In spite of the mild inconvenience of the mid-week journey down to London from Nottingham, I really enjoyed Tuesday’s get-together with some of the MS Trust’s London Marathon team. I’ve been in quite close dialogue with the MS Trust guys over email for the last few months, and it was good to finally meet some of them face-to-face. Sure, the runners are the ones putting in the miles and raising the sponsorship, but it’s the charity’s own team who provide the service that is so valuable and we're running to raise money to help them continue to do their good work.
As well as the introductions and a glass or two of wine, we had some really useful talks on nutrition, physio and on the experience of running the marathon generally. I learned loads. Where do you think the halfway point of a marathon is? The obvious answer is 13.1 miles, but apparently the psychological halfway point is at 20 miles. That information is slightly terrifying – the furthest I’ve ever run in one go is a half marathon – but it’s actually quite an empowering thing to learn too. After all, it’s far better to know that and to prepare accordingly than it is to be taken by surprise as I’m actually running the damn thing. The session on nutrition and hydration was good too, even if it seemed slightly ironic to be learning about the importance of hydration whilst drinking a glass of red wine. I don’t really pay all that much attention to what I eat. I’m distantly aware of carbohydrates and proteins and things like that, but had no real understanding of what I should be eating as I train for this marathon. I once had a swimming coach (and former age-group Triathlete for Australia) who gave me a strict telling off about the fact that I was training for a half marathon without any kind of a refuelling, hydration or recovery strategy. It seems that, to run 26.2 miles, I’m going to need to give much closer consideration to what I eat and drink before I run, whilst I ‘m running and once I’ve finished. It sounds so obvious, but the presentation was full of practical information about what I actually need to do. Four Weetabix for breakfast and a glass of milk straight after a run, basically….. I’ve always had a meal of wholemeal pasta with roasted vegetables the night before a long race. No, apparently. Way, way too much fibre to be sensible. Sports nutrition, eh? Apparently there might just be something to it.
I found the physio’s session on injury prevention and recovery useful but also slightly depressing: much of the presentation was given over to how you can identify and correct muscle weakness. Muscle weakness can greatly increase the risk of injury, and Zoe spent some time showing us how to identify common problems and showed us the exercises we need to do to counteract them. As it happens, I am familiar with many of those exercises. My problem is that, in my case, the weakness is caused by a fundamental underlying problem that I can’t change. Still, it was a timely reminder that knowing about those exercises and actually getting off my arse to do them are two completely different things. All those stretches, strength and balance exercises won’t do themselves and they can only help keep me on the road, even if they can’t make the problem go away. Also important, we were reminded, was taking the time to do a quick, dynamic warm-up and stretches when we finish running. I know this, of course, but almost never do them. You can warm up by running, right? I left the session with the best of intentions, of course… but of course, I only remembered that I hadn’t done my dynamic warm up when I was about a mile into my run last night… oh well, today’s another day and another run.
I don’t know if I’m unusual in attempting to run a marathon with MS – I would assume probably not – but during the course of the evening, John (the runner who was sharing his experiences of running the event) spotted my MS Trust wristband and delicately asked if I was personally affected by MS. Yes, I am. He seemed impressed… which as he was telling us how big an undertaking a marathon was from his own personal experience, was perhaps a little alarming. Because I had to rush off to catch my train back to the distant, snowy north, I dropped him an email the next day to thank him for his presentation (which was excellent) and how much I enjoyed chatting with him. He replied, “I have to say how impressed that having MS, you have chosen to run the Marathon : I think that’s very brave. Of course every MS is different but based upon on my statistically unrepresentative sample of 5 or 6, physical exercise would be the last thing you should be doing. I have nothing respect and admiration.”
That’s a lovely thought and much appreciated.
But..... I'm not brave. I don't consider myself brave, anyway. So I’m not being stupid doing this thing, am I? No more than usual, I mean? I’ll do my warm-ups and everything. I promise. Everything will be fine then, right?