Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all

I signed up for the Brixton 10k using a discount in the Black Friday sale – one of the few things I bought in the sale. With a cheap entry fee and a nice easy walk to the start line, I thought it would be a good way to kick off the year.

Last month I did a 10k in Regent’s Park and felt really crap afterwards as I didn’t do very well. And then I got sick, for what felt like forever. I’m still snotty. It’s really frustrating.

The race start was at 9.30, so I planned to leave at 8.45 and stroll over. At 8.30 I told myself I’d jog over at 9am.

But by 8.45, I wasn’t dressed and I wasn’t feeling sure.

I decided I didn’t want to do it.

I didn’t want to go, be slow because I’m still ill and then feel annoyed with myself.

I didn’t want to go, be slow and then feel anxious about the next race I did.

I didn’t want to go and then have a bad stomach.

So even though it felt weird, and wrong, and wasteful, I didn’t go.

There will be lots more races, when I feel ready and fitter and healthier. I don’t like to quit things just because I won’t do well… but what’s the point of putting yourself through something that has absolutely no positive effect? The only reason I wanted to still do it was so that I wouldn’t be able to call myself a quitter. But not doing one 10k doesn’t make you a quitter – perhaps I’m a strategic decision maker instead?

I went for a run later in the day and my stomach was really bad and I had to lie on the floor for a bit when I got home. Definitely the right call.

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Marathon training – week 4

Monday – I never normally do a recovery run but thought I’d give it a go. Turns out running is so much easier than walking, and the run to work was the easiest bit of the day! I wore my new trail shoes (for my entirely road route to work) and they’re very comfy for less than a tenner. 4.8km.

Tuesday – felt pretty gloomy about the race at the weekend and investigated joining a running club. My legs were still sore but I ran home from work with no dramas. 4.7km.

Wednesday – I planned to do a longer run to work but slept badly and couldn’t get motivated to leave the house. Instead I decided to try out my new shoes on my normal commute. My feet cramped a little between 2-3km but were fine by the time I got to work and the shoes feel pretty comfy. I stopped off at Waitrose to get a coffee and the coffee machine gave me steamed milk instead, which I only noticed when I’d left. 4.8km.

Thursday – no running.

Friday – no running.

Saturday – for the first time in ages I went to parkrun. Since I moved back to London I’ve only been to the one that’s easy walking distance from my house, but there are loads of others nearby, including a new one at Tooting Common. In the end I went to Dulwich as I know the setup (bike parking, etc) well. It was so cold that my face hurt while running but I set a parkrun PB, which was nice – and then went home to eat pancakes, which was even nicer! 5k.

Sunday – two years ago I did a 10k in the park, organised by the local athletics club, and it rolled around again this year. Walking to a race start line is such a treat, and there were less than 100 runners (a big difference to the week before at Cambridge Half, with over 5,000 people finishing!). 10k in the park is three laps, and each lap includes the hill at the back of the park, and I felt a bit daunted. I set off steadily but lost time each lap. Amusingly, on the hill there were some men doing community service in orange jumpsuits, and they heckled us as we ran past. They’d gone on a break by the third lap when I could have done with some extra encouragement! It was less cold than Saturday and there were loads of great dogs out in the park, and at the finish line we each got a medal, tshirt, water and a banana, so it was all round a good little race. I finished over three minutes faster than when I did it two years ago, which felt rewarding. 12.4km in total (though about going for a run in the evening but didn’t – probably need to adjust my training plan).

Total: 31.7km

Total in training plan: 53km

Battersea Park 10k

It was hot when I woke up on Sunday morning, and I was on the wrong side of London. I used to cycle past Battersea Park every day on the way to work – however I was in Finsbury Park and I felt panicked about how to get to Battersea, eventually deciding to take public transport rather than risking getting lost on my bike.

The journey was simple and I got a tea en route, and strolled into the park feeling calmer than first thing. My stomach had been hurting the day before but it felt okay, and although it was sunny there looked to be some shade too.

I picked up my race pack and sat on a bench, pinning on my race number and attaching the chip to my shoe. Pop music blared from a speaker and the race director kept telling people not to use the toilets near the start line as they were busy but to use alternative facilities on the other side of the park. I checked my bag in and walked to the alternative toilets, starting to feel quite queasy. I wondered if this was nerves until my stomach made more decisive grumblings and I picked up the pace, before immediately slowing the pace, as things were not feeling good inside.

The queue for the loos was long and slow moving. It’s such an awful feeling, being in a slow moving toilet queue when you can feel your insides making a bid for freedom. I tried to think of similar situations: needing a wee when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway came to mind, but it wasn’t a helpful line of thought so I stopped thinking and stared at my watch and the time to the start ticking down.

A few minutes after the race started I finally exited the loos, maybe a kilo or two lighter. I didn’t feel very well but jogged to the start line – which had been dismantled. A few others had missed the start too and the race director took note of our numbers and gave us our own start time. I set off on the first of four laps around the park.

Now, one thing I hate about running is laps. I find them so boring. I don’t even like out-and-backs. I did two laps of Finsbury Park on Saturday and that was just about okay, but FOUR laps. At least I didn’t have to contend with a crowd at the start as the 10k race had started more than 5 mins before, with the 5k race 5 mins before that. I got passed by loads of people, and I entertained myself with a game of “what lap do you think they’re on?”, which is the same-but-different as “how bad am I at running”.

I’d set out wanting to hit 55 mins, which wouldn’t be a PB at all but seemed doable in the heat. Then my stomach decided it was having none of it and anything faster than a jog had me seriously concerned – a chap in tight white shorts and a see-through gilet didn’t help, as I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d do in my situation. At least I was wearing all black, right? What has my life come to that I congratulate myself on wearing clothes that won’t make it too obvious if I poo myself?

I jogged round the rest of the course, finishing in exactly 59 mins, and carried on jogging to the loos, where I spent some quality time before going back for my medal (featuring Battersea Power Station and Battersea Dogs Home). On the way home I curled up on a bench at the station, spent a long time in the loos at Victoria, developed a cold sweat, cancelled my plans for the day, bought some immodium and dragged myself back to Finsbury Park, where I crawled into bed for 24 hours.

With the Kevin Henry 5k on Thursday (where I twisted my ankle), Finsbury Parkrun on Saturday (where I was slow and lethargic) and this, it’s been a disappointing few days of running. I am so very sick of feeling disappointed with myself.

Royal Parks Winter 10k Series: QEOP

The final race (race 1, race 2) in the Royal Parks 10k Winter Series came round just as my cold moved from semi-debilitating to massive snot-fest (I went to bed on the 4th Jan and didn’t get out again for 3 days – what a way to start the year).

The race was due to take place in Hyde Park but a few weeks before I got an email from the organisers saying that it was going to have to be in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park instead. The where? Oh, the new park in Stratford, previously the site of burned out cars and squat parties, and (more recently) a major sporting event that you may or may not have seen on TV.

It was a cold day and I woke up early to get the train over to Stratford. The train was quiet and I settled into my seat until a man got on and started smoking a crack pipe while trying to chat me up. He got off at the next stop, and I looked out of the window thankfully, spotting my friend Jimbilly on the platform. We had a chat through the window – we were both off to Stratford but I couldn’t get my head around why we were on different trains.

Arriving in Stratford I made use of the shopping centre toilet facilities (quite nice) before walking over to the Orbit, where the race was due to start. I thought I’d have loads of time but I faffed around for ages changing clothes/shoes and missed the race briefing. Not a huge problem if you’re not leading, I think, as you can just follow the people in front.

Lap 1 was disorientating, the athletics stadium appeared to always be on my left no matter which way I turned.

Lap 2 was just as disorientating, the athletics stadium became the aquatics centre when I blinked and I didn’t know where I was on the course.

Lap 3 started with a walk through the drinks station and I also had another couple of sneaky walks as I was feeling a bit tired. Ha. Still couldn’t get my sodding bearings.

QEOP 10k

A new PB, I was pleased.

I retrieved my bag and cheered on some of the slower runners. I’ve got a lot of respect for anyone who’d drag themselves out of bed on a cold Sunday morning in order to come last in a race.

Afterwards I went back to the shopping centre facilities and had a quick wet wipe shower before taking the bus over to Homerton for brunch, where I managed to swap two items of my veggie breakfast for halloumi. PB and halloumi fest – an excellent Sunday.

Royal Parks Winter 10k Series: Regent’s

The 2nd race in the 10k Winter Series was in Regent’s Park (the first in the series, last month, was in Greenwich).

It was a cold morning but a brisk walk from Baker Street stopped me feeling too chilly – although I then cooled down waiting in the queue for the loos. There were a lot of runners and I couldn’t spot my brother, who was meant to be there.

I was about 2/3 of the way back at the starting line and didn’t hear the gun go, so only realised the race had started when everyone began shuffling forward. It took nearly a minute to cross the line!

The course was congested as the path is narrow in places, which meant assessing every runner in front to decide if they were faster or slower and whether to overtake. I was going for a fairly conservative pace, hoping to keep it consistent throughout.

I spent the first lap feeling disorientated as I’ve only been inside Regent’s Park for a music festival and softball matches. The 2nd lap was uneventful. On the 3rd lap I realised that I had slowed down but that if I kept going at my current speed I should get a PB. I couldn’t quite coax my legs into going any faster – a mental thing maybe. As I turned the final corner and saw I had 300 metres to go I picked up the pace a little.

I’d done some calculations and worked out that if my brother was racing he’d be crossing the finish line shortly after I started my 3rd lap (!), and I was tempted to look behind me at this point to see if I could see him. As I neared the finish line I saw him and his colleague cheering me – a really nice touch.

My brother got a PB (by several minutes), and so did I! I was pleased as I’ve felt like it was hanging over me. I knew I could run faster than the times I’d previously done, and now I feel like I can move on from here. I haven’t achieved my 10k goal for 2014, but at least I’ve improved a little.

regents park 10k

Royal Parks Winter 10k Series: Greenwich

I’ve entered a series of 10k races this winter, the first of which took place on Sunday.

All the other runners were either wearing the free tshirts we were given at registration (what did they arrive wearing?) or were wearing FULL WINTER KIT. Long sleeves, tights, jackets, woolly hats, gloves, buffs, long socks. It’s not winter, guys! Save that stuff for when it’s actually cold! Me, I wore shorts and tshirt, although I broke the Hardness Committee rules by wearing socks.

I didn’t exactly cover myself in glory at this race, but I hadn’t really trained and at least the contents of my stomach decided to stay on the inside for once.

Here is some race analysis (a picture says a thousand words, but a MS Paint monstrosity says, well, this):

greenwich10k

The next race is in a month and hopefully I’ll look less silly in the race photos.

Did Not Finish

Today I DNFed a 10k. I got to about 4.5k, got really dizzy and started zig zagging around and veering towards a pond, so at the halfway point I bailed. Then I cried all over the very kind St Johns Ambulance people, who were really lovely but I was pretty inconsolable. The race organiser gave me a special xmas medal (left over from the kids race I guess) and that just made me weep even more.

At the point that I was thinking that my running confidence couldn’t be much lower, I went to pick up my bike to head home and got a puncture almost immediately. It was a 45 minute walk to the train station, though at least the pouring rain made it less obvious that I was crying.