Sunday, 30 March 2014

A week to go

This time next week we'll be running around Paris. Who knows; Andy might even carry that banana.

But bloody hell, eh? Next week. I'd say 'who knows where the time goes' but I know exactly where it's gone - it's gone into all the usual places; work, and with friends, and with stalled trains and all the typical day-to-day stuff. It's been used up by rain-sodden freezing runs around a wintry South London that became gradually more enjoyable as the mornings got brighter. It's been used up with discovering parts of the city I've never been to, even after living here for 18 years. It's been used up with listening to more podcasts and radio shows than I've listened to in years (and of finding the time to go from discovering This American Life to liking it to completely hating it. Shut up about your boring concerns! I don't care if your jazz-afficionado two year old is struggling with vegetarianism! Don't tell me about it in your whiny voice! Shut up!). And its been used up with half-hours and hours at the physio's office, trying to de-injure my bloody knee. And it's also been used up with those 'months where we gave up drinking to focus on the running' but where we actually didn't do that at all, and went to the pub anyway.

Bizarrely, all of this has been fun (apart from the time, maybe, where I read up on the history of marathons and about how Pheidippides, who ran the first one from Marathon to Athens, collapsed and died at the finish line.
That's not the kind of story you're after is it. Not if you're looking for the inspiration to get out of bed and go running, first thing in the morning).

Not that I've been out recently of course. I haven't run a mile since a couple of Saturdays ago. The time we did just over 21 miles. That's because my knee tightened up again and - on the morning that I did try to run properly, last Tuesday or Wednesday (I forget which) - something still wasn't quite right. It didn't hurt or anything but I was limping, if only a little. So instead I've been to the gym and on the cross-trainers and on the cycling machines. In fact, the other day I 'cycled' 30 miles while watching 'Allo Allo' on the gym telly. This is the Paris Marathon we're preparing for after all - and how much more French can you get? That's right mate. None more French.

As for my knee. It's alright really. And it'll be fine next weekend, I'm sure. 

But yes. Paris. Next weekend. 26 miles and 385 yards to run. God knows what my finishing time will be for all of this of course. I'd originally, laughably, put myself down for 'four hours' and I reckon it'll be miles more now with all of the knee problems I've had, but to hell with the finishing time. It was never my reason for running in the first place, was it. All that really matters at this stage is that I'm looking forward to it and am determined to enjoy it.

So. Before I head off to the gym for one last time* before the big race (*my membership runs out today) I'd just like to say cheers to everyone who's sponsored me to do this. It means a lot. Thank you.

Monday, 17 March 2014

God, has it been good to get out.

After nearly three weeks of swallowing ibuprofen and applying frozen peas, I tried running again last Monday. Actual running, I mean. Out-on-the-pavement-and-not-in-a-gym running. And to be quite honest, I was a bit scared that my knee would pop apart after twenty or thirty steps and all of this training would come to nothing. 

So I took it slowly and steadily, and headed out at around six -on Monday morning; running a five mile loop from my flat through Dulwich Village and into what remains of the Great North Wood. Six in the morning sounds dedicated, I know, but it was much more to do with insomnia and a night of lying awake, feeling like a bag of blood and meat and staring at the ceiling worrying about any old nonsense. You know; the kind of thing that running helps with enormously. Half an hour later I was feeling a million times better - standing in the woods, watching the sun rise over the trees and listening to the woodpeckers rat-a-tat-tat in the branches.

I followed the same route the next day; this time with Andy, and this time feeling a bit less trepidatious about taking my wonky legs out for a spin. My ankle hurt, yes. I had some kind of splint on my right shin. And my left knee didn't hurt, exactly, but it certainly let me know it was there - and that it needed me to be careful. Again, I got round. Five miles. And I apologise if I'm making all of this sound like a scene from 'The Champ' but it felt like a big deal.

And then on the weekend we went for it - Andy, me, and my knee - and we ran 21.5 miles. I am thrilled to fucking bits with that. It's the longest we've ever done. And it could well mean that, in just twenty days, I'll be able to run this Marathon after all. It's only another five miles, isn't it? That's - er - nothing. Piece of piss.

We set off early on a beautiful Saturday morning that was more August than March, and ran through Peckham, into Camberwell, around the Oval Cricket Ground, down to the river at Vauxhall, over to Battersea Park and then onto Putney. And from there, we took a route through Richmond Park, then Ham, and then over to Richmond itself. It took about four hours and then some. But we did it and it felt exactly as every running magazine and blog had promised it would - elating. And I was so, so grateful that my knee didn't throw me into some awkward limp. Nice one, knee.

Andy on Putney Heath.

This old feller sprinted past me, head down, in Richmond Park.

A resident-funded tribute to the Queen in Petersham, near Ham. Near the Polo club. It's posh around there.


PS: Something was different this time: Usually, on long runs, Andy and I stick our headphones in and listen to music or podcasts or what have you. This time we hardly bothered. Maybe it's because it was Spring, but it was great to listen to the birds and the woods and - well - the day-to-day life of the places we were running through (yes. Even that shriekingly posh woman in Richmond Park). That said, there was one point  - I forget where - where Andy stuck his headphones in saying 'You can only have so much fucking nature, can't you'.

PPS: We're probably supposed to be on the wagon. But there's no way you can run that far and end up in Richmond on the most beautiful day of the year so far, and not have a pint. Two pints each, I mean. So thanks to the Roebuck, on Richmond Hill for letting us take our glasses to the park over the road for a celebratory drink, and as our cooling legs set like clay.

Distance: 5 + 5 + 21.5 miles - so 31.5 miles/ 50.7 km
Time: Half an hour, another half hour, and then about four and a half hours.
Total distance (Andy): 167.8 miles/ 257.1 km*
Total distance (Elliot): 181.6 miles/ 291.3 km

*You know something? Andy's done LOADS more than this. He even did a half marathon in Scotland the other weekend. But he hasn't blogged owt for months, has he? The lazy get.

Monday, 3 March 2014


The Saturday before last was beautiful, and Andy and I wandered over to Peckham Rye Park to begin a long (or at least long-ish) bit of training. 'Do you reckon you'll be alright?' he asked and I repeatedly said 'yes. Yes. I reckon I'll be fine'.

I honestly though this strap would work.

And after about what? A minute? I had to stop. My knee had stiffened up and I was limping terribly. 'You go' I said to Andy, 'and I'll call you later'. As I hobbled back to the flat I googled a local physiotherapist on my phone and called them before I got indoors. 'We can fit you in on Monday' they said, and when I asked if I could swim or cycle they said 'yes. But the minute it hurts, stop'. Good, I thought, as I was determined to get out and about there and then. Once home, I pumped up the tires on my bike and set off straight away.

Luckily, cycling didn't hurt at all. I called Andy en route and arranged to meet up with him down by the Thames Barrier. 'Go up through Blackheath, and that way' he said. 'And turn right onto the Thames Path. I'm up by the 02'. Overall, this had taken him a couple of hours and it took me forty minutes, which is scientific proof that cycling is an absolute piece of piss compared to running. I have friends who cycle loads and tell me how tiring it is and how demanding, but you lot can shut your mouths. It's nothing. You get to freewheel when you go downhill, for God's sake. 

The Thames Path, up by the 02 Arena.

But cycling is fun. I'll give you that. And although I missed the 'zoning out' you get with long runs (the almost mediative feeling that comes as you listen to your feet thump, thump, thump, thump) I did enjoy the zippiness of it - and cycling along the Thames on what could have almost been a Spring day, with the sun turning the surface of river to glistening tin foil, was great.

The Thames.

Ghost sign.

Anyroad. My sodding knee. The physio said that it wasn't the patello-femoral pain syndrome (or 'runner's knee') I'd suspected after all, and he proved his point by pushing my kneecap with his fingers and asking if it hurt. No, I said. 'And how about here'? he asked, this time touching a spot an inch to the left. I gripped onto the chair and replied in 80-point type. 'That screaming means it's your hamstring', he said. 'The good news is that you'll be able to run the marathon. The bad news is that you won't be able to run at all, for what feels like ages'.

It turns out that all the physio's had at the surgery this past couple of weeks has been marathon runners, all training for London. He'd told about half of them that they wouldn't be able to take part in the thing they'd been training for all year, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn't getting that kind of news. And I tried not to feel awkward as I lay there, in my pants, as he rubbed gel all over my knee and then massaged it with one of those ultrasound things that looks like a Remington Fuzz-Away.

A couple of days later Andy and I tried the gym and later still, I even joined the bloody thing, as using the cross-trainers has been a great way of keeping my legs moving without knacking them with the impact of running. I chanced my feet on the treadmills at one point but it wasn't long before my left my knee throbbing again, so I stopped. 

The kind of views you get in the gym.

And that's all it's been since, for more than two weeks: using cross-trainers in a hot room, feeling bored and missing running (and idly looking at the kind of people who go to a council gym regularly - from old dears to Muscle Marys). And I've been taking so much ibuprofen on an empty stomach (you know, like you shouldn't) that dry-heaving has become 'my thing'.

Distance: Nowt.
Virtual distance: I haven't been keeping track.