Walking in Dublin

Two Mondays ago I was in Dublin for the Flora Mini Marathon 10K.

After nine years living here in the UK, I'm still not over the novelty of being able to "pop over" to a whole other country for the same price/time it used to take me to get from Canberra to my hometown! But it would be a sad, curmudgeonly day if I ever lost that sense of wonder. Even when wonder is really profound stuff like, "OMG Cadbury Tiffin! You don't get that in the UK or Oz!"

Unlike the Running Festival last month I walked this one solo. But I was in a crowd of 40,000 other women, the Mini Marathon being the biggest women's race in the world…

Approaching the start line... blue sky!
Approaching the start line… blue sky!

I also had company in spirit - Up & Runner Cels was over from Brussels to do her first 10K (and she kicked butt) and Coach Julia J was over from Modena, with some of her Italian runners. We hung out all weekend and I could say nowt but ciao. I need to work on my Italiano.

Italy
The atmosphere was brilliant. So many people were running for charities and had the names of lost loved ones on the back of their t-shirts. That wells me up every time; always a sober reminder of the fragility and randomness of life.

The race was divided into Runners, Joggers and thousands of wonderfully chatty Walkers. The pace was slow-going for ages – most seemed up for a fun stroll rather than to steam along as fast possible like a big ginger walking machine as per my own intention.

At 4km I had to ditch the number obsession after I accidentally switched off Walkmeter so I didn't know how fast I was going. My brain about exploded trying to add up the splits with my watch, so the rest of the race was just me and my feet and all those ladies.

I've fiddling with this post for almost three weeks now, flitting between feeling proud and emotional then feeling stupid for feeling emotional, because all I did was walk ten piddling kilometres. It seems so silly when my friends routinely run for miles, Julia just did another Half Iron Man; Gareth is about to cycle up some Alps. It also seems extra lame when I used to be able to run and haul up mountains and kick arse at kickboxing.

I got stuck on that whiny groove around 6km (why does this always happen in the middle of races? I guess the brain wanders): You're so slow. Why'd you get so lardy again? You did 14 minute miles in Moonwalk training, why didn't you appreciate it? My feet hurt. This sucks. I suck. I bet Julia is in the pub with a Guinness by now!

But emotions come and go like the tide. The trick is to let 'em wash over and keep walking anyway. As I got closer to the finish line the bleak thoughts were replaced by peacefulness at being in a foreign land on a sunny day in a happy crowd; bewilderment at the lady smoking as she walked along in a cancer charity t-shirt, and the fun of eavesdropping on some breathless on-the-go wedding planning:

So I've got my shoes I've got my dress I've done the invites too my hair? I'm not sure about the hair depends if Kelly is coming if Kelly is coming I'll get her to do my hair for free she's a hairdresser see but if she's not coming I'll have to find someone else to do it oh no I've not done the flowers yet…:

Here are some photies I snapped along the way:

Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society
Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society

You cannae beat a pompom!
You cannae beat a pompom!

Around halfway, methinks
Still chockers at the halfway point, with gorgeous streaky blue sky

I wanted to hug this woman at the 7KM mark
I wanted to hug this woman at 7KM

I finally crossed the finish line in 01:45:49, an average of 10.35 minutes per kilometre, which I was okay with considering the first three km's were a very snailish 15, 12 and 12 minutes as it was so crowded. I must've sped up towards the end there.

I felt fitter than I did in Bologna last month, with no knee or sciatic pain. That's the comparison I choose to make now, rather than dwelling on where I used to be years ago. Being part of that race, with so many women of all shapes and sizes and stories, reiterated the importance of celebrating and making the most of where you are, right now.

Walking can be boring but it's working and it's taking me some interesting places!

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Walking in Bologna

Walking is boring. "There, I said it", as the kids say these days. I fancied it up my training sessions with nice scenery, hilarious podcasts, Julia's fabulous schedule, and the post-it note reward scheme… but still I grumbled every time, a bike would be so much faster, dammit. As would a Ferrari.

I'm glad I kept plodding along though, because on Race Day in Bologna the rewards became clear…

1. Races RULE!
I felt like a donut signing up to walk the race when the Up & Runners were running it, but Julia insisted that races were best thing to keep my motivation blazin'. She was right. WHY is that woman always bloody right?

I loved the whole shebang. Laying out my gear the night before. The jangle of nerves at breakfast time. Walking to the race with all the Up & Runners, down a cobbled cliche of an Italian street. I gracelessly jumped in the air and yelled, "WOOHOO!".

At the start line, bouncing up and down in a sea of hot pink, I finally got it. THIS IS WHY YOU DO THE TRAINING. To get the other side. The race! The fun part! The people! The new places, new sights, new smells.

Race gear, ready to rock!

2. It's okay to fake it
It didn't matter that I'd not loved the training – the important thing was that I did the training. My legs didn't know that my mind wasn't entirely into it, they got fitter and stronger regardless. So often when things are boring/uncomfortable/scary/unfamiliar that voice pipes up, "maybe this isn't meant to be" and/or "let's run away!". I'm glad I went through the motions anyway, week after week. This can be applied to so many things in life, right?

3. There's an BEAST lurking within!
As soon as the starting siren went off my brain flipped from "let's go for a nice Sunday stroll" to "let's walk this f*cker as fast as possible GO GO GO!". The halfhearted stroll became an all-out charge! Out of my way, Italians with umbrellas!

(Did I mention it was raining on race day? It wouldn't pass for rain in the UK – twas "like being misted with Evian" as Paula called it – but many locals were ducking for cover!)

I think I've been trying to convince myself ever since I first hurt my knee that I didn't really care about running or races. Oh I'm just happy doing my workout DVDs! I'm happy to hold the bags while everyone else races. Don't mind me! But as much as I love my solitary DVDs and my classes, I also love getting competitive with myself. So I'll keep indulging that side with more events. In time, hopefully my body will be able to keep up with my brain's ambitions.

4. Lipstick adds a sense of occasion
At the start line I met the lovely Erica, an American living in Italy whose blog I've read for years. She'd come to run the 6k and is doing the 10K Course in June, so she got a sneak peak at the lady who'll be bossing her around for 8 weeks! Anyway, Erica was wearing RED LIPSTICK. With her hot pink race t-shirt she looked so foxy and ready to rock. My new years resolution was to wear lipstick more often, you may recall, so I've added a sub-clause: wear red lipstick in a race. My foxy pal LBTEPA does that all time too. I have lips, I have sticks, so why the hell not?

5. My granny knee is thankful
The more I walk the better it feels. I pine for Zumba and kickboxing but taking the sensible route is paying off. It doesn't lock up so much and the "burning" sensation happens less frequently. Same goes for the sciatic pain. The race topped up my resolve to keep moving and eating well. 

Race-start

6. Everything's more fun with friends
I walked the race with Honor, Clare and Julia who are recovering from injuries. Their company really made me savour every Holy Crap We're Walking In Italy moment. Races are a great excuse to hang out with awesome people. We need to do this stuff more often!

Walking-wounded
7. BLING!
Cop a load of this race medal! Sure it says Run when I Walked but that's faster than snoring in bed on a Sunday morning. I'll take it.

Medal

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Cycletta Report

I woke up Sunday morning feeling ready to spew, the usual nervous routine! I choked down a bowl of porridge while trying not to look at Gareth and Gillian's cooked breakfasts… the sight of scrambled eggs and greasy sausages was totally giving me the boak!

Off to lovely Tatton Park. There were over 800 women taking part in Cycletta on all manner of bikes. We started in waves of ten. I did a cheerful "woohoo!' as we whizzed over a cattle grid then down through the park, sunlight streaming through the tree-lined paths. Then out onto the big bad open road!

First two miles were fast and fun, grinning to myself at the visual of chunky me on clunky mountain bike and tiny Gillian on her tiny Brompton folding bike.

Then Gillian says, "We're going pretty fast, don't overdo it now!". Good advice, whoops! I felt awful during Miles 4-6. My rubbish knee burned on every downstroke, I had that shooting pain in my glute and my stomach felt dodgy. I couldn't take my eyes off the bike computer, doing fractions to figure out how far there was to go.

Then a bunch of speedy women whooshed past in the opposite direction, already on their way back to the finish line (part of the course was a loop). They yelled "KEEP GOING!" in such cheery tones I wanted to slap them. Then I got overtaken by a woman on a poncy bike with a freakin' wicker basket!

"Well isn't that just DANDY!" I sputtered to Gillian, feeling really really cranky and lardy.

Then I remembered that I'd vowed to enjoy the moment as it was happening, instead of having to enjoy it retrospectively as I always do with these things! So I had stern talk with self… Dude… you've travelled a stupid long way for this and you have dragged your friend and husband with you, and you trained for ages and people have sponsored you and do you REALLY want to look like a whiny brat… so SUCK IT UP cupcake! Turn this around!

I made a conscious effort to look at the scenery, feel the air on my skin, notice how strong my legs felt, just really ABSORB everything going on… thinking about how good it felt not to be sitting brooding on the couch wishing life could be different.

We got to Mile 9 and I said to Gillian, "Make a note! Mile 9 and I'm enjoying it!"

Mile 10 was a food stop. I really didn't want to stop but I needed the loo. Admired my beetroot face in the port-a-loo mirror. They had lots of crappy chocolate and sweets which I avoided (memories of dodgy stomach at Moonwalk '08!) and had some orange segments instead… lovely!

The remaining 14 miles were BLOODY FANTASTIC. Sure I was dying on some of the hills, I hesitated too long at an intersection and nearly got barrelled by a car, my chain came off at mile 15, I got stung by a wasp at mile 16…

Wasp Sample only. Not actual wasp.

…but I felt so alive and kept thinking, enjoy this enjoy this enjoy this. We rolled past quaint pubs, cottages with thatched roofs and climbing roses, wholesome people on horses… and a dead badger. Poor bugger. Oooh, and I even overtook a few people!

"Make a note!" I yelled to Gillian, "Mile 22 and still loving it!"

Finally we were back in the Park! There was a sneaky bit where we thought it was over but there was another half mile loop to go… my knee was sore and I felt like I'd been kicked in the lady parts, despite padded saddle and padded shorts and a naturally padded arse. But then I saw the finish line! I was woohooing like a deranged woman. FINISHED!

Dr G was waiting nearby. "Soooo?"

"IT WAS BRILLIANT!"

He looked absolutely stunned. "Well! Never thought I would ever hear such a positive statement out of you while straddling a velocipede!" Bwahahaaaaa. Smart arse.

I looked at my bike computer: 02:01:39, average 11.8 mph! Sooo much faster than my training… all thanks to lack of Scottish hills + unbridled enthuasism ;)

Then I got a text with my official time: 40km/24miles in 02:10:24 – of course the bike computer paused while I was on loo break/chain fixing/wasp swatting. Still… SO PLEASED with that as the snaily pace of my training rides indicated a 2.5 – 3 hour finish.

Cycletta was a great event, very well organised. It was heartening to see so many women across a wide range of ages, shapes and cycling experience – it was a very welcoming, non-intimidating atmosphere. I'd been really worried after the event lost its closed roads status, but the marshalls made it feel very safe.

But most of all I owe the feeling of safety to The Amazing Gillian. 24 miles is a warmup for her so she just freakin' rocks for coming along and helping me not get run over. Thank you so much comrade! Also have to say a huge thank you to Gareth, for not stabbing me on the training rides. You rawk!

So, I'm really happy with how it went and glad I got over my internal BS and enjoyed it while it was happening!

Afterthoughts…
Three days later I'm still feeling delirious and so fired up to keep going. I want to keep working on my Fear Of The Road and my inability to do hand signals. I also feel a new sense of purpose for getting back in shape – it's hard work hauling so much booty up the hills, I tell you.

It sounds so cheesy and perhaps quite pathetic, but this experience has reminded me that I am worth taking care of. That life is so much better when you treat your mind and body with kindness and respect, not dulling the edges with rubbish food and inactivity. It takes work to feel good, but I'm feeling like I am worth making that effort.

Why has it taken so long to remember this? To really feel it and believe it deep down? I really don't know. But I'm going to roll with it!

Me
Disclosure: I was offered a "media place" on the Cycletta event thus my entry fee was waived. Click here for full details.

ETA: While I added a cheeky link in the post above, I wanted to shout out properly that I raised a few quid for the MS Society. Huge thanks to my family and pals who sponsored! If anyone out there fancies supporting this great cause, here's my link to donate. You can find out more about the work the Society does to provide information and support as well as funds for multiple sclerosis research on their website, www.mssociety.org.uk.

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Moonwalk Report – Part II

Alternative Title: The Flaming Calves of DOOM!

After the Crotch Whacking Cones, Miles 9 through 12 were a blur. It was so dark as we trudged along Queensferry Road, plastic ponchos whooshing like a lullaby. I drifted in and out of conversations, trying to ignore the ache in the ball of my left foot. At Mile 10 the people doing the Half Moon turned left and headed back towards the city centre. They only had another 3.1 miles to go, lucky bastards.

Now we headed away from the big roads and down towards the sea…

Mile 12 – Did I tell you we had support vehicles? Just like the Tour de France! It consisted of Dave (Claire's fella) and Bruce (Lorraine's fella) on bicycles. They'd decided to go for a few pints then pedal around the course throughout the night. They popped up at random intervals like a ray of sunshine to shout words of encouragement and/or offer snacks.

At Mile 12 they were joined by our colleague Tara. She'd Moonwalked last year with Claire, so she knew from experience we'd need a small chocolate ration at that precise moment. Just when my calves had started to twinge and my morale nosedived, she appeared like a confectionery goddess. With one bite of a wee ASDA chocolate caramelly can't-remember-the-name I was REBORN!

3.30AM, Mile 13 – HALFWAY!

I remember thinking, now would a good time to become a Glass Half Full Person. Only thirteen miles to go, it's all downhill from here! As opposed to, Bloody hellfire thirteen stinking evil miles to go and I want to dieeeeeee.

We were down by the water now. To our left, the Firth of Forth. To our right, a discreet wall of leafy trees and many Moonwalkers darting behind them. Already the sun was starting to rise.

Mile 14 – Pee pressure: when you're dacks down in the bushes with your team and desperate not to be the last one squatting. C'MON LIL BLADDER!

By now my left foot hurt every time I put weight on it. Which is quite bloody often when one is walking. My calves also had the same "tennis balls trapped under the skin" sensation that I'd experienced on the first 16 mile training walk. I stopped for a proper stretch.

4.21AM, Mile 15 – The quietness of the seafront was replaced by the shiteness of an industrial estate. But there was a water station with giant buckets of chopped up bananas and oranges! I'd never been so glad to see a slightly shriveled piece of fruit in my life. This is where I took the Orange In Gob photo Moonwalk0421.

Brain boosted by the power of Vitamin C, I calculated that we'd been walking for 4.5 hours, an average of 18 minutes per mile. So if we kept that up, we only had 3-ish hours to go!

HA!

Ha ha.

Aye, right.

4.29AM – The sky grew pink over Leith.

Sunrise

Mile 16 – Calf pain levels upgraded to Flaming Tennis Balls With Metal Spikes. Described my symptoms to my team and they said, "That sounds like cramp". Nooo! Too many miles to go for cramp. So more stretching. A bite of Snickers bar.

Mile 17 - Ocean Terminal shopping centre. My legs refused to straighten properly so I walked in a semi-squat, cossack-esque position.

During that mile we reached the five hour mark. My longest training walk had been five hours, so it was all virgin territory now. That's when I overheard Sarah say something along the lines of, "I've just accepted that every step is going to be painful from now until the end, and there's nothing I can do but keep on walking".

I thought that was a very classy attitude and felt determined to adopt the same. Although I quite fancied throwing myself to the pavement and wailing like a big baby.

5.17AM, Mile 18 – Our amazing support crew were waiting for us with a silver platter full of goodies. Now that's service! Once again, oranges had never tasted so good.

Silverservice_2

I felt completely rubbish at this point. The last three miles had taken almost an hour. My calves were totally seized up, same with the left foot. No amount of stretching helped. The general consensus was cramp and I needed salt. I also switched back to an energy drink (I'd been sipping one for the first few miles but had changed to water). The saltiest food I had was a wee bag of Hula Hoops but I was just so sick of food – I know, can you believe it – that it was difficult to get any down.

Miles 19 – We played Eye Spy. I tried to remember my Classy Attitude vow but when someone said, "I spy something something start with… S", I immediately whined, "Shauna's Flaming Calves of DOOM!"

I fell into step with Sarah. Our other teammates were still chatty and bright but she said, "I don't think I should waste energy talking" and that suited me perfectly. We plodded along the Portobello promenade in silence.

You can communicate a lot with eyebrows. Like when you're stuck behind someone who's wearing alarmingly transparent tights and a thong, and their buttocks are wrestling like socks in a washing machine. Mutual eyebrows raised in alarm is a signal to do some rapid overtaking.

Mile 20, 21, 22 – This is when things got really really really dodgy. How can I put it delicately? I was crook in the guts. Experiencing intestinal turmoil. That overwhelming about-to-explode feeling is bad enough in the comfort of your own home, but when you're out on the town, having been awake for almost 24 hours and walking for six of them… it's no exaggeration to say it was hell on earth.

Three miles was plenty of time to analyse my predicament. Was it something I ate? Was it last Tuesday's  IKEA hot dog? Was it the Official Moonwalk Flapjack? Most likely it was the energy drink. I'd never drunk one before and the sickly sweetness was overpowering. In hindsight it was a very stupid time to introduced my stomach to something so foreign.

The more my stomach rumbled like Vesuvius the more my mental state declined. It was quite fascinating to witness the brain rotate through such a negative array of emotions. Fierce jealousy of my faster team members, half a block ahead. Annoyance at my stupid flaming calves. Bitterness at myself for being the unathletic owner of said stupid flaming calves. Resentment at Edinburgh City Council for having pavements instead of moving walkways.

But soon that was replaced by sheer bloody panic. What if I couldn't find a loo? How much longer could I hold out? Should I just hammer on a random door and beg them to let me in? Oh Lordy I really cannot hold out much longer. Don't cry don't cry don't cry BE CLASSY!

Behind me a girl was talking about food. "I just want to get a big fuck-off chicken leg," she moaned, "and gnaw on it like a caveman."

Mile 23 - Miracle on London Road! A block of flats covered in scaffolding. A dusty port-a-loo, sitting sweetly beside the footpath.

"That looks like a loo," said Sarah.

"Could it really be?"

It was. And it was unlocked!

Oh people! The joy. The relief. I still cannot find the words to express it.

Now back to the silent, slo-mo action. I was still doing my painful cossack walk but mile 23 was bliss.

Mile 24 - Called Gareth. Jenny answered; they were in the car on their way to the finish line. "Could you ask him to park as close to The Meadows as humanly possible? Just look for the big pink tent. Drive on the grass if you have to."

Mile 25, 7.32AM – Down in the Cowgate. A weary snap of the Mile 25 marker.

Mile25

The last 1.2 miles took eighteen minutes but it felt like an eternity, all numb and fuzzy like sleepwalking. The Castle came into view again as we shuffled through the Grassmarket.

Grassmarket

Along Lauriston Place there were people walking in the opposite direction with medals round their necks and silver blankets round their shoulders. They were finished and I wanted to stab them.

Mile 26 – The mile marker was at the top of The Meadows. 0.2 miles to go.

Mile 26.2, 7.50AM – Crossed the Finish Line with the lovely Sarah. WE ARE DONE BABY DONE! Eight hours neat. We had walked for an entire working day!

I'd thought I'd get all emotional like my 5k race but I was too knackered to feel anything but relief that it finally, finally over. My legs pinged and twinged like harp strings. Managed to collect the goody bags and find the rest of the team before flopping on the grass.

8.02AM – I was looking through our group photos the other day and found these two, taken a few seconds apart.

Whinge1
Frame #1 – The whiny face of reality

Whinge2
Frame #2 – FAKE! FAKE! FAKE!

This is where I attempted to stand up for the Triumphant Medal Pose but my legs failed halfway up.

Tumble

Take #2 with port-a-loos in the background providing a poignant reminder of the ordeal. Too tired to open eyes properly. The effort to arrange mouth in an upturned manner was a marathon in itself.

Finish
FYI, those lines across my boobs are from my bra decorations,
just in case you thought I had long, squiggly nipples.

Aftermath

Gareth had parked at Haymarket train station, one mile away. I tried to walk there, I really did. But after moving twenty metres in twenty minutes we gave up and jumped into a taxi. Or Gareth and Jenny jumped, I collapsed into. Half an hour later were home, another half an hour later I maneuvered myself out of the car and into the flat. You think I exaggerate, but my legs had just decided ENOUGH! We are not going to work anymore! They completely seized up; stretching was impossible. I'd never known such pain and fatigue and it was bloody hilarious. I had to wheel myself around the flat in an office chair!

Then my whole body started shaking and shivering so I wheeled myself into a hot bath. Then I slept for four hours. Then I felt quite triumphant. Then I ate the tastiest bacon sandwich of my life.

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Moonwalk Report

Aside from the toaster, the greatest invention ever must be the Time and Date thingy on digital cameras and mobile phones. Two weeks after the Moonwalk I can barely remember it; my brain seems determined to suppress the finer details of all the pain and glory. But thankfully I can look at photo data or my Sent text messages and let the memories spew forth… "OH YEAH, that's that precise moment I wanted to fling myself under a double decker bus rather than take another step."

So here we go…

Saturday 14 June, 10AM – On the morning of the Moonwalk there was nothing left to do but carb it up. The training was done. The bra was decorated. The socks had been nestled inside the shoes in readiness. Bring on the rice and porridge.

I lazed around between bowls. We picked up Jenny from the airport, and some most excellent bacon from the farmer's market ready for my post marathon sarnie.

6PM - Tried to take a nap but Lionel Richie's All Night Long was stuck on an endless loop in my head.  How can one sleep with those saucy beats? I got dressed and paced impatiently. In the end I wore a tank top underneath my decorated bra. I was okay to bare arms but the belly was a bridge too far!

7PM – Had a last minute brainwave to live blog the walk on Twitter so I linked my phone to my account. Didn't realise until the next day that I'd put in the wrong number and had been rambling sending texts to some poor sleepless bastard all! night! looooong!    

8PM – Hitched a ride to Edinburgh with my Moonwalking comrades. On the way over we compared carbo notes and the joys of coating your feet in Vaseline. Try it, I tell you. Lube up your feet then slide into a pair of cotton socks; it feels like you're walking on air. Or a field of pillows. Or across the plump buttocks of many cherubs. For the first two miles, at least.

8.45PM – Arrived at MoonwalkCity, aka a gigantic pink tent in the middle of The Meadows.

Tent

Suddenly it was all rather exciting. I knew there would be 12,000 Moonwalkers but I didn't fathom the scale until I saw the sprawling sea of feathers, flowers and sequins. And pink pink pink. Mostly women but a few blokes gleefully showing off their brassieres.

We all plonked down in the tent. And so began the waiting.

9.30PM – Pinned race number to my trouser leg. Felt smug since I had proper safety pins instead of staples this time.

9.40PM – Ate my allocated vegie pasta ration. Surprisingly tasty!

9.50PM – Smugness came to abrupt halt when I noticed that I'd somehow managed to KNEEL IN MY PASTA, leaving a greasy red stain on my race number.

Pasta

Then there was a wilderness hour where our only real purpose was to pee as many times as possible…

Looqueue

… and take photos while queuing for the loos (10.28PM)

Looqueue2

Honestly, all that waiting around was a real energy killer. If I had my time again I would have slept all day then rocked up to the pink tent just before midnight!

10.58PM – The Moonwalk Boss Lady took the mic from the salsa band and instructed us approximately eleven million times to PLEASE wear our plastic poncho thingies because it was an extremely cold evening out there. She had the exact same tone of voice as an ineffectual primary school teacher pleading with a wayward eight year old to PLEASE come down off the canteen roof and stop throwing those rocks. But since she is an amazing woman to have dreamed up such a wildly successful fundraising event, we all chanted obediently like members of a very pink cult, YES MISS, We Will Wear Our Stupid Ponchos.

Cult

11.02PM – Attention span fading. I thought I'd be nervous but I was just plain grumpy, anxious to get out there and get the bastard over with. Also riddled with bra envy upon seeing a herd of ladies in zebra costumes. They had TAILS!

Zebra

Serious interlude – At something o'clock we had a minute of silence to think about the purpose of the Moonwalk. Why or who or what you were there for. It was a very moving, misty-eyed moment. I don't think there'd be anyone in the room whose lives had not been touched by cancer in some way.

11.40PMFinally it was time. Since there were 12,000 walkers we started in three different waves.

11.50PM – We cross the line and I hit the start button on my stopwatch.

Start

As everyone warned me, the pace was sloooow. And the Moonwalk Lady was not kidding about the cold.

The first part of the route was around the bottom of Arthur's Seat, the same route as my Race for Life 5k in 2005. My legs felt good and strong as we strolled up the hill that had left me cranky and wheezing back then. It was rather eerie, pitch black except for scraps of moonlight bouncing off our reflective caps; silent but for the rustle of thousands of plastic ponchos.

At the top I looked back across the city – Edinburgh Castle was lit up in pink. I got that little shiver just like the first time I saw it back in 2003; a groovy feeling of being where I'm meant to be.

Sunday 15 June, 1.10AM. Mile 4 – Walking up the Royal Mile was brilliant. Sozzled blokes were stumbling out of the pubs, rubbing their eyes at the sight of the bra-wearing swarm. People were hanging out the windows of their flats to cheer us on.

Milecrowd

I wanted to take more photos but to pause is to get left behind! So lots of blurry pictures ahead, I'm afraid. It was at this stage my arms went numb from cold so I had to put my jacket on underneath the plastic number. After all that time I'd spent psyching myself up to flaunt the Moonwalk costume, it was too bloody Baltic to do it. Grrr.

We headed past Castle Terrace at 1.20AM and I snapped this truly shitty pic of the pink castle. That was the last one I took until 4.21AM.

Edinburghcastle

So what happened in the hours in between? More walking at a glacial pace. A handful of yogurt-covered apricots. Some peeing in bushes. Yes, you're not supposed to do it but if we'd queued politely at the official stops I'd still be walking now. I tell you, once you've dropped trou in front of your work colleagues there's a whole new level of comradeship.

2.15AM - Received a text from jetlagged Jenny asking how I was getting on. I texted back with great enthusiasm: Nae bad Jen, almost at mile 8 and-

SMACK. I slammed groin first into a big traffic cone. Both me and phone went flying. I landed on the road hands first and there was a gasp from the crowd. I tried to leap up as casually as possible and announced, "I'm good! I'm good!". Everyone cheered.

DUDES. Mortifying.

Cone
Sample only.
Not actual crotch-whacking cone.

2.20AM - Was composing a message to what I thought was Twitter to inform you of my ordeal when… SMACK. I did the same thing again.

I was fine, really. Fine! Just embarrassed. And possibly now barren.

Let this be a lesson to you folks. DON'T TEXT AND WALK. Especially when it's dark outside.

[Sorry this report is taking so long; things have been a wee bit chaotic. Second and final installment later in the week!]

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Going for Gold

Statistically, I seem to run best when it’s raining or a Sunday. Living in Scotland means there’s a one in seven chance of this happening. Yesterday was pouring, so I was optimistic that things would go okay!

I admit I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared. I’d been training consistently for ten weeks, but little things threw me off. Like forgetting to bring my water bottle. Like waiting til the night to decide what to wear and finding nothing clean, thus having to wear whatever was the least stinky. Like not having safety pins to attach my race number to my t-shirt.

Who the hell has safety pins? My mum, my granny, my supremely organised sister: they have safety pins. I do not have safety pins. Do you think I could find any in the shops on Saturday afternoon? Nooo. I even tried pinning the number with some of those dinky rock band badges to no avail. Finally the Scottish Companion had the brainwave of stapling it on. This took around half an hour and our combined brain power to figure out. It is very difficult to staple a piece of paper onto thick cotton with a flimsy stapler; difficult to do it straight and difficult to avoid stabbing your boobs.

But it didn’t matter in the end. It was raining so steadily that I ended up my shitty waterproof jacket over the top so you couldn’t see the number anyway. The rain seemed to make the crowd even more loopy. It was a great atmosphere, no one was taking it too seriously. There were runners and walkers of all shapes and sizes; many with little pink signs on the back of their shirts with names of loved ones they’d lost to cancer. Every time I’d see someone with My Mum or Auntie Josephine on their backs I’d get a little teary. Except when I saw a wee girl with Kylie Minogue written on her back, I just cracked up laughing.

The rain came down even harder as we were lead through some warm-up aerobics. The water combined with 7000 women jumping up and down made big fat earthworms wash up to the surface. It was surreal. Then the race start was slightly delayed by a guy getting on stage to propose to his girlfriend. Creative, eh?

Finally it was time to line up. They had two big flags, one said Runners and the other Walkers. At first I thought there was going to be a middle-ground Joggers flag, but it was nowhere to be found. This sparked an existential debate with the Scottish Companion as to whether I was a Runner or a Walker.

“You haven’t been just walking these past ten weeks, have you?” he reasoned.

But I was having a last-minute panic and argue, “But I’m not exactly a runner, am I? I can’t run for longer than five minutes without feeling like I’m going to cark it!”.

He told me to just go join the runners and wished me luck. I gave him a kiss on his wet nose and scampered off. By then it was so crowded I ended up near the walkers, beside a girl dressed in a Batman suit. I was so bewildered by the crowd and the rain that I didn’t think to be nervous, just a faint notion that something exciting was about to happen. Somewhere in the distance the start horn thingy went off. It took five minutes to inch my way to the start line, then I hit the timer on my stop watch. Go go go!

It was then my trance broke and I panicked, What the hell!? What the hell!? What am I doing here?! Everywhere I looked there were legs and arms and numbers and puddles. I am not so good in crowds. Julia had advised me to start out slow so I wouldn’t fade at the end, so I did a very slow jog, ducking around walkers and water. Then the course headed up a hill and I thought Holy fuck. Bloody hills. Better not waste energy weaving around people. So I alternated fast walking with the slow jogging. Then I noticed that after that hill there was another, steeper hill. Bugger.

It was then I started to get cranky. Disclaimer: I was cranky already, my period arrived that morning. HOO-BLOODY-RAY for the feeling of piranhas gnawing your guts! So I was cursing the stupid hill and my stupid slow legs and the thousands of stupid runners cluttering up the road. It felt like it was taking forever. All I could think was, What’s so great about this running shit? Why do people rave on about it like it was so damn special? I recalled a comment Meg left on my last entry. She said I would love it! She said it changed the way she thought about herself forever. Well as I slugged up the hill I thought, YOU LIE, MEG! I DO NOT LOVE IT! It felt like I would never get up the top of that stinking hill, and furthermore I had seen no kilometre markers so I had no idea how far I’d gone or how far I had left to go. Bah!

Finally the course evened out and after a minute’s walk, I picked up the pace again. I began to relax. I acknowledged the view – a spectacular panorama of Edinburgh. Then some guy was shouting from the sidelines, “You’ve just passed the halfway mark, girls!”

Halfway?! Arrgh!

I looked at my watch and wasn’t too impressed with my time. Julia had told me not to worry about my time today, it was just about finishing the damn thing. But I felt slightly disheartened. It was then I gave myself a wee pep talk. Why are we here, Dietgirl?

  1. Because my excellent sponsors have given over £300 to cancer research and they deserve value for money.
  2. Because my husband trained with me all this time and I don’t want him thinking I’ve wasted his time.
  3. Because Mistress Julia has helped me so much and I want to impress her and make her proud.
  4. Because I have worked hard and I want to impress ME and make ME proud, dammit!

And I wouldn’t be satisified with taking forever to huff over the finish line either. I wanted to finish as strongly as I possibly could. I’d worked for ten weeks to get to this point, and it would never be My First Race ever again. I’d done some pretty half-assed runs in that ten weeks, so now I was going to stop the whining and bitching. No more bullshit! Just GO FOR GOLD!

I kicked up to a nice steady run. I reassured the lazy part of my brain that I could walk any time, but since the first half had been relatively slow I found that I had plenty of energy left. For the first time ever I really felt like I was cruising, that it was a perfectly natural thing for my body to be running. I found a steady rhythm and my breathing was good, not my usual desperate gasps for life.

The rained stopped and I wrestled off my crappy jacket, somehow tying it round my waist as I headed down the hill. I kept talking to myself, Just run one more minute then you can walk if you need to. But I just kept on running and it felt great.

And there was finally a sign – 500M TO GO. Holy crap! 500 metres! How far is 500 metres, I wondered? Ten laps of an Olympic pool. Ooh that sounds like ages, don’t think of it like that. Half a kilometre, that sounds ages too. Okay then. How about one and a bit laps of the running track. Hey that’s not so bad! I can handle that! So I took it up another notch. I have no idea where that energy came from but I’d never run so fast before. It felt fantastic!

As I approached the finish line I started grinning. I couldn’t help it, I would have giggled had I had enough breath left. I was just so surprised to be there. Grin grin grin. When I finally crossed it I suddenly felt a big sob sneak up to my throat. What the hell?!

I glanced at my watch – 35:15. I could not believe that time. Ten weeks ago I could barely run for one minute, yet I’d just run over half the course non-stop. I was euphoric. I, Dietgirl formerly of the Whole Pints Of Ice Cream In One Sitting, had finished a 5k race. It felt amazing! Meg wasn’t lying to me after all! Bless her cotton socks.

I got my goodie bag and scanned the crowds for SC, wandering around in a daze with trembling legs. It was the strangest mix of emotions I’d ever known. I began making these garbled, gulping, strangled chicken noises – this is what happens when you try and cry and get your breath back at the same time. It is physically impossible.

By the time I finally found SC I had my breath back so I was able to just sob uncontrollably on his shoulder. The poor bastard look very confused. Blame my hormones, blame relief and surprise and intense personal satisfaction, but I was crying for Scotland!

Later on I felt embarrassed by my hysterics. After all it was Just A 5k. It wasn’t even a proper race, it was a charity event. And people run marathons all the time, hell they run across continents or sail around the world blindfolded with one arm chopped off! I was all ready to downplay the whole day and dismiss it as a freak accident of nature and stomp out any sense of achievement. But as I’ve reminded myself countless times during my Lard Busting Journey, you can’t compare your achievements to someone elses. All you can do is compare where you’ve been and where you are now, and what you chose to do in between.

I also remembered a day back in January 2001 when I’d stood at the bottom of the stairs in my flat, trying to summon the energy to walk up the dozen steps to get to my bedroom. That had felt like an impossible task. Compare that to yesterday when I stood at the bottom of a FREAKY BIG HILL and running to the top seemed an impossible task. There’s no denying that 5k was a huge personal achievement.

I cannot express to you how amazing it felt to do something that I thought I never, ever could do. I am so grateful to Julia for helping me, to SC for patiently training with me, and to all you groovers for your encouragement and extremely generous donations. This may sound ridiculous but I am more emotional about yesterday than I was on my freaking wedding day! There is no better feeling in the world than to take your mind and body to some place you thought it couldn’t go; a place you thought it didn’t belong. You should all try it sometime.

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