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Postscript

May 15, 2010

Inspired by a comment left by the lovely Susan (@marshklein) on my last blog post, I thought a postscript of sorts might be appropriate.

Yes, the story of my marathon journey was a pretty jolly one, tinged with a little sadness and a lot of responsibility; I’d already talked about my reasons for running on the eve of the Marathon.

Post marathon, lots of people had said to me that it was a shame they didn’t get to see more of the “fun runners”. It made me think, I mean, it’s all well and good to celebrate the elite athletes breaking world records and amazing us with their athletic prowess – they should be celebrated, they’ve worked hard all their lives, they are talented, inspiring and their achievements are admirable. I do get frustrated, however, when a select handful of elite runners say that the London Marathon is no longer a “serious” event because of the amount of “fun runners” who now participate; what do they mean? Do they mean that Ben McBean, the soldier who lost an arm and a leg in a bomb blast and who I ran next to for two or three miles, isn’t a “serious” athlete? What about my friend Angie, who works tirelessly for the Children’s Trust and who, in spite of an incredibly painful leg injury she was advised not to run on, decided to go ahead anyway because she’d promised a sick young boy her medal. Then there’s my friend Donna, who ran for Barnardos, in memory of her beautiful son, Josh; she ran every step of that route for him, is she any less of an athlete because it took her five hours and not three? There’s self-confessed chocaholic, Marathon Mummy, my pal Rachael, who ran for Heart Research UK in memory of her lovely dad. Terribly ill with a bug that day, she pounded the streets knowing that every step was a step closer to the finish and she’d have done it for her dad. What about my friend, Dean, who ran 26.2 miles dressed as a womble and raised thousands for charity? I’d say he’s an athlete, wouldn’t you? My chum, Karen, put her heart and soul into training and running for her little cousin, Gina, diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at the age of 12. I’d say she’s an athlete anyway, seeing as she’s in the sub five-hour club.

Each and every one had their own particular reasons for running, reasons, bigger and more important than winning any gold medal or breaking any world records. Surely, running for someone you love or for a cause you are committed to is just as admirable as shaving a split second off your PB to make you World Champion. This little postscript is therefore dedicated to all of my friends, as well as those I’ve never met, who ran on the 25th April, no matter how quickly or slowly. Record-breaking athletes we may not be, but we ran with all our hearts and we’d do it again in a second.

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Run, Squeezy, Run!

May 14, 2010

This post is nearly as long as a marathon, so, as always, for your convenience, I have provided a handy synopsis at the end.

So, the London Marathon, I bet you’ve all been wondering if I was still on the course, lost somewhere, wondering if I’d make it to the finish line by next year. Never fear, I did make it to the end so, here it is, my marathon story. I’ve broken it down into an epic timeline so you can “(re)live the dream” that was the London Marathon 2010. It was like Ben Hur with portaloos:

Sunday 25th April 2010

2:30am Wake up raring to go, realise have woken up THREE HOURS TOO EARLY!

2:32am Panic about not getting enough sleep

2:33am Panic about panicking about not getting enough sleep

2:34am Panic about panicking about panicking, oh, this could go on forever..

3:15am Woken up by cat, cat not running London Marathon

3:16-5:57am Cat seriously risking completing London Marathon via my boot up her arse

5:58am Finally go back to sleep

6:00am Alarm goes off. Wake up

6:02am Go back to sleep again

6:10am !”£%&*&$%£!

6:11am Get up in panic and realise I have 20 minutes to get dressed, have breakfast, and take 15-min walk to train station

6:12am Leave house while getting dressed, inadvertently flash the only other idiot awake at that time on a Sunday morning.

6:30am Arrive at train station for 6:32 train

6:32am Miss the !£$%”$%£” train BY THREE SECONDS

6:33am Swear at guard*

***NOW, TIME FOR A PLEASANT INTERLUDE, FEATURING SURPRISED KITTY, WHILE SQUEEZY SWEARS LIKE A TROOPER FOR AN HOUR***

7:33am Regain composure, board next train, fall asleep with nervous exhaustion

8:00am-8:30am Wake up in fit of panic, get off train, get on tube, reassured by other runners on tube

8:30am Some runners get off tube, wait! Some are staying on, aaarrghh, what to do? Are they really runners or off to some bizarre “Paula Radcliffe ‘Doin’ it in the Streets’ event”?

8:45am Meet nice man who tells me I have plenty of time

8:46am Worry about whether I have plenty of time

9:35am Arrive at Greenwich at same time as raincloud

9:40am Need wee

9:45am Go for wee, gun goes off, vacate cubicle barely decent

9:46am Panic everyone has gone without me

10:05am GO GO GO!

10:06am Still queuing for start line

10:10am Shuffle over start line

And so begins 26.2 miles of my first ever marathon. Am I excited? Yes! Am I nervous? Yes. Do I need another wee? YES (more on that later). I’m surrounded by a hoard of runners of all shapes and sizes, even some that appear to belong to a different species. This is going to be FUN!

10:10am-11:02am All goes without hitch, am anointed TWICE with holy water, do not spontaneously combust

11:02am-12:00pm Have a feeling, this may take some time

12:00pm-12:30pm Begin to be overtaken; Batman, two poodles, man with fridge on back, different Batman (or possibly the first one lapping me)

12:31pm Realise this will take some considerable time.

12:32pm Remember I need a wee, think about needing a wee for next 33 mins

1:05pm Join back of queue for loo

1:20pm Reach front of queue for loo

1:22pm Realise have wasted 15 mins, exit cubicle like bat out of hell

I’m happy with the way it’s going, all the same – I realise I’m not going to break any records, and just resign myself to the fact that getting to the finish will be an achievement. As I make my way along the route, I suddenly realise the dozens of St John’s Ambulance people holding their begloved hands out aren’t trying to high five me, they’re handing out Vaseline! It’s not nearly as effective as Lucozade gel, tastes a bit of hospitals. People cheer along the route as I go, it dawns on me that people can’t read my name properly. I get called “Suzy” a handful of times, “Squidgy” is shouted with enthusiasm, a well-meaning spectator shouts “Keep going Squeaky!”. Then finally, a curly-haired cherub shouts “Come on Squeezy!”. I’m happy.

2:32pm Overtaken by man dressed as toilet

2:33pm Realise I need another wee

2:35pm Join back of queue for the loo, suspicious it is the same queue I joined an hour and a half ago

2:52pm Reach front of queue for loo, realise I don’t need loo, go to loo anyway

It’s at this point I realise my breakfast of tasty energy gels, washed down with tasty energy drink, supplemented by tasty energy tablets isn’t really the breakfast of kings. I’m VERY hungry now – but wait! I remember! I’ve heard tell of a legendary sandwich contained within the magical bag of dreams** handed to each runner upon completing the race. The thought of that alone will keep me going to the end!

2:53pm Realise excessive consumption of energy products leads to involuntary delirium

2:54pm Begin to fixate on infamous sandwich.

2:55pm Still fixating on sandwich

2:57pm Yes, it’s that sandwich again

2:58pm Seven miles til sandwich time. Mysteriously pick up pace

3:37pm Crowds get louder, I just want my sandwich

3:55pm SANDWICH

4:02pm I’ve nearly done it. LOOK! THERE IT IS, THERE IT IS, THERE’S THE FINISH LINE!

4:03pm Overtaken by sausage*** followed by Dalmatian in hot pursuit

4:04pm Time for my “sprint” finish, I race down the Mall, finish line in my sights

4:07pm I’VE DONE IT! I crossed the finish line! Ooh get me! Got my medal, OKTHXBYE. Now, WHERE IS MY SANDWICH?

And there we have it, 26.2 miles, 6hrs 1 min later, and I’m a marathon runner, how do I feel? Pretty good actually, I’m surprisingly chirpy, not tired (honestly). I feel lucky to have got away with months of training with no serious injuries and not one blister. How did I manage that? I don’t know but I’m pleased. People around me are crying, collapsing, jumping for joy. I’m quietly happy, but at the same time a little disappointed; the inner critic in me says “Could do better”, well, shut up inner critic, I ran a marathon. I ran a marathon!

There are those who think the marathon should be reserved only for the fastest of runners. That people like me are merely “joggers”, not good enough to participate in events such as this. We just get in the way, our presence has meant that the London Marathon is no longer a “serious” event. This, I just don’t understand. Surely the runner who has toiled for months and struggled with a discipline with which they may have no natural affinity, to finally run the biggest race of their lives, however slowly that may be, is as much a sportsperson as the individual who eats, sleeps and breathes long distance running and who manages to nail sub three-hour times with some ease. Sport, to me, is not about being faster or stronger or better than anyone else, it’s like anything in life, it’s about doing your best. I’ve said this before, there will always be people who are better than you, whether we’re talking sport, an academic discipline, cooking, anything, and if you think you’re the best, you need a humility check. I mean, I’m not the greatest runner, but I’m pretty good at karate, yes, that’s right, so the next “elite” who says something about people like me competing in “serious” races will get a karate chop!

So, I know, on a different day, I definitely could’ve run faster, tried harder, not gone to the loo as much, but honestly, does it really matter? My performance on the day wasn’t the best I’ve ever managed; I know that I could’ve managed a 4h 30 min marathon, I’d proved it before. My performance in the marathon was the best I could manage on that day and besides, there’s always next year. I like the fact that I’ve given myself comfortable room for improvement!

Anyway, dear reader, back to more weighty matters: did I get my sandwich?****

*I didn’t actually swear at him, he was 6’4” and had a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp

** Subsequently used as a receptacle for the contents of the cat’s litter tray

*** Didn’t I threaten to kneecap him way back in March?

****NO (I’m too distraught to elaborate*****)

*****Actually, I’m not. Can you believe it – I run 26.2 miles and they don’t even have the decency to provide me with a sandwich? NO BLEEDIN SANDWICH, I ask you! THE AUDACITY!

Synopsis:

I ran the London Marathon, I didn’t get a sandwich

Epilogue:

Three days after the London Marathon, I enter the Loch Ness Marathon; they’d better not be lying about the FREE SOUP.

Pause for Thought

April 24, 2010

Almost 12 months ago when my friend, the lovely L, persuaded me that it’d be a great idea to run the London Marathon, I never thought it would really happen. I’m always full of grand ideas that never come to fruition, but lo and behold the big day is almost here and I’m more nervous about getting there than getting round – how silly is that? You see, I’m the sort of person who gets into a tizz about stupid things but can always be relied upon to remain calm in a major catastrophe: chopped your arm off with the potato peeler? No problems, I’ll get a tea towel. Lassie’s drowning in the lake? I’ll just get my dinghy. Don’t know what to have for dinner? OMG! Call the emergency services!

So as the big day dawns, I find myself worrying about silly matters: are my arms too fat for this vest? I’ve got a huge spot on my nose, everyone will see. I can’t go out like this, I look like The Fly in these sunglasses – at least I don’t have to be sick on my food before I eat it – it’s bad enough having to eat my own body weight in pasta!

When I started thinking about the London Marathon and doing constructive things to raise money for charity, I wanted to help people and do something useful. I thought about my dad a lot when I started my journey: he died from lung cancer many years ago and I still miss him. I thought about how I wanted to do something in his memory so I could make him proud. I thought about all he’d gone through and how he fought so bravely. What I remember most is how terribly sad it would make him when he saw children enduring what he was going through. It used to break his heart. So when I decided that I’d run for Children with Leukaemia, I had my dad in mind the whole time. And so, I began my journey; little did I realise where it would take me.

I’d volunteered for leukaemia charities before; I’d never personally been affected by the illness, I kind of got roped into it by my mum but found that I actually enjoyed volunteering. I met some brave, inspiring individuals – parents, children, nurses, doctors, all of whom had a story to tell. So when I began to fundraise for Children with Leukaemia, I thought I had a connection that had become deeply important to me. I hoped that by raising money, I’d be helping my charity make a difference.

Then, one day, I received a donation from a lady I’d never met before; in her message to me she said that she’d lost her son, Thomas, to leukaemia many years previously. Children with Leukaemia had helped her family when they needed it most and she wanted to give something back. We began to exchange e-mails and I felt moved by this lady’s story; I could tell that she still missed her son terribly. I’m not a parent and I can’t begin to imagine the pain one suffers at the loss of a child. However, I felt I really wanted to do something in return to thank this kind stranger for supporting me and I asked if she would allow me to run in her son’s memory. I didn’t expect her to say yes but she did. I must say, it overwhelmed me a little, I was humbled and honoured in equal measure that this kind lady would allow me, a stranger, to run for her son.

I always felt what I was doing had purpose but to do this has given what I’ll be doing tomorrow real meaning. Thomas’s mum said to me today that when you spend time with terminally ill children, their joy and tenacity show you what real strength is. So these trivial matters I am worrying about, pale into insignificance. When I hit the “wall” that’s what I’ll think of, the strength and tenacity of those children. 26.2 miles is nothing by comparison. Tomorrow, I’ll be running for Thomas and for everyone who’s shared their story of a loved one they’ve lost to leukaemia. I’ll be running for my dad too because I know he’d approve.

So as the marathon draws near, it’s not really the end of my journey, but the start of it. Stick with me, I’m not finished!

Warning! Contains Badgers…

April 20, 2010

Well, you’ve probably all been on the edge of your seats awaiting the next exciting instalment of my journey to the London Marathon. Who’d have thought that this training malarkey would take up so much time? I’ve lost my thread, it’s been some weeks, let’s face it! Where were we? Ah! Yes, when last I blogged, I regaled you with tales of my astounding success at the Sport Relief 10k.

Alas! Finchley, a mere 20 miles, was a whole different kettle of fish but I shan’t dwell. I shall gloss over the fact that I was lapped by 154 different runners (although the winner actually lapped me twice) and I think at one point, I was even lapped by a three-legged badger! I shall omit the part where I had to drag my hulking frame up hill and down dale, nearly being crushed in a freak accident involving a Reliant Robin and a combine harvester. I shall forget the bit about me being so slow that the water stations packed up and went home and I had to knock on someone’s door (oh the shame!) to ask for a drink. Though I shall mention the individuals who told me I was the happiest-looking runner they’d ever seen – I did point out to each and every one that this grin was a deranged one and I was completely mental.

Squeezy had taken so long to finish the race, that the marshalls had given up hope!

Last, yes, I came last! Let’s face it, a whelk with a club foot could have entered and still beaten me! You’d think I’d be destroyed, downtrodden and downhearted, not me! I ran 20 miles in four hours AND I managed to avoid injury and walking like John Wayne for the next three days, unlike some of my speedier comrades. I knew I’d be last, everyone thought I was fishing for compliments when I predicted I’d be last but I’m not that kind of person, I knew I’d be last and I was OK with it! Secretly I knew that if the race was being run backwards, I would, of course, be in the lead!

When I first started training for the London Marathon, I was obsessed with the idea of getting a decent time in, obsessed. As time has progressed, I realise that I’m in this for the long-haul, oh yes! I shall be doing this sort of thing for many years to come and I have plenty of time to get better and faster. Why be hard on myself, this is difficult enough as it is without having to worry about competing with other people. I’m not a competitive person, not in the slightest; I hate team sports and prefer individual pursuits. This is what I’ve realised about running, I’m the only competition I need. I don’t expect to finish last in the London Marathon but even if I did, who cares, it’s having a go that matters, right?

Unfinished Business

March 27, 2010

For your convenience, all this is condensed into an informative and ramble-free synopsis at the end.

Way back in October, having decided that I was going to run in the London Marathon, I thought it might be sensible to start participating in a few races. A nice easy 10k to begin with, I thought, 10k – 10k’s not far, is it? Is it? I decided that the Cancer Research race was the one for me but thought it best to keep this one under my hat – after all, it was my first running event, I had no idea just how much humiliation I was going to subject myself to.

What started off as a run in secret ended up turning into an enormo-running fest – all my competitive friends who liked the idea of racing each other decided they’d join in too. Oh, and then my glamorous and beautiful friend N decided she’d come to cheer us on (N, by the way, is graceful as a gazelle and runs 12 miles as easily as we might take a walk to the corner shop). “Great,” I thought, “not only do they get the pleasure of seeing me in running tights, they also get to see how incredibly slow and inept I am”.

I began with plenty of enthusiasm and expectation – 10k isn’t that far and running for Cancer Research meant so much to me, after all, my dad would be on his cloud cheering me on and giving me a “shove” in the right direction, wouldn’t he? No, I think dad was off doing something else that day, either that or having a jolly good chuckle at my expense. You see, I managed to finish, oh yes, but I can’t say I really managed to run the whole way round – I think “hobble” would be a better description.

Conditions for my first 10k were not ideal, unfortunately, I'd forgotten to pack my sou'wester

The race was a two-lap course of the coldest, windiest route I’d thus far had the pleasure to run. Looking like a 76-year-old walrus with a tomato for a face, as I run around the course, I use the term “run” loosely, I am intermittently cheered on by the lovely N who doesn’t appear to have a hair out of place even though it’s windier than a curry night in a wind tunnel! Do I really want to run the London Marathon? I mean, surely I could do something easier like climb Everest dressed as a monkey in tutu and flippers.

I do manage to finish, luckily it’s taken me so long that my “friends” packed up and went home five hours ago. This is fortunate because I was so humiliatingly slow that I felt I had to lie about my finishing time to avoid embarrassment. Yes, I’ve decided to come clean and this is why:

Back in February, as I struggled on with my training, the lovely @runitfaster was looking for people on Twitter who were new to marathon training and wanted some coaching and support. Did I ever need support, I jumped at the chance! At the time, I hoped “support” for the marathon might mean he was planning to run round with me on a stretcher. Alas no, but George (for that is his name) kindly gave me free membership to his online running club and promised that each week, he’d send me a training plan. He promised to support me and assured me I could contact him whenever I needed.

Week one, I receive my training plan, full of large scary terms such as “threshold runs” and “Kenyan Hills”. “Do I have to go to Kenya to do the hills?” I ask eagerly. “Er, no,” says George “THIS is a Kenyan Hill, you big loony!” (He didn’t actually say that because he’s very nice)

Well, the training plan is tough, but fair. I realise that my leisurely trot round the local park with a break to look at the birdies really wasn’t going to cut it. Week on week I began to feel faster and stronger (by my standards!) – I’ve since completed half-marathons with varying degrees of success. But I still had unfinished business with the dreaded event – the 10k.

Last Sunday’s 10k for Sport Relief was my chance to exorcise the demons (and I’d been exercising like a demon*) that had troubled me since that windy October day. Setting off to Windsor Racecourse with my friends the lovely L and the speedy A, I’d had high hopes that I’d shave about 20 minutes off my time – I’d be happy with that. Lining up at the start, I felt like a “proper” runner among those dressed as Beefeaters, badgers, bunny girls and one chap who appeared to be dressed as a sausage. I feel pretty positive but determined to put in a good time, even if it means kneecapping the sausage and the badger. Although – how do you kneecap a sausage?

The course consisted of 12 half-mile laps which seemed somewhat ridiculous to begin with and made me feel quite nauseous by the end. As the lovely L and I make our way round we realise something marvellous and amazing: no-one is lapping us! Crikey! There must be something wrong. But no, I look at my watch – three miles down and it’s only taken us 25 minutes! We continue on to the end keeping a good pace, then build up for our sprint finish – I have yet to master sprinting so the lovely L bounds on ahead, 20 seconds in front. I cross the finish line feeling dizzy but it’s the time on my watch that nearly makes me pass out – 54 minutes 20 seconds! That’s a whole twenty-nine minutes off my 10k “PB”! Better still, we get a goody bag that looks like this:

I even get a single, solitary prune as reward for my efforts. Thanks, Sport Relief! It turned out to be one of the most positive days of my running career so far.

Tomorrow I have the Finchley 20-mile run to contend with. Somehow I doubt it will be as successful as last Sunday…

The moral of the story: a little hard work can go a long way. I never thought I’d manage a sub-1 hour 10k, much less within three months of beginning my training. And the reason I wanted to share all this? The serious bit? Well, I’ve met lots of people, since training began, who’ve said “I can’t run for more than a few minutes”, “I can’t run to save my life” etc., etc. – the thing is, I was one of those people, I couldn’t run for toffee, it was hard to begin with, it still is hard. I haven’t given up on the 2012 Olympics (yeah right) but my point is if you want to try something, anything, go for it! It doesn’t matter if you aren’t the best, there will always be people better than you and there will always be people who couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all, the important thing is, you’ve tried, that’s what matters. End of sermon.

Synopsis:
I used to be really rubbish at running
A nice man offered to help me be less rubbish at running
Now I am less rubbish at running, and I also won a prune
Tomorrow I may revert to being rubbish at running

*My boyfriend wrote this bit. He is silly, his favourite joke is about chips.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

March 8, 2010

Well, yesterday was a day of mixed emotions. I’d like to point out firstly that the greatest disappointment of the Milton Keynes Half Marathon was the obvious and unashamed LACK OF BANANAS (see previous post); water, that’s all we got, poxy water! However, I was not disheartened – in fact, I was quite chirpy, this was probably due to the excessive amounts of Lucozade I’d imbibed on my journey there and the inadvisable amounts of glucose sweets I’d consumed. To my detriment, I found that one was simply not enough and I’d had more glucose than was probably sensible.

We arrive and I’m bouncing like a kid who’s had way too many orange sweeties. Can’t wait to start – I’m raring to go. The sky is blue, it’s a beautiful day! Ready to line up! Great! I can’t wait. As we edge nearer to the start line, I realise that the copious amounts of Lucozade consumed some time previously, were ill-advised. I can’t run back, what shall I do? I’ve got a great idea, I’ll just run a whole half marathon, that’s 13.1 miles, on a full bladder; in the history of great ideas, this has got to be the greatest!

Off we go! Mile two and I’m considering trying to run with my legs crossed. Mile three and everyone seems to be darting off hither and thither into bushes, which doesn’t help. Into mile four, I visualise arid deserts and Ryvita sandwiches with cream cracker filling – but wait! Now I’ve made myself think about food, I’ve just realised that I’m absolutely STARVING – into mile five I try to decide whether my desire to run behind a bush is greater than my desire to eat WORLD’S MOST ENORMOUS SANDWICH. Perhaps if I do run behind a bush, I might find WORLD’S MOST ENORMOUS SANDWICH but would I really want to eat it?

Little do I realise that hunger and needing a wee are the least of my worries: “Is that a hill I see ahead?” I say to my lovely pal L. “But ‘they’ told us it was flat all the way round!” She exclaims, “Perhaps this slipped their minds, maybe it’s the only one”. The eternal optimist, as we negotiate hill* after hill I think, this one, will be the very last one, surely. One, two, five, seven hills, and still they keep coming, nevertheless, we soldier on undeterred, surprisingly, in spite of a full bladder, empty stomach and excruciating hills, we’re keeping good time, on target for a two hour five min race, that is until “Ping” – arrrrgghhhhh! Mile eight and my IT Band has put paid to hopes of getting in a decent time for this half: “It’s the hills!” I exclaim in dramatic fashion, hunched over Quasimodo-like, face contorted; I fail to mention it’s my own stupid fault for not doing the stretches I’d been told to do!

We continue on regardless, my friend goes on ahead and I slow down to my famous pit pony trot, I keep hoping every hill I see will be the last and finally, I see it! The finish is near and “they” kindly saved the steepest and most unforgiving hill for the last 500m of the race. I’d like to know who “they” are so I can thank them for (not) warning me. We approach with trepidation; each and every one of us adopts a strange “running in lead boots through treacle” gait as we negotiate a short but incredibly steep incline towards the finish line. I’ve made it – sprinting to the finish looking very much like a person who REALLY NEEDS A WEE, REALLY NEEDS A SANDWICH and REALLY HAS A HURTY HIP!

I really don’t want to see my finish line photo, thanks very much:

Nice medal though, perhaps it was worth all the discomfort! Funnily enough, I feel pretty happy about the whole thing.

So, what did I learn from my second half marathon?
1. Don’t drink three gallons of Lucozade before a race unless you enjoy the sound of sloshing and like the idea of mooning at your fellow runners from behind a bush.
2. Don’t expect bananas, think yourself lucky you’ve been given water! Painting a sausage yellow doesn’t count.
3. Do your exercises when you’re told or risk limping past the finish line like a 173-year-old walnut on crutches!
4. Don’t believe everything the race organisers tell you – if they say “the route’s as flat as a steamrollered wafer”, they really mean “route may contain mine-shafts and ladders”. THE BIG SHAMELESS LIARS!

*I say “hill”, “slope” is probably a more accurate description, but it doesn’t sound so dramatic, let’s face it.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, or Yes, We Have No Bananas

March 1, 2010

You don’t have to read all of this, there’s a handy synopsis at the end.

So, my lovely charity, Children with Leukaemia, invited all its Golden Bond runners for a jolly day out in London this weekend: “Come to Hyde Park!” they said “Let’s go for a little run. We’ll have some lunch back at the hotel across the road and have a chat about training” they said. “Ooh” I thought, “That’ll be quite nice” – lots of Golden Bond runners, all in the same boat, I mean, there won’t be any serious runners there, will there? How wrong I was! I arrived at the hotel and found myself in a room full of “I can run a marathon in 2hrs 20 mins”-type runners – “So and so runs for the country you know” “Really? Good for him – bet he’s got no life” I thought. Someone else says “I had a terrible run last week, I only managed 13 miles in an hour 15 mins.” “Disaster!” methinks. Another pipes up “I only started running 12 months ago and now I can run a half marathon in 10 minutes!” (OK that’s an exaggeration, but you get the picture – she had crap hair anyway).

“Don’t forget guys, we need you to wear your vests so we can spot you in the park” the lovely chap from our chairty had reminded us – “Spot” us? We are visible from space in these things:

The vests are lovely but yellow doesn’t look good on someone whose skin is so pale, it’s virtually transparent – I know! I’ll wear my black thermal base layer underneath, that’ll overcome the problem. Ah yes, it made the vest look less hideous on but little did I realise that it would make me so incredibly hot that halfway round the second lap I would seriously consider streaking past the Bandstand to cool off!

Off we go, I’m dying for a wee – should I run back? No, I’ll expend valuable energy, it’s not worth it, I’ll take the risk. Soon, all 100 of us set off – the pace is faster than I would like, so I hang back “They’ll soon slow down once they realise they’ve gone too quickly”. Ha! No sooner said than all 99 of them disappear around a corner, never to be seen again until lap two when most of them run by me as I emerge from the ladies’ toilets; I couldn’t hold on any longer – although I’d managed to resist the temptation of the inviting bush I ran past earlier. I am unfazed and adopt my “I look as if I’m walking but I’m really running” run. By the end of the second lap, I decide to retire my lead boots for the day – nine miles and I’m shattered and disheartened, this didn’t happen last week! I expect I should put it down to “one of those days” and forget about it. It’s difficult though, you’re on a high from finishing your first half marathon in 2hrs 25 mins (a good time for me) and the very next week, it takes an hour to run the first three miles – yet strangely only an hour to run the next six miles – how does that work?

On a more positive note, I have hatched a scheme that may lead to my never having to pay for a single banana ever again in my life. I stumbled upon the idea just last week after the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon – about the only highlight to the whole of that miserable, wet, sleepless weekend was the fact that I managed to stockpile a week’s supply of bananas. I love a banana, me, so I was delighted when the marshals seemed to shove bananas at me at every opportunity – better still, my running pal HATES bananas, so I bagged her stash too!

Imagine my excitement when I returned to the hotel for the lunch we’d been promised and I beheld this wondrous sight:

– now my dilemma: how to grab a week’s supply of bananas with no-one looking. “OK”, I thought, perhaps the best strategy was a stealth point-to-point tactic, whereby I would approach my target obliquely in small steps so as not to arouse suspicion. The first objective (three bananas) was met easily, I had, after all, just come back from a long, arduous run – no one would turn a hair. However, repeat assaults on the banana depot could prove to be more difficult.

Fortunately for me, the fools had left the bananas unguarded, giving me a valuable window of opportunity, the adrenalin overcame the fear of being caught and I attempted a full-frontal assault. Stealthily, I disengaged from the action and ninja-like, crept unnoticed from the room full of people listening attentively to the talk on all things “London Marathon”, to the high-security banana storage facility. Imagine my horror when I discovered that there was in fact someone on sentry duty – I could see from the cut of his jib that resistance on his part would be slight. Luckily, there’d been a changing of the guard, so he didn’t realise I’d already been in once before “Phew!” I said “I’ve only just finished my run – you don’t mind if I take a banana (or five) do you? I’m STARVING”. Perhaps he could tell by the frenzied look in my eye that it would be unwise to challenge me. How easy it was – my mission accomplished – another week’s supply of bananas in the bag (literally!) – Milton Keynes Half next week – they’d better have some bananas or there’ll be hell to pay!

Synopsis:
I had a humiliating and rubbish weekend (BOO)
I got loads of bananas (YAY)
I really want more bananas next weekend (and a medal) (possible YAY)