Long Runs and Short Cycles (Down By The River).

I have been moving along the river for the past two days. Not continuously.

Yesterday I went for a long run, and I had sorted out a T-shaped out and back. But, I didn’t do it, really – I just kept running down the river, though Putney (the works over Putney Bridge are terrible at the moment, and people – please look behind you before you erratically step into oncoming foot traffic. It’s just good sense!

The run wasn’t special. It was 16km, the longest I’ve run in a long time, and I felt pretty good. But it was slow. I was kind of hoping that I would be able to at least get close to my half marathon PB (if not break it) at the Ealing Half, and I am thinking that it pretty much impossible at the moment. I think I’ll be about 10 minutes off. But, you know what – that’s okay. It’s the getting it done, and the fact that I’ve started running again and that I’m excited about running again. That’s the big thing!

Anyway – to have a look at the numbers. My half marathon PB is a bone-achingly slow 2:14:25, and the break down looks a bit like this:
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Yesterday’s run, even slower, looks like this:
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That means that I’m currently looking at about a 2:18ish half. I don’t know how I feel about that yet. We’ll see. Plus, there is still some time to sort it out, I suppose! And look, having said all of that, based on my recent 10km PB, the Runner’s World Race Time Predictor says I can run a 2:11. So, I’ll do some work and we’ll see what happens on race day.

Apart from that I have been cycling the Neon Toddler down the river today (‘Mummy! Look at the boat!’ ‘Mummy! Look at the BIG boat!’ ‘Mummy! Look at the duckies!’ ‘Mummy! Let’s get ICECREAM!!!’). It’s been a pretty good day. But, I kind of want to go for a run…

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La, la, la. Or, things are always better in the morning.

Well then.  Things are much, much better than they were last time I posted.  To begin with, after lots of tears, frustration, hate, and rage I submitted my PhD thesis.  The last three months has been a roller coaster of negativity and inactivity.  I’m sure not many people spend the last three months of their PhD doing the things that I was doing (i.e. not a whole lot of work), but there you go.  Each to their own and all that.  It would have been nice to submit earlier (particularly given the relatively small number of things that I ended up actually having to do) and perhaps be preparing for my viva now, instead I’m not doing that, but there you go.  Hopefully my supervisor will organise a fairly quick viva for me and I can get this whole thing squared away.  In some form, anyway.

Half marathon training continues, and running is equal parts great and shitty (as per usual).  I am feeling worse and worse about my speed recently, but the only person who can do anything about that is me I suppose.  So, there you go.

I have started planning some races for next year, too, so that’s exciting.  Specifically Paris Marathon and Race to the Stones.

Apart from that, life is just… going along as life does, and I have not too much to say.  Which, for now, is good.

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A list of negative things (meant in a positive way, I guess).

I am feeling rubbish, despite several things which I shouldn’t be feeling rubbish about. In one way I think that this is just part and parcel of being me, and particularly of being me at the moment.

The first thing that I feel shitty about is that I am a little bit annoyed at myself regarding how utterly terrible I am at running. I’m not fast, I struggle even on short runs, I am not a natural runner, I have to work hard on my form – in short, running does not come naturally to me. Apparently, running comes very naturally to A. I know that I shouldn’t make comparisons, but it just makes me feel a bit… blegh. Like, why don’t I find it that easy? I am well aware that this is a stupid thing to say, and that the feeling is completely illogical. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel it.

If I can organise the logistics (i.e. sprint from one side of the river to the other within the requisite time) I will probably submit my PhD today.* I should feel great about this, but I don’t. And, on top of that my mum yelled at me over the phone this morning about being negative. In my experience when a person is feeling shitty then yelling at them for feeling shitty is not going to help. I’m really disappointed that this whole conversation occurred. I try and be very open and honest about how I feel, particularly with my mum, because I think it’s important for my ongoing mental health. I understand how hard it must be to have a bipolar daughter/friend/girlfriend/mother, and how frustrating it must be to not be able to understand the feelings that go into making that person who they are. But, it’s hard to be that person, and to not understand how the feelings work, and to (sometimes) feel helpless to control those feelings. I have realised throughout the years that pretending to be happy when I am not is significantly worse for me in the long run than acknowledging and validating my own feelings, and letting myself process them. Sometimes this takes a lot of time, sometimes it is relatively quick. I cannot help that this is the way that I am, and I find that the least helpful things to hear and often the things that people say. ‘Don’t look back, look forward’ or ‘be grateful’ or ‘you should be happy’. What I should be is true to my feelings, in a non-indulgent way. At the moment looking forward is just as scary and uncertain as looking back is hurtful and angering. The (non-)events of the last three months have tainted this experience is a way that I cannot get over at the moment. In time, I will get over it, but not now.

I am also feeling increasingly shitty about how my marriage ended. I feel awful that I couldn’t make it work, and that towards the end I really closed down and shut off. I wish that I could erase the hurt that I caused.

I wish things could be better. There are a lot of good things in my life: the Neon Toddler (who is starting the transition to ‘big girl nursery’ tomorrow!), A, my friends, my family. I am thankful and grateful each day for these things. But overall I am in a very precarious position, and although I am working to help myself out of that position I feel that it is valid to feel and process the negative emotions that come with that. I would be lying to myself, and to the people that I love, if I did not do this. And, ultimately, feeling and acknowledging this negativity will help me overcome it.

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*I will not submit today. As I half expected there was an issue with my thesis printing (likely my own fault and costing me some money that I really don’t have) and I will not be able to pick it up until tomorrow.

Maybe putting ‘Summer’ in the title of a race wasn’t a great idea?

Yesterday was the London Summer 10km, in Regent’s Park.  The race was three laps of the top of the park (up near The Hub, and along by the Zoo).  It also so happened that yesterday (ex-)Hurricane Bertha decided to rain down her glory on London.  Needless to say that by the time the Neon Toddler and I got to The Hub to meet A we were drenched.  Well, Neon Toddler wasn’t as she’d been tucked up in the buggy.  A had cycled to Regent’s Park and looked like he had been sitting in the bath fully dressed.  Anyway – we hung about for around fifteen minutes before I left A and NT to squelch over to the start line.

CaptureI don’t mind running laps, really.  I know a lot of people don’t really like it, but I think it can actually work to your advantage in some cases.  It does give you an opportunity to get to know the course a little bit.  There is one thing I particularly don’t like about racing on  a lapped course and that is kilometre markers.  Obviously you know which markers are the ones for the lap that you’re on (no one is silly enough to think that they are passing 6kms on their first lap, for example), but it can mess with your head a little bit.  Seeing the 8 and 9km markers on your first lap reminds you that there is still a long way to go (relative to the length of the race), and similarly seeing the 1 and 2km markers on your final lap can make you feel a bit tired.  But, I like knowing where the markers are, so on the first two laps I specifically look out for the 8 and 9km markers and start to plan a bit of a strategy relating to the course itself.

This all sounds very calculated and technical, and really it’s not.  It’s equal parts time filling and distracting.

But yesterday it kind of worked out well for me.  I had slotted in behind a girl in yellow and black tights.  She was running slightly faster than my regular hard pace, and I thought if I could run with her for a bit then I might get into a kind of rhythm.  My goal for this particular race was to try and run hard – the Gunnersbury 10km last month had been just a regular training run of sorts, but this was specifically to push as hard as I could over the distance, so that I can use this time to figure out my pacing for the Ealing CaptureHalf.  This is why I was happy to keep up with this girl running a little bit too fast for me.

Anyway – nothing particularly exciting happened during the first two laps.  Going through the water station on the first lap a guy in front of me tipped a cup of water over his head.  It was still raining.  I giggled about that for a few hundred metres, but then it was back to the regular grind.  Somewhere on the second half of the second lap I decided that if I was still close to yellow-and-black-tights at the end I would try and beat her.  Around the same point on the third lap – still about five steps behind her – I looked at my Garmin and
realised that I was close to running sub-60.  Which I haven’t done in over 18 months.  After that I kind of forgot about beating yellow-and-black and concentrated on the clock.  I overtook her just after the 9km marker, and stayed in front of her until right at the end, and she ended up crossing the line just ahead of me.  But, that was secondary to the fact that I knocked around 4 minutes off my 10km time from last month, for a new PB!

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So that’s it.  You can see the full break-down on Strava.  The official chip time was 59:44, by as you can see my Garmin recorded 59:46.  I’m not super fussed about the two seconds.  Today I’m down for an easy 5km, and this week sees really serious half-marathon training commence.  It’s an exciting time to be running!

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I’m never going to win.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m never going to win a race, unless I am the only person running it, and even then it’s a bit touch and go. I’m not a fast runner, and I really believe that even if I trained specifically for speed, I’ll never be blindingly fast. I am just not really a naturally gifted runner. And, that’s okay.

turtles-through-peanut-butter I don’t think I even qualify as ‘mid-pack’, rather I am perhaps something like ‘not at the very back of the back-pack, but not at the very front either’. I know, a mouthful.

But, anyway, none of that is really the point because while I do sometimes feel a bit ashamed or down about my slowness (mainly when I am being overtaken by someone who is blisteringly fast and probably running twice and long as me), I am normally pretty okay with it. I have even been known to joke around a bit about how slow I am.

Recently, however, I’ve had two experiences where I felt completely alienated because of my speed, and because there is literally no chance that I will ever be in contention to win a race. The authors of the two pieces (one a book and the other an article) that made me feel like this were just relating their own lived experience as people who do win. I am not trying to suggest that they intentionally set out to make slower runners feel a little bit shitty about themselves. On the contrary, every actual experience I have had with front-pack runners has been overwhelmingly positive (e.g. faster runners hanging around at a race finish to cheer on slower runners and things like this).

In both cases the author in question was discussing the compulsion to push over the finish line, that winning becomes everything, and that a runner is consumed by the urge to win. These are not the only two times I have ever read this sentiment, but it’s often framed not just as a race against others but also as a race against oneself – a race that it is possible for every single runner to win at some point.

To be very honest, I’m not really sure what the point of this post actually is. I just wanted to lay some thoughts down, and perhaps this might help me come to terms with this feeling in my own way. I don’t know if it has worked or if it will help.

With that in mind, I want to finish my saying (or rather, reiterating) that runners are (generally) wonderful, encouraging, inclusive, supportive people. Fast, slow, or in between, runners – in my experience – come together to cheer on other runners.

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P.S. I had thought recently that I might be getting (very slightly) faster.  Nope.  Garmin Connect has junked that idea!

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A real, honest long run.

This morning I went on what really felt like a long run.  The first one I’ve done since the Royal Parks Foundation Ultra last year (early October, for those playing along at home).  It wasn’t a super distance, but it felt genuine.  I meant to run 14km, and ended up with 13.8km due mainly to the fact that the northbank of the Thames has a weird and slightly convoluted route around these parts, and the southbank is a bit more direct.  I probably could have made up the 200m but honestly, by the time I got home it was very hot  and I wanted to have a shower and some lunch.

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And it was really lovely!

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And I ran with a new vest that I bought in France, which didn’t rub or annoy me, and which I only had one small and easily fixable problem with (more on this in another post, perhaps).  All in all, it was a really good run.

The biggest question: can I run that plus another seven kilometres in seven weeks.  The answer: hell yes.  Bring it on.

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P.S. A finally signed up for the Ealing Half marathon!  My special mixture of nagging and whinging finally paid off!

On the void, running around city walls, and not feeling wonderful.

So it’s pretty safe to say that I don’t feel the best at the moment.

Last week I went on holidays with A and some friends (hence my last post coming from France).  I booked the trip just before my birthday.  Things were looking pretty good with my thesis and I thought that there was no chance that I wouldn’t have submitted before the trip, so it was meant to be kind of a post-submission de-stress.  Anyway, it wasn’t.  I have spent a pretty hefty chunk of the last three months (like 10 weeks) with nothing to do waiting for comments from my supervisor, who is too busy to look at my work.  So, even though I actually didn’t have any work to do while I was away that whole thing kind of marred the trip and turned me into a bit of a neurotic bitch – especially to A, and regrettably this came out the most on the day of the Ventoux climb.

And it hasn’t really got much better.  This morning I went for a 5+change km run and felt just as shit when I got back as I did when I started.  That hasn’t happened before.  Anyway, that’s a slight diversion from the point of the story.

One of the best things that I did was get up early and run around the walls of Avignon on Saturday morning.  Chris and I wandered out from the flat to the outside of the walls together and set off in opposite directions.  He’s a bit faster than me so we met up after around 2kms (he’d done 2.8km the other way) and I was seriously confused about where I was.  I’d left with the instructions to just keep the wall on my right hand side, and it was still there, but I hadn’t taken a corner or a bend, and I felt like I was just running straight down.  Not so.  Anyway – the next lap was much better.  I’d intended three but it was hot, and early, and I was hungry, so when Chris was waiting for me near the finish of the second lap I didn’t put up too much of a case (that is, any) to continue on.

At any rate.  I am trying to work on an article that I’m not enthusiastic about right now.  I have forced myself to come into the city rather than just sit at home in bed and mope.  A and I are going to buy new trainers (for him) this afternoon so that should be something at least.

And I’m going to run perhaps 15kms tomorrow.  I’ve got nothing else to do so I might as well do something constructive towards half-marathon training!

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