Not Running

A solitary foil finisher’s blanket, hanging from a tree, seems to sum it up well: my foot injury, months of not running, chasing the semi-privatised NHS to care about a non-life threatening issue.

I’ve been having pain along the outer side of my right foot since the tail end of last year. Even cycling has become difficult. Seeing all the runners enter the Reading Half Marathon made me really jealous, and that feeling isn’t going away now that Running Buddy has signed up for Race to the Tower.

I have tried to do all the right things: rest, see my GP. I was referred for an X-ray to rule out a stress fracture and now am awaiting the next step, hopefully physio, or something else that will get me back out there. In the meantime, this sad, discarded blanket shows a little of how I feel about the situation.

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My Blogging Secrets: Review

AmberForever is not the kind of blog I would normally follow but I can easily recognise the professionalism of what she does and therefore respect her advice.

And this book has some really great advice in it!

It’s geared towards bloggers who want to monetise but the first few chapters are all about making your blog good and serve as general blogging advice that anyone can follow.

The style of the book is direct and honest and reads like a pep talk. This is a million miles away from some of the “get rich blogging” nonsense that unfortunately floods the market and is an honest attempt by an experienced blogger to share some of what she has learnt.

I enjoyed reading some of the autobiographical details as well, and who can’t identify with going through at least one period in their life of hating their day job? (It is Amber’s theory that hating your job is one of the strongest motivators towards blogging for potential profit.)

One of the things I needed a reminder on was taking good photos. When I started out, I wanted to make sure that all my photos were original, but keeping to that has sometimes meant the odd lacklustre attempts just to throw something together to illustrate a post. Following her advice, I went through when the natural lighting was good and updated some of my worst photos. The following is a case in point…

Before:

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After:

Minimalist running shoes

This may seem like pretty obvious advice but it helps to be reminded by someone who writes so well, and really gets the point across.

I also learnt a few SEO tips such as being sure to add “alt texts” to all my pictures to make it easier for Google to index the images.

But I won’t give away everything that’s in the book; if you want something non-sensationalist and aimed at the newer blogger, you could do a lot worse than getting a copy.

 

First Run In 11 Days

Wednesday was my first run since the Magna Carta Marathon.

How did I let it get to this point?

Well, obviously I took a few days off after the race to recover. My legs were aching for a few days.

And then in the week I went to massage, which was good but kind of left my calves in a bit of a state. So that was another couple of days off, and that pretty much ended my ambition to get a recovery run in before going away for the weekend.

I went to York, my university town, which was great fun, especially catching up with old friends; nevertheless, it was also nearly three days of beers and meals out…and NO RUNNING.

My first day back at work should have been the day I got back out running but I was hit with such a tsunami of crap when I went back in that I couldn’t do much besides getting home and slumping in front of the television.

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It was a great evening for a leisurely run, being the hottest day of the year so far (which for England isn’t actually that hot – still perfectly ambient weather for running a short distance!) I was basically just “stretching my legs”, getting back into training. I stopped here and there to take a photo, and got held up at the canal. (The bridge comes apart when a boat comes through and you have to wait to be able to cross.)

Overall, that left me with a time of 34:31 for a 5k.

As you can see, my stats were all over the place as well:

KM 1:          7:09

KM 2:          6:13

KM 3:          8:05

KM 4:          5:46

KM 5:          7:18

I busted out my new headphones for this run. They are the same as my old headphones apart from the colour since I replaced like with like. The reason they needed replacing at all was that the other ones stopped working properly after the day we got soaked for over four hours on a 21 miler.

I took the opportunity to get the new ones in green, but as I ran I seemed to be having issues with the blue tooth connection: it was cutting out whenever I started going fast – not great!

running headphones

I finished up sweaty, with that pleasant post-run feeling.

Happy days – it’s been a while!

 

 

More Things I Like

Continuing in the same vein as my other “things I like” posts, here are some things that I have liked recently…

The Joe Rogan Experience #1027

Joe Rogan interviews Courtney Dauwalter, who won a 238 mile race by a considerable distance, and what’s more, she seems to have done it with more than a bit of the half arsed spirit about her, shunning diet plans and not really being able to give much explanation of how she managed it. Joe jokes throughout that her diet plan appears to be beer and nachos.

But the flip side is that she has some serious, serious grit. Think of the baddest bad-arse you know and then add some extra bad-arse on top of that. I won’t go into detail as it would ruin some of the surprises in the podcast but Joe pretty much nails it in his description of her as “savage”.

 

Breaking2

This is a National Geographic documentary that has made it onto YouTube. It covers the attempt made by Nike last year to see whether it was humanly possible to run in a marathon in less than two hours.

Taking the concept of marginal gains to a whole other level, we see the efforts of three of the greatest marathon runners in the world. Especially impressive is Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who did manage a time of two hours and twenty five seconds. He trains well, he eats well, and he has good form. But the thing that got me was his complete air of stoicism as he runs. This was a timely reminder to someone like myself (who isn’t always as positive as I could be on the longer runs) that mindset is incredibly important in big events.

 

Worst Training Run Ever

We knew and accepted that we had to prepare for a marathon. We knew we had to get a long distance run in, and we have enjoyed the canal path that runs from Newbury to Reading before.

On this occasion, it was just unfortunate that it happened to rain on us THE ENTIRE TIME.

 

Here’s what it looked like:

If this looks grim to you, it’s because it was.

It was absolutely horrible.

We were even given every chance to bail as Lil’ Sis’ dropped us off at Newbury station and, seeing the downpour that was going on, offered to pick us up at any point along the route.

But we carried on…

…and on…

…and on…

…for the entire twenty one miles. The paths were so muddy we were forced to walk several sections, simply for our own safety. It was sometimes a case of putting your foot down and watching it slide away from under you.

It ended up taking us four hours and twenty minutes. We were also soaked to the skin and pretty cold by the time we finished.

Was all this just to get extra man points, extra grit, extra hardcore runner credentials?

Here’s the point where the post is supposed to take a turn and I tell you about some profound realisation that came to me whilst I was out in the elements. I then end on an inspirational quotation. But unfortunately that didn’t happen. We got the mileage done and considered ourselves lucky not to have come down with colds afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, a run like this does help your training and does show you, once again, that you can always do more than you think you can. It builds character, but sometimes character building is a slow burn; it happens without any fireworks, and in a very low key way. It plays itself out against the grey, rain-drenched backdrop of the Newbury canal path.

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The Magna Carta Marathon

This was the first Magna Carta Marathon and we knew from early on that this was going to be a small scale event as we collected our race numbers, which were in the single digits.

By “we”, I mean me and my Running Buddy, to whom I was a bit of a let-down by wanting to walk parts of the course, having only prepared with a single twenty one mile run, and prior to that not running any distance farther than a half marathon this year.

This was taking half-arsing it to another level!

To be fair, this wasn’t a deliberate refusal to train, but I keep getting issues with my knees, hamstrings, ankles – basically every part of my legs – whenever I try to increase my mileage. This is something that has been gradually getting better since replacing my trainers, which I’m guessing were long overdue to be changed.

On top of my poor preparation for the race, I had a mini-meltdown before the event, because I forgot my music player. 26.2 miles seemed to become instantly longer without any tunes, and to make matters worse, this was a race that allowed – even encouraged – headphones. The director even told us during his health and safety talk, if you want to listen to music on this course, there’s no road running, so fill your boots.

Those were his exact words: fill your boots. I was not impressed with myself.

But there was semi-good news – my Lil’ Sis’ would be coming to support and she said she would bring her mp3 for me to listen to during the last loop. I say “semi-good” because our musical tastes aren’t exactly what you would call aligned but you take what you can get when you’re a muppet and FORGET YOUR MUSIC PLAYER!

The race was five loops along the side of the river in Egham, taking it’s name because it was the site where the Magna Carta was signed. The first two loops were only a couple of miles each and then there were three or four six mile loops, which obviously became increasingly more difficult.

Not everyone likes loops, as it can be quite depressing to be covering the same piece of ground for a third or fourth time, except being more exhausted each time you get there. However, for me, I find that they help me to calibrate my run, and pace myself.

At the aid stations, I discovered a thing called Tailwind, which the race director apparently swears by. I thought it tasted disgusting to be honest. It’s hard to say whether it helped me, but taking that, combined with generally hydrating at every aid station, meant I managed to avoid the headache I sometimes get after running really long distances.

We met a lady who was wearing a one hundred club T-shirt. (The one hundred club members have run at least one hundred official marathons.) She said that she had actually run 281 marathons, but unfortunately they only give you a T shirt after the first 100. She also told us that she would be running another marathon the very next day. (Yes, these people really do exist! She makes my Running Buddy look sane, and he can’t wait to enter a one hundred mile race next year – he has already asked me to be his pacer for the last thirty miles.)

Strangely, the lack of music didn’t affect me as badly as I thought it would and I returned a marathon PB of 5h17m50s, which is still really slow – a fact that can be easily explained away by the consideration that I was never really that good in the first place! On top of that, this was only my second actual marathon (third if you consider the one I dropped out of). I crossed the finish line in quite an upbeat mood and then it was off to the nearby Harvester for a pulled pork BBQ burger.

 

 

 

Some Of My Favourite Running Photos

Since starting this blog (and upgrading to a better phone that can my camera app and running app at the same time) I have been more conscious about taking photos when the light is good, or when something interesting pops up on my runs.

Here are a few that stand out for me:

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I took a photo of this glove on a stick because it scared the crap out of me for a split second.

I have an active imagination. Put that together with listening to Zombies, Run! and only seeing it in my peripheral vision, and of course I didn’t see a glove, but a severed hand on a stick!

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This photo really captures the sense of adventure when setting out on a really long run. It was taken during Race To The Stones 2017 and it just turned out right; to me it looks like a still from one of those artsy documentaries about ultra-running.

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This photo is the backdrop to my blog and it just shows what can be done on a phone camera if you are willing to get up early enough and catch a time of day when the light is perfect.

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This photo is taken in the same location as the one above, at a different time of day and incorporating the man-made, industrial side of the landscape. This appeals to me for some reason I can’t explain, but whatever it is, it would probably also explain why I’m so drawn to video games that take place in stark, post-apocalyptic settings.

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This photo is another case of being in the right place at the right time. The local football goals in the park took on a very different feel as shapes emerging out of the mist.