It’s quite remarkable how much your life can change in three years. Turn back the clock seven weeks and the change is even more astonishing.
As I sit here writing this blog post, on the 7.19am Midlands service back to London with a dull ache in my legs, a glance at Facebook memories tells me that “three years ago to this day” things were very different. It appears I’d spent the weekend writing essays in my pyjamas, interspersed with a couple of hours of drinking copious amounts of vodka on Saturday evening. I’d probably be having a bacon butty right now – getting ready for my first lecture of the week. There would have been no exercise involved in my weekend – let alone running – it’s unlikely I’d have seen more than five minutes of fresh air, and 100% likely I’d have had a takeaway!
Today, I’m on the way to my job as assistant editor of a RUNNING magazine, I ran 14 miles yesterday and am about to gather some inspiration for some healthy meals to prepare for this week. How things have changed.
But turn back the clock seven weeks and I couldn’t have ever imagined spending my Sunday morning running 14 miles! OK, I may have been for a run – but for no more than 30 minutes – and would have paid far less attention to what I would be eating that week. My feet were blister-free and my toe nails looked normal. I’d never done a squat before, taken an energy gel or cared about my cadence. I had plenty of time on my hands… perhaps I even watched TV? Twenty-six miles was only for “serious runners” and I was not one of those.
Sometimes, though, all it takes is a phone call to change your mindset. And a call from Lucozade Sport, asking if I’d like a place in this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, did just that. Nearly everyone else in the office had run a marathon, so why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I be one of those “serious runners”? And if I’m writing about running all day, I figured it was time to put the miles where my mouth is!
So, here we are, seven weeks in and I’ve never felt so fit, or learned so much about my body and how it adapts and responds to training and nutrition. For the first few weeks, I’d continued the same diet as before I’d started marathon training. I ate healthily but lacked energy-sustaining carbohydrates within some of my meals, and would leave long periods in-between eating, before wolfing down a big meal. For example, I’d had have porridge and bananas for breakfast, soup and crackers for lunch and a large chicken salad for dinner followed by something sweet. By week two, I felt so fatigued, even running for 30 minutes felt like such a drag and, by 3pm in the afternoon, my eyes were shutting at my desk. So I decided to up my intake of carbohydrates, including wholegrain unprocessed carbohydrates within all of my meals, and began to eat little and often, with lots of little snacks. I very quickly saw my energy levels rise. I got fitter – faster, and have never enjoyed planning, cooking (and eating) healthy, nutrient-rich meals as much as I do now. In fact, I never stop thinking about food or eating for that matter…it’s great!
I’ve also learned the sort of running I love – and hate. And the sessions that are most beneficial. The first 30-minute ‘tempo’ run on my plan was far more painful than the 14 miles I run yesterday. It was brutal. And what’s worse, it’s been as painful since, and will continue to be so every Tuesday until 24 April. But then I know it’s those Tuesday morning tempo runs that are making me stronger. Last Tuesday, the duration of my tempo run was upped to 55 minutes: 10-minute warm-up, 15 minutes at tempo pace, two minutes at easy pace, 15 minutes tempo pace and a 10-minute warm-down. Yuk. But when I looked at my watched and realised I’d shaved 1 minute 30 seconds off the 10K PB I had set in March last year – before breakfast – it all seemed worth it. And when I go out and run for hours on a Sunday, leisurely chatting away to my boyfriend (mainly about the dinner we’ll be rewarding ourselves with after), those Tuesdays all seem worth it.
That said, yesterday was another learning. While those 14 miles didn’t feel too taxing on my lungs, it’s safe to say my legs were in bits! And I moaned, a lot. By the end, my run became a shuffle, to the point my boyfriend actually performed a rendition of LMFAO’s “Everyday I’m Shuffling” at mile 13. It did not go down well.
After changing my running style to a more natural way of movement at the end of last year, focusing on a more forefoot to midfoot strike, while activating my hamstrings for a quicker leg turnover, I’ve noticed the importance of increasing the strength in my legs. My calves need to get stronger to take the force of the impact – as do my hamstrings to keep my cadence fast and regular. Yesterday I realised just how much of a beating my little leggies are going to take on the 24 April, and they need to be prepared for what’s to come. So, from now on, I’ve decided to do two strength sessions a week.
Getting to the gym, though, demands more time than a run and, at the minute, less time means less sleep. Squeezing in the training around a full-time job, I’ve been trying to utilise every possible hour available to catch up on washing, cooking, cleaning – and general life admin! And it seems near impossible to find time to sleep. But as my mother wisely says, “You can’t do everything,” and I’m beginning to think she’s right. I’ve seem to have acquired a sort of haggard look about me and fall asleep at the drop of a hat – especially on public transport. I have just been sent a nice bundle of gels, jelly beans and performance drinks from Lucozade Sport, though, so perhaps they’ll do the trick. Failing that, perhaps I’ll give up the cleaning….
Until next time x