Thursday, 1 October 2009

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Last weekend’s Berlin Marathon was a really great event. After weeks of hard training and anticipation, I was relieved to finally hear the starting pistol. I found the race itself hard work. The 26 degree heat made it important to drink plenty of fluids, but the water stations were like rugby scrums. To make matters worse, they were giving out the water in plastic cups – try drinking from one of those when you’re endeavouring to run 8 minute 20 miles. If you’re anything like me, most of the water will end up either on your running top or up your nose. The real problem however was my stomach. After 10 months of carbing, my body appears to have developed a wheat intolerance. I’ve been aware of it since before San Francisco, but it’s definitely getting worse. Until Berlin, I’d been fine with pasta, but after my carb-loading on the Friday and Saturday before the race, my body finally worked out that pasta is largely wheat. As a result, my stomach was cramping for almost all of the race. I simply had to grit my teeth and try to ignore it. After all, you can’t put the race off to another day. Sir Roger Bannister once said, "The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win”. While I never looked like troubling the podium, I did get within 3 minutes of my PB, so I was pretty relieved about that.

With Martin before the race

Election fever is currently gripping Berlin and each of the lampposts on the route of the marathon was covered with election posters. On race day, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat and Free Democrats Alliance held a wafer thin 48 per cent to 47 lead over their rival leftist coalition. In the event of a draw, I assume that normal German rules apply: first party to burn down the Reichstag wins.

"And the crowd has gone bananas!" - news of the result in Berlin reaches Ireland

On our way home, Martin and I bumped into a client at the airport in Berlin. He and his wife had also run the marathon. I knew that he’d been running, but I hadn’t realised that he had signed up for Berlin. I’d visited his offices in March, after the Barcelona Marathon, and we’d talked about the fivemarathons and the training involved. He said that he wanted to start running, and he’d called me several times to discuss training, kit and nutrition. Over a drink at the airport, he explained that Berlin was his second marathon, having run Edinburgh earlier in the summer, and that fivemarathons had inspired him to do it. That was a great feeling.

Last Wednesday saw fivemarathons’ largest daily total for personal donations since we started. Over £350 in one day, which is fantastic when you consider that there’s only one race left to go. The fact that interest is still growing, rather than tailing off, is testament to the great work being put in by fivemarathons’ marketing team. One particularly impressive donation was via my good friend and former colleague, Emma, who completed £105 of statutory declarations on behalf of a client and, rather than receive payment herself, she asked the client to donate the money to fivemarathons. What a fantastic gesture!

Downtime in Berlin, the day after the race

Apologies for the delay in preparing this week’s blog. I spent the weekend in the Lake District guiding Pannone’s Outdoor Weekend with Martin and Tei. The event went really well, with an extended mountain walk on Saturday and off-road driving on Sunday. There were some great moments. For example, if we raise over £250 this week, I’ll tell you all about Martin sleepwalking into a bedroom belonging to two of our guests.

Training for New York began in earnest this week. Only four weeks on Sunday until the big day and Harris & Ross’ Alan Raw ( is working very hard to keep me in one piece and ready to run. Throughout my preparation for the marathons, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid cramp, however in the fortnight leading up to Berlin, I was awoken several times with painful cramping in my left popliteus muscle. The popliteus muscle sits behind your knee – when you straighten your leg, the muscle pulling your knee backwards, and locking your leg, is the popliteus. I could feel that there was something wrong when I was stretching before a run. As I stretched my quads, by bending my knee and pulling my foot up towards my bottom, my swollen popliteus felt like a golf ball was stuck behind my bent knee. The day before I flew to Berlin, my leg was particularly stiff and I was even limping slightly. Alan set to work manipulating the muscle and employed some acupuncture to release the tightness. It worked perfectly, and by race day it felt as good as new. Having dealt with my problematic popliteus, he is now working on my left soleus medial belly. When I signed up to run the fivemarathons, I had no idea just how essential Alan’s physiotherapy would turn out to be.

I'm often asked whether I get bored with running, especially 50+ miles a week. I'm never bored, but sometimes it is hard to summon the enthusiasm to get started, not least when it's the middle of winter in Shap, minus 6 outside and snowing. In those situations, I just ignore any misgivings and get started by changing into my kit. By the time I've done my stretches, I'm chomping at the bit and desperate to get underway. It pays to not contemplate too much, and to just do it. As the great Bill Shankly once said, "If you find yourself in front of the goal, and don't know what to do, just put the ball in the back of the net and we'll discuss the options later".

Barcelona, 1 March 2009 3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 21 September 2009 REST
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 REST
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 REST
Thursday, 24 September 2009 REST
Friday, 25 September 2009 REST
Saturday, 26 September 2009 Pannone Outdoor Weekend
Sunday, 27 September 2009 Pannone Outdoor Weekend

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004