Spirit of the Marathon

It’s just hours since both the media and social media celebrated the selfless behaviour of the Swansea Harriers runner who gave up his race time to help another guy who was clearly struggling in the London Marathon.

untitled (5)
Picture: Sky News

Matthew Rees, 29, was shown physically supporting David Wyeth, of Chorlton Runners, whose legs “just crumbled” just 200 yards from the finish line.

A marshal also stepped in, and with the finish completed at a walk, both runners still managed a respectable sub three-hour time.

Thousands of viewers must’ve seen the live footage of the troubled runner, first named by concerned TV commentators as David Wyeth, while he staggered exhausted and jelly-legged and at one point appeared to totally collapse to the ground just off camera.

Maybe this, then, could not have been one of his finest moments?

matthew-reesJPG
Pic: BBC

Rees told reporters he had been preparing to sprint the end of the race, but that helping Wyeth was “more important” than improving on his time.

In a Sky News article he said: “[David Wyeth] was really grateful, but he wasn’t very coherent, he was just like ‘I have to finish, I have to finish’.

“And I said ‘you will finish, you will get there, come on let’s do this’.”

Race organisers Tweeted that Rees “encompassed everything that’s so special about the #LondonMarathon”.

untitled (4)
Pic: PA

 

 

He’s being rightly hailed as a hero – but he’s not the only one.

Wyeth was running to raise money for the hospice which helped his late uncle.

His relatives have since Tweeted to say he’s now fine – and “recovering with a burger and a beer”.

A pic posted by a cousin reveals a confident face totally different to the confused but resolute expression shown in The Mall today.

David Wyeth’s determination to finish – when every reserve in his body had been used-up – is surely worthy of any marathon hero since Pheidippides.

 

 

 

When you can’t run the London Marathon

I’m one of the many runners who won’t be taking part in today’s London Marathon – but that’s for the simple and shockingly straightforward reason that I haven’t entered it!London Marathon - Eddie Keogh Reuters

Consider then, the poor individuals who have – but who’ve had to pull out through injury or illness.

One of my former work colleagues says on FaceBook he’s “gutted” he’s had to sit this one out, but urges other runners “have a great race and soak up the atmosphere”.

But the good news – for those who got in via the ballot – is if you had to withdraw your entry through illness or injury the organisers say they will guarantee you an entry for the 2018 event – as long as you follow these guidelines, that is!

Good Luck to everyone taking part today.

 

Halloween – who’s scared of a PB?

5e982070-33e7-4396-a599-3397a48c9c2a
Don’t you just love an Autumn run?

I can’t say my Hanley Park Run antics today were in any way worthy of the Halloween theme – unless you count the most tenuous of links with the urge to throw up.

Pushing myself running tends to push certain bodily functions into the equation but thankfully that didn’t happen and another Personal Best was achieved!

The nausea kicked in after one zealously-tackled hill and again after finishing (I always feel compelled to redeem my slow self with a sprint at the end).

The Park Run I go to deploys pacers on the last Saturday of every month – so I’d got in the mind-set of following one.

Alas, there were none in my exact target range! (Though that’s a future plan..)

14695304_1222012181153681_7087605369262815807_n
Pacers are deployed once a month

So I picked a trio of women from Stoke F.I.T. (Friends In Training) who did finish about 45 seconds ahead of me in the end.

Two of them kept up a steady babble of conversation which, when I was close enough to hear it, I tried to use to take my mind off my exertions!

We were overtaken by a family in fancy dress – now being overtaken always feels crap anyway, but when they’re in fancy dress?

A former colleague remembers the humiliation of being overtaken by Batman in the London Marathon and I myself have been bettered by Mr Potato Head in the Robin Hood Half in Nottingham, a race in which Scooby Doo regularly provides an indicator as to when it’s time to dig deep!

Back to Park Run and I watched the receding skeleton wings on the boy, with dad in a cloak – I also knew he was wearing a mask (reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”) which made him sound like he was talking through a snorkel when, previously, he loomed behind us en famille

Image courtesy of ajround.com

 

I had some hunch I’d done a good time when one of the organisers at the finish shouted “C’mon Emma?” – and looked a bit surprised to see me.

My Guerrilla training has contributed not only to a couple of personal bests in the last few weeks but also knocking a good couple of minutes off my previous time, so it would appear I have discovered the alchemy necessary to produce Personal Best “gold”.

I caught up with the Stoke F.I.T. trio and said I’d used them as pacemakers, hoped they didn’t mind and thanked them.

I felt I’d somehow “gate-crashed” their run  but Laura, the first woman I spoke to, said that was fine – and to be honest, I don’t think they’d been too aware of my presence.

She said the chat, between two of them, had been aimed at taking the silent third one’s mind of her running (I think she had a bit of hip pain or something).

13595938_10154369305520159_645699937_n
Stoke F.I.T. members (seen here at a summer event!) have a brilliant club ethos

Laura added something like if you could speak about seven words a sentence without gasping whilst running then that’s a fair indicator your breathing’s okay.

Despite the fact that I normally talk a lot, I couldn’t have uttered one word at that pace!

Another of the trio, Kirsty, emphasised the point was to be helpful and nobody is ever left alone on a Stoke F.I.T. training run – they’ll come back for you if need be.

This generosity of spirit is not just confined to team-mates, it extends to other runners too.

“It’s the club ethos. You can always tell if someone’s a ‘Fitter’ ‘cos that’s what we do”.

Once I’d fuelled up with tea and hot buttered toast at the Park Run Café, I joined another “Fitter” on the walk home, and got more running advice.

Lee advised me to “push from my glutes” (buttock muscles!) when running up hills (“it’s easier to push than pull”).

Isn’t it amazing? Slow or not, I’ve loved running since I was a teenager and I’m still learning!

 

 

 

Last

I am indebted to IronFat for this inspiring video – but it does handle my phobia of finishing last!

Basically it’s a call-to-arms to everyone who – like me – runs at the back of the pack.

Think about it – the winners have won, the elite runners will have got their breath back –  but the focus is on the shufflers for whom the event is far from over.

In the voiceover, the American actress Rooney Mara points out that  most searches for the word “marathon” will lead you to the fact that the first person to run the distance didn’t survive the experience!

Now I’ll be Googling this like crazy from now on because that’s the kind of gal I am, but meanwhile here’s the rest of the script:

“He died. And he was a runner.

“You are not a runner. You are especially not a marathon runner, but at the end of this – you will be.”

At this point the camera’s on the young woman right at the back. She’s out of puff, but she’s still going – and she’ll get there.

BTW the soundtrack is Aretha Franklin’s “Every Little Bit Hurts” – and at that stage of a marathon, it’s a pretty accurate assessment!

The guy who died?  Pheidippides – who is said to have run from the town of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.

Despite (I imagine) his military levels of fitness, had he specifically trained to run the distance?

Let’s face it, I don’t really think he’d really had a choice in the matter!

I wonder what he’d make of people who do?

As long as marathons exist people will run them – and the slowest ask only that there’s still a finish line at the end.

Good Luck to everyone in tomorrow’s London Marathon.

 

Blogiversary!

Well – give or take a couple of days, it’s my first Blogiversary!

In plaster

Breaking a bone in my foot which stopped me doing my favourite workouts was just the catalyst I needed – as I never have been an “ideas woman”, yet knew I needed to blog.

The idea was ultimately to give hope, not least to myself, but to anyone else for whom exercise is a way of life that’s suddenly taken away from them.me-xray-foot

I broke my fifth metatarsal in my left foot falling off the arm of the sofa whilst swatting at the smoke alarm – my boyfriend had been cooking sausages.

Gratitude is no bad thing. Today I just threw on my kit and did what I normally do, just go out for a run. This time last year that simply wasn’t an option.

therapeutic shoe - me
Ugh – just LOOK at that shoe!

We are talking a crazy-sized granny shoe and the geriatric “hobbling” which easily made me appear much older than my years.

And I’m comparatively lucky.

During the course of this blog I featured the story of Austin Rathe, who faced the real possibility of leg amputation after a road accident – and developed his resolve to run a marathon whilst recovering in hospital.

Detail from The Hostile Forces, Beethoven frieze, by Klimpt
Flab fear – I don’t want to look like this

I wanted a dancer who’d recovered from injury – and she came along in the unlikely form of Amber Kershaw, then aged nine, who’d recovered from a broken arm to street-dance on a competitive level.

Blogging is a steep learning curve and I’m still learning.

Part of the fun, of course, is seeing how well each blog post does – it really is quite fun looking at the stats.

In that respect, by far my most successful post was Maxing Out, which featured fellow blogger Christian Boyles, from Illinois, US, of Maxed Out Muscles.

guerrillas shakey selfie
Nerves? Yes! A shaky selfie just before my return to Guerrillas

 

Having suffered depression and flare-ups of Crohn’s Disease he told me: “I wanted to take control of my life and not allow myself to become sick again.”

Another high-hitter was Does Yoga Heal? a Q and A with my yoga instructor Espi Smith.

My inevitable fears over putting on weight led to an article on my pet hate – dieting. And I’ll level with you, the inevitable flabbiness caused by lack of exercise did impact on the choice of clothes I could wear for work in the unforgiving summer.

skeleton pray
Yup, I’ve learned to be grateful

Of course there were land-marks along the way in my recovery – getting the six-week all-clear at the fracture clinic, my return to running – and Guerrilla Training!

And whether I was able to run or not, I kept in regular contact with ParkRun – where, much to my surprise, I returned to do a Personal Best.

In the end it was simply a question of patience and letting the bone recover, as it inevitably did.

But this blog did (and still does , as I have no intention of finishing it) help tremendously.

So it’s true – Time really is the great healer.

Along with blogging!

The Marathon Women Who Defied Convention

It’s almost a year since I broke my foot – and started writing this blog.

In overcoming injury, it’s as much about people who say “Screw You!” to other barriers.

Like why women weren’t allowed to take part in marathons until relatively late in the 20th Century.0415_marathon-switzer

“I came home one day and I told my father I was going to be a cheerleader and I was practicing with things and he said ‘No, no you don’t want to be a cheerleader honey’.

“And I said ‘Why?’

“And he said ‘Cheerleaders are cheering on the side-lines for other people. You want to be in the game’.

“He said ‘Life is to participate, not to spectate'”.

Kathrine Switzer

The woman who became the world’s first female to complete a marathon “officially” (ie with a number) added – “What a thing to tell your little girl!”

Kathrine%20Switzer%20open-minded%20men
Switzer gets into her stride with her coach Arnie Briggs (wearing number 490)

What a thing indeed – given the fact that, as Switzer made history by running the Boston Marathon in 1967 aged 20, this paternal advice would’ve been given her in the 50’s, a period more associated with women belonging in the home rather than enjoying the same challenges as the men.

The Boston event is renowned for being tough – “It has humbled the greatest of runners,” according to the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, Bart Yasso.

With more then a hint of sarcasm, in a later interview, Switzer challenged the assumptions made in the 60’s – by people less broad-minded than her father:

“The idea of running long distance was always considered, very questionable for women, because any arduous activity would mean that you’re going to get big legs, grow a moustache and hair on your chest – and your uterus was going to fall out!”

1966
Bobbi Gibb after the 1966 Boston Marathon (photo courtesy of Yarrow Kraner)

In 1966 Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb hid in bushes at the start of the same event then merely joined in with the other runners – going on to complete the full distance.

Her application had been rejected by the race director mainly on the grounds that females were, supposedly, simply not physiologically capable of going that distance – yet the crowds cheered and cheered once they saw a woman running.

The following year, K V Switzer signed off her entry form using just her initials for her first names – thus giving no indication she wasn’t a guy.

At first it all went well, as the journalism student from Syracuse University pounded along with her coach Arnie Briggs and boyfriend “Big Tom” Miller, attracting cheerful surprise from the other runners when they realised she was a female.

But then the race organisers riding on the press bus spotted her.

“One of them was this feisty character by the name of Jock Semple. He just stopped the bus, jumped off and ran after me.

“Suddenly I turned and he just grabbed me and screamed at me ‘Get the Hell out of my race and give me those numbers!’

“And then he started clawing at me, started trying to rip my numbers off – and I was so surprised.

“He had the fiercest face of any guy I’d ever seen, and out of control, really. I was terrified!”

 espnw_a_switzer1_mb_576_576

As you can see in the pictures above, Switzer’s boyfriend, a hammer thrower, reacted arguably a little over zealously!

Anyway, if you’ve read as far as down here, you’ll want to know her finishing time – which was approximately 4 hours 20 minutes.

Switzer’s marathon glory days were only just beginning – she went on to win the women’s section of the 1974 New York City Marathon with a time of 3:07:29.

The following year she returned to the Boston Marathon – this time finishing second behind the German Liane Winter, whose win created a new world record at 2:42:24.

If any of the information in this post is factually inaccurate – and I sincerely hope it isn’t – please feel free to comment below.

 

 

Where’s That Duck?

This has got to be my happiest post since I started blogging.

20160220_094640
A young runner honks the duck to mark a personal best

Yesterday I ran a ParkRun personal best.

Believe you me I thought I would never improve – but I smashed my last time by a minute!

The last time I visited ParkRun, a broken bone in my foot simply meant I was unable to run.

It was then, however, I learned for the first time that, when you run a personal best, you get to Honk The Duck!

Even once my recovery was sufficient for me to start running again, concerns about finishing near the back – or, God forbid, even last – kept me away from Hanley ParkRun since March. And that’s nearly a year ago.

20160220_085837
At the start

 

Getting into the mind-set is everything – but I find this quote from John Bingham can help:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So, run I did.

ParkRun - duck honk
That’s him

 

Personally I really think the Guerrilla training really does help – particularly my least-favourite bit, the cardio!

The three-mile course does have quite a sharp hill right at the start, before you’re really into your stride.

Most times I immediately feel my lungs/heart protesting as the rest of the group surges ahead, but today that didn’t happen.

 

20160220_095820
Real live ParkRun ducks!

Needless to say, the support you get on the way round from marshals and other runners is fantastic – and towards the end a guy I know came back for me, and accompanied me on the last section, before letting me sprint to the finish.

Any duck-honking traditionally happens when you’re still at the bandstand, before said duck is packed away along with all the other equipment.

However, that only really applies to those who have timed themselves, as opposed to people like me who wait to get the result texted to them. I want to be accurate!

20160220_102329
Bryn’s daughter Millie was race director (here they are organising the data ready to send out)

 

By the time this happened I was sitting in the ParkRun “café” (a church hall), drinking tea and eating hot buttered toast!

Today my body gets a High Five from me for its ability to fully recover.

And it was a special day for the kids involved in ParkRun too – all the volunteer positions were manned by youngsters, who had an adult present where applicable.

Director of the Hanley event Bryn Holmes explained: “Well, we often have juniors that volunteer on a weekly basis so we decided to have juniors like the event director, all the way down to the marshals, the scanners – and even down to the ticket sorting-out…”

20160220_101635
Poppy, seven, sorts out the tickets after the run

 

“Hopefully one of the event directors of the future would’ve been here today – you never know!”

He admitted it was mainly the idea of his 11-year-old daughter Millie, who, with another girl, got to be run director – addressing the 232 runners before they all set off.

She admitted: “Yes I was nervous, because it could’ve all gone wrong! It was fun, but kind of harder than I expected.”

You can find out more about Hanley ParkRun here.

Anonymous Running

“I’m slow. I know. Get used to it”.

71fWMpjVt2L._SL1500_
Should a slow runner go undercover?

Trouble is – I can’t. 

When I did my first 10k (in Derby) I just knew a particular woman had “targeted” me to overtake. And in my second Robin Hood Half Marathon (Nottingham) I was almost ground down by the tapping behind me of a senior walker’s poles – just like the ticking of Captain Hook’s crocodile!

While I accept there’ll always be an element of competition when you’re in a race – and my challenge is not to finish last – it becomes even worse when you’re out running and minding your own business.

Me - Robin Hood 2010
I didn’t come last

It isn’t even always another runner – for some reason, I’ve had the odd man in his street clothes accidentally-on-purpose breaking into a run and overtaking me (on one occasion on a Nottingham towpath after taking an ostentatious drag of his cigarette). Like the presence a running woman is a threat to his virility?

Like, do I really need all this during what is often a coping strategy?

Suddenly you’re singled-out to be overtaken – and feel like a loser.

I have always been a bad loser!

So what gambits can I deploy to avoid this? Here are some:

  • Suddenly stopping to tie-up a perfectly tied shoelace
  • Abruptly remembering I have to check my mobile (however, I have yet to pretend I’m answering a call!)
  • Changing direction (not always possible)
  • Shock tactics – maybe sliding a hand down my leggings and scratching my groin/bum-crack (actually I haven’t tried this one yet)
  • Maybe I should get a T-shirt printed with a more pithy version of “For Christ’s sake yes I know I’m slow just b****r off!”
  • Simply yelling expletives at the offender (only the once, mind – as I did with the guy on the Nottingham towpath)

turtles-through-peanut-butter“Anonymous Running” is something I’m no stranger to – if only through covering my hair up with a baseball cap and hoping nobody will recognise me!

The cover of darkness is another option – but then of course I have to wear high vis clothing to ensure I don’t get run over, so I’m still conspicuous.  And I prefer daylight.

The great wilds of a remotely rural landscape are not a solution – I’m an urban runner through and through.

Maybe it’s my mental attitude that needs a work-out too?

After all, it takes a certain mind-set to always be a Good Sport.

Many thanks to IronFat and Hysterical Runner for inspiring this post. Rock on, sisters!

 

 

 

 

Maxing Out

Inspiration’s never far away in blog-land – and Christian Boyles, of Maxed Out Muscles, has provided yet more proof.

Christian advises a sensible approach
Christian advises a sensible approach

The 21-year-old, from Illinois, US, created his website after suffering a lot of depression and flare-ups of Crohn’s Disease.

For him, the crunch point came last summer.

Christian told me: “I said “Enough is ENOUGH” and I started taking control of my life. I feel that too often we take life’s punches and we just allow ourselves to be downtrodden. I wanted to take control of my life and not allow myself to become sick again.”

At his senior prom
At his senior prom

So, as well as doing his best to improve his own fitness – he made it his mission to take others with him on the journey, possibly motivating them to turn their lives around.

Inspiring enough? Christian modestly adds: “I don’t personally have experience with being injured, but here are some ideas I have…”

Unfortunately his advice does include watching what I eat and avoiding running! Fortunately I’m past that stage now LOL.

Christian doing cross-country in his junior year
Christian doing cross-country in his junior year

Here’s my Q & A

What adaptations should I make to my fitness regime?

You’re injured, and that was possibly out of your control. Or maybe it wasn’t? Use this time in your life where you are somewhat forced to rest…as a period of reflection. These next few months can be months where you:

1) Ask other people for tips and tricks on finding effective ways to deal with injury and prevent it from happening (Which you’re already doing!) Good for you 😉
2) Spend a lot of time focusing on other aspects of your life. Take this time to re-educate yourself on the basics.

3) Look into other hobbies related to fitness.

Christian believes Elliott Hulse's perspective changed after he injured a tendon
Christian believes Elliott Hulse’s perspective changed after he injured a tendon
Do you know anyone who’s survived injury to continue their exercise regime? 
Elliott Hulse tore his bicep tendon when he was lifting heavy weights. He had to have surgery done on his bicep and he began doing work on just one side of his body…
What I found really interesting about this is, after he tore that tendon and went through the surgery, his videos on YouTube started to have a different tone.
elliott hulse - strongerHis personality started shifting into what was a completely different perspective.
Before he tore that tendon he seemed like the muscle man that had something to prove and was yelling at the camera, and after he tore the tendon he seemed much wiser.
Can injury make people who enjoy exercise feel cut-off and even make them drop out altogether?never give up
I believe it can and I hope the people that quit can learn from that experience in some way.
I personally don’t think that quitting is the most resourceful path and if anyone reading this is thinking about giving up, please don’t.
The only positive way I feel you can quit “exercise” is if you replace it with something that is equally beneficial like reading and researching something that interests you and creating a new hobby.
No matter what you decide to do in response to the resistance life has placed in front of you, make sure you’re maturing because of it in some way.

Guerrillas in the Mist

I should be grateful my bone has healed!
I should be grateful my bone has healed!

A breather after a block of non-stop working means my exercise activities are totally unrestricted – and I’m loving it.

And as my Guerrillas instructor shouts commands to do burpees that send me scrambling to the floor, or boob-joggling star-jumps, I know I should be grateful.

I no longer hobble. I’m there – in the moment.

It’s worth enduring the rain (the “mist” in the title!) to get there.

That once-broken fifth metatarsal reminds me it’s there – I practically see it shining UV fluorescent green through the side of my shoe, through my skin.

Help me Doctor! Is it Guerrillas or gorillas?
Help me Doctor! Is it Guerrillas or gorillas?

My yoga instructor once told me this “reminder” is the bone’s way of protecting me!

All the same, it’s surreal. It now survives high impact exercises – not only Guerrillas – but running too.

I had to replace my mobile phone recently due to wear and tear – that option simply isn’t as readily available when it’s one of your feet.

Good job the body heals as well as it does!

My battle against vile, flabby, passive femininity – my War on Soft – is making satisfactory progress to date.

Leave the wings where they belong
Leave the wings where they belong

However my latest concern is – now the bingo wings are on their way out courtesy of my upper-body work – am I going to bulk-up?

After all I don’t want to end looking like a gorilla!

“(Women) should lift heavier since they cannot get bigger muscles because of low testosterone levels”, says exercise physiologist and author Dr Jason Karp.

Like, phew!

Another WordPress blog CrossFit Journal has offered some reassurance this won’t happen.

Leading cross-fitter Christmas Abbott is hardly 'bulky'
Leading cross-fitter Christmas Abbott is hardly ‘bulky’

With my short, stocky stature I fear I could go that way – but if I’ve being realistic, I’ve got a very long way to go before that happens, if indeed it does.

For a start, at the moment I can’t even pull myself up whether it’s on rings dangling from the ceiling or on a bar above my head – my arms simply aren’t strong enough to carry my full body weight.

That’ll change, of course!

I'll be able to do this - one day!
I’ll be able to do this – one day!

And the majority of people in today’s class were female (don’t ask me why but the male-dominated ones tend to be more in the evenings) – and I’d say most of them don’t want to bulk-up either!

Frankly, as someone who prides themselves on being unfeminine and unladylike I’m shocked at my typically girly fear of becoming muscular, especially when I know how irrational it is, given my existing knowledge.

I reckon I need to start balancing out the cardio and reintroducing long runs.

It’s all a work in progress – but I’m on it!