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Archive for April, 2010

Last Sunday I ran my last ever marathon (oh, ok I’ve said that before).  There is something very addictive about doing a marathon, despite the long, hard training through wind, rain and snow, and despite having to get up early every Sunday morning for 4 months to go for a long run and despite the pain and muscle soreness post-race.

Today is Thursday, four days after the marathon, and my legs are only just back to normal.  For the last few days, walking down stairs has been a huge effort (much to the annoyance of several commuters stuck behind me) and getting up out of a chair is comical.

Nevertheless, it was all worth it.   Running the London Marathon is like no other; the crowds are five deep in places and around Canary Wharf they were deafening; the camaraderie amongst runners keeps you going – I chatted to a giraffe, a man on crutches and a girl running for the same charity as me.  I saw a tomato, a caterpillar, a knight in shining armour and a butterly (later found out the butterfly was none other than Sir Richard Branson).   I was running well up to about 17 miles, I was on target for sub 4:30 but then the wheels came off and my legs started to hurt, every step was an effort, but I kept on running.  People saw my name on my vest and shouted and cheered me on.  

Approaching the Mall, under the gantry that announces you have 385 yards to go, I tried to squeeze out one last effort but legs were having none of it.  I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 38 minutes and burst into tears, I couldn’t stop blubbering.  I think it was relief that I’d done it and just the build up of pressure from the last 4 months letting itself out.  It’s a good sort of crying.  Everyone around me was walking slowly, it was quieter in the finishing area as though runners were in a daze of relief.  Looking round, it looked like the world was in slow motion.

I’ve had people this week say to me “Oh, I could never do that”.  But they can.  If I can I’m sure anyone can.  I only started running 5 years ago and at first I couldn’t run to the end of my road without collapsing, but now I’ve done 4 marathons.  There was a gentleman sat next to me at the charity post race party who must have been well into his 60s and had just completed his first one.  Respect to him.

What I need to do now is take the same approach to other parts of my life as I did to the marathon.  It’s a huge challenge but I took it steady, I paced myself, I prepared fairly well and I got through it with good results.  Can you do this for any areas of your life?

I also wasn’t injured at all during my training and I put this down to regular Bowen Technique treatments, plus had one last Monday to ease my sore legs.  It’s important to look after yourself whilst training – eat correctly, drink lots of water, sleep well and have regular treatments, be they sports massage, Bowen or reiki, whatever you prefer.

So, my marathon shoes are hung up for good now (well, at least for several years) and I’m going to concentrate on sedate 5ks and 10ks for now.  I’m so eager to get out running again and start running off road and exploring the local woodland.  I need my fix. 

Running is a fabulous exercise for all.  It’s a myth that it gives you dodgy knees, quite the opposite, it strengthens them.  It’s great for your mind, your body and your spirit and you’re out in the fresh air getting that valuable vitamin D from the sunshine.   Circulation is boosted, your immune system is strengthened and the high it gives is better than chocolate (now there’s something!). 

Go on, get your running shoes on and go for a little run around the block, you’ll love it.

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Coconuts

During a trip to Fiji many years ago on my round the world travels, I was on the beach by myself when this young Fijian appeared from nowhere and I asked if I liked coconut. Like, I love it! Next thing I knew, before I could say “coconut shy”, he’d shinned up and down the nearest tree and had got me a lovely fresh coconut, sliced off the top and offered it to me. How cool! The contents refreshed me immediately.

I’ve always been a lover of coconut, I used to eat dessicated stuff by the spoonful out of the box in the larder when I was little. The smell reminds me of summer holidays. Probably why I also like pina coladas and thai green curries!

So, imagine my glee when, at the Vitality Show recently, there were several companies promoting various coconut products including coconut water. I wonder if they recognised me each time I went back for another sample?

Coconut water has obviously been around for as long as, well, coconuts, but it’s only recently that coconut water has been seen as a product itself on the shelves of our health food stores. Not surprisingly, it’s 100% natural. It comes from the green coconut, not the brown one seen at the local fair. The taste is clean, refreshing and natural, with no added sugar.

The list of health benefits are extensive. Quite apart from being extremely tasty and refreshing, it contains five key electrolytes: potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium and calcium. This makes it an ideal drink for a runner like me. In fact, in the last few weeks I’ve been drinking it before my long runs and on my return and haven’t been feeling nearly as tired as post other long runs. I shall be popping a couple of packs in my post-London Marathon bag for immediate consumption and rehydration at the finish line. Like many sports drinks out there, coconut water is being termed a ‘functional’ drink – people consume it not just because they like the taste but also because it does a job and starts doing some good work once inside us.

Coconut water is low in fat, pasteurised (so ok for those of you who are expecting) and contains high levels of lauric acid, what the body uses to make monolaurin, a disease-fighting fatty acid derivative. Lauric acid has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that protect the body against various infections and boost the immune system.

I’m thinking of adding it to my next smoothie and mixing it with some pineapple juice (no rum, well at least not til the marathon is over). I wonder if it will freeze too as coconut flavoured ice cubes would be so refreshing in warm weather, mixed in with other drinks.

So, when you’re next in the health food store, have a look for coconut water in the chiller cabinet. Vita Coco is the brand I’ve seen most of the UK and the one I’ve been using, although there may be other brands too. Hopefully you’ll soon be a coco-nut like me.

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In the weeks leading up to the marathon, every little niggle and ache suddenly seems like the worst injury ever. Some of it is probably even in the mind because none of us want to pull out at this late stage and we’re all so anxious to keep injury free.

So, when I woke up on Wednesday this week with a sore right lower leg, I immediately thought of all those training miles wasted and all those lovely people who had sponsored me – then pulled myself together! It was probably just a reaction to the excellent 20 miles I ran at the weekend and it’s also time to bed my new shoes in properly, having been wearing them for short runs.

On the whole I’ve been relatively free of aches and pains during my training. In fact I started, 4 months ago, with a sore left hip and left thigh but that’s gone now. I put all this down to Bowen Technique treatments.

Bowen Tecnique is a soft tissue remedial therapy that uses very light rolling movements of thumbs and fingers over soft tissue, ie. muscles, tendons and ligaments, at certain points of the body. A treatment works holistically, looking at the body as a whole rather than just the symptom, so work is done around my shoulders, neck and upper back and not just my legs.

Luckily I already had a Bowen appointment booked in last night so mentioned the issue with the outside of my right calf. My therapist Rachel, who trained at the same time as me, found tension in my shoulders as well as my hamstrings and did some extra work around my ankles. After nearly an hour I left feeling refreshed, had a wonderful undisturbed night’s sleep and woke up this morning with the pain almost gone. To take advantage of this lovely blue sky, I went for a 7 mile run and wasn’t troubled at all by my right calf. And sitting here now, I still have no pain. Bowen really is fabulous.

If you are taking part in any marathon, half running or, indeed, just run to keep fit, then it’s well worth having regular Bowen treatments to keep you on your feet. Not only will Bowen act on any injury, but you will also find you pick up fewer injuries in the future. In the three weeks leading up to a marathon, I would recommend a weekly treatment, plus one the day after the race to keep your body fluid.

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