Thursday, May 4, 2017

Running Round-up: Catching Up On the Blog While Tapering Edition

Race weekend is nearly here! Here's what I've been up to, or what I've wanted to write about but have been procrastinating instead, all week long.

Hoping there's no "kneed" to worry
Tapering is great. It feels like a nice break after so much hard work. The advice for tapering is generally: back off the mileage, but keep running i.e. don't just stop running altogether. 

Love these banners. Pic cred: @broadwayrunclub
So last weekend, I did a 6 km run with my husband, which was a nice little treat as we don't run together that often. After the run, however, I noticed one of my knees was quite sore - but no big, sometimes that happens; my knees have always been a little crunchy. 

But then... my knee was sore the next day, and the day after that. I'd been icing and foam rolling, and I'd stayed off it i.e. no running whatsoever. So when I woke up Wednesday morning and it was still sore with seemingly no improvement, I started to panic a little bit...  along the lines of, "WTF is wrong with this knee [because I really had no idea]? Am I seriously not going to being able to run on Sunday??" (Cue fainting and then waking up immediately followed by uncontrollable sobbing. If that were the case.) 

Fortunately, my knee finally felt like it had started to loosen up today. Luckily, with some more ice and rest and a bit of targeted massage, it'll feel nice and normal and ready to go by this weekend. Fingers, toes and knees crossed!

Running for depressives
I recently read Matt Haig's book, Reasons to Stay Alive. I'm not one much for reading self-help books, but it had been rated highly and was touted as part memoir, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Rather than this be a proper book review, I'll simply say: I liked it. And: it's worth reading. Also, I wanted to share an excerpt from his book (which I hope the author won't mind) as in it, he writes about how running helped him manage his depression. As someone who too, has suffered with this, I could totally relate. Figured this would also be timely, given the recent work done by Heads Together at the London Marathon to tackle stigma surrounding mental health. 

Thanks for your words, Matt.

  Running is a commonly cited alleviator of depression and anxiety. It certainly worked for me. When I started running I was still getting very bad panic attacks. The thing I liked about it was that many of the physical symptoms of panic - the racing heart, the problematic breathing, the sweating - are matched by running. So while I was running I wouldn't be worried about my racing heart because it had a reason to be racing.

  Also, it gave me something to think about. I was never exactly the fittest person in the world, so running was quite difficult. It hurt. But that effort and discomfort was a great focuser. And so I convinced myself that through training my body I was also training my mind. It was a kind of active meditation.

  It also, of course, gets you fit. And getting fit is pretty much good for everything. When I became ill I had been drinking and smoking heavily, but now I was trying to undo that damage.

  So every day I would go running, or do an equivalent type of cardiovascular exercise. Like Haruki Murakami - whose excellent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I would later read - I found running to be a way of clearing the fog. ('Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running,' Murakami also said, which is something I've come to believe too, and is one of the reasons I believe it helps the mind.)

   I would come back from a run and stretch and have a shower and feel a gentle sense of release, as though depression and anxiety were slowly evaporating from inside me. It was a wonderful feeling. Also, that kind of monotony that running generates - the one soundtracked by heavy breathing and the steady rhythm of feet on pavements - became a kind of metaphor for depression. To go on a run every day is to have a kind of battle with yourself. Just getting out on a cold February morning gives you a sense of achievement. But that voiceless debate you have with yourself - 'I want to stop! No, keep going! I can't, I can hardly breathe! There's only a mile to go! I just need to lie down! You can't!' - is the debate of depression, but on a smaller and less serious scale. So for me, each time I forced myself out there in the cold grey damp of a West Yorkshire morning, and pushed myself to run for an hour, it gave me a little bit of depression-beating power. A little bit of that 'you'd better be careful with who you are messing with' spirit.

  It helped, sometimes. Not always. It wasn't foolproof. I wasn't Zeus. There were no magic thunderbolts at my disposal. But it is nice to build up, over the years, things that you know do - on occasion - work. Weapons for the war that subsides but that can always ignite again. And so writing, reading, talking, travelling, yoga, meditation and running were some of mine.

My dad is my trainer
These past four months training for number five, I've faced a whole gauntlet of emotion: joy, elation, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, sadness, overwhelm, anger. Running, for me, has always had the ability to bring out all of these feelings and put them right at the forefront - at a place where one is forced to face them all, versus putting them aside or trying to ignore them.

Me and my dad, then and (almost) now
That was even more telling, this time around in training, doing all this for my dad. On those days when the runs were hard, and all I wanted to do was quit, thinking about my dad kept me going. I have this memory from when I was a kid and he was teaching me how to ride a bike. I was terrible at it. I was scared. So scared, in fact, I didn't want him to let go. 

And - you know something? He didn't. He ran so much trying to get me to learn how to ride that stupid bike. 

When I think about it now, it makes me laugh... seeing him in my mind's eye, hanging onto the back of my bike, me crying about not being able to do it, him not letting go because I didn't want him to. 

Of course, he eventually let go and I discovered I was able to do something I felt I'd never be able to do. 

I guess that's still what it's like today. He may not be here anymore but he had my back then, and he certainly still does now. Those hard days during training, I conjured up his memory - and there he was, supporting me, urging me to keep going, encouraging me to not give up. 

And I didn't. I completed all those long runs. I made it to the end of every route I'd planned. Hopefully that will be the case on Sunday as well. 

Come hang out with me on the course!
There is a very handy feature on the BMO Vancouver Marathon website, whereby you can look up my bib number and then "watch" me as I'm running... so a little creepy, but mostly cool, right?

The system updates each time runners cross the following marked distances on the course: 8.5 km, 10 km, 12 km, 15 km, 21.1 km (halfway!), 24 km, 29 km, 35 km, 40 km and, of course, 42.2 km a.k.a. the finish line. Plus, the weather looks like it's going to be great. Definitely hoping that the forecast holds out!

If you come out on Sunday, be sure to find me and say hi... especially if you donated, so that I can give you a big sweaty hug and thank you in person. 

© Vancouver International Marathon Society

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