I’m rather into my running these days. When I think back to a year ago, I could barely run 3km without a severe stitch and feeling like I was going to die. An old friend leant me a copy of an amazing book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall when I was in France last year which I read twice because it was so good. While my first forays into barefoot running weren’t overly successful – let’s not talk about it – it really ignited in me some curiosity about running. There’s some amazing stories in that book that really opened my eyes to the human body and what it is capable of, and from there the internet did a good job of filling in the gaps.
Last April I went to Holland to visit a good friend who is living out there, we agreed to run what I thought was going to be a 3km fun run (so yeah fine, maybe a stitch but we’ll cope) but on the day I discovered that the Leiden Singelloop was actually a 7.2km circuit around the town, I was bricking it but we managed it. We finished together, got a medal and a big slice of orange at the end. I even smiled my way along the route, which it turns out is now a weird habit I have when I run…
In October last year I joined with a load of lovely girls from my hockey club to run the Plymouth 10k – it was such a good event and although I hadn’t trained I was thrilled to finish with a reasonable time and a big smile …and a blister. After that I decided that training was probably a good idea and I jumped on the half marathon bandwagon with the hockey girls. Lots of running, plus an armband and a running app later (surprisingly useful… I use Strava) I decided that I was quite into this running thing and slowly got into the swing of training.
In January, after a difficult day of fear and sadness my housemate and I got talking about the future (maybe unwise on one of those days…) and I think we wanted to ask more of ourselves. Beth suggested the Athens marathon, I’d been posting it all over Facebook before Christmas as something the hockey girls might be keen for but hadn’t ever considered that I might be capable or interested. Something sparked my imagination that day, I think I just desperately needed something tangible to work towards, some kind of hope to work me out of the strange rut I was in at the time. So we signed up.
During this time I’d started reading more about the benefits of a plant based wholefood diet for runners, promoting natural fuel for your body and faster recovery times. Eat and Run by Scott Jurek was particularly helpful in learning more about this, and a really enjoyable and inspiring story to read as well. He’s an ultramarathon runner and I’d read a bit about him before in Born to Run and online. Ultras are anything more than the marathon distance and a real test of endurance in both body and spirit… the idea is certainly tempting. I’ve been learning about plant based diets and they certainly seem like a supremely healthy, energising and effective way to fuel your body to run long distances. I didn’t eat much meat before anyway so I’ve cut it from my diet and I’m not having dairy really except for when I fancy some cake… so we’re working on that. I’ve been really inspired by my friend Laura from church who just released a book (it’s in Waterstones!) called the Alkaline 5 Diet, definitely worth checking out. She’s been researching for many years and really knows her stuff.
Last week I ran my furthest distance in the Plymouth Half Marathon at a comfortable pace and finished in 1:58:04. I was happy to get a time under 2 hours and I’m excited to train more and hopefully run that distance faster. The outrageous number of hills in Plymouth provide excellent practice for Athens which is basically all uphill except for the final 6 miles or so.
That’s my running story so far, I’m so excited to see where it gets me. Athens, then an ultra? Or maybe a triathlon? …Or maybe both! I’d love to hear from any other runners out there, do you use training regimes? Eat in a particular way? Have any tips? Know any good routes in Devon and Cornwall? Let me know!
See you next time! MJ x
P.S Please forgive me for posting Amazon links, I’d encourage you to buy from your local bookshop if possible. We have a great independent one in Plymouth called University Bookseller on North Hill and Waterstones is great too.
P.P.S I should definitely thank Rob and Jess – super couple who run lots and inspire me loads, they run beautiful tracks in Cornwall and document them on Instagram using the hashtag #shootmyrun – good stuff.
…And one more thing. I’m raising money for a charity called Hope for Children with the Athens marathon, I’ve got quite a big fundraising target to meet of £1200. I’ve raised almost a third so far but there’s still a lot to go, any donations would mean so much to me and make an amazing difference in the lives of children in the UK and across Africa. Please click here to donate if you would like to.