Tag Archives: marathon

Motherhood and marathons: 6 things I’ve learned

So, I did it! I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon last month, crossing the finish line at exactly 15:05:05 on 23rd April, after being on my feet for 4 hours, 58 minutes and 46 seconds. And it was exhilarating, and exhausting, and loud, and life-affirming, and painful, and uplifting.

The marathon hasn’t just been about those 26.2 miles, though. It’s been about four months of hard work; of winter training runs and hill sessions; of heading out in horizontal rain; of ice baths and early nights; and of fitting it all in around the most important people in my life. Which is why I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way…

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Seven (point two) miles

With just a day to go until the Virgin Money London Marathon, I’m getting pretty excited… but I’m not a complete novice. I know that tomorrow, it’s going to get tough. Really tough. (Last time I took part, it made me cry a little bit. Damn you, mile 23.)

Which is why I’m dedicating the last seven (point two) miles of the course to some special people, in the hope this will get me through. Because, you guys, I’m not going to give up in your mile. Promise.

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Why running a marathon is nothing like having a baby (and one way it kind of is)

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ll have attended antenatal classes (back in the days when drinking a hot cup of tea was not a luxury, and you didn’t have an audience every time you went for a pee). During these classes, someone may well have uttered the words: ‘Giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.’

While I get the part about it being an endurance event, not a sprint, I have run a marathon (two, in fact) and I have also given birth (twice). And I can tell you that one is absolutely nothing like the other.

Training for the event

Marathon

A marathon-training plan is usually 16 weeks long. If you’re a beginner, it can take you from those very first run/walk outings right through to the 26.2-mile event itself (how cool is that?) The final few weeks of the plan, however, are the ones that really freak the hell out of runners.

Because this is the bit when, instead of increasing your mileage, you need to drastically cut back your training, to ensure your body is fully rested and recovered in time for the marathon. It’s called the taper, but is more commonly known in running circles as a total mind f*ck. Why? Because you will start to worry that you’ve lost all your fitness, question whether you’ve done enough in the first place and basically feel like you are not in the least bit prepared. Don’t panic, though. You are.

Motherhood

Before having a baby, there’s all manner of preparation you can do – those NCT classes to attend, the hypno-birthing sessions to breathe through, the birth plan to write, the hospital bag to pack and the baby books to read. In fact, by the time you have done all the above and are standing in your newly painted nursery, next to a pristine white cot and a stack of teeny tiny sleep suits, you will probably be feeling pretty damn prepared. You’re not. Trust me.

Advice from the experts

Marathon

If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll probably find that lots of people have lots of advice. This advice all tends to go along the same lines – eat a tried-and-trusted breakfast a few hours beforehand; start slowly; listen to your body; drink when you need to – because often the same race-day strategy works for many people. My top tip? If runners are happy to share their experience of how they got to that finish line, then listen up, because you might learn something useful. After all, it’s 26.2 miles, people.

Motherhood

If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably find that lots of people will want to give you advice. Usually lots of conflicting, confusing and utter crap advice. Here’s the thing: if it works for one baby, it absolutely does not mean it will work for your baby. Your best bet? Smile politely, nod and do your own sweet thing. Your baby will thank you for listening to their needs, rather than to your second cousin’s neighbour’s friend, who swears Cry It Out is the ONLY way to get a baby to sleep through the night. (Note: it’s not.)

PB chasing

Everyone is different. But my personal experience is this: I ran my first marathon in five hours. I was in labour with my first baby for 30 hours. 30 FREAKIN’ HOURS. Enough said.

The task at hand

Yes, it’s difficult, yes, you have to run a really, really, really long way and yes, it hurts. BUT, at no point during a marathon are you expected to push a fully formed human being out of your vagina. That said, at no point during a marathon are you able to request an epidural, or get off your face on gas and air, so I guess it evens out a bit in the pain department.

Recovery

Marathon

You’ve done it – you ran 26.2 miles and crossed that finish line! Next, someone will hand you a medal and you can then hobble off to find your loved ones, who will no doubt shower you with praise and help you onto the nearest form of public transport. Someone might even offer you a seat on the train (result).

You will then be expected to do nothing more than sit on the sofa, while people bring you food, water and maybe a cheeky prosecco, before you pop a couple of paracetamol and go to bed, where you can sleep soundly for 12 hours, if you so wish. After all, you’ve just run a marathon!

marathon

Motherhood

You’ve done it – you have been in labour for Christ knows how long and you now have a baby! Think you might be able to close your eyes for just two minutes? Erm… not exactly. Because now, regardless of how many hours you’ve been awake, how many indignities you have been subjected to over the last 24 hours – hell, even if your stomach has just been ripped open by a surgeon – you are now called Mummy.

And in your new role as Mummy, you need to learn how to latch your baby onto a boob, rock your baby, soothe your baby, wind your baby and change your baby’s nappy. Approximately every three hours. For the next six months. Oh, and you will then be on call 24/7 for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Good luck.

Newborn

But there is one way giving birth is just like marathon running!

However tough it might be; however painful; however challenging; and however many tears are shed during the process, you will never, ever regret it.

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*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

Being brave

When my daughter was eight weeks old, I signed up to run a marathon. It must have been something to do with having just grown and given birth to another human being that made me feel so capable and empowered. The female body is amazing. I felt amazing! I was capable of committing to ­– and achieving – anything.

In the months that followed, I gradually increased my running speed and distance (so far, so good).

And then, as December gave way to January and the start of my marathon training, my resolve (having so far channelled my I’ve-given-birth-I-can-do-anything mentality) faltered somewhat.

A marathon? Training to run 26.2 miles – this time with an energetic three year old and teething under-one year old along for the ride? Had I gone f*cking insane? What the hell was I thinking?

At first, despite the fact I already had doubts, I felt the brave thing to do was battle on.

Battle on, despite the fact I was soothing and feeding a baby back to sleep in the darkest hours of the night, rising at dawn to greet my son each morning and racing around after my little ones all day.

Battle on, despite the fact I felt daunted by my 16-week training plan.

Battle on, despite the fact I was dreading those runs getting longer. Dreading the additional exhaustion. Dreading the possibility that this would lead to me not being able to give my children all the energy, positivity and creativity they deserved from me.

And then it hit me.

I didn’t have to do this.

Now historically, I’m not a quitter. I’ve previously run two marathons. While training for both, I suffered setbacks. But twice I made it to the start line. Twice I crossed that finish line. And I loved them.

The start of marathon training should be exciting. It’s a time of possibility and growth and determination. It requires commitment and dedication and guts. You have to be hungry for it.

It’s taken me a few weeks to realise I’m just not hungry enough for it yet. To realise that the brave decision is not to battle on. The brave decision is to admit to myself – and everyone else – that I won’t be running this marathon.

The brave decision is to quit.

So often, the brave decision is the right decision. Because as my marathon goal ends before it has even begun, a new set of running aims has started to stretch out before me – aims more suited to my current time restrictions, family commitments and energy levels:

1 Run a decent 5K with the running buggy.

2 Get a new 10K post-baby PB by April (sub-1:03:27).

3 Run a sub-60-minute 10K by June.

So there they are: three challenges, all of which are more suited to my life right now. And you know what? I’m excited by them.

The other great thing? These new goals mean I’ll get to spend a whole lot more time with my new favourite running buddy: my baby girl, whose babbling in the running buggy makes me smile and whose giggles spur me on.

Running buggy

All smiles: she really does make a great running buddy

We are all human

I had a running post ready to go live this weekend.

But, like many other bloggers have found, writing about everyday experiences suddenly seems so very trivial and crass in light of the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding before us.

I too have been left shocked, speechless and saddened over the past few months, as I have watched the growing refugee crisis unfold.

But it took the image of a small boy’s body washed up on the beach to truly open my eyes.

A small body that looked very much the same size as my own soon-to-be-three year old.

Yet amidst the heartbreaking photographs of sinking, overcrowded boats, desperate parents and drowned children, I have seen the odd comment:

‘Yes it’s awful, but shouldn’t we be doing what we can to look after our own first?’

Thankfully, these have been very few and far between, hidden among many thousands of pledges of help and support. But still. I find this such an odd, cold comment.

So I simply wanted to use this blog post to say this:

I can pretty much guarantee that the people who have responded to the refugee crisis in such a generous and proactive way are probably the very same people who already do generous and proactive things to help ‘our own’ – things like donating to food banks, volunteering at local youth centres, helping out at dementia cafés, and donating time and money to UK charities.

Because you see, generosity of spirit doesn’t have a limit.

Compassion doesn’t simply stop when it hits a border: it overflows.

This is a humanitarian crisis.

We are all human.

There is no more ‘us’ and ‘them’.

We all need to look beyond borders and show a little more love, care and compassion.

Because hate isn’t getting us very far, is it?

It could have been them

It could have been them. #SaveSyriasChildren

You can find out more about where to donate, Amazon wish lists, collections and events here, or about practical ways you can help by checking out this feature in the Independent.

Through the tears, one thing has become clear in my mind: I now know what my marathon effort will be in aid of next April.