Living with a marathon runner

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Training. Marathon training to be exact. It’s long, hard and at times lonely when you’re friends don’t run. This isn’t a personal attack, but more of an insight into living with a marathon runner.

To say I NEVER thought I’d still be running almost three years after I decided I wanted to train run a half and full marathon is nothing short of an understatement. The plan was to train, run both … then get on with the rest of my life. I was a sprinter, so even running 200m was a long ting. Why do I want to run twice the distance I was happy with? No, that’s long.

It has been increasingly difficult to negotiate social circles as a result of my continued interest as I’ve become increasingly serious about lacing up my shoes and taking a couple of hours away from everything. It is no longer “just a hobby”, instead taking up a huge part of my life. I run every Sunday, sometimes I run two/three times a week. My Saturday nights are usually spent at home chilling and drinking water for the following morning long run instead of in a bar somewhere. I tried the “drinking the night before and waking up still drunk or hungover” thing and running 15 miles and I did it. Numerous times. Yes, I can do it, but if I want to improve, it’s not advisable. Sweating out the alcohol is cool, drinking double the amount of water you need the morning after to rehydrate to replace the fluids lost from drinking alcohol and have enough to run with when you’re as small as I am isn’t cool at all. And I don’t actually enjoy that all now if I’m honest. Waking up and chanting/meditating with a clear head before I start my day is something I love.

I’ve missed birthdays and other celebrations, or attended for a short time to be met with disdain when I leave early. So I’ve just stopped going. And that’s been difficult. I do like spending time with friends and celebrating with them, I don’t see many people outside my running circles that often, but training for a race that you’re basically running non stop for four hours is life consuming. Especially if you want to do it properly.

A long run on a Sunday is where most of us get the “proper” mileage in and that takes planning: routes that aren’t boring, accounting for tube closures or events if you’re running in central London, something scenic as you run (I mean if you’re running twenty miles, running half of that along stinky dual carriageways aren’t exactly helping the situation, you dig?) Working out all the various gels and drinks to take out with you, do you run with an extra layer around your waist so when you finish you’re warm. Comparing your split times to see whether you’re times are improving week on week.
Even down to trying to get home and cramming things into Sunday evenings when for fear of “not doing much over the weekend” and this is repeated for six months prior with the serious training being at least three months before a race.

It is tough, but it’s something we want to do despite our groaning about it otherwise we wouldn’t do it. This isn’t a justification of missing out, but an explanation that training for these things aren’t as simple as most think. As I’m in the last weeks of training before an important race, my focus as further intensified and it will do so until the start line in San Francisco. I can’t wait until I have two months off to see those I’ve not been able to during training. But I know I will also miss training by the time it’s the second week into that time off, and as soon as January hits I will be back on pounding the pavement again in preparation for London marathon.

It can be hard being the friend, partner or relative of a runner, and we apologise for that. While we don’t expect you to share our abundant enthusiasm for all of the above, we thank you for your patience and once we cross that finish line, we’re all yours. Until the next race. Better still, start running with us.

Time to Run to the Beat

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What with me “reducing my races this year” to concentrate on changing from a heel striker to mid after I ran 10 miles of Edinburgh Half and realising this is where I need to focus in order to get away from my knee issues, I’m now running Run to the Beat before I concentrate on my training for Copenhagen and weight training. Womp.

Nike’s autumn half marathon event sees runners start and finish in South-East London’s beautiful Greenwich Park, taking on a tough course with a little music thrown in.

With 12 weeks to go I have plenty of time to train properly, and it fits nicely into a training plan I had set myself for the next 8 weeks. Distance, speed work and flexibility will hopefully see me crossing the finish line strong and with a PB attached.

The event is sold out, but you can still run if you wish to fundraise for charity. For further information, check Run to the Beat’s website
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When Angel Owned the Night

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I started writing this with a weird sense of underachievement and disappointment. Why I hear you ask? First off, it doesn’t have anything to do with the race so much, but with myself.

I haven’t been able to train due to my knee playing up and this is after being unwell and (still) rebuilding myself after being unwell so that already put a damper on getting a PB. I had run with Ellie Goulding and Charlie Dark the week before as a pacer to the lovely ladies who would be taking part in the race, and much like the Tuesday before when I tried to run, my knee blew out after 3km. This had my fretting as to whether it would happen again on the day. I have never stopped or pulled out mid race, so this played on my mind a lot and I did all I could to ensure I was properly prepared and worked on looking after the knee. For the first time I was going into a race extremely underprepared and injured. Not clever.

But to the race itself. It was quite a walk to Victoria Park from either Mile End or Bethnal Green stations, we arrived from Mile End, I was fatigued from a day of yoga so wasn’t too happy on arrival. After queuing a lifetime for the toilet outside the Race Village we walked into a sea of colour (mainly from the mass of orange t-shirts) and found friends and fellow crew members before another long queue to check in our bags, there was a scramble to get bags in before catching the end of the warm-up and proceeding to the Start. The village was very well laid out with tents and bean bags, but with three thousand runners and press etc. it was overwhelming at times.

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(Photo courtesy of Venetia)

Nervous talk, laughter and Run Dem Crew away chants filled the area before we finally set off.
Now this is where things got hairy. Three thousand women running in a fairly narrow path which was then cordoned off in half is nothing short of crazy in such a large park. For the first two kilometres it was pretty much a very slow jog and trying not to trip or be tripped up. The music every couple of kilometres definitely meant a great vibe (big up Josey Rebelle and Lynda Phoenix holding it down). Thankfully the first five/six kilometres weren’t too bad especially with friends from Run Dem Crew there on official cheer duty. I’m not a big fan of the first few miles when I run and it went without any drama and Daniel who paced me round was amazing, keeping a check on the time with gentle nudges from time to time. It was agreed that we would see how the first half went regards to my knee and a plan of action after.

As my knee held up, Daniel gently picked up the pace and before I knew it we were passing the Crew again at eight kilometres, the adrenaline kicked in as I saluted my way through and started to feel ill. The rush swept through my body and my legs started to feel gelatinous. I got my head down and I was at nine kilometres but felt as if I couldn’t breathe properly and realised I didn’t have enough for the last thousand metres. I’m guessing Daniel realised this as well as he said “you’ve got this”. He took my water and just spoke to me and although I didn’t reply, I was grateful. The 500m marker felt like miles away, I walked the same way to get to the start, and running it seemed so much further. I still think it wasn’t 500m away, by the time we got to 200m to go I was ready to throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum. Why was I still running, why was I even running?! Daniel had told me when we got to this point I should assess how I felt and if I had it in me, to sprint and finish strong. At this point I questioned whoever invented running and wanted to clothesline them. But as I approached 100m to go, I looked over at Daniel and started sprinting.

I’m sorry, what?!

I darted around people and sprinted through the finish line. I won’t mention running through and going to the barrier as I though I was going to pass out/vomit/die.
Then came the overwhelming sense of emotion having realised how far I had come since February. I didn’t get a PB on this occasion, but I proved to myself that I will eventually get one with more rehabilitation and training. Then there’s Charlotte who hasn’t run a race in ages and my sister who told Charlie a year ago at my medal ceremony she doesn’t run … ran her first race. Proud.

I don’t have enough words right now for Daniel. From my hospital bed to crossing the finish line you were and always have been so supportive and I’m grateful to you for helping me achieve this milestone to getting better. Not to mention Darren, Baz and Cory (BANG).

Special thanks to Greg & Chloe at Nike and the lovely Niran and Tahirah at Awesomeness Central.

With a dodgy knee, no training and gentle pushing from a running buddy the night got owned on May 18th.

And there will be many more of those to come if I have anything to do with it.

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Run Angel Run’s Guide to: Cheer Dem Crew

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Since I’ve decided to defer my London Marathon place until 2014 so that I can run it at 100%, it is only fair that I get out there on the streets with my running crew (Run Dem Crew) and cheer on my friends who are still running.

One if the rules we have at Run Dem Crew is “If you do not run, you must cheer” so I’m squeezing into my Black Milk catsuit and going to Mile 21 in official cheerleader duties.

As part of that, I’m going to be working my top 5 cheers in and still getting a little workout in. They are:

1. The Running Man

There’s nothing quite like doing the running man and shouting “run baby, run” to perk up your fellow runner who may need a boost. And you’re still (sort of) running. Score!

2. The Carlton Banks

It’s not unusual to find me bussing this move on the dance floor or at the side of a road race. Probably also very good for banishing bingo wings, too.

3. Stir the Pot

This legendary move will encourage the passing runners to run faster with the prospect of running towards their favourite meal post race.

4. The Robot.

Firm favourite on road sides all over the World and everyone from 9 to 99 can do it, making friends through cheering; one dance move at a time.

5. The Sprinkler

On a hot race, there’s nothing like water. And lots of it. Get the sprinkler going to cool down those tired and hot runners. The gift that keeps on giving.

We Own The Night

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Last night I attended the launch of Nike’s event targeted at women called “We Own The Night”

On 18th May 2013, Nike in conjunction with Elle Magazine will be hosting a 10k for women in East London’s Victoria Park called which is designed primarily for women and of course running.

I will be following a six week training plan in the run up to the event, with NTC trainers giving advice on workouts, strength exercises and nutrition.

The night started off with some introductions followed by a quick photo shoot with the lovely Niran in Nike’s new shoe the Nike Free 5.0 and pieces from their S/S13 collection. (I now have my eye on the running tights and capris!) We then signed up to the event online and registered our Fuelbands so we can track our movement whilst training. Finally we were given a training plan with a notebook.

Having had a major setback to my fitness with an operation six weeks ago, this is a great opportunity to build that back up and have a little fun on the way. I’m lucky that I have always liked fitness, but I know a lot of women lose interest at secondary school and beyond. This event is perfect for women who do struggle sometimes as you will be with others thinking and feeling the same.

For more information on the event and details of where to sign up, please click here.

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Angel Runs VLM 2013!!

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Yes YES!!!

After my disappointment with not getting a place in the ballot, the MS Society have been nice enough to let me run with their orange vest on, in my home town a day after my 33rd birthday. Some any old chick birthday runnings.

To most it sounds like their idea of hell, to me it is a honour and privilege. I will be doing various things to hit my target of £2500 over the next six months which will be fun, including a session of running and fitness for a fiver (that’s for another blog!)

If you would like to sponsor me, the link is below.

Keep checking on here for updates on my training on the run up to Virgin London Marathon 2013, which will include video blogs for your visual/aural pleasure. Boom.

Sponsorship Page

#AngelRunsVLM2013

What a difference a year makes

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I just put my Amsterdam Half Marathon with the five others that I have collected over the past twelve months. To say I had a moment when I did would be a huge understatement.

This time last year I had just found out that I didn’t get a place at London Marathon (VLM,) I had just started to train after trying back in that March and kept getting injured so gave up. Wrong shoes (that’s for another post.)  I had decided on doing a bungee jump, a half marathon (Silverstone) and a full marathon. I almost gave up when things got really hard, but there was a voice in my heart that kept me going.

Fast forward twelve months and I have not only done those things, I have also added a second half marathon to that list, two 10ks and a five mile cross country a week after I ran Edinburgh marathon. My life has taken a real serious turn and it has been for the best. I will be finishing my level 2 Personal Trainer qualification next year, am in a permanent job and hopefully adding to the medal collection with the Paris Half, Edinburgh Marathon, running the VLM through the MS Society who I’ve already raised money for this year and the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Yes, an Ultra Marathon.

I cannot begin to tell you what my friend running has done to my life – as much as we have had huge ups and downs.  I have clocked up 400 or so miles in the last 12 months. Counselling has made a HUGE difference in my life and my spiritual journey has been nothing short of brilliant.

There are many people along this course who all have inspired, helped or even dragged me to certain points, but no-one has made me do any of this apart from me. It maybe crass to toot your own horn, but right now I am playing my own damn symphony and aint scared to play it loud!!

Here is to the next twelve months. If you have played a part in me getting to this point (you know who you are ‘cos I done told you so;) big up yourselves.

When Angel met Gunnersbury

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Another random race, random location. Corey who leads Run Dem Crew West and Darren signed up and after Harvel and the fun we had on that excursion, I had to be a part of that action.

So after waking up at the asscrack of dawn on a Sunday, I got ready and met Corey and we made our way to Acton Town meeting some of the others from the crew along the way.

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Thankfully there was reception as it was apparent from the moment we made our way from the tube station, that there would be no signs. Anywhere.

Arrived in plenty of time, got our race numbers promptly and decided to change/go to the loo etc. With limited direction we eventually found the toilets. Dirty and far away from the start.

Back to base and after checking bags and a chat we were lead to the middle of the field where we had a group stretch and then started a few minutes after 11 with no visible start line. As there wasn’t a clock to show the time or anything we checked or watches/phones. Winging it dot com. I had already decided to take this as a Sunday race, with a tee and medal. Shrug it off dot com.

As we started (when the dude shouted “go” a la school) we all set off from the middle of the field to the edge and onto the pathway which led around the park. As usual it was about taking time, and it was my job to rein in a certain person who shall remain nameless (Corey, it was Corey)  from running too fast as we both had the British 10k the following Sunday.

It was apparent after a while too that Darren was going to take his time as the recurring ankle reared its ugly head.  With no real mile markers (spray paint on the floor, I mean c’mon man) we ran around and I barked at Corey ever so often to remind him to tek time.  I do take a few miles to get into the groove so I just kept on until that happened. By that time we had gone round once and things seemed to be going okay, water at the designated station and energy drinks in cups. We had a chat with a few people as we ran including a lovely lady from my end of town. I talked to her about RDC West and then let Corey do his thing. Second lap I got excited as the site stated two laps round the park. I quickly got told by the very man I was supposed to slow down … to slow down as we had one more blasted lap to go. Kiss My Teeth. I was hungry now.

Having slowed down a fair bit, Corey and the lady I recruited to RDC West with her partner took up their pace a little leaving Darren and I to take our time round. A fair few people around the park giving encouraging applause and words of encouragement as they were out in the park with their kids or dogs. Have to say despite any form of markings apart from marshalls pointing out the way Gunnersbury isn’t a bad park at all.

Speaking to Darren to encourage him for a little while I made sure I checked on anyone walking to make sure they were good. For me, those moments where you want to give up are often averted by the right thing said at the right time. Grumpy bag didn’t quite appreciate me asking if she was okay, nevermind innit. I expect if she weren’t so grumpy she’d have friends running with her offering encouragement. *blows a raspberry*

It was that time for the final corner, I put in a sprint for the last 300m and then waited for Darren to cross the line.

On reflection, it was a very nice course in terms of the park and was glad to be running en masse again with some of the RDC/RDC West folk, but mate I was not impressed with no lack of a clock at the start/finish line. Having someone should GO! and have a woman with a stopwatch record your time (which I’d like to point out a fortnight later I am STILL none the wiser) aint cool.

Verdict:

*How do people coming to the park from the station know how to get to the aformentioned park? Telepathy? And I don’t mean the jungle rave, either …

*No markers, spray paint on the floor? We aint in Hackney. At least laminated cards on a tree or something? No? Okay then.

*Tee was okay, although an option for smaller people would be nice.

*Medal … next!

Would rather pay a bit more money for that. Harvel was for around the same money and THEY managed to have all of this for a five-mile cross country race.

Take note, organisers. If you do, I may reach back.
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An Open letter to Charlie Dark and Run Dem Crew

Credit Tom Hull (look at my baby watching my other son receive his medal)

Dear all,

I have been a “runner” for just over a year now and it has been one of the biggest roller coasters one could imagine.

When I first started on this journey, I had a lot of crap going on in my life (nothing new I guess) but I was feeling restless, I was relatively fit, but my health was up and down, the condition I have means that I can be great one day and totally terrible within twenty-four hours.

Work was just the worst place to be and in general I was literally on auto pilot getting my son from A to B and home with very little energy to do much else. I felt the depression creeping up on me again and I was not liking it at all.

After watching the London Marathon again, I got a hair brained idea to sign up and train. Redfella and two others were harassed into signing up and for a month or two we ran together a couple of times, but with work or other reasons we didn’t all manage to train again.

Fast forward a Summer of not very much fitness and a lot of drinking and a little bit of Carnival and before I knew it I was in a funk. No George Clinton.

So when the commiseration booklet from Virgin London Marathon came through (what a cruel way to let you down, by the way *side eye*) I thought eff this, I want to still run a marathon and I WILL finish this ting. I had done some research on non balloted marathons through the Summer and decided to run in Edinburgh and Silverstone half as a “warm up” and a guide as to how the full marathon would go. The same time someone I knew had a relapse so I then decided to raise some money for the MS Society. I had taken note of your Twitter feed for most of that Summer thinking I’d love to be a part of that, but thought that I wasn’t good enough to go and run with experienced folk like you lot. I also signed up to be part of the Bangs n the Run crew, but didn’t make it in and that at the time knocked my confidence a little more.

Redfella and I decided after we sat for hours researching and sending each other emails that we would start a long run on a Sunday with a run in the week with another club, for a while it was okay, but the days where we weren’t running together we felt isolated. No one really spoke to each other when we turned up, it was as if you were running alone. My yearning to join RDC became a lot stronger and I know speaking to Redfella he agreed.

I contacted Bangs and we were told the place was full to the rafters until January, so we plodded on until then growing in confidence with distances but keeping an eye on RDC as an end goal.

When the time came for us to join you guys, it was the most exciting time and you did not fail to meet that expectation. I arrived and was made to feel like I was welcome from the moment i stepped through the doors and smiling at a few people I followed with them wondering who the hell was this little 5’2 chick grinning at. (that includes you Candice) but I didn’t business.

I documented that meeting here and I won’t bore you now as this post is already looking like a novel.

Every day since becoming one of the crew, I have felt as if I have been a part of this movement for a lot longer.

Charlie .. even with me smiling at you like a crazed stalker from Twitter (which I kinda was, you following me pon di Twitter ting was amazing. I respect you as a musician and from the Blacktronica era. before all of this) you didn’t get a restraining order, instead you were there to greet me as I sprinted back to you guys shouting encouragement.

Bangatron: You got me in, fam. I know you know how much that meant to myself (and Redfella) without getting even more corny, I kinda owe you one. Thank you.

The rest of you: What can I say? You guys are some completely bonkers folk from so many walks of life. Most of ya I have managed to speak with even briefly and few of you I have managed to become friendlier with due to us running together or going to Chaka’s class. (He’s a next person I have the utmost respect for. Want to know who helped cultivate the abs Charlie talks about? *Chaka voice* Come to class and do your homework!!  – I am lifting grown people and carrying them over my shoulders now yanna!! Don’t PLAY.) You all in your own way have made me realise my potential. I really wanted to give up when I was going through a really difficult period and the running and you lot made me remember why I am here and how foolish of me it would be to stop and then not be able to be with you lot. Amazing people like Shameek who has adopted me as his Mum and the fantastic Nathaniel. You are both wonderful young men who have worked so hard through various tribulations and not used excuses to do the easier thing and give up. All of you who have come to find me when sh*t has gotten rough and dragged me out that lull. So many to call by name, but I again thank you. You could never understand how much that means when you are at your worst/lowest point.

My sister who would never run for a bus is now running. She started the week after housekeeping and the ceremony for the Mc Run Dem Warriors and Bupa 10K crew who came home with medals after surviving the hottest day of 2012. She saw how much YOU people have helped me on my journey and the support that was shown for us running in that intense heat. The girl runs twice a week sometimes and is getting into it all. NONE of that would have happened had I not been at Run Dem.

That medal ceremony even now fills me with joy and release. Thinking about it as I write this is making me a little emotional (no tears, I have something inna mi eye *coughs*) I have always wanted to run a marathon, but never dreamed I would do it, let alone with energy to drag an injured man across the finish screaming and hyping up the crowd in the process. Like, really though?!

While I am not a long term member just yet, I really want you ALL to know that I am incredibly proud to be a member of this unorthodox bunch of misfits, shouting random street slang as I run, wearing my tee in random places Corey makes me sign up to, taking photos where the tallest person in the group blocks my damn face, cheering on weary runners in races hoping that they finish cos it means I am in a group of many other weird people like myself. I have four race medals under my belt with one to come this weekend, God willing and another in October. This time last year I wasn’t running more than 4/5 miles. Fricking hell man.

Life aint perfect, but I am a MUCH happier person than I was a year ago. Good job, training to be a Personal Trainer, feeling stronger physically and mentally .. That’s a start, right? Ya damn right it is!!

To the six of you that started this madness, thank you from my family to ours. Y’all rock.

Charlie. Calling you a friend is nothing short of a privilege. Salute El Captain.

One Love (with obligatory gun finger)

The last taboo

This post has taken me years to write. This particular attempt has taken me six months. I am not particularly slow with writing for the record, but the subject matter I want to talk about is incredibly difficult.

I was raped when I was fifteen by someone I knew and have only just let my loved ones know about it due to for a long time feeling ashamed and knowing it would change the relationship I had with those people, and I wasn’t able to have that attention. I wasn’t worthy of that. The same week the rape took place, I thought I was going to lose my mum as she fell incredibly ill and was in hospital for a long time. When she came out, my sister and I needed to help a lot until she was well enough again. So I kept quiet.

The person that assaulted me at the time held me down, looked me dead in my eyes and told me I was a whore, and for a very long time I believed it. I told one person as soon as it was over and they didn’t believe me, so figured “well if I tell the Police, they won’t believe me either and everyone else would think I was damaged goods.” So I kept it a secret for sixteen years.

I am not alone. According to Rape Crisis:

Only 15% of serious sexual offences against people 16 and over are reported to the police and of the rape offences that are reported, fewer than 6% result in an offender being convicted of this offence. This means that those who commit these very serious crimes may continue to pose a risk to the public.

From various conversations I’ve had or read, a lot of people haven’t told anyone. Why?

The reason why others keep it a secret is probably also down to the same feelings I expressed earlier, and this does make for alarming reading. But I understand it. We do all need to work together to ensure this is not a fact of life that we accept and get on with. Rape is the only crime I know where the victim has to prove their innocence and it makes me sick.

I have forgiven the person who committed the assault and the person I told in confidence who shrugged it off. I figured if I am to move on with my life, being bitter and angry was like me drinking poison and expecting them to suffer. But I didn’t deal with the guilt, shame and my relationships with men since then has not been all that healthy. Something that I am working on. Daily. I have recently taken up meditation and going for help, which is slowly unravelling the build up of hiding my shame and guilt for so long.

The impact of this all now means that I suffer with depression and have done unwittingly for at least six years before things got messy. It’s now been twelve years. And the more I think about things, the more I think it has been even longer than that. The familiar words “Cheer up, love” could have secured me a multi bedroom mansion if I were to collect a pound for every time I have heard it.

The need to ‘get on with things’ and worry about it when I’m out of that dark patch is always strong and very few people until now would never know I am having a bad time as I like most people are good at saying “I’m fine” when asked how I am.

When trying to write this piece in relation to how my physical activities really help I asked for people to send me a few lines in confidence to include in the post and it was very clear straight away that although it was fine for me to speak to those who replied about depression, it was not okay for me to include anything on the blog, and I totally understand why.

But the biggest help to all of this is my relationship with fitness. Before I became someone interested in running, my thing was the gym. I’d go two/three times a week for an hour. That pretty much got me through the day when at my last couple of jobs and any stresses the day would bring. Since I have been running, however it has meant that whether in a group, with my running partner Darren or alone I am forced to listen to my brain, as there are no external distractions. My World is put to rights when I put on my trainers and take out the days’ frustrations on the pavement and I can get on with sorting it when I get home and have my bath. I am not being dramatic when I say that running has saved my life. It really truly has.

I want to finish by saying to anyone that has been beaten or assaulted to please ask for help. Suffering in silence means that you carry this toxic thread throughout your daily life, and it seeps into everything unless you cut it out. It is not your fault if you have been assaulted and you are not in anyway asking to be treated so badly. Having spoken to my family and friends, I wish I had told them sooner.

What I’m saying is you CAN do this and while I’m no expert I know MY struggles and although it isn’t perfect talking to my family and fitness have helped me out of a lot dark periods of my life and it could work for you.

I do not need your sympathy or concern. I want you to help ensure that those around get the support they need, so they don’t suffer in silence. That all said and done, if you see that I’m becoming withdrawn do me a favour? Get me in my kit, shove me out the door and tell me to go for a run. ‘Cause it’s that time, again.

You can find help/advice from many sources including:

Rape Crisis | Refuge | Women’s Aid

(If you are outside the UK, search: “Rape Counselling.”)