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Life is a Marathon – Running Gloucester City Marathon 2017

Gloucester City Marathon 2017I’ve been a bit slow on this promised blog and mainly because I haven’t had the time to sit down and do my thoughts justice. It’s also been a while since I tuned into the bloggersphere and my running has certainly taken a hit since London.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@astridrnhall) you will have seen that I recently completed the Gloucester City Marathon, but why??

I’m currently signed up to the Amsterdam Marathon in October, and having completed the London Marathon in April, I wanted to gauge a sense of the level I’m currently at – having had no motivation for anything above 10 miles in the last three months.

What was the result? Pain! So much pain!

When I ran London in April 2017 I trained. I trained hard; going up to 22 miles pre-race and tapering well in the last two weeks leading up to the big day.

When I ran Gloucester in August 2017 I didn’t train. I even had a two week holiday in the three weeks leading up to it.

I have even been struggling to get my butt out of bed in the morning to run, so it was a great challenge to see how Amsterdam might feel if I let my training fall my the wayside.

The reason I signed up to Amsterdam was to keep me motivated but after the immense pressure I put on myself for London and completing it in a time of sub-4 hours, I want Amsterdam to be enjoyable, not painful.

So how did Gloucester measure up?

Well I didn’t prepare. I went in blind, barely knowing the route, not planning my rest days leading up to the event and not thinking about my strategy until…welll…the gun went. My mission was to complete it and with few spectators to cheer me on, it become a battle between my mind and body.

London I went into as prepared as I could be. I examined the route, plotted the elevation, planned my nutrition and trained in my race day outfit. The crowds carried me and my mental strength pulled me towards the finish.

In life, spontaneity is exciting. It can challenge your mind and push you but it can also take you to places you didn’t know existed. By not preparing, planning and training, you can sometimes find yourself failing but if you keep pushing and thinking positively, you can overcome whatever it is you feel is holding you back,

Life often throws us a curveball and as much as we would love to know months, even years in advance of what is coming, it’s not always possible. This is where you need to use the people around you to keep you going. Talk to them, open up to them, support them.

During the Gloucester Marathon, I think I would have exceeded the five hour mark hadn’t it have been for the strangers who cheered me on.

London, despite my preparation, was much the same. I dug deeper than I ever have before and, despite being prepared, it was the crowds, my fellow runners and countless kids offering jelly babies that kept me smiling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there is an obvious difference between being ultimately prepared and going in blind, but you can always look for others for support, no matter what life throws at you.

The reason I love race days and big events is because of the humanity within it. I’ve started to volunteer to marshal more events as my way of giving back – being the cheerleader for hundreds who have put themselves through their paces to achieve something for themselves.

I will now put in the mileage for Amsterdam to make the journey a little more bearable and with three marathons in six months, it might be time to move on after October….she says.

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Finishing The London Marathon 2017

It’s exactly a week after the marathon and my life has been on sprint mode. I’m currently at the airport waiting to fly to Mallorca for my first holiday of the year and much deserved after hitting my sub-4 marathon goal of 3:52:37!
Many people will have seen the Heads Together campaign and charity, which was the leading charity for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon and the day before I ran, I sat down to watch the first episode of Mind of Matter and, for the first time in a long time, I cried.
I’m going to open up a little bit here, which is always easier on paper. Running the marathon was obviously challenging, but it wasn’t the moment I got my medal and nearly burst into tears, nor was it the moment my family and strangers screamed my name to keep going, but the two year journey that started in March 2015.
People who know me will know how much I exercise. Monday, netball, Tuesday, run, Wednesday, cycle, you get the idea. I explain to people how I hated running growing up. Cross country was a struggle, even the 1500m sports day race I got tricked into running was a gruelling task. I remember completing a 5km in secondary school for cancer research and my goal was,

“Don’t stop.”

That was it. I could walk, but I wasn’t allowed to stop! But what running has helped me achieve now is something that goes beyond fitness.
I think people that know me see me as strong and independent, but that’s not always been the case. Between the ages of 15 and 17 I had a very personal struggle that resulted in counselling and then again at Uni when I was 19/20. I had some real downs that I should be more open to talking about, but I don’t because they aren’t who I am anymore.
In March 2015 I wanted to give running a go. I knew it would get me fitter and help keep me lean, so I got my first pair of running shoes. 3 miles was my big weekend run, with one set of 5.5 miles that I was over the moon for achieving. Then, and I don’t remember how or when, I wanted to give myself a goal, a target, something to work towards. So I went a bit extreme and started looking at running a marathon.
Following advice of a friend, I found a charity and went for it, and here I am. I didn’t stop.
But where the Mind over Marathon series has really struck a chord with me is all those years ago. Running has given me an outlet to ‘get back to me’ you might say. Mentally I have had to strengthen myself in so many ways. Motivate, be determined, push through the barriers. 
It’s not just running through, cycling is a passion of mine and it gives me time to unwind. I call it active meditation for those who can’t sit still for too long! The structure of training, setting a goal and achieving it has made me feel like I have more purpose and now I enjoy life so much more.
There’s nothing more rewarding than running through the sunny countryside and getting a view overlooking a valley. I’ve got legs, so I’ll use them. 
The marathon was an incredible achievement, but already I now don’t know what I’m working towards, so Ive booked onto the Amsterdam marathon this year in order to fulfil my goal of seeing Amsterdam this year.     
Not everyone has to find happiness in running, but hobbies, exercise, living life as much as you can is something anyone can do. Remember that your brain is a muscle and it needs to be exercised, strengthened and kept healthy as much as any other part of your body. If you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t. Your mind is more powerful than you think.

How to choose a charity to fundraise for – Running the London Marathon 2017

If you’ve followed my blog you’ll be well aware of the fact that I’m running the London Marathon 2017 in aid of Phab Kids, who inspire and support children and adults with and without disabilities to make more of life together.

Fundraising for a charity is the alternative route to applying for the ballot for the London Marathon and although it can be, arguably, easier than the ballot, you’re certainly taking on a big challenge when pledging to raise the stated amount, so how do you go about choosing a charity to fundraise for?

Usually, when people choose a charity they are choosing it because of an emotional connection; cancer charities, local hospices, personal experiences. But do we all need an emotional push in order to make a difference? Sometimes we just want to reach out and change someone’s life for the better, but how do you go about choosing a life to change?

Go for the unexpected

It’s understandable that most people who fundraise want to do it for the biggest and ‘best’ cause but in the giant ocean that is ‘the London Marathon charity places’, there are many little guppies swimming around trying to get runners to show their support.

It can be a lot of work for charities entering the London Marathon so they want to get their places filled! The great thing about choosing a smaller charity is you’re not only going for the charities that actually need that little uplift but you’re (selfishly) more likely to get a place!

It can still be personal

You don’t have to have a heart-wrenching story to have a personal connection to the charity you choose to run for. For me, I chose Phab because I’m an extremely lucky person – lucky enough that I can run, walk and cycle as I please – but not everyone is so lucky.

love being outside and I want to be able to share that with others. By fundraising for Phab, I’m helping young people enjoy the things that I take for granted.

Enjoy it

What I’ve learnt about fundraising for the London Marathon is that it’s a huge challenge in itself. Getting a place through a charity can make it not seem as worth while, all the time you’re thinking, “Why have I signed up to raise £XXXX AND run 26.2 miles?!?”

Find ways when you’re fundraising to have a bit of fun. Get to know your local community, run some extra miles somewhere else and use it as training for the big day. Don’t make it a chore, but something you can look back on and know you’ve done a cracking job!

With less than a week to go…

I’ve managed to exceed my target and with just under a week left. It’s a great feeling and I’m sure it will be an even greater feeling when I cross that finish line.

What it’s taught me is there is a lot that I can achieve. I’ve personally held pub quizzes, raffles and baked every week for four months to fundraise the majority of my amount and I’m bloody well proud of myself. I, of course, also thank everyone that has supported me as I couldn’t have done it without you!

It doesn’t have to be a marathon, charities are always looking for fundraisers, 10k, 5k, cycles, walks, whatever it is, why not set yourself the challenge?

 

 

 

The final countdown – Training for the London Marathon 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve logged an entry and a lot has happened since the last one.

About four weeks ago I set off on an 18 mile run from Bristol to Bath and I did it! However, at mile 16 something in my ankle felt off, but I continued as it was only two miles left and I needed to get to Bath in order to get a train back.

The next day I had a netball tournament for charity in London. With a 5:15am coach booked and paid for, I was still going to take part, but this was where I made a huge mistake. My ankle didn’t feel great but I was walking fine. We played a match in total over the course of the day – not a lot but this meant periods of not warming up or cooling down properly. By the end of the day I was limping and it felt uncomfortable.

Next day was a usual Monday so netball training in the evening. Again, big mistake. I normally listen to my body and walk instead of run and so on, but this time I completely ignored it.

Thankfully I had a podiatry appointment on Tuesday and my physiology booked the following week and had caused myself an injury – Tibilias Posteria Strain to be exact. This particular injury was from fatigue; working too hard and not listening when my body told me to take it easy.

It resulted in taking time off of exercise and taping up, however, me being me I continued to cycle as it was the only thing I was allowed to do! I just about recovered from the limping in time for the Reading Half Marathon and still managed a sub-2 hour time of 1:55! With immediate rest, ice, compression and elevation I’m now back to my old self. Although a dodgy knee and tight tendon on my ankle means I need to be stricter than ever in the next two weeks!

I’ve drawn up a final two week training plan and now tapering. I achieved my goal of a 22 mile run and 10k fasting run before work so I deserve a wind down!

With £179 left of my target, I’m also hoping that hitting this before the marathon is within reaching distance!

With two weeks to go though, maranoia is setting in. This is the fear that anything and everything will go wrong in the timing leading up to and the day of the marathon. Perfectly common in many first time marathoners but it also means you become a hypochondriac to every tiny ailment.

One minute it’s my knee, then it’s my hip, my calf, everything! But I’ve put together a training plan with plenty of rest days and one last massage before the big event.

Please show your support by donating at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/astridhall-marathon/

#ReasonToRun – Why I’m running the London Marathon 2017?

#ReasonToRun

I was cycling home this evening – anyone that knows me is well aware of the fact I will cycle anywhere and everywhere despite the fact I have a perfectly good car – and something dawned on me; I failed my cycling proficiency test the first time.

Back in the day, Primary school children were taught how to cycle safely; hand signals, the right kit to wear and so on. I think they need to bring these back as cycling is an invaluable skill and there are so many idiots and fair weather cyclists on the road, that an exam would do a world of good, anyway, that’s besides the point. I failed the first cycling proficiency test – me! Someone who will happily ride along a busy road no fuss.

This brings me onto a similar matter. As you have probably guessed by now, I am running the London Marathon and I’ll get onto why in just a second. However, people usually ask me, “How did you get into running?”, “How long have you been running for?” and, in all honesty, the first time I stepped onto a road to run was around March 2015 and before then I hated the idea of publicly humiliating myself in such a cruel fashion.

When I was in school, I dreaded cross country. I could barely run a few laps of the school tarmac courts – my friend had to help me round one time by singing with me. She lent me a very useful piece of advise that day as well, singing (or lip-syncing) helps you to control your breathing, and to this day I run along lip-syncing to my music, which also helps to put me in a better mood and focus on something else!

I would get cruelly tricked into running the 1500km every sports day (less than a mile) and every year I suffered! Even when I joined a gym at uni I refused to get on the treadmill and when my friend finally convinced me, I insisted I would walk to a point and run very briefly before making a quick exit.

I basically sucked at running. I hated running. No running.

Even cycling, which I’m hugely passionate about, I wasn’t great at but the thing that pushes me to do what I do now is not just the satisfaction, the feeling, put all that aside, it’s the fact that I can.

#ReasonToRun

The charity I am running for is Phab Kids. Phab help children and adults with and without disabilities make more of a life together, but why is this important and why is it a reason to run?

I am lucky enough that I have two working legs, two working arms and a perfectly fit and healthy body to connect all the pieces together, so why wouldn’t I run? If the day came where I lost the use of any of my body parts, I can at least say “I did”.

I did run.

I did walk.

I did cycle.

There are people where a simple trip to the corner shop is a challenge, so why would I drive there when I can walk or cycle?

There are people where simply getting out of bed can’t be managed alone, so why wouldn’t I push myself to get out of bed and make the most of the day, the fresh air and the entire world around me?

So I’ll keep this short, as I think you get my point. I may not love running but I can run. I may not be the fastest, have the best form or be the fittest, but I can bloody well have a go. My #ReasonToRun is, quite simply, because I can.

So get yourself a pair of trainers and get outside – and I’ll see you at the finish!

Not so Fun-draising – Training for the London Marathon

I feel like I haven’t got much to write about this week considering I haven’t been able to do a long run as my weekend was fully booked and my physio cancelled on me so now I’ll be cutting things fine with an appointment a week before the marathon!

Training isn’t a top concern right now. Despite some niggles, I’ve been getting out there and hit the 5 mile mark for a fasting run before work, which will soon hit a 10km (I hope). My real issue right now is fundraising, so I’ll keep it short out sweet.

HOW?!?

How do people get so many donations? I’ve been running pub quizzes, online raffles and baking every week for work! I failed twice at organising a netball tournament because my network isn’t big enough. I don’t have kids so I can’t organise a school disco or something (those really rake in the pounds!) so I’m about 56% of my target with offline donations included but with only two months to go!

So I call upon you! The general public. Please comment or send me your ideas to astrid_hall@icloud.com

OR better yet, every little helps, so if you could help me out by donating anything, no matter how big or small, I would be very appreciative! – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/astridhall-marathon

Next week I will give a full and thorough update!

Fluid, flu and physio – Running the London Marathon 2017

This blog was written over the course of the weekend.

I’ve decided I can no longer drink.

Now don’t be fooled by the cliche decision to give up alcohol as a form of protest to my body in an attempt to get fitter. I have become less and less of a drinker since training but really because I will plan drinking around a long run, and with non-running Saturdays consisting of netball, the next morning where I have to be on top form, I only have a small handful of evenings where I can “go hard or go home”. So naturally, I go home.

My body can’t physically tolerate booze. I don’t feel dizzy, I just feel unwell. A glass of wine gave me a headache on Friday night and when ever I eat with a drink I just go to bed feeling sick, full, bloated, the lot!

I used to love a glass of wine on a Friday; that comfortable feeling you get where it starts to set in and you feel calm and relaxed, but not any more! Booze is my kryptonite, so I’m thinking of going full blown t-total until after the marathon. Thoughts? Has anyone else given up alcohol for a period longer than a month (as I often go a month rarely touching a drop of wine)?

But on another note, my physical fitness. 

I’m currently writing this with the hopes of doing 20 miles on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Although knowing me, if I set my mind to something I can’t not do it!

I’m in bed with a lot of pain running from the inside of my thigh into my knee. It pulls, twitches, strains. My left leg seems to have gotten a better deal with some dull shooting pains in my kneecap, but what’s causing all this?

I’ve been running with support shoes for coming up to two months, could this be the cause? The rise created in the arch of my foot where it is normally more comfortably planted to the floor? Or is it my intention heel strike motion? A continuous stretching of the hamstring that is having a knock-on effect with the rest of my leg?

Current state of mind for 20 mile run:

Feeling brave (25%) – I’ll need to take it easy and not hurt myself

Mildly scared (2%) – As a runner, you naturally feel concerned about injury so fear comes without saying.

Ready to smash it and get that ‘gloating’ feeling (77%) – There’s nothing better than finishing a run, so I’ll enjoy my weekend until then. I will update my blog following my run so it will be interesting to see my change of emotion!

The run

When you’re putting on vapour rub on before a 20 mile run you have to ask whether you’re right in the head. I then proceeded to pop two very strong cold and flu relief tablets but now here I am. Lying in bed on a Sunday evening having run 20 miles. Not my best pace admittedly and not one I’m particularly proud of, but I can be proud of my distance and sheer self-motivation to get outside and keep pushing despite the pain.

Hello bum!

I read something very interesting in Don’t Stop Me Now the other night, the runners book I’m currently reading by Vassos Alexander. He mentions his physic that he went to see, one of the best, and asked the question ‘Why do you get me to stand on one leg?’It then talks about gluteal/abdominal stability in your leg allowing your pelvis to remain stable.

I’ve had around 4 weeks worth of pain in my right inside leg from my pelvis and when I went for a sports massage the therapist said I need to activate my glutes in order to avoid lower back pain. This morning, before 3 hours and 20 minutes of exercise I did just this and, it’s as if by magic, no lower back pain.

Normally I’m like and old person, bending over and making noises every time I get up and down, but today, not a thing!

Listen to the advice people give you, but it’s ok to listen to more than one person. I’ve been combining the advice of three different professionals but I’ve still got a long way to go! 9 weeks! Bring it on!