So I am sitting at my desk on Friday night. Donations are literally flying into my fundraising page and I am now safely over £3000 and on my way to £4000. Such wonderful generosity from everybody who has donated, and I am genuinely touched by it.
As I type this, it is slightly under 40 hours until I start my London Marathon run.
If you want to track me on the way round, just follow this link (using a mobile phone) and it will take you to the app and you can track my progress. My start time is just after 11am Sunday.
Final preparations are underway at the Snook household. Well I say underway, but essentially all I have done is gone and gotten my leg taped up by good old Trevor, and that is about it so far. There is still plenty of time for preparation, so no need to rush.
In case anybody is wondering from the photos, I should probably cover two things
Yes I did shave one leg before I had the tape applied. One shaved leg is a strong look, so I might just keep it.
Yes, I do have a tattoo of Ron Swanson on my calf (along with a few others).
Its a shame to cover Ron over, but I am sure he would understand. In fact, I doubt Ron would look very kindly on running marathons, as he would probably find it all a bit unnecessary, but luckily it is me running it and not him.
The girls presented me with a little present earlier, which is now attached to my shoe. I absolutely love it, and every time I look down at my feet in exhaustion this message will be looking back at me.
Any nerves that I was feeling have shifted now, and I am just excited to be running London and very proud to have inspired so many people to donate to my fundarising.
All that is left now is to pack my bag in the morning, head up to the city, collect my race pack, one nice relaxing sleep and then I am off. 26.2 miles round London. All the sights, all the sounds. The crowd cheering and (with a bit of luck) my body holding together. It is a strange thing to say, but I do love running marathons.
I have been threatening to retire to anybody who will listen to me complain about my running. Have a year off and pick back up from scratch. But being so close to the race I know now that this is incredibly unlikely to happen. I love the challenge of these events, love supporting the charities I have fundraised for over the years and only a moron would give all that up.
I might take a bit of time off though, cause I have London to Brighton Bike Ride on 18th June . 8 weeks or so to train for that. Should be fine! One thing at a time though. London Marathon first.
Once again, thank you each and every one of you who have donated. It means so much to me, so much to Michelle and her son, and so much to Daisys Dream.
So it is Monday evening last week. Monday 3rd April. My final long run of my trianing plan. All the hard work (barring this one run) is done. I am feeling fit and looking forward to my training slowing down in my run into the Marathon on the 23rd.
Setting off, I felt great. Springy legs that felt good and I was happily chatting away to Ant (my running partner for the evening). It was a beautiful clear sky. The sunset was stunning and we were just two mates, slowly making our way along a 28km out and back run route.
Then it happens. 5km into the run. A calf twinge. “Nothing to worry about” I thought. These sorts of little twinges happen often when running and usually you can run them off within a few kilometres. Except I could not run this one off. The further we got the more and more my calf hurt. Getting to the half way point, it was agony. Our pace was slow, and turning around we got to the 18km mark and I had to start walking. We walked-ran-walked-ran the rest of the way home. Taking a little shortcut we got back to my place having completed 26km. My right calf was in pieces!
The pain of keeping moving on this calf was the worst pain I have ever run with. Worse than when I broke 3 ribs at Race to the King after 6 miles and had 49 more miles to go. Running with broken ribs hurt less than this calf injury. I knew that I had done something major. How major I was not sure, but limping up to bed after my shower I had a deep sadness in my heart.
Waking up the next day I couldn’t put my foot down to walk on it. This was one week ago today (as I am writing this). 18 days from the marathon and I had my 3rd running injury of my training plan, and by far the worst. I am simply gutted. Sadness washes over me. I feel robbed. All I wanted to do was to run London injury free. I have done EVERYTHING right in my training. I have not pushed myself too hard. I have listened to my body, trained properly, built up the training properly, done everything you are supposed to do. My aging body has let me down at the final hurdle. Feels like I have been punched in the gut.
After a day or two of limping about and feeling sorry for myself the calf feels a tiny bit better. I contacted Trevor (my coach and the only person I trust to advise me on all things related to running, swimming, cycling) and asked what he thought. He diagnosed a calf tear over the phone, but told me to rest one more day, try a run and if it goes again, it is defo a calf tear. If it is OK, then it might just be a bad cramp. Fingers crossed for the bad cramp.
Wake up next morning (this is Friday 7th April now, 16 days before the marathon), trainers on and out the door I go for an EXTREMELY gentle 5km run. 1.8km into the run my calf goes, again. Bit more instant pain this time and it definitely does not feel like cramp. More like a ripping sensation from the inside towards the middle, about half way up the calf. That is it. It’s a calf tear. 100%. I turn around and limp home.
Appointment is booked with Trevor ASAP (which was today, Tuesday 11th April, 11 days till the marathon). He puts me and my calf through our paces and diagnoses me with a calf tear. Trevor tells me that recovery time is somewhere between 3-8 weeks for the severity of tear that I have. I have 11 days. Now it is clearly impossible to cram 3-8 weeks recovery into 11 days.
Trevor knows me well. It was him that gave me the belief I could complete an Ironman years ago. Him that taught me the mental resilience it takes to be an endurance athlete. So he knows I am stubborn. He also knows that I have raised a tonne of money for charity so far, and that there is no way I am not turning up to the start line.
Trevor carefully explains to me what I need to do. A bucket load of strength work on the calf. 3 sessions a day ideally, with no days off. It needs to be worked hard to encourage the recovery. This is going to hurt. He knows it, and I know it, but neither of us care. If it is what I need to do, then it is what I need to do. He will strap my calf up before the marathon, which will help. I will devise a walk-run strategy for the day to make sure I get round the race. I will make the start line, and more importantly, the finish line.
That being said. my dreams of running London Marathon injury free are in tatters. I am probably going to be the only person on the start line with a torn calf. I know that pretty much every other runner would withdraw from the race. But this is simply not an option for me. Not this close. Not after I have worked so hard.
The funniest part about all of this, is the people who know me well. Trevor, my wife, my running mates, none of them have tried to persuade me to withdraw. In fact, not a single one has even mentioned the idea to me. They know how determined I am. How seriously I take the fundraising and the honour of running for Daisy’s Dream.
So in 11 days time I will be on the start line. My leg will be taped up like a mummy. I will have done God only knows how many calf raises and strenghtening exercises. Despite all this, I will be INCREDIBLY nervous. Will my calf hold out? How long might it be into the race before it goes again? Will I have to walk the entire marathon (I really hope not)? I could be staring down the barrell of my slowest ever marathon. In fact, this is more than likely.
My start time is not till 11am. If it takes me 7 hours (which it might) I will be finishing at 6pm. Everybody will have gone home. I will probably have the clean up crew following me round. How utterly embarassing.
This is not the London experience I was hoping for, but it is the one I am going to have. I am facing hour upon hour of pain. Will I be able to enjoy the sights and the crowd? Let’s hope so. Will I finish last? Let’s hope not.
After London I am taking a year off running. Time to recuperate, strenghten up, swim and cycle and lift weights, climb some mountains, enjoy my yoga and rehabilitate my body. Running is too much for me. These injuries, the terrible lows that they cause me to go through both mentally and physically. They just don’t feel like they are worth it any more. It is a sad realisation, but one I have already made peace with.
I need to face the fact that I am not a good runner. I never will be. Whether I will return to running, I don’t know. I absolutely love it, but it does not love me, and sometimes when you have a relationship with something or somebody that you love, but it does you no good, you have to let it go.
Fear not though dear reader, if you have used your hard earned cash to sponsor me, it has not been in vain. I will be at the start line. Nothing will stop me. And I will make it to the finish. I have absolutely no doubt on that. None what so ever. It may take me 5 hours, it may take me 7, but I will cross that line.
If there is anybody reading this who has not sponsored me yet, and you feel sorry for my dumb ass and want to help me, popping some money into my fundraising pot would cheer me up beyond belief. I am currently at almost £2500. So close to half way towards target. It would be amazing to get to £3500 before the race. At least some good can come from what (if I am honest) has been the hardest training experience of my life.
Plus, this may be your last ever chance to sponsor me. So you better make the most of it. 🙂
Hope you are all well out there in blog reading land, and I will update you soon on my rehab progress.
It’s Sunday 27th March. 7pm has come around. I have waited all day to head out for my training run today as the weather was supposed to clear, which it has.
I wearily gather up my running vest so I can carry some nutrition, my head torch (cause despite the clocks going forward, it’s still going go get dark), kiss the wife and kids goodbye and then out into the twilight I go.
Heading up to the Havant road my path takes me westwards before I turn south and head onto Portsea Island (the island which Portsmouth city is on). Jogging past houses and flats, I am instantly struck by how much more you notice when running than any other form of locomotion.
I have driven, cycled and walked down this road hundreds, if not thousands of times, but running seems to allow me to take more in that any other method of getting about. I notice roads I have never noticed before, little cut through alleyways and paths weaving between the houses and flats. I am struck by the beauty of the twilight. It is quieter than I expected, and even though I am on a busy dual carriageway style urban road, there are few cars about.
Making my way further west the flats become a bit less frequent and more of the sky becomes visible, and it is a beauty. We often get stunning reds and oranges in our sunsets in Portsmouth, especially over the Solent, but todays sunset is lilac and purple and deep blue. There is a real “other worldly” sense about the night tonight. Dawn and dusk are by far my favourite parts of any day, but I think I especially enjoy sunset. The hustle and bustle of the daytime is giving way to the relative peace and tranquility of the night. The birds flying overhead are finding their nightime resting roosts, and not quite yet, but in a few weeks time the bats will be out, hoovering up insects as they expertly weave their way around the urban landscape. There is always great beauty to be found, if you just look around a bit.
Eventually I turn south, crossing over (or under in this case) the M27 and then making my way round the very top of Portsmouth Harbour. There is nobody about, and as I make my way past Hilsea Lido and then shortly afterwards, the SouthCoast Wakepark I am actually feeling fairly decent. I am just over 5km into my half marathon (21km, or 12.1 miles for those of use who like ancient units of measurement) and have completed the distance in about 35 minutes, which is far from fast, but perfect training pace.
They have recently updated the path around this part of Portsmouth Harbour, and they have done a great job. It is a great area to cycle or rollerblade or run or whatever, but tonight, other than an odd cyclist and a very occasional runner, I am out here on my own.
As my distance increases my pace slows a little, but this is inevitable. I am not as well trainied as I should be at this stage of my marathon training plan, but then again I never ever am, so this is par for the course. Never-the-less, I plod on, turning left again and making my way east across Portsmouth through North End. The houses here are mostly old Victorian terrace housing built around the turn of the century (1900 not 2000) and they have large bay windows and high ceilings. I have always loved this type of architecture and ponder to myself how so much of it is still in such good condition. I doubt when these houses were built anybody expected people to still be living in them 100 years later.
The occasional sickly sweet smell of what must be rather pungent cannabis hits my nostrils as I pass certain houses. “Clearly they are having a chilled one tonight” I think to myself, contemplating if they hear me shuffle past from inside their living room and are wondering to themselves what the hell somebody is doing out running. It is now about 8.30pm, I have been out for about an hour and I am going along nicely.
It is always strange where your mind goes to when you run long distances. More than an hour, and my mind seems to just relax into it. As long as I am not aching or struggling too much, I achieve a sort of Zen like state. I suppose it is the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the ground, the relaxed but elevated breathing, my heart going quicker than at rest, but I find the entire thing very relaxing. No sooner am I thinking how lovely and relaxing it is, than I turn south again and straight into the wind.
Now it is almost always windy in Portsmouth, so running in a breeze is standard fare for me. Running into the wind makes it a bit more tough going, but I soldier on past houses where old friends used to live, filled with memories of fun times. Many of these friends have left Portsmouth now, but the memories of BBQ’s and watching football matches and just hanging out remain. Great times.
Eventually turning back to the east and then northwards, I am out onto the Eastern Road and making my way North towards home. Now somehow (and I have no idea how) the wind is still into my face. Portsmouth has a unique way of channeling the wind so you always feel like you are running into it, and tonight is no different.
Slogging up the path to the side of the dual carriageway I am cursing the stupid wind. I am starting to feel pretty tired now and the last thing I need is the wind hampering my progress. I know that I have to do 10 miles (16km) before I will turn down the cycle path that runs along the north side of Langstone Harbour and the will be sheltered from the wind, but I am a few kilometres from that yet.
Approaching the 10 mile mark I start to get a bit of a second wind (pardon the pun). 10 miles always seems like a significant distance to me and I pick up my pace ever so slightly. I change from my usual audiobooks that I like to listen to when running, to a comedy podcast (The Wolf and Owl – extremely highly recommended) and turn onto the path that signifies the final leg of my journey. My kids call this path the “Dead Rat Trail” because they once saw a dead rat here, and imagining them talking about it amuses me as I complete the trail, turn north, then quickly west and am finally on the Havant road back home.
Arriving back at the house, I have completed a half marathon in just over 2hrs 30 mins, which is a good time for a training run, and most importantly, I have run the entire way without stopping and don’t feel like I am going to die, which is always a bonus.
I’m starting to feel like a proper runner again, which I am loving. It feels good to be able to go out and run long and enjoy it. Is a proper little bit of tranquility in an otherwise crazy world.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you made it to the end, thank you for sticking with me. Just to remind you that all this training is in aide of the London Marathon for Daisy’s Dream, so if you can donate to my fundraising effort I would really appreciate it.
Its last Wednesday, just after lunch. I am having one of those days where I have tonnes to do but am getting nothing done. Sometimes it just goes like that. It’s been raining non-stop in England for what feels like forever. I genuinely can’t remember the last time that I saw the sun shining. Its grey, damp and depressing.
As I look out of my home office window onto the street the rain is coming down sideways. The wind is howling and it looks very much like there might be a bit of thunder. Another joyous winter day in England.
My motivation to do anything is virtually zero. I am moping about the house, trying to get my work done whilst figuring out if I need yet another coffee, something to eat, to do 1000 press ups or just to slack it all off and go to bed.
I am grumpy, and I am getting increasingly grumpy just about being grumpy. Fed up and I’ve just had enough. It is starting to get dark outside, but then again, it is pretty much totally dark even during the daytimes when the weather is like this.
Thinking back on my running career, I realise it is time to take action. To sort my life out. I wearily troop upstairs and dig out some running gear. Waterproof running top on, I stash a headtorch in the pocket and head out into the rain. ‘My god this weather is awful’ I think to myself as I head out the door.
Off I go on my usual 7ish km route that I regularly run. Out along the main road I plod, but quickly after I get going I start to feel better. Running can have this effect on you. Luckily, I am running with the wind, so as the rain lashes against my back I get a little boost. It is always easier running with the wind. That being said, the rain is so hard that it is stinging my calves as I make my way down the Havant road towards Langstone Harbour.
Right on queue, the thunder starts. A huge flash of light, followed very quickly by an enormous boom that sounds like the heavens are splitting in two. The storm must be right on top of me. I can only imagine what the car drivers are thinking as they see some lunatic runing down the road in a thunderstorm, their wheels sending up huge waves of water, soaking me through as they drive through the enormous puddles on the roadside. The thunder and lightening continues, flashes lighting up the dark clouds as the sky rumbles above me. Whenever I am out running and there is a thunderstorm, I always think back to the ancient people of earth. How scary it must have been for them, not knowing what is causing this apocalyptical noise. The Gods were definitely angry.
Soon I make my way through to an offroad section which leads to the harbour. I am sliding around all over the place in the mud. My road shoes have zero grip and I am forced to stop and turn on my headtorch. It is dark as hell.
The mud gives way to more tarmac, and as I turn along the harbourside, suddenly I am straight into the wind. The rain lashes at my face, stinging my eyes. My waterproof jacket is useless in this weather, having been soaked through by the car splashes, and I can feel water leaking through my shoulders and chest.
This really is the most horrendous running conditions, and I am absolutely LOVING it.
I am grinning like an idiot as I turn and make my way back across the M27 bridge and turn back for home. This is not some sort of massochistic joy, though you would not be mistaken in thinking that it was. My smile is because I know that runs like this are worth so much more than just the exercise itself.
Whilst I am always hopeful for good weather at the races that I run, good weather is far from guaranteed. Thinking back on it, I have run Beachy Head Marathon in the strongest wind I have ever been outside in. I ran the Mouth to Mouth Marathon during a horrendous hail storm, and the marathon at the end of my ironman triathlon was rain very similar to today (you can see this for yourself in this video of me and my mate Bushy crossing the finishing line). I even completed the Owler half ironman when literally half of the field had to stop on the bike leg because the rain was so hard you couldn’t see where you were going. I didn’t stop of course. Why would I? I finished last in that race, but at least I finished.
So I am no stranger to completing races in shocking conditions, and there is absolutely no guarantee that when I run London Marathon in 14 weeks time the weather will be good.
This is why these runs count triple. Firstly, you are out there running in the first place. Secondly, nobody else is mad enough to go out in these conditions and I could have easily just stayed in the house and done something else. Finally (and most importantly) Iare building up my mental reserves. These mental reserves are vital, cause if it is shocking weather on the day of your race at least I am conditioned for it. Preparation is vital, after all.
Getting home from the run, I felt great. After a quick shower I was able to focus, get on with my work and turn what would have been an unproductive day into a very productive one. This is the power that running can have, especially running in conditions that no sane person would even go outside in!
During this run I had a couple of phone calls. My wife rang me to see what I was up to, and wasn’t even slightly surprised that I was out running in the torrential rain. She is used to these sorts of antics now, and after a short conversation she just said “I’ll leave you to it, see you at home later.” No “take care, the weather is awful” or “what the hell are you doing out running in this”. This really amused me. I know that she is always worried about me when I am doing this crazy stuff, but I always make it home in the end and she knows the value of runs like this and how much I need running in my life.
I also briefly spoke to Vicky from Daisy’s Dream, the charity that I am running London Marathon for. She was substantially more shocked than my wife that I was out running in the awful weather, but when I caught up with her the next day she too understood the value of going out in all conditions.
I suppose the moral of the story is that when you are in a funk, sometimes a bit of exercise is all that you need. Not all of us are lucky enough to be fit enough to run. Every day I count my lucky stars that I am in good enough condition at the moment to do some exercise. I have spent long periods of time injured and unable to exercise as I would like. But right now I am feeling good. Fitness is improving and I am proud that I went out in the awful conditions and am even more proud to be running for Daisy’s Dream.
My next post will be all about them and my fundraising endeavours this year. London Marathon is just the start of things for me. The first in a series of events this year to raise money for some very deserving charities. Times are hard in the UK right now. Most of us are cold at home cause the heating bills are so high. We are struggling to make ends meet. I know that. But at these times charity becomes even more important. This is why I will fundraise hard this year, because charities are hit the hardest during tough times. The work that they do is so very vital and so many people rely on them, and by proxy, they rely on people like me to hopefully motivate people like you to donate some of your hard earned money to keep them running and enable them to maintain the vital services they provide to those less fortunate than us.
Anyway, its a nice sunny day today (the first one that I can remember). Blue skies are shining outside my window and the world seems like a better place for it.
Even better, I am going out for dinner tonight with the lads from my NCT crew. We met during NCT classes when our first kids were all due to be born and have remained friends since, so I am excited to see them and catch up.
Hope all is well with you guys who are reading this. For all your runners out there, next time it is awful weather and you don’t want to run, think of me grinning my way round a 7km run in a thunderstorm and perhaps put your shoes on and head out yourself. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself.
Just writing this sentence makes me sad, dear reader, but write it I must. The three words no runner, cyclist, swimmer, golfer, tiddlywinker or any other type of sportsman wants to say.
I AM INJURED
Sadly not just a little niggling injury. It appears to be an actual proper injury. Its my knee. My right knee to be more precise. As somebody messaged me the other day, “When you are in your 20’s you have a right knee and a left knee. When you are in your 40’s you have a good knee and a bad knee.”
Well in my case this is very true, and my bad knee is my right one.
I can run about 8km (5 miles), and then at that point my knee really starts to hurt. I was once told that on a scale of 1-10, pain above a 4 means you should stop. I am easily at a 7 by the time I have done 8km.
Being as incredibly stubborn as I am, I could probably keep going (all be it a bit slower) and run further on this bad knee. But I can’t escape the thought that I am probably doing it more damage than good by doing this.
This is all fairly disastrous news when it comes to the London Marathon in about 12 weeks time, but fear not dear reader, all is not lost. Cause when the chips are down, you need a crazy plan. And I am the KING of crazy plans.
Step up somebody who has featured on my blog before. Mr Trevor Payne. Trevor is an ex-professional Ironman, who is now one of the leading biometric coaches in the country. I am also proud to call Trevor a friend. I have attended countless training sessions with him, seen him for physio assessments in the past and there is nobodies judgement I trust more closely than his when it comes to all things endurance and physiological.
Limping back from a failed run recently, I gave Trevor a call. Realising I was not helping my knee one bit by carrying on running, I had already hatched a plan, but wanted his approval. The plan goes like this.
No more running for a while. Worst case scenario, one run a week of up to 8km (stopping before my knee really hurts)
Perform the majority of my marathon fitness work on my bike. Utilising the turbo trainer as much as possible with perhaps a long bike ride outside at the weekend.
Plenty of strength work (prescribed by Trevor) to work on stabilising this dodgy knee.
Keep up the yoga and flexibility work, cause this always helps.
Re-introduce some extra running closer to the marathon date and see how it feels.
Turn up on the day, man up more than you have ever manned up before, and get that marathon done.
Trevor has endorsed my plan with flying colours. So, the wheels have come off for “traditional” marathon training, which involves a lot of running, but the wheels are very much back on for this alternative marathon training plan.
So my friends, here we have it. I will still be at the start line of London Marathon. But I am very likely to be there having run less that I have ever done in preparation for a marathon before.
Many people, especially seasoned runners, would consider me insane for attempting to run a marathon with only a relatively small amount of running miles under my belt. Conventional wisdom has you running up to 20 miles on your longest run, with some running plans having literally 100’s of weekly miles required. But who cares about conventional wisdom? Not me!
I am very likely to turn up on the day having not even recently run a half marathon. But I will be in good shape by then. I am determined to get as much cardiovascular fitness as possible. And Trevor will make sure my knee is as well recovered as it can be.
Bloody mindedness and sheer determination will take care of the rest.
As a great endurance athlete once said “how hard can it be”.
If you are not familiar with DEFCON statuses, then you have clearly not seem the 1983 film War Games. And if you have not seen the film War Games, then you should immediately stop what you are doing, go and watch War Games, then come back and read the rest of this. Because you clearly have not lived.
Now you have seen War Games and are familiar with the DEFCON statuses, you will understand that DEFCON 4 is not good. We are very close to full blown panic here people. And this is precisely where I find myself. Let me tell you a little story, dear reader.
So today is Good Friday. Which is something to do with Jesus. Anyway, it is a bank holiday which means that you don’t have to work. Except in my case I did do a bit of work this morning. Even though it is bank holiday. But that is not the point so I will shut up about it.
Anyway I woke up, did a bit of work, tidyed up the garden and got ready for our friends who were coming round for a BBQ. Now usually this would be a good opportunity for me to relax and have a few beers, but I wanted to go for a run, so no beers for me.
We had a lovely BBQ, the kids played in the garden, it was warm (but not too warm) and all was well.
After everybody had gone about 7.30pm it was time for my run. A simple 35 minute route that I have run 1000 times. I was happy with myself for eating well during the day and not having any drinks and was ready to run.
No sooner had I set out of the door and started running that my right hip flexor immediately screamed out in pain. Now I had warmed up properly and was running slowly, but it instantly hurt, a lot. Now this is nothing new for me. My hip flexors fail all the time and they hurt a lot when I run, but usually after about 20 miles or so, not 20 metres.
On I plodded, hip flexor screaming with every stride and then I started to feel like I was running through treacle. Like the air itself was thick. Like running in a swimming pool. Goodness me it was hard. My heart rate was way too high for the pace I was doing and I could not get any air in. I checked my watch, I had run 800 metres!
Slowing down, I kept on going, hoping these early run niggles would go away and I could get into my stride. How wrong I was. The hip pain was then joined by knee pain on the same side. I could not shake the thought in my head spinning round and round. “You are going to have to walk” it kept saying to me. Walk. Fecking Walk! I had done just over 1km and I was having to walk. But walk I did. I had absolutely nothing in the tank.
Now this was not a great situation to be in. I am not the best runner in the world, but I can run a bit. Under normal circumstances I can easily run for 35 minutes, but this is clearly not normal circumstances.
I was angry with myself. Angry that my lungs seem to have packed up and not get any air in. That my muscles and body seemed to be as tired as it would be at the end of an Ultra Marathon. Understandable in an Ultra Marathon. Not so understandable after 1km of running.
Now there is nothing wrong with walking. In fact, I walk a lot during my marathons, but this was not a marathon. This was a 35 minute run that there should be no walking. So I decided to run again. And run I did, slowly, for about 100 metres, and then I had to stop, again. And this is how it went for a while. Run for a bit, get exhausted, walk, run for a bit, get exhausted, you get the idea.
20 minutes into my “run” and I had covered just over 2km. Not good. I felt awful. I was very sad and angry and I did not understand. A mental checklist went through my mind.
Am I overtrained – No
Did I sleep well last night – Yes
Any boozing – No
Diet decent – Yes
Did I run recently and that is why I am struggling – No
There was no obvious reason. As the time wound on I was just getting more and more upset. I felt so sad I could cry. How the hell am I ever going to be able to run a marathon for Daisy’s Dream if I can’t even run for 35 minutes? I am a better runner than this. But clearly that is not the case.
40 minutes into the run and the 5km distance clocked up on my watch with a unceremonious beep. The beep almost felt like it was mocking me. Stupid watch. I was about 1km from home and it may as well have been 100. There I was, in my full run gear with running vest, cap, shorts and trainers walking down the main road back to my house. Like an overweight fella who thought he could run but clearly could not. Shuffling along like a useless blob. I was sad and angry in equal measure, so I forced myself to run. I can run 1km. Just run. Run Snooky, run.
So I ran, for about 200 metres and then my back started to hurt. So now I have the following things wrong with me.
My right hip flexor is agony each time my foot hits the groud
My right knee is hurting me
I cannot get any air into my lungs at all
I feel like I am running through treacle
My back hurts
All this after 5km of “running”. A marathon is 42km. I have done many of them. I quickly worked out that at the pace I had run I would be looking at a 6hr 30 minute marathon finishing time. You can walk one faster than that!
So I walked, again. All the way home. It took me 55 minutes to complete a loop that normally takes 35. For those mathemeticians amongst us, that is an increase of 57.14%.
And now I am sitting here, writing this blog. My hips are aching me. My shoulders ache. My left knee is now a bit sore. From a 6km walk with a bit of running. Absolutely and completely pathetic.
I know what I am going to do about this. The same thing that I always do. But I will tell you what that is another time.
Enjoy your Easter weekend people. Hope that the sun shines and you get lost of nice chocolate eggs to scoff down and that if you do go out running, it is better than mine. Though you would do well to make it worse.
So, only one week and one day later than planned, Project 80 launches today.
Project 80 is simple. I need to weight 80kg or less by the time I get to run London Marathon. Ideally, it could do with being closer to 75kg I think, but 80 is probably more realistic.
Before we get into why this is important, I am aware that some of you cannot figure out kilograms (kg) and may prefer weight measurements to be in stone and pounds (st, lbs) or just pounds (lbs). I will do my best to do the relevant conversions for you as we go though this.
So, a long time ago I wrote a blog post explaining why weight is particularly important in running. At the time I was training for a 100 mile ultra marathon (which I never even made the start line of) but if you want to read this you can find it here. Time to Address the Elephant in the Room
The basic premise is this.
When you run the ground force through your joints is 2 – 2.9 times your body weight each time your foot hits the ground
A marathon is 42,000 metres. Assuming I travel a metre per stride, that is 42,000 foot strikes
If I weight 100kg (15st 10lbs, 220lbs) then this is 100 x 2.5 (if we take the average from the first point) x 42,000 which equals 10,500,000kg of force my legs have to absorb over a marathon distance.
If I weigh 80 kg (12st 8lbs, 176lbs) this number reduces to 8,400,000kg of force, a reduction of 2.1 million kg of force my body has to absorb
The largest bull elephants weigh about 6000kg, so the reduction in impact force is around 350 elephants worth. Thats quite a lot.
Then things get even more interesting. According to a podcast I listened to a long time ago (which I now cannot find to reference) athetic performance increases roughly 5% for every 10% of bodyweight you drop, assuming that you only drop fat and maintain muscle. Now bearing in mind I want to drop about 20-25% bodyweight (I currently weight more than 100kg (220lbs or 15st 10lbs) I could be looking at a performance increase of 10% or more. This would mean that my current marathon speed of around 12.5 minute miles would improve to possibly sub 11 minute miles, which would improve my marathon finish time from 5hrs 30 minutes to around 4hrs 48 minutes.
Now all of the above is just based on weight alone. It does not factor in improvements in fitness that can be made from training. It is only taking into account my current level of fitness and my current weight vs my ideal racing weight. So if I get the training right and the weight loss right I could be closing in on 4hr 30min marathon, or perhaps less.
Whilst marathon running is not all about finishing times, believe me being out there for an hour less is a good thing. Marathons are hard. Really hard. You usually feel OK up to around mile 18-20, then you face 6-8 miles of pain and suffering to get over the line. If that pain and suffering can last a bit less time that can only be a good thing.
All things considered it is a good idea to weigh less than I do when running. Quite a lot less in fact. So, for the 133rd time of trying, I am going to have to lose weight. Something that is relatively easy to do in your 20’s, trickier in your 30’s and very hard to do in your 40’s. Combined with the fact that endurance exercise is not actually that good for weight loss (I will blog about this another time) and the fact that too much training tends to break my body anyway, basically I am just going to have to eat a lot less.
I really like food though. That is how I got into this position in the first place 🙂
Then again, if White Goodman can succeed on his weight loss journey and almost lead the Cobras to victory against Honest Joes in the American Dodgeball Association of America International Dodgeball Competition then I am sure I can do the same, and run London at a weight substantially less than I am right now.
So off we go. Not only do I need to train hard and rest and recover, but I will be needing to do this on a calorie deficit. Should be fun.
Next post will be about running and not about being overweight, I promise.
To track Project 80 and see how well (or not) I am getting on please use the Project 80 page
So here we go again. Another event signed up for, but this one is a biggun and it is VERY special to me.
I have been selected for a charity place for the London Marathon in October and I will be running for the wonderful Daisy’s Dream.
Daisy’s Dream specialise in supporting children through bereavement. I was asked to run for them by a lovely friend of mine called Michelle. Daisy’s Dream supported her son through some tough times after Michelle’s husband took his own life when her son was only small.
Michelle has been a long time supporter of Daisy’s Dream, and when they asked her if she knew anybody who might want to run the London Marathon and raise some money for the charity, I was delighted when Michelle thought of me.
Running London has been a dream of mine ever since I started all this running mullarkey about 9 years ago (at the ripe old age of 34)! The chances of getting a ballot place are now very slim (even though I have tried every year) so the opportunity to take on a rare charity spot for such a great charity is one I am truly honoured to have.
I will post more about Michelle’s story and the charity themselves as my training increases towards the race on the 2nd October this year. There is plenty of time for that. I know what you are really wanting to know about dear reader, and that is “what sort of condition are you in to even run a marathon Snooky?”
Well, as you asked, let me summarise my current level of fitness and general health below.
I am currently 20kg heavier than I have ever been when attempting a race like this.
My right knee is not in good condition. This is caused by my right leg being a lot weaker than my left for no obvious reason.
I had about 2 months off of any exercise over Christmas due to a back spasm caused by playing golf!
I can’t really run more than about 5km, and even if I do run 5km it is slower than I have ever been.
At the time of writing this, I am positive with Covid-19
Reading the above, you may well think to yourself that I have no right to be doing anything other than just sitting on the sofa and smashing out the Netflix documentaries. And you would probably be right. But there are a few things that you have probably not considered in all this. A few things that I should make you aware of so we can all start my new blogging journey off on the right foot.
I can and will lose the 20kg extra that I am carrying before I run London (see Project 80).
This right knee problem can be fixed. Losing the weight will massively help, plus I can work on strength and mobility to help with this.
The problematic back can be kept in check with Yoga and mobility work and perhaps playing less golf (though this last one is never going to happen)
5km is pretty good for somebody who doesn’t run much any more. Plus, I will get quicker and my endurance will improve with trianing
Covid will be gone soon.
The final thing to consider in all of this, and probably the most important one, is that my motivation to complete this race and raise money for Daisy’s Dream could not possibly be higher. With the right level of motivation, anything is possible.
I will be throwing absolutely everything into my training to get my body and mind into the best shape possible before the race in October.
It has been a long while since I have regularly blogged, so am committed to keeping this up to date once or twice a week right up to the race and beyond.
I do have some much bigger endurance racing goals for 2023 and beyond, but for the time being lets focus on the task in hand and get ready for London Marathon 2022.
Hope you are all safe and well out there in the world and managing to dodge Covid as best you can. Take care all and speak soon.
For those of you who remember this blog from before, or even the previous incarnation (known as Iron Snook), you will be relieved, excited and all round thrilled to learn that the blog is back.
For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time, please let me bid you a hearty welcome.
I have decided to start writing this again as we are living in rather crazy times and I wanted to provide a little oasis of sanity, and perhaps hope, as the world falls apart around us.
OK, perhaps this is a bit overly dramatic, but certainly modern Britain looks a lot different than it did a year ago. That being said, some things have not changed. Crucial to this blog, the things that have remained consistent are:
I am a very very very bad runner.
I still have the innate ability to gain 1 or 2kg in weight by just glancing towards a piece of cake. That’s right folks, I don’t even have to eat it any more. I just need to look at cake to absorb its calories. Rather a shit super power, but I guess you don’t get to choose your gifts.
My reach still exceeds my grasp (more on this later).
I am still terrified of failure.
Remember when Han Solo gets defrosted from the carbonite in Jabba’s Palace? In fact I have no idea why I am asking, of course you remember that. One of the best scenes in Star Wars. Anyway, after he is unfrozen and chucked in a prison cell Chewbacca tells him that Luke Skywalker has become a Jedi Knight. Han exclaims in disbelief “I am out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of grandeur”.
Well “delusions of grandeur” perfectly describes my current project, trying to run the South Downs Way 100 in June 2021. I have already failed twice in 2020 to complete this race. Luckily for me, Covid came to the rescue and the 2020 summer race was postponed until November, to then be postponed again to June 2021. I was not ready for either of the 2020 races and would not have made the start line.
Despite the fact that I failed to avoid injury and train up to make this race twice before, my “delusion of grandeur” allows me to think, for some unknown reason, that this summer might be different. That for some reason, though I have been physically incapable of making the start line twice before, that history will not repeat itself. That this time it will be better.
You never know though, I might just get away with it. I wrote a training plan back in December and have stuck to it so far. I am trying as hard as I can to get a bit of weight off. I am doing Yoga and mobility work 3 times a week minimum. I am lifting weights regularly to maintain core and muscle strength. I have even given up beer!
So now all I have to do is train. Probably harder than I have ever trained before. I have to eat clean, look after my body, try and improve my mobility, get plenty of rest. I have to maintain a positive focus on my goal, realising that there will be slip ups along the way. I have to enjoy the journey. And as long as I do all of these things, there is a very good chance that I will arrive at the start line in Winchester on the 12th June 2021 in the best shape I have ever been in.
As Master Yoda says, “Do or Do Not, there is no Try”. So I will do the training. I will do all the other things I need to do. Then I will run from Winchester to Eastbourne along the South Downs Way. 100 miles. 30 hours to complete it.
I will succeed. Despite my doubts. Despite the fact that I am a very shit runner. Despite the fact that I have no right what so ever to be on that starting line. I will complete this race.
So here is to the journey. To running in the dark, in the rain, in the freezing wind. To running when you are tired and your body aches. To getting up at 4am at the weekend to run so you don’t impact the rest of the day with your family. To the struggle and the pain and feeling like I am never gonna make it.
I hope you will join me on this journey as I chart it here. I promise not all of the posts will be about Star Wars.
Only the coolest amongst you will recognise where the quote from the title of this blog post is from (hint, the image below is a big clue). For the rest of you it will mean very little, other than the fact that for once in my life, my training is going to plan.
So far I have run 13 out of 13 of my planned training runs. That is right, I have not missed a single one yet.
“Big Woop” I here all of you runners who stick religiously to your training plans say. But for me, this is quite the achievement.
Under usual circumstances I write a detailed plan, set out with the best of intentions then after a week or so it goes right off the rails and I usually end up just writing yet another plan, to plan for where the first plan went wrong, then not sticking to the new one. Rinse and repeat and hey presto, you have pretty much summed up my approach to training over the last few years.
This time it seems very different. I have consistently trained through tiredness, heat, rain, niggling calves and ankles. I have gone out regardless, and I feel a lot better for it.
The idea or concept of consistency is a fascinating one. Whilst it is entirely logical that if you consistently do a thing over a long enough period you are bound to improve at it, for some reason it has taken me a VERY long time to come around to this idea.
I recently read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. In that, he talks about how he convinced James Cameron to give him the role of the Terminator (which was originally supposed to have been played by OJ Simpson, believe it or not).
Arnold mentions to Cameron that the Terminator is an android (cybernetic organism to be precise) and as such, would not blink when firing off pistols, shotguns or automatic rifles. To add authenticity to the part, Cameron would need an actor who can train himself not to blink when shooting weapons. An actor who can condition his body not to do a thing which it naturally does to protect itself (eg blink when a very loud and very bright weapon is discharged close to the eyes, which are very delicate at the best of times).
Arnold goes on to say that he is uniquely qualified to train himself into this position, as it is just about reps (repetitions). He has lifted tonnes upon tonnes of weights, performing rep after rep to get the physique that took him to 7 Mr Olympia titles.
Firing a gun without blinking, argues Arnold, is exactly the same. So that is what he did. He went to the firing range and trained for months on end, firing all manner of different weapons until he could shoot these guns without blinking.
If you watch the Terminator movies closely, in the scenes when he is shooting weapons Arnold never blinks. It is such a subtle thing, but adds to the overall lore of the movie and helps the audience to realise just how deadly this android (cybernetic organism) really is. How unfeeling it is. How not human it is. How it cares about nothing but killing.
An actor blinking as he shot would make him look human. Arnold realised that this was no good, but also that there was only one way to train yourself to be able to shoot without blinking, and that was repetition and consistency.
Whilst I absolutely love this story (Schwarzenegger is a bit of an idol for me) it also has direct correlation to my own training journey.
Have I ever really consistently applied myself to fitness training in the past? The answer to that is no. Have I ever just repped out my training runs. Rep after rep, run after run. No matter what, gone out and completed that run. Again, the answer is no.
For the first time in my athletic endeavours, the importance of just repetition and consistency is clearly obvious to me. The penny has finally dropped.
So here is to a further 17 weeks of consistent training. No missing any sessions. At all. For any reason. Consistent running. 5 times a week, every week, for 17 more weeks.
My body will adapt to this. I will get fitter. Only consistency and repetition will cause this to happen. And who knows, perhaps I will be able to not blink when the starting pistol sounds at 6am on the 7th November.
Here is to consistent training, loving the journey and making the start line.