Sunday 12 October 2014

Chris's First Half Marathon

The Isle of Axholme Half - 2014

Who would have guessed, when I ran the Isle of Axholme Half Marathon in 2013, that I'd be running the 2014 race with Chris (my husband)?

So, instead of writing on my experience of this run, I want to mainly reflect on Chris's running journey.  Chris is more into cycling than running - well he was!   He was involved in a bad motor cycle accident in 2006, shattering his talus bone. Following an extended period in pot, and the physiotherapist saying there was little to be done in terms of rehabilitation, he was left with reduced mobility in his ankle.  He took up cycling, mainly for general fitness, and took part in a couple of charity bike rides for St Andrew's Hospice. He also took part, as the cyclist in a couple of relay sprint triathlons in the Castle Howard Series, and the Lincoln Sportive cycle ride.  He got on well with cycling, and the flexibility in the ankle started to improve.  There were a few tumbles as he got used to the clip-in shoe / pedal arrangement, but nothing serious. It scares the life out of me - the thought of being actually ATTACHED TO THE BIKE - after all, I managed to come a cropper enough with conventional pedals!

Chris's Running Journey: 0 to 5k

Chris tried the odd little trot, occasionally when I was running, but it always resulted in pain and swelling of the ankle, so he'd more or less settled on the idea that running wasn't for him.  That is, until I joined Caistor Running Club (CRC) and heard about their beginners' course.  My best friend, Cheryl (whose running story I'll tell another time) often said that she wished she could run, but didn't think she ever could.  And Chris really wanted to have another crack at running (we often joke that he had to take up running in order to get to see me once in a while!).  So, over a couple of pints one day (everything seems to happen over a couple of pints) they had one of those "I will if you will conversations" and signed up for the beginner's course.  This is a programme that gets people from not running at all to being able to run about 5k / 30 minutes in the space of 8 weeks.  It starts with a routine of 1 min jog, 90 seconds walk to recover, repeated 8 times (3 times in a week) and gradually increases, over the 8 weeks to 30 mins continuous running.

Chris pretty much breezed through the beginners course.  He already had good fitness through cycling and the gentle increase in running time meant that his ankle was gradually introduced to the more high impact exercise associated with running.  It swelled up at times so RICE was deployed (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) which helped.  After a few weeks he got fitted up with some proper running shoes, having managed up to that point with a pair of very worn old trainers.  He had a Gait Analysis at Metres to Miles, got some shoes that gave the right amount of support for his running style and found an immediate improvement in how he felt when running.  The final piece in the jigsaw was having regular sports massage with particular attention to the ankle.  He was a case study for a sports therapist who was extending her training to deal with sports injuries. The treatment and recommended exercises increased his range of movement and flexibility which again made running much less uncomfortable.

The Journey Continues: 5k to 10k

Chris (left) with Steve, Sue, Rod, Me & our Paul celebrating after the Sting
That was it - he'd got the bug!  Towards the end of the beginners' course he was already talking about entering a 10k race. But not just any 10k race.  The Caistor 10k - the famous Sting in the Tail - so called because the first 4½ miles are fairly easy - flat and slight incline - the the final section includes 3 sharp inclines that just completely take it out of you.  The person who designed the course must be some kind of sadist!  There were a few tantrums in training, as he developed an aversion to a particular stretch of the run - a long straight road (for the initiated, this is the section from coming out of the woods to the Salutation).  For a couple of runs, he just ran out of steam here and got one of those "I can't do this" doubts stuck in his head.  It was probably because we set off too quick the first time, but after that, it was just that doubt had set in and his head wasn't in the right place.  There was nothing I could do to motivate him and it was time for me to back off.  As soon as he went out and did the same run with my running buddy, Sue, he managed it - nice and steady and ran all the way.  Mind you, if he'd given her any chelp, she's have told him to f*ck off soon as you like!  On race day, they ran together and completed finished only just outside the one hour mark.    

Doubling the Distance: 10k to Half Marathon 

At that point, he wasn't planning any longer distances.  We did the Castle Howard Relay Triathlon in July, Sue swimming, Chris cycling and me running and after this he was left feeling that he needed something else to aim for.  I had entered the Isle of Axholme half marathon, but was planning to run it fairly steady as I was entered into the Chester Marathon only a week later.  So, he entered that. The half - not the marathon!

Once committed, he gradually increased the distance on training runs by a couple of miles at a time and ran with the club twice a week to get in some hill work and intervals.  Training runs for half marathon distance aren't just about making sure you're up to the distance, they are about practising how much water you need, whether to use gels, and anything else that will add to your comfort (or at lease reduce the discomfort!) For Chris, this involved recognising the problem of when he sweats, it runs from his forehead into his eyes and plays his contact lenses up.  Wrist bands to wipe the sweat were the answer to that problem (I got him a head band, but he looked like a cross between a ninja and Olivia Newton-John in the 'let's get physical' video).

On his final long run he developed knee pain, which responded to RICE, but then reared it's ugly head even on shorter runs.  Once it was to the point of having to be collected by car. This was a week before the Isle of Axholme half.  He rested for that week, did a gentle parkrun on the Saturday and seemed fine. 

On the Day

He had bought a knee support which he'd used in training since the knee started playing up and on the day, used ibuprophen gel and a cocktail of pain relief (don't try that at home, kids!) and was excited at the start of the race.... that might have been the co-codomol!

We set off nice and steady.  I wasn't bothered about a time - I just wanted a nice pleasant final run before Chester so we planned to run together. At the start, we were with the Scuni Bunny .... a guy who runs the whole thing in a rabbit outfit and Scunthorpe United FC strip!

We ran with Scuni Bunnyfor 4 miles and suddenly I heard someone in the crowd shout, "go on Fran, go on Chris".  Amazing. Unexpectedly, Mike Jones from CRC, and his son Archie had come along to support and take some photos.  We were so made up about that.  I think I was even more pleased than Chris because Chris has been there at all my races, taking photos and supporting and it had crossed my mind that because I was running with him, there would be no pics.  How fab is it that someone from the club just turned up out of the blue.  Mike said afterwards that he remembers what a big deal his first half marathon was.

At 5 miles, Chris's knee started to twinge and by the halfway point, he was in a lot of pain.  He necked some more pain killers, and plenty of gels and water, but had to slow down considerably in the second half of the run.  I asked what he wanted to do and he was determined to continue.  We had the company of a pleasant bike marshal for about a mile - it turned out that he does triathlons so chatting with him was a distraction from the pain.

The course ends with a slight incline - but it was shorter than I remembered from last year.  This didn't seem to present too much problem for Chris - he was visibly limping by this point (just past mile 12) and we had another visit from the bike marshal to see if he needed help. But he cracked on and Mike caught us for another photo just as we turned the final bend towards the finish line.

As you can see, he's learned to smile and pose despite the pain

There has been blood (blisters), sweat  and cursing at times throughout the training but it was all worthwhile in the end. I couldn't have been more proud as we crossed the finish line together.   Seven short months from hardly being able to run at all, to running a half marathon.

Chris felt some frustration with his knee as he felt he would have been on for a quicker time had it not been injured, but overall was pleased to finish as this is such an achievement in itself 13.1 miles is not to be sniffed at.

Screen snip from the results list.

Here we are in our finishers T-shirts - or as we like to call them - FROCKS!  Look at the length of the thing.  They only had 'large' left, which is a bit annoying seeing as they ask for your T-shirt size on the entry form.  There were plenty of people still to finish behind us - many of them quite petite women, so the T-shirts would have buried them.  

So the organisers lose a few brownie points for that one; to me, the person who finishes last is as important as the person who finishes first - they've all paid the same entry fee and the person who comes in last deserves to have a T-shirt that fits!

But other than that, it was a well organised race with plenty of water stations with bottled water (not cups) and plenty of support out on the route for locals.  I'd run it again next year - mainly because I want to beat my time from last year (02:00:06).

Final note - don't take massive amounts of pain killers and too many gels during a race. When we got back to the car, Chris threw up and on the way home, passed out!  (I was driving - phew!).  Despite that, he still says he'd like to do another half at some point in the future.  Currently though he's training for some 10k races he's entered over the next few months and is now in that place of being competitive with himself and wanting to improve his 10k times.  

I'll share a link to this post on the CRC facebook page in March when the beginners' course runs again, in the hope that it will help new runners to see what they can achieve.  So that's Chris done ....... next chapter will be Cheryl.  Watch this space.

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