That Which Doesn’t Kill Me…..

Posted on January 10, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I know not whether it was getting soft or getting older that gave me cause to hesitate.  Yesterday morning, as the latest hurricane to sweep through Scotland blew trampolines, smart cars and thin people down the street like tumbleweed, I procrastinated (in loungewear) delaying the second run of my marathon training programme.

This is a relatively new concept.  I used to be mindlessly tough.

December 1st 2009, and so begins training for my first marathon in Rome.  Pretty much immediately it started snowing and for 4 months it snowed relentlessly.  It was a bitter winter with epic snowstorms and I ran pretty much every single training mile on white pavements.  They say that the eskimos have 50 words for snow but, by the end of that winter, I had 84 deeply offensive, sweary adjectives for describing snow.

I ran late one evening, earlier than planned, spooked by the snowstorm forecast for the next morning.  It arrived early and  I staggered the last 4 miles of a 10pm 9 mile run as a wild snow yeti in zero visibility.

I ran in knee deep snow and ice, back in the days before I discovered running in leggings wasn’t a perversion, leaving ice burns and scratches right up my calves.

I made the dumbass newbie error of overdressing for exceptionally cold weather.  Sweat cascaded down my forehead onto my eyelashes and then my eyelashes actually froze, sticking together whenever I blinked.

But never once did I miss a run as a result of the weather.  Rarely did I hesitate before I left for a run.  It didn’t kill me.  In fact, I became hard as nails.  Those nails saw me through London marathon with the trots, an Escape from Alcatraz and two Ironman.  I was proper tough.

So, yesterday morning as I sat in my Aberfeldy middle distance hoodie looking out at cows, Toto and flying monkeys passing the window I lamented the former tough guy.  I stared at Training Peaks for some time applying algebra and algorithms and oodles of pseudoscience to work out how I could reschedule the run but, on fragile legs, I had run out of metaphorical road.  I had to go out or admit procratinational (if that isn’t a word already I claim it) failure in week one of my training programme.

IMG_20141231_143348I often look to wee Roar for inspiration when it comes to the weather.  Despite being a two foot munchkin he never fears the weather whether it is rain, wind or ice cold.  What would Rory do?  The only option was to go full superhero.  There would be no anonymous Nike top this was going to need something pretty special.  I broke out the dayglo orange London Marathon 2012 t-shirt and an Ironman buff.  As I pulled on the thermal leggings I could practically see myself in a heroic montage accompanied with a pumpingly motivational soundtrack.

I locked the door, pressed start in the Suunto, and ran.  I was battered by wind, sleet and huge lumps of polystyrene.  I have no idea where the polystyrene came from but it was everywhere.  And, obviously, I LOVED IT!

I think I just needed a sharp reminder that procrastination is for diddies.  Procrastination is most definitely not for two time Ironman, Alcatraz escapee, marathon runners.

So.  Back to the Rome campaign.  The training certainly didn’t kill me but did it make me stronger?  Well, therein lies a story.

Throughout the 4 month training period I rarely ran in temperatures above zero.  I knew Rome averaged 18C in March so for the last 4 weeks I always did my shortest run on a treadmill to prepare for a Mediterranean March.  I arrived in Rome, chatted to the taxi driver in Italian (which is my thing), and pretty much guessed that the word I couldn’t understand was HEATWAVE.  In the 5 minute queue at the expo I got sunburn.  I kid you not.

Marathon Day.  Colosseum.  Five minutes to the start.  Europe’s The Final Countdown booms.  The Via Fori dei Imperiali is lined on both sides by squatting, bare, white arses in a way that Mussolini could never have foreseen.  Piss flows freely down the street.  The sun is barely up but at 25c sweat already flows freely down my back.  The gun goes and I remember to make every single beginner’s mistake in the marathon runner’s book.  Every single one, without exception.

ID_5690306I set off at my fastest 100m pace dodging back and forth through the field.  After a couple of minutes I finally cross the line and slow to my 400m pace for the first couple of kilometres downhill.  At 5k I see a crowd at the water station – sod it, I’m not getting caught in a crowd.  Inexplicably, at 10k I also opt out of water.  We are blessed by the Pope as we rip through St Peters.  Yet his blessing is futile, my die is cast.

I passed through the half comfortably under two hours and, most importantly, on target.  But then, about 17 miles, my body ran out of fluid.  I don’t remember the moment, because my brain was basically a raisin, but I clearly remember the consequences.  Things were fuzzy but I was still running a decent pace.  A man ran wide on a hairpin corner, the raisin assumed that he was showboating to the crowd on the outside of the bend.  The raisin ordered me to lean into him.  He kept running wide.  The raisin ordered me to elbow him.  We niggled for the next couple of hundred metres to an aid station.  The bargey showboater’s friend started remonstrating with me.  I remonstrated back using all my Italian swear words and extravagant gesticulation.  I shoved a sponge down my neck and mineswept the aid station for anything remotely liquid.  I watched the angry guys run on.  I wondered why they were connected by bungie.  I slumped into eternal shame for getting into argy bargy with a blind runner.

I finished finally in 4:20.  Intact.  Sore.  Mortified.  The campaign was complete.

So a long winter of running in sub zeros didn’t kill me.  It made me mentally stronger but it also got me into a fight with a blind man.  Jerry Springer could probably get a final thought out of that but I confess, 5 years later, that I am still struggling.

There has been a lesson to me though.  Ignore the weather, HTFU and get out for that run.


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Never trust the raisin!! hahahaha!!


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