Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Go the extra mile, your legs will forgive you

Running the marathon was almost the way I dreamed it would be. Some parts surpassed my every expectation. The cloudless blue ‘Auckland’ sky in Greenwich Park at the start felt like a gift. The atmosphere in the starting pens: pure carnival, helped perhaps by being just one pen in front of fancy dress costumes including two people running as a Bactrican camel, a man encircled by the Blackpool Tower and a runaway bride. It's true too that I felt a little less celebratory at mile 17, when they had all overtaken me, but being beaten by a Bactrican aside, this was a day of dreams and achievement.  

The moment I decided to run the marathon was 11 months ago. I had a three day old baby and could barely walk. After hobbling into my local park, I decided that it was time to follow that long cherished aspiration. 
And yes, I’m glad that I did. I’ve learned so much about friendship, about being flexible without getting too far off course, about the small steps that close the distance between where we stand and where we want to be. 

Aside from the buzz in Greenwich Park, other highlights were: crossing Tower Bridge, passing the Cutty Sark, the first glimpse of Big Ben, and going over the finish line without blisters. Getting my medal was an amazing moment: one I can neither describe nor forget.
Many, many people went ‘the extra mile’  so I could run 26.2 miles. I won’t do a ‘Gwinnie”, you know who you are, and I would like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me, sent encouraging texts, phoned with the latest nutrition advice, cared enough to worry, looked after me, gave me somewhere to stay when the tube lines were offline, and cheered me on. A special thank you also to my family, whose love, encouragement and practical support are simply incredible. The kind lady in Narrow Street, who gave me a banana when I was suddenly starving was like a longed-for angel. Never before has a banana been so luscious and alluring. Bless you.
My post-run celebrations were a little clouded by collapsing on the underground, and spending the evening in A and E at St Thomas’ Hospital, but even there, I felt I couldn’t have been among nicer, more interesting colleagues. A huge thank you to the team who sorted my sodium. 
I did this run for the Merlin doctors who are more altruistic and brave than I could hope to be. Their work inspired me throughout my training. Their brave example, and the courage of so many helped by Merlin, got me through the tough moments in the race. 
As I write this, three parakeets of the same vibrant green feather that I spotted on my first long run around Richmond Park back in December, are trilling in the tree outside my window. 
Seeing them reminds me of how far I’ve travelled on this journey. Of the many thoughts I had during my training, along the marathon course and in the days since, three have been loudest and most persistent. I’d like to close this blog with that trio: Don’t limit yourself.  Go as far as your mind takes you. Your legs will forgive you. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Virgins and veterans or lights, camera, podiatrist

This week has had three high points: lights, a camera and a podiatrist. 

Firstly, the 'lights'. I've been to register at the Marathon Expo in Excel. What I thought would be a tedious day of queuing and waiting, was in fact a well organised, slick event; not just painless, but rather party like. 

After registering, I had a meander around diverse stalls and met several other 'first timers'. This Expo seemed a celebration of many types of people running a marathon, from virgins to veterans. It really was much better than any registration event has the right to be. Over a bowl of pasta, I was privileged to listen to former boxer Michael Watson. 

Michael Watson completes the London Marathon

Watson completed the London Marathon in 2003 just 12 years after he’d recovered from a 40-day coma and been told he would never walk again.  He spoke about feeling focussed, staying in the moment and always being a fighter. When I saw him on the stage, I didn't see the fighter, I saw a man full of light, despite being faced with so much darkness; I was inspired.

My journey home was marked by forked lightening blazing across Dockland skies. Although I've been back in London for a while, I am still mostly in denial about the weather, and had been ignoring the possibility of rain this Sunday. The lightening brought an epiphany, a flash of practicality: I have now prepared for a downpour, although I'd still prefer to run in my Merlin 'white van man' singlet if I can. 

The sun always shines on TV

Speaking of attire brings me to the camera, as I shall be wearing one on my head. BBC Panorama are making a programme about the science behind marathon preparation, and I've agreed to help out by providing some views from the track. I've broken my own rule of not trying anything for the first time on race day, but it's 'only' from mile 23 to the finish line. It's a fantastic opportunity, and I'm grateful to them for allowing me to take part in this way. 

From head to toes: earlier in the week, I saw a podiatrist for the first time, on the advice of a good friend, and was pleased to be told my feet are more than up to the task ahead. 

I won't write again before the race, but will be carb loading and aiming to get two good nights' sleep. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Baby love: be a 'lave save'

Two things happened this morning.

I didn't run, in fact I'm not running again until the marathon. This meant I was home when the post arrived. A letter that stood out was from Dr Samson Agbo, Merlin's Head of Health.

He writes:
"If the people we've helped in Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan knew your name, they wouldn't call you Dr Dosani. They'd call you a 'lavi save'. In English, quite simply, a lifesaver."

A Merlin Baby

Immediately I wanted to send that thought out to all those who have sponsored me, and to all those who are still thinking about whether to.

This time last year I was regularly cancelling social engagements. It was hot, much hotter than this Easter, and I was heavily pregnant. 'I just can't walk that far today,' friends became used to me saying, and many kindly came to me, where we sought shade and chatted. 

Dr Agbo's letter also tells me that in Afghanistan, expectant mothers can walk up to 20 days to see a qualified midwife. More women die in childbirth there than in many other countries worldwide. Merlin's birthing teams travel by any means necessary, including on horseback to reach remote areas, to reach these women.

So please support me in running, so that they don't have to walk and risk not only their own lives, but that of their unborn child as well.

£20 provides Merlin mobile birth attendants with two delivery kits to give these mothers and their babies the best and safest start.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Final countdown

I've got to admit, running hasn't been much of a muse recently.
Same runs, same tunes: what to write?
I'm feeling glad the marathon is just days away, as I'm excited about taking part, and giving it my all.
This week I'll do a couple of 'shorts' but no more 'longs', and then rest up until the big day.
My plan for the week before is to make a big playlist, clean my kit, go to the Expo to pick up race number and chip and - on the advice of a friend who has 'been there, done that', go and see a podiatrist.
On your marks...