Could You Run a Marathon and Not Tell Anyone?

Somebody once said that climbing Everest is a challenge, but the bigger challenge would be to climb it and not tell anybody. The same is probably true for running a marathon.

Would you admit that you’re only running a marathon to brag about it? No matter why we run marathons, they assume a high level of importance for anyone who sets their sights on completing the 26.2 miles. Perhaps that’s because in attempting to conquer the distance we have to overcome personal and physical challenges – it’s not just about the miles in our legs.

Think about what training for a marathon entails for a moment. There’s long runs and easy runs, you might do some speedwork as well. Then there’s sleep and eating well to think about, juggling training with work and family commitments, dealing with chaffing, and perhaps visits to the physio for various running-related disorders. You also need to plan your race day: the kit, the pace you’ll run where you need to be and when, and what gels, jelly babies or other stuff you’ll use to get you to the finish. Then on the day itself, you need strength, determination and sheer willpower to push yourself onwards to the finish line through the unrelenting exhaustion, because whether you are an elite runner completing the marathon in two hours or a first-timer taking six hours we all hurt the same.

No wonder taking on a marathon becomes of such importance to us. From the moment we sign up to run the 26.2 mile distance until the aches and pains of race day have faded it can, and does, consume our every waking hour – and some non-waking hours as well, I can’t be the only one who’s dreamt of missing the start or turning up in inappropriate footwear.

Everyone has their own motivation, whether it’s to raise money for a charity close to their heart or to see how far they can push their body. While I may say that I do it for the challenge – can I improve on last time – I have to admit that I like the kudos that running a marathon gives me.

Perhaps, therefore, ego is a part of every marathon runner whether we like it or not. After all, don’t we post our training runs online or share finish line photos of ourselves with our medal or that post-marathon reward?

So I ask you, could you run, and train for, a marathon, and not tell anyone? I don’t think I could, but apparently, it’s been done.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

This Is Not What I Planned

It’s been an age since I last blogged, life gets in the way and with a new full-time job (that was a shock to the system after working part-time for nearly 10 years) blogging wasn’t really a priority.

Since my last blog in January things have been difficult. Marathon training was going well and by mid-Feb I was starting to feel like my old marathon self and training suggested that I was probably close to 2016 PB pace, but then I got ill.

Not just your cough and sniffle ill but properly ill: fatigue like I’ve never felt before – wanting to sit down or go back to sleep within 10 minutes of getting up on a morning despite a good night’s sleep. The overwhelming sense of both physical and mental tiredness was definitely having a negative impact on my life, I struggled to find the energy to get up and get showered, getting through the work day incredibly difficult and I certainly didn’t train.

An eventual diagnosis in March resulted in the discovery that my liver wasn’t working properly, basically, it wasn’t doing its job of storing energy for me which means that at any point my energy levels would just fall off a cliff.  It was frustrating because it was unpredictable, and at times it felt completely debilitating. Some days going to the local Co-Op after work felt as tiring as running an ultramarathon, a real physical challenge. This wasn’t being training tired this was something else.

While waiting for the diagnosis I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon, the illness meant I didn’t get the PB I was hoping for and I had to fight to go sub-1:50. But I was still hopeful of running my Spring marathons.

Then came the Ashby 20. By this time I knew what my illness was but I was still in denial. As a result, even though I wasn’t racing it I ended up consuming eight gels to make it round the Ashby 20 – that’s not good as normally I’d run a 20 mile training run I’d normally have just water.

It was that run that made me realise that I needed to withdraw from the Manchester Marathon and the London Marathon. Making the decision was incredibly difficult, and there were more than a few tears but once I’d made it and told some people (so I couldn’t back out of the decision) I felt like a weight had been lifted.

No more hard training runs, it was time to focus on feeling healthy.

Focus on the journey marathon trainingFor a long time I ran only easy runs, starting at 20 minutes and building up to an hour. In recent weeks, I’ve been throwing in some fartlek runs and introducing some intervals, and I’ve done the Rocket 5k and the Silverstone 10k, with times of 23:47 and 49:21 respectively. I was more impressed with my 5k time as having not run anything hard since February I had no idea how my body would react. I’d been sandbagging a bit when I said I would be happy with 25:something, but really I wanted 25:00 so to run 23:47 was felt like an amazing achievement. The 10k time was great as well, but to be honest, it didn’t feel as good as the 5k because having run the 5k I thought my 10k would be around 49:20 to 49:30 if everything went well. I slowed quite a bit after 5 miles of the 10k, in fact, I ran that section slower than I did when I used to run a 51:50 10k, so there’s room for improvement.

Anyway, moving forward at least I know what is wrong now. I still have days when my energy levels crash so I’m still learning how to manage my condition – I’ve learnt that eating soon after a race is very important, and fuelling for a race will continue to be a work in progress. So if you see my after a race, feel free to check I’ve eaten or I’m about to.

So the plan over the next couple of months is to focus on some short races, targeting races of up to 10k to get some fitness and speed back. Where I can I’ll race them, and if I’m not up to it then I’ll treat it as a fun run.

Those that know me know that I’m generally a very positive person. And while I admit there have been some low moments I won’t let this liver issue bear me. These days I’m thinking of it as more of an inconvenience than an illness, and I’m taking it one day at a time.

In the meantime, I’ve got into the New York City Marathon in November which I’m really excited about. I can’t say at the moment whether I’ll race it but I will definitely be starting and finishing it as part of my mission to do all six World Marathon Majors. The New York City Marathon is my comeback, and on the way there will be plenty of comeback PBs – look, I’ve a 5k and a 10k comeback PB already!

I expect it will be a rollercoaster of a ride over the next several months, but so be it. The joy in running is that I get to run, I don’t have to run.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Marathon Training Plan 2017

marathon training planOK, here we go. Again! Christmas and New Year is over and my marathon training plan is go! I’ve got 12 and a half weeks to get marathon fit since my goal race is the Greater Manchester Marathon on the 2nd April. I’m excited about the challenge and I’ve already got races planned in my diary, so this post is just a recap of the races leading up to that.Here we go again, my marathon training plan has started and these are the races I’ll be doing in the run up to the Greater Manchester Marathon.

  • 7th January – Bucks County Cross Country Championship. I’m not as fast as I was this time last year, but I know it will come back. But still, I’m expecting to be bringing up the rear and be the last from my running club to finish.
  • 14th January – Chiltern League Cross Country at Keysoe. The local league race, I pretty much get to spend all day getting muddy as Izzy runs in the U11s. On the plus side I do get the course recce out the way nice and early.
  • 18th January – Southern Cross Country Championships – More cross country, and I’ve been told this will probably be the hardest race of my life. Some people love it, some people hate it and I’ve decided I’ve got to give it a go at least once. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?
  • 11th February Chiltern League Cross Country at Milton Keynes. The local league finishes in my hometown.
  • 12th February – Wokingham Half Marathon. I’m not planning on racing this one, instead it will be a marathon paced training run on tired XC legs. I’ve never done the Wokingham Half Marathon so it will be a new experience, but I’m told it’s a good one to do.
  • 12th March – Silverstone Half Marathon. This will probably be a flat out half marathon effort/PB attempt. Held at the home of British motor racing, the course can be fast, but it’s exposed and if it’s bad weather it can be horrible. Last year the last mile and a bit was all uphill and into a headwind.
  • 19th March – Ashby 20. I love this race, but I’ll be treating it as a catered training run. The start/finish is only a few miles from my in-laws so it’s really convenient and we don’t have to worry about childcare. Plus I know there will be lots of my friends supporting me at the water stations.
  • 2nd April – Greater Manchester Marathon. My goal race, and hopefully I’ll be fit enough to go sub-3:30 – 3:24 is the dream goal time. I know in previous years the race has had it’s problems but I did the half marathon back in October 2016 and they seem to have sorted the baggage problems out. Hopefully it works as smoothly in April.

 

I do have one more Spring marathon booked in, and that’s the London Marathon. At present that’s planned to be a fun day out potentially pacing my running club mate Mark Haynes to a sub-4 hour marathon, but if things go wrong in Manchester then it’s another opportunity to attempt sub-3:30 again. For both mine and Mark’s sake I’m working hard to make sure I achieve my goals at the Greater Manchester Marathon. And that’s it in terms of Spring races so far.

In the meantime, like a lot of other runners I know I’m monitoring what I eat so that I can lose the extra few pounds I’ve put on over Christmas and New Year. I’m not doing any major diet changes but I am cutting out the alcohol for January – it’s not so much the alcohol that’s my problem but the amount of crap I tend to eat while drinking – and I need to eat less cake and chocolate (except at cross country events). If I’m diligent then I should be back down to last year’s marathon weight by late January.

I have another challenge in that in a couple of days time I start work full time (9am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday) and I need to make sure I’m getting my runs in around that. I’m sure I can, but that’s another blog post.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

My First Cross Country Race of the Season is Looming

Injury does a funny thing to you. I’m sitting here on Monday evening and I’m actually looking forward to my first cross country (XC) race of the season this Saturday.

The weather has already turned blummin’ freezing, and in typical cross country fashion the weather for Saturday is forecast to be wet and windy. Oh joy!

Cross country runningXC still terrifies me: the cold, the rain, the mud, the hills. But there are also a couple of upsides to it such as being cheered on by your teammates – mine at LBAC (and Redway Runners, my second claim club) are certainly loud, which is the best way to be to be honest. You certainly see some kick ass team spirit at XC events which you don’t normally get at road races where you tend to compete as an individual.

And secondly there is cake. Well cake, biscuits, and all sort of other delicious treats. From my brief experience at XC last year, I think these XC races tend to be some muddy running with a bit of The Great British Bake Off thrown in – now there’s an idea for the BBC now The Great British Bake Off has gone to Channel 4.

I’m not going to be the fastest at this week’s XC as due to my injury I can’t race it but the plan is currently to run round at a steady pace – rather than the go tearing out for 400m, then horribly die and hold on for the rest of the race. But I’d rather do that and get cold, muddy and miserable (for part of it) than not take part.

In the meantime, I’m going to do a little bit of practice by going for a run in the woods tomorrow and then decide on what cake to bake on Friday. Any requests?

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Running plans for 2017

Since I’m sitting here unable to run due to injury I’ve got lots of time on my hand to plan what races I’m going to be doing in 2017. So here’s my current thinking, it focuses on three main areas.

No ultra marathons

Never say never, but I’m not planning on doing another ultra marathon. I honestly didn’t enjoy the process of training for my last ultra marathon that was the Grand Tour of Skiddaw. The race day was great, but the whole process of training for it was very much, “Meh!” This is probably down to stress and trying to balance school summer holiday childcare, long runs and what the rest of the family wants to do, so for 2017 the focus is on nothing longer than a marathon which should help me achieve a balance between work, family and running.

 

Marathon focus

I’ve booked two spring marathons and an autumn marathon so far. In the spring I’ll be tackling the Greater Manchester Marathon. This is my goal race and I’ll be aiming to take as much time as possible off my marathon PB of 3:35, the eventual goal is 3:24. The three weeks later I have the Virgin Money London Marathon. How I run this one will depend on how I’ve ran at Manchester. It will either be one I do for fun as I’ve achieved my goal at Manchester or it will be another pop at a PB if Manchester didn’t go well.

In the autumn I’ve registered for the Yorkshire Marathon, which will be the goal race for the autumn and a chance to see if I can improve my marathon time. I also want to do the New York Marathon in 2017 as there is a group of friends planning on going so I’m just waiting for the ballot to open.

 

Strength and conditioning

I do nowt, zilch, when it comes to strength and conditioning work. If I’m going to attempt to run faster over marathon, half marathon and 10km distances then I need to start doing some. So my plan is to make strength and condition work an integral part of my weekly workouts. I’m not going to take it in small steps, but the goal is to do around 60 minutes of strength and condition work each week.

So that’s the plan. I’m looking forward to 2017!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Attempting to run the first 13 miles of the UTMB

Whilst I’m inspired by the UTMB I’ve never actually wanted to do it – a fact Kev is probably eternally grateful for – but when Kev suggested that we take this year’s holiday in the Northern Alps about two weeks before UTMB I found myself suggesting Chamonix. He agreed and half an hour later we had an apartment booked. Fast forward a month and a half and we’d arrived.

Chamonix is located in the Haute Savoie area in the Rhone-Alpes region in the south-eastern part of France. In between the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc.

The holiday plan included some running, including two four-hour runs as I’m training for my ultra, The Grand Tour of Skiddaw. There are loads of popular routes around the valley but I was really excited about running some of the UTMB course.

Setting out on the UTMB courseI attempted, with the emphasis on ‘attempted’, to run the first 13 miles of the UTMB course on Sunday, the day after we arrived. I didn’t have route notes or anything so this was kind of made up based on looking at the route people took in 2015 on Strava. I was making one deliberate change to go to the top of Tete de la Charme before picking up the route again.

I said goodbye to Kev and the girls, with a see you in St-Gervais-les-Bains in four-hours, which was how long I had predicted it would take me to run the 13 miles.

It was easy running from Chamonix to Les Houches and I arrived in Les Houches on my planned schedule. I then started the walk up to the top of Tete de la Charme during which I spoke to a nice French bloke who asked if I was training for the UTMB as I walked past. I replied, “No, I’m not that daft but some of my friends are,” or words to that effect. Eventually he decided he had better wait for his wife, and I carried on.

It was all going so well until I got near to the bottom of the Fontaines ski run and found it was shut with tape barriers across the path and everything. My map showed another way around so I went that way only to find myself in a dead-end with more tape barriers across the path. I turned back on myself and unwilling to go back up the hill I ducked under the barrier and carrier on my planned route – in my defence there were at least six other people walking around the other side of the tape barriers.

IMG_1566A bit further on and there were a couple more taped barriers across the path. I should of turned left to run down to Montivon, so instead I indulged in some more on the run map reading/route planning and turned right to head for St-Gervais-les-Bains. The bonus here was that I got to cross the train tracks just before the train up the valley came past so I stopped and had a drink while waving to all the passengers who seemed a very friendly bunch and waved back while shouting things like, “Bonjour” and “Allez!”I picked up the UTMB route a bit further on but I was aware I would have ran around two bonus miles by the time I got to St-Gervais-les-Bains. I was going to be about four-hours for 15 miles, better than the four-hours for 13 miles I predicted but I had a deadline and a family to meet so rather than follow the trail UTMB route into St-Gervais-les-Bains I decided just to follow the road. A brief stop to take some photos on some tourists phones for them and I was in St-Gervais-les-Bains feeling very pleased with myself, a lot more confident at map reading and navigating and ready for a trip up the Aiguille du Midi with the family.

IMG_1570There’s nothing technical about this section of the UTMB, but I did trash my quads running down into St-Gervais-les-Bains, but that’s more to do with me not training for running down that type of long, steep downhill.

My first impressions are that the Chamonix valley is a beautiful valley with miles and miles (or should that be kilometres and kilometres since we’re in France?) of trails from easy wide paths by the river to leg burning descents. You really need to go!

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Run Fantstic: It’s Not About Perfection

Running journeyThat’s it January is done, so well done on completing January! It’s time to brace yourself for another month of commitment in February, so let’s jump back on the motivation train and get those weekly distance challenges underway. Let’s get moving and have another month of awesomeness!

If you haven’t quite achieved 100% in January, don’t worry. This challenge is all about the journey and as we move through February and into March maintaining 100% will become increasingly difficult. Now is a good time to revisit your goals. How are you getting on? Have you had to make any adjustments? If things aren’t going to plan, adjust your plan – and remember the tips from my previous blog post about keeping to your fitness goals.

 

Set your goals, stick to them and log them >>

 

 

Let go of perfection and enjoy the journey

“I let go of the space between where I am and where I need to be inspire me.” Adrianne Haslet-Davis, Ballroom Dancer, Writer, and Boston Marathon Bomings Survivor

We don’t normally plan for things going wrong when it comes to our fitness routines. Can you imagine writing up a training plan and scheduling in an injury or the worst of all diseases: manflu? What about thinking about your race day strategy and planning to hit the wall at a set distance?

Knowledge, experience and support can help you overcome the setbacks. For example, in the autumn of 2014 I learned that when I got lazy on my post-run stretching routine I picked up injuries. Needless to say I now never skimp on it although I do still pick up occasional niggles.

I’ve also learnt through having my own business that it’s not always essential that you achieve your goals. If you put all your focus into achieving the goal then it can be devastating when you don’t achieve it. For me, my business goals are there to guide the journey, to help me make better decisions and to make sure that I take responsibility to control the things I can control.

It’s OK to be disappointed when things happen, and in fact, allowing yourself to feel disappointed can help you get over it quicker. But don’t get so caught up in the maintaining or achieving 100% that you forget to enjoy those little accomplishments such as a regular route done a little faster, a new parkrun PB or just feeling stronger, fitter or healthier.

Quitting is easy. Staying the course and maintaining your consistency is much harder but with such a fantastic Conkers Run Fantastic Community on Facebook we’re here to help and support you. So if your mojo is more mo-gone then get on the Facebook page and let us support you.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Run Fantastic: Consistency is King!

consistency is kingThe first three weeks of Conkers Run Fantastic have flown by.

Just a month ago we we’re wondering how many, and what type of weekly workouts we’d do for January and now it’s time to up our game for another month of commitment in February.

If you haven’t done so already, click on the link below and set your frequency and single workout distance targets for each week in February.

And remember, the weekly distance target you set is the target for your single longest workout for that week in your chosen discipline; it is not your total distance target for the week.

Set my February targets >>

 

 

Consistency is king!

[bra_blockquote align=’right’]“The two big aspects of running really well are consistency and motivation. The more you can have of each, the faster and happier you’ll be.” Andrew Lemoncello, Olympian[/bra_blockquote]

You know that getting out the door and doing your run, swim or cycle makes you feel better, but sometimes it’s tough. I’ve written about how the power of community can help you but sometimes you have to motivate yourself.

This means that even when you’d rather veg on the sofa in front of the TV it’s up to you to get out the door and get moving. And that’s where consistency comes in.

Consistency is king! It’s the most important element of your training. Consistency will maximise your results, improve your health and help you remain injury free. And even if you’re lacking in motivation, sticking to the plan and being consistent can get you through and help renew your determination.

But consistency doesn’t mean quantity: manically working out every day of the week will do you more harm than good. Consistency is about regular, frequent workouts, and a steady focus.

Jantastic and Conkers Run Fantastic were designed to help you be consistent with your training, but if you want to maintain your consistency and achieve your goals here are some strategies you can try.

  1. Prioritise and balance your workouts with work and family commitments
  2. Schedule your workouts in your diary
  3. Train in the morning if you can – those that workout in the morning are more consistent as they don’t get distracted by other stuff during the day
  4. Write down your goals on paper and put it somewhere where you will see it every day
  5. Remind yourself how it will feel to achieve your goals by completing the following phrase, “Accomplishing my goal will feel like…”
  6. Make yourself accountable by keep a training diary so you can log how each workout went
  7. Identify upcoming barriers and plan for them, without proper planning you’re unlikely to stick to your plan
  8. Check your progress regularly and celebrate mini-milestones
  9. Be realistic and don’t train above your ability as it puts you at risk of injury and illness

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner