We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Saturday, 20 April 2013

You'll Never Run Alone: A thank you to those who stand and wave

The world seems a very different place since the Boston Marathon last Monday.  With the London Marathon a few hours away, there has never been a stronger sense of us runners being a global community, united not just in our love of all things running but also in our determination not to give in.

Of course we are shocked. Less than a week ago, running was in a different world from bad things. Marathons are all about being human, reaching for our dreams, a manifestation of all that is best and true of humanity - even if that isn't always pretty.  Somehow it was even more shocking because something so good and innocent was targeted by people who hate. Shocking because it happened to ordinary runners, people like me and you and millions of others all over the world dreaming of their first or their perfect marathon.  It just didn't make any sense. Why on earth would you target runners? Why?

As events unfolded, it became clear this wasn't just about runners.  Friends and family, strangers and colleagues who cheered and waved as runners reached their marathon's end were killed and mutilated.  A young boy watching his father. A restaurant manager who stood at the finishing line almost every year.  A young graduate student from China. That this horrible frightening thing had happened to the people who stand and cheer us on seemed even more unfair and grotesque.

Shock became anger. It's bad enough to do this to runners, we who have chosen to do this mad thing, but to hurt our supporters, our posse, innocent bystanders; the strangers who smile and wave and cheer us on? It just didn't compute. It seems doubly unfair.

 I thought back to Lochaber and the wonderful support of the folk who waved and smiled me over the long hard slog. The folk waiting for me at the finish line more than 5 hours later and who gave me a massive hug looking almost as pleased as I did! The marshals who made me laugh out loud and kept me safe and hydrated; the people waving from their doorsteps and windows who gave me a thumbs up or a word or two of encouragement. The group of folk who cheered as I ran towards them, making me look round before I realised they were cheering me! I felt like Mo Farah! The scouts who handed out lucozade and the lovely little girl in pink who waved from the bus stop and offered me a drink.  None of them different to the supporters in Boston.

I thought about all the support I'd got from Ali. Not just him popping up here and there to cheer me on and hand me a hot cuppa at the end. Ali who spent over 5 hours wondering if I was going to make it round or not and never let on how worried he was. Who never complained about my dark o'clock rises to run before work or commented when I walked down the stairs like I was 125 years old groaning and wincing on ever step.  The weekends eaten up by long runs followed by hours of stretching and rolling round on lumps of foam and tennis balls.  The tyranny of the training schedule which determined when we could walk or cycle and when I had to rest and eat. The timetabling of holidays round the marathon schedule.  The incessant worrying about aches, pains and pace. I'm sure there must be many times our loved ones would dearly like to tell us to sit down and have a rest, but bite their tongues.

None of us run a marathon on our own and the bombers have hurt badly the people who give so much purely to see their loved ones pursue a dream or to encourage a stranger.

The London Marathon is going to be an even more special run than usual. It is the first major marathon since Boston and it will point to the future of running across the world. Every runner out on Sunday is making a statement on behalf of every one of us who have donned trainers and hit the streets. Every person helping, supporting, waving is also making a stand against bullying and terror on behalf of us all. Everyone at the London Marathon carries with them the admiration and hopes of runners and those who support us across the world.

So yes, we are runners, we are strong and we will run on. But we are also the ones who stand and wave.  On Sunday, we will all be strong and we will be united.  Together we will honour the marathoners and their supporters from Boston, London and every other race.

Very special thoughts to Celina, Kaz, Denis, Michelle and Zoe who are running on Sunday. Remember your posse - real and virtual - are right there behind you waving you on.  Know you are strong and have a totally brilliant day!

Whether you're running or waving, have a great marathon.

Take care


Monday, 15 April 2013

Lochaber Marathon: Race Report

I can't tell you how much pleasure it was to type those 4 words. Four little words, 4 long months. 26.2 miles. I can't take the grin off my face either!

Yesterday I ran the Lochaber Marathon in 5h 14m (my Garmin said 5.11).  It was my first marathon. It was a marathon I really didn't think I'd start never mind finish.

The Lochaber Marathon is a must do marathon and a great place to do your first or any marathon.  I picked it because it's small, it's run by and for runners and it's in one of the most beautiful bits of the world.  It's also one of the oldest marathons, 2014 was its 30th year.

From the moment I registered, I knew this was the right place for me. I was nervous and sore from a long car journey and could barely walk. The prognosis was not good for running, but I was hoping for a miracle. As I registered, I felt so emotional I could have burst into tears. Would I make it to the starting line? Would I run 1 mile or 10?  But I got such a warm welcome, such a lovely smile and reassuring words from the folk on the desk that I relaxed. Whatever happened on Sunday, it was going to be okay. These lovely people would understand. All I had to do was get to the starting line.

The next day we did some gentle sight seeing, sampled local delicacies and did some gentle walking on the sands of Morar. No wonder they film so many films round this beautiful place.

On the road back, we saw the signs out for the race. I held my breath. Less than 24 hours time I might be here. The scenery was simply stunning, the road lovely and flat but it was a scarily long way. Lochaber is an out and back race and as we saw the sign for the turning point, I realised just how far I'd have to run. It silenced and humbled me.

The night before the big day, we had a seriously delicious carb loading at the Ben Nevis Inn with a view of the mighty mountain and a well deserved top rating on TripAdvisor (so good we went again to celebrate!). Then back to our room where I got my kit all paid out and ready then spent the rest of the evening trying to get my back into a runnable state. I'd forgotten my tennis ball, so instead improvised with... a turnip! A bit hard but needs must. Luckily I did remember my roller and trusty hot water bottle.

Sunday morning was wet. And cold. And windy. Here's the view from our  lovely B&B, Myrtle Bank. Not the best way to start marathon day with lashing rain and howling winds.

Given I was probably only running for a few miles I did wonder if I should just save us all a load of bother and turn back now. Wasn't I being a bit pig headed? But I'd come this far, and it would have been a real failure to have been put off by a  bit of bad weather on the big day. Especially as it was nothing like as bad as some of the weather I ran in when training.  I knew that at very least I had to start the marathon. It really didn't matter what came next. If I didn't start I'd never know what I could have achieved, and I might have wasted my one chance. Every single journey has to start with that first step.

So all porridged and vaselined up, we headed off in the pouring rain. I can't tell you how nervous I was. My mouth was dry. My tummy in knots. I was strangely quiet and introspective.  It stayed wet as the twa pipers piped us up to the start line on the shinty pitch. I went right to the back. I wanted to be out of the way, to run my race my way. Plenty of time to speed up over 26.2 miles.

We started off running through houses, along the canal and then onto the road to Mallaig - the Road to the Isles.  There were loads of lovely Marshals keeping us safe and cheering us on. It must be the friendliest race around, it was like chatting to people I meet on my runs on the beach (I did succumb to saying hello to a dog right at the end too!).  Even better, Ali was waiting for me at 4 miles to check I was okay. I was sore but not stopped in my tracks, which was progress on last Sunday when I'd had to stop at 4 miles and hobble home.

As we ran out of Fort William the views just got amazing and the sun came out. For the first time in months I was running in warm sunshine and having to think about hydration, but there were plenty of stops. I stayed at the back and got to know the small group of back runners. We were spread out which I really liked. It was like doing a normal long run, I felt no pressure to worry about anyone else or speed up or slow down. I was free to run my race, my way and enjoy the scenery and the people who came out of their houses to wave us on. I popped Danny Dreyer's Chi Running onto the ipod.

As the miles gradually racked up, I realised that pain came and went but it wasn't getting any worse.  Before I'd left I'd had a really good sorting out from Pam and Lizelle at Physio Plus so I knew that I would hurt but I also knew what was behind the pain and that this was pain that could be endured without doing me harm.

So the pain was manageable and nothing else was hurting, so I began to wonder if I could make 10 miles. At about 8 miles, the sun was shining, the loch sparkled and the air was fresh and clear. I felt I could run (slowly) forever. I knew then that I would get round even if I had to crawl. Nothing was going to stop me now, nothing. I was committed.  It was a good feeling.

For the first time since my hip seized up 3 weeks ago I began to think I might just run this marathon and it was exciting.

Now I had hope and dogged Yorkshire grit persistance, I had a strategy - to get to the end come hell or high water. I focussed on doing whatever I had to do to manage the pain and stop anything seizing up. Suddenly it didn't matter how long I took, or if I walked, hopped or jumped to the end. I was running the race I was in. Not the race I imagined, not the race I hoped for, but the race that was in the here and now. I started to really enjoy myself and go with the flow -  the pain and stretching were just matters to be dealt with. I thought about my sessions with Nick on Chi running and my Chi running chums on Facebook.

I know you read all that stuff and nod sagely, but this was serious road to Fort William enlightenment. Run the race you're in. Of course dumbo!!

As we headed past the end of the loch, past the loos and more merry Marshals, the rain began. Just light enough to be refreshing at first, a few miles later it was soaking and gusty. I quite liked the rain, I'd trained in rain, sleet and howling gales so it felt totally normal.

At the half way turning point I got a real buzz. I have a thing about getting to half way and heading home, it gives me a big psychological boost on my runs, so Lochaber suited me nicely.  I hit half way 1/2 hour quicker than my training long runs so I felt pretty positive, I know I can run 20 - maybe I could do it in 5 1/2 hours.....

A mile later everything went strange and I began to worry that I wouldn't finish. I have no idea where it came from, but about that time I experienced my own mental wall (my legs were ok).  That's when I started run/walking and when I started to wonder what was happening in my body. Had I fuelled enough, had I drunk enough? Things I never worry about when I run normally. I ate a jelly baby or two and told myself I never had to eat them again after today. I thought about my Dad. The reason I started running. Whose Parkinson's meant he was robbed of the choice of movement. Who'd be so proud of me and who would move heaven and earth to get me through.

Gradually as the next mile marker came into view and I realised I was still running (and still in 1 piece!) I got a grip. The skies began to clear and I was stretching every mile now, but every mile was a victory,  every mile was a mile I hadn't thought I could run. Every mile was nearer that finishing tape.  As I hit 20 miles I knew I was entering the unknown. At just after 21 miles, my calves started doing very strange things. It felt like a sort of popping cramp type feeling. I flashed back to my calf injury of last year and slowed right down and basically walked and ran to the end. It was frustrating, I had energy left in my legs and I had trained to speed up at the end, so a slow finish just felt wrong.  Somehow I managed to run over the finishing line 5 hours and 14 minutes after I left it.

I got a lovely hug from the woman who gave me my rather lovely medal and then from Ali along with the best cup of tea I"ve ever had. One marathon finished, against all odds.

I never thought I'd finish that marathon. For most of the last few weeks I couldn't really see much point in even starting it, but I knew that I had to at least try.  My life never goes to plan, and once I accepted that this marathon wasn't going to plan either I realised I had a choice. I could wait until everything went smoothly, or I could just make the best of what I had in front of me. I am so glad I didn't miss my chance because things weren't as I wanted them to be.

I could have done none of this without Ali who gave me support and space in just the right amount and who believed in me. Thank you Ali.

Pam and Lizelle and everyone at Physio Plus have been amazing at patching me up and keeping me going. I really thought I'd no chance until Friday morning when Pam said I'd nothing to lose by just trying. How right she was. Thank you!

And I couldn't have picked a better place to make my debut. It was the friendliest, best organised event I have attended, set in the most stunning scenery. It was small - 363 folk went over the starting line and I came 353rd.  I liked the small scale, we were real people not numbers. It was running as I love to run - doing my own thing, running along through beautiful scenery, at my own pace, not running with elbows and MAMILs shoving me out of the way.  I could wear my iPod and sing along as I ran.  It was just like doing a really long run in a beautiful place, the lovely Loch and the magnificent Ben Nevis. And I got a medal, a wee bottle of whisky and food. What more can a girl want?

So it is done. My life will never be the same again. I've started thinking about what next. I quite fancy working on my 10k time for Race for Life and I want to do some walking and cycling with Ali. I haven't ruled out another marathon, but for now I'm just savouring the delicious delight of being a marathoner. I like the sound of that.

Good luck to everyone running London next week and Manchester's coming up soon. If you can possibly get to the starting line, do it. You never know what might happen. If your race turns out different to what you'd hoped, don't despair. Run the race you get, not the one you would have liked. That way you might just find you get further than you ever thought possible.

Mileage this week? 26.2. YES!!!!

Take care