run 2k afterwards. They’re far too sweet – and that from someone who has a monumentally sweet tooth! I do wonder how many might get a repeat airing…

Anyway, tomorrow is Sunday and I will be getting the trainers out the bag again – last week’s nice warm weather appears to have gone again, so it should be a nice temperature for running. See, always looking on the bright side!

Ole ole ole ole

It’s been a gorgeous day here in the shire. Started early with a spot of ringing before I ran (part way) home. The husband dropped me off in the usual place and I set off with no particular distance or time in mind. I had checked that the route had dried out – last week we’d driven past and the entire nature reserve was under rather more water than usual, with just the trees showing above the surface. You could see evidence of this, in places the path had been disturbed somewhat, in others there was the flotsam & jetsam indicating a tide line.  The water had receded, but there was still more of it about than usual.

The first 2 miles ended up being speedier than intended – at ~ 10:20 min/miles. For the longest run since M-day, I thought that might be a little too speedy, so eased off after 2 miles to something nearer 11s. After the topsy-turvey weather we’ve had recently, it was a really lovely day out, although I could complain it made running rather hot work. For someone who is always at least one jumper colder than the rest of the world, I seem to overheat when running really quite quickly. No autumn marathons for me – I’d never manage the training through the summer! But the niceness had brought people out of the woodwork, saw far more than the usual number of runners (including some runners who weren’t when I saw them), plus walkers  and cyclists out and about.

I got back towards town with almost 6 miles on the watch, and decided that would be a reasonable run, so took the shortest (but steepest) route back home. 6.6 miles in 1:16 seems entirely reasonable. Need to get back into the habit of making the Sunday run at least 10, but it’ll come.

The shower and lunch before sitting down to watch the Spanish Grand prix (see, now the title makes some sense!). I do like my F1, and have been watching it for a rather long time now. And so to see Williams win a race after a long spell in the midfield (and lower) was just brilliant. I’m not in any way, shape or form (that’s mild understatement) a Ferrari fan, so was willing Alonso to fall off and let Maldonado alone. In fact even my Ferrari fan of a husband (yes, I did know that before I married him) thought it the right result. So good to see Frank Williams there to see the team back on top the podium. Never, to my recollection, have I heard the Venezuelan national anthem before, but good on F1 for having both the flag and the tune available. Excellent result and that makes 5 different winners and 5 different cars have won the first 5 races – shaping up for an exciting season.

A good day all round, and it’ll be topped off with a joint of beef (in the oven ) and maybe a bottle of something nice. Sundays should all be like this.

Getting back on the horse

It’s been a bit quiet in blogland. I’ve run a few times, but have quite enjoyed being freed from the tyranny of the training schedule. Not only can I have a night off, I can have a whole week of and it will matter not a jot – that’s been really refreshing. But I can’t sit around on my backside doing no exercise for long before my backside will be showing this – I’m not designed to be slim and it’s the exercise that helps keep me in some sort of shape. So it’s time to get off the sofa and back out on the road.

I’ve also quite enjoyed reading about everyone else’s experiences at Brighton, London & Milton Keynes (still think I got the best weather!) The time is still bugging me. Although it may be I’m being overly harsh on myself. A while ago a request was put on the RW forum for data to contribute to a real life study of conversion from half to full marathon. This got updated this year and some stats put around the ~ 180 sets of times that had been posted. It turns out that my 5:06 sits dead on the average conversion of 2.25 times my half time of 2:16.  There is that feeling of unfinished business though. I’ve also gone from “never again” to entering the ballot for London in the space of a fortnight. I doubt I’ll get in, but it was sitting there, tempting me…

At the weekend I helped out at the Titchmarsh 10k, a village event on a challenging piece of road. I’ve seen that hill and I didn’t fancy it! Put my walking boots on and walked across the field into the village and arrived only slightly muddy at the clubhouse. Found myself a job in the kitchen, preparing the cake and other goodies. Was then assigned a job of running the results sheets from the finish line to the race secretary. If I’d known I’d be running I’d have put the trainers on! Being a little local race, the race timing is done in a partly automated fashion. There is a PC with a timing programme on it, such that each time a runner crosses the finish, the operator presses return, and the time is entered. Simple but effective. However, assigning the times to runners requires a clip board and a pen and someone to write the runner’s numbers down in order they cross the line. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In practice it is anything but. Runners are great at not always following instructions. Numbers were not on their front, were flapping over and if you’ve got two people making a dash to the line, it’s a judgement call as to who was first. There were 2 races, a 3k fun run and then 10k. It was the 3k that proved more of a problem, as this had families running it, so potentially 3, 4 and 5 people coming to the line in one go, making getting numbers quite tricky. But it did serve as a practice for the 10k, which would be taken more seriously by the participants. A little bit of a revision of the finish chute and the addition of a third number taker at the end of the finish chute meant that it did actually work fairly well. The two scribes at the finish line had a person to call the numbers to them. Having two allows checking of the order from 2 points of view – and adding numbers obscured from one side or the other. The third taker at the other end of the finish chute was when the runners had slowed to a walk, such that missing numbers were more easily obtained. It got the adrenaline pumping though, I can tell you. It also meant that I got to watch the fast people coming in, which I don’t usually do. They’re usually finished and changed and looking as fresh as a daisy by the time I arrive. I got to see that they look equally as dreadful at the finish as I do. And you can’t but help be impressed at the pace of the front runners. It all seemed to go fairly well, and I had a good day out.

I also decided it was time to get back into routine and get myself back to the club. Turned out it wasn’t the gentle re-entry I’d hoped for, 1 km reps was on the agenda. Ouch. Jog out and warm up before running 4 loops of 1 km, with a few minutes rest between each. I’m always afraid I’ll set out too fast, so took it slightly easy on the first one, but thereafter I knew how far it was and knew I could push it a bit more each time. Times of 5:21, 5:11, 5:06 and 4:57 for the loop.  I’m pleased with that as a progression – got faster each time. Then a slow pootle back and a stretch. I know it’s doing me good, I can still feel it today!

And if I was in any need of some inspiration, I need only take a look at this link: here. Claire Lomas broke her back in a riding accident in 2007, and is paralysed from the chest down. With the help of a bionic suit she covered 26.2 miles on her own two feet, the first person to use the ReWalk suit to perform this feat. That it took 16 days is neither here nor there, it’s the level of determination displayed that means I will take my hat off to her. And will promptly get my lazy self off the sofa. I can run without a second thought, she has to think about every step she takes; there is no excuse.

Brighton – Post game analysis

So, a week after the event, how am I feeling? Physically, I’m now fine. Not yet run, but I will get the shoes back on very soon and get myself out the door again. Different story on Monday. When I woke up and the conversation went a bit like this:
Husband: How are you?
Me: Everything aches.
Husband: What, everywhere?
Me (after considerable pause): I don’t think my nose aches.

It hurt, from the neck down. Now I believe the coaches at the club who tell me I move my upper body too much, as my ribs, chest, back & shoulders all ached most unexpectedly. Stairs were a bit of a challenge. I was reduced to taking them one at a time, and going down sideways (left leg first). Up was better, but slow. And getting from a sitting to standing position hurt quite a lot – the reverse is easier, you just let gravity take over. By Wednesday I was moving freely and was back in shoes (rather than squishy trainers)

Mentally it’s a slightly different issue. This post race analysis wasn’t what I thought I was going to be writing, but it is a true reflection of how I’m feeling about the marathon. I suppose neither the experience nor I quite lived up to expectation. I’d been told that the first marathon is a magical experience, how there would be a massive runner’s high and it would be something I’d never forget. Well it’s certainly not something I’m ever going to forget, but not for the positive reasons it might have been. I crossed the line to tears of relief that it was over, and have yet to experience the high.

Did I set my expectations of the event too high? Yes, I think that’s fair. It was hillier than I was expecting. Not that it is a large elevation change, but it was a long hard drag out to Roedean. It didn’t help that the section into Ovingdean turned north into a strong wind, just at the point the hills dropped away. I did not expect the power station section to be quite as awful as it was either. Imagine running through the dullest industrial estate you can think of. You’ve got that in your mind? Good, now make it even worse, as it appears after 20 miles. Grim as a very very grim thing that was; I can see why the banner proclaimed it “the Road to Hell”. Didn’t help being knocked over by a runner coming the opposite way. He was following a pace group and running the wrong side of the cones, but you could argue that I should have been looking further ahead, rather than concentrating on the 15 feet immediately in front of me. But looking down stopped me from looking at how far I had to go.

Having said that, the support from the crowd was, in places, phenomenal. The sheer number of people on the front was simply amazing, and did make me somewhat emotional running past them all. By the finish, I was just too tired to get the same buzz or boost from it. The residential stretches had the neighbours out in force, with their deckchairs, cups of tea, slices of cake, jellybabies free for the taking and music blaring. I suppose if you’re going to be stuck in the house for some time you may as well make the most of it and have a party.

Did I set expectations of myself too high? Well that’s always possible, but I certainly hadn’t set unrealistic expectations. Based on times in buildup races and training, a time just under 5 hours had to be achievable. Had you asked me this time last year how I’d feel about a low 5:xx time, I’d have turned cartwheels across the floor. When I entered, I honestly thought less than 6 hours would be an achievement. But things change, and expectations shift in line with the improvements that appeared in training.

I had a race plan and, for what ever reason, was unable to stick to it through to the finish, as the splits show (I race with manual splits, and occasionally miss a miles, hence some being 2 miles long. It also gets a bit confused around mile 21, as the sign for 22 was the wrong way round). I’ve run further in training with less trouble than I experienced on Sunday. At Ashby I ran 20 miles without walking once – at Brighton I barely got through 16 miles without slowing to a walk. The first half in 2:26 was pretty much spot on plan, a smidge under 11:10 minute miles average was well on course for sub 5. But, for some reason, the wheels sort of drifted away from the wagon. They never fell off – this wasn’t a case of hitting the wall – but the times started to drift and energy and enthusiasm sort of melted away with them. As far as 20 miles I was doing calculations of if I could maintain 12:00 I could still get sub 5, but even that wasn’t possible. I’ve been considering 12:00 my easy “I could run all day” pace, but I couldn’t even summon up 10 miles at that pace.

I walked patches as well – something I wasn’t expecting to do. I’m not sure it helped though, it just made running seem even more difficult. And, mentally, once I start to walk, it’s so much easier to do it again and again, which I did. I made myself run the last mile and even managed to pick up the pace for the last 0.2 miles, but that’s small comfort when the previous miles were such a disaster. It never occurred to me that race day would be less than perfect. At least whenever the family saw me I was running. I also beat a Rhino and a Tiger to the finish, so there’s hope for me yet.

Is it just post marathon blues? Yes, that’s possible. When something that you’ve been focussing your entire attention and effort on has happened, there’s bound to be a reaction. And the blues is not an uncommon reaction to a marathon. After all, training has been focussed towards this goal for 20 weeks. And you could add almost another 18 months in preparing myself to be ready to start the training plan. That’s got to create a hole in your life that will take some time to fill.  

So, the question has to be asked – what’s next? For me, running and this blog. Well the honest answer is that, at the moment, I don’t know. I had planned to spend the summer using the new found fitness to knock out some short race PBs, crack 30 minutes for 5k, get close to an hour for 10k. Both of which I know should be doable, based on times in training and races. I’ve done sections of tempo runs over 5k distance in less than 30 minutes. I beat my 10k PB by 3-4 minutes in the first 6 miles of the Silverstone half. A well run race should see time taken off both those PBs with ease. But there’s that bruised ego and knocked confidence to take into account.

Running wise, I think a week off is not unreasonable, then I shall get my shoes on and get out the door – without the watch. I’ll try running without having to chase time or distance for a while, just going with the flow. Then there’s a local race over May bank holiday, and I’ve offered to help marshal it. I wasn’t sure I’d be up for racing it – and I didn’t fancy racing on some of the hills round here. I figure that nothing will get the feet itching like standing on the wrong side of the fence for a bit. There are plenty of races between 5k and 10 miles to choose from over the summer, so no need to decide now which to enter. In fact, most will accept entries on the day, so no need to commit in advance at all.

In the longer term, I can’t see me trying a marathon again any time soon, the training simply takes too long. It’s also very invasive, turning running from something that can be fitted into life to something that life has to be organised around. A 10 mile training run is ~ 2 hours, plus shower & stretch time, meaning it’s easily a morning; I can go ringing Sunday morning, run home and be human again in time for lunch. A 20 mile run has to be properly spaced from breakfast, then takes 4-plus hours, and I’m good for nothing for the rest of the day – it’s an entire day wiped out. And it’s not like we have that many free days as it is. So I am looking forward to running taking a bit of a back seat for a while.

And for the future of the blog? Well I suspect it will be taking a break. I have had comments from some readers, both here and via other forums (fora, perhaps?), that you like reading it. In some cases that’s as we’re all building up to a marathon, in others I wouldn’t know if it’s the content or style that appeals, but I’ll accept the compliment either way. I’m touched by that, especially as it’s not just friends and family being nice – some of you I’ve never even met, but still have taken the time to comment positively.

I suspect this wasn’t the analysis you were expecting to read either. Like a lot of people, I tend to keep my failures private and only publish the successes, but I felt that would not be honest to either you or me to do that in this case. A marathon training blog with no marathon would be slightly pointless. And not all stories can have happy endings. I am glad I did it, I’ve learnt a lot about myself in this process. And I am pleased I finished. But there is that “but” hovering in the background. I have been heartened by the reaction of colleagues and friends, who are all slightly in awe of my even attempting it – it’s very easy to get sucked into a marathon bubble and not recognise how this is perceived by the rest of the (non running) population. This one has me wondering if I couldn’t do better from the lessons learnt, and there’s that 5 hour barrier tantalizingly close, but a second attempt won’t be any time soon. What ever happens, I’d like to wish you luck in your running and thank you for reading about mine.