Final blog - THE Marathon by Stephen Ralston

It’s been great to read all of the other blogs into the run up to the Marathon. In many cases I share all of the same feelings that others have conveyed: gratitude to the club; the excitement of the start line; the struggle; and finally the heat!  I don’t think I could write a story of the day in the way the others have captured all the feelings, so I wanted to share some of my own thoughts on the day.

 

  1. It was warm at 5 AM.  The Eagles bus to Greenwich was a joy and made it so simply to just disengage and travel comfortably (thanks to all who arranged this). It was a different story at 5:15. I had calculated that on a lazy day I can run from home to Ealing green in about 10 minutes.  I thought 20 mins would be enough, although as it turned out I gave myself less. After 5 minutes I realised I was going to be late so decided to run for a short while; a couple of minutes on decided to run again, this time bringing a sweat up.  Despite all the weather warnings, texts from VLM and Facebook club advice I think it suddenly dawned on me, “its not long past 5am and its already warm, maybe I need to rethink today!”
     
  2. How far to mile 23? First half of the marathon was ok. It was hot, I ran with Andy, Harry and Kieron and shared words of encouragement, and with the exception of feeling hot and looking for every water stop, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the idea that I was running THE Marathon that I had grown up watching.  I thought of my late Grandmother who had always watched the marathon (both live and highlights) and how she would have felt watching me run on the day.  That was the first half anyway.  Not long after seeing Mo Farah on the other side of the road I suddenly started to struggle a bit (in retrospect my ‘C’mon Mo’ probably used up too much energy). I felt a cramp in my left thigh and paranoia grew.  Everywhere I seemed to look there was Zombies who had hit the wall, people were falling, or had stooped to stretch.  My fear was that if I stopped to stretch, it could make things worse and I would struggle to get going again. I vividly remember mile 13,.. the dread of thinking that I think I need mile 23 now, and that’s ten miles away!
     
  3. A river of Lucozade. This isn’t exactly as you would picture it. At every Lucozade drink stations there seemed to be streams of quarter drank discarded bottles everywhere. Each stream had a mind of its own snaking up and down, left and right across the road.  It was like an assault course and as the distance grew, it became more perilous as the fear of one slip on a bottle could trigger an unexpected cramp. This wasn’t the same as the water stops where it seemed that everyone drank and discarded.
     
  4. The beauty of a lookalike. Everyone who shouted ‘Come on Dave/ Stephen/ Daddy’, that was me! I was taking them all, even if they though David Powlsen was running the Marathon. I recommend it! It’s a great way to add some cheer to a tired moment!
     
  5. The cruelty of a lookalike. Dave P, I thought we had an agreement to meet at the phone box at mile 22?? No sign of you! I was broken, in heart and in mind!
     
  6. Mile 23.  People said I looked really tired when I got to mile 23. Don’t be fooled I was hamming it up. Nothing to do with the struggle from mile 13 that I describe above.  You were all great and a real boost to have such a reception.
     
  7. Injury.  I was injured before and I’m more injured now.  Hopefully I will see you all soon, but its just light running for a while and loads of physio prescribed stretches and exercises. My physio is great. You go in with a sore hip, and you come out with a hamstring tear and a misaligned pelvic.  I don’t know where I misaligned my pelvic but effectively I’m a medical miracle given my structural imbalance.  She does have a way of looking at me to suggest that things don’t heal that fast and that I can’t realign a pelvis that fast, but I plan on giving it some beans and booking an October Marathon. Let the healing commence!

 

  1. End of blog.  I went to Five Guys on the evening after VLM and it felt very much deserved.

Stephen's Blog #7 - Wales Great Marathon

I signed up to the Wales Great Marathon last year. I hadn't got into London, seemed to miss the boat for entering Berlin and I hadn't got into Brighton either and I wanted a spring (as it stands, winter) marathon to effectively not feel left out. So when I was successful with the club ballot I thought that this run might be a nice organised ‘long run’ with gels, a t shirt and stuff.  As it turns out this became my ‘tester’ to see if London was practical. 

Oh BTW I had already changed this to the half option rather than the full marathon. So long story short, biblical weather today, rain and windy, but ran around at a kind of a marathon pace and was happy with the ‘London next week’ excuse for a slower time. Hamstring still in one piece and the ache didn't get worse so really pleased. I know this isn't classic tapering, but I feel much more confidant for next week and looking forward to the day.

The weather forecast is interesting; provisionally says it might be sunny and warm? Im used to winter running so not sure about this bit?!?

No five guys.

Ps. Dave P. Just checking to see if you are still ok to do that switcheroo at half way?

Stephen's Blog #6 - To Defer or Not to Defer

I wrote this blog last week and decided not to share my update until I had ran the Thames Towpath Ten. As you may have guessed from the title, my training has stalled and deferral is an option.  So I didn’t want to share a blog full of bravado and then quickly have to revise.  On the same day I received my London marathon number, I had my first physio appointment. It turns out that that 'Mini Hip' was actually a tear in my hamstring that I have tried to train through since January. Whilst the recovery was timed as months and not weeks recovery it felt like a strange situation and still does now. The nagging doubt is whether the injury will get dramatically worse during the marathon, or if its just a matter of pacing well and handling an increasing ache. 

I can handle the fact that running the marathon isn’t ideal to help the injury heal, but with some physio and a few runs in the past couple of weeks, I think everything feels ok, and I will deal with the consequences with a medal around my neck (hopefully).  I'm planning a decent run this weekend to try and build confidence and then hopefully with a further week of rest and physio, will be ready to go.  And the idea of watching on tv is too much,... Fingers crossed. And no five guys,...

Stephen's Marathon Blog #5

At last night’s club run Gary and I discussed the key thing on our mind, six weeks ahead of London. First on the agenda, ‘what are you writing about in your next blog’. Gary had ran two marathons (obviously recovery runs from the many other marathons that Gary runs), I hadn't, so he at least had some content. We also discussed training plans and I suggested that my training plan depressed me because it was a constant reflection of either not running far or fast enough. Training plans don't consider you might have some aches or minor injuries, they are just steadfast in progression and effectively take the joy away from doing something you once thought fun. I would burn mine, but its on my phone so I can’t.

My training plan has mostly been impacted from what I call ‘Mini hip’. I recently bought a new car to supplement the family ‘bus’ and bring some joy back to a dark January. After the Harrow (on Hill) 10k I packed the two elder children into the Mini and we set off for a 250 mile journey to grandparents for half term. I thought it would be great, chance to try out the Mini with a decent journey, manual gears, and a bit of fun.  I didn’t consider that the sporty mini was a little less comfy than the family bus; that my left leg had lost any stamina to work a clutch (the bus is an automatic) and that the heated seats in the bus had been useful in providing relief for an aching hip.  By the time we arrived in the North East my hips and hamstring was a little tight, although I assumed this was fallout from the Harrow 10. After a week of driving I realised that actually the issue was the car and the clutch.  I assumed at the time (and continue to assume) its just a matter of time to adapt, and the car will be fine.  Whilst ‘Mini hip’ is proving bothersome, I can run and if anything its made me appreciate that I should stretch more and the foam roller has come out of the cupboard after a few years.  So if you see me slightly hobbling at the end of a run (or at the end of the Fleet Half on Sunday) its not due to some mammoth plank session, its likely related to driving a Mini!

Apart from that, training going ok, getting through slower miles than hoped.  Only one Five Guys.

Stephen's Marathon Blog 4 by Stephen Ralston

I am sure that in every training plan there comes the ‘bad week’ and I hope others have an appreciation of this also. Its not a case that I ran badly for a week, more that I didn’t really get chance to run, exercise or follow any kind of healthy diet.  Essentially it was half term and I was balancing work, kids and grandparents looking after kids. It’s a general struggle to appease the kids, the job, the grandparents and your own nagging conscience, so running tends to fall by the wayside.  In writing this blog it made me think about those online articles in Runners World titled ‘5 ways to improve your running’.  The usual tips are stuff about progressing gradually, working on your core strength, improving your cadence, running more intervals (or hills, or the mysterious ‘tempo’). I always have a look (alike to those articles that say ‘I planked every day for 4 years and these are the results’) and come away disappointed as there wasn’t an amazing new solution.  I came to the conclusion that I should write my own ‘top five ways to get faster’ as guidance for some of our younger, faster runners so they may not fall into the same traps in the future:

  1. Don’t get married. A spouse will only request your attention taking you away from valuable running, core strength or recovery time.
  2. Don’t have kids. Kids will only request your attention taking you away from valuable running, core strength or recovery time. In some cases they will completely deplete all energy or make you eat food you shouldn’t. End of day exhaustion can lead to drinking too much recovery wine.
  3. Don’t have a job of any significance. Jobs only distract you away from running and stress you out (see above regarding recovery wine).
  4. Don’t buy a house. Houses need upkeep. You are bad at upkeep and simple household tasks will take an extraordinary length of time distracting you from running etc.
  5. Don’t get older. You will suddenly wake up one day and be able to really feel yesterdays run. It will be an aching Achilles tendon that stops you walking downstairs or hip flexors that you didn’t know you even had. Equally it can be the extra weight that you now seem to be carrying as your metabolism slows from the speed of a Japanese bullet train to that of a District Line tube train stuck outside of Hammersmith.

So back to training hard this week leading up to the Hillingdon half. I cant say ‘No Five Guys’ at the end of this blog. See above, #2.

London Marathon Blog 3 or It's All Pants by Stephen Ralston

When you take up a new hobby you always tend to get hobby related Christmas presents, and this year was the running year. Past years have been cycling years and I got numerous water bottles, bells, handlebar streamers etc. All very funny, sometimes useful. So this year my most interesting running related present was a pair of running related underwear; they are called Runderwear. I didn’t know what to say...

So these pants are a strange beast. If you scroll there should be a picture attached (don’t worry, they are not being worn in the picture). Firstly the fit. All I can say is, don’t put them on in the dark or you will be convinced that they are on back to front. You then swap them round, and still think they are back to front, before resolving that you were right the first time, but still feel wrong.  Even in the light it’s a challenge because the markings on the pants aren’t exactly straightforward. 

Capture.JPG

 

Second is the texture. The pants claim to be seamless; its true and it’s a cross between a pair of pants that have been knitted by your Gran out of some kind of soft and dense fish netting material. They are weird and almost feel nappy’ish.  

Anyway, training is going well.  No Five Guys!

 

London Marathon Blog 2, or Mistaken Identity... by Stephen Ralston

Its fair to say that most people in the club thing I’m David Powlson. It was only Saturday at the Wormwood Scrubs Cross Country race when I got a, ‘Come one Dave!’, and this isn’t an isolated case.  After the Ealing Half Marathon I had a long conversation about my recovery and how hard I had found the event. It was true in that I had found it hard and struggled from the Drayton pub onwards, and I was able to innocently regale about how hard I had found it all, not knowing at the time that David had also found it difficult and this is what the conversation was actually referring to (David has his own story on this). Its not that we don’t have similarities; I think we both joined the club in a similar timeframe, both have young families, similar aged, dark hair with an angular handsomeness(?), so I can see where the mistakes have come, but its starting to get a bit like ‘Only Fools and Horses’ where Trigger keeps calling Rodney, ‘Dave’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eucpZjDCat0&list=RDylgV8OyTIFg&index=3). 

I’m glad to say that it’s not just one sided, David has been mistaken for me also and congratulated for his efforts in different events that he didn’t attend, and it got me thinking,…maybe I could use this to my advantage.  Lets just say that if you are at a club social event and see someone enjoying the evening a little too much, and the person  looks a bit like David Powlson, don’t hesitate, it was definitely David!!

To be fair, David couldn’t be a nicer guy so its not a bad situation. And sorry to disappoint, but there’s no heart-breaking back story to this where twin boys were separated at birth in a dramatic titanic style boat crash, growing up, living separate lives with a mysterious half pendant an only clue to another life, and a common longing to return to the motherland of Ealing! Nope, Just coincidence. Maybe it’s a surname thing as well; Ralston/Powlson...maybe not.  Anyway, discuss.

Back to running. Training's going well. Day 15 of January and no Five Guys!

  The question is, is Stephen on the left or the right?!

The question is, is Stephen on the left or the right?!

London Marathon Blog 1 by Stephen Ralston

Hello and welcome to my first blog post in the run up to the London Marathon later this year.  I hope I can make this as un-original and include as many running analogies as possible, after all life is a marathon not a sprint! I was delighted to learn I was lucky enough to be drawn from the club ballot to run the London Marathon; unfortunately I was not at the Christmas party and was recovering from a close friend's Xmas shindig when I got the news...enough to give an adrenaline kick to shake off the after effects of a heavy evening. 

I am sure everyone says this, but London is a true bucket list event and one I had targeted from starting to run in 2016 and joining the Eagles.  Previously I had done loads of cycling and was pretty fit from competing in big European Sportive events in the Alps and Time Trialling, but a start in running came after my wife gave birth to twins, adding to our current 2 children.  Four kids put an end to 3 hour cycle rides and I saw running as a more convenient, and evening based solution and joining the Eagles was a way to make new friends and start a routine.  So I ran a bit in 2017, plenty of club runs, solo runs, hills training, half marathons and an eventual marathon that I ran in York (Yorkshire Marathon) in October. I managed to get a ‘good for age’ qualifying time for London, however this would only work for application for the 2019 event and I had signed up to run the Great Wales Marathon (in Llanelli) to fill the 2018 gap as my expectation to get a place for London in the club ballot was low.

So, training had already started in November to get back into some form of shape after enjoying the Yorkshire marathon for too long after the event (Five Guys) and the London Ballot news spurred me on over the Christmas holidays. I cant say I watched what I ate or drank (Five Guys), but I got out and ran with a view that I can be more prudent (no Five Guys) alongside a dry January.  I look forward to seeing you on week based club runs in the coming months. Sunday mornings aren’t easy for me given I take two of my kids to the Pitshanger Jnr Parkrun, but I intend on doing double laps on Monday and Wednesday evening club runs, so if anyone wants to join me, let me know. I tend to run the first lap at a good pace and the second lap at a more moderate conversational pace, so I would be happy for the company.