Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Runner's World Fat Burn feature: what's that all about then?!

If you subscribe to Runner's World UK, by now you will have had your June issue through the post (if you don't, it should be in the shops by end of this week). The regular Fat Burn feature (page 25) is about me this month! How did that happen?!

This is a bit weird 
Back in mid November I spotted a tweet from @runnersworlduk asking for people to get in touch if they'd lost a lot of weight through running and to send before and after photos. I saw it just as I was heading out of the door to collect my children from school. I assumed they would have had loads of replies by the time I saw their tweet, so I wasn't holding my breath about getting a reply and I didn't want to waste too much time finding photos. I fired off a short email saying that yes I had lost weight through running and directed them to a blog post I'd written a month earlier (Why I Started Running...) that included some before and after photos.

The next morning, just as I was stepping out of the door to take my children to school (it doesn't get any more interesting folks), I received a reply: "Would I like to be featured?"; attached was an example of the type of feature they meant. After a quick email discussion with my husband, I agreed. I sent off some high-resolution "before" photos for them to choose from.

The next week I received a list of questions by email to answer. Being the sort of person who likes to chat, I returned an essay (all quality though) to the section editor, my thoughts being that she'd have plenty of quotes to choose from. I was told I'd been penciled into the June issue, but I work in publishing so know how things can change; I wasn't holding my breath on that date or even on eventual publication. I was informed the photographer would be in touch in the New Year to arrange a date to take my photo, but otherwise that was all I had to do. 2 weeks after sending the initial email, it was all over with. I'd managed to tell only a handful of close friends too (out of fear of it all falling through I didn't dare tell more people; I didn't even tell my cousin or my in-law family).

I tried really hard to eat sensibly over Christmas, in case I was contacted by the photographer in January. By February I was at my lowest weight for over a year! By March I was beginning to think they'd forgotten about me. I have some idea about publishing timelines because of where I work. I knew that if I was going to be in the June issue it would be out at the end of April, and they'd need to pass the issue at least 2 weeks before then. I had a holiday booked the first 2 weeks of April (when I guessed they would try to take the photo). So I emailed the section editor again to find out what was going on and to let her know when I was away, in case she had to arrange a photo sooner. Yes, I was right! Fortunately I managed to arrange for the photographer Tom (@photosmudger) to come the afternoon before I went on holiday. Talk about last minute!

My friend Claire (Barberella) offered to put my hair up for me in the morning, she did a fabulous job!

I cannot keep a straight face when asked to pose for a photo
A couple of hours later, Tom arrived. He set up a studio in my conservatory, white paper background and covering the floor, lights either side, it was such a fun half hour really (it honestly didn't take that long!). He snapped away for about 10 minutes, making me try different poses, putting me at ease until I'd lost the urge to burst out laughing.

Setting up the "photography studio" in my conservatory

All in all, a rather pleasant experience. It's really nice to be able to tell my story to a wider audience, hopefully it will inspire a few more people to start running. And I'm so happy that Stotfold Runners got such a large mention. Pete and the other club members are a big influence in my life, they got me started and now I can pass on what I've learnt to our beginners. And my husband, who has just taken up running (he's faster than I am over 5K already, typical!).  

Friday, 25 April 2014

Talking about marathons...

So, last night I spotted a tweet by @marathontalk (http://www.marathontalk.com/) linking to this NY Times article about people who "plod" around marathons. I posted a link to the article on Facebook and invited my friends to comment. Safe to say, it's a touchy subject.

Just read this article thanks to Marathon Talk on twitter. According to "seasoned marathoners", anyone who runs a marathon slower than 4 hours is ruining the skill of running a marathon. I disagree (obviously, with my 4:58 PB). What do you think?

A Finishing a marathon without collapsing is a minor miracle by itself. Comments like that completely undermine the massive personal achievement of anyone who completes a Marathon.

B That's outrageous! What a ridiculous point of view. Anyone who completes a marathon has my total and utter respect. End of.

C Why not make it sub 3 hours? Idiots...

D Hear hear that! My cousin has power walked 10 marathons and raised heaps for cancer research. That’s awesome in my mind.

E I think anyone who has completed a marathon even once has my utmost respect. Regardless of time. It's a personal best and a free country and it's usually those who do it even once raise a ton of money for good causes.

ME Good. I'm glad you all agree with me. Thought I was going mad for a moment.

F It's all relative is it not?
By that I mean, if you are fast then a fast marathon is an achievement, if you are slow a slow marathon is an achievement no? My target for MK is finishing, then finishing under 4hrs is my next target.... My training was done so I could complete a marathon not race a pro!!

G It's a foot race not a running race....it doesn't matter whether you run, skip, walk or shuffle. Walking a marathon is hard work, you are on your feet for a long time. The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) organise some fantastic marathons......and quite often the opposite applies here....the runners are 'gatecrashing' on the walkers event! 

H Taking 6hrs to complete a marathon is harder than taking 4......

G but only if you are capable of completing a marathon in 4hrs

J Does annoy me slightly people walking marathons that are hard to get into, a big part is the time you have spent training in the build up to the event, if you want to enter a mara you gotta be prepared to put in the training hours not just turn up on the day

K As you all know, I think anyone who isn't an Olympian should just quit. I mean anything over 4 hours is just a nice stroll... 

J I think time is irrelevant as long as its the best you can give on the day, but walking isn’t an achievement for most and they are taking up places of people who are prepared to push themselves

K Should every runner be pushing themselves to the limit then? I would say the way the race is marketed dictates who enters it. If the race says 8hr cut off, you'll get those doing it in 8hrs.
If it was 4hrs then you'll get only faster runners. Its a commercial thing though.
More runners, more money. Personally I think both sides are right, its down to the organisers to decide who they want.
If London decided on a 3.30. Cut off I wouldn't mind. I'd just not enter. Probably train to get in though....

D Does that mean power walking too! As i know my cousin trains v hard!

ME I think power walking counts D, because as I've found out, R can walk faster than I can jog! It definitely counts!

I think K  is correct when he says it's up to the organisers who they're marketing. A 4.5 hour cut off would put me off from entering, whereas a 7 hour marathon opens it to most.

L There is always someone faster and always someone slower than you, so its always dangerous to comment on what a good pace is.....
If people get round giving it their best then that is the achievement not the time it takes.

D After going to watch the London one, my first, I was impressed with all of them specially watching an 81 yr old coming to the finish after 6 hrs...god bless him xx

M I think that is why tiered starting waves are really important... The annoying people are those who submit a much faster estimated time just so they can start upfront - and then get in the way!

N I haven't got a problem with how long anyone takes. If you've won a place in the ballot and want to walk it in 7 hours, go you ahead... just don't start near the front so everyone has to weave around you!

P I completely disagree with this article. When I completed the VLM in slightly over 4 hours, I was physically broken afterwards. The people I had real respect for though, were those who finished around 5 hours something. In my mind, they would probably have still run the whole thing or most of it, at a pace that challenges them but they had spent longer on their feet running than me. That must be more knackering. A bloke I know from our club has completing many marathons sub 4 hour but when he walked the xxx walkathon he said that felt harder!

Q I haven't got a problem with how long anyone takes either, but just to play devils advocate - you have 2 people, ones run it in sub 3 and the others walked it in 8. Both get the same medal and can call themselves marathoners - surely it must devalue it for the runner!? Maybe they should have separate entry categories I.e marathon runners and marathon walkers - some races do this.

ME I don't think the time someone else finishes a marathon in devalues the race for someone who ran it faster (you could say the same for a 10K race, who worked harder for their medal, the person who ran 45 mins or who ran 75 mins?). It's about the personal challenge in my opinion.
You challenge yourself to run sub 3, you do it, you're thrilled. You challenge yourself to complete the distance, you do it in 8 hours, you're still thrilled.
And then you rechallenge yourself at a later date to run it again but faster!
Exactly why when I completed my first marathon (sub 5) I was thrilled at first and then became less thrilled as the year passed because I realised I wanted to do it again, but faster.

R Surely its all about the personal achievement. We all have different goals in life and are all at different fitness levels. Finding running difficult I would love to be able to complete a marathon in 4 hours but will be delighted whatever time I complete xxxx in.

S I think the fact that you're timed and that there is a 'winner' - the person who is the fastest racer, is a hint towards what you're meant to be achieving - your fastest possible time, whether that be running or walking for you.
I think in answer to your question though, if you could do it under 4 hours, you should. In my opinion the same applies to 3 and 5 hours.
I saw a picture of a guy who walked it after having a heart bypass a few years previous and he looked shattered, so I think there is a place for walking it if that's the best you can achieve at that time in your life, or if it's a marathon organised by a walking association.
For me personally my biggest battles have been staying injury free and pacing (not going off too fast) so they're the skills I aim to learn at this point in my journey.
I'd best get a good time when I do my first marathon in June now!!!
I would however make a sprint finish compulsory....even if you are walking

J I honestly don’t think the length of time taken makes a difference, but most of the population could walk a marathon (normal walk) if you want a stroll then do a LDWA event, if you want to be a marathoner then put in the training hours.
Big achievements are hard earned and individual some peoples 5ks are the equivalent to a marathon for some but they have trained from walking to run/walks etc

Q Yeah I think if you've covered the distance great, but unless you've run the whole distance (regardless of time taken) you shouldn't call yourself a marathon runner

ME LOL Q  you really are taking "devils advocate" seriously, I feel I should run all the way round MK now to earn my medal  Z  finished xxx in 3:52 by run-walking from mile 18, I like his style.

K I look forward to the day I can call myself a marathon runner

C Harsh Q! Couldn't care less if people did it in 2 hours or 12, don't need other peoples efforts to justify your own achievements. If I ran 20 miles and broke down and had to run/walk/hobble the last 6 I would still consider that I'd 'ran' it. For me, unless you have ambitions to win a race you shouldn't really worry about the strategy of everyone else. For example you can have no idea about others' stories. You might have a 600lb man have lost half their body weight with a goal of walking a marathon, that would be more of an effort than a fitness freak jogging round in five hours, no? In football parlance, concentrate on your own game

J That 600lb man would have put in the training and done fantastically well to lose half his bodyweight, deserves his medal, its the people who enter do little or no training turn up on the day and just plod, as runners we know that a marathon finish started months/years previously with a lot of time and effort in training, if you have put the graft in and do your best on the day and achieve 8hrs then you deserve your medal, if you just turn up and saunter round then im not sure you do

C All I'm saying is that the only medal I'm worried about is mine. If someone wants to rock up and walk round then so be it. Wouldn't devalue my achievement. You worry too much J 

Q I think I just heard Pheidippides turn in his grave 

C Haha. Look at us having reasoned debate. It will never last...

J Certainly wouldn’t devalue your achievement C, just they are taking the place of other people who would have put in a lot more effort

T Who the @*!! do they think they are? If I want to run backwards on my hands I will. It's no one else's business. If some self-pontificating pillock needs his achievement validated by my or anyone else's time, then that says more about his sad life and attitude than others or the sport.

ME J you have reminded me of this story I read recently, asking if you can run a marathon without training. Please ignore the fact Jedward are in it http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17456672

J "If you walk briskly at 15 minutes per mile, that's six-and-a-half hours to do 26.2 miles - most people could sustain it."

J "Training needs real commitment. Personally I think training for a marathon is more of an accomplishment than running it."

ME J I completely agree, training for a marathon is harder than the race itself. Although when it's pissing down with freezing rain for 4 hours it's pretty hard, eh H?

H you forgot the wind <we’re referring to Preston Guild Marathon>

J Do think the 4hrs thing is complete b#ll###s anyone going sub 4 is officially quick

Q I've only done it once in 3 attempts.

C So J are you just talking about the big over-subscribed races J? If someone strolls round in 8 hours in a local marathon which didn't reach its limit is that more acceptable? I suppose if I actually trained for one my opinion might differ...

J If there making cut offs in a local race that hadn’t filled up then fair enough, that’s prob a good thing supporting local events

G I take my hat off to someone who doesn't train and manages to complete a marathon 

H you would be quicker if you didn’t run in a hat!!

H just for information in the 2012 London marathon 36,705 runners finished..........if they had a cut off at 4 hours only 11,051 would have got a medal..........a 3hr cut off would reduce this to 1,245 medals.....they could make a massive saving.....

N If we are going to ban plodders from marathons as they are not real runners, then surely anyone not wearing proper running attire should be banned as well??? I mean how can you validate your existence if you happen to be beaten (not run as quickly) by the above <I had posted a pic of G in fancy dress at London this year> 

G That's what I was telling everyone I ran past in the last few miles! 

G serious runners - fancy dressers - charity fun runners - plodders - walkers can all exist in perfect harmony. Only an elitist-spoil-sport would say otherwise

H unless Mo Farah is on your shoulder waiting to pounce in the last mile and you are going to win some money out of where you finish.....the only race you are running is against yourself.........if you are seriously worried about your time and worry that people will over estimate and get in your way...........over estimate your own time......you are in control of where you start the damn race!!!

V I entered the ballot but some of you guys are scaring me lol

ME Sorry V I'll remove that photo of G

K Remember Brendan Foster suggested Mo Farah should quit marathons as he could only run 2.08

J He is still reeling from being beaten by me and G last year lol

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Holiday runs

Since my last blog post I've been to Florida with The Family on holiday. It was a rather ill-timed holiday in view of my planned marathon but (a) I didn't plan it and (b) it's tricky explaining (without appearing selfish/crazy) to 10 other people (in September) why you'd rather the family holiday was 2 weeks earlier, a week later, or perhaps postponed until May.

Anyway, I decided to embrace the warmer climate and plan some speedwork for the 2 weeks, calling it "warm weather training" and styling myself as some sort of ATHLETE.

I must have walked miles every day around theme parks (cross training), little bit of daily swimming (recovery), and then some running.

Day 1: 5K tempo run with the husband (he's fast now and has decided to help me get faster). I managed to keep up with him, mainly because he was tired and a bit hungover.

Day 3: 10K easy, aim was to maintain at least 9 min/mile pace.

Day 4: Found a local hill and ran up and down it 7 times, until I'd logged 2 miles.

Day 6: 5K tempo with the husband, saw what 1 min/mile faster than me looks like over a mile. He did slow down after his fast mile to say hello.

Day 7: 10K easy

*insert few days of tiredness and a sickness bug*

Day 12: 10K slow, pushed to a fast(ish) mile near the end

Not quite as speedy or full of training as I'd have liked but at least I got out there, ran in the heat, and didn't gain any weight. Now I'm back in the UK and I'm in full-on taper mode. I ran 15 miles the Saturday after I got home (to remind my legs what they will have to do soon), and I'm planning 8 miles this weekend.