The Bristol half marathon is 2 weeks tomorrow. In 15 days’ time, I will be running along the Portway.
Over the past couple of weeks and since my last blog post, I have undertaken lots of different activities, swimming, cycling, kettlebell sessions, another painful sports massage (why are my bum muscles so lazy?) and most importantly 2 more very long runs as I try to be as prepared as possible to undertake this challenge.
Hattie and I are both working Mums and so we can’t run together all the time but we have managed to co-ordinate do all but one of our long runs together. It’s boring running for 3 hours on your own, and even I have limits as to how much Take That I can listen to and so we have endeavoured in our planning to manage to complete our longer runs (10 miles plus) together.
I’m not going to miss having to get up at 5.57am in order to eat and be ready to leave at 7am as I am not exactly what you would call a lark. The only time getting up at this time is acceptable is if you’re going on holiday and a gin and tonic for breakfast is on the horizon (holiday rules).
Having said this, once I am out of bed which is always the most challenging part, the early morning part of the runs have been lovely, felt very invigorating and dare I say it, enjoyable. I’m always amazed at how many people are up and about at this time, especially on a Saturday. There are many larks in Bristol including the chap who looks to be in his 70s that I have seen twice doing harbour loops on a Saturday morning before 8am. He is incredibly inspiring, friendly and always ready to wave at fellow runners up and about.
The longest distance I have run so far is 19k which is 11.9 miles. Frankly I am not running further than that unless there is a goodie bag and a really big medal at the end (as well as hopefully some champagne).
Apart from the running and the chatting that happens on our long runs, there is a series of strange things that have happened that I could not have predicted and had absolutely no knowledge of prior to running more than 10 miles.
Chafing. Yes this is a word that makes you wince as you read it, but trust me this is nothing compared to the reality of experiencing the runner’s chafe. I am aware of runner’s nipple of course, as husband has taken steps to avoid this on his previous half marathons. This is where the running motion of your body creates friction as your skin connects relentlessly with your clothes and basically rubs your skin away – it’s especially a problem in men and their nipples (which stick out) as they don’t wear bras (well some do of course, but that’s probably a discussion point for a different type of blog!) But as I wear a bra when I run, I had thought that this wouldn’t be an issue.
Many running bras are made from “wick away” material which is supposed to keep the runner fresh and dry (i.e. not too sweaty). However, when you have boobs the size of mine (they have got smaller with weight loss but are still VERY present) all running bras that work (i.e. are strong enough to minimise the bounce) are essentially made from a tarpaulin-like material. By 10k, my running bras are always soaking wet and with the “bounce factor”, once the bra is wet and then starts to move a bit to accommodate the bounce, it inevitably rubs against your skin and then rubs your skin away. This doesn’t happen only under your boobs and on your ribcage, it happens on the shoulders and on my back too.
I look like I had been whipped and it really hurts. When I got into the shower after the run the pain was horrific, akin to getting under a shower is you are sunburnt. Yowch. It burnt and stung and was painful to endure. Paracetamol, sudocream and loose clothing came to my rescue. This is a photo taken 4 days after the long run (heavily cropped to preserve my modesty and not to give you nightmares).
Running Sister suggested I apply “Bodyglide” to the affected areas before a run and promised that this would help. I was sceptical, not least because “Bodyglide” sounds like something that Christian Grey would have stashed in a drawer somewhere in his red room of pain, but she was right. It’s like an enormous lip balm and generous application before subsequent long runs has reduced the issue, but not completely eradicated it. I guess this is just part of the trials of a longer distance runner.
Other problems with 10 mile plus runs include (don’t read if you are eating):
- Being so sweaty that you genuinely wonder if you might have wet yourself and not remembered, during the run. Dark coloured running leggings are important for modesty.
- Being able to wring out my headband during and at the end of the run. (I’m trying to work out if I could be organised enough in my planning that I could swap my headband for a fresh one somewhere during the half itself as sweat running into the eyes is not helpful).
- Having an itchy bottom (caused my sweat running down your bottom crack) and then trying to scratch your bottom as you run along, whilst attempting to look casual, trying to disguise the fact that you are indeed scratching your bottom in public. Casual comedy whistling is very hard when you are out breath.
- Sore toes. Apparently in runners, it’s fairly common to lose toenails (yuk) as this is caused by the constant banging of your feet on the floor with each step you take. I haven’t suffered with this (thankfully) as I keep my toenails very short (and painted of course!) But my index toe (is that even a real thing? – I mean the toe next to your big toe) has been battered to bits. After every long run it goes red, the skin puffs up and often it “peels”. Basically it’s very, very bruised. For 3 days after the run, I can only wear flip flops (this will be an issue after Christmas when I start training again for the London Landmarks half in the Spring) to allow it time to recover.
- Extreme tiredness akin to narcolepsy – for the 36 hours following the long run, I am shattered. I don’t mean, I’m feeling a bit lethargic so need to sit down– more, I need to lay on the sofa and do nothing, ideally watching a film with Benedict Cumberbatch or Ryan Reynolds in it. Unfortunately, having daughters, what happens is that I end up watching “The Next Step” which is a bit like Fame, except it is not as good. On the last but one long run, I came in, stretched and then fell asleep within 20 minutes. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open and apparently nodded off mid-sentence whilst talking to my daughters. As you train for something like a half marathon, it’s easy to be a bit blasé (yes I ran 10 miles) but I’ve learned that you mustn’t underestimate the effect the exertion has on your body. Yes I can run (with a bit of walking, and it’s always at trundle speed) for a long time, but, I’m still heavier than is ideal for a longer distance runner and could always be a bit fitter.
The final thing I have found, and I am sure this is why I haven’t lost any weight during the whole training process, is how hungry I get. I’m not talking about feeling a bit peckish so you might have an extra biscuit, I am talking about the fact that I am starving. For the 24 hours following a run, I could eat everything and anything. I try and be restrained but the genuine hunger, coupled with the little devil in my head saying “you burnt 2200 calories this morning, you DESERVE it” means that not only have I not lost any weight, over the Summer I have gained 4 pounds. Regular readers of this blog will know that over the past 19 months I have lost a lot of weight through running and lifestyle choices but not dieted. I do take measurements though and was very interested to know that although I have gained 4 pounds, I have lost 5 inches, predominantly around my middle, hips and thighs.
It’s a constant battle for me and most women I know have a complicated relationship with the scales. I try not care of course and kid myself that I’m not interested in what the scales tell me, and in the main part this is true. I do care more about being fit and strong and promote this thinking and mindset rigorously in front of my daughters. However, if the numbers on the scales go down then I feel pleased. I am repeatedly told that muscle weighs more than fat, which I know to be true and I know I am getting smaller, but it’s a hard conundrum to mentally resolve.
What I do know is that you cannot eat WHATEVER you want, even if you do lots of exercise and lose weight. This is why I think my final preparations over the next fortnight need to be as sensible food wise as much as keeping my legs moving.
I’ve purchased my Runner T shirt and it fits (actually it’s a touch too big at a size 16, which I think means that I am now the same size as when I was 16 years old and I’m certainly the smallest that I have ever been in my adult life – cue celebrations) so as long as I can keep all my planning, training, eating on track for the next 15 days, hopefully I will be wearing it with pride having finished the half in one piece.
This is my race number and I will be wearing my trusty Trundler T shirt (always good to manage spectator expectations).
If you see me, please shout, wave and say hello. I love high fives and as you know jelly babies are always appreciated. I am deliberately trying to not to have a “time” in mind to complete the half in and Hattie and I have resolved to try and treat the half marathon run like any other “run/chat” that we do. However, as you know me, of course I DO have a time in mind that I would like to achieve, but differing from the 10k earlier in the year, I am keeping it secret. However, I promise that I will tell you on the next (and what will be my final) blog post what it was and whether I achieved it or not. Fingers crossed. However, times aside, I am going to do my best to enjoy the experience, have an enjoyable run with my very good friend Hattie and get round in one piece.
We are nearly there (We, I feel like this is a team effort!)……so far couch to 19k (which was never the plan when I started all those months ago) has worked. Can I make it Couch to 21.1k? Time will tell but whatever happens, finally (and it’s taken a while to get there), I know in my heart that I AM a runner and this statement has been as hard for me to say and believe as the physical exertion it has taken to run 11 miles. Running is 51% mental strength and 49% physical ability. My legs might feel shredded but it’s the mental strength and belief that pushes you on. This is true. I have never run as far as I will need to run to finish on the 17th September, but I know I can and MOST importantly I want to do it. I want my daughters to see me complete what will be the hardest challenge I have ever set myself and this is the biggest motivator I have. So as long as I don’t injure myself between now and then, I will complete a half marathon. I am a runner and I never thought I would have said that.