The Good Samaritan – London Marathon Tragedy

While I was still intending to run the 2012 London Marathon, I started a post entitled “Why I’m running for the Samaritans”.

As you know I chose not to run and so my expose has remained in draft format. I will give you a sneak preview of the opening paragraph and leave the rest for the time I do manage to go the distance:

I wouldn’t exactly call running a life saver but it has definitely been a sanity saver. It’s given me a sense of community, of achievement and of worth.

If I want to look for life savers there have been a few in my life and to those I am forever grateful.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that one of my life savers was going to be The Samaritans.

While I was out on the streets last Sunday, supporting OGB on his first marathon attempt, I kept one eye open for the Samaritan runners who did make it as far as the start line to raise money for a charity dear to my heart.

Claire Squires would have run past me twice that day.

I was incredibly saddened to find out today that she died within the final mile of the 2012 London Marathon.

On her Just Giving site Claire say’s:

if everyone I know could donate £5.00 that would be a great help and change lives

Imagine the impact if everyone she doesn’t know could spare £5 for a runner who gave her all?

As I write this she’s managed to raise £536,762.10

Two Half’s are Better Than One

It’s about time I came clean and announced that my marathon plans have withered in the late winter sun.

The initial training plan went rather well but as the runs got longer, I started asking myself questions and it became obvious that my heart wasn’t in it. The marathon is such an all encompassing challenge, demanding week after week of commitment that you really do need to have your heart on side. Mine was digging it’s heels in and sulking at every enforced run.

So, for the time being I don’t feel as though I have a marathon in me.

But I’m still fired up for running. It’s felt great to let myself off the hook and start running for the sheer hell of it again.

I’ve reassessed and set new targets and now I’m chasing a half marathon PB. The new plan has me splitting the marathon into two half’s, the first is the Great Keswick Trail Half in June and the second is the PB showdown at the Great North Run in September.

The Winter Cross Training Concept

The Hal Higdon marathon plan includes one day of cross training every week. My fear of recurrent plantar fasciitis pain has made me determined to include at least one (preferably two) days of non-running activity in my weekly schedule for injury proofing purposes.

Settling on the cross training activity of choice has been a little tricky. I initially pencilled in a whole load of cycle commutes but the weather has been grim and I’ve turned a little soft and spoilt in my old age and they just haven’t happened.

I considered swimming but my swanky gym was burnt down during the riots and the ever expanding Tesco monster demolished the local municipal swimming pool for a car park.

With swimming and cycling knocked off the list of possibilities I turned to rowing which led me to a whole new world of gadgets – massive gadgets!

20111230-115718.jpgHaving sought agreement for the acquisition of a smallish rowing machine I was very quick to fill out the hire agreement for a Concept 2 erg. Within 4 days of the initial idea I had installed the worlds largest rower in the middle of the bedroom.

It may be huge but it is a damn fine rowing machine. I have it wired up to an old PC running RowPro software which enables me to visualise my attempts on the water and race against my previous sessions – the equivalent of the Garmin Virtual Partner.

Rowing is satisfyingly technical, I have yet to explore the world of power curves and it’s relationship to stroke rate and pace but any sport with graphs has got to be one for me.

My first 2k attempt at 9:40 ranks me as a fairly useless rower, perhaps moderately better than my running rankings but unlike with running, I can actually visualise myself as a speedy rower. I’ve started the Pete Plan for beginners and will spend countless hours analysing my technique. Hopefully come April I’ll be able to record a respectable 2k rowing time as well as jog around a marathon course in central London.

A Soft Approach to the London Marathon

I’m taking a softly softly approach to this years attempt at the London marathon. No early heroics or ambitious time targets. I need to make it to the start line this year and that means, at the very least, that I have to still be capable of running when the proper marathon program starts at the end of December.

I started my preliminary marathon training schedule this week.

An 8-week program that will hopefully drag my aching plantar fascia through to a 10k standard without me needing to hobble to work on crutches.

While I may be easing may back into the running, I’ve gone full steam ahead with the research and planning. As befits my gentle approach I’ve opted to follow the non-runners marathon trainer. It’s not exactly lightweight, no successful marathon plan can be, but despite having run for quite some years I do still identify with it’s target audience of non-runners and I’m happy to build up slowly. If I ever get into double digit training weeks I may be tempted to amend the plan slightly as it never gets beyond 18 mile long runs and I think that is leaving too much unexpected pain for the big day.

I am also reading more hardcore running material. Marshall Ulrich, the ultra runner almost as famous as Dean Karnazes, has just released a book called Running on Empty. It gets a huge “must read” recommendation from me and has already provided much inspiration and encouragement to get on the treadmill.

By his own refreshing admission, Ulrich has had something of a flawed character, not the best of husbands or fathers, and has spent much of his running life running away from his emotions. I identify with him to a point but unfortunately haven’t developed his skill of zoning out of the pain and maintaining the relentless “one foot forward” maxim to life.

Ultra runners are a funny breed but I do enjoy taking inspiration from them. He reminded me of Eddie Izzard with his crazy multiple marathon feat. It seems that if you run far enough, for long enough, your body breaks down and then re-emerges from the ashes as a runner.

Hard to moan about plantar fasciitis when you read about an ultra runner’s woes.

The distances were taking their toll. The tendons in my upper and lower legs had begun to throb constantly, as if someone had cracked them both with a hammer. My muscles were so tight that they felt like guitar strings strung over the bridge of my aching bones. My achilles tendon was giving me no relief, and my bones and joints hurt from the incessant pounding.

Unfortunately I am unlikely to run the necessary 2000 or so miles to convert my grumbling body into a finely honed, injury proofed, running machine between now and April 2012 but I can enjoy the read along the way.

Apologies in advance for much whining to come.

The Happy Magazine

My London Marathon acceptance mag dropped through the front door on Friday. It wasn’t unexpected as I’d had to defer from last years event due to a frustrating struggle with plantar fasciitis but it has come around frighteningly quickly.

I’m still supposedly trying to rest my way out of heel pain but now the mag has arrived I feel it’s time to man up and try regain some of the lost fitness.

I’ve been resting, stretching and overdosing on ibuprofen and although I still have pain, I have been able to cope with two 20 minute trial runs without exacerbating the problem further.

I have my fingers crossed for some injury respite. I don’t think you can defer for a second time and more importantly, 2012 would be such a good year to take part in the London marathon, with it being the Olympic year and the year OGB finally gets accepted in the ballot.

Latest Release Marathon Books

I’ve been sent a couple of marathon books to look over. One is aimed at the beginner runner with a marathon on the horizon and the other is aimed at a very specific niche – those that have completed the London marathon between the years 2001-2010.

The first is a large format magazine from called the Ultimate Guide to Marathon Training. I’ve reviewed this previously but it’s now been updated for the new year. As ever it provides an excellent introduction for the novice runner or for those that need to step up their exposure to running terminology because they’ve signed themselves up for the BIG challenge.

You could re-brand this as the bluffers guide to running as it packs a huge amount of running knowledge from training techniques, nutrition, shoe choices, injury treatment and running style.

I’m particularly taken with the stretching section which provides extremely clear guidance on running specific stretches. I usually skip the stretch routine which probably explains why I’m suffering with a painful calf/hamstring injury and dabble with plantar fasciitis from time to time. I’m tempted to cut this section out and stick it next to the bed in the hope that it would provide the necessary spur to action.

The training plan section is small and I’d recommend looking elsewhere before you decide on the plan you intend to stick to. The 4hour plus plan mentioned here is 12 weeks long (or short) and the max run is only 15 miles. That would not be enough to get me round more than a flat 1/2 marathon course. I’ve already blogged about my marathon plan of choice but there are loads out there.

I haven’t yet completed the London marathon so I found the second book a little hard to read. In fact I think anyone short of rainman would find this book hard to read.

It’s The Official Register of London Marathon Runners 2001-2010 from Aubreys and only just beats the yellow pages for interest. Actually they’ve done a good job of it. Given that it is designed to be a list of every London marathon finisher for the last 10 years, complete with times, it amazing that I’ve been able to give it a second glance.

Each year gets a short summary before the listings begin and then runner biographies appear randomly throughout the pages. I was quite pleased to read in the 2010 section that a 69 year old bloke was almost honoured with the award for the fastest ever marathon by an OAP before the chip times revealed that he either finished the last half in less than an hour or as it turned out, he’d taken a short cut.

I’m disappointed to note that they don’t reveal this short cut. Sounds like a winner to me.

I think I’d be pretty proud to own the 2011-2020 edition if I get to complete the event next year. It would sit happily on my bookshelf next to my thesis. If you’ve completed the marathon in the last decade you might be happy to know you can currently get the register for half price at £30.