This post began life as a whinge and a whine about the sheer tediousness of marathon training. Apparently, I had forgotten just how time-consuming and dull it is to run zillions of miles whilst turning down invitations, eating vast vats of porridge and tasting guilt with every sip of wine. I also moaned a lot about how much pain I was in.
It was quite a dreary read…
Luckily, I came to my senses and realised that there was nothing whatsoever forcing me to race. There was no point participating for the sake of it and the training was clearly making me lose my love of running and the will to live. My body was basically telling me “no, there are more important things in life” – namely my anticipation of a Stones gig a few days before the race and LCD Soundsystem that evening.
And by priorities, I mean I want to enjoy guilt-free beer during the first gig and fully intend to dance without wincing at the second. So I cut my losses and made the decision not to run the stupid marathon. I’ll be running the stupid half marathon instead (I refuse to go home without any bling after all that bloody training). Saying I’ve dropped out of the Edinburgh marathon but I’m going to run the half instead sounds a bit infinitely better than saying that I’m just heading up there on the piss (again)…
Anyway I’m definitely running the stupid Cologne marathon in October (just in case you were getting worried there, Michael) and two in a year is crazy talk.
The relief I felt!
The minute I made my decision not to tackle another 26.2 miles any time soon, my ailments began to improve. Pain immediately started to fade! I don’t even think it had anything to do with the fact I celebrated my most excellent decision by downing of a large glass of Sauvignon…
I’m currently suffering from a weird injury – I’ve got a pain deep down in my left bum cheek that gets worse after a run. For want of a better description, it feels like it needs to be kneaded. Hard. And that reminds me of my favourite joke of all time:
Q: Why did the baker have smelly hands?
A: Because he kneaded a jobby.
But back to the subject of my bum… I often find myself walking along subconsciously groping my arse. I then wonder how long I’ve been doing it, and how many people have noticed and labelled me a pervy weirdo. Unfortunately, the nature of this injury means it’s physically impossible to tend to it adequately oneself – walking along and squeezing doesn’t really hit the spot, as it were. Obviously I Googled my symptoms (who doesn’t Google every single ache and pain they suffer?!) and I’m pretty sure I’ve accurately diagnosed myself, although I can’t remember the name of the condition and I can’t be bothered Googling it again.
Dr Google said I need to apply significant pressure – apparently sports physios have been known to do this by jabbing down an elbow and then leaning all their weight on the offending area.
If it’s good enough for actual athletes…
I’m nothing if not independent and don’t really like asking for help, but on this occasion, I had no choice but to enlist the intervention of The Boy. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that my marathon (half marathon now – yay!) depended on it. My ability to walk up hills without grimacing and groping my own backside certainly did. I hate to think what my neighbours must think of me right about now… The walls in my block are pretty thin and our latest encounter went something along the lines of this:
Me: Right, are you going to do my arse again now?
The Boy: (rather chipper) Okay, I did promise! Get on the bed then!
Me: Stop rubbing your hands together like you’re looking forward to hurting me.
30 seconds later…
TB: (gleefully) Here, bite on a pillow
Me: I’m not biting on an expletive-ing pillow! And stop expletive-ing grinning!
TB: Okay, I’ll count to three and then I’ll just do it.
Me: Don’t count to expletive-ing three! Just get it over and done with…. Owwwwwww expletive-ing expletive-ety expletive!
TB: Does that hurt? Do you want me to stop?
Me: No, I’m crying out in expletive-ing pain cos I’m expletive-ing enjoying it so expletive-ing much! Of course it expletive-ing hurts! Just expletive-ing well get on with it!
TB: You’re tensing up. It’s making it quite difficult…
Me: Of course I’m expletive-ing tense! Wouldn’t YOU be expletive-ing tense, for expletive’s sake?!
TB: Are you sure that’s the right place?
Me: Yes I’m expletive-ing sure! Owwwwwwwwwwwww! Christ this didn’t hurt so expletive-ing much when I was drunk…
TB: (laughing) Nah, you were even louder when you were drunk… And you swore more.
Me: Are you enjoying this?!
It really does work (well, it fixes things for a couple of days at a time) but you can understand why I now struggle to look my neighbours in the eye.
A second ‘treatment’ for my particular malady (for when one doesn’t have a sports physio to hand) is to “sit carefully on a tennis ball, locate the offending spot and slowly wriggle around.”
This is proper real-life medical advice. It might even have been on the NHS website.
Sit carefully on a tennis ball and then slowly wriggle around.
I was not in a possession of a tennis ball and had no intentions of buying a whole tube of them for this purpose, so I improvised and used an onion.
No, I didn’t just pluck a piddly wee shallot out of my veggie bowl; what do you take me for?! I carefully picked the roundest, most tennis-ball-sized one I could find in Sainsbury’s (I made a special trip).
And it worked.
It actually worked.
The Boy demanded video evidence of me wriggling around slowly on a specially chosen onion – he felt he deserved it as a reward for doing the whole physio thing. I told him to go expletive himself.
Not really the most dignified injury.
So not only have I been grumpy with my sore bum, but I’d also forgotten all the bullshit one has to put up with as a female runner. This bullshit tends to diminish a little in the winter months as a result (I’m almost certain) of us runners wearing more clothes.
But temperatures have recently risen… As has the number of men who think it’s acceptable to harass female runners.
This article makes for a pretty realistic (and depressing) read:
I was out training a few weeks ago (having shed a few layers) when a man stopped me. I assumed he was going to ask for directions, but no, he had some wisdom to impart. I’ve found that pedestrians love to impart wisdom to runners (more of that in a sec)…
“You don’t need to run” he said.
I looked at him with what I imagine was a rather puzzled look.
“You’re already lovely and slim” he continued.
Wow. Just wow.
The best bit was he looked at me like he’d just paid me a massive compliment. Luckily for him, I was rather out of breath and only managed to wave my lovely slim arms about a bit whilst gasping that my reasons for running have nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to lose weight. I’m not going to lie; feeling almost obliged to eat huge numbers of Boost bars in the run up to a race is a definite perk of the pastime (carb-loading commitments)… But it’s not my reason for doing it.
The encounter made me wonder (and I’m pretty sure I know the answer) whether male runners ever get stopped and subjected to similar comments. Why should it be assumed that a woman who exercises is ‘looking after her figure’? Having discussed this with female running mates, it would appear our reasons for running are varied: improves general fitness, improves mental health, provides ‘me time’, makes you feel strong, provides a great sense of achievement, is sociable, gets you from A to B faster than walking.
Not one single mention of our figures.
Of course people (men as well as women) run to control their weight, but why the hell should it be presumed that this is the driving force behind a woman deciding to take up a sport?!
Sometimes I really, really hate people.
I reserve a special hatred for busybodies who interrupt my run to give me advice. I had a wee old lady a while ago (in the days of lots of layers) put her arm out to stop me running past. I assumed she wanted directions back to her sheltered housing or suchlike… But no, she only wished to inform me that I was in grave danger of catching pneumonia and it was irresponsible of me to be running in the cold. I was certainly in danger of freezing solid (and being late for work) as I stood shivering and listening to her lecture… I’ve also been told off for running on snow, running in the heat and running on the pavement (that last one was by a man cycling on the pavement and he was lucky to get out of the encounter alive…)
One of the things about marathon training that should be obvious but somehow came as a surprise to me (again), is just how time-consuming it is to run the requisite number of miles. Once you’ve added on all the hours it takes to plan routes, sniff your running gear to gauge whether you can feasibly wear it again, make porridge, work out if your trainers are at home or under your desk, lounge around with bags of peas on sore bits watching the IT Crowd, obsessively Google ‘marathon horror stories’, hunt around for suitable onions, etc., it doesn’t leave time for much else.
Like keeping atop non lycra-based laundry…
The evening I wrote my ‘I hate marathon training’ rant, I had been wearing Weird Pants all day. Please tell me I’m not the only person occasionally afflicted by this phenomenon… I wasn’t quite at the stage of wearing bikini bottoms to work, but it was touch and go that morning. My very worst bikini bottoms were £1 out of Primark (panic purchase if ever there was one) and have a big white plastic ring at the side holding the front and back sections of the (black) material together. They are utterly, utterly hideous. What’s more, the giant plastic ring (think the size of a Nutella jar lid) sticks to your skin and is visible under leggings.
I thank my lucky stars I hadn’t quite regressed to that (I still had a buffer of three acceptable-ish pairs of bikini bottoms nestled in my knicker drawer) but I had run out of Normal Knickers and was wearing Weird Pants. These were of the ‘far too fancy for work’ variety, the ‘matching sexy underwear’ ilk (obvs I wasn’t wearing the matching ridiculously unsupportive bra; I’m not that much of a sucker for punishment). They were the sort of knickers you wear for ten minutes – i.e. long enough to leave the house – before thinking “this is why I never wear these stupid knickers”. The elastic leaves red lines on your skin, the lace itches your intimate areas and you find yourself multi-tasking (groping your sore bum whilst simultaneously attempting to remove your Weird Pants from up there) and seriously considering running into town at lunchtime to buy a replacement pair.
The relief relating to the removal of said knickers (after I got home, I hasten to add – there’s no way I could have run in the offending garment) was on a par with the relief of dropping out of the stupid marathon. And now I’m not running stupid numbers of miles, I have found the time to venture to M&S to stock up on non-stupid knickers so I am feeling rather more comfortable with life in general.
I like to think my neighbours are, too…