Things I learned today (Ealing Half Marathon race-report)

20140928_184310Early this morning, A and I woke up and got ready to race.  Today was A’s first race ever, and he probably won’t admit it but he was full of nervous energy.  After all the obligatory things (breakfast, coffee, bag-packing) we headed to the tube in our matching tops (not planned, and not exactly matching, but close enough!)

Pre-race was nothing amazing, I lost A for a while after I thought I was very close to the bathrooms and turned out I wasn’t, but it was pretty smooth sailing.  The Ealing Half is notoriously well-run.  They have a really clear, lovely race-village, things (like bag-check) are easy and quick.  I have now experienced the Ealing Half as a volunteer (their first year, 2012) and now as a runner, and the accolades and good reviews are well-deserved.

The time pens are not pens, but a long row with pacing signs (and also pacers) which allow you to slot in where you see fit.  I left A to jump into the pen at around the 1.45 pace, and walked to the back with our friend R, to slot in between 2:15 and 2:20.  I knew that there was no way I was going to run a PB – the course is not particularly suited to a person who does no hills training (i.e. me!), and I am a bit heavy and not very fit at the moment.  Also, I am running another half-marathon next week (Cardiff!) and I want to finish both, rather than ruin myself on either.  So, with that all said – off we went.  Very slowly as the crowd petered out.

R and I ran together until around the 8km mark, when we went through a park and I lost her.  There was a runner just behind me that was wearing the same colour shirt and was about the same height as her and I thought it was R – until I turned around to say something to her and instead said ‘Oh! You’re not R!’.

I pretty much stuck to my plan, but I did walk a few times towards the end which I am very disappointed in.  I just never really found a rhythm, and it was tough going all morning.  Plus, I was hoping it would be a little bit cooler (although it wasn’t unseasonably hot, so I guess I cannot really complain too much).  The highlight was seeing the Neon Toddler at around 18km.  Tin Man had bought her out, and as soon as she saw me she was super excited!  I gave her a big sweaty kiss and she pushed me away!

So, my race wasn’t great.  A’s race was much better –  he was aiming for 1:45 and ran around 1:41 (hint: he’s significantly faster than me!).  So, things I learned today:

  1. I need to do some very serious hard training: hills, intervals, speed.  Just running the same pace is obviously not working for me.
  2. I need to get much fitter.  Just full stop.  Stop nancying about, Neon!
  3. I need to loose weight.  I’m not dissatisfied with my weight (any more than normal) but I think it would make things much easier.
  4. Ealing Half is a fantastic race, and I’m really pleased to have experienced it as a runner, and I definitely will be back.

But – there you go.  I did it!

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And then:

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There is something wrong with this picture.

2014-08-30 10.26.47I am a fairly avid consumer of running-related literature, including magazines.  Women’s Running is not a magazine that I buy every month, but I buy it perhaps 3 out of 5 months depending on what the articles are on.  I have read Men’s Running, and have bought it on a few occasions, but not regularly.  But, this month I was a bit disappointed when I saw the two magazines sitting next to one another in my local newsagent.  My first reactions were the obvious (I hope): why do women get a static model and men get an ultra-running superstar in action on their respective covers, and why is the biggest story for women ‘FLAT BELLY FAST’ and for men it’s ‘Run Longer Run Stronger’?  These two things seems odd to me.  At a time when I want my nearly three-year-old to understand that she can do anything a boy can do (and mummy can do anything daddy can do, and women can do anything that men can do) then why are we still going though the women are pretty and should be thin, but men are adventurers who can be strong!

Looking closer at the two magazines, though, I can see that it’s not really about the actual articles but about the way that they are advertised on the cover.  So, lets take a closer look at the two:

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Articles include:



Long Run Saturday, or Why I am No Good at Writing About Running

So, yesterday I ran for 17 (fairly) lovely kilometres down the Thames Path – 7.5km west from Hammersmith Bridge and back, plus the 1km each way from my house to the bridge. I have been running sections of the TP for a few years now and I really love it, but I have not traditionally been a morning runner and so I often missed the period where the path is brimming with other runners, and cyclists, walkers and hikers, dogs, families, teenagers, lovers, and other assorted persons. I have done my long run in the morning a few times now, going both west and east along the river from Hammersmith Bridge. This has come about by necessity more than anything. I get Neon Toddler at 5 on Saturdays and I want to spend the evening with her rather than showering, tidying, washing, and all the other bits and pieces that there are to do on the weekend. So, I have started running in the mornings, even though it is not at all my preference.

So yesterday I ran.


It took a long time before I could get a shot with no people in it! This photo really captures the thing I like the most about running the TP. It’s peaceful, for the most part. It’s shady, for the most part. It’s much nicer than running around the streets.


This one is from the way back, when it was a little less busy.

So, this brings me to why I’m not a great running blogger. It’s not that things don’t happen to me on my runs, but that weaving thoes things into a structured narrative becomes difficult after the run is finished. It’s like every kilometre happened at the same time, even though there is movement and temporality in my memory, I find it difficult to weave each individual element together comprehensively.

Instead, here is an annotated list of things that occurred on my run yesterday:
1. I had to stop at about 3.5km to unlace and relace my shoe after my entire right foot went numb. It’s not very pleasant running with a dead foot. I’ve had to weirdly lace all my running shoes, so I am used to it. The Brooks Pure Connect 2s, my favorite trainer, are a simple dropped eye at the bottom so I had laced the Pure Flow 2s the same. Fine on the left, numb on the right.
2. I waved at a little girl – maybe about 4 – who was waving furiously at runners going passed her. She was being pushed down the path in a buggy. I waived back, perhaps not very enthusiastically, but she seemed very pleased. It looked as though she almost fell out of the buggy. It made me start thinking about my own little terror and how inspiring I find her. I often do think about her while I am running, and it does get me through some tough patches. I want her to know that being strong and healthy is not just for boys, that girls can do whatever they want and that there’s no contradiction in playing princesses in the morning and train-drivers in the afternoon. I hope that her dad and I can inspire her to achieve and be confident.
3. A bug flew into my eye, which I rubbed. Then my contact lens fell out and hit the dirt. Never have I been so thankful to have water with me. It’s so, so bad to do but I did it. I picked the lens up, rinsed it off and put it back in. I meant to change it as soon as I got home but totally forgot. So, I walked around all day with a dirt-lens in! Gross.
4. My headphones died about 4km to the end. I run with thoes mp3 player in headphones things. I really love them, but I hate charging them and they are a pain to connect to the computer. As such, I haven’t updated the music in a long, long time. Maybe that’s a job for this week.
5. I got cat-called and, worse than that, touched. On my bum. As I ran by a “gentleman” who clearly thought he had a right to touch me and comment on my legs while I was out running. This kind of thing does not happen to me regularly. I was so shocked that I really failed to respond appropriately.
6.I didn’t fall over. And I haven’t for a long while. This is a big achievement for me.

So. That was yesterday’s run, roughly in the order it occurred. Today, some foam rolling and rest. New training week starts tomorrow!


Learning to Let Go.

I am not very good at letting go of things. When I am hurt or angry it feels like those emotions get locked inside my chest and I am unable to release them. I know that this is a terrible way to live, but I don’t really know what I can do about it.

It is getting worse, I think. To the point where I will periodically think about something that happened many, many years ago and I cannot help but feel those hurt, angry, negative emotions as though they are fresh. It’s not everything, and it’s not necessarily even big things. But it is some things, and those things hurt.

I feel as though I am becoming a very wounded person because of this. I find it increasingly difficult to move on from things, and as I sometimes cannot predict when this tidal wave of hurt will press down on me I find it very hard to go about my day-to-day life.

I have even reached a point where I find it extremely difficult to be in certain places because I have come to associate those place with this oppressive pain. It almost becomes inevitable that I will freeze with hurt when I am in those places.

I worry that I will never be able to feel happy about the position that I am in because of this. I still feel so awful about the months before the submission of my PhD that I cannot even feel pleased about having reached the milestone of submission.

More generally I am not in a great place because everything is so uncertain. I do not know what tomorrow will be, let alone next week, or next year. I am worried. Mostly that the last ten years of my life have been wasted, that I lost my marriage for nothing, that I have nothing to do or offer.

No. I am not worried. I am scared.