Taking my ego out of running

As most of you dear readers will know, I have a bit of a running habit. It started a few years ago, and last year led to me running London Marathon. You can read about how and why I got into running here.

Running is an interesting hobby to have when it comes to social media. It’s followers are such fanatics, it’s brilliant. Strava, runfies, Facebook, Twitter – any time you run there’s always a ton of people in the running community who think it’s ace. And it’s prolific. I mean, I’ve worked out all my life and I’ve never had props like I do for running for my weekly pilates, swimming or weight lifting! Even when I was a competitive windsurfer and martial artist, no one cared, and I WON TROPHIES DAMMIT haha.

On one hand, this huge social push and acknowledgement for this particular sport is amazing. It got me out the house for the first year when my moral was low and I couldn’t even. It helped me round the marathon, and through the crazy 4 months of training in the snow and rain. It’s helped me up hills, and through mud, and hangovers 😉 BUT! It is also a little dangerous. I’m someone who (like a lot of other people) thrives on attention, competition and wanting to do my best, and get better. I enjoy being inspiration to others to get fit, and have been told on a few occasions that I’ve been someone’s catalyst to starting training.

This has often meant pushing myself more than I should, for the sake of ego. “You only ever race against yourself” is something that gets said a lot in running, but I have frequently found myself training harder to get my times anywhere near those in my stream who are almost all faster and “better” runners than me. And when you meet a fellow runner it’s often a topic of conversation on times. I’ve always felt pretty embarrassed by mine. I’m surrounded by amazing runners in my social feeds, so my poxy times (27 5k, 55 10k, 2hr15 half, 5hr mara) seem pretty useless. So I pushed ever harder and faster both in speed and distance in the hope to be accepted as a “real” runner.

A couple of things went wrong with this approach. Firstly, I really knackered my knee during marathon training. It was ludicrously painful and ended up with me doing the tail end of my training and the actual marathon on anti-inflammatory painkillers, as well as the psychological terror that my knee might go “bonk” on the run and I wouldn’t be able to even walk-finish. Thankfully it didn’t, and I completed the marathon with a big smile (you can watch the Vlog I did whilst running it here). It’s been fine ever since, interestingly and thankfully. Probably because I do a lot of cross training now.

Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, I noticed whilst comparing myself to others on Strava (yep, a fairly frequent thing to work out why I wasn’t getting faster.. sigh..) that my heart was going at a really high rate. On average, 180bpm for the whole time I was running, even if that was for hours. I’m 37, so using the usual 220-37 that’s actually my (generic) max heart rate, and 80% which is considered safe for distance training is around 145-150.  So I ended up under a cardiologist recently to find out what was going on. Numerous tests (various types of ECG, an echo-cardiogram, running data etc) pointed that my heart itself is fine and not doing anything it shouldn’t, I was just running at a level that was too hard, too long and too fast for my physiological make up. Also may be why I’ve never got faster: I’ve always trained at a level that’s been too stressful to my system by pushing myself as hard as I can most runs.

Here’s an interesting end of a 10k just before the marathon last year – when I would be at my fittest. 187 HR!! With an average of 174 for an hour…

Capture

 

So, I’ve decided it’s time to take my ego out of running.

I’m listening to the advice the cardiologist is giving me, and running with a heart rate of no more than 165, but ideally 150-160. I find 160 a really comfortable rate to run at, it’s made running so much nicer this last couple of weeks. But, it is *really* hard to watch my times slip back quite a big way, and watch friends power on faster with their lovely slow heart rates.

It will mean I can’t run with people like I used to: I won’t be able to keep up without causing some heart mischief. But that’s ok – it means I can get back to just enjoying running without the pressure on myself. In a lot of ways it feels like a nice psychological return to the first year of running where just lacing up felt like an achievement. Where a 5k made me feel like the Goddess of Running, and where I didn’t beat myself up most weeks for not getting my name down for an ultra.. I never compared myself to others at the start. I was just impressed at myself for getting out the door.

I’m slow. Sometimes I run short distances, and sometimes I run far. I love it all.

I’ll never be the fastest or the longest, but I am one of the happiest when I’m out there. Meandering runs with no purpose than the joy or running and keeping fit and healthy are for me, the best runs there are.

I’ve also since found out that actually training at the right heart rate for you can reap some excellent rewards in running faster with a lower heart rate once you’ve given your body the time to adjust. So you never know, maybe one day my times might “get better” again. I’m not going to worry if they don’t, though.

So if you ever fancy a long, slow run with someone who stops frequently and walks up the hills, I’m your woman. I’m learning to be ok with that, now.

 

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Vlog of the London Marathon, 2016

Want to know what it feels like to run a marathon? I took some very short videos documenting my way round on Periscope so that I could tap into friends and family support. They’re here unedited and in order. There are some swears in the last one, just one F bomb I think.

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Those who helped me run a marathon: THANK YOU xx

I ran London Marathon last Sunday, 24th April 2016. It was the culmination of a desire I’d had for 15 years. Wow. I’m old. But yeah, 15 years of dreaming of doing it, and then 2 solid years believing I would and then 6 months *knowing* I would. What a ride. I got round in 5hrs and 2 minutes, a time I was blown away by, as I’d expected 5:30/6hr due to injury. (you can read why I got into running and how, here)

I wanted to take stock of who helped me. Firstly – my amazing husband Jake has always supported me in my decision and never once complained about all the solo parenting he took on whilst I did my long runs over the last few months. Thank you for never making me feel guilty for taking so much time out for myself in training, just another reason I love you.

Then there were the amazing professionals who kept me on my feet and as injury free as possible – and when injury *did* strike they were there with incredible mental support and physical assistance.

  • Jackie Earle – incredibly talented and empathic sports masseuse
  • Ann Kuan – top notch physio, and fellow runner
  • Alison Rouse – foot massager extraordinaire

Then there were people who were my constant running inspiration and kept me going even if they didn’t know it:

Ultraboy, Susie Chan, BorleyRose, Ann McMeekin Carrier, EddieIzzard, Kat McVicar, Carol Penny, Ian Childs, Tim Peake, Natalie Lakin.

Then there was my incredible best friend, Zoe Nolan – who has been the most awesome cheerleader from the start, and was there in person to cheer me on the day. Thank you Zoe, you’re amazing.

There was also the incredible support from all my friends on Twitter and Facebook, who never ceased to cheer me on and “like” and “love” their way over my updates, as boring as they must have been. Every one of you kept me believing I could do it, thank you. And an excellent hug from Andrew Stott on the way round on the day, fantastic.

Then of course there were the 72 donators who gave a whopping £2,011.88 which my company, Team Prime, has matched – bringing the total raised for Barnardos to £4,023.76. FANTASTIC! Of those, I am most proud of my amazing god-son Adam, who at age 7 saved up his pocket money for 4 months and donated the whole £20 to this. I won’t lie reader, I cried.

So thank you, thank you so much everyone. Running your first marathon isn’t a solo activity by a long shot, in fact I was totally blown away by the love and messages I received over the last few months, I’ve never experienced anything like it. Marathons seem to have a mystical power to really get your community backing you, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

 

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Why I ran a marathon

I’ve always watched the London Marathon, both on television and in person. There’s something about it that brings me to tears every time, hearing every story and watching all those people push towards an insane distance. It makes me feel like as a bunch of people, with that much drive and ambition, we can achieve anything.

Sometime in my very early twenties, whilst regaining my fitness lost in my late teens through too much drinking and partying, I managed to run 15 minutes non-stop on a treadmill – I couldn’t believe it, it felt like I’d just smashed a new world target – I had never enjoyed running, was always awful at it, and never done more than 10 minutes without feeling I was going to die even in my youth. I had a very clear and determined thought that if I can get to 15 minutes, I can get to a marathon. It was so clear, so obvious, and became a reality in that moment. I didn’t have the time to push it then (work got in the way, and alas, more partying and drinking) but the moment stuck with me.

Fast forward a decade. A long, life changing decade – filled with two pregnancies, two births, breastfeeding, and lack of care to my body from Just Getting Through It All. I was tipping over 15 stones (100kgs – I’ve added a photo in my album for you to giggle at), and feeling pretty groggy in myself. I was fat. I was unfit. And I snapped, something had to change: I wasn’t ready to give up on my body yet – I was 33, and there’s life in the old girl yet.

I didn’t want to go to the gym, I didn’t want to do exercise classes. I’d done both of these things before and found the amount of time invested compared to the results and the diary constraints weren’t worth it. A lot of my friends were runners, and I’d been watching them achieve things for themselves and getting caught up in their enthusiasm. I bought a pair of trainers, and decided I’d give it a go. The marathon dream stirred.

I got as far as the end of the street, about 80 meters, when I realised *quite* how unfit I was. I wanted to puke and cry in equal measure. I did neither. I walked a bit, got my breath back, and ran on a bit more. I managed around 5 minutes that day. It was the hardest most humiliating run I’ve ever done.

Lacing up my trainers and getting out the door was awful, every time. There was never a time in the first few months where I wanted to go. So I set myself a goal – to do a 5k charity run dressed as Santa to raise money for the Special Care Baby Unit my daughter had been looked after in after birth. Every time it hurt when I ran, every time it rained, every time I wanted to give up I thought of her, and other babies fighting for their lives and realised I could keep going. I had so much to give them in charity donations from my friends, and so much to give my children by being fit and healthy, the pain is temporary, and you forget it. You never forget your achievements.

Somehow, I got to 5k. I got round the course in 36 minutes, with a chest infection. I was over the moon. My chest infection got really bad, and I had to stop running. It took me 6 weeks to get rid of the infection and it knocked all my fitness out. I drifted out of the habit, and stopped running for a year. I’d lost my mojo, and my drive.

Fast forward another year, and I was completely over being overweight. I needed to change my diet, lifestyle and get some exercise. I dug out my trainers at the start of 2014.

I started running to lose weight. I put on 3lbs in the first month. I was determined to try harder. I ran more, surely more running will help me lose weight? I got up to 10k on my own within a few months, and then started doing parkruns to get used to the idea of running with people (something that had always scared me due to my size). Settings goals like parkrun, and 10k races kept me going. Someone once said to me that races and public runs are the End of Level Bosses to all the grinding and levelling up. I love that analogy, and for me it’s completely true.

A few months in to my grinding and boss slaying, I was still putting on weight – but by now, I loved running. I kept the running up and changed my diet. I tracked everything I ate and made changes. I lost 20lbs in 3 months at the end of 2014. I bought some compression wear, and started to enjoy how my body was feeling.

In 2015 I ran a half marathon on my 1 runiversary. I managed a time of 2hrs 28minutes, and I was over the moon. I ran all over the summer, and loved every minute. Running has become my favourite hobby, and I can’t believe it. It’s pushed me to places I didn’t know I could go to physically and mentally, and helped control my anxiety and depression.

I applied for a place in the London Marathon ballot for 2016, and like almost everyone else in the world didn’t get in, so I chose to run for Barnardos who are an excellent charity, and fantastic running support.

I started training properly for the marathon in December 2015, and other than an irritating overuse set of knee injuries that popped up late February didn’t have any dramas. No blisters, no aches, no ongoing issues.

Happy to report that I completed the London Marathon 2016 in 5hrs 2minutes 🙂 You can read how it went, here.

 

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A week out from my first marathon, I could use your help

 

So, yeah, it’s finally here. PARP! I’ve trained for just over 5 months for this specific marathon and been running in total for just over two years now, building up to this. You can track my progress on the day by sticking my marathon number: 33464 into the London Marathon website on the day.

You can read my story about becoming a runner here on my fund raising page – and if you haven’t popped a fiver in yet, please do. Those kids need all the help we can give them.

Today I’m writing for your help to get me round the bloody thing. For those who have been following my progress you’ll know I’ve been blighted by a couple of overuse leg injuries, the pain is mostly from lower hamstring tendonitis and ITBS both affecting my right leg knee area, but after about 15km it radiates out throughout my whole leg. YAY, go me. The treatment for both these is rest, physio, and then rehabilitation. But you know, it happened just before the hardest, longest run block of training about 8 weeks ago – so I’ve been running through it.. Ouchie. But I’ve managed! Training hasn’t gone great, but it’s not been terrible either: I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I know I can do a marathon distance.

So yeah, putting it bluntly: getting round a marathon is going to hurt most people anyway, but for me from 5kms in I will be in quite a large amount of pain in my right leg which will build as the marathon goes. Making it round in any time specifically went out the window a couple of months ago, instead I’m focussing on getting round at all to complete my life goal, and enjoy the moment. I’ll do a “proper” sub 5hr marathon in a year or two when I’m recovered.

I could use your help. When things get tough I’m going to be checking in on Periscope – username ThayerP, and I’d love to have you all there sending messages of support and making those little heart things happen. If you can download and install it on your phone, and follow me I’d really appreciate it. You’ll get a little BEEP when I’m broadcasting, and although I can’t type back I can talk back and messages of encouragement and all those cute little hearts that happen when you tap on the video would be great to see. Plus, you’ll get to see what it’s like to be in the thick of the London Marathon, which will be pretty cool I’d imagine. I’ll do some start line footage, some mid race, and a small no doubt crying my eyes out bit after I finish. SNOT BUBBLES FTW!

If you’d like to support in person, the best way is to go to one of my charity, Barnardos Cheer Stations – I will specifically running up to those to see my husband, Dad, and any of you that let me know you’re there (Guiness welcome! haha):

MILE 17 – MUDCHUTE: with the Docklands and Canary Wharf now in sight, we are just over a small hill, past a water station just as you come into Mudchute. All the information about our exact location, what benefits your friends and family can get as well as who to contact on the day can be found here.

MILE 24.5 – EMBANKMENT: The finish line’s in sight and we are there to get you through your final couple of miles. Just outside Walkabout Bar before you go under Waterloo bridge, we are on both sides of the road and cheering louder than any other charity. Again, all the information about our exact location etc can be found here. We have Pandemonium Drummers joining us making loads of noise too, they have been cheering on #TeamBarnardos for 3 years and were the official drummers at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

If you’re going to do that, and I’d love to see you there if you do! You just need to email me your name and I’ll add you to the people they can expect. If you’re cheering me on from anywhere else on the course there’s a high chance I won’t see you I’m afraid (though I’d be supremely flattered!) – just due to the nature of everyone shouting, my focus will be on moving forwards instead of scanning the crowd every time I hear something that sounds like Thayer, TAYER, Thigh-er, etc 😉 – as I will have my name on my shirt.

A huge thank you to everyone for your support so far – the messages on Twitter, Facebook, the emails, the incredibly kind words, the sponsorship. You’ve all kept me going. Seriously.

Right then, big breath. Next update I will be a marathon runner, and writing about how incredibly well it all went..

2016-04-03 12.05.47.jpg

 

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Privilege: an unhelpful generalisation

I want to keep this as purposefully short as possible. I know that this is a highly emotive subject for almost everyone.

Over the last year the word “privilege” has crept into common use in technology circles, often in discussion around diversity in the work place – something I’m very interested in both from a personal stand point (ex female dev, and woman in tech & business) and professional (person who runs a company that builds teams of techs).

I find it extremely unhelpful. It’s often used as a put-down, a la, “Check your priv” or in a more well meaning discussion about how certain groups of people, mostly (but not only) white cis men, have some privilege over the majority. This is still unhelpful. I’ll hope to articulate why by asking you a question:

If you’re a minority in tech, who has led a life say, with an unbroken family, had great teachers (regardless of a “good” or “bad” school) and very little life traumas, are you still less privileged than a white cis male who had an unhappy home life, maybe a parental death early on, had horrendous teachers at “excellent” schools, and struggles with mental illness?

I’m using extremes in my example to highlight my point. Everyone has their own story. Yes, cis white males have data-proven advantages due to pre-existing bias from before they were born.  Almost everyone I know is working on that for the better, and wants change. But generalisations in any form used as a put-down against groups or  individuals is harmful and hurtful. You haven’t walked in anyone else’s shoes, the privilege you call out in your peers should be checked against your own. Your privilege may not look the same as the one you’re discussing, but it’s still there. We’ve all had privilege in life, and we’ve all had things that have unfairly held us back. How we as individuals deal with that determines the outcome for us personally.

The word “privilege” has come to feel like a snooty smug “well everything’s alright for you isn’t it” kind of vibe. And I don’t like it. It’s not the right word. It belittles individual’s struggles in their own lives, regardless of their gender, colour or background. I don’t think I know a single person who has led a life solely of privilege. I bet you don’t either. By using this to generalise you’re chipping away at people who didn’t chose to be born into whatever lifestyle you’ve decided they have, and giving them guilt. Almost everyone I know (regardless of our backgrounds, gender, colour) is working hard to build a unified vision of diversity both in the workplace in the world. And those that aren’t yet need to be shown how by us doing it, not by words – and unhelpful ones at that.

So what words to use instead? I’m not sure there is anything I’d be comfortable with. Generalisations in my world view are never cool. And certainly not around a subject that’s so important. I’d rather we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses as individuals and then grow together as a group, without unhelpful pigeon holing.

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Boozey advent calendars

For the last couple of years (and no doubt, forever now!) I have bought my husband a whisky advent calendar from Masters Of Malt (£149.95 + delivery), and it’s *really* good. Good fun, good to get to taste lots of different whiskies and work out which you’d like in full size, and amusing to booze through the festive period in a not-too-crazy way.

They also do a gin one (£99.95 + delivery).

I have always felt a touch left out, as I don’t like whisky or gin particularly. Certainly not enough for the price tag. So I’ve invented the vodka advent calendar (~£100 inc delivery) as a Listmania which you can buy on Amazon.

Bottoms up! Here’s to grown up advent calendars!

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