Max’s Marathon WEEK 5: Toe-lyoaks: Toenail drama, period drama, cold photoshoots, big ambitions…

A lighter week this week, to adapt to my training rhythm before the longer runs gradually start to kick in. Tuesday’s run was 20 minutes, which hardly seemed worth going out for. But life’s been so trying recently, an “easy” week on one front was probably a good thing. Later on, the nail lady up the road who does Shellac removals tipped me off about a pub that might be interested in doing a Marathon fundraiser for me (They haven’t replied to my email yet so I’m guessing the answer’s no but, very lovely of her to suggest).

On Wednesday, my business mentor, Judi, came round. As well as being an expert in dyspraxia and dyslexia she’s an ex-Marathon runner so she’s pretty much the best person in all the land for me to have a two-hour morning meeting with at the moment. Afterwards, my friend Les aka @Afrofilmviewer took me on a lunchtime photo shoot as a mood boost. The shots have more of an ethereal “grunge band promo shoot” look than the suited-and-booted professional set he did for me before Christmas. If I’m honest, I enjoyed the natter over cheese and chips in the pub more than the shoot. This was entirely the freezing weather’s fault, not his. I look narked off because I was really, really cold and squashed into a leather jacket that’s meant to hug your figure, not fit over four layers of clothing and make you look the size of Canada. Anyway, he’s super-talented, and if you want to be photographed you should definitely talk to him. You should talk to him anyway because he’s super-smart and super-interesting.

In the early hours of Thursday, my left big toenail (black since my half Marathon) almost-but-not-quite fell off. Pulling it seemed likely to hurt/make my bedroom resemble an abattoir, but I wasn’t sure if I should run – even a short one – with it hanging off. I panic-rang the first Google result for “chiropodist Bucks”- an affable chap called Dave – who told me to let the nail fall off by itself rather than pull it, and to put a toe bandage around it. He said it was probably OK as long as it wasn’t hurting and to call him again if it started to. I put a crappy undersized plaster on it and went for my half-hour evening run and it was fine and dandy. I stopped at a chemist’s on the way back, which, naturally, sold every conceivable foot care product except proper toe bandages. By the time I went to bed it was nearly all the way off and bleeding. It’s still clinging on for dear life, and hurting every time I catch it on something. A motherly family friend suggested I should get it looked at just to be safe, so I might, if someone will do it for less than half a mortgage. Meanwhile…

My protected toe...
I found this toe bandage in Boots the next day but it’s useless and keeps slipping off, so I’ve ordered a proper toecap from a physio website for the same price.

Friday: No running, but I had to go to John Lewis to pick up my bridesmaid’s dress* for Lotte’s wedding in the summer, which involved a bus journey across town and a preamble of bureaucracy akin to applying for a visa, so it felt like a bonus run. I saw a couple of joggers around the Cressex Industrial Estate and was immensely glad I wasn’t there for the purpose. I used to pass through sections of it on the 40-minute walk from school to my childhood home – I can’t think of anything worse than having to run it… (*the dress is utterly gorgeous, incidentally: midnight blue, simple, elegant. I can’t wait to wear it in June. Hopefully not having ingested an entire high street, post-Marathon…)

Saturday involved a jaunt to Stratford for a meet-and-greet with other Mind Marathoners. I was meant to RSVP ages ago and didn’t realise (slow clap….) but someone had pulled out at the last minute, so I could go. Most charities lay on events like this for their Marathon runners: a chance to meet other runners and hear presentations from personal trainers and seasoned Marathoners on things like training and nutrition. A polite nutritionist gave us an earnest talking-to about eating a balanced diet. Then a plucky personal trainer told us training was more important than diet and being able to eat crap is the whole point of running Marathons… We were in the very pleasant surroundings of the Timber Lodge cafe, on the north side of the Olympic park. Less pleasantly, I suffered a Severe Womanly Mishap. (The kind that used to appear in Sugar or Just Seventeen magazine under the heading “YOUR MOST CRINGE-TASTIC STORIES.”) Historically, my periods tend to be heaviest the morning after they start. Since running, they tend to start deceptively light, stay that way for a couple of days, then suddenly turn stupidly heavy for a couple of hours. You can guess the rest… I cleaned up as well and discreetly as I could. Like the worst sitcom you’ve ever watched, my train home was then delayed for an unspecified amount of time because gale-force winds had brought down a tree near the track. Luckily I caught a fast train before too long and was able to get home, dunk my things in cold water and bury my tired face in leftover Quorn bolonganise while giving thanks to the inventors of long jumpers, big coats and plastic chairs. Thank you very, very much to the Mind events team ladies for their kindness, discretion, water and painkillers. Considering how chronically awkward I am, the whole thing was much less embarrassing than it could have been. Thanks also to fellow first-time Marathoner Jayne (sp?) for the chat, and for the lovely home-made energy bars she brought along for the event, which I sampled in between awkward dashes to the loo…

Sunday: my “long” run was this morning (a very manageable 50 minutes). It was lovely: my running sunglasses (free gift from the Oxford Half) made their debut and the big chorus of Ellie Goulding’s Army came on just as the sun was streaming across the hill that goes up to Penn Village (the lyrics remind me of They Don’t Know by Kirsty MacColl…). If my brain will kindly let me and not think of something else that needs doing, I intend to spend the rest of today listening to the Archers omnibus (Rob has his own Twitter account now because of course…), and read a bit. I’ve bought Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind Of Girl and Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake because a literary consultant at TLC recently compared my writing to theirs and said I should, “to enforce confidence in your own considerable abilities.” The Arts Council paid for the read, which was very nice of them. TLC have also said that after I’ve finished the book I can have a second read with a 5% discount, and with the same reader. Hooray!

A few other things I really, really need to start doing soon…

  • Meeting more brilliant women writers who’ve written about mental health. There are loads: Daisy Buchanan, Bryony Gordon, Kat Brown, Stephanie Merritt, Martha Roberts and Nell Frizzell to name a few. I had the privilege a few years ago of interviewing the lovely Rae Earl, before she had a blue tick on Twitter and was being called a genius by every media darling in the country, and we still stay in touch (we’ve only ever actually spoken via phone and internet because she emigrated to Australia which is a bit far for coffee and cake…). But other than Rae I haven’t been the most proactive at actually talking to people properly. I think part of the problem is that, often, people’s stories have so many parallels with mine and we have lots of media woman friends and acquaintances vaguely in common I sort of feel as though I know them already and forget that I actually don’t, if that makes sense. I’ve signed up to #mentalhealthmates next weekend, which I hope is a step in the right direction. I’m also going to the annual Time To Talk About It at the end of the month. It was pretty harrowing when I went this time last year, for obvious reasons but I met a lovely lady from Grassroots, a Brighton-based suicide prevention charity, who let me guest-blog for them about it and I hope she’ll be there again.
  • Plugging my copywriting/social media skills to mental health organisations as I’m now pretty sure this is what I want to do with my life as my sole or main income for the foreseeable future. I think a lot of people believe I do this already when in fact I don’t. My clients are charity/disability-related but not directly mental health related. Which is ridiculous, quite honestly, as I can’t think of a more appropriate way for me to make a living at the moment. This probably needs a “HELLO, I’M BRILLIANT, PLEASE HIRE ME” blog post to itself, doesn’t it? Right. I’ll do one of those. Soon…
  • Arranging some dates to do fundraising collections outside supermarkets Bafflingly, this seems to be harder the closer to the supermarket you live: the Tesco Express two minutes up the road practically told me I need the CEOs signature in goat’s blood, the Waitrose in the next town said “Yeah fine, bung as an email…” If you’re grocery shopping in Bucks and you see a blonde outside with a Mind tin in the next ten weeks, it’s probably me…
  • Working out what an interval run is and how I’m supposed to do it without breaking anything.Interval runs” start next week. They’re the part of your training designed to up your stamina. You run at different speeds rather than steadily all the way through, and are supposed to run fast for short bursts, then rest. I’m more comfortable running at an average speed rather than slowly or fast, and fast runs increase the risk of injury which my dyspraxic propensity for tripping over everything increases the risk of as it is. Given the choice between completing ten minutes faster and breaking my ankle in training, well, you can work that one out. Martin Yelling, who wrote the training plan I’m using, was doing a Friday lunchtime Q&A on the London Marathon Facebook page so I asked “How do I do interval runs without falling flat on my face like a ninny?” sort-of-thing. His advice: Find a “safe” surface (flat with no traffic, such as a park or trail), and then:“Hold off the pedal and run fast but so you feel comfortably in control – and happy you’re not going to hit the deck!”

A good aim for life in general there, I think.

Have you sponsored me yet? Do you want to? Yes? Jolly good! DO IT HERE!

And, if you feel like sponsoring another extremely worthy cause this week, a lovely Archers fan has raised nearly £40,000 for Refuge through a JustGiving page, The Helen Titchener Rescue Fund. Because for every fictional Helen, there are real ones…


3 thoughts on “Max’s Marathon WEEK 5: Toe-lyoaks: Toenail drama, period drama, cold photoshoots, big ambitions…

  1. Toenails attempting to leave toes, but making it a long drawn-out process, are a common evil of distance running. Often the cause is poor fitting shoes, either cramping the toes too much or too big, allowing the foot to slop back and forth banging the toe against the front of the shoe. This can sometimes be helped by changing the way the shoes are laced up and how tight.

    Interval training, as involving sprinting, is for fit athletes – the rest of us, who don’t want to tear something or, as you suggest, fall over, will find that a change of pace will do the job admirably. Martin Yelling has it about right, though I would say “fast” is relative. A simple way of doing intervals is to up the pace to about as much as you can handle from one lamp post to the next, then back to your normal pace for two lamp posts and then another effort, and so on. Keep doing this till you get exhausted, or bored… and then just continue with your run till you feel like another go.

    By the way, in case you are interested and/or didn’t know already, Martin is husband to Liz Yelling, GB marathon runner and brother of Hayley Yelling, twice European cross country champion. Hayley used to teach in Marlow and was a client for 12 years.

    Have finally, as promised, got round to the sponsorship bit – at least this time it’s before the event!!

  2. Mike – thank you SO much for sponsoring me and for that extremely useful advice! And how exciting re Hayley Yelling. Wiki says she was a Maths teacher at Borlase! Sports people seem to be everywhere around here. Them and ex-TV presenters. See you tomorrow!

    • Sorry couldn’t be more…
      Hayley was also my client for over 10 years, until she retired from international athletics and moved to Bournemouth!
      See you later


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