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First marathon, first blog and first shin splints

12 December 2013

"This stay-at-home mum was in need of a challenge"

So I’m a thirty something mum of two little girls, attempting my first ever marathon. “But when will you have the time?” asked my husband, my mum, my family, my friends, my Facebook “friends”, random people in the street, anyone who would listen to me telling them. 

“I’ll have plenty of time, I’m starting my training with six months to go. No worries!” I was adamant I could do it. This stay-at-home mum was in need of a challenge which didn’t involve nappies, Peppa Pig and the question “Why?” every five seconds. All the better if my new project meant I could raise money for a brilliant charity, Carers UK, whilst becoming super fit and at the same time actually listening to some music which isn’t from the CBeebies album.

"I decided the best course of action was to switch up a gear..."

I’ve been running 10k on a treadmill at the gym every now and again for a few months now, which clearly makes me an ‘expert’ on running, so it didn’t occur to me that I should research at what rate to increase my mileage (which by the way I have now learnt is roughly by 10% per week). As an ‘expert’ I decided the best course of action was to switch up a gear and out of nowhere run a half marathon on the treadmill just to see if I could. The problem was, despite my refusal to admit it, that my left leg and ankle were hurting pretty much from the moment I started.

“But you’ve had these silly little niggles before” I told myself whilst putting to the back of my mind that it was agony. “I’ll just keep going, it will definitely pass.”

But it didn’t. "Hmm, should I run a half marathon? No, best to stop at maybe ten miles. Ok, I’m at ten miles, lets do eleven, yes it still hurts but I don’t get much time away from the kids to run. I should definitely stop at eleven though …or how about I just carry on until twelve? After all, I did get up before my children were even awake (I’m still asking myself why?) to do this run."

Finally, still in pain, I decide that yes I’m going to do it, the half marathon. I finish the full 13.1 miles, the elation, the pride; is everyone in the gym looking at me because they know what I’ve just done? Aerobically I was fit enough, stamina-wise I was on good form. But no, it turns out they are looking at me but because I almost fall off the treadmill and stagger off outside to my car looking like I am about to keel over. Oh, and did I mention I didn’t stretch properly before or after my run either? Whoops, yet another rookie mistake!

"It's time to rest"

I drive home to get ready for my children’s joint first and third birthday party while of course in absolute agony and trying to hide a limp from our guests. Word gets around at the party that I’ve run a half marathon, and with all the praise my head is getting bigger (along with my ankle!) but of course there is no chance I’m admitting to anyone that I have an injury. “It was fine, I’m just a bit tired”, I lied to everyone, bragging about how good I was feeling, refusing to admit that my leg and ankle were pretty much ruined. The party was good though – I guess the few glasses of wine to self-medicate the ankle helped(!) – and my little girls had the best time.

The day after for some unknown reason I think “well the girls are off to nursery, I guess I can go for a run at the gym”. I’m in so much pain that I can’t even walk, but surely a run will be fine? Ten seconds in, and I experience my second embarrassing limping debacle on the treadmill in as many days. I don’t give up though, I go on the bike, the cross trainer and so on. I even swim for an hour a couple of days later too just for good measure (yes, I am a silly person!) and my leg is getting worse, not better.

Ok, it’s finally time to admit to everyone that I have destroyed my left leg, it’s time to ring a physiotherapist and it’s time (sob sob, cry cry) to rest. So, that’s what I have been doing for the last five weeks: resting, no exercise (I even went on holiday to Tenerife as I was taking this resting business seriously) and FINALLY this week my physio has said I can swim, use the cross trainer, walk on an incline on a treadmill, use leg weights, do squats and really try to strengthen my leg. I did actually go to Pilates this morning, my first time ever and I’m afraid my last. I am so uncoordinated that I spent the majority of the time looking at how to do the exercises rather than doing them, kicking the ball I was using at people (accidents I assure you!) rather than using it for the exercise, and inhaling when I should have been exhaling! …I think it’s best we part company.

"When I feel like giving up I'll remember the millions of unpaid carers who must sometimes feel like they want to give up too, but don't"

To sum up I am now doing everything I can, with the exception of Pilates, to get my leg up and running to start training again. I still have four months to go and I’m refusing to give up. I’m going to be doing all the right things this time, stretching before and after, starting with slower runs and lower mileage and building up gently (as per this 10% rule all runners seem to know about), so that hopefully fingers crossed I’ll be running the Brighton Marathon in April for Carers UK.

Whenever I feel like it would be so much easier to give up my training, I’m going to remember the millions of unpaid carers out there who must sometimes feel like they want to give up too, but don’t. I’ll be thinking of my mum, who until earlier this year was caring for my Nan, while still working full time.

My mum is the reason I am determined to get my leg better, so I can run this marathon.

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