Running the Birmingham Half Marathon

I recently decided that I was no longer going to conceal the fact that I’m living in Birmingham these days. I originally planned not to post about it, because of concerns about the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s policy on internet use (many nurses and midwives have been pulled up for posting inappropriately on the internet), but I decided a far better solution was to simply not talk about my midwifery placements or anything that might be confidential – since I wouldn’t do that anyway, there was no need to be cagey about where I’m doing my degree. And it was preventing me from talking about some awesome stuff – visiting Cadbury World, which is so close to where I live that I can sometimes smell chocolate, the Library of Birmingham gala open day (I missed seeing Malala Yousafzai by ten minutes) and the 4 Squares Weekend that has just happened. I might write a post about some of those things soon but right now, a running update!

On October 20th I will be running the Birmingham Half Marathon. I’m running it for the Birmingham Women’s Hospital, who I might do my midwifery placements with, but even if I end up based somewhere else it’s still a great cause. They have fantastic facilities for women who want to give birth in a home-like environment but be close by if medical intervention is needed. They’re also investing heavily in care for premature and sick babies. It’s pretty amazing how early babies can be born and still survive with the sort of care that the hospital provide.

Anyway, that’s enough of my advertising spiel. If you would like to donate to the charity my JustGiving page is here. On horrible days when I would much prefer to stay in bed than get up and go out for a run in the rain, the thought that I’ve committed to the race and to the charity (normally…) drags me out. It’s also helpful that I’m running with the local club, because running on your own is. so. boring. Last Sunday I managed 10 miles (significantly further than I’d managed before) because I was with a bunch of other people who are also doing the half marathon, although I have to admit that I was aching for days afterwards!

This is my last week before uni starts, so I’m getting myself sorted and enjoying my last few days of having nothing to do. On Wednesday my brother is coming to visit, and yesterday Stumo stayed the night on his way from Wales to Cornwall and we went out to a bar restaurant which had a vegan menu as well as typical pub food – this is almost unheard of, by the way. And at the weekend I’m volunteering at a literary festival, which will take my mind off the slight anxiety of Freshers’ Week all over again.


Third Week of the Running Madness

I’ve hit week three of my running programme, which is apparently the week that most people quit due to boredom, injury or burnout. Although I did manage to injure my shoulder on Sunday (no idea how, it happened mid-run and was sufficiently bad that I spent evensong with my arm in a sling and the last two days taking Ibuprofen with breakfast, which is very rare for me), it is a lot better today and I decided it wouldn’t stop me from running. Apathy very nearly did – I reached the last possible point at which I could go out without ending up finishing my run after sunset and decided not to go. Then I looked at my diary which happened to be in front of me, and realised that if I didn’t I wouldn’t manage three runs this week. So I went and it was great!

Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me. I was feeling a bit trepidatious about this week because it involves longer runs with fewer intervals of walking, but the time flew and my legs weren’t aching anything like as much as I expected. When the podcast ended I felt as though I must have somehow skipped ahead on the recording, because it didn’t feel like twenty minutes at all. The clock assures me it was, though. I’m raring to go on the rest of the week, and here’s to the next six weeks as well.

Today is a generally positive day because my exam this morning went excellently, possibly even better than last Tuesday’s. I’m hoping the next two (tomorrow and Thursday) will go as smoothly, and then the slight blip last Wednesday won’t be as much of a problem. I’ve also decided to treat myself to a day out on Friday, so I’m taking myself to a new cafe for breakfast after morning prayer, then going to a National Trust property for the day. Then I’ll head home and curl up with some popcorn to watch Potiche, my latest LoveFilm acquisition. It’ll be great. Saturday will be spent beginning my clearing out and packing mission (I’m starting early as I have serious doubts about whether all my stuff will fit into the 2m cubed storage unit I’ve rented, so I need time to find alternatives), and then on Sunday I’m going to some mystery village with the choir for the day. It wouldn’t be a mystery if I just googled the name of the place, but I rather like mysteries.

The Curious Lure of Running

I started running two weeks ago. That in itself is odd enough – I have always hated running. When I was training with the university ice hockey team, we ran twice a week. I always went, and I disliked every second.

So it is rather a surprise even to me that I decided to start running again, voluntarily, on my own. I’m following the Couch to 5k programme and using a podcast that plays music with a good running beat and tells you when to jog and when to walk briskly (we’re gradually building up to running 5k non-stop, but that’s a long way off). Then I announced my plan to several friends, including some internet friends who immediately decided to join me. We’ve now got a small group scattered across several different countries who are all following the same programme and reporting back on progress.

I still wouldn’t say that I enjoy running, exactly. I have to force myself through the run, reminding myself that it will be over soon and I will feel a buzz of triumph when I reach the end. Some days are harder than others. Today was horrible; it’s drizzling, there was wind blowing against me along the first stretch of the park, and for some reason every step was a trial. But I made it without walking during any of the run sections, or stopping at all.

Generally I’ve been running early in the morning, before anyone is really around to see me lumbering through the park with a bright-red, sweat-covered face. On Thursday evening I realised I hadn’t done my second run of the week, and if I left it any longer I would either be running on the morning of what was already going to be a long day (I went to see Singing in the Rain on Friday night – more on that another time) or running two days in a row. So I pulled myself together and went out.

I’m not sure what was different on Thursday to today, but I almost did enjoy that run. I did extra sprint sections, I pounded along with a smile on my face, and I felt like a real runner. I was still very glad to reach the end of the podcast, but then something possessed me and I ran another two minutes just because I felt like it. Part of the motivation was having run past someone I knew slightly – I didn’t want him to think I was too unfit or lazy to keep running. I doubt he even noticed me, honestly, but the psychological impetus was there.

Next week the programme steps up a bit, and I will have to run for 3 minutes without stopping. That sounds difficult to me; it’s twice as long as I’ve been running so far. But I used to run that much and more, when I was forcing myself around the 800m track with the ice hockey team, cursing with every step. There’s no reason why I can’t do it now as well.

I think most of running is about mind games: you trick yourself into thinking you’ve got much further left to go than you have, so you are pleasantly surprised when you can stop. You tell yourself how much you’re enjoying this, even if you aren’t. You smile at little birds or small children and your brain believes you’re smiling at the run. And somehow you make it through. Well, that’s how it is for me anyway.