This is the blog post that started this whole thing off, on an impulse I somehow found that I had entered to run the Copenhagen Marathon with no training, no experience and less than six weeks to squeeze whatever training I could manage into whatever spare time I had, which wasn’t much when full-time work, husband and two young children were added to the mix. I started a separate page on the family blog to record my progress, reasoning that if you want to really do something you commit to it on-screen. I’ve moved that original page over to here and slightly edited it partly for reasons of privacy and partly to be able to focus on this part of my life separate from all the other stuff on my personal blog.
So, if you want to know how this whole story started, then start here:  

 

After far too long pretending otherwise too myself, I have been forced to admit I am not fit.

There, I said it.

The next question, and the really important one of course is what am I going to do about it?

I have lots of excuses, a stupidly busy full time job, two young children, a book I’m not sure I’ll ever manage to finish, in spite of the publishing contract, but I think now is time to stop making excuses for myself. I used to be fit and active. Two fairly awful pregnancies featuring hyperemesis gravidarum put paid to a lot of that fitness, but compulsive, stress-related eating since then is not helping either.

I have for the last 2 years employed a personal trainer, once a week to help me get moving again. She’s done a wonderful job in helping me get over pregnancy and childbirth and off the couch once a week but it’s not enough. I am a fundamentally goal oriented person and just “getting fit” is no longer cutting it.

It is time to make a commitment.

It’s reasonably well-known that New Year’s Day is basically the worst time to make resolutions to change, less well-known is the idea that Spring is a much better time.

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So I have signed up to run theCopenhagen marathon.

In 6 weeks time.

It’s not a lot of time to train, given I have done little running the last few years (though I used to do a lot more when I was younger). I’m also more than a little overweight but reasonably strong. And I cycle 16km every day in my daily commute, much like 50% of commuters in this wonderful city so there is some physical potential.

I have found a “Marathon in 30 days” on the web. It’s probably an awful idea, but if I am to have any hope of escaping the current rut, something extreme needs to be tried and this gives me hope it may be possible.

On their first introductory page they have a list of “Fit Test Questions”, I scored a pretty good 9, the second test, the “Mile Speed Test”, I just passed, it taking me 13 minutes to run a mile, or as I work largely in kilometres, 1.6km.

Then, as it was going well and it’s lovely Spring weather in the park, I kept going and did the first day’s training distance. 3 miles, actually 5km, and I ran the whole way, rather than walking a section as suggested.

Coming home I felt good and happy at having made the first concrete steps. I hope this continues, though I am sure that in the next 6 weeks I am going to find plenty of difficult days, but hopefully no injuries!

I know myself well. I am prone to impulsive behaviour and escapism, the fact that I am in the middle of a particularly stressful time at work is of course the perfect opportunity for some procrastination. On the other hand, running a few km every day gives me some time to clear my head and focus on myself. I hope it will also mentally refresh me in a way I am lacking right now. But I also hope to effect a real change in the way I am living right now that will go on for longer than the 6 weeks before the race. I have a tentative Triathlon in August to keep me going for longer!

I aim to keep this blog page updated with my training progress, let’s see if I make it to the starting line, never mind the finishing line!

Day Two

Today’s run was an easy 3 miles (actually I did 5.3km) round our local park. We live very close to the gorgeous Søndermarken and Frederiksberg Have parks  and with a 2.5km running trail round the former, and the loop of both coming in at close to 5km, it’s clear I have very little excuse for not running.

Spring has very definitely arrived and what has also become clear is that the opportunity to enjoy the woodland flowers as they return is going to become a substantial benefit of my new run everyday schedule…

Here are a few pics I snapped on my way round (probably also partly explains my slower time than yesterday…)

All taken on the go with my fairphone though the light was not the best… I need to identify some of these species now though the little scillas (the blue and white star shaped flowers) are my favourite.

Another big advantage of running? I get to listen to podcasts!

This, frankly awesome, interview on Inquiring Minds, on the intelligence of octopus species was my accompaniment today. I knew about the mimic octopus thanks to the wonderful Octonauts cartoon series, but there was much to be learned about them.

Not only will I never eat another octopus, I am now linking to a fantastic octopus video to share the love…

Watch this, serious, just watch it!

End of Week 1

So after a successful start to the week, running on three consecutive days, I then had to take 3 consecutive days off. I literally had no time or opportunity to run because of a particularly hectic (and unusual) time at work, as well as with sick kids and so forth. All the usual stuff that interferes basically. So, it was with relief, that I managed to get my longest run so far in today – A healthy 7.5km, and I felt really good both during and afterwards too.

Week two starts tomorrow and it’s going to be tough to fit training in this week, my husband is away so I’m alone with the two small ones and I have two days of travel planned for work, as well as promising kids to take them away somewhere the following weekend. I am not quite sure how I’m going to fit running in there as well! Especially as the goal for week two of the programme is to run 25 miles. I managed only 12 miles last week. I have also joined strava but I’m having some problems with the app on my phone. It would be a handy extra element for planning routes and to see pace, distance etc.

Tomorrow being Sunday I’m hoping to take the wee ones out to one of the many beautiful forests and parks around Copenhagen. I will hopefully also be able to combine this with a gentle run, though as I’ll likely end up pushing them in the running buggy, it probably won’t be a very long one…

The podcast this morning was a very excellent inquiring minds one again, this time on con artists. Check it out

 

Week Three

Well as predicted above, week two was a complete wash-out. A combination of too much work, travel for work, my husband being away for the full week and a nasty cold at the end of the week meant I didn’t get out once.

Disappointing.

However, I did spend some high quality time with the kids at the end of the week and as everything is about balance, this I think should also be considered an achievement, in the same way that the posters I produced and presented at a conference this week were also an achievement.

Finally, today I felt well enough to go for a run again and I decided to make it an extra long one. I mapped out a route from my home to the beautiful lakes in the central Copenhagen and back, maximising distance by running back and forth between them.

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The southern most end of the lakes in central Copenhagen. In spite of the lowering skies I avoided getting wet

Although it was cold and a little showery with ominous black skies, this route had plenty of the signs of spring including the enchanting bird life, rather than the flowers I referred to earlier.

In particular some rather cute goslings, already swimming about with two watchful parents, s well as a nest with a swan curled up incubating the eggs no doubt.

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Goose family

However, the piece de resistance was undoubtedly a great crested grebe catching a fish right next to the path.

I had a really clear view of the bird swimming underwater and given their once highly threatened status (they were hunted for the feathers, used on ladies’ hats in the Victorian era), it’s still a real thrill watching them so close up in central Copenhagen.

I even managed to spot one sitting on a nest.

After a goodish long run, I started to hit the wall a bit on the way home and ended up walking a couple of times, though only for very short stretches. Then it was back home and time to get on the parent treadmill again. Thankfully dinner was waiting for me, so I could shovel it in, drink an entire pot of tea and feel relatively normal again quite quickly.

I think this is a good sign. Probably part of the fatigue was brought on by thirst and/or hunger. I still have no real pains , and though my muscles feel well-used, nothing is really hurting (yet). I’m actually surprised by how well the training is going so far. Perhaps I was fitter than I thought.

According to google maps the total distance of this route was 14.5km, so I’m claiming 15km in 1hr 45 minutes, especially as I got slightly lost coming through the park on the way home. This averages to a not terribly respectable 8.5km an hour, but assuming I could keep that up over 42km, it indicates that a (just) sub-5 hour marathon time might be possible. I think this will make a decent goal, especially considering I only have 26 training days left.

Today’s podcast was again inquiring minds, this time on the possibility that we could eradicate the mosquito using genetic manipulation. It’s a really fascinating idea and assuming that the correct trials and controls are implemented, and given the 700,000 people a year who die of mosquito borne diseases, surely our squeamishness about GMOs, should be re-examined to give this more than a passing thought? If we could prevent the suffering, and the terrible social and economic burden that dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus and now Zika virus are laying on countries with endemic mosquitoes, and without needing to use all sorts of toxic chemicals to do so, isn’t it worth at least thinking about?

Anyway, an easier day is planned tomorrow. Let’s see how we do this week.

Week 4

After again disappointing amounts of training last week, I decided to go for the half marathon distance today. I’m too tired now to write more than it went quite well. I feel less aches and pains than after last week’s efforts – probably because I stretched much more both before during and after than previously. It has definitely helped.

I also borrowed a water bottle belt from a friend and took some high sugar snacks with me. I could really feel the difference in my performance. I didn’t get the worn out feeling I experienced last week. having said that, I’m starting to appreciate just how hard this marathon is actually going to be. I think I will be doing a lot more walking than I originally thought. It took me around 2.5hours to do 21 km so the 4 hour marathon is probably not going to happen.

The route I chose was mainly on the streets this time, though I did go past the lakes and ended with a round of the Frederiksberg Have and Sondermarken. These were easily my favourite parts, which I think really highlights that I will always be a crosscountry runner at heart (my favourite games class at a school). Perhaps I should try to get into orienteering again?

I finally got chance to discuss my plans this week with both my personal trainer, who was surprisingly encouraging, telling me I am a lot fitter than I gave myself credit for (indeed I think I have proven this to myself too as I have started training), as well as a former MSc student of mine who is a super elite athlete doing Ironmans and the like. She also went through the training plan and suggested it didn’t matter if I only ran 2-3 times a week. This is semi-reassuring as right now I would like to get 3 good runs in a week. Never mind the number the plan gives.

She has also instructed me to start tapering this week already instead of next, so this will probably be my longest training run. I only have to repeat it twice and I’m done! Hmm.

Anyway, more excellent Inquiring minds podcasts on Greenland glaciers, the links between genius and autism and law enforcement related deaths in the USA were my encouragement today. Again super interesting. I’m going to have to create a play list for the marathon and I’m seriously thinking about a donation, I’m not sure my training would have gone so well otherwise, though the BBC doe a pretty good job too.

Week 5

Another week with hardly any other exercise in it (apart from a good session with Victoria my personal trainer). It is crazy busy at work and that is not helping, then I had to travel to the Netherlands . Again, very busy times, but I managed to take a couple of hours out to myself and go for a long 15km run round the Amsterdamse Bos, a “forest” park, planted mainly in the 1930s by unemployed workers as a sort of job creation scheme.

It was a baking hot day and a beautifully peaceful evening in the forest. I really enjoyed my run, though I got a bit lost several times, so was a bit slower than I planned. The area close to the roads is pretty busy, there were some delicious smelling barbecues! However, I didn’t have to go far into the forest to be in some really peaceful territory.

The running trail (when I eventually found it) was marked with little orange posts and was pretty easy to follow.I had again taken no water or food with me so it was pretty welcome to find a little water fountain close to the  end.

It’s clear I am going to need to eat and drink on the road to be able to make it, it’s also clear I need to buy a new sports bra and perhaps some new socks before the event!

Counting Down

I had hoped to fit in a couple of shorter runs this week but again, after my Dutch trip I was really pressed for time at work and home so it fell by the way side. Also on the weekend I was exhausted from too many late nights, so it was Monday in week 6 before I managed what will be my final long run before the marathon. I took a new route today, down via Søndermarken (hello old friend) and the cemetery, to Valbyparken, where the Middle Ages fair was much in evidence and looked terrific fun. I then ran along the coast and returned via the Kalvebod to Utterslev Mose Bike/walking route. A nice run of 15km. I didn’t manage to buy any gels in order to test how my stomach would handle them so took a banana and (thankfully) found a petrol station en route to top up energy levels with a chocolate bar. Running and eating/drinking at the same time went pretty well overall.

I had a lovely nostalgic run through the green paths, I used to cycle round these with a baby in the bike trailer behind me when I was on maternity leave so it was nice to revisit them. I really want to bring my kids for a bike ride round here, not to mention finding a very good spot to launch kayaks from. These runs are turning out to be a great way to explore the city.

It was also a good run to start thinking about my race strategy for next Sunday. The weather was pretty chilly and windy today, so I’m really hoping  for better next week. So far the weather forecast looks promising:

weatherforecast

If anything it may be too hot, there is also large uncertainty on the rainfall event, hopefully it will be later on in the evening rather than through the day. The wind forecast also looks quite high so I’m going to be keeping a close eye on how this develops through the week.

I also need to decide my run strategy this week, in terms of alternating running and walking etc. I hope to  get some time to write about it before the BIG DAY, then I can compare with what actually happens…

Finally I set up a Just Giving page to raise funds for MSF (doctors without borders), and have raised almost £300, which is very pleasing.

Race Day!

It’s a beautiful morning in Copenhagen and I’ve been up since 6am, I’ve had a good breakfast of porridge, I’ve prepared my race bag and I’m (almost) ready to go.

The race strategy is a little unclear in my mind still. I have to see how I feel to an extent. nonetheless, I plan to mostly run, since that is how I have trained, with some walking sections around the water and fruit stations. I’m not quite sure how long it will take, I’m aiming for 5 hours, but it’s definitely a stretch target! .

In case anyone wants to follow along my progress. The Copenhagen marathon website has an app where it is possible to see the progress of up to ten runners.

I have been loading up with carbohydrates all weekend, though a few cocktails on Friday night were maybe not optimal, still the weather forecast his for warm but hopefully not too hot, with some clouds starting to appear. There is a possibility of a light shower or two in the morning, but the rest of the day looks very much perfect running weather….

So that’s enough for now.

I am signing off!

Post Race Report

5:46:50

I made it!

Can’t quite describe how it felt to get over the finish line. I still can’t even quite believe I made it in fact.

Nevertheless I did, and I am happy about that. The first half of the marathon went pretty well, even fairly easily. I ran the whole way at a slowish pace, and was very happy to reach half way ahead of the 5 hour pacers. However, after abour 25km it started to get really really hard. I slowed down, was passed by the pacers, briefly caught up with them and eventually had to stop and walk and was completely left behind. Then I had the most excruciating cramps in my toes (in part, I suspect, a legacy from frost-nip I acquired in Bolivia wearing plastic mountaineering boots that were a shade too tight for me, I have had circulation problems in my feet ever since). There was absolutely nothing I could do apart from wait for it to subside.

I sat and then lay on the pavement for perhaps 15 minutes (it felt longer, but my split times suggest it was about this long), in agony, waiting for the pain to stop. I’ve had toe cramps (something like the hot aches) like this before, but not while running, so I knew it would eventually get a bit better. Nevertheless I was really really glad I had sponsorship, it was tempting to drop out but the realisation that other people genuinely thought I could do it – AND had backed that up with cash- eventually made me get up and start walking again. I was a bit wobbly and ended up walking 2 km before somehow something clicked in my mind and I started jogging again, a slow pace but one I felt I could keep up.

I was immensely fortunate by the end of the race that my lovely colleague (and elite Iron Man competitor) P had been tracking me via the App. She’d seen my split times, noticed I had stopped but was back up and running and came to meet me close to the end. She paced me from around 38 km until the very end. It was fantastic motivation, I got my speed up and finally managed to meet my target of doing the marathon in less than 6 hours. I am enormously grateful to her for that support.

I will do some kind of training post mortem soon, but wanted to get this up now to thank everyone for their help and support.

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