Woe is Me / Fat Arses and Cake

I’ll admit it: I’m fed up. It’s been three weeks exactly since my last run – you know, the one that put me firmly out of action for the Rome Marathon 12 days later, and also catalysed the depressing spiral of back-related issues which, over the course of the past 21 days, have included – but not been limited to – the following: General/dull lower back pain/stiffness; acute lower back pain; acute pain in right buttock (particularly uncomfortable when sitting down); shooting pain in right shin (particularly uncomfortable when walking); numbness in lower right leg (problematic when attempting to walk due to tripping over of self); tingling in toes of right foot, inability to walk without being in excruciating pain (especially when involving stairs).

For the past five months I’ve been an exercising powerhouse. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a struggle just to walk around the block (and when I say walk I mean hobble at a woeful pace – put it this way, in a sports day full of geriatrics right now I’m pretty sure I’d come last). The worst thing is not knowing what the problem is – well, I have a fairly good idea it’s something disc-related, but have to wait another fortnight for an NHS physio appointment to establish the root cause of the injury, and thus begin the arduous process of trying to fix it. In the meantime I’m floating on a sea of unease, unsure whether to rest, to exercise, to use heat, to use ice, to take this painkiller or that one – or just to drink copious amounts of wine (always the preferable option). And, as is always the case in these situations, everyone’s an expert, so I’ve been inundated with (mostly very helpful) suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t be doing – my concern being that surely every back injury is different, to some extent, so what works for one person might not work for another (in trying someone’s suggested exercises, therefore, might I not be doing myself more harm than good?).

Since my lowest ebb last Friday I have at least managed to keep away from the Tramadol – a last resort in pain relief (though really floaty light) – although the diazepam’s been making reappearances from time to time when the pain wakes me in the night (as it did last night). In my more positive moments I think it’s getting better and chide myself for being a big baby, but in the lower ones when I’m writhing on the floor with pain or unable to climb the stairs without feeling I might pass out I just want to give in and cry. I’ve been signed off work but my conscience won’t allow me not to work from home, so to add to the frustration there have been repeated attempts to access emails remotely and locate files from the server that I’m sure I’ve sent myself in the event of this eventuality but which seem to have deleted themselves spontaneously upon sending.

Put simply, having a bad back sucks. This experience has been exhausting and depressing in the extreme, and has made me feel enormously sympathetic towards all who suffer chronic back pain every day of their lives. I can at least be fairly confident that with time and patience (the latter sadly not being one of my strong points) I will heal, and that one day (soon? Please God, let it be soon) I’ll be back in the gym and training for my next big challenge, whatever that may be – but not everyone has that luxury. So I will close on a positive note: Normal service will resume shortly. In the meantime I’ll be sitting on my increasingly fat arse eating cake.

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What I may look like soon if I can’t start exercising…

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Diversity in Action

This morning I ran from Stockwell to Hyde Park and back (via Battersea Park) – an 11.3 mile route that saw me take in leafy open spaces, vast expanses of water (in both river and lake form) and the crowded shopping streets around Sloane Square and Knightsbridge. The sun was shining and the air was crisp; perfect conditions for a long morning run.

As I ran I made an effort to observe my surroundings, noting a dead fox by the roadside with a trickle of blood escaping from its mouth (poor little fellow), a cluster of canoes making their way determinedly along the river at Battersea, a dog that was exactly half white and half black and a group of ponies being ridden around Hyde Park.

I was particularly struck by the diversity of the other runners I encountered along my way – they were all shapes and sizes, from the larger lady running with her husband and children to the lanky boy with the bobbing head, the older gentleman with the grey hoodie and the numerous more professional looking runners in their state of the art gear.

Today more than ever before I felt part of a wider running community, and had a sense of kinship with my fellow runners that I hadn’t hitherto experienced except in races. The most wonderful thing was that it didn’t matter what size, shape, colour or creed they were, or how fast or slow they were running; people smiled at one another as they passed and gave each other right of way.

Put simply, there was a lot of goodwill on the running circuit in London today. Whether because it’s Christmas time I don’t know, but it was a pleasure to behold and be a part of, and it reinforced – for me at least – the joy that running can bring, and how wonderfully inclusive it can be.

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A Bridget Jones Post

Talk about going from yin to yang in one weekend. Whereas Friday saw me leaving my coat and house keys in an unknown location in Clapham at 4am after an impromptu night out with friends, Sunday has seen me complete an 11 mile run (in a very respectable hour and forty eight minutes I’ll have you know – if I run at that speed for the whole marathon I’ll complete it in under my target time of four and a half hours. Though I’ll admit that is a BIG IF), make some headway with planning the marathon fundraiser in February and cook a lasagne. Tomorrow needs to be more productive still if I’m to catch up with myself before going on holiday two weeks today (whoopee!), although annoyingly I now have ‘buy new coat’ and ‘get new set of house keys cut’ as unwelcome additional items on the to do list.

On another note entirely, when I started this blog on the first of January I wasn’t sure I would be able to fulfil the commitment to post something every day. Now, as I sit here writing the post for December 15th I can hardly believe there are only 16 posts left to write before the end of the year. What I’ll do beyond that I haven’t yet decided, but whilst it’s unlikely I’ll continue posting every single day, I’ll definitely continue to keep a regular blog. The ‘Bridget Jones’ posts (as my Dad not-so-affectionately refers to them – and, given this weekend’s antics and posts that description’s not all that wide of the mark…) are always cathartic to write, the fiction posts entirely different and yet arguably more important where the future direction of my writing is concerned. In February I plan to dig out this year’s NaNo novel, dust it off and start the ‘real’ work of editing. Because, I’ve decided: 2014 is going to be my year. And, like Bridget, I won’t let anything or anyone stand in my way.

Spinning Plates

Aside

I’ve just been reading a magazine article about people who plan too far ahead and generally take on too much, and how it can be harmful to your health to set too many deadlines in life (apparently people who set lots of deadlines are four times more likely to have heart attacks…), and beneficial to sometimes be spontaneous and just go with the flow.

This weekend I’ve been back home with my mum and stepdad. Mum always worries that I’m doing too much and not getting enough rest (to be fair, given in the past two months alone I’ve organised two big parties with a third in the pipeline, planned a forthcoming trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines in the new year, signed up to a marathon in March next year and written 33,000 words of a new novel – in addition to the daily blogs I’ve been posting every day of this year so far – she might have a point), but I always argue that I like being busy.

And it’s true, I DO like being busy. It keeps my brain active and keeps me inspired. It also makes me a more interesting person, or at least I like to think so. Exercising keeps me healthy and happy, writing soothes my soul and, although planning social engagements can be stressful (the most recent one – a festive lunch for 40 people – particularly so), I love getting people together and knowing the occasion wouldn’t have happened had it not been for my tenacity and enthusiasm in organising it.

I feel so blessed to lead such a busy and fulfilling life, it’s just not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. That said, I’ve really pushed myself to the limit with today’s almost-eleven mile run. And, after getting home from a fabulous roast dinner with friends, my whole body aching, I have to say I’m glad ‘all’ I have to do tomorrow is catch up the 6,300 words I’m currently behind with my novel…

No Pressure

It’s day 23 of National Novel Writing Month and, despite a flash stint this afternoon where I somehow managed to write two thousand words in about an hour, I’m still a rather woeful 5,165 words behind target. For some reason, however, I’m not feeling all that worried. I’ve got the best part of tomorrow and all of Monday to put the time in and, as I know from past experience, I work best under pressure so I’m confident I’ll manage to ‘win’ at NaNo once again and make it to 50,000 words before midnight on the 30th. The most encouraging thing is that despite struggling to find the time to get my word count up, I haven’t had a single moment of writer’s block since I started, which must surely be a good sign…?

In other news (yes, this is a boring update post – apologies to anyone who had grander designs in mind for today’s blog), the marathon training is coming on nicely. If – or should that be when – I complete tomorrow’s 105 minute run (gulp) I will have managed to tick off every session on this week’s plan, including a rather savage speed session on the treadmill this morning which I’m glad to have behind me. It’s still a long way off (this is only week three of a twenty week training plan) but my theory is if I put the ground work in now it’ll be a hell of a lot easier come the big day. Though something tells me when it comes to running a marathon there’s nothing ‘easy’ about it…

The Reluctant Runner

It’s 6pm and I’ve just walked back from the tube station in the peeing rain without an umbrella (after leaving it in the office). It is also cold – bitterly cold – and so I have put the kettle on and am about to crank up the heating. And eat a biscuit. What could possibly spoil this perfect picture of cosy winter bliss? An eight kilometre marathon training run in aforementioned peeing rain, that’s what.

This is a watershed moment, I know – one I will look back on only hours from now (once I’ve stripped my sodden clothes away from my smarting skin and stopped sneezing, that is) with a sense of pride and achievement. I will congratulate myself for having had the strength of character to succeed where countless others would have failed. And, after a hearty and well-deserved meal I will retire to bed with a peaceful mind and a happy heart. (I may also, it must be said, wake up with pneumonia and spend the next week doing no exercise at all as a result, but for the purposes of this blog post – and indeed the likelihood of me making it out of the door in the first place – positivity is key).

I cannot, and therefore will not, fall at the first hurdle of winter, for I am made of sterner stuff. Somewhere beneath this thick blanket of resistance and lethargy there is an athlete just bursting to get out and pound those pavements…Maybe she’s hiding under this biscuit…

Running (out of motivation)

Exercise is good for us. Not only does it burn off calories so we can continue to eat chocolate to our hearts’ content without turning into fat lumps of lard, it also releases endorphins that are physiologically proven to make us feel happier. So, seeing as exercise has so many benefits, why oh why (oh WHY) is it so difficult to find the motivation to get off our lazy behinds and do it?

Given my current (pitiful) state of reticence to go out for a run, new readers of this blog might be surprised to learn that less than two weeks ago I completed a half marathon (in a very respectable one hour fifty six minutes, I might add). In the ten weeks leading up to the race I managed to (virtually) stick to a training plan consisting of four weekly runs. And you know what? It felt good. Not always in the moments before or immediately after the runs, of course, but overall. I felt fit, healthy and energised. Now I feel fat, unhealthy and utterly lacking in the joie de vivre that an active lifestyle induces.

The problem, to my mind, is no longer having a goal. When you have an event to train for it’s harder to let yourself off the hook where training sessions are concerned. Sure, you can miss one here and there without too much drama, but if you miss too many you know you’re just making it harder for yourself on the day of the race. And so you train – come rain or shine, whether you are tired or not. You do it because you have that finish line in mind at all times, and because, well, you’d ideally like to not collapse and suffer cardiac arrest half way through (not a good look for the official photos).

It’s fair enough to have a few days’ rest after an event, but it’s vital to get back on that horse before the motivation ups and leaves for good. In my case I’ve left my trusty steed a bit too long – taking a full week off after the race and only getting out twice at the beginning of last week for short runs – and the bloody thing’s bolted. But the situation is not beyond redemption. As I write this I am gearing up for a thirty minute run around Clapham Common to get the blood pumping again, and a return to running club mid-week is also on the cards (group motivation being a great way to re-discover the benefits of regular exercise).

And then there’s next year’s London Marathon. I have to admit when I crossed the finish line two weeks ago I swore to myself I wouldn’t even consider doing it, but no sooner had I recovered than I felt the stirrings of enthusiasm for another, bigger challenge (and let’s face it, the London Marathon’s about the biggest challenge there is). The ballot results are out in a couple of weeks and all of a sudden I find myself crossing everything in the hope I’ll bag one of the few hallowed non-charity spots. If not, I can fight for one of the two spaces my charity has paid for, though this does come with the added pressure of a fundraising target (all in good cause…).

Challenges are good because they push us to the limits of endurance and give us goals to focus on. Without them we weak-willed humankind are prone to drifting on a sea of lost intent. So it’s with this in mind I don my running gear and venture out. Wish me luck…