So, as you may notice, I am falling apart. There is an oozy, gaping hole on my knee from falling off a mountain bike, cuts on my hands from the same, my toenail is about to fall off and I have an ulcer on the end of my tongue where I bit it. So now I walk around moaning and dragging my gangrenous stump along, waiting for my next impromptu accident. Sexy, non? Plus I have a new-found craving for fresh brains…

How did it come to this? In an effort to keep off my stupid splinty-splinty shins, I have turned to other forms of exercise until I can run again. Unfortunately, being equally uncoordinated at all forms of activity this drastically increased the chances of me getting injured by all of them. Fall of a bike onto gravel? Check. Get your shins mashed in kickboxing? Check. Exacerbate the cuts on your hand by kayaking in salt water? Check.

Actually, I am making myself seem way more hardcore than I am. The majority of the time I get hurt it is from really, really stupid things. Bang your head getting out of a taxis? Check. Walk confidently across a wet marble floor in flip flops? Check. Fall up the stairs? Check. Pull a muscle in your leg pretending to be a ballerina and later a synchronised swimmer? Double check. And literally not a day goes by without me banging my elbow on the toilet paper dispenser in the washroom at work: if you take out weekends that is about 260 times a year including holidays because it can happen several times in the same day. IN THE SAME DAY. How can I forget that it is there?!

Luckily so far my reckless disregard for the safety of my limbs hasn’t resulted in them being injured too severely, and in the meantime I get the cold comfort that I have provided my friends with a degree of hilarity (one of my friends has a theory that there is nothing in the world as funny as someone falling down). So the sight of me writhing in pain and swear words when an alcoholic compress is put on my wound is a source of much merriment, as was the removal of the disgusting gauze patch from my slightly infected-looking and yet-to-scab cut to the call and response of “You’re a tough girl!” “I’m a tough girl!”  “You’re a tough girl!”.

I may be accident prone, but I guess I should be thankful at least I have some good friends around in the meantime to mock me/ cheer me up. Well, that and the knowledge that when I do fully turn into a zombie, ‘twil be I having the last laugh as I go after their sweet, sweet “BRAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIINNNNSSSSS!!!”

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A Comfortable Old Pair of Shoes

ugly running shoes
This is what I see when I look at my new running shoes

I am the proud owner of a new pair of unbelievably boring running shoes! How boring are they? So boring that I can honestly say that I don’t know which brand or what colour they are. How did I buy such an item? Well, I went to Run and Become, which is the type of store where the sales people make you run around outside to see what your gait is and if you are overprogenating or underprogenating or a non-projenator (think that means that you are either pigeon-toed or bow legged, or some combination of the two).

Apparently I favour one of my legs (the sales girl got a bit confused about which one) and thus needed a medium support shoe and lucky me, medium support shoes are the ugly boring ones across all brands. So while I had secretly hoped that she would recommend a super lightweight miracle shoe that would make me a running god able to do Parkour, I got try on the massive (they always want you to go up a size) boring shoes. I then had to keep trying pair after pair and running around wondering what I was supposed to be checking for, as they essentially all felt the same. To end it, I used words like “stability” and “cushioning” so that I could drop £95 and get out of there with my uninspired purchase. I was more excited about the £1.50 energy beans that we got for our long run (magic beans!).

So, ignoring the advice of the sales girl, I wore my new shoes for the long run, and they were fine. Just fine. Suitable, stable, consistent…forgetable.

He's so...nice.

To be honest, it is a bit like try to date someone who is good on paper – you know that they are probably best for you in the long run, but after about a month you can’t stand how sensible they are and you start secretly hoping that the would just do something wild and reckless for once. What is that? You got drunk and threw up on your boss? Well that is terrible, but at least I can breath now that there is a bit of uncertainty in there, and the next 50 years of our lives are not going to be just a succession of promotions, weddings, Sunday dinners with your parents, golf and death.

These shoes would never throw up on their boss: they are already saving for a sensible home in the suburbs, will work with the same company for ever, have started saving for their pension and have met a guy who would make a good dad: they have made smart decisions and all, but I just want to be in the heart of the city, making mistakes, staying out too late, living on the edge. I want fast! With bright colours! No support, just lightweight and risky!

Well, I don’t actually want to do that because I need to get up to go running, buy flowers for the living room and go for brunch, but I do want materialistic objects that give the illusion of my badass-ery and vitality (hello mid-life-crisis sports car!).

bad ass running shoes
These shoes just swore at the teacher, got drunk at prom and people say are no good, but they are wrong! You know deep down it is just because they are hurtin’ and you are the only one who understands them
Don’t even think he is playing by somebody’s rules, because he isn’t. Well, except his own… so he plays by some rules…

It has only been a week with my dull companions and already I am scoping out hot new prospects online. But luckily in shoe ownership unlike in life I can have my cake and eat it too – I can have the safe option that will always be there to support me, and get the lightweight equivelent of a motorcycle riding bad-boy for when I want some excitement. Of course, it would be great if I could find a perfect combination, but we all know that you can’t have it both ways…

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Setbacks: The World Ain’t Sunshine and Rainbows

The Lead Runner Stumbles

So I recently had a professional setback, or really more of a professional non-progression, as I am still in the same place I was before it. According to some academic-y thing that I read after finding out that I didn’t get the job, quick recovery is the biggest part of moving forward, but more importantly, this:

That’s RIGHT! Having sparred at the gym this past weekend I can attest to the fact that Life does indeed like to punch you in the face, and unfortunately it has studied kickboxing so it also likes to kick you in the uterus (actually change “Life” to some guy named Ian in my class). That clip has made me decide that if I ever do end up fighting, I will demand the nickname “Life” so that I can trashtalk people with  “you don’t like what Life dishes out? Huh?? WELL THAT IS LIFE”. It would kind of be nice to be on the giving end of Life’s House of Pain, for once. 🙂 Just kidding!

The evening after I found out about the job, I felt like nothing more than going home and feeling sorry for myself, but luckily I had a running partner who wouldn’t take “I have an important date to mope on the couch with my friends natchos and beer” for an answer. We ran 15 miles on Tuesday, and on the back of that success I was able to complete 17 miles today. Not only that, but we calculated it, and based on today’s time I could run between 4:05 – 4:10 time on the marathon, which is a stones throw away from the 4 hour threshold, and has re-inspired me to crack it. Oh happy day!

Apparently we all need a mantra to help us over the finish line, so I have decided to use “Keep Moving Forward” as my mine, both for running and at work, or maybe, as I will shout when I am a professional kickboxer and can only refer to myself in the third-person, “LIFE GOES ON!!!”.

PS. Other terrible puns I will consider using:

“Now THOSE are the facts of Life, biatch!” (referring to my fists and/or punches)

“You are about to have the time of your LIFE!” (I don’t think that even makes sense)


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Let Me Get To The Point


As every girl knows, sometimes you need a little support. It is finding the right kind that can be a challenge. This weekend I purchased a new sports bra in the hopes that it would be more comfortable and reduce the number of running related loads of laundry that I have to do.

Heading to the Nike Running store in Covent Garden, I was given the distinct displeasure of trying on a bunch of sports bras. Buying sports bras in even less fun than buying socks, because they are generally expensive (you can easily spend upwards of £35), no fun to wear and no one is ever going to see them; even socks can have cute patterns that go with shoes.
I had read somewhere that bras that have a clasp are better for the ladies who want the support (as opposed to the ones the pull-over-your-head style), and I also liked the idea that this would save me the incredibly frustrating post-workout struggle where  to pull a sweaty sports bra off where I flail about using tired arms: never a good look.
First up was the serious commando-elite looking black one : it had a clasp at the back like on some bathing suits, so it seemed promising. However, they had coupled the back-clasp with cross-back straps, making it virtually impossible to do up once you put it on: doing up the clasp was like trying to thread a needle behind your back. After spinning around a few times in a manner akin to a dog chasing its tail, I gave up and tried on bright pink one, which seemed to do the trick, and at only £17.50 on sale the price was right, so relieved to end this experience, off I went with my new purchase.
We did our 15 mile run, and I was amazed at how much more comfortable this sports bra was compared to my other ones: it could have just been that it was new, but the shoulder straps didn’t seem to pinch or anything (the t-back of my other bras is a bit close to the back of my neck, which can get pretty uncomfortable). I was super pleased with it, except for one thing…
I had worn a dress the day I went shopping, so when trying on these delightful vises in the changeroom I didn’t have the benefit of seeing it under a t-shirt. Turns out that my amazing new bra was made in the 1950’s and has a weird, pointy effect once worn with gym clothes. Now, I am no science-lete, so maybe there is some sports precision technology behind this design, like pointy boobs make you more aero-dynamic or they help funnel sweat away to keep your body temperature down, thus allowing you to run faster. Could be that there is no science behind it, but instead there is a diabolical designer at Nike with a fetish for conical tatas. Or maybe somebody in Portland found a bunch of boxes of merch in their uncle Mort’s old manufacturing warehouse and they just slapped a Nike logo on it and sold it as a “sports bra”.
I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that I am the proud owner and wearer of a “ridiculous comfortable” sports brassiere: not “ridiculously comfortable”, but rather the exact point (pun!) where ridiculous meets comfortable. But what are you going to do? Don’t they say that everything that is old becomes new again? Maybe by dressing like an old timey lady I am just ahead of the curve.
Next trend? Sports girdles.
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Excuse me, I think I need to Fartlek


ghost fart
Gas powered

With 2 1/2 months to go before the marathon training is very much underway: yesterday my fellow marathoner and I completed a 15 mile run (24 km to you Europeans) out to Greenwich in London and back, managing to suriving a vertical hill, a near face-plant and narrowly avoiding kicking a baby in the face. Oh, and a pikey-traveler’s horse carriage on their way to some sort of mischief (unconfirmed). This is our longest continuous run so far, and for me it was all good until the 13th mile, when the fear set in that I wouldn’t have enough energy left to finish, making the last two miles so very, very difficult.

So what to do about this? According to what I have cobbled together from running magazines and online forums, it is recommended that you do one long run every week, with a mix of shorter runs to help build up your strength for the long ones. Apparently running the same distance over and over will wear you out and cause stress injuries: instead you need to fartlek. Fartlek all over the place.

‘Fartlek’ is Swedish for “Speed Play”. As your body gets used to running the same amount you get less out of it, so you should alternate speed work (or sprinting with recovery time) and hills with normal distance running. I also like how in English they call it ‘speed work’ but in Swedish it is ‘speed play’…

So instead of a big run, I am supposed to find the time to do 4 or 5 shorter runs a week, and this will make me faster for the big weekend ones. But who has time for that? Who are these people who can run that many times a week?! It isn’t just the running – it is the laundry, the food prep and the recovery time that go along with it.

This training schedule must be for the legions of unemployed and incredibly fit people who can run, recover, rest and find time to cook well-balanced meals. While I am traipsing to work and trying to fit in 3 runs a week around friends, family, cleaning, shopping, yada yada, they are hitting up yoga, going to physio, helping their joints by doing laps at the pool, or steaming bloody vegetables and making kale shakes. I was too tired post-run yesterday to get to Tescos in time to buy vegetables, let alone make a roasted shallot, beetroot, puy lentil and goat’s cheese salad like a Runner’s World über-human, although I did manage to drag myself out later to buy an ice cream.

Having said that I am on vacation from Wednesday this week, so hopefully during my stay in Paris I can find time for a long run and some fartlekking, mixed in with sightseeing, a wedding in a winery and other dutiful distractions, like you should when you have a life. So rather that burn out trying to run a certain amount, I will fartlek when I have enough gas in the tank.

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Getting High

“So I was running, and I felt this funny feeling, and then I had an orgasm”. “Um, I don’t think that was what I mean by ‘getting a runner’s high’, but that kind of sounds awesome. What kind of running were you doing?” I asked the flamboyant friend-of-a-friend as we were having drinks a few months ago. I had been blathering on about my recent foray back into running, but my companions were sceptical that as an activity it could ever be more than boring and difficult. Of course, having taken it up fairly recently I have new-covert enthusiasm at my own discovery that running can be enjoyable, so was to share that I had also once thought that, until I experience a “runner’s high”, at which point the very fabulous German friend-of-a-friend shared her experience jogging when she was 14. That story sort of stopped me in my tracks, because as great as a ‘runner’s high’ is, it doesn’t really compare to an orgasm. Or maybe I am just doing it wrong…

For me getting the “runner’s high” played a very large part in why I do it today. In elementary school I had a very short career as a sprinter, and the glory of winning first place in the 60 yard-dash made me think that I must be good at all types of running, so I went out for the cross-country team, only to realize that I was HORRIBLE at distance running. From there I somehow got the idea that running was for A-type personalities (doctors and lawyers) who liked doing tedious things just for the sake of it, which was a group that I secretly envied as I never wanted to do tedious things, even when I was supposed to. The first few months of jogging was a grin-and-bear it time, going through the motions but not really enjoying it, until the evening it all changed.

Getting home late from work (this was Japan, after all) I headed out for Komazawa park which had a track encircling it, and I think that it was about 1.5 km around. Doing two laps would have been enough to seriously wind me at that point, but as I was coming up to the end of my second lap suddenly everything seemed to come together: instead of feeling the sluggish legs, the tired arms and the laboured breathing, I felt completely in synch and like I could run forever. No, a better way to describe it was that I felt like a fucking invincible athlete warrior, albeit one probably going at a pace only slightly faster than walking. Pure, unfettered joy surged through me and I never wanted to stop. I think that I ran another two laps that night and got home feeling like I could take on the world coupled with the intense urge to high-five people. I finally got why people subjected themselves to running. Damn, if this is how it feels why have those selfish Type-A’s been hogging it all along?! Why didn’t they share that with the rest of us?! Jerks!!!

Unfortunately what I discovered after is that you don’t get that every time; in fact, it can be pretty rare, so if I run for over an hour it might really only kick in for a few minutes. The other thing I learned is that I need a little help “getting there”, and that help comes in the form of music. Not any music, but only the MOST EMBARRASSING music.

Wholly unscientific studies have shown that things you like in regular life you don’t always like in bed running. I used to download new music for a long run, until I realized that it caused excessive amounts of fury from the constant starting/stopping involved in skipping slow songs or the waiting for fast parts of a song to start (LCD Soundsystem: cut out the first minute of “Dance Yourself Clean” NOW). After a particularly unsuccessful attempt at trying to find a running pace to Phosphorescent, the best match of which seemed to be the inconsistent bowlegged ramble of an exuberant hunchback, I gave up and succumbed to the terrible, terrible music that is awesome to run to, which it turns out is exactly the same music you will sing to if you are drunk in a bar.

This is music that your sane mind knows is goddamn commercial awfulness (see the Black Eyed Peas), but that you can’t avoid knowing if you live in this universe, so when you are drunk, that retarded-child part of your brain with pop-culture Stockholm syndrome locks up your good-taste grey matter and starts braying along to “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night”, “California Gurrls”, or anything by the Pussycat Dolls. This same simpleton dj’s my running mix, because it knows that dollar for dollar, Beyonce’s “Halo” and Brian Adams “Summer of ’69” will bring on a runner’s high in the way that Ariel Pink never will.

The downside of this is that I now truly fear getting hit by a car and be forced to watch, collapsed in a bloody heap and unable to speak or explain as the paramedics discover my shameful playlist, wrongly tagging me as a fan of Justin Beiber. Instead what I hope happens, is if I get hit by a car (or bus, or train) while running along in a state of athletic bliss, I disappear in a puff of contented smoke, like the people when they see their happiest memory in the movie After Life (best film eva), taking all of my incriminating songs with me. Alternately maybe I will just instantly die of shame.

So, I guess you are wondering what my German’s answer to the question about her orgasmic run: turns out it only happened the one time, and she gave up running shortly after that. I suggested that she give it a try again, and that if it happens again maybe she can recommend a new playlist…

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“Why I don’t run for charity”

Guest blogger! Because work has taken over my life (don’t cry for me, I’m heading to Morocco in a couple days for a week’s vacation) I have outsourced my writing to Scott Casey, who is the perfect person to contribute because he too is running the Berlin Marathon and is also glad that it is NOT for charity (Bhah! Humbug!). Enjoy!

Because people running, or in-fact doing almost anything ‘for charity’, has taken all the free wheeling awe and excitement of undertaking challenging or unusual feat as a novice.
That great tradition of the hobby enthusiast. The Wright Brothers, working during the week in a bicycle shop then at the weekend designing mankind’s first mechanical flying machine. The fictional maths wizz in the Hollywood movie who is able to turn his cognitive skill in a single montage from calculating Pi to beating the house at blackjack.

I rode from Paris to London. I did it because; A, I wanted a French bicycle. B, I thought it would be a bit of fun and a cheap holiday.
But did anybody else I met on my trip, in the lead up, or after, think this? No.
“Oh wow riding from Paris to London! Are you doing it for charity?”
“Oh and what charity are you doing it for?”
“Well you MUST be raising a lot of money for charity!”
“How MUCH did you raise for charity?”

See what I mean? It’s horrible, oh those tiny minds who can’t see that a thing in life is just for the sake of it, for the adventure or for the challenge. To these people it always has to be for something or time itself would grind to a halt. I hate them.

Of course the other argument is that asking someone to sponsor you to run a marathon is akin to asking someone to sponsor you to go to the gym.
“Hi, I’m planning on loosing the Heathrow Injection I’ve put on around my midsection since arriving in the UK so would you mind chipping in for my gym membership? Once I’ve paid my expenses the rest will go to…oh I don’t know…The Cats Protection League?”

And that’s just if you’re an amateur doing a run, if you’re a keen runner it’s like being sponsored to do one of your favourite things.
“I was just wondering if you’d like to sponsor me to eat fried chicken, drink beer and watch Seinfeld. It’ll be tough but I’m going to do it for 24 hours straight and once the beer, DVDs and chicken expenditure is covered the rests goes to…I don’t know…the Hen Welfare Trust?”

It’s just rubbish.
If you want to run, then run and pay for it your own damn self.
If charities want to raise money do good work and as people to donate.
If YOU want to help a charity then go dig a well in Uganda, work in a soup kitchen, counsel people on the telephone or give your money. Just stop trying to take away the fun, the glory and the daring from doing something totally mad. I’m a novice everything, and you’re steeling my thunder.

Scott Casey is an professional amateur journalist and a novice writer, mountain climber, sailor, cyclist, German, infantryman and farmer.

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