Runner’s Knee

runner's knee 460

For as long as I’ve been running, I’ve suffered mildly from runner’s knee. I over-pronate, which means my feet (and knees) fall inward when I run. This creates undue stress on them at times, particularly if running on an uneven surface like my favourite, the towpath by the River Lea. What then happens isn’t pain, but I can feel the quadriceps tendon doing some gymnastics over my patella that neither were designed for, before everything pops back into place. I often experience this while running, and become more mindful about my running form in these moments. Continue reading “Runner’s Knee”

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FlatLine 10

Flat Line The FlatLine 10 is a race/ training event organised by EnergyLabBTS. It involves 10 suicidal laps of a one mile course up and down the steepest hill in London- Swains Lane. This beast of a course will tame even the most talented runner, but the sense of achievement on finishing is incredible.

The hill is well-known to cyclists but it is unusual for runners to make more than one ascent during a run. For those who understand the technical aspects, the maximum gradient is 18%, height gain is 63 metres and the distance we climbed during Saturday’s race was a third that of Mont Ventoux, one of the most gruelling climbs in the Tour de France. Doing this on bike would be difficult but running it is either heroic or foolhardy. 2014-02-01 09.17.29 As my alarm woke me early on race day, I had serious doubts about doing the run. I felt tired. It had been a stressful week, so I hadn’t been sleeping well. My quads felt tight after changing up my training plan, and I was tempted to crawl back under the duvet. I’d publicly committed to going, though, so I dragged myself out of bed and got ready.

As I headed to the top of Swains Lane on public transport, the day dawned crisp and bright. By now I felt glad to be alive and knew I’d made the right decision to race. I bumped into my friend Felix as we headed up the hill, and we noticed how our heart-rates quickened just from walking up. Barbara from EnergyLab gave out our race numbers and we did our best to keep warm while the other runners arrived.

This was a small event, with a maximum entry of 30. The road was open during the race so we had to be mindful of traffic and pedestrians. I was surprised to learn that Richard Keller, who had won the previous event, would not be running. I’d raced in that August edition, and Richard had set the tempo. There were other fast runners, but none of us had really considered this a race until it was declared one on the Facebook Event page. Still, we all knew we would be pushing each other when the first descent began and the adrenaline kicked in.

First and foremost, though, this event is about the sense of achievement you get from completing it. The camaraderie on this course is amazing. You run so many loops that you’re always making eye-contact with the other runners, and everyone is going through the same pain as you. We all support each other, and that helps get us through. Running is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being the best you can be and that includes helping others. 2014-02-02 16.18.27 As the race began, I settled in behind Manni and Felix, who went out hard on the first downhill- our pace was just over 5 minutes per mile on the descent, but it would be much slower on the way up. This race is notoriously difficult to pace because you are always climbing or descending but you can build up a head of steam on the descents, particularly in the middle where the drop is steepest. My strategy was to go as quickly as I could downhill each lap, and then climb steadily, taking smaller strides but maintaining a quick cadence on the up-hills. I told myself there would be no walking, no matter what.

As we passed Karl Marx’s tomb and reached the cone at the bottom of the hill, I was third. We began to climb, and my small steps took me into second place towards the crest of the hill. As we began the second descent, I swept past the leader, and suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was at the front in a race. I was very surprised, but beyond a fleeting thought about what it would be like to run without someone pacing me, I didn’t have time to think about it. I concentrated on accelerating as quickly as I could through the descent, making sure I kept my footing over the speed bumps. I felt certain the runners behind me were on my shoulder, so as I began the next climb I was stunned to see I had built a gap between myself and second place. I knew my climbing skills were pretty good, so for the first time in a race ever, I dared to dream about winning.

The next few miles were a blur. Nods and cheers of encouragement from me to others and from them to me. Claudia yelling that I had a big lead. Concentrating on breathing, form, counting, looking at the top of the hill each time I had to climb. Trying to shake out the limbs and land on the forefoot each time I descended. Throwing my gloves and running hat on the ground at the top of the fourth mile. And the growing realisation that victory was possible. 2014-02-02 16.17.52 With that came nagging doubts. What if we had gone out too fast on that first mile? What if my body just refused to keep going? The only way was down, and to lose from this position would be hard to take. But this race is so challenging I couldn’t think those thoughts for long. I could feel my muscles working hard on the ascents, while the down-hills were equally demanding. Your body is constantly under assault. And that’s what makes this race so special. It’s comparable to completing a marathon. You cannot stay in your comfort zone when running the FlatLine 10. Because of that I salute everyone who takes it on.

As I hit the penultimate lap I had built up a lead of about half a mile. I called out to Richard, who was taking photographs, asking him to pace me on the final lap. The temptation to stop running and walk up the hill was getting very strong, and I knew Richard wouldn’t let me give in. He pushed me hard on the final descent, talking all the while about good form, encouraging me to beat his course record. I knew that was beyond me. My body was crying out and I just wanted to get over the finish line, but I’m grateful for his support. As we made the final ascent, he urged me to sprint, but my body wasn’t having any of it. At last, we reached the top and for the first time in my life I learnt what it feels like to win something. 2014-02-02 16.20.02 There was pain, sure, but there was a huge sense of happiness, no little pride and a new-found inner confidence. As I stretched out, I couldn’t help beaming. I thought about the injury I’d sustained in September, which had set my training back three months. I’d trained through December to catch up, preparing for the Berlin Half Marathon, but my body hadn’t been able to do what the training plans were asking. Then I hit January, and pow!- it just clicked back into shape. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction that when I’d been putting those miles in, I’d been laying the platform for the feelings I was having at the top of Swains Lane. Consistency of approach is what reaps rewards in running. I hope I can apply this lesson in other areas of my life, too.

Steve Layton was the next person over the finish line, meaning Spurs fans finished first and second. Sorrell was the Queen of the Hill, being first woman home. Over the next 45 minutes the rest of the runners completed their race. Everyone finished. There are so many inspirational and incredible stories. Chris Cannon was doing his first proper run of the year. Azra Zakir had spent large portions of 2013 unable to run due to ITB pain. Melissa has grown so strong since having a major health scare a few years ago. One runner tried to end her race at the top of the hill with three miles to go. Others gathered round, supported her and gave her the self-belief to finish, which she did in style. 2014-02-02 16.18.44 2014-02-02 16.18.38

Best of all, Claudia had baked cake for all of the finishers, and as we nursed our aches and pains, we made light work of eating it.

2014-02-02 16.19.51 FlatLine 10 is a superb event, in spite of the severe DOMS I’m experiencing as I write this. Full credit to Barbara and Claudia from EnergyLabBTS for their organisation, and to Richard for the photographs and slideshow. It’s the camaraderie that makes it special. Perhaps it will grow and become a sanctioned race. In the meantime, I urge you to come out of your comfort zone and test yourself next time it’s on. The Run Dem Crew mantra is “Go Hard Or Go Home”. You’ll have to go a long way to find a harder or more satisfying run than this one.

Crew

It’s Not The Destination, It’s The Journey That’s Important

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July 1st 2012 was the date of my first race since the 2007 London Marathon. A difficult recovery after an operation had given me a new found gratefulness for the fact that I am able to put one foot in front of another. I could not have seen then how running would transform my life. It has taken me to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bournemouth and soon Berlin, but the friendships I have made through running will last beyond memory.

Last Sunday, I went back to that Regents Park course and ran 10K 9 minutes faster than that day in 2012, but the first race will always be the most special to me. I keep the race number hanging on a wall in my flat.

In order to see how far you have come, you must remember where you came from.

2013- thanks for the #crewlove

Run Dem PixlrChevy

2013 has been a year of huge growth for me and so many others through running with Run Dem Crew. Today I’m going to pick out some of the many highlights of an amazing year. Thank you all for being part of the journey.

#CDCML

Charlie

The day we gave back to Run Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark, who has given so much to all of us, was a special one. Charlie was presented with his own hard-won marathon medal, and we gave speeches explaining how he has changed our lives. Big shout out to Paul Bains for organising it all without word getting out. This day will live long in the memory.

The night the Olympic Park was our playground

Run Dem Playground

It meant a lot for us to finally be able to run to and through the field of Olympic dreams, and as dusk fell our inner children escaped for a few glorious Peter Pan moments as we took over the adventure playground.

#dibabalife

Track

What went down at Paddington Rec this summer was nothing short of beautiful. Every week we arced like shooting stars across the same cinder track that Roger Bannister trained on to break the 4 minute mile. Massive props to Jeggi Elinzano, Cory Wharton-Malcolm and Knox Robinson for the training plans and  Tirunesh Dibaba for the inspiration.

#dibdablife

Dib Dab Life

A certain member of the crew had us cry-laughing  this summer when he asked “What’s all this about dibdablife?” It was the hash-tag dibabalife that he was referring to. The term dibdablife has now become synonymous with The Only Fools and Horses approach to training.

Housekeeping

Paulie

Always the most important part of Tuesday evenings at 1948, housekeeping is our opportunity to remind ourselves why we run as we come together as a community. The medal speeches are always a highlight but special mention goes to Paulie Roche for his New York Marathon epic, combining comedy and tragedy in equal measure. To quote him:

“Make pain your friend and you will never run alone.”

Targets, PBs and Medals

2013 Medals

We all have our own goals in running. I’m grateful that, through a lot of hard work, I was able to meet all the targets I’d set myself at the start of the year. These are the medals (and fridge magnet) I was able to win in 2013. Each of these achievements is special to me in it’s own right, but I would never have found the determination to achieve all this without the crew. My victories are your victories. Thank you.

5K target- sub 20. I managed 18:55

10K target- sub 40. 38:31.

Half marathon target- sub 1:30. 1:26:45

Marathon target- sub 3:45. 3:21:10

Cheer Dem Crew

Cheer RTTB6

Cheering on other runners is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I’m particularly grateful to everyone who had our backs in the East London Half. It was a pleasure to be part of the Cheer Dem massive on other occasions, especially the London Marathon and Run To The Beat. Big ups to Chevy Rough and Paul Bains for being Cheer Dem organisers extroardinaires.

#teamorange

Orange

In February, Chris McLeanClaire McGoneglePaul Bains and I shared an apartment decorated entirely in orange as we took on the Barcelona Half Marathon. There were PBs and good times all round. Bridging the gap never felt so good.

When we chased the sun to Greenwich

Greenwich Run

An inspirational route on a beautiful day.

These guys

Junior & Jason

I knew Junior Robbani and Jason Lawrence before Run Dem and I owe my running journey to Junior, in particular. He dragged me round Clissold Park when I was out of shape and at the beginning of my transformation. They’ve both come a long way as runners in 2013 and have been making positive moves in their work and personal lives, inspiring me with each decision they take. They ran in Barcelona, too,  and I can’t wait to follow their exploits when they take on the Tokyo Marathon next year.

The Elites

Elites

I’ve got so much love for the Run Dem Elites. Each week we push each other to be the best we can be, and there’s a special camaraderie that develops between you and the group you run with. For me, no Elite has been more inspirational than Sorrell Walsh, blazing a trail for other women to follow and ready to take on the Country to Capital Ultra in January.

Flatline 10

Swains Group

10 laps up and down Swains Lane of pain. Ouch. Maximum respect to all who have tamed this beast.

Bournemouth Marathon

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This was a special one for me. The last time I ran a marathon I hated it so much I didn’t run again for 5 years. I was privileged to run this hilly course with Noushi, Nathaniel ColeTim JacksonPistol PeteEmma HancockRicky Diaghe and Dave Cregan. On a course with many double-backs the #crewlove kept us going. The picture shows a guy called Michael I met during the race. We didn’t know each other before, but we bonded over those 26.2 miles and crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Ghostpoet gig

Ghostpoet

As Charlie says, “When you do well, I do well”. This was never more evident than when Ghostpoet took the stage at his triumphant homecoming gig at the Village Underground. As he surveyed the crowd, ripped and confident, I wondered how much of a part Run Dem had played in Ghostpoet’s personal and artistic development.

Blogging

Angel

2013 for me was the year of the blog. I greatly enjoyed reading other crew-member’s blogs, in particular http://www.bangsandabun.com and http://www.runangelrun.co.uk In April, I took the plunge and started my own blog. My post on #crewlove proved most popular and I wanted to say thank you to all my readers for dropping by.

https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/crewlove/

Ain’t no party like a Run Dem party

Party

When Cory Wharton-Malcolm picks up the mic,  Josey Rebelle is on the decks and shot dem crew are on the dance floor, there’s no better place to be than with the crew. The family that plays together, stays together. Berlin, here we come.

Thank you all for an amazing 2013. Here’s to 2014.

1948

How I Learned To Love Marathon Training

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Marathon training sucks. There, I’ve said it. You train for 16 weeks to run a race that will take most mortals somewhere between 2 and 6 hours. 2 and 6 hours! Many of us struggle to concentrate on one thing for more than five minutes in this fast-paced, multi-tasking society. Why would you do something repetitively for such a long time? You sacrifice junk food, alcohol and social gatherings in order to bank the miles and ensure race day is an enjoyable experience. On the journey, you may get injured, hopefully not too seriously, or at least miss some training runs due to ill health. It stands to reason that in 16 weeks of regular commitment to exercise, there are going to be some troughs as well as highs. But this time, I think I cracked it. I actually enjoyed the training process, and most of the race itself. Here’s how…

1) Find a good training plan and stick to it. I got my training plan from the Runner’s World website (http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/training/). Hal Higdon also has some good ones over at http://www.halhigdon.com/. Pick one that’s the right level of commitment for you and stick to it. There’s no point picking a 6 day a week training plan if you’ve only been running once a week. Received wisdom seems to be that 3-6  training runs a week is required- with 3 being the minimum: one tempo run at a pace outside your  comfort zone but which you can sustain for the duration; one track or hill session, involving shorter intense bursts interspersed by brief recovery periods; and one long run, in which you gradually increase the mileage each week. I made the mistake of over-training during the build up to Bournemouth.

6 years after my last marathon experience, I chose to run the Bournemouth Marathon because my friends were doing it and because it would allow me to do the bulk of my training over the school summer hoilday (I’m a teacher) when I would have more time to recover. However, I was enjoying my training so much I got carried away, and ended up doing crazy blocks of really intense training back to back (read all about it here… https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/one-week-to-go/ ). This resulted in my left calf blowing up like a ham five weeks from the race. I was fortunate enough to recover well enough to be able to run, but I’m sure I hit the wall after mile 18 because I had to massively reduce my training load over the last 5 weeks. Consequently, I’m sticking to 4 runs a week for the forseeable future (down from 6) and building more yoga and strength training into my training plan.

2) Set yourself challenging but achievable goals and be easy if you can’t quite reach them. The marathon distance is not a joke. Just completing the distance is a significant achievement in itself. Nevertheless, some of my friends running Bournemouth seemed a little down after the race because they hadn’t quite reached the time they wanted. I felt exactly the same after my previous marathon experience (which you can read about here… https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/my-london-marathon-experience-or-why-i-stopped-running-for-five-years/ ). They really should be incredibly proud of themselves, as it was a tough, hilly course and a very hot day, which makes a huge difference over such a long distance. Factors on race day such as the weather, the elevation on the course, the amount of sleep you got the night before- are all going to affect you.

I was really lucky this time around, in that I’m a much fitter person, and a much better runner, than I was last time I attempted the marathon distance. Unless things went disastrously wrong, I was going to get a PB. But there is an art to not getting too hung up on your time, so I made that my main objective for this race. I was determined to enjoy the scenery, take in what was around me, and smile my way round. Running along the Bournemouth coastline was more beautiful than I had expected, and race day dawned warm and sunny. I’m glad that I got to see Bournemouth at her best, and will definitely be heading back there next summer to chill out on those glorious sandy beaches. Bournemouth Map

3) Get plenty of rest in the run up to the race. Obviously, I had some enforced rest through getting injured, but I also made sure to taper properly in the last 3 weeks. I was very tempted to run a 20 miler at the end of my first week back from injury, but on the advice of my friends and family, I decided not to. A good decision. I also managed to get plenty of long sleeps in during the week of the race, winding down earlier than usual during the week and hitting the hay early. There were some bad germs going around at work, so I made sure I took every precaution possible to avoid catching a cold. I dosed myself up on vitamins and ate as healthily as possible.

I’m glad I’d stocked up on sleep, because the night before the race insomnia struck, caused by the excitement, and perhaps the pressure to do well, in the marathon. I haven’t had this problem with half marathons or 10Ks, but it’s affected me both times I’ve run a marathon. The distance is so much further than what I can comfortably run, so I was anxious to get to sleep, and this of course prevented me from sleeping. In the end, I only managed two hours, in separate 1 hour blocks. In the end, not being able to sleep was a blessing in disguise. I expected my body to hit the wall sooner rather than later, and saw every step I took as a bonus. I was glad to have gotten two hours, rather than none, and I had no qualms in allowing myself to walk from mile 18 onwards.

4) Have a race plan. Mine was to run roughly 7 minute miles for as long as I could, and then to allow myself to walk if I hit the wall. I managed to hit my target pace for 18 miles. There was one really hard uphill mile where I fell behind, but I was able to make the time back up on the downhill on the other side. This plan took all the pressure off me. 7 minute miles were fairly comfortable compared to the pace we often run in Elites at Run Dem Crew. It also meant that when the wheels came off, I’d gotten to mile 18 in such a quick time that even if I walked the rest of the way, it was probable I would still PB. This really freed me up and gave me permission to walk and enjoy the scenery.

I want to stress the fact that us relatively faster runners in Run Dem elites have struggles in races, too. I actually walked several times over the last few miles, and had my first experience of cramp in a race. My heart and lungs were ready to continue, but my legs just didn’t have the strength. It’s something I can work on for the future, and I was happy to accept where I was at on race day. I discovered an unexpected plus side to walking. You get cheered on more vociferously by the supporters along the route, and if you actually start running again, they raise the roof. On discovering this, I may have deliberately slowed down to a walk just to get the cheer when I started running again. The Bournemouth supporters were a lovely, energetic lot, more than happy to high five you as you ran, and I’m grateful to them for helping me to the finish line.

High 5 Asics

5) Enter with friends. Before I joined Run Dem Crew I used to race on my own and it can be very lonely. It’s so much easier to enjoy training and racing when you are doing it with other people.  There’s a real camaraderie from the shared experience of putting the miles in, especially on those long runs. On race day, and in this case over the whole race weekend, my experience was made so much more enjoyable because it was shared. It was great just hanging out with mates, eating good food, exploring Bournemouth and celebrating after the race. It was a happy accident that the course featured a number of double-backs. This meant that we all got to see each other multiple times during the marathon, and helped lift spirits when they were flagging. Double-backs are not great for fast times, but having said that, I’ve set PBs on double-back courses and a friendly face goes a long way when you’re questioning whether you can complete the distance.

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The inaugural Bournemouth Marathon was a really good race. The views along the coast were beautiful, but I’m definitely going to pay more attention to the elevation chart in future, and incorporate more hill training when appropriate.

Bournemouth Elevation

Pete, Tim and I muscled our way to the front of the Orange race pen, which made for an exciting start. We had a great view of the elite runners speeding off into the distance and it felt great leading out thousands of others after the starting gun. That said, the 10am start meant that we were running during the hottest part of the day. I’d favour an 8am start next year to avoid this, with the half marathon starting later.

There were moments when I questioned my sanity as I ran with a parched throat past people enjoying ice-creams and lollies on the seafront. Next time, I’m putting a pound in that little pocket at the back of my running shorts. On the subject of nutrition, after mile 14 I couldn’t stomach any more Clif Shot Bloks, which I was using to top up my energy on the course. Anyone got any recommendations for an alternative? Throughout the race, I kept the notion this was supposed to be fun in the forefront of my mind, and did everything I could to keep it there.

 The medal is a really nice bit of bling. It looks different from all my others, and that’s fitting, since this was an important race for me. 2013-10-06 15.54.40

I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 21 minutes, which was 1 hour and 5 minutes faster than my previous marathon PB. I finished hand in hand with a guy called Michael. I’d never met him before the race, but we kept passing each other during the race, and supported each other as if we were old friends. We bonded over those 26.2 miles.

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The amount of training required for a marathon is prohibitive, so I don’t plan on doing another marathon for at least a year. Still, I was able to even up my previous negative marathon experience, and look forward to also doing an ultra some day. In the nearer future, I’m looking forward to running plenty of 10K and half marathon races over the next few months, and will be involved in X-Country for the first time since I was at school. I feel strengthened through the knowledge that I’ve been able to have an enjoyable marathon race.

Here’s to the next one, because over the past few months, I’ve revised my opinion about marathons.

Marathon training rocks. There, I’ve said it. Bournemouth Thumb

 

 

 

One Week To Go

Bournemouth Marathon Picture

One week to go until I run the second marathon of my life. The first was a thoroughly horrible experience. I ran the London Marathon in 2007, and had such a bad time that I didn’t run for another five years afterwards. You can read more about that catalogue of disasters here:

https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/my-london-marathon-experience-or-why-i-stopped-running-for-five-years/

When I came back to running in June of last year, the plan was simply to lose a bit of weight and complete a 10K. I enjoyed that first 10K so much that I signed up for another one, and within a couple of months I’d joined Run Dem Crew and found myself signing up for my first ever half marathon, and my first Bridge the Gap event, in Amsterdam. That run was the first time that I enjoyed a race from start to finish. Charlie Dark, the founder of Run Dem Crew, says that if you put the work in during training, the race itself is a celebration, and I found that to be true in Amsterdam.

Over the next few months, I had a great time running 10Ks and half marathons, and felt like I’d found my natural distances. The half marathon is more than double the 10K distance, but to me it didn’t feel like such a huge step up. The jump from half to marathon, however, is significant, and I’ve discovered during training just how much of a toll it takes on the body.

Towards the end of the winter, some Run Dem friends, Emma and Tim, mentioned they were doing the Bournemouth Marathon, and they encouraged me to enter. My interest was piqued. I began to believe this time I could have a positive marathon experience- one to neutralise the negative one I’ve had previously. The timing was good. With an early October race date, I’d be able to use the extra free time I would have during the summer holiday from teaching to put in all the extra miles. I took the plunge and entered, and soon several other friends did, too.

Received wisdom seems to be that you need about 16 weeks to train for a marathon. I now see I made a mistake in my approach to the first part of this training. I had entered the Down Tow Up Flow half marathon at the end of July, so I spent the first 6 weeks of the training programme following a half marathon plan. I was running about 25-30 miles a week. After running the race, which you can read about here ( https://anotherwisemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/down-tow-up-flow-half-marathon-race-report/ ) I switched immediately over to week 7 of the 16 week marathon training.

This resulted in a big jump up in the weekly mileage, to just under 50 miles per week. I listened to my body as I increased the mileage, or at least I thought I did, and tried not to overdo it, but I did find myself sometimes doing three intense training days back to back. The elite runs in Run Dem Crew on a Tuesday were coincidentally getting much more intense, as Jeggi began tweaking our training to include longer bursts of running at suicide pace, channelling the sprit of Steve Prefontaine:

Prefontaine

I really need to big up Cory and Jeggi for putting on the fantastic track sessions at Paddington Rec on Tuesdays. Thanks to Charlie for being the inspiration that brings us all together- none of the good experiences with my running family would be possible without him. Also Barbara, from EnergyLabBTS, really helped me develop my running form.

The problem is, when you’re improving every week, it’s very tempting to keep on pushing to the max. One week, I ran suicide pace at Run Dem on Tuesday, then did my long run on the Wednesday, then 9 miles at track on Thursday, followed by the infamous Swain’s Lane of Pain 10 miler on the Saturday. This is a devilish run devised by Barbara Brunner of EnergyLabBTS, which involves running 10 miles down and then back up a diabolically steep hill in Highgate. I actually expected to crock myself that week, and when I didn’t I guess I thought I was invincible.

I was building up the distance on my long runs and everything was going well until the day of my first (and last as it turned out) 20 miler. As I set out that day, my left calf felt a little tight. If there’d been any pain, I’d definitely have stopped immediately, but there wasn’t. It was much more the sort of niggle runners are used to feeling as part of their weekly routine, so I just ran through it. I completed the 20 miles comfortably enough, but afterwards my left calf felt super tight.

The next day, the calf swelled up like a ham, and just like that, I had my first relatively serious running injury. It was a grade one calf strain, but heaven help anyone who gets a grade two or three. It was a pretty scary moment, and I realised that I might not be able to run Bournemouth. I particularly want to thank Manni for his kind words and thoughtful analysis of what had happened when I was feeling anxious about it. I had to drop out of the Run to the Beat half marathon, which was disappointing, but I had a great time cheering on the crew, and was so pleased to see Jeroen, who took my place, set a PB.

Fortunately, a week of complete rest from running, and applying the RICE method of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, was enough for the swelling to disappear. I spent the next week doing very gentle 20 and 30 minute runs, with days of rest in between, and continued the icing. The last couple of weeks I’ve been able to return to my training plan, but have cut down from 5/6 runs a week to 4. I was tempted to try to make up the missed runs at first, but saw sense after listening to advice from friends and family.

So here I am, one week to go and ready to run my second marathon. I had such a bad experience the first time, and consequently ran so slowly, that as long as the leg holds together, I should be able to run a PB. But the time doesn’t really matter. The important thing will be to enjoy it this time. I’m grateful that I’ll even be there, as things didn’t look good when my calf swelled up.

I’ll be in Bournemouth with good friends and I intend to enjoy every moment. Big up to Tim, Emma, Pistol Pete, Dave Cregan, Nathaniel, Leeanne, Noushi and Ric. Sending love to Azra Zakir, who is one of the strongest women I know, and who would be running Bournemouth with us if cicumstances hadn’t conspired against it. I’m excited to see my friends Tunde and Hope, who live in Bournemouth and who I’ve not seen enough lately.

I want that Amsterdam experience of running with a smile on my face. The hard miles are in the bank, the training is done, and now it’s all about tapering sensibly and getting to the start line feeling good.

As Charlie Dark says, it’s not how fast you go, it’s how you cross the finish line.

Wish us luck, people.