Paul is running the 2015 London Marathon for Cavell Nurses' Trust. You can follow Paul on Twitter @NHSE_PaulT and sponsor him by visiting his Virgin Money Giving page
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Week Sixteen - 20th April
"Writing about running has made me a better runner"
So where are we at? It’s just a few days until the marathon. The training is done. I am injury free. My manky toe is healed and I’m 18lb lighter than I was at the start of training. All of this is very good news indeed. On Sunday I’ll be making my way to the start line to be one of 40,000 people taking part in the largest fundraising event in the world. Bring it on.
There’s very little to do over the next few days. It’s all about being rested and feeling good. Later in the week I need to head to the Excel Centre to collect my running number and register for the race. That’s when it starts getting really scary. Apart from that, I just need to avoid falling off kerbs or catching a cold this week. I’ll be the one applying anti bacterial gel to my hands every few minutes and knocking back Berroca. Pre-marathon hypochondria is incredibly common and horribly annoying.
I had very mixed emotions before my last long run at the weekend despite it being “only” 10 miles. I wrestled with a serious feeling of ‘I’m exhausted and can’t be bothered’ along with ‘I can’t wait to get out there and finish it’ and a surprising appearance from ‘I don’t want it to end’. As much as I moan about the effort that goes into running a marathon, I do secretly enjoy the discipline, routine and results. I always feel better after a run, both mentally and physically. Once it’s all over I’m going to have to think of new strategies to do that.
I’ve really enjoyed blogging for you. Writing about running has made me a better runner. Taking time out each week to reflect on how the training is going has helped me understand myself in deeper and more interesting ways than I could have imagined. I hope that in some way it has made you think about something differently, or maybe even persuaded you to run a marathon. (A little tip, if you do… do it for Cavell Nurses' Trust). It got me wondering what other pearls of wisdom do I have as a result of my training and blogging? Well, here’s my Lucky 7 Marathon Tips:
- If you think you might give the London Marathon a go in 2016 you need to apply on the day the ballot opens which is just one week after this year’s race. Entries open and close on the same day so you’ll need your fingers poised. Go to virginlondonmarathon.com for more details.
- Think about little changes you can make that could help you achieve your running goals. The thing I’ve noticed this year is how much better I feel by drinking more water. I’ve practically given up on Diet Coke and I now own one of those filtering sippy cup things that’s constantly being refilled with free tap water. It hasn’t quite restored me to a full head of hair but I’m sure my eyes are more sparkly.
- Small progress leads to big achievements over time. You might be thinking “I can’t even run for five minutes” but when you’ve done it once you’ll do it again, and then it’ll be 6 minutes then ten then you’ve done 5k then 10k and one day you’ll notice that you’ve just done a half marathon and you haven’t dropped down dead.
- Your brain is your best friend and your worst enemy. Ahhh yes the lovely brain that one day is feeling all proud of you and giving you warm fuzzy feelings and then as soon as you look away it starts whispering into your ear that you won’t ever be able to finish so why even bother starting. Give your brain a good talking to and sit it on the naughty step when it misbehaves. You’ll soon learn to tune out the waffle and appreciate the compliments when they come.
- Two steps forward and one step back is still heading in the right direction. Those little setbacks like a cough or a blister will soon be gone and you’ll carry on regardless. Gained a pound this week? Never mind, you’ll lose two next week. The road to the marathon is not a straight or smooth or paved with gold. It’s windy and hilly and there’s banana skins all over the place. You’ll soon learn how to use them to skate on.
- You’ll learn to appreciate the space that running offers you. It can be a quiet place of contemplation or a noisy racket fuelled by Prodigy songs. Either way, it’s your space. I think of it like a game of mental Tetris, organising and sorting my thoughts as I run. In our busy lives we rarely get time to ourselves so running is good for body and soul.
- People are amazing and will constantly surprise you with their never ending supply of generosity, support and energy. Whether it’s an unexpected smile from a runner on the road, a charity donation from a work colleague, a surprise gift from a friend (thank you Andrea! You rock) or the bottomless well of encouragement from family and loved ones, you’ll start seeing that the milk of human kindness flows like a fountain out of the biggest set of udders on the largest most compassionate cow you could possibly imagine. And it’s strawberry flavour. Seriously, humans are just incredible.
And with that, it’s time to bring my blog to an end. I want to thank John, Vicky, Jenny, Rachel and everyone at the Cavell Nurses' Trust for giving me the chance to run for you. I will do you proud on the day, I promise. I also want to thank you, dear reader, for giving me a reason to write and some space to think.
At 10:10am on April 26th, think of me as the starting gun goes off in Greenwich. Look out for me on tv - I’ll be the sweaty little bloke with the red face wearing a purple vest over a lime green tshirt - and if you can, please donate to Cavell Nurses’ Trust because that’s what this is all about. By donating some cash you’ll be showing that you’re #HereForNurses just like they’re here for us when we need them.
Sponsor Paul today!
Week Fifteen - 13th April
"Let's get straight to it with a Toe Update."
I bet all week you’ve been losing sleep, wondering “How is Paul’s big toe doing?” haven’t you? Well let's get straight to it with a Toe Update. You might remember I was running on a swollen and sore big toe. After almost a week of pain I took myself to the GP and apologetically removed my sock. It felt like such a ridiculously small thing to take up the Doctor's time with. She was incredibly empathetic, poked gently around the edges and confirmed it was indeed infected. So I'm now on antibiotics for a few days to clear it. It's officially my first ever running injury! Thankfully it will be sorted in a few days and I'll be fighting fit when the race starts on April 26th.
I can't believe it's happening so soon. It's now the point where I've started to have anxiety dreams about the marathon. Remember the ones you had at school where you turned up to an exam a day late? I have marathon themed versions of those. My favourite marathon dream involved me turning up to the start line wearing a pair of work shoes. Just before the race started I decided to walk to the newsagent to buy some sweets and when I got back to the start everyone had disappeared and I was disqualified. Terrifying!
At this point in training I also start visualising the end. Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a huge achievement. It’s a very emotional moment. However, I would argue that getting to the start line is itself a considerable achievement. By the time you are standing in the start pen wearing your running number you have already been on a massive physical and mental journey. It took me years to even apply for a place. I remember seeing my friend Nicole run the London marathon and then the year after my friend Garry did it. They both inspired me to believe that one day I might be able to run a marathon, but it took two years for me to get myself to that point and actually apply.
Once you've applied for a place there's five months of waiting to find out if you've been successful. 125,000 people applied last year. 40,000 are offered a place. After the joy of getting a place the hard work starts: six months of structured running, at least four times a week. By the time you arrive at the start line you'll already have covered around 600 miles during training. Fingers (and toes) crossed you will have no injuries and still have enough energy in you for the big day. The marathon itself is really miles 600 to 626. It's no wonder I feel so tired all the time!
Running can be quite a lonely hobby but I enjoy the time on my own. I was never really into sport when I was younger so I didn't belong to a football team or a rugby team. I still don't understand the rules to either. I enjoy running on my own, giving myself time and space to think. In some ways though, it's the biggest team sport around. I could not run a marathon alone. I depend on support from Dan who has to put up with me daily, either running or talking about running or recovering from a run or preparing for a run. He's a one man coach-cheerleader-therapist. My friends and family are incredibly understanding when I don't return their calls or can't go out tonight or would prefer to eat somewhere healthy or am not drinking this week. They patiently accommodate my needs and give me reassuring encouragement. Then there's work colleagues, folk on Twitter, people who send messages about the blogs and the people who turn up on marathon day to cheer and shout encouragement. All amazing. It's like being part of the world's biggest team. Running a marathon is anything but solitary, and I'm so lucky to have all those people on my team. It makes the training runs, lack of haribo and infected toes all worthwhile.
So as I head into the final week of training, as donations come in thick and fast, I'd like to say a huge thank you to you for being on my team. I could not do this without you. There's still time to donate and support the amazing Cavell Trust. I'm determined to hit my fundraising target! Please give whatever you can and tell your friends too. I'll be back next week with my final blog.
Sponsor Paul today!
Week Fourteen - 6th April
"I'm very grateful to everyone who has been with me on this adventure."
This week I’ve been laughing maniacally at an old favourite joke: “My body is a temple. Ruined.” It’s not far from the truth. Maybe ruined is taking it too far, but it’s definitely crumbling and in need of some TLC. If I were on the market I’d be a fixer-upper. Thankfully my annoying cough has all but gone, helped by a couple of very relaxing days off last week. As the days went by, I could see the weekend run getting closer. The big one was on the horizon. Twenty miles. The longest of the long runs during training. I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive.
Then on Thursday, I accidentally kicked my big toe against the bed. I was already tending to a slightly ingrown toenail, so you can imagine the language that came out of my mouth. I won’t repeat it here because it would automatically make the blog NSFW. Needless to say, it hurt. On Friday my toe was a bit swollen and I could feel the beginnings of an infection. By Saturday it was looking pretty angry. There’s nothing quite as unsexy as an angry big toe, believe me.
I carried on regardless and set off on my twenty mile run. I wish I could tell you it was a breeze, or even mildly enjoyable, but my head just wasn’t in it. My toe hurt from the first few steps and I knew that it was going to be one of those runs where the teeth are gritted and the fists are clenched. It was cold, windy and rainy. I was not in the mood. Some runs just have to be endured and overcome.
By the time I finished, I was a grumbling ball of annoyed. I had obviously been running a bit wonky to compensate for my sore toe, which meant that the little toe on the opposite foot had blistered and bled quite badly into my sock. I felt sore and a little bit defeated. I kept thinking “imagine having to run another six miles on top of that”. My feet looked like they had been tenderised by a particularly brutal little hammer.
The next day was a three mile “recovery run” which, as phrases go, is about as enticing as a “hangover tequila”. Running three miles on blistered, infected toes felt about as difficult as the twenty miles that preceded it. I limped around on stiff legs like a sweary pirate. This weekend will not be noted in the Guinness Book of Good Runs.
But the thing about marathon training is that no matter how rubbish it feels at times, you just have to keep going. From here onwards the training runs actually get shorter up until the marathon (it’s called tapering if you’re interested in the science part) so that the body can start to recover and be ready for the full 26 miles. It’s a welcome blessing because frankly at this stage the engine is running on empty. The tiger in my tank has been reduced to a helpless kitten.
There’s just two weeks left before the marathon. Two more blogs. I’ve already got them sort of planned in my head. Next week is going to be a reflection on some of the things I’ve learned over the course of the 16 weeks of training, with some tips and advice for wannabe marathoners. And then the final week, it’s The End.
Amazing. I’m very grateful to everyone who has been with me on this adventure so far. We’re so close. Thank you also to those of you who have kindly sponsored me. There’s still work to be done on that front so if you could please share my link and encourage people to donate I will be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I’m off to soak my festering feet and think happy thoughts. See you next week!
Sponsor Paul Today!
Week Thirteen - 30th March
It began with a Muttley whisper and peaked yesterday with full on barking seal...
So cast your mind back to last week when I wrote “I’m glad to say - and a bit nervous in case I jinx it - that everything is going well”. Remember that? Well, within minutes of pressing send I thought to myself hmmm, my throat feels a bit scratchy. Seriously. It was like some kind of cosmic 'You’ve Been Framed' prank. I went to bed feeling suspicious of my body. How could it treat me with such schadenfreude?
The rest of the week has been filled by a gradually worsening cough that began like a Muttley whisper and peaked yesterday with full on barking seal status. On Saturday I finally admitted defeat and took to my bed, feeling very sorry for myself. I lay there sipping lemsip with my socks full of Vick’s Vaporub (sounds weird but it works, trust me) and for the first time in ages, everything was still and quiet. I realised it has been months since that happened.
I wrestled with the guilt of missing important training runs versus the proper likelihood of making myself feel worse if I did run. I worried that if I embarked on a 13 mile run and felt terrible half way through, I’d still have to somehow get home. I pictured myself having a coughing fit, falling off a pavement and twisting my ankle or, worst case scenario, ending up under a bus. As you can tell, I don’t take to my sick bed easily.
Lying in bed, in silence, I felt my heart rate slowing down. My breathing became deeper. My coughing lessened. I let the tiredness enfold me and drifted off to sleep. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that on a Saturday afternoon. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling like I had slept for days. I knew then that I had been right not to go running.
Last week’s blog was all about looking out for each other and lending support. This week I’ve noticed that I haven’t really been looking out for myself, or taking very good care of me. With just over 4 weeks to go until the marathon, I’ve had a good reminder of how important it is to look after myself. The great benefit, and at the same time the great drawback, to running a marathon is the incredible discipline that goes into the training runs. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. I’m fitter than I’ve been in ages, and more knackered with each passing week. I can feel myself getting close to the point where I just want it to be over.
I have a few days off this week, making the most of the Easter holiday weekend. Me and Dan are off to a hotel for a couple of nights to celebrate our anniversary. There’s a pool and a spa and dressing gowns and slippers. I’m going to be taking it easy, getting myself fit and healthy for next weekend - the longest run of the training plan… twenty miles. Tune in next week to find out how it goes. Until then, look after yourself.
Week Twelve - 23rd March
"By supporting me in my marathon effort, you’re actually supporting a nurse, midwife or healthcare assistant who really needs it. So give a smile, give a wave, and please give a few pounds. Pass it on."
We’re getting close to the final stages of training folks. This is week 12 of my blogs (can you believe it?) and there are just five more to go before the marathon. I’m glad to say - and a bit nervous in case I jinx it - that everything is going well. I did an 18 mile run on Saturday and very much enjoyed it. I had some sore muscles and a bit of hip pain last week but it’s all ok now. Even the sun is shining this morning. Hip hip hip hooray!
Please remind me of this moment over the next five weeks because this is where things get tough. Really tough. The body feels more and more tired after clocking up all these miles. The brain gets bored and then scared and then bored again. From here in, it’s hard work. This is the equivalent of the 17 to 20 mile stage in the marathon, aka hitting the wall.
I’m fortunate that in actual running terms I’ve only properly hit the wall once which was sadly during my first ever marathon. At 18 miles I was exhausted, my feet were blistered and bleeding, I was cold and feeling very sorry for myself. I wasn’t sure if I could run any more, so I was facing a slow and painful eight mile walk to the finish line.
What got me through it was support from the crowd. Marathon spectators are truly amazing. They shout encouragement at you at exactly the right time. Even just calling out your name and giving a thumbs up is like a magical power boost. At the point where I thought I couldn’t run a single step more, I surfed the energy of the crowd and started to run again. Even though it took almost two hours to run those final eight miles, I finished the race. The power of support is incredible.
When I’m out on those long training runs I must see at least another fifty runners pounding the pavements. I have this great route that takes me along the Thames and once I get through the crowds at the London Eye and cross to the quiet embankment it’s runner central. I see women and men of every age and shape. Some (most) look like proper runners and others look like me: red, sweaty and determined.
I remember when I passed my driving test, my first car was a red Mini. I quickly discovered that other Mini drivers would wave at me as they passed. We’d let each other out at junctions. It was like being a member of a little club where people looked out for each other. I try to do the same with other runners. I’ll smile as we pass each other and it’s always nice when someone smiles back. It’s like a little bit of recognition passes between us - we know what each other is going through. A smile puts a spring in my step. A little lift when I need it most.
The Cavell Nurses' Trust does that on a larger scale, giving acknowledgement and support to people across the country. The only way they can do that is with your help. And by supporting me in my marathon effort, you’re actually supporting a nurse, midwife or healthcare assistant who really needs it. So give a smile, give a wave, and please give a few pounds. Pass it on.
Week Eleven - 17th March
"Or I could run from London to Russia and back."
Hello and welcome to an upbeat and happy blog! I’m having a moment of optimism, or maybe it’s just the endorphins after a run, but things are going well and I’m making the most of it. This weekend’s long run was an “easy” 13 miles which sounds ridiculous when I say that out loud but it’s amazing how much your body gets used to at this stage in training. It’s a nice marker when you notice that a half marathon is the equivalent of a “short” run.
Since I started running back in 2011 I’ve been tracking my progress using one of those fitness apps. I noticed this weekend that my total distance tracked was exactly 3,333 miles. Usually we take notice of nice round numbers like a 40th birthday (see last week’s blog) but there was something about 3,333 that felt really good. It felt like an achievement! When I googled it, turns out that 3,333 miles would take me from London to Canada. Or I could run from London to Russia and back.
So it still confuses me that - if you remember my first blog - “I live this strange dual life where I run marathons but I don’t think of myself as a runner”. When I’ve done marathons in the past, I stand in the crowds at the start and I think “wow look at all those proper runners - what am I doing here?”, and yet I’ve completed six marathons and as we’ve now discovered I’ve practically run to Russia and back. Why do I still not think of myself as a runner?
At the end of 2013 me and Dan went to New York for a few days to celebrate my birthday. We spent an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art, which I love to love even though I don’t quite understand it. Upstairs there was an artist working in a glass fronted studio. She was sculpting shapes out of clay, small egg sized ovals. The door was open and she invited us in to find out more about what she was doing.
Her name was Helena Starcevic and she was a sculptor. She was working on a piece that was about groups and how individuals operate in them. The little egg sized ovals were hollow and she was asking visitors to write a little message that would be put inside one of the eggs. We got chatting and it turned out she had trained as a nurse and had really enjoyed her time nursing. We swapped stories about working in healthcare and she got all nostalgic. She left nursing to train as an artist, inspired by her sister who was also an artist.
What struck me about Helena was she said she still didn’t feel like a proper artist. I reminded her that she was working as an artist, in the New York Museum of Modern Art, and that her business card said “artist”. If you’re looking for clues about what an artist looks like, look no further. It reminded me of how I feel when I’m running a marathon, standing in the start pen, wearing trainers and a running number, feeling like I’m not quite a proper runner. To anyone else, I probably look like a runner.
Helena and I decided that day that “if you do it, you are it” and that was the message I wrote on a piece of tissue paper that would be placed inside a ceramic egg and become part of Helena’s art. I remind myself of that story if I’m feeling a bit of an imposter when I’m out running, or if I’m doubting that I can do it. In just under six weeks time (gulp!) I’ll be testing that out again when I line up at the start line for the 2015 London Marathon.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the fundraising total so far. Please tell your friends and keep it coming! I’m very grateful, and your donations will help a nurse, midwife or healthcare assistant who really needs it.
Sponsor Paul Today!
Week Ten - 9th March
"I want to face this next (and final) marathon with courage even if I’m feeling scared. It’s no coincidence that Courage is one of the Cavell Nurses' Trust core values. Nurses demonstrate it all the time."
When I turned 40, at the end of 2013, I freaked out. For a couple of days, I felt quite scared about getting older and what the future might bring. I hope that there’s more days ahead of me than behind, but still, it’s a marker to take notice of nonetheless. I decided to counter the feeling of being scared by adopting a new mantra for my ‘40s: I Am Fearless. As it turns out, the “year of being 40” was pretty incredible. I achieved a lot, and I was indeed fearless.
When I turned 41, at the end of 2014, I freaked out again. I felt worried that I had peaked, and that 41 would be less interesting or exciting than 40. I felt scared again, and wondered why I Am Fearless wasn’t working. Surely if I repeated it enough it would stick? And here I am again, training for another marathon so surely that shows a lack of fear? So why am I so scared?
I’ve actually decided in the first few months of 2015 that I Am Fearless doesn’t work for me any more. When I look back over the “year of being 40” I think I was actually quite arrogant. Maybe a bit too cocky about what I could achieve. I was captain of my own ship and determined to do everything I wanted to. And, mostly, it worked. I Am Fearless served it’s purpose, but I think it distanced me from other people. I don’t want it to work like that any more.
I feel quite scared about the 2015 London Marathon. Although this’ll be my seventh marathon, they are all so different. And I’m another year older than when I did my last marathon. I’m three years older than when I did my first. In the time I’ve been marathon running I’ve covered more than 3,000 miles in training runs. That gives me confidence, but it also makes me realise that I’ve put my body through a lot. I’m feeling the fear.
So instead, this year, I’ve decided to be courageous instead of fearless. Courageous means seeing the fear and embracing it; inviting it in; dancing with it. Courageous means asking for help when it’s needed. Courageous is ‘together’ while fearless is ‘alone’. I want to face this next (and final) marathon with courage even if I’m feeling scared. It’s no coincidence that Courage is one of the Cavell Nurses' Trust core values. Nurses demonstrate it all the time.
Last Saturday I pulled on my trainers, took a deep breath and set out to run 18 miles. I was very nervous. It’s the longest run of the training so far and I was dreading it all week. If I had pretended to be fearless I would have ignored all those feelings and shut them out. Instead, I stepped into my courage and took those feelings for a run. I came home, three hours later, beaming with pride. I did it and I enjoyed it. Courage prevailed.
I’m running this marathon to help all of the Nurses, Midwives and Healthcare Assistants who need support from Cavell Nurses' Trust, and I can’t do that without your help. I would be humbled and delighted if you would donate to this fantastic cause.
Every pound that is donated gives my feet wings, and more importantly it helps a Nurse, Midwife or Healthcare Assistant who really needs it, at a time when they might be running low on courage themselves.
Please help me to help them and give whatever you can. Thank you!
Week Nine - 2nd March
"The only real option is to stand up, dust myself off and carry on."
So did you see Madonna at the Brit Awards? As a self-confessed true blue fan I watched with my mouth wide open as she took a tumble down the steps, felled by the knotted string of her cape. It was interesting to watch Twitter explode and immediately divide into two camps - one full of people going “Ha Ha” and the other praising her ability to get back up and finish the song. I found myself in a different camp, thinking, why did she not do something when she realised what was happening? If you watch the video you can see her tugging at the string with a tiny flash of realisation in her eyes. She knew something was going wrong. Why didn’t she do something?
You don’t have to be Madonna to experience those niggle moments. Something will bother you, preoccupy your mind, make you feel a bit anxious. They range from “did I leave the iron on” to “how am I going to have that difficult conversation that I’m putting off”. In running terms, a niggle can be a pre-pre-cursor to a serious injury. They happen now and again in the form of a clicky knee or a bit of hip pain or a twinging ankle. We talk about them as minor niggles. We usually ignore them. Sometimes we get them checked out, just to put our mind at rest. Most of the time they’re not that serious, but if left unchecked they can lead to an epic fall.
I’ve had a couple of little niggles over the last week. Actually, I’ve had three and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that it’s been knee, hip and ankle related. Occasionally over the past few days I’ll feel a little pain as I step off the pavement, or hear a funny noise coming from my knee as I climb the stairs. Of course, I ignore it and put it to the back of my mind. I haven’t actually done much running this week as we were in Berlin for Dan’s birthday so I missed three runs (the guilt… the guilt!) which means I’m feeling quite nervous about next weekend’s planned 18 miler. Oh and while I’m in confessional mode, I’ve eaten quite a lot of birthday cake and I even had some Haribo in Germany on the principle that it doesn’t count when you’re in a different country. And add to that I don’t feel like I’m doing very well with my Cavell Nurses' Trust Fundraising. I really should be doing better.
Oh dear, my head runneth over. Marathon training is like a minefield of the mind. It’s an exercise in resilience of both body and brain. Usually for me I can keep one going if the other gets a bit wobbly but it feels like I’m not doing well on either side at the moment. My body is sore and my brain is struggling. Maybe these aren’t niggles after all. Maybe I’m already on the floor. It doesn’t take long to go from one to the other. It can happen without even noticing.
So now what? Well, I could either lie here feeling sorry for myself, maybe have a bit of a cry and eat some more cake. I’m not entirely convinced it would help though. The only real option is to stand up, dust myself off and carry on. It might feel a bit shaky at first but it’s better to move forward slowly than stay still. Marathon training feels impossible at times. To get through it you have to convince yourself that you’re somehow a little bit super human, when actually you’re not. It’s important to tend to the niggles and not pretend they’ll go away. Do you know what I mean? Are you carrying around any little worries that you should be attending to? Maybe now’s the time to do it. If you need to feel brave, pull your pants on over your tights and put your super hero cape on. Just remember not to tie it too tight.
Week Eight - 23rd February
"The half way point is strange. So the only way to deal with it, like much of life itself, is just to keep going in the right direction. Keep going. Just keep going."
We’re half way through the training folks, as it’s now just eight and a bit weeks until the big day. Half-way points are strange things. On one hand you have a whole half way under your belt to look back on and feel good about, but then there’s a whole other half ahead waiting to be done.
Let’s stay on the glass half full side of the argument and have a quick recap over the last eight weeks of training to see what progress has been made:
• During the first week of training in January I had to lie down after a three mile run. This weekend just gone, seven weeks later, I did a 16 mile run and felt pretty good afterwards.
• Since the start of January I’ve lost 11lbs.
• I feel more confident in my ability to get through the training plan, compared to a total feeling of doom at the beginning.
• People have very kindly started to donate money (thank you!) which is great for me and even better for Cavell Nurses' Trust. I do need more though. Seriously. Keep it coming!
And just to balance the debate, here’s the stuff that’s on my mind when I think about what’s coming in the next eight weeks:
• The training runs keep getting longer each week. Between now and the end of April I’ll be running at least a half marathon every single Saturday. That’s a bit scary.
• Longer runs are great for building strength and stamina, but there’s a weird thing that happens as you get further into the training. It’s much more tiring to run long distances all the time. So you’re fitter, but too knackered to go to the pub and brag about it.
• My poor husband sees less and less of me every week. Maybe that’s a good thing (?) but it’s quite tough on him to have to plan his weekends around my running timetable. Also the fact I can be a bit moody after a long run because I’m hungry. I have made a pinky promise for those reasons that this will indeed be my last marathon. Remind me of that.
• There’s still another 9lbs of weight loss to go if I’m to hit my target before the end of April. I miss Haribo so much I could weep at the thought of a licking a Tangfastic.
One of the other things that becomes a bit of an obsession at this point is time management. I think it’s probably fair to say that marathon training is a three way juggling act of dedication, perspiration and administration. If you’re thinking about running a marathon - and I do highly recommend it, particularly in support of Cavell Nurses' Trust - then be ready to get good at organising your diary. Sometimes it feels like running into the wind, literally and metaphorically. There’s lots of stuff demanding your attention like work and family and studying and friends who are bored of your excuses for not meeting up because you’re tired / out running / not drinking / slumped in front of the TV.
Like I said at the start of this week’s blog, the half way point is strange. So the only way to deal with it, like much of life itself, is just to keep going in the right direction. Keep going. Just keep going.
Please sponsor Paul as he prepares for the 26.2mile London Marathon!
Week Seven - 16th February
"Picture me doing a Macaulay Culkin ‘Home Alone’ face and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how it felt..."
It’s now officially less than 10 weeks until the London Marathon. Picture me doing a Macaulay Culkin ‘Home Alone’ face and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how it felt to discover that. I realised the date when I was running at the weekend, going through a bored patch. It’s actually quite hard sometimes to stay focused during a longer run, and little maths sums help keep the brain turned on. During Saturday’s 13 mile run I also worked out how many days I have been alive (approximately 15,200 ish) and how many months until I hit retirement age (509).
Those sorts of maths problems come in handy when the brain keeps telling the feet to stop because it’s cold and rainy and there’s still another 8 miles to go. I quite enjoy finding things to think about when I’m running as a way of distracting the voice that whispers “just sit down and eat a pie”.
One of the other techniques I use is to try and notice as much as possible when I’m running. That one is a bit of a cheat, because I live in the middle of London and a 13 mile run takes me past St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, the London Eye, Parliament and lots of other pretty buildings. I also run past a lot of people. Lots and lots of people. Here’s what I noticed about people this weekend:
• The number of couples in ‘kissing pose’ rose by around 600% on Valentine’s Day compared to an average Saturday in London.
• Men’s jeans are getting ridiculously tight. Skinny jeans are starting to look like they’ve been painted on. I would immediately win a ‘mutton’ award if I attempted to wear them.
• The Selfie Stick is officially a thing now. It’s bad enough trying to weave in and out of people taking photos of themselves on their phones but now I have the added risk of being decapitated by the wand of narcissus.
• People, like gas, expand to fill space. I’m fascinated by the spaces between people as they walk together. Some couples keep cosy and close by holding hands or arms, while others are separated by the whole pavement. I can literally run between them and they don’t notice.
Although I often moan about those long (cold) runs at the weekend, it’s such a fantastic opportunity to think. It’s two and a bit hours where I don’t have to talk to anyone or answer emails or empty the tumble drier. It makes me realise that when I’m not in training for a marathon, I don’t really give myself much time to think. I’m always doing stuff, which is fine, but there’s something incredibly special about time spent in the brain, thinking. I get so much done on a long run. I think of it like playing a game of mental Tetris. I try to fit things into place, planning what needs to be done, organising my thoughts. I even write my weekly marathon blog in my head when I’m running. Running is good for the brain. And without wanting to toot my own horn too much, my legs are starting to look pretty good too. Maybe getting into those skinny jeans isn’t totally impossible after all…
Please sponsor Paul as he prepares for the 26.2mile London Marathon!
Week Six - 10th February
"There are times when we fall into hardship - and that’s where Cavell Nurses’ Trust can help - but when the sun's shining, we should be fixing the roof."
Running gives you spots. You won’t read that in any book on Marathon Training but believe me, it’s a fact. Of course it could just be me. Maybe I’m just an excessively sweaty human being, who knows, but I’m currently sporting a massive spotty nose which I’m convinced has only happened since I started running longer distances. After a 13.1 mile run on Saturday I looked in the mirror and stared into the blotchy red face of a 41 year old man with acne. I’m having a second teenage phase. What’s next? A crush on One Direction? Snapchatting? Saying hashtag out loud?
I did actually have a couple of moments this week when I thought “I’m too old for this marathon lark”. The distances of each run are rapidly getting longer. Back in Week One when I was moaning about having to run a total of 17 miles I should have counted myself lucky. Last week I ran 26 miles, and this week’s plan is to do 31. It’s getting serious. And when the going gets tough, I start procrastinating. It took me two hours to get ready for my run on Saturday and the run itself took 2 hours 17 minutes. I spent almost as much time rearranging furniture as I did running. I had an achey ankle and a niggly back this weekend. I was really feeling my age.
And then my friend Nicole posted a photo on Facebook that made me stop and think. She had just been out for a run with her 77 year old father-in-law. They both looked happy, healthy and amazing. It put my pitiful whinging into perspective. I decided to be grateful that I can run now, and hope that I can still run in the year 2050 when I’m 77.
Isn’t it weird what tricks our brains play on us and sabotage our progress? Yes, there are times when things are out of our control and we fall into hardship - and that’s where Cavell Nurses’ Trust can help - but for the times when the sun is shining, that’s when we should be fixing the roof. If we are lucky enough to have the ability to run, we should run, even when everyone else is running faster or looks better in lycra (I’m planning a blog on the horrors of lycra running tights for men...stay tuned). The great thing about running is it’s totally free. No gym membership required just a pair of trainers and, apparently, some tea tree face scrub for after.
I’m lucky to be supporting the Cavell Nurses’ Trust at the London Marathon this year. I’m lucky to be able to get out there and run. It’s time I started acting my age and stopped moaning like a sulky teenager. Now if you could just remind me of that next time I have a long run to do I would be most grateful. You can send encouragement and / or nag me on Twitter @NHSE_PaulT hashtag stop moaning and run.
Please sponsor Paul as he prepares for the 26.2mile London Marathon!
Week Five - 2nd February
"Running is 60% psychological and the rest is in your head...."
How do you reward yourself when you’ve done something you’re pleased about? I was reflecting on this during my long run this weekend (FYI: 12 miles, cold but good). I had to run past the London Human Race 10k which was going through the city and I had a serious case of medal envy. It got me thinking about why we do the things we do and where we get our rewards from. I come from the Muttley School of Motivation which usually ends in someone asking “What do you want, a medal?” to which I always reply “Yes”. It’s one of the bonuses that comes with running - there’s usually a medal at the end of it.
In my quest to become fitter and healthier this year I’ve cut out sweets, biscuits and chocolate. I’ve also been doing Dry January, so no booze for a month. It’s really made me question the way I’ve been ‘rewarding’ myself. After a day in the Leeds office, I would always buy myself a little bag of Haribo for the train journey back to London. At the weekend, we’d go out for cake and coffee after a long week. On a Saturday evening, maybe a Strawberry Cider to kick back and relax. I’ve literally gone cold turkey on those things in January.
It has been such an eye opener. I’m actually not much of a drinker so Dry January hasn’t really been a big thing for me, but Healthy January has made me realise how much I rely on food to reward myself at various points in the day. Taking away all those little ‘treats’ has helped me to notice the various moments when I need to somehow pat myself on the back instead of tipping something in my mouth.
I remember reading a quote once (unfortunately I can’t remember who said it) along the lines of “Running is 60% psychological and the rest is in your head”. It’s very true! What I’ve noticed over the last five weeks is that I am getting fitter mentally as well as physically. I’m paying more attention to my thoughts and how they impact me. The SimpliFit app set me a goal of ‘practicing self compassion’ every day which means basically stop giving yourself a hard time about things. I’ve noticed how loud that little voice in my head can be. Do you know what I mean? It’s like a nasty neighbour leaning over the fence and shouting little insults at you. “You aren’t a proper runner” and “Why don’t you just stay in tonight instead of going to the gym” and “Hey chunky you’re never going to be skinny so why not just eat that cake and be done with it”. When I started noticing how often the nasty neighbour shouts over the fence, I decided to give him a name. Trevor. Now, when I hear Trevor making comments I just ignore him and get on with what I’m doing. What a difference! You should try it. Do you have a nasty neighbour in your head? Name and shame them!
Back on the subject of rewards, the Cavell Trust is running the School Nursing Awards which celebrate excellence, leadership and Innovation in School Nursing. It’s a great way to recognise and celebrate the difference that School Nurses make.
Find out about the School Nursing Awards
Week Four - 26th January
"After losing half a stone it would be so easy to kick back and neck a couple of Creme Eggs as a reward. And I've been tempted."
Mark the calendar - at 19:26 on Tuesday 20th January, for the first time this year, I felt better after a run than before I started. At the end of five miles I was sweaty but triumphant. It may seem like a small victory but it's a significant shift in training terms. Most of the runs I've done so far this year have left me feeling depleted, tired and worried. They've made me anxious that maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew this time. So I can't tell you how relieved I was last Tuesday when I came off the treadmill and felt great. And the good feelings didn't stop there. Oh no. They just kept on coming.
I finished the week with a strong ten mile run which felt easier than last week's seven mile run, which is weird but I'm not complaining. It was really cold and I should have worn a little hat but it was fine. At one point I saw a woman walking along the road holding a cat in a pet carrier and I started to cry (see blog week one) but I dug deep and kept running.
And then this morning, weigh-in day, I stepped onto the scales nervously and it said I had lost six pounds over the last seven days. Quite a surprise! It gave me a little spring in my step this morning and reaffirmed that I am on the right track. Happy days indeed.
So far so good right? Shouldn't I just finish with a flourish and see you again next week? Well, there's a nagging voice at the back of my brain that won't let me do that. It would be all too easy to think of this weekly blog as a good news story that gets better every week. It would be tempting to think that. But marathon training, like so many other things in life, is not just a straight line from A to B. It's tough. I'm enjoying this feeling of progress and happiness because I know that next week might be different. Resilience, both physical and mental, is such an important part of this challenge. After losing half a stone it would be so easy to kick back and neck a couple of Creme Eggs as a reward. And I've been tempted. Staying focused when the going's good is often harder than the grit and determination that comes with adversity.
In other news, I'm still having "goals" set for me by the Simplifit app. I'm now drinking six glasses of water a day (unheard of for me), I'm switching off all my electronic devices half an hour before bed (and sleeping like a baby) and it's now set me the challenge of practising self-compassion on a daily basis eg stop beating myself up over silly things. That one has been quite an eye opener. I didn't realise how loud that critical inner voice can get. More on that next week!
One more thing before I go... You may have noticed it's the end of the month and you may have finally been paid after the barren financial wasteland that is January. If you have a few spare pounds, or pence, I'd be delighted if you'd help me support the Cavell Trust by donating at www.virginmoneygiving.com/paultaylor2015 and if you can't afford it yourself right now, pass the link to someone who can.
Stay well this week and be kind to yourselves.
Week Three - 20th January
"A colleague in the office said I was “glowing” but I could put that down to the Boots For Men Gradual Tan Moisturiser."
Monday morning now has a new way of striking fear in my heart…the weekly weigh in! This morning started with me stepping on the scales to see how a week of being ‘healthy’ had affected my weight. But more on that later!
I mentioned in my last blog that I was using a new app called Simplifit to help me with some healthy goals. Last week it set me two goals: cardio three times a week, and drink 4 glasses of water a day. Cardio target was easily met due to marathon training so, like the Borg of the fitness world, the app increased the goal to five times a week. Sneaky.
I complied with drinking 4 glasses of water a day for three days and despite having to run to the toilet pretty much every 17 minutes I started to feel quite good about it. A colleague in the office said I was “glowing” but I could put that down to the Boots For Men Gradual Tan Moisturiser I started wearing. The app quickly upped the goal to five glasses of water a day. I’m considering a catheter, but I do actually feel really good. I have reduced my Diet Coke intake to practically nothing which is amazing for me! The app has since added a new goal which was about sleep patterns. The app has banned me from using any electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime. I’m interested to see if I feel any different in a week.
In terms of food I’ve been sticking to a pretty healthy diet although I had one or two biscuits during the week when my blood sugar felt like it was in my shoes. I do find it interesting that in those moments of EXTREME HUNGER it’s very rare that I’ll crave a plum or a carrot. I almost had to walk around Tesco Metro with my eyes closed the other day. It was all Haribo! Creme Eggs! Ben and Jerrys! Those are a few of my favourite things. I’m quite proud of myself for going cold turkey on the sweets though. It’s a small but important achievement.
So how has the marathon training been? Well, sort of difficult actually, but getting better. Three mile run last Tuesday was a slog. Afterwards I felt sick, turned green and fell asleep on the sofa for two hours. That was new and unexpected. On Wednesday I ran four miles, although I did have to walk some of it. Three miles on Thursday was easier than expected. By the time Saturday arrived I was feeling nervous about my first long run of the year. I’m a week behind on my training due to illness so instead of doing ten miles I did the sensible thing and did what I should have done last week which was seven miles. And I managed it! It was freezing, and I did everything I could to procrastinate before the run, but dear readers I finished it and felt good. Things are looking up.
And what about the scales this morning? Well, after all that water drinking, healthy eating and 17 miles of running, I have lost one pound in a week. I’m assuming that things start slowly and that as time progresses it will get easier, but for now, I’m back on track and heading in the right direction. That’ll do nicely.
Week Two - 12 January
"I love Haribo. I'm going to miss it."
Looking back on my first blog, it wasn’t exactly inspiring was it? I was having a bad week. Thankfully I’m now pretty much over the cold I had, and the cough is almost gone. I’m back at work and feeling almost human again! I’m seeing today as the ‘actual’ new start to the year. Happy new year!
The fresh start started with a weigh-in this morning. The scales didn’t quite say “one at a time please” (still one of my favourite jokes ever) but they looked at me with a shifty eye. I was not surprised to see the high figures on the screen but it still made me feel a bit deflated. I need to shift a minimum of 20lb by Marathon Day at the end of April. Twenty pounds! That’s like three babies worth. I had one of those moments where I took a deep breath and told myself it will all be fine, then I sighed and mentally said goodbye to Haribo for the next three months. I love Haribo. I’m going to miss it.
I’ve never been a skinny waif but my weight has had ups and downs over the years. At the moment it’s a pretty high up. This is partly down to a week of all-inclusive holiday eating and drinking at the beginning of December, munching my way through Christmas like the Hungry Caterpillar and then a week of lying around in bed feeling ill. I’m hoping that in this case, the only way is down.
I haven’t done any exercise at all for two weeks, which means I’ve missed the first week of marathon training in 2015. The training at this stage is semi-serious but it quickly ramps up to scary distances. This week’s schedule is three times three mile runs plus one long run at the weekend of ten miles. That’s already making me nervous! I haven’t done a double digit run for more than 8 months. I’ve made a new running playlist with lots of motivational music like the Rocky theme.
I feel quite positive though. I decided I needed a bit of help with my goals so I downloaded a new app today called SimpliFit. It’s a free app and it’s all about changing habits. The app has set me two goals for this week which are to drink four glasses of water a day and exercise at least three times. I’m a serious coffee drinker and I hardly ever drink water so I’m curious to see if it makes any difference.
So, this week is already better than last week and I’m feeling a bit more focused. My mojo is on the way back.
Do you have any good tips for healthy eating and weight loss? I could use some advice!
Week One - 5 January
"I'm going to need to dig deep."
Welcome to 2015 and my first Marathon Blog for Cavell Nurse’s Trust. My name is Paul Taylor and I’m over the moon to be running for this fantastic charity. Let me tell you a bit about me.
I turned 41 in December, I work for NHS Employers, I live in London with my husband and I have completed seven marathons since my first in 2012. I’ll let you into a secret. I hate running. I live this strange dual life where I run marathons but I don’t think of myself as a runner. I still can’t quite believe that I there’s a bunch of medals hanging up on the wardrobe door that belong to me. I often wonder if someone left them there by accident.
But I love a challenge and I like the discipline that’s needed to train for and run a marathon. I enjoy the amazing feelings of achievement that I get every time I finish a run, whether it’s a mile or 26.2 of them. I’m not naturally lean or fit so I appreciate the health and wellness benefits that come from running. And I do love a medal. So actually, marathon running is quite good for me.
It does often feel like a bit of an uphill struggle though. The worst part of any run is the moment before I put my trainers on. I’ll find absolutely an