O Mojo, Mojo, Wherefore Art Thou Mojo?

I don’t know quite when my running mojo disappeared. It crept off silently, without even the courtesy of a ‘goodbye’.

Running Mojo

One day I loved my running, the next I was struggling to get motivated to run. I would have been nice to be able to say to my running mojo, ‘OK let’s have a brief break and get reunited soon’ but it didn’t give me a chance: it just slinked off without me noticing.

Yes there’s been a lot of other stuff going on in my life recently: working hard in my copywriting business, launching a new small business coaching business, the death of my Aunty Joyce, a family holiday abroad for the first time in what feels like forever and a really stupid injury to my foot at a waterpark whilst on said holiday. Yet at the back of my mind was the fact I have the Chester Marathon on the 5th October and I need to train.

My training plan has given me structure, although it lapsed somewhat whilst away on holiday. But I’ve been feeling that I’m just going through the motions, doing the workouts prescribed but definitely not loving the running. I just felt flat.

Sunday morning I had 16 miles to run according to the plan and it looked like I was going to have some company in the form of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha. Every time I’ve looked at this in the last few days my heart has sank, ‘How am I going to get through that?’ especially as I’d skipped last week’s 15 miler as frankly I just couldn’t be arsed, although having to be out the door and running by 6:15am whilst I’m away on holiday might have had something to do with that.

Externally I might have been, ‘Come on Bertha: you, me and 16 miles!’ but internally it was more like, ‘I don’t want to go out. Whose stupid idea was it to run an Autumn marathon? What jacket shall I wear, I want to stay dry but not get too hot?’

As always, I kept reminding myself that the first step out the door is the hardest. ‘Come on girl, you can do, just run, don’t worry about the pace.’ So off I went.

I plodded along at a leisurely 9:30 min/mile pace in the, and at times torrential, rain. Then suddenly a random thought popped into my head around 1.5 miles in, ‘I’m enjoying this.’ Suddenly I found myself deliberately running though the puddles and smiling.

I met up with my clubmates, the David Lloyd Redway Runners, after I’d done four miles. As we left the rain suddenly got heavier, and heavier. Running down a road in the torrential downpour I had a sudden urge to pretend I was an aeroplane and stick my arms out to the side, so I did. I giggled out loud to myself the whole way down that road despite looking like a drowned animal impersonating a plane.

Oh hang on… something’s happening… what’s that? I think it’s my mojo coming back!

Until next time…
Kassia Gardner

Why I Love parkrun (aka Why I’m a parkrun Run Director)

For me parkrun is everything that is great about sport, and it’s an idea that is beautifully simple. Turn up, run and then have coffee and toast (and occasionally a bacon sarnie) with friends in the café afterwards. Of course, on the days when I’m a run director it’s not that simple.

parkrun

I’m lucky that there are three parkruns within easy reach of where I live: my home parkrun of Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Aylesbury. Northampton and Bedford are also easy to get to and Conkers holds a special place in my heart because it will always be the parkrun where you ‘ride the wave of awesomeness.’

But that’s the great thing about parkrun, each and every parkrun is different. Some are small, some are large, some are flat, some are hilly, some are on tarmac paths, some are trail, and so on. And parkrun is now global, there are parkruns in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, South Africa, Russia and the USA to name just a few countries.

Another great thing about parkrun is its all-inclusiveness. It really is open to everyone, no matter what your age, ability or background. As run directors we don’t care if you take 15 minutes or over an hour. If you’re motivated enough to haul your backside out of bed in time for a 9am run on a Saturday morning then we’re proud of you, and each and everyone of you deserves the same level of encouragement and respect.

Perhaps not everyone realises that parkrun is run for the community, by the community. There’s a small team at parkrun HQ but your local parkrun is brought to you purely by volunteers, yes even us run directors are volunteers.

But for me absolutely the best thing about parkrun (and excuse me because this is where I usually get on my soapbox) is its ability to increase the participation in physical activity and sport. I’m particularly proud that if you go to any parkrun there seems to be as many females as males running, jogging and walking around the 5km course. As a mother of two young girls it’s particularly important to me that my girls both enjoy and are inspired by sport. One way of doing that is to remove the barriers to sport and parkrun does exactly that, for free! Whether or not they choose to become athletic, I hope that by setting a positive example and seeing positive role models in our own community they’ll discover that the skills they learn through participating in sport can be transferred to other aspects of their lives as they grow and develop in to young women, for example teamwork, determination, focus, goal setting and dealing with failure.

We don’t need reports and statistics to tell us that sedentary lifestyles cause health problems. It’s obvious from just looking around. Our environment and technology have made our lives easier in many ways but it’s also made us more sedentary. Lifts and escalators mean we no longer take the stairs and desk jobs mean we spend hours sitting in a chair. Inactivity doesn’t just affect our physical health, it can also detrimentally affect our minds and sleep cycle. In fact, according to Kirk Erickson, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh the more you sit around, the more likely you are to fall prey to so-called senior moments. The human body is designed to move, it’s not designed for sitting around on its bum.

Sport can be a force for good because not only does it improve physiological health such as cardio-vascular function, flexibility and co-ordination, but it can also improve our psychological health. Participating in sport can improve your mood and your self-esteem as well as reduce your stress levels. There’s no scientific reasoning behind this, but I believe that the community that springs up around each and every parkrun can contribute to improving this psychological health. I know if I’m feeling low then meeting my friends at parkrun means I leave feeling much better.

So why do I love parkrun, and why am I parkrun run director? parkrun is free, it’s open to all, it creates and develops friendships, it increases community participation in physical activity, it encourages volunteering and it enhances both our physical and mental well-being.

Join us!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

 

 

For more information on parkrun visit www.parkrun.com

London Marathon: Dreaming Big

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho

dream-big

Failure. It’s a scary thing and I’d be lying if I said I’d never been worried or had a niggling doubt at the back of my mind that I might really screw something up.

I’ve heard so many times that ‘failure isn’t an option’. I’d like to disagree: failure is an option. Nothing is a disaster – unless you fail to learn from it. I’ve failed and learned several times, both in business and in running.

The latest one was running related. Not long after finishing the Berlin Marathon last year in 4:03, and before I even got my goody bag, I was thinking, ‘I could have gone faster!’ I had targeted 4:05 so I should have been pleased with the time, but I wasn’t. I didn’t necessarily think I would have broken four hours but I could have got a minute or two closer. When I ran Berlin I hadn’t ran a marathon in over 18 months and during that time my half marathon PB had fallen from 1:58 to 1:51. I simply didn’t know what I could achieve.

Anyway I was lucky enough to get into the Virgin Money London Marathon this year, but for this marathon my strategy was more of a ‘boom or bust’ one than in Berlin. My half marathon PB had fallen further to 1:47, and I’d knocked over 10 minutes off my 20 mile PB bringing it down to a few seconds below 2:55. I was convinced I could go sub-4 hours but I didn’t want to cross the line and think I could of gone faster, again. I would rather go for it and not get sub-4, not even get a PB, than cross the finish line in 3:59:59 and think ‘I could have gone faster!’

So I decided to target 3:45. It wasn’t a completely unrealistic target but it would be a challenge, even if everything was perfect on the day.

But everything wasn’t perfect on the day. I’d hardly slept in the week before the marathon, and I’d spent at least three nights sleeping on the sofa as my husband was snoring which meant I was struggling to get back to sleep. The day of the marathon was hot, and I don’t run well in hot weather. Based on this I should have changed my goal, perhaps to 3:50 or just sub-4 but I didn’t. I also tried to stick to the 3:45 pacer, but because of the crowds the pacing was erratic: slowing down because of the crowds and then speeding up to stay on target.

My style is to settle into a pace and just keep going, I’m good at this. I don’t worry too much about splits and I tend to naturally keep the first part and the second part of the race fairly even (apart from my first marathon). My legs didn’t like this constant changing of pace. I clearly remember just after three miles thinking, ‘this is hard work’. I should have listened to my body and slowed down, but I didn’t.

I did eventually deliberately drop the pacer around the five mile mark when my Garmin showed a 8:16 mile. ‘An 8:16 mile! That’s way to fast, I’m only meant to be doing 8:35s.’ But the damage was done. My quads started to cramp between 8 and 9 miles and running became painful.

I made it across Tower Bridge and to the half way mark in 1:55. I wasn’t going to achieve my goal of 3:45, I knew even at that point that I wasn’t even going to achieve a PB I was slowing so dramatically. But I knew I could keep going, I knew I would finish: whatever it takes.

From mile 15 it became a run/walk to the finish, at times it was sheer agony, especially on the downhills, but there were never any doubts I would finish or any negative thoughts. This was my London Marathon and I was damn well going to enjoy it. It’s amazing how you can block out the pain, it’s amazing what the mind can achieve. And in every single photo (where I’ve noticed the camera) I’m smiling, because smiling is what I do. A few people have since told me that the song they associate with me is “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M. because I always seem to smile when I run.

I finished the Virgin Money London Marathon in 4 hours 12 minutes and 5 seconds, and a positive split of 27 minutes. Oops!

But the minute I crossed the finished my only thought was, ‘I’ve done it! I’ve ran the London Marathon!’ I was so happy. The legs weren’t quite so happy, I managed to get up onto where they take your timing chip off, but if another runner hadn’t almost carried me off it I might still be standing there today. My husband also had to carry me down the stairs in the NSPCC place where I was meeting some friends who’d also been fundraising for the NSPCC.

But the thing I’m most proud of is that I finished and I was always totally positive even when things weren’t going well. I could have given up, I could have given in, I could have DNFd. But I didn’t. I found mental reserves I didn’t know I had. I am mentally stronger than I thought I was. This makes me enormously proud.

Yes I failed to achieve my goal of 3:45 but I will learn from this experience: take account of your body, take account of the weather and do your own pacing.

Without risking failure we may never know where our limits are. And I’ve proved that as Chrissie Wellington says on one of my Audiofuel tracks, “Your limits are not where you think they are.”

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

London Marathon: The Final Countdown

If you thought marathoners were crazy for running 26.2 miles for fun, let me tell you what’s really crazy: Me, the week before the marathon. Especially this marathon…

Running the London Marathon

On Sunday, I’ll run my third 26.2-miler, the Virgin Money London Marathon. I’m hoping to cross the finish line in 3:49:59 or less, which means I must run faster than an 8:45-per-mile pace for 26.2 miles. It’s a stepping stone on the way to a sub-3:45 next year which will get me a London Marathon Good for Age time and a Boston Qualifying time.

This time I know that if all is well on the day I can do it. It might be a bit of a ‘Boom or Bust’ target, taking 14 minutes off my Berlin Marathon PB which was just six months ago but I’d rather hit the wall and miss getting a PB than finish the race just scraping 3:59:58  thinking, “Pants! I could have gone faster!”

Yes, things may not be right on the day (such as the weather) but I’m prepared to change my plan on the day and not worry about it. I have it this time. I know I do. I’ve trained harder than ever. I feel stronger and faster than ever. I’m injury-free and mentally a smarter racer than I was in September at the Berlin Marathon, where I finished in 4:03.

Yet I just want to get on with it. I want my bag packed (which I can’t do until I pick my bag up from the Expo) and I want it to be race day. This hanging around in the week before does drive you crazy, even if the mental wobble hasn’t appeared, yet.

In the meantime I’ll try and keep my head on straight, not drive the family crazy and enjoy the London Marathon Expo on Friday. After all it’s about the experience, isn’t it?

Marathon Training: Taper Madness

It’s taper time in the run up to the Virgin Money London Marathon. I’m currently in one piece with no injuries, just the onset of taper madness…

Me and some of the gang at the Oakley 20

Tapering, or reducing the mileage/intensity, in anticipation of a long race is a very necessary part of the training journey. You need to rest, both physically and mentally, to prepare for that 26.2 mile journey that is ahead. 

But idleness doesn’t suit me. Training may be tough, but so is tapering. It’s a mental battle rather than a physical one: quite frankly, the first week was torture! Now after every mile that I’ve left out there on the road during training, running fewer miles leaves me too much time to spend inside my head. And that’s when I start having some rather random/sarcastic thoughts, especially whilst running, such as:

  • Why do I feel like there are two people in my head talking to each other?
  • Why do I refer to myself as a “we” when trying to decide things whilst on a run?
  • It’s really nice of you to turn my run into an obstacle course by leaving your bike lying in the middle of the Redway. No, please don’t bother to move it out of my way; I wouldn’t want to trouble you. I’ll go ahead and run on the wet, slick, muddy, lumpy grass and risk getting an injury which means I won’t be able to do the London Marathon, and then my life will be over and all my dreams ruined, forever, and ever, and ever! *
  • Why can’t my legs and lungs work together? My legs are feeling great but my lungs feel like this is the first time I’ve ever gone for a run.
  • What’s that tightness in my left quad? My right knee has never hurt there before. I think my Plantar Fasciitis is coming back. I’m doomed! *
  • Oooh, look! Grass clippings.

Tapering is difficult, but I will adjust. I’m moving into acceptance but with the realisation that the big day is only 10 days away the nerves are setting in. But I know I’ve trained as hard as I can, and I’ve put in so much effort that I’m not going to risk not making it to the start line. This time I have a proper taper plan, so I’m hoping that helps.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself that I am physically ready for this, and all I need to do is keep my head together.

So come on runners, tell me about your taper madness. How does it affect you?

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

 

 

*Yes, a touch of the drama queen as well.

Rediscovering My Love of Blogging

Rediscovering the blogging love

I started off blogging initially for personal reasons, when then developed into business blogging. For a long time I blogged regularly on my personal blog and for my freelance copywriter business Spindle Tree.

But somehow around 12 months ago I lost the love and the will to write my personal blog. It just wasn’t fun anymore; it had become an obligation. I started to associate sitting down to write a blog post with doing a chore. Because it had become a chore, finding inspiration and deciding what I wanted to say became difficult, and so apart from the extremely occasional blog post it stopped.

It wasn’t quite the same with the business blogging on Spindle Tree; I still had plenty of ideas but finding the time was difficult. After spending most of the day working on a laptop, the last thing I felt like doing on an evening once the kids were in bed was forcing myself to spend more time on the laptop writing a blog post. And so my blogging frequency dwindled.

But thanks to a friend, Janine Beattie of Optimum Business Support, I’ve discovered my love to blogging again.

Janine introduced me to Steffi Lewis, the founder of sblogit.com, and sblogit.com was just what I needed. I’m not going to go into how wonderful an idea it is, you can read all about that here, but now all I do is write a blog post and Steffi and her team do the rest and I have my evenings. And just to make sure I regularly blog I get chaser emails so I won’t ever miss a weekly blog post again. Happy days!

Because I’m only blogging every Wednesday on sblogit.com I wanted another outlet for anything else I thought of in between those times, which is why I’ve set up this blog. You’ll find that this blog is mainly personal stuff and more than likely it will be running related. However be prepared for anything, because sometimes my brain goes off at weird tangents.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner