Max’s Marathon WEEK 1: In which I’m flat as a pancake and a weekend run lifts me

Run schedule: 2x 30-min steady runs, 1 40-min run  (10 mins slow, 20 steady, 10 slow)

Here we are then: my first week of training for the London Marathon. And oh, sweet November, what the devil has happened to you? I was so busy and contended in the lead-up to Christmas. This week, I’ve been a procrastinating-and-eating machine. I’d hoped that once my parents left the country for their globe-trotting adventure and work started again, things might go back to being vibrant. They’ve yet to. I had a bit of a weep in bed last night after coming back from seeing The Danish Girl at the cinema. That hasn’t happened for a while. And this week has greatly consisted of me inwardly repeating: “No, duckie, you’re not on the verge of a breakdown; it’s just January,” to myself.

Runs 1 and 2:

My first two runs were OK enough in that, well, they happened, in weather when going outside voluntarily goes against every sensible human instinct. Once I got out, I didn’t notice the drizzle or the apocalyptic lack of evidence of the sun rising, and came back to my desk feeling accomplished. But they were stiffer, and slower, than a 5-6K should be. My fitness has definitely gone down since my half marathon, even though I’ve run at least once a week. At one point I was so slow I was sure Lobster could’ve overtaken me with a fag hanging out of his witheringly sarcastic mouth. It felt as though running and I had reached the end of our extended honeymoon period. The breathless infatuation had gone and I was thinking about all the ways it gets on my wick and trying to remember I still love it. It wasn’t so much the running itself that was annoying me but the thought of all the logistics. The timetabling: even the shortest run takes two hours out of the day for me – warmup, cooldown, stretching,  eating, showering and hair-washing all add up, especially when you’re not blessed with the world’s nimblest fingers and toes. I honestly don’t know how people with big commutes, kids etc manage it. And the food cravings! The other day I ate two Mars bars, one after the other. (I did that during my half Marathon training too, but in the tenth week of training, for Pete’s sake, not WEEK ONE). I even started to feel nervous about eating too much and carrying too much weight for the race, which is ludicrous: I started running last January and was a twig by the middle of April despite having comfort-eaten for a whole month before it was even Christmas. In terms of food intake, I had two Christmases in 2014 (well, one of them more of a Shitmas but you know what I mean).

Running is also proving difficult to me in one or two other ways I hadn’t bargained for….

Whining-on-a-tangent #1: Marathoning while single. I realise acutely that relationships aren’t the Disney answer to everything and one may cause me more trouble than it ever solves. Jumping on the nearest available person just for the sake of it at this time of year has never served me well in the past and would be an even worse idea currently. And I prefer to save most of this sort of griping for trained professionals and 3am text chats with friends. But, there comes a time when being single and only ever meeting kindred spirits in mega-inhospitable circumstances gets to be a bit buggeringly annoying. A lot of other Marathon bloggers seem partnered-up, and it would be so nice to have someone I could talk to about all of this who I knew would listen. That said, if I did, I probably wouldn’t be doing it. And I’d probably end up looking out at the rain every morning and opting for a different sort of exercise. Hooray celibacy!

Whining-on-a-tangent #2: My paranoid, overthinking brain. I almost talked myself out of blogging my Marathon training because of being convinced no-one would ever read it or care. Objectively I know this isn’t really true. Several friends have even promised to read it. Over the past year, lots of people have been truly amazing to me and done some absolutely lovely kind and generous things: cards, gifts, coffees, dinners bought and cooked, cute animal GIFs, running advice and encouragement. BUT BUT BUT….. it’s those who I can’t quite seem to win over that play on me and make me think I have done something wrong or that they might be keeping me slightly at arm’s length for some awkward reason I’ve yet to discover. It is truly wonderful to have had so much support from so many people during a rough patch in my life (in some cases, complete strangers or people I haven’t seen in decades). But, it’s the people who I thought might look out for me a bit more than they have that I’m reminded of again and again. I’ve worked through this in therapy over the last few months and thought I had it taped but it keeps gnawing away. No matter how many great friends I have around me, it’s the more emotionally-distant ones I feel insecure about. I know it partly goes back to my teenage journalism and the internal chaos that brought about. But it stings. The rational part of me can compute different lifestyles, different priorities, different responses, etc etc etc. The emotional part of me just feels rejected and shoves another load of carbs into my face. I’m an Anglo-German who was raised on Mike Leigh films and gritty ’90s northern dramas where people have brutally honest and deeply personal conversations loudly at the drop of a hat, and all emotional problems are resolved over a cuppa/pint/sing-song. This is – sadly – incompatible with my reality as a busy middle-class home-counties woman surrounded by even busier middle-class home-counties women, mostly too busy to need friends.

Tangential whining out of the way. Onto….

Run 3 (the Weekend Run)

Run 3 of the week was supposed to happen on Saturday morning but didn’t due to me staying up to watch Amy and Arrested Development, struggling to get to sleep afterwards and then realising I still had proofreading work to finish in the morning. Oops. Never mind. From now on, all my weekend runs are on Sundays, and the day’s delay left me actually looking forward to it. I woke up tired, despite having had (according to my new Fitbit Surge) a solid eight hours’ sleep. But, once I was out, alongside a smattering of other runners and the neighbourhood’s seven churchgoers, it was pretty marvellous. I wore my turquoise Aldi neck warmer, even though it felt a bit silly. It chafed a bit annoyingly at first. I quickly realised I was probably wearing it the wrong way up and felt more silly. But warm. Lovely and warm. I found my stride. And there was SUNSHINE and DAYLIGHT! Lovely sunshine and daylight! Run To You and All I Really Want came on during the marvellous open road bit where Hazlemere ends and Penn begins, and I felt like I was 14 and listening to drivetime radio. My average pace wasn’t bad. Still not great, but better than during the week, and room for improvement isn’t a bad thing at this stage. And Night In My Veins by The Pretenders and La Roux’s Kiss and Not Tell came on while I was stretching afterwards, making it much less tedious and more wryly philosophical than usual. (“You’ve seen the future, now, a love that is blind. Makes you want to kiss and not tell…”) Is it idea of ‘blind love’ that scares some people, or just the realisation that it isn’t?” I wondered, like a carby Carrie Bradshaw. It doesn’t matter. I felt uplifted. Running did its job. Bring on next week…

Ambitions for week 2:

  • Actually remember to start my Fitbit at the beginning of my run. It was a Christmas present, and is supposed to be a backup to my RunKeeper. Not much use if it isn’t on because I forgot about it and then forgot to press the start button twice… (using it to track my much-maligned sleep patterns may prove to be an interesting experiment…).
  • Use up the last fakon (vegetarian bacon) rashers in the fridge from Christmas. They look like shoe insoles and are impossible to cut into elegant pieces. The carbonara I made the other day looks like I’ve cut up a cock and thrown the bits into a spaghetti. But tastes better, happily.
  • Make better friends with avocados. Every time I use them the kitchen resembles a gunge tank in a 90s gameshow and I violate 208 healthy and safety codes trying to cut them in half. They are also annoyingly good for me, however. I had avocado toast at Le Pain Quotidien last week and it was divinely good. As was their hot chocolate, which is also a great winter-running food (apparently – not that I care if it isn’t…)
  • Buy and eat some fish. Yup, I’m marking my 20th year of vegetarianism by eating fish to give my iron and protein levels a hand during training. Eating Fish for Dead Men: the dark sequel to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen…. (Sorry; my sense of humour has got so black of late, I could make Sarah Silverman flinch…)
  • I have set this week as the week to write a Slightly Difficult Email to someone I don’t know. So good luck to me with that.
  • Abba came on Spotify as I was writing this “Chiquitita, you and I cry. But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you…” My running playlist could probably do with a bit more Abba. Couldn’t everyone’s?

If you’ve made it through this waffle, I’m overjoyed. I would be even more overjoyed if you’d sponsor my Marathon and tell everybody!


4 thoughts on “Max’s Marathon WEEK 1: In which I’m flat as a pancake and a weekend run lifts me

  1. There’s definitely something to this “having sunshine and daylight” business – I slept in a bit today and when I shuffled to the bathroom I was amazed by how good it felt to have adequate natural light when I’d only just woken up!

    • Exactly this! Waking up in darkness feels eerie or makes me think I’ve got somewhere terrifying I need to be; even if I haven’t.

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