Run Fatblog Run (Whitchurch)

run-fatboy-run

Last Sunday, I took part in the third event of my 10 x 10k charity challenge – in Whitchurch, Shropshire – and those of you who know me in ‘real life’, will probably be aware by now that things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

If you haven’t read any of the previous entries from this challenge (for the races at Oulton Park and, more recently, Poynton), let me summarise my targets:

  1. To run ten 10k events in 2018 – raising money for Kidscan;
  2. To complete them all in under fifty minutes;
  3. To finish in the top-third of entrants for each race;
  4. To not cry or shit myself.

Whilst those targets still remain intact following the Whitchurch 10k last weekend (although #4 was borderline for a while), I have decided – for health reasons – to relax my expectations for the remaining seven events.

Let me explain why.

Firstly, with each new race so far, the courses have become increasingly tougher, to the point that Whitchurch was ridiculously uphill in parts, fast downhill in others, and with very little ‘flat’ terrain in between. Now, whilst I accept the courses becoming tougher is entirely coincidental, and has nothing to do with my fitness deteriorating (contrary to what I am about to tell you, I am getting fitter), I am dreading the remaining races being even worse. At this rate, I’ll be running up Kilimanjaro for the final event.

Secondly, despite the fact the course took its toll on me, to the point my breathing was laboured as I re-entered the grounds of Sir John Talbot School (where the start and finish line was situated), I still decided I had just enough energy left for a sprint finish – and this, in hindsight, was a terrible idea.

I’m not sure whether it was because I started my sprint too soon, but with about fifty metres to go I began to struggle. I couldn’t breathe, I was completely drained, and it took every ounce of my concentration to force myself toward the finish line.

Sadly, I didn’t quite make it.

With no more than ten metres left, my legs suddenly buckled, and I hit the floor (which was fortunately grass). I then vaguely remember the announcer shouting my name out, urging me to get up and reach the finish line, but when I tried to move, I couldn’t even kneel, let alone stand and run.

The next thing I knew, a fellow runner knelt beside me, put my arm around his neck and lifted me to my feet – he was not going to let me give up (even though, having essentially dragged me half way home, he told me I was going to have to do some of the work, as I was getting ‘fucking heavy’). I have since discovered that this man was Mike Glover, and he sacrificed his own time and position to make sure I finished the race. If I ever track Mike down, I owe him a pint or two.

Anyway, I have a vague recollection of collapsing over the finish line, and the next ten minutes or so is a blur. I’ve been told a kind lady watched the boys, so that Jen could run over with a paramedic; and the fact I was almost unconscious, entirely grey, and unable to communicate, gave everyone cause for concern.

The next thing I remember, is lying on a stretcher in the medical tent, hooked up to machines and being given oxygen. To cut a long story short, I spent the next two hours undergoing tests, before being informed that:

  1. A runner’s heart rate should ideally drop back below 100bpm within minutes of finishing a race, whereas mine was still above 120bpm two hours later;
  2. My ECG results were ‘erratic’;
  3. My temperature had gone through the roof.

Most worrying of all, I was told that the valves in my heart weren’t working properly, so whilst the heart should normally operate like this…

… mine was so overworked, and racing so fast, that the second set of valves were opening before the first had closed. This meant that, rather than work as a pump, my heart was operating more like a tube, letting blood simply flow through it without becoming oxidised – and blood without oxygen, is about as useful as tits on fish.

For obvious reasons, the paramedics were not going to let me drive myself (and, more importantly, my family) back home, and they insisted that I go in an ambulance to hospital.

I won’t bore you with a lot of what happened next, save to say some friends of ours – Chris and Vanessa – were kind enough to drive from Sandbach to Whitchurch to collect my family and get them home, while I went off to Telford A&E.

I remained there for the next eight hours, undergoing further ECGs and blood tests, before the most elusive doctor in medical history finally turned up to recommend that I stay in overnight. This, as you can imagine, was disappointing news (read: I was livid), because I was still sweaty and muddy from the run, had no change of clothes, very little money, and my phone battery was nearly dead. As a result, getting home the next day was going to be difficult, and since I had been informed earlier that I was probably being discharged, I had already organised transport home (via a good friend of mine, Emerson, who had very kindly gone well out of his way to collect me).

Whilst I would not ordinarily go against medical advice, I genuinely felt ok by that point (albeit starving, as I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours), and I wanted more than anything to go home, so I decided to discharge myself. It would be fair to say the doctor didn’t take this well, but I’m not sure whether this was because she was genuinely concerned for my health, or because she didn’t like being questioned.

Either way, she reluctantly agreed to provide discharge forms, if I promised to go to my GP on Monday – which I hastily accepted; although, by that point, I would have agreed to paint her house, if it meant getting the fuck out of there.

I did go to my GP the following day, and was immediately (and annoyingly) referred to our local hospital in Crewe for more tests. There, I had yet another ECG scan, the remainder of what little blood I had left was drained for testing, and numerous other checks were undertaken, before I was reassured that all the worrying signs had thankfully subsided.

Unfortunately, they had been replaced by high CK levels (whatever they are), and the fact I was now dehydrated, so my kidneys apparently weren’t working properly. I tried to point out that they had only given me one small drink in six hours, so it was no wonder I was dehydrated, but the consultant was having none of it – I was staying in overnight.

Within an hour or so, I was moved to a bay of six beds, with five other men who were all well into their eighties, and seemingly not long for this world. I genuinely feared I might be the only one of us to make it through the night, and so I took it upon myself to make sure we were all alive come sunrise. More on that, next week.

For now, I’ll leave you with the ratings for the Whitchurch 10k, and promise you that – after what I’ve been through – I will not be pushing myself to run the remaining races in under fifty minutes. I’d still like to run them all, rather than walk, but I will not be risking my health again. It’s simply not worth it.

Time: 47:50 (a new PB – by some margin, whoops!)

Position: 135th (out of 691)

Cost: £15.50 (very reasonable)

Course: The worst yet. Very little flat running, extremely steep hills, plus a start/finish on wet grass. It was incredibly well marshaled, with fantastic support from the locals, but you could marshal the Himalayas, and it still wouldn’t mean I’d want to run up and down them 5/10

Weather: Dry, sunny and just warm enough – virtually perfect 9/10

Organisation: A digital race pack was sent out with a week to go, although (as with Poynton) the organisers left it until then to confirm earphones were banned. There was also an issue with some missing race numbers on the day, but by all accounts that wasn’t the organisers’ fault 7/10

Official Photos: They haven’t been uploaded yet, which is disappointing, so I can’t possibly comment on the quality. That said, I’m in no rush to see myself being carried over the finish line, and at least they are apparently free (you reading this, Poynton 10k?) 5/10

Here are some photos my wife took before the race instead….

Medal: Very smart, and again made of metal 7/10

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Goody-bag: The best yet – not only did we get an actual goody bag (with snacks, sweets, and a voucher for half a pint in a local Whitchurch pub), but we were also given a smart ‘technical’ running shirt. In fact, our boys were apparently so well-behaved, while I was receiving treatment in the medical tent, the organisers decided to give them a shirt each as well:

Take note, other events, this is how you do a goody-bag 9/10

Post-race refreshment: Now, I’m struggling here, as I was semi-conscious and missed out on the post-race delicacies, but I heard whispers of jelly babies at one point, and there was definitely fruit and water on offer. Seemingly standard fayre for most events, and the snacks in the goody bag were already more than enough 7/10

Summary:

Course – 5/10

Weather – 9/10

Organisation – 7/10

Photos – 5/10

Medal – 7/10

Goody-bag – 9/10

Refreshments – 7/10

Giving Whitchurch a score of 49/70 (or 70%), placing it firmly in the lead, ahead of Oulton Park and then Poynton.

Next is the Tatton Park 10k at the start of May, and, as ever, if you’d like to sponsor me (because, in all honesty, this running nearly killed me last Sunday), here’s my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Next week, I’ll be telling you all about my hospital adventures with five very old men. Trust me, you don’t want to miss that one.

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Thanks for reading x

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Run, FatBlog, Run

Run Fatboy Run

You may recall that, a few months ago, I took up running again (https://middlerageddad.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/light-blogging/).

Well, I call it running, but most serious runners would probably refer to it as ‘moderately quick walking’, because my average speed is around 7.5 miles an hour – which isn’t even twice as fast as my normal walking pace. To be honest, I feel a bit embarrassed saying I have been for a run, when there were mobility scooters overtaking me.

That said, if I could run a marathon at that pace (or at all), I would be extremely pleased, as I am currently more concerned with working on my distances and stamina, rather than my speed. The problem is, my distances and stamina are crap too.

When I first started running again, I had a nice little two-mile circuit mapped out, to ease me back into the metaphorical saddle after a decade’s absence. The plan was to increase this gradually, to the point where I was firstly winning half-marathons, then full marathons, and ultimately taking Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

These were perhaps unrealistic ambitions, particularly for a 37-year-old man with the spine and knees of an arthritic pensioner, but I had hoped to reach the stage where I could at least run a half-marathon without embarrassing myself (and, for what it’s worth, I would define ‘embarrassing’ as collapsing in the street, sobbing, and then alternating between vomiting and shitting myself). Alas, after four months of ‘training’, I am now prepared to admit that there is more chance of me doing a skydive than a half marathon – and there is zero fucking chance of me ever doing a skydive.

The fact is, having run twice a week since March, I am now able to (just about) complete a four-and-a-half-mile circuit, before my body completely shuts down, and it takes all my remaining focus and energy not to revisit every meal from the previous 48 hours. This isn’t an exaggeration. I ran four-and-a-half miles for the first time a few weeks ago, and after a shower – where I spent most of the time wishing we had installed a panic button/emergency cord in the downstairs loo – it took me fourteen minutes to put my pants and socks on (my stopwatch was still running).

I do accept that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and these things take time, commitment and perseverance, but that also fails to acknowledge just how truly terrible I am at this. Also, I don’t have a great deal of time, even less commitment, and absolutely no perseverance whatsoever.

To be honest, it saddens me to think I am never going to be a good long-distance runner. At 6’3″, with the sort of legs an Ethiopian marathon runner can only dream of (except for the utterly knackered knees, and the fact that my pasty white skin would look ridiculous on an Ethiopian – like he’d been dipped to his waist in Dulux Emulsion), I genuinely thought I might be suited to long distance running. This was supposed to be my sport.

Unfortunately, unless I am going to break through a physical barrier sometime soon, whereupon everything will suddenly click into place, then running half-marathons (let alone full marathons), will forever elude me. In fact, the only chance I have of anything clicking into place right now, is my hip clicking into my spinal cord.

A few weeks ago, when I bravely/naively/stupidly chose to add a ‘bonus’ section onto my three-mile circuit, turning it into four and a half miles, I suddenly became quite upbeat about running, and wondered whether I had perhaps underestimated my capabilities. Sure, I felt like dying afterwards, but four and a half miles felt like the sort of distance where you transform from merely a casual jogger, into a more serious runner. However, I now realise that this is complete bullshit. Serious runners would see four and a half miles, as something they do in their jeans when they nip to the shops to pick up milk.

I briefly toyed with the idea of joining my local running group (‘Sandbach Striders’), for some moral support, to meet new people, and with the incentive of making myself a better runner. However, once I checked out their website, and saw that they start at five mile runs and work from there, I just knew I would be out of my depth.

No matter how much I am sure they would try to make me feel welcome, and would almost certainly not ridicule me for my dreadful fitness levels and stamina, if they consider running five miles as ‘beginner-level’, then I would feel like I was struggling (and a failure) from the word go. Imagine if I joined them, and then looked like this:

After all, it’s only a matter of weeks since I was ritually humiliated by a group of badminton playing pensioners, so if I were to now find myself struggling to keep up with an 80-year-old jogger, I think the final shred of my sporting self-confidence would desert me.

Then, last week, I came across an article discussing top tips for marathon running. I would normally treat such an article with (wholly uncharacteristic) scorn, but when I noticed it was written by Amy Hughes – no, me neither, but she apparently holds the world record for running 53 marathons in 53 days, so she’s clearly very experienced in distance running, as well as being a fucking lunatic – I decided to give it a read. After all, I have no intention of running a marathon any time soon (well, ever), but felt the tips might help with long-distance running in general, and I regard four miles as long-distance running.

Unfortunately, her ten tips turned out to be largely useless to me….

1. Vaseline your boobs and balls

Good start. I assume that men and women are generally expected to grease only one of these body parts (although, I am rapidly acquiring a delightful pair of man-breasts), but even taking that into account, if I am applying copious amounts of Vaseline to my danglies, the last thing I want to do is then leave the house and go for a run.

2. Don’t eat everything you’re given

Frankly, this is far better advice for my life in general, than for any long-distance running, but I anticipate she means the food which marshals hand out during marathons. No problem there, because the closest I will ever get to a race marshal handing out food, is the chippy near Sandbach train station (which I sometimes run past). Plus, I don’t like bananas anyway.

3. Create a mantra

Give me strength (that’s not mine, by the way).

Her suggestion? ‘You are strong. You are fearless. Don’t stop.’

Now, let’s be honest, if you ran past someone uttering that to themselves during a marathon, you would have to sacrifice your race time by a few extra seconds, in order to stop and laugh at them.

That said, I do have a sort of mantra when I run, but it’s more stick than carrot, and generally involves something like ‘if you don’t get to that next lamppost, you’re a fucking disgrace.’

4. You’re not doing this alone

I bloody am. It’s not a three-legged race, is it?

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5. Head to the loo early

Apparently, this is to combat nerves before a marathon, and because the portable toilets only deteriorate in queue-length (and stench), the nearer you get to the start of the race. Not a problem, as I have no intention of entering any marathons. Besides, my current circuit is pretty deserted, so if I do reach critical bowel mass whilst running, I’ll just have to Paula Radcliffe it by the side of the road.

6. The crowds carry you through

Again, not much help to non-competitive runners. The only crowds I encounter on my route, are families and groups of teenagers, who insist on walking four abreast along the pavement – even once they have seen me – and then appear upset when I shout at them.

7. Get used to dodging bottles

I thought bottle throwing was something morons did at gigs (having usually filled them with urine), but apparently it is common for marathon runners to get hit by discarded bottles too, especially just after a fuelling station. So, as if the twenty-six miles weren’t incentive enough to avoid running marathons, we can now add ‘dodging plastic missiles’ and ‘leaping over someone taking a shit by the side of the road’ into the equation. Are all marathon runners complete sadists?

8. Don’t be embarrassed to flaunt your medal

Fear not, Amy. If I ever completed a marathon and got given a medal, I’d be dining out on that personal achievement for the next decade.

9. The runner’s high is real

Give it a rest, love. That’s delirium and dehydration setting in, not euphoria at running a long way (it might also be the side-effects of potassium poisoning, from all the bananas you scoffed en route).

10. You will walk like John Wayne for about a week

Well, I currently do that after just three miles, so I think I can handle it.

And people do this for fun?

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Addendum:

All joking aside, I am in awe of anyone who can run a marathon, let alone what this (admittedly insane) lady has achieved. Sadly, no matter how many people claim it is purely mind over matter, and anyone can run a marathon if they train hard, they haven’t seen me run.

Nevertheless, since writing this week’s entry, I have rather impulsively (and foolishly) registered to take part in a local 5k ‘park run’ tomorrow morning. Most of my brain is now telling me this is a terrible idea, and I will embarrass myself, but there is a tiny neglected section, hidden somewhere at the back (my confidence), which keeps whispering that I can run 3 miles, I’m not that slow, and above all else…

I am strong. I am fearless. I won’t stop.

Now, where did I leave that Vaseline?

(Credit: Many thanks to my good friend Ant Longson, for mocking up the film poster at the start of this week’s entry for me. The fact that he accepts my strange requests, without even flinching, is testament to what a strange man he is. Which is undoubtedly why we get along so well).

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Light Blogging

This week’s entry is about running.

Look, I’m not delighted with the title either. It’s meant to be a reference to ‘light jogging’, and I am well aware readers may misinterpret the second word to be either ‘dogging’ or, heaven forbid, ‘flogging’, but when the only alternatives I could come up with were ‘Going for a Blog’, ‘Blogging In Public’, and ‘Blogging Bottoms’, you can appreciate my dilemma.

Anyway, I’ve decided to start running again.

Well, strictly speaking, I never gave up. I distinctly recall running for my train to Newcastle a couple of months ago, and have a vague recollection of running to my car the other day when it was raining, but I haven’t run for exercise, or pleasure, in some time (and, in the case of the latter, never, because no one actually enjoys running).

I used to run quite a bit. Only a few miles, around Sandbach, but I got relatively proficient at it. I mastered the whole ‘right, then left, then right again’ routine, to a point that I was moving at a pace faster than mere walking, and after a few months of repeating this exercise a couple of times a week, I even reached a stage where I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to vomit up a lung afterwards.

Then, partly because I was running on pavements, and partly because I had always bought relatively cheap trainers, I began to develop the crumbling spine of an eighty-year-old (at less than half the age). And, if I were to list the medical complaints which scare me the most, my top three – in no particular order – would be my back, anything to do with my gentleman’s equipment, and man-flu (many people would also include their eyesight, but mine went a long time ago, and I’ve given up hope).

Recently, however, I decided to give running another try. This is not a decision I particularly relished, but if I am to halt my ever-expanding waistline, before it gets ridiculous, playing an hour of badminton every Friday simply isn’t enough (particularly when I immediately recover any burnt calories in the pub afterwards).

I got on to the topic of jogging, whilst talking to a colleague at our Christmas party in December, and since she runs regularly, I decided that this made her suitably qualified to offer advice. Admittedly, I was that drunk at the time, I’d have accepted running advice from Jabba The Hutt, but you get the idea.

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Jabba The Hutt – not built for speed

She suggested that, if I was serious about running (I’m not), and I didn’t mind the expense (I do), I should think about going to a specialist shop, and she recommended a place in Alderley Edge. I was initially reluctant, but when she informed me that they film you running on a treadmill, then scientifically analyse your gait, to ensure you purchase the right shoes, this convinced me that they knew what they were doing.

Having mulled it over whilst at the bar, I returned to our table and announced that I was going to follow her advice. I had no great desire to have someone watch me running (I was worried they might laugh, and shout things like “is that how you run?”), but a few minutes of humiliation, seemed a fair price to pay for a (partially) functioning spine.

It was only then, that she (almost dismissively) revealed they make you run in your underwear. The subsequent conversation went a little like this:

“I beg your fucking pardon? They do what?!”

“You have to run in your underwear, so they can properly analyse your gait.”

“My gait is staying very firmly in my trousers, thank you very much.”

“No, seriously, it’s the only way they can assess you.”

“Was it a man who told you this by any chance? I bet he couldn’t believe his luck when someone finally fell for it.”

My decision was reversed. There was no way someone was filming me running in my pants. I would just buy a decent pair of trainers, and they would surely be fine.

However, following a particularly worrying spasm of lower back pain about a month ago (caused as a result of dancing in the shower – the truly embarrassing part being we don’t even have a shower radio, so fuck knows why I was dancing), I once again reconsidered my position, and decided to spend my birthday money on some proper running shoes, to prevent further damage to my back.

I still did not want to run, semi-naked, in front of people, but so long as the treadmill in question wasn’t placed in the shop window, and would remain – along with my underwear – entirely concealed from the public, then maybe I was going to have to accept what the experts would be telling me – and they would be telling me to run in my pants, apparently.

So, a couple of weekends ago, I mentally prepared myself to run on a treadmill for the very first time, selected a pair of particularly ‘secure’ boxers (without a button fly – the embarrassment levels would be high enough anyway, without my lolloping penis making an unwelcome appearance), and off I went. I also opted to wear shorts, rather than jeans, in a vain attempt to look the part (not that jeans would have immediately exposed me as a running novice, mind, and wearing shorts in freezing temperatures just made me look a twat).

When I entered the shop, I was greeted by a pleasant lady, who asked if she could help. I briefly explained about my history of running, and recent back pain, to which she – as anticipated – suggested that they film me on their treadmill, in order to analyse my gait.

Once I had confirmed that there were no treadmills in the window, and I was reasonably confident that my semi-naked jogging would be suitably clandestine (although I made a mental note to ask for the original footage, as I didn’t want my partially-clad derriere appearing on www.gulliblerunnersinpants.com – don’t bother clicking, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist), I reluctantly agreed.

She gave me a pair of ‘neutral’ trainers to start with, and we disappeared down to her basement of jogging-porn, to make our little film together. For security, I took Ollie with me, as I felt certain she wouldn’t try to seduce me in front of my son (regardless of the fact she was at least ten years my senior, and no woman has ever tried to seduce me, child present or otherwise), and I sat him down on a chair, while she got the camera ready.

“Ok, pop yourself on the treadmill when you’re ready.”

“Shall I take my shorts off?”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t you want me in my pants?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Never mind.”

At this point, I made a mental note to give my colleague a severe bollocking, when I got back to work on the Monday.

She then passed me to her male assistant (presumably appalled by my offer of stripping), and he asked whether I was used to running on treadmills. Ah, time to embarrass myself further.

“No, I’m a virgin, sadly.”

“Say again?”

“I mean a treadmill virgin. Not an actual virgin. That’s my son over there. Oh, I’ve had sex before, don’t you worry…”

“Just start walking.”

Now, those of you familiar with treadmills, may not recall your first time on one, but if you do, hopefully you found it as awkward as I did. I have been walking for roughly 36 years now, and never have I felt so weird doing it. I’m not sure what went wrong, perhaps it was the fact I had just tried to strip off (in front of my son), but I forgot how to walk. The closest I have found online, is this:

After about thirty seconds, the assistant gradually increased the speed, until I was running at a fair pace. Not sprinting, but fast enough to make me nervous, because it suddenly struck me that I had no idea how to stop. I panicked, and visualised my face slamming into the controls, before the machine catapulted me into the camera behind me.

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I was also becoming increasingly conscious that I should perhaps have worn a sports bra. It was all rather distracting.

In the end, my fears were unwarranted, because the guy came back over, and despite making some quip about me being a better runner than I was a walker (smart-arse), he gradually slowed the machine, until I was back at walking pace, and then stationary. I had survived.

The lady then returned, and we all watched a thoroughly uninspiring movie of my legs in action. She reassured me that there was nothing unusual about my running style, nor my gait, and actually complemented me on having ‘excellent calf muscles’ (see, ladies, I do have something to offer), before suggesting three pairs of trainers which would be fine.

I was going to opt for the middle-priced pair, because the first ones I had tried on were above what I was happy to spend, and the cheapest were bright yellow (plus, I didn’t want to appear miserly, by immediately choosing the cheapest), but Ollie then pointed out that these would be good for my safety, when running in the dark, and he thought they were ‘cool’. Besides, although they were the cheapest pair of the three, they were still the most expensive trainers I have ever purchased, so the decision was made.

And here they are:

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I have not yet taken these bad boys for a spin (gone running), because my new MP3 player was faulty and had to be returned, but so long as their maiden voyage is more successful than that of the Titanic (and I rather feel that, if I do run headlong into an iceberg, I’m doing it wrong), the prospect no longer fills me with dread.

Oh, and as for my colleague’s lies – about running in underwear – I was determined to get to the bottom of it (excuse the pun), so I confronted her the following week, and told her what had happened.

She immediately started laughing, then explained that it was her podiatrist who had made her run in her underwear, not the shop in Alderley Edge. It transpires that, whilst I was at the bar, deciding to follow her advice, I had missed a change in conversation.

“Oh God, you didn’t try to take your clothes off, did you?”

Erm, no, of course not.

 

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