What a week it has been: there have been ups and a lot of downs. Where to begin?
Since my last blog entry, I have been recovering from some type of sports injury at the top of my foot, largely due to wearing incorrectly fitted trainers. I spent ages rubbing lotions and potions into it, binding my foot so tightly the Chinese would be impressed. On one hand, I was very excited about the prospect of not having to run, on the other I was extremely frustrated. This is not to say I have found a love of running (yet) but for weeks since I received a comfirmation that I would be running the marathon, my whole existence has been focused on training; blogging; researching - and when you can't do the one thing that connects all these activities - you go a bit stir crazy. I devoured all my boxsets and probably ate my body weight in chocolate and crisps.
When I finally became bored of Sex & The City and Ugly Betty, I attempted to go for a long run. After a week of doing nothing, I was excited to get back in the game. So off I went, new trainers on. My Facebook status read 'off I go to do a 6 mile run'. How naive could one girl be? I trotted around for a while, but for some reason my mind just wasn't in it. I merely did a full length of a path before giving up and going home.This was unbelievably boring. I'd discovered something worse than watching paint dry - watching your left foot come down on the ground, then your right foot come down on the ground, then your left foot come down on the ground, then your right foot come down on the ground.....then... What was wrong with me? My injury was fine now, yet I was finding every excuse under the sun not to run. If this was 'THE WALL' most runners talk about, and I had reached it after 5 metres, then I was in serious trouble. On the way back, I strutted past the people I had passed only a few minutes previously, trying to look as if I had actually done some sort of exercise. Their eyes fixed upon me as if to say 'didn't you just walk past here only ten minutes ago looking so smug?' I held my head in shame. I spent the whole evening wallowing in my own self pity. How am I ever going to do this?
The park where I 'run'
Run 2 was slightly better: I took my mother along for good measure, she pedals behind me on her old pre-war push bike as I run. She reminds me of scenes in Belleville Rendezvous, a French film in which a little old lady paces behind her son's Tour de France training, blowng a whistle. It's quirky. But it works, and having someone there to motivate me does spur me on. However, never ask your mother, "Do I run ok?". In fact, never ask your mother 'Does my bum look big in this?' or anything , if you don't want the frank and brutal truth. Her response was "Yeah.... kinda....well, sort of like a penguin really, if penguins could run". Thanks mum, now I feel great. I continued that run trying to over-compensate by turning my feet inwards which made me look like I had bow legs or like a retarded young Forrest Gump. Great!!
See little old lady blowing whistle, AKA- mum.
For some silly reason, my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to go on a 5 mile run with me. This was the first big run I had done. Ever. I was apprehensive to say the least. There was me kitted out in all the latest sports gear, new trainers at the ready. I was feeling good, and then there was him who decided to run in the only shoes he had, a pair of £5 white plimsoles. I looked at them blankly, and tutted like a fierce primary school teacher: "You will never do this Matt, you dont have the right shoes, and you have never run before. You seriously want to do this, I mean pffffff, really?"
"Yes, I want to do this, I will be fine" he said, tight-lipped, giving me a blank gaze.
"All right, if you say so", I replied, knowing full well with 100% certainty that he would give up straight away. I'd have bet money on it.
It was a baking hot day, which is unusual in England, especially in summer. We planned to run from one end of the seafront to the other and back, a total of some 5 plus miles. (see picture). I was sweating even walking, but with an assured egotistical attitude I started to run. I had high hopes of showing off about the amazing training I had done, whilst Matt crumbled into a withering mess. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN.
"Can we stop, Matt, can we stop? My side really hurts" (10 mins in) "Can we stop Matt? Seriously, I can't do this. I've got a blister. I mean a blister, a really really real blister" (20 mins in) "Matt!!!!! I'm dying, I'm actually dying, its too hot, I'm dying, I'm going to die at the side of the road" (30 mins in)
This went on for the whole run, whilst he effortlessly strode next to me with an air of superiority on his face.
I had chronic stitch, a humungous blister on the side of my foot, my legs ached, my heart was pounding - I was a mess.
He, on the other hand had not one adumbration of an ache, not one sign of a blister and he looked effortlessy cool. I HATED him.
Although I found my stride after mile 3, it wasn't a pleasant experience. I finished the 5 miles, clutching my side in pain. I was proud that I had done it, but at the same time I felt literally sick at the thought that this was only 5 miles, and to complete a marathon would be an extra 21 miles. I have a long way to go.
I couldn't walk for a whole day after, and will never again be able to look at a pair of white plimsoles without feeling like an idiot.
Why is it that when the likes of Jennifer Aniston or Reece Witherspoon attempt a light jog around the block it looks effortless and sexy, yet I somehow get reduced to a red, sweaty, out of breath mess? And this isn't me over-exaggerating either, oh no no. On a run, I think I caught a small child pull on its mother's hand, look up and say "Mummy, why is that tomato running around?" in genuine fear. Okay that didn't happen, but still, you get the point.
Just when I was about to give it all up, assign myself to the sofa where I shall rot under piles of cheesy puffs and Pop Tarts I came across an image.
From this moment on, Kate Hudson, I shall forever be indebted to you:
I have spent many a fatal morning hovering over the loo, wishing that I hadn’t had that last Sambuca shot, like most things in my life, it seemed like such a good idea at the time. But come morning I’m forever regretting the state I got myself into.
No judgements are ever made by Mr Loo Seat, unlike my real friends who roll their eyes as I drag my sorry self into the room, and pat me on the back in a patronising fashion as I cry and moan to them:‘I’m never drinking again’ as if it wasn’t my fault, someone held me down and poured the contents of a small bar down my throat.
If Mr Loo Seat, Loo for short, could speak he would say:
“Ah, Rowen, welcome back. Drink too much last night? That’s OK, come slump your head down on my shoulders until you are feeling better, what are friends for?”
He has been there for me, through birthdays, Christmasses, New Years and well, any random Friday/Saturday night really. So close is our friendship that sometimes the couch gets jealous.
So when is a good time for me to stop drinking?
Marathon runners' opinions will differ when it comes to drinking and training. Some can balance both, rearranging their Saturday morning long runs for later in the day etc. However it can take as much as 3 days to completely rid yourself of a hangover and you can unknowingly damage yourself during training, and heighten your potential for injuries, as well as feeling completely rotten. But, if you’re used to running the next morning, thenhere are a few tips that can see you through your training and rid your hangover hell.
Top up on potassium. Alcohol, as a diuretic, reduces your sodium and potassium (electrolyte) levels so eat a banana and drink some orange juice in the morning. Drink sports drinks like Lucozade to top up your electrolytes.
Drink water. Another pleasant product of diuretics is dehydration. Drink more water than you think you need, take drinks with you on your runs and drink a pint of water before you go to bed the night before!
Don’t drink as much.
It sounds simple but the less you drink, the less time it takes for your body to recover from the effects of drinking. Going for a run on a hangover over will increase blood flow and flush out those toxins even faster. ‘
I like nothing more than a cold glass of white after a long day, and as much as I would love to fill up one of my fuel belt bottles with wine, (it would make the long runs go by so much faster) it's time to say bye bye I think. No time is better than the present, the present being training for a small 26 mile jog. BRING IT OON!!!!
Unfortunatly on this occasion I will not be hauling box upon box of overpriced Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks back to my house, a la Sex and the City. No no, this shopping trip is slightly different, this shopping trip is for trainers!!!. Who would have thought it.
For the couple of days I have been rubbing my foot with all sorts of lotions and potions to try and mend what must be some kind of sports injury, even typing the word 'sports injury' makes me laugh because I had never considered, that I, a self -confessed couch potato would ever incur one. But here I am sitting on the sofa where I clearly belong, with a bag of Asda frozen peas on my foot. Life is very glamourous for me right now. How is it that I have managed to totter around on ridiculously high stilettos since I the age of 16, with no real problems apart from some nasty bunions, but what leaves me unable to train, miserable and hobbling around like Quasimodo are a pair of incorrectly fitted trainers.
Pronation is the way the foot rolls inward when you walk and run. It is part of the natural movement that helps the lower leg deal with shock. Some people pronate more (overpronation) or less (underpronation) than others. Though this is not bad in itself, it does affect the way you run and it may increase the likelihood of injury. This makes your pronation pattern an important factor in choosing the right running shoes.
Running shoes are designed today specifically for different pronation patterns. When you pick your next pair of running shoes, your pronation type is a very important factor in your choice. The best way to find out how you pronate is to consult an expert, who will perform a Gait Analysis and then advise you on the best type of running shoes for your pronation pattern. Many experts will ask to see your old pair of trainers, as their wear pattern gives an indication of the way you pronate. Of course, other factors than pronation, such as weight, also play a role in choosing the best shoe.
So off I went to my local sports shop. On this occassion I didn't have a Gait Analysis. I did want one but the shop in my town didn't have the necessary equipment, I will visit a flagship store in London around Christmas time when I buy my next trainers. I picked up a pair of ASICS running shoes. A nice pair of Gt-2160s to be precise. They had to be pink, didn't they?. I have heard many good things about Asics, so hopefully this pain will subside quickly and I will be able to test them out, instead of looking at them with detest.
Less 'Jimmy Choo' more 'ASICS' and 'Nike'. No wonder she looks miserable.
...Never type in 'Running' and 'Stitch' into Google together, unless you have a subscription to ‘Sewing and Needlework Monthly'. To save you the trouble of trawling through page after page of embroidery related sites I thought I would explain all the ins and outs of that pesky pain.
I have been getting increasingly frustrated with having to start, then stop, start then stop mid- run due to being in tremendous amounts of pain. I'm telling you now, if I didn't have to deal with this I would be up there with all the elite athletes (or at least I like to tell myself.)
Are you ready for the boring fact bit?
What is stitch, and why do we get it?
'The reason for stitch is simple. The inner organs are hanging from several ligaments, which, in turn, are fixed to the diaphragm, the muscular "plate" between chest and abdomen. Liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine and colon form a weight of several kilograms, hanging from the diaphragm. The impact of every step forces the inner organs to move downwards. Additionally, the diaphragm moves upwards on every expiration to force air out of the lungs. This continuous up/down stress may cause a cramp in the diaphragm: stitch. Stitch occurs most often on the right hand side because of the liver being the heaviest organ, and therefore the one stressing the diaphragm the most.
How to get rid of stitch?
Should you suffer from stitch, the first (and best) cure is to slow down or stop until the stitch is gone. If you do not want to stop, you can try to press your hand onto the part of your abdomen where the stitch is, and release the pressure on expiration. Repeat this several times.
· Slow your pace slightly
· Grasp your side where you feel the stitch just under the bottom rib and half way across between the side and the belly button. Thumb to the rear and fingers to the front
· Squeeze firmly and bend at the waist (45-90 degrees) while still running
· After about 15 metres slowing straighten
· The stitch should have gone
An alternative method based on the theory it is caused by the synchronisation of the movement of the organs and the diaphragm is to synchronise your breathing pattern with your running, and exhale/inhale when the foot on the non- hurting side strikes the ground.
For example: if you have stitch in your right hand side, change your breathing pattern so you exhale/inhale as your left foot strikes the ground'
OK, so keep an eye out for me on my next run. I will be the girl running at a snail's pace, bent double at a right angle, breathing erratically with my hand pushing firmly into my side. A sight for sore eyes.
Katherine Switzer will always be best known as the woman who challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston marathon and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. Her entry, (using a gender neutral name, K Switzer) created an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition. Pulled to the floor, she eventually got up and finished the race.
‘Every time a female runner enters a marathon, a small offering should be made to Kathrine Switzer. Through her tenacity, stubbornness and belief that women can too run 26.2, she scaled the male bastion of the Boston Marathon that barred women from its race and helped to open its doors to women’
So it all begins here, Day 1 of training. Some may think I'm starting far too early, but given my previous confession it's safe to say I'm not in the best possible shape, and want to give my body as much time to get used to the idea that I wasn't joking when I pressed 'send' for my Golden Bond place.(I think its still in shock)
Training Day 1: I awoke, refreshed, alive confident. So far, so good
Ok, so now to get my gear on. I was sporting a grey tracksuit bottom and top, (bought pre-New Year when I had high hopes to hit the gym and get fit. That went well)
I can honestly say at that very moment, without any shame, I felt like Rocky, the theme tune circulating through my brain: ‘Dun, dun dun dun...dun, dun....duuuuuuuuunn’
Its almost as if I had completely forgotten that a couple of weeks ago before all this marathon palaver started, I had taken part, on a whim, in ‘Race for Life’ for Cancer Research. A 5k dash in my local park, without any training, none, nada. What’s the worst that could happen?. It rendered me nearly dead. The finish line picture, wherever it is, probably has me pushing the vomit back into my mouth. Lovely thought. I was walking like John Wayne for 3 days. Why on earth had I then considered running a marathon? I have no idea. After the pain had passed, and the feelings of nausea had faded, something inside me thought: ‘Hey you just did 5k, now time for 26 miles'.
So, time to dig out those trainers. Now where had I left them? I rummaged around my closet, trying to find even what resembled a running shoe, tossing out stilettos, purses and sandals in the process.
Bingo! From the bottom of my closet, right at the bottom, where light rarely ventured, right where I had hidden them, soooo far down after my 5k attempt, in the hope I would never have to see them again, I pulled out my pristine Lacoste Tennis shoes, - Not ideal, but, well its a start.
I stepped out of my house, stood on the porch, preparing myself for a one hour sprint along the seafront. Stretches, knee up on wall, looking good, looking good.
I began to run, I felt free, exhilarated, I was a running goddess, I was one of those people I hate, one of those joggers that look effortlessly cool: look at me go. I was going to run a marathon, nothing could stop me, I was Rocky, I was unstoppable....oh wait: stitch.
Training Day 1- take two.
Nothing to be too alarmed about. Just a minor set back, but that wasn’t going to faze me. When my delusions of grandeur faded and I realised I was, in fact, the girl that vomited at the end of a 5k, I realised I might have to take a more realistic approach, taking it slow at first then building up momentum. So I was no Usain Bolt, so what, get real Rowen.
The plan consists of 24 weeks, 10 min jogs each day of the week, followed by a long run at the weekend, building up by 10 mins each week, that didn’t seem so bad. That could be done, no problem.
So, with a deep sigh, this evening I stepped off my porch for the second time, and lightly jogged at a snail's pace for just under 10 minutes, I still felt like I was going to die. This was just the beginning; how was I ever going to manage 26.2 miles - 4 plus hours of solid running - if I couldn’t even run for 10 minutes?
I passed other runners on the street.
They must have got quite freaked out at this out of breath, sweaty, mad woman jogging past, holding my side, with a look of utter contempt on my face.
‘Evening’, one lady runner said timidly, a look of concern on her face, a weak smile, and quickly sprinted away.
I have decided.
I either need a jogging partner (to keep pace with) or to join a running club, because otherwise I’m slightly afraid I will get jogger's rage and kill someone.That would make an interesting piece on the 6 o’clock news, wouldn’t it?
I will keep you posted.
And for your entertainment......
(Far right): Mini me at the starting line eyeing up the competition.
Now before we start this whole thing, let me just say I feel I have a confession to make
My name is Rowen and I've had a long love affair with our sittingroom sofa. We go way back..
Being a former University student has taught me some very important lessons: how to make instant noodles, where the best kebab huts are, and to NEVER think that 80p tequila shots are EVER a good idea!!
As I approach my mid twenties, these bad habits stick like glue. I will quite happily munch my way through a Big Mac and fries and finish it off with a dessert of pure nicotine. I think nothing of bunging a ready meal in the microwave after a busy day. My breakfast consists of no whole or grain, think more coffee and black, and let’s be totally frank here, I have no idea what a Goji berry is.
So (sigh) I guess it's about time I get off my lazy arse, turn off the late night re-runs of Sex and the City, put down the ‘Glamour' magazine, pick up the Runner's World, stub out the cigarette and well...... just run.
“Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you travelled from where you started.”
'Many thanks for your application to run for Leukaemia CARE in the Virgin London Marathon 2012. We’d like to congratulate you; against the many hundreds of competing applicants you have been selected to join ‘Team Bertie’ for the Virgin London Marathon 2012. '
I looked at the email, a look of utter disbelief on my face. What had I signed myself up to do? I wasn't a marathon runner, I could barely go to the shops without getting out of breath and occasionally got a stitch walking... downhill. I wasn't a water-guzzler, a fruit- eater, a runner; I was a 23 year old with a very strong liking for vodka, late nights and fags.
In order to understand the complexities of my craziness we have to go back, all the way back to October 28th 2010. I was in bed, mulling in the aftermath of a drunken haze, the nightclub stamp still imprinted firmly on my hand, the stench of booze and fags fermenting in the air, last night's make-up staining the pillow - you get the drift: not a pretty picture.
“ring ring... ring ring” - I pulled the covers over my head, trying to drown out the noise that was making my head pound fiercely. The sound died out, no answer, 10 minutes later the phone rang again.
“Please stop, my head!!!”- I yelled.
I eventually dragged my sorry state out of bed and answered.
“Oh hello, is Mr Bustillo there?” The urgent voice at the end of the line awoke me from my groggy state.
“Ermmmm,... I think he’s out. Can I take a message?”
'Yes, can you tell him to ring Dr Lewis as soon as possible please, it's urgent'. My heart stopped.
“Yeah, ermmm, certainly, I will pass on the message”...The line went dead. I rattled what was left of my brain: 'Doctor'...'urgent'. I made a large cup of coffee and waited for my dad to return. The phone rang 3 times before my dad returned, all with the same urgent tone.
“Dad, the doctor called, said it was urgent, regarding your tests, said to ring them back”. My hand trembled as I passed him the coffee-stained note as he walked through the door. This was the moment the world stood still.
“Oh hello Mr Bustillo, I have been trying to reach you, I'm afraid there have been some abnormalities detected in your blood. We would like to get you up to hospital as soon as possible'
I held my dad's trembling hand, and watched him crumble in fear,
'Is it ....?' His voice broke helplessly.
He dropped into his seat.
The next hours were the most painful my family has experienced. I watched my dad, who never shed a tear for anything, sob helplessly into my mother's arms. We sat there for hours, all holding hands, crying, all in shock.The diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, ('ALL') - blood cancer to you or me.
Months of chemotherapy and radiation followed. I watched as my 50 year old dad began to resemble a 90 year old within a matter of weeks; a man who could once take two steps at a time going up the stairs could now barely take one. It was hell for no better of a word. I became distant, detatched. I wanted to run - run away as fast as I could from the situation.
In March 2011 my dad received a vital stem cell transplant from his brother. He is now 100+ days after the transplant, and still fighting strong. We take every day as it comes.
So you see, it's only after this long, exhausting, emotional marathon that one decides to run a rather long, exhausting, physical marathon. As you do.
In fact, I had decided to turn my running away from the situation into something good - running into the light and not into the dark. Running for a good cause.
On a whim I decided to enter ‘Race for Life’ for Cancer Research, a 5k dash in my local
park, without any training, none, nada. It rendered me nearly dead. The finish line picture, wherever it is, probably has pushing the vomit back into my mouth - lovely thought.
This journey isn't all about cancer, although it is my catalyst, my ‘starting gun’. It is more about overcoming obstacles in your life. In my case, overcoming an unhealthy lifestyle and doing something for the greater good - moving away from the negative and into the positive. Take what you want from it. I hope you will follow my journey. I will be documenting every step throughout my training, sharing thoughts and challenges that may arise. I hope it will show that anything is possible, if someone like me can make it through 26.2 miles of what may well be pure pain, then you can too.
Life is what you make it, and even if you don’t take that away from this, perhaps you willfind it mildly amusing that I'm even attempting this in the first place. This will no doubt be a period of self-discovery for me, and I hope you will follow me every step of the way - whether it be 5, 500 or 53,000 steps to the finish line.