Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Onwards and upwards

I know I've only just finished the last marathon in my 2014 challenge for ARUK but I'm starting my next challenge straight away.

What, no rest to regroup and recover?

No, this time it's extra special. You see it's 10 years to the month that I first got in touch with ARUK to learn more about mum's diagnosis of 'vascular dementia'.

But there are many more 10th anniversaries:
  • In October 2004 I completed my first ever marathon on inadequate training, whilst nursing an injury, and I've copied my race report below * so you can read how not to approach a marathon!
  • In December, on Christmas Eve 2004  mum went into the nursing home for the final months of her life
  • In March 2005 mum died
  • In April 2005 I ran my first London marathon
When I set out on my journey to speak out about dementia I never once thought I'd still be doing it 10 years later, but there is still more to do. I never dreamt that I'd have run 38 marathons in that time either. You can read about my next challenge on my latest fund-raising page here. I reckon I've got a few more marathons left in my legs before arthritis takes over completely!

So before I let you see 'the marathon report of shame' here's what I did this morning to kick off my fund-raising, the Beckley 10k. I ran the first ever race there back in 2005 and got a trophy for being first lady out of 7 in my age group in a time of 58:36. This time I went out just to enjoy the experience without the pressure of beating a time and I even ran without my watch,  just running at a comfortable pace. I wasn't expecting a fast time as it's only a week since the Beachy Head marathon and my hamstrings were both twanging on the downhill sections so I was delighted to finish in 57:23 which was a nice surprise.

It's a well organised race with friendly marshalls and they give you cake, beer and apples at the finish. What's not to like? Well maybe the hills aren't to everyones liking but apart from them it's a great little event with about 150 runners taking part.

This year they'd had a special medal made and I love it:

Amazingly I also got another trophy but I'd left before they were given out! I'll show a photo of it when I collect it.

There's more knitting and crochet stuff to update but I'm a bit busy getting ready for the Launch of Join Dementia Research at the moment so that will have to wait. In the meantime may I present the write-up of my first ever marathon in October 2004:

*Loch Ness marathon 2004 (The marathon of shame, or how not to run a marathon with an injury but if you feel you must then you'll understand the consequences better!) 


As this piece was originally for the Runner's World website there are lots of strange names in this report so don't be alarmed as we all use nicknames!

As a bit of running background:

I had been running for 2 years but had never gone over the 1/2 marathon distance, 13.2 miles, but I was so upset by what was happening to my mum in the latter stages of dementia that I wanted to run a marathon just for her and for me. I can't explain it any better than that; I just felt I had to do it. We had to arrange a full-time carer to come and take care of her for the weekend whilst we were away (which was very traumatic) so I also spent most of my time worrying that she was OK.

Of course, as I had very limited time to train I increased my mileage far too quickly and picked up an injury. Even the magic powers of Physiotherapy and the ministrations of Mary Massage Lady couldn't mend me in time for the marathon but I refused to pull out. This report shows the consequences of that decision!

Mike and I arrived at the stadium nice and early so I could get on the first coach. Nessie told us that this one stopped by the portaloos last year and I always need to go beforehand! I saw Nessie and Freefall and sat next to a nice young man called David who was hoping to go sub 4 hours (I hope he managed it). It was quite exciting being in a convoy of coaches with a police escort and the journey passed quickly. Unfortunately the coach went right past the portaloos and there was a mad scramble to get into a queue. Why did I pick the one that took forever to move?! Having relieved myself I did some roadside stretches and then proceeded to the rear of the field so that I wouldn’t be tempted to go off too quickly. Saw Shades, Debbo, Freefall, JaneM. It was quite chilly but JaneM said I would be too hot with my gilet on. I panicked and wondered if I’d made a mistake but rationalised that the Scots are much tougher then me. As it happens, I was very grateful for the extra warmth later on. Then we were off.

I love the feeling when a race starts; all that anticipation and excitement and I felt really good. I was aiming for 11 minute miles. First mile was 10:30, Shades went past and asked if I was OK. I was. Mile 2 was 10:40, mile 3 10:50, mile 4 11:00. I settled into my pace feeling strong and comfortable. The uphills were OK, in fact they were similar to my training routes. A couple of the downhills were steeper than I’d anticipated but my knee seemed to be holding up OK. I took on water at mile 6 and walked a few steps whilst I drank it. Meerkat had advised me to break the distance down into sections so it didn’t seem as scary so I was just thinking about completing the next mile. I was enjoying the run enormously and the scenery was breathtaking. By mile 12 I was feeling confident. I took some sports drink and headed off for the water station at 12.5 where I walked a few paces to drink. Checked my watch and it said 2:12. Fantastic, I thought, I should get in under 5 hours if I keep this up. This seemed like a good time for a loo break as there was noone around so I nipped behind a bush. 

I started running again and a searing pain shot up the side of my right knee. I stopped, stretched and tried again. Agony. Nooooooooooo!!!!!! I shouted at the empty road. I stretched, I tried running, the pain shot up my leg. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be, it would be alright again if I just walked for a while. So I walked. I use the term ‘walked’ loosely as it was actually a slow stiff-legged limp. Debbo went past and asked if I was OK. I explained I was just taking a walk break because my ITB had tightened. She said I should be resting in bed. I watched her disappear up the hill. A few minutes later JaneM went past. I crossed the 1/2 way mark in 2:29. It had taken me 15 minutes to walk 1/2 a mile.

I stretched again and tried to run. It was agony and I couldn’t manage a step. When this has happened before I’ve found that I could still walk and that the stiffness wore off after a few miles. But I was only 1/2 way round and although I’m quite happy to run 13 miles, I’ve never walked that distance. My hubby had said that if my knee was too bad to continue then I should just say ‘Sh1t, c’est la vie’ and start planning the next marathon attempt. But I didn’t want to stop. There was so much of me invested in this marathon. It was the culmination of a very eventful and traumatic year. How could I just give up? This was for mum an for me. I stumbled on. 

The next mile was full of self pity and doubt. Sometimes I sobbed quietly to myself feeling so small and alone in a strange place miles from anywhere. Thankfully this phase didn’t last long (you’re probably wanting to give me a good slap to snap me out of this!!!) and I thought about John ‘The Penguin’ Bingham’s book that I’ve just read called ‘no need for speed’. In it he talks about how your time and personal goals are of no importance to anyone but you. The minute I let go of my 5 hour dream I was free to get on with what I had to do. It was a liberating experience and I found that inner strength I needed.

I kept repeating Little Fat Welshman’s mantra ‘pain is temporary, pride is forever’ as I limped ever onwards. At the mile 15.5 water station, the ambulance man hovvered like a vulcture. I told him I was OK and stomped off in a determined manner. At mile 16 I passed a supervet who was obviously struggling. I checked he was OK then started off up the long hill. I suddenly realised that I was walking easier (well, less stiffly) and had started to look at the scenery again. I marched onwards feeling more determined with each step. I made up marching songs in my head - Who’s that Redhead looking strong?, Got a knee that’s gone so wrong, 1,2,3,4 etc etc. I hadn’t looked at my watch for a while so I had a sneaky peak and worked out that if I maintained a brisk walking pace then I should come in under 6 hours. I switched my mobile on to let Mike know I was going to be late but there was no signal. I worried that he’d be worrying about me. He was.

A couple of guys passed by on motorbikes shouting ‘I see ya baby’ then they came back again shouting ‘shakin’ that ar$e’. I giggled. They came alongside and asked what I was doing and then wished me luck. As a parting gesture one of them stood up and did a big wiggle as he rode off. I waved and they were gone. That was around mile 17 and there were still 9 miles to go. I managed to contact my hubby who was very upset by my demise. I realised that I was smiling now. I also realised that I was going to make it.

The police cars kept flashing past and I smiled and waved at them. A very dishy marshall wearing black leather rode his motorbike alongside me for a while and chatted. Then he was gone until his next ride by. I thought it was nice that they kept checking up on us stragglers. Then I started to pass other people who were struggling. Each fighting their own personal battles. There was the lady who was limping up the hill accompanied by her partner on his bike. We nodded encouragement to eachother but I suspect she didn’t make it. Then there was the man and woman who ran for 5 paces then walked for 10, the young girl who was running so slowly that she barely moved forward, the guy over here from Australia on holiday and many others.......

I kept catching up with the ambulance which was by then carrying an assortment of runners who couldn't continue. Each time they asked me if I was OK and wanted a lift; on one occasion they tried to entice me into the ambulance with a nice cup of tea. LOL!

Suddenly I was at mile 21 and the traffic started coming past. Some people waved and shouted encouragement, others just stared. I smiled the biggest smile ever. By mile 23 other runners were coming away from the stadium wearing their medals. They clapped and cheered me on. How generous, I thought. At mile 25 I met up with 2 men who had passed me earlier, both walking, or rather hobbling by then. We joined ranks and chatted. The stadium was deathly slient now and I joked that there would only be my hubby there waiting proudly to film his wife crossing the finish line. We all agreed that we had to run over the finish line so as we rounded the corner into the stadium the 3 of us lurched into a painful limping jog. I was right; my lovely hubby was there to film us, along with a contingent of forumites who had waited around to offer support to us stragglers. We crossed the line in 6:00:03 but my final chip time was 5:58:59 so I just beat the 6 hour mark. Mike could not have been more proud if I had run the course in 3 hours!

I waited to see Nessie come in a few minutes later. As she stood with her supporters (sorry Nessie I don’t know who they were), she said that it had been really hard. The man said simply ‘But you did it, darling, you still did it’. That summed it up for me and I am humbled to think that many people go through the sort of experience I had each time they take part in a marathon. 

It’s jolly hard at the back of the pack, but I'll be back.

The End!!


Anne said...

38 marathons! I am sooo impressed! Plus I love how you do it for a good cause. My granddad died of dementia and thus I feel with you!

Take care

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Anne. Sorry to hear that a you have experience of dementia with your granddad and I shall think of you when I'm running my marathons. Thanks for the recipe too. Susie x