Well, I would appear to have been somewhat conspicuous by my absence around here lately, but I can’t believe it’s been over 18 months since I last blogged. Oops! Lots missed but let’s see if I can summarise the big stuff.
- September 2019 I ran a marathon. My first, hopefully won’t be my last. I ran the Richmond Runfest marathon, 26.2 miles of mixed terrain (which is a little irritating because it means Power of 10 doesn’t list it as an official time for me, so my claim to my club record for the marathon for women in my age category doesn’t stand, and I’ll age out of that category before I’ll be able to get another shot at it). It was an amazing experience though, and I finished within my target of four and a half hours with a time of 4:29.
- Parkrun PB of 24:11 at Victoria Dock. My friend Tessa paced me, beasted me round the course but I love her for it, and only my second ever parkrun under 25 minutes. It might be a while before I get near that time again.
- Coronavirus, and all the cancellations and changes that have gone along with it. I should have been running Manchester marathon in April 2020 but that has been deferred to 2021 (although for other reasons which I will come to in a moment), Cardiff half marathon in October 2020 which will now be March 2021, and of course there has been no parkrun since March. As it stands at the moment, my local athletics association is trying to work out if a cross country season this year might be possible starting in the autumn.
- IBD – I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in February. I had started struggling with my running in January, what should have been easy runs, paces and distances well within my capability, suddenly started being really hard. Then I woke up one morning with an upset stomach. Long story short, it got progressively worse over the next three weeks until I ended up in A&E twice within a week with severe dehydration from continuous diarrhoea and vomiting, and ended up being admitted where investigations resulted in my diagnosis. Between two weeks almost totally off my feet, and then two months of steroid treatment which sorted my bowels out but wasted my leg muscles, I’ve pretty much spent spring and summer this year starting my running again from scratch. It has been frustrating. There have been tears. I’m lucky I have a great coach who has got me back out there, holding me back when I needed to rest, pushing me when I needed it, and generally being number one cheerleader. With her help, I’m now back to running 25-30 miles a week, and while my pace still needs work, I’ve got the strength to do the distance.
- Related to that, my last race before lockdown was the Big Half on March 1st. Only two weeks after I came out of hospital, all I wanted to do was complete it. I’m sure everyone (including aforementioned coach, and everyone at my running club) thought I was mad to even attempt it, but I had no intention of running it as I knew I couldn’t. While lying awake in hospital in the middle of the night (IV steroids will do that to you), I decided I had to prove to myself I was not to let this condition control me, and I would run-walk it. I would even walk the whole thing if I had to, but I had missed the last cross country race of the season, I had had to defer my place at Manchester (although that got shifted because of Covid-19 later on), I was determined I was not going to lose the Big Half as well. After a lot of negotiation with my coach, she finally agreed that as long as I was sensible, she was OK with me giving it a go. I ran the first two miles, and then employed a run-walk strategy for the rest. At each mile marker I walked for up to two minutes, and then ran to the next one. The only exceptions were that I made sure I ran across Tower Bridge, for the experience, which was emotional, and I walked a little longer after the 12-mile marker to allow me to run across the finish line, although it was more of a gentle jog! It was a personal worst time-wise (2:31) but one of the best experiences of my running so far and such an immense sense of achievement.