Hello, how are you?

No doubt the answer is “Oh Emma, I’m fine”, “Getting there”, “Keeping busy”…insert smile.

But are you…really…I’m not…and you don’t have to pretend to be. Some days I feel like I’ve got it all together, I’ve completed tasks and done what I set out to…but then there’s the rest of the time.
Each of us is currently walking the same unknown path, but the only thing we all have in common on that path is the fact we have no idea how long the path is. For some it will fork and make us stop and think about our options, for others it will stay steady and constant but that will grind us down in a different way, for some a mountain will need to be climbed and we may not get to find out whether that’s Ben Nevis or Everest until we hit the summit. Some will get a lovely softness underfoot…others rocks, mud and debris…maybe others will have a mix – everyone’s path is different and will have times of control and comfort, and other times of hardship and difficulty.
We are all unique…your friends may be knee deep in sourdough, art masterpieces or learning a new language but what if for you just getting up today was hard enough – if you did it well done, if you didn’t it doesn’t matter…wrap the covers around yourself and make sure you feel cosy.

As the month has passed things have changed which caused my emotions and mental health to take a bit of a battering. Colleagues got furloughed and work got that busy it was hard to keep up at one point. My fiance was furloughed, became an excellent house husband…but the fear of whether his job will survive all this took it’s toll on him, and so in turn me. News came through that my Snowdon Endure 24hr event had been postponed to 2021. We celebrated Easter without seeing our families. I got furloughed myself, and realised that instead of a release from a non stop busy environment…I lost freedom, colleagues I adore, work I love and most strikingly…I lost my normality! It all feels as if someone has hit me with a giant brick wall and I’m powerless to find the sledgehammer to break through. Some days I spend time desperately looking for the hammer, and some days I’m resigned to not finding it…lean on the wall and give in to it a little.

It feels like grief, it borders on despair…but there is nothing I can do about it.

April was going to be the start of an amazing year for me. Enjoying my new car, doing my first City marathon, a couple of big catch ups with friends and great meals out, starting my Ultra Marathon Training Plan, learning new tasks at work and having my appraisal, finishing redoing the house, preparing the garden for the rest of the year and having quality time with family.
I look at that list and…while some things have been put on hold, what has is only a small amount or has been adapted. Infact the only two things that haven’t been able to happen are: my appraisal at work and the catch ups with friends. Everything else has been adapted to fit with the new world, and as I reflect on that it fills me with a bit more positivity….and hope.
I started the month being able to enjoy my new car to the max commuting on empty roads. I turned a City marathon into a solo one. I started my Ultra Marathon Training plan…it began with my first day of recovery from my marathon in order to recover as best as possible for whatever lies ahead. I learnt new tasks at work as we had to adapt to a change in the Companies needs. We did a bit more to spruce the house up and make it a comfortable, relaxing, safe space. I took three days out and redid the garden, replanted, sowed seeds and redesigned it. And finally quality time with family…while we miss the togetherness and hugs (and my Mums cooking) we’ve adapted to facetime, calls and texts.

Of all the positives this month the biggest was the hardest. A solo marathon…I can hand on heart say if you haven’t done a marathon before, or you know you need support crews or crowds etc, or your health may mean you potentially need care at some point during the distance…please please do not do what I did. It’s hard work, and even harder when the mental chatter hits, it’s physically demanding and damaging. I knew I was in the best shape possible, could self support throughout, my fiancé and folks could live stream my garmin details so would instantly know if I was in trouble physically, and I could do it close enough to home…and early enough…to fully abide my all the social distancing guidance.

Without further ado here is my plan B, my Covidathon:

“There were still ‘pre-race’ nerves as I got up and I felt a little queasy. Telling myself that I could run a marathon had become a daily mantra for the last 10 days.
I filled a spare water bottle and left it near the wall outside the house as a just incase. Did some last minute deep breathing and set off.
The first half wasn’t too bad and I felt good, my breathing was okay and my pace comfortable.
I had my Garmin set to marathon to count my distance down…but also show me my predicted finish time. I had two goals…to run the distance without walking or stopping unnecessarily, and to finish in under 5hrs.
At one point I got my predictive finish time as low as 4:31:25…and knew I was running to fast. Around the 16mile mark my hips started to ache – the evening before I’d done a deep stretch yoga session and woke with them tight. I knew it wasn’t a good sign but had been pleased to get that far without any issues. To add to that discomfort I realised my inner thighs were chafing that badly that I was bleeding. From knee to waist was so painful that I felt consumed by it…physically sick and I swooned on and off. I stopped by a bridge…stretched my hips out a little, gave myself a talking to, applied some vaseline and set off again.
By mile 20 my thigh chafe and hip discomfort was incredible, again I applied an extra layer of vaseline and got myself to mile 24. Bloody and sore wasn’t the word, my right hip even tighter, it took all my will and determination to keep going…and going. At one point yelling at myself “mentally strong, physically strong” over and over…thank goodness there was no-one around! At just under 2K to go emotion swept through me as I looked at my predicted finish time, I cried and had to give myself a talking to again. I latched on to thinking about how far I’d gone instead of what felt like the most brutal 1.5K I’d ever run. I scolded myself for not wearing longer shorts, for failing to apply vaseline before I set off, for thinking a marathon was a good idea, for doing the damn yoga video the evening before.
I felt sick again and overwhelmingly dizzy, but still determined to keep going…knowing just how many of my fellow runners get to within sight of the finish and drop – it’s like a strange race curse…as if the brain goes ‘oh thank goodness we’ve finished’ but fails to realise crossing the line still needs to take place.
Colin and The Christie Hospital, who I was running for, were in the back of my mind through all the pain. Knowing no matter how much pain I was in, it was nothing in comparison to his discomfort.
As my watch buzzed my finish I cried with thanks that it was both over, and I’d achieved my target – 4hrs 46mins 17 seconds.
Leaning on a neighbour’s wall crying in big sobs, I called my Mum.

I stretched as best as I could on getting in, had my Rego shake and ran an ice bath. My thighs were a mess and stinging that badly on contact with the water I screamed….the hot shower after feeling even worse.
I ate little and often the rest of the day, stretched out every now and then to stop my muscles tightening, made sure to up my fats and fluids to aide my muscle recovery as best as possible…and tried to celebrate what I’d achieved. Oddly I felt surprising good and even managed to walk up and down the stairs a couple of times in the afternoon.
The next morning however I woke feeling motion sick, thankfully no headache so only mild dehydration.
My chafing was really sore and uncomfortable. I also felt like I’d literally just run a marathon…forget DOMS, this was delayed onset fatigue – I once again thanked my lucky stars I’d brought my run forward a day and could rest, instead of having to go to work.
A little gentle yoga felt good but I had a lot of stiffness in my upper body aswell as my legs.”

It’s odd that this Saturday that will be four weeks ago. My brain has started to block out the discomfort…in fact reading that diary entry feels odd, as if it’s someone else and not me who ran that day. This is what the brain does though, it’s self preservation…and the reason why there is always another race on the horizon.
It took two weeks for the chafing to heal…I don’t feel 100% physically as I’m still recovering, but I am less tired and my runs since have started to once again feel more comfortable.
My legs are fine, my brain is a bit of an anxious mess…but a work in progress. I have a lockdown rota which I’d like to share, because it’s helping me through this…and maybe someone out there may find something similar helps them:

Sat: Early alarm, breakfast, long run, rest, lunch, rest, yoga, supper, rest.
Sun: Rest day…lots of TV, sleep and good food.
Mon: Early alarm, 6.5K recovery run, 20min cardio, breakfast, online learning or reading, 20x stair repeats, lunch, reading/gardening/creating, yoga, supper, rest.
Tues: One hour lie in, strength training, yoga, breakfast, walk, lunch, reading/gardening/creating, supper, rest.
Wed: Early alarm, mid-week longer run (recovery pace/hills/fartlek), breakfast, online learning or reading, rest, lunch, reading/gardening/creating, yoga, supper, rest.
Thurs: Repeat of Monday
Fri: Upper body weight training, yoga, short walk, rest, lunch, reading/gardening/creating, supper, rest.

To someone on the outside it may seem mundane, it’s the pattern my week takes normally…just without work and so therefore I’ve time for creativity and books. I limit TV watching to the evening or weekends and so far things are going okay, a new normal is being found. These aren’t times to put pressure on yourself, do what you can, do what makes you happy…find your flow.

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night – Sarah Williams

2 thoughts on “April – Rally

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