I did it! I joined the marathon club before turning 30

Damien looking shattered

Well that was emotional but I did it. I ran a marathon before turning 30. However it wasn’t to be a glorious 3:45 marathon debut my training had pointed to but a real test of my ability to endure. Before the race my friend Nick told me that no matter what happens on the day remember the journey you have been on and the great experiences you have had whilst out training. I had to cling to words like those during the race as I stumbled across the line in a disappointing 4:26:12.

Edinburgh Marathon Race Report 

We headed up to  Edinburgh by train on Friday, after some drama with the tickets we got there and headed to our Airbnb in Leith to stay with the lovely Janet. Being at Janet’s reminded me of my Mum’s, it was pretty untidy but full of beautiful pictures and interesting books and cats, Janet has great taste.

Kasia and Damien

We failed to consider that Edinburgh might be pretty packed and it was freezing and wet, so after being turned down by our restaurant of choice we spotted a Pizza Express and I finally tried their new vegan pizza which went down brilliantly. Saturday saw plenty of resting and a little trip into town.

In the evening Kasia and I had the pleasure of hanging with Kayleigh and Tim. I met Kayleigh by chance whilst she was watching the London Marathon with her London running club the Mornington Chasers. We have a friend in common Hannah and realised we were running the same marathon, so we agreed to meet up. We went to David Banns and most of us had fantastic vegan food (Kasia’s wasn’t good) and a night of wonderful conversation. Both Kayleigh and Tim are more experienced runners than me and gave me loads of advice. This was just another example of how running has helped me make new brilliant friends.

Race Day

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I woke up to rain after a surprisingly good sleep, slipped into my running kit, ate my 3 Weetabix and drank a pint of water. We headed to the race start with plenty of time to spare and stood around shivering in the rain for a bit. But after starting to warm up I felt the race nerves fade away. I met up with Kayleigh, we had similar target times and agreed to run together for as long as possible.

ready to go

Tim (2:53 PB) had advised us the night before to start really slow: “Think as the first 5k as a warm up”. This made perfect sense and despite the downhill we started really slow, just at a lovely cruising pace. During the first half of the race we made our way out of Edinburgh and along the windswept coast, the sea and coastline looked beautiful, it was definitely rugged and the strong headwind was a challenge, But as we left the city we were met with some beautiful views. Runners were jostling for position on the inside to shield themselves from the battering winds blowing across us. I joined in this game trying to get myself as close to the inside as possible.

In the first half of the race I chatted to a guy called Paul from Birmingham who has ran over 150 marathons. He did his first one when he was also 29 to do one before turning 30 and never stopped. I remember him saying that his first one went badly wrong and he ended up at around 4:30. I remember thinking that is never going to be happening to me as we chatted away merrily till about mile 11. I carried on having lost contact with Kayleigh by this point but I was happy and feeling very much in control.

Then the wheels fell off in a dramatic way…

These were my splits at mile 13:

first half splits

half marathon

All of a sudden at mile 13 my right knee tightened and every step felt like someone was hitting me in the knee with a hammer. Writing this a few days later think it was my IT band that failed me. I have been plagued by flexibility issues and during the race they all flared up all together in one big perfect storm of pain. After dropping my pace by well over a minute a mile between 13 and 14, I was despairing. I called Kasia to tell her my knee had gone and my race was effectively over. At this point I was still on for a 3:40 marathon debut but I just knew and my words were “I will finish but it will be more like 4:30”.

I then proceeded to go through a whole roller coaster of emotions. The injury meant I couldn’t drive my right knee through. I decided to switch to a shuffle essentially, by opening my feet like a duck, I could move so that my knee didn’t kill. The problem was that this started to stress other parts of my body, the walls really came tumbling down.

The running part of this race was over, I had literally gone from gliding to hobbling in the space of a mile. This hadn’t happened in 5 runs over this distance in training. It had been 20 miles in Poland before I slowed down to 10 minutes a mile, but here I was at mile 14 basically struggling to keep it there.

second half

The next phase was all about mental resilience. Paul glided past me, his words “I am going to slow down otherwise I will pay for it later” rattled around my head. I hobbled along until mile 19 then it really fell to pieces. This was the part of the race where there were sparse crowds. My hamstrings had decided to join the pain party and completely tightened up. I was left cursing myself for not stretching more or getting involved in yoga.

From this point onwards it was a shuffle/run walk affair with stretching every half a mile and a bit of walking. Cardio wise I felt fine, I was actually a little bit cold once the sun went in as I was moving so much slower than I am accustomed to.

During these dark moments as my ego was taking a crushing my mind wondered to some interesting places. My thoughts drifted to hearing two time Ironman Champion Chris McCormack talk about walking in Ironman races. Rich Roll taking part in his first Ultraman and employing a walk 1 mile, run 1 mile strategy. Dave Scott’s form collapsing and pace dropping from 6 minute miles to 10 minute miles when he was overtaken after 24 miles running neck and neck in the final miles of the 1989 Ironman (The Iron War) but still chased Mark Allen in hope he still might fade..

I felt humbled, I felt like a baby, an arrogant baby having a sulk in my head because my body shut down and taught me to respect the marathon distance. I really felt like my pacing strategy was fine. I was running the same pace as my second longest training run and slightly faster than my Poland run but it was just total collapse. I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty just tight, my movements were totally constricted.

Being passed by thousands of runners was a hard experience for me to take. My second half of the marathon was a whole 1:36 slower than my first half 1:50 with it taking a total of 2:36. Possibly the worst negative split in history, perhaps the hard hill runs I had done to Hampstead hollowed out my legs, perhaps the move, the illness, not getting above 20 miles since my 21.7 (3:15) training run in Poland had done for me.

Whatever it was it hurt, it hurt real bad in my legs and in my head. Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur, just because I can run a 1:50 half marathon with ease doesn’t mean I can do a sub 4 marathon. I don’t know.

I can honestly say that the crowd were amazing on the way back into Musselburgh the last couple of miles saw people shouting great encouragement and anyone who was there cheering us on I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As we arrived into the finish, I managed to string together a mile of shuffle run heading towards the line I felt a sense of relief wash over me. I couldn’t wait to see Kasia as it had been nearly 3 hours since I had talked to anyone (no one wants to talk to the person they are overtaking).

But I did it, I crossed the line in 4:26:12, I joined the marathon club before I turned 30. At the end of the day, that is what I originally set out to do back when I started this blog in September.

It wasn’t the result I was hoping for but now the dust is settling I am pretty sure I will run another marathon, perhaps in the Autumn if not in 2015 for sure. For now I want to focus on shorter races, I have the Hackney Half Marathon in a months time and I want to start doing some ParkRun’s and focus on completing my first triathlon.

Honestly although the marathon hurt me mentally and physically I can honestly say that journey towards it changed my life for the better. At 29 I am fitter and healthier than I have been since I was 21. I have discovered a way to explore my surroundings and calm my mind.

I have come to realise that sometimes in running like life in general things don’t work out as we planned. However that doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile experiences, every bit of mental and physical anguish I experienced in the Edinburgh Marathon will help me become a better runner and hopefully a better person in the future.

And to you the reader. Thanks for coming here and supporting me on this journey. The blog will continue as will the YouTube channel, I feel drawn towards triathlon at the moment and will be writing about my ventures into that world. You have been the best and anyone who has commented or interacted with me on this blog or on YouTube or Twitter, you have enhanced my life and I will be forever grateful to you for that.

And to all my friends who have supported me throughout this journey especially my girlfriend Kasia Ring for being super supportive and enduring my endless run chat. I also couldn’t have done this without all the following people.

My Mum for being a brilliant person and inspiring me everyday by being a wonderful person. My brother Adam for his words of encouragement and support with whatever I pursue.  My regular training partner Clare Foster and her dog Watson, you both got me through some grim winter runs.  Joe Phillips, especially for that 10 miler,  Nick Jones for wise words and inspiring me the seek challenges. Kate Stewart for the regular words of wisdom and the spin classes. Sam Sparrow for being super solid friend and setting a great example of how to get your training done. Helen at Fix for mending me and Kierra Hautala (old housemate and also at Fix) for the great advice on stretching and impromptu massages. Ade Adoabe for the amazing PT and counselling and inspiration. Ivo Gormley for the words of encouragement and creating GoodGym. Lauren Garland, meeting you in Platform 15 months ago set me on this course and those first difficult runs with you helped set me on the right path for which I am forever grateful. My friend Aimee Harrison for getting me to do that Bushy Park 10k and giving me loads of advice along the way. My old school friends John Rendle and Peter Flexman for running the Greenwich Park 10k, you both will be coming running with me again soon. All the vegan fruit bats for rooting for me and Rich Roll, Durian Rider and Scott Jurek for being an inspiration. And everyone else who supported and inspired me along the way.

My race stats can be found on Strava

I would love to hear from anyone reading this blog. How do I recover from this marathon? My legs are shot to pieces, where did I go wrong with my training? You can find all my training over on Strava, as always your support and advice is massively valued. 

30 miles a week

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Firstly, so sorry for the delay in updating you. After super consistent blogging since September I have fallen off the blogging wagon a little bit.

Life has been interested, I have lots of new projects going on that have been demanding my creative energies and I am starting to reach the peak of my marathon training which thankfully has been going great recently.

The past few weeks have seen me start to string together my long runs, I have only run 13.8 as my longest run thus far which took me 2:01 and I did a 13.5 mile run the previous week in 1:51 before the smog/killer air quality descended on London this week and slowed me down. 

I have switched my long runs to Monday and Tuesday’s, I am lucky that I work remotely and I am able to have a flexible schedule that enables me to train in the week. On Monday I will run for 2:40, I suppose that will mean around 18 miles which I am excited about. I found a tasty vegan Clif gel to take during my run, I will take them at around 1:10 like last week and perhaps 1:45 to see get the energy into me for the last hard couple of miles. 

My total Mileage has been pretty decent since I last updated you, I ran a total of 174km in March and already have clocked up 49km in April and 30.3 miles this week. 

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The next are going to be chaotic. I am going on holiday with my girlfriend to Poland then Berlin. This will mean that my 20/23 mile run will probably be done in Poland or Berlin. Not ideal but it could be worse. I can’t wait to bring you some footage of those runs. I am actually getting quite heavily into YouTube where the Vegan Runner channel has now produced over 50 videos and has over 200 subscribers. I am actually vlogging on this channel everyday in April as part of the crew at #BattenVEDA.

If you haven’t popped by come and watch me go a bit nuts about the air quality in London this week. 

Tomorrow it is 7 weeks until Edinburgh and my legs feel great. My recover has been really amazing, I am sure my vegan wholefoods diet is massively responsible for this. On my rest days this week I did a spin class and a 45 minute swim and I have no muscle pains touch wood. 

My concern is that I seem to either run long or 10k so I need more 8/10 miles, I am going to make that the focus of my running in the next few weeks as I take the mileage up to 35/40 a week.

Experienced marathoners do I look on track? My stats are here on Strava, I would love some feedback. 

Who else is running Edinburgh? I would love to hear how your training is going in the comments below.

 

 

Harder, Faster, Longer

10 mile run

Want to go harder, faster, longer? If so, you have come to the right place, get ready to receive some advice that will change your running for the better.

1) Believe in yourself

It sounds simple but so many runners needlessly doubt themselves, I include myself in this category. If you have your trainers on and are getting out of the door you’re already doing great. Our bodies were designed to endure incredible physical stress, our minds on the other hand are prone to the odd wobble. For example this weekend at mile 7 of my run I thought I was literally done for but I got a mouthful of water and ended up running miles 7-10 quicker than miles 4-7. It was my mind that was playing tricks on me, my actual body was more than up for the challenge.

2) Get your carbs in

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist but this much I know. A high-carb vegan diet rich in fruits and vegetables of over 3000 calories a day has seen me lose 7kg and this weekend I ran 10 miles in 1:17.23. I am still 10 weeks away from the Edinburgh Marathon and currently my recovery and energy levels are great and the PB’s keep coming my way.

3) Swing your arms

It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing, isn’t that how the song goes? Well anyway, swinging those arms really helps especially when tackling hills. You want to have your arm bent at a 45 degree angle and push them right back it shouldn’t feel forced, just find a rhythm that works for you. I did some work with the amazing Ade at Fit City and I have seen some massive improvements in my times and running form as a result

4) Hydration

Get up drink a litre of water. Before breakfast, before radio 4, make it the first thing you do everyday. Hydration is essential to maintaining a health digestion. A well hydrated runner will start to come into their own in the later stages of the race. I made a mistake of under hydrating in my December Ashford Marathon and I will never do that again. I aim to urinate at least once every 2 hours making sure my urine is clear (I can’t believe I talk about urine in blogs).

5) Smile

Runners smiling at me lifts my spirits and keeps my pace up, runners who saying hello actually make my day. Runners are a special breed; we only really understand each other the very least we can do is smile at each other.

In 10 weeks time I will be running the Edinburgh Marathon, I literally can’t wait now Spring has arrived, I am getting faster, starting to dream about that 3:30 perhaps it is possible. After my 10 miles in 1:17.23 perhaps it isn’t a pipe dream after all.

Let me know your tips for great running. Thanks for reading, you’re all superstars I appreciate all of you very much.

How running and a vegan diet changed my life

My vegan transformation
Sometimes in life you find yourself being a passenger. The easy thing to do is to heed to the advice of Hunter S Thompson and simply; “sit back and enjoy the ride”. It is safe to say we’re all guilty of doing this at times. In this hectic world we exist in it’s easy to let malaise set in and let go of our dreams, career aspirations, relationships and our health. The last one ‘our health’, that was the one for me. I consider myself someone who lives in the present, who is ambitious, finds the courage to speak my mind and stand up for others. I didn’t believe I was a passenger but in that one area ‘my health’, I was cruising in the wrong direction.

Then about a year ago one Sunday the sun was shining and I had recently been discussing wanting to go running again. It had been 6 months since I managed any kind of run and over 2 years since I had managed more than 10 miles in a week. Somehow I made it out the door and set out for a run around a part of Victoria Park, it was a beautiful day I enjoyed that part of the run. I didn’t enjoy the constant stopping, the blisters forming on my feet and the slow speed I was running at. I think I ran about 3.8 miles in somewhere around 39 minutes, before walking the last half a mile home. Not my finest moment, but I had done the hardest thing, I got out there and tried.

“So I did what I do normally do, I made a plan. I am a big fan of plans”.

My plan was that I would run 2/3 times a week and build up to the point where I could run 5k without needing to stop. This took me about 4 weeks and was helped massively by my friend Lauren Garland who came running with me as she prepared for a marathon. I still remember some of those runs around Hackney Downs for the awful wind and rain but Lauren coming round to my flat and getting me out helped me loads, I think I will be forever grateful to you for that Lauren if you are reading this.

“Little things… Little things count”.

I then joined GoodGym and started running more regularly on my own. After a few months a injury struck not surprisingly considering  the extended vacation of over 2 years I had given my body with the exception of casual bike commuting. This led to a spell on the sidelines, I had physio, I read books (Born To Run, Eat and Run, Running with the Kenyans) and I thought about how the previous 3 months had made me feel. And the answer was it had made me feel alive, it made me start to have little dreams. Not the kind of dream where I fantasise about finding an affordable house in Hackney but the kind of dream where I push my body, my mind and my heart to achieve something memorable to me.

“Create memorable experiences, they are worth a thousand material things”.

So what happened next? I slowly recovered from my Achilles injury, I built myself up again, running exclusively 5k’s for my first month back. Just hit that 10 mile base was my mantra.

Last weekend I had came down with 24 hour fever which left me feeling pretty drained it was the first illness of any type I had endured since May 2013. I somehow managed a 3 mile run which was incredibly hard and it meant that I only recorded 11.8 miles last week. I was devastated that after the storming previous week I had fallen some 10 miles short of my Edinburgh Marathon training plan.

Then I realised that is how far I have come in the space of just over a year. I have transformed myself physically and mentally, I feel more ambitious to do good things than ever, I am far more positive person than I was a year ago, I am looking to the future not glancing at the past.

I lost about 7kg, dropping from around 77kg to 70kg today. I eat more than ever, I eat when I want, I never restrict my calories. Honestly a low-fat vegan diet has done wonders for my physical and mental wellbeing. I was a vegetarian before but when I went vegan I realised how much more efficient my body was running on plants, grains and fruits. It was a real revelation. Whatever your diet, I encourage you to eat more plants and lots more fruit, I believe going is a key reason I have improved quickly as a runner.

So yeah, running rocks! Fruit rules and so do you if you made it this far.

Beautiful Hackney running

Another week where I achieved my Jantastic run target.

Another week where I achieved my Jantastic run target.

Consistency matters! I am generally ok at getting my weekly mileage in but this week boy did I not want to run. Most of my runs this week came after hours of sitting around in my running gear, only the embarrassment of having to change out of it got me out the door.

Luckily being my own boss means I can pick when I run, which generally is when the weather is at its mildest and driest. And as always I was rewarded with stunning scenery. East London was recently described in a survey of Londoners as ‘grimy’ but the East London I see has everything you could want. Culture, marsh land, huge parks, independent shops, canals, great places to socialise. I also think it is pretty darn good for running; a couple of extra hills wouldn’t go amiss but when you get treated to views like this when you’re running you can’t complain.

Clissold Park on Monday afternoon as the sun was coming down.

Clissold Park on Monday afternoon as the sun was coming down.

Leyton Marsh taken on my Saturday 7 miler.

Leyton Marsh taken on my Saturday 7 miler.

Like pretty much every week, I did my Monday run, this week a 4 and half miler to Clissold Park. I then ended up not  running again until Friday when I ran to and from my personal training session with Ade. This week we again focused on core work and running posture and form. I was back on the treadmill again and things are lining up quite nicely with my running. She has given me more exercises to work on improving my core strength and posture.

Saturday saw me embark on another epic episode of procrastination before heading off on a lovely run to Hackney Marsh, it was 7 miles my longest since my injury and simply beautiful weather and thoroughly enjoyable.

My Saturday run

My Saturday run

My mind is starting to turn to marathon training which I start on the first Monday in February. I am feeling nervous but excited, so if you’re in London and training for a marathon and want a running partner please give me a shout.

Thanks for being amazing and reading my blog. Your comments and support always inspires me.

Damien xx

January when champions are made

After the 1 mile time trial

We’re now approaching the end of January. The Christmas present trainers are muddy and the new year resolution runners lacking in commitment have disappeared from our streets. January is the when champions are made. Ok, well Spring marathon runners at the very least.

This week has seen me continue on my comeback from injury clocking up a happy 12.7 miles running. I highly recommend kicking off the week with a Monday run, I know this isn’t exactly a ground shattering revelation but I honestly believe running early in the week is the key to ticking off your mileage target.

Embracing the unpredictable weather is in my mind also key to happy January running. I like to think of huge puddles as a fun obstacle and focus on the fact that in freezing cold weather you burn fat quicker; equalling me becoming a lighter faster runner on race day.

On Tuesday I ran with GoodGym Hackney, we were working with the brilliant charity Streetbank delivering flyers in the areas their members live. I had heard about Streetbank before and it was great to find out more about the work they do getting neighbours to help each other out by lending each other useful items or skill swapping. The run was incredibly enjoyable and again we had a huge turnout (I think the biggest Hackney GoodGym run). It is always great to meet other runners in my local area and because of the nature of GoodGym e.g. doing good in the local community the people who come along are always incredibly interesting.

Ade the GoodGym trainer also set us a purely running challenge to run a 1 mile circuit of London Fields. I was annoyingly busting to wee but I thought I would give it a decent go, after a few laps it was clear if I wanted to be the first to finish I would need to run faster than my body was physically up to. A 35 mile cycle on the Sunday and 4 runs in 5 days had taken its toll. Despite that I still was one of the first runners to finish recording a 6:28 mile. We will be running this lap again in 8 weeks, I will be in marathon training then and it would be great to bring that time down and go below the 6:12 mile I ran back in October.

On Friday morning I went running with my friend Clare and her dog Watson. Clare is a great running partner and I always enjoy our chats and Watson is just great fun in his never ending search for the biggest possible stick he can carry. I proceeded to go straight from my 4 and half mile run to my first personal training session with Ade (mentioned earlier).

On the way to the personal training, I smashed a PB on a 400 metre dash in London Fields, I love this Strava challenge it is on my way home and always motivates me to have a dash beating my PB. I was so delighted to get an 8th place on the all time challenge leader board jumping two places recording a 1.25 on the dash. I would urge everyone to get on Strava, it is great way to add a little excitement to even runs when you don’t feel at your best.

London Fields 400 metre dash

8th place on the all time leaderboard

8th place on the all time leaderboard

With hindsight running before a personal training session wasn’t my wisest decision. As well as leading the Hackney GoodGym group, Ade runs a personal training business called Fit City with a special focus on exploring the urban architecture of London through running. However this Friday we were in London Fields Fitness studios and Ade was putting me through my paces with a core and cardio workout. And boy did she make me sweat, Ade is tough but very fair and a real pleasure to train with. We did lots of different core exercises, lunges, boxing and some running, I enjoyed the session immensely.

The good news from the session is that my core isn’t too bad however there is room for improvement and I will be working with Ade in the coming weeks to strengthen this area up before starting my Edinburgh Marathon training at the start of February.

Ade also filmed my running and there has been massive improvements in my form, the arms are swinging better and feet are very close to striking straight underneath me. I will be working with Ade in the coming weeks to improve this. Any tips on running form are much appreciated, please comment below I honestly appreciate any help.

Next week I promise to do a blog on nutrition as a vegan, I have found that since switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet last June my running and overall health as come on leaps and bounds. 

And remember we are half way through the Winter, keep finding pleasures in Winter running and before you know it Spring will be in the air along with those race PB’S. 

Thanks for popping by as always.

Damien x

Jantastic me!

Fruit haul

Hello! anyone there? Sorry for the silence the past week or so. I have been full of good new year intentions but clearly blogging lots hasn’t been one of them. Work has been slightly busier, I have also been making sure I see lots of friends but importantly I am back up and running pain free. Edinburgh is in my sights.

Running wise I am hoping the calf problem which ruined my December running behind me. To stay fit I have incorporated a much more rigorous stretching regime both pre and post run. I have also purchased a road bike and went spinning at London Fields Fitness again on Monday.  2014 is going to be the year when fitness and friends come together and I spent more time exploring beautiful places with friends outdoors and less time doing unhealthy things . This Sunday I am going out for a early morning 30 mile bike ride with my friend Luke and a bunch of his friends, I am pretty nervous about keeping up but I am sure it will be fun.

My running has been steady if unspectacular, the weather here in the UK has been insane. I have to admit I have generally been picking my times to run based on the weather predictions. Although I did go running at 6:46 in the morning the other week, this was unusual for me. I have to admit I really enjoyed the quietness of the run and it gave me a great chance at recording a good time on the London Fields 400 metre dash on Strava. I have been really enjoying Strava of late, it is great to see what other runners are doing in your local area. I decided to have a dash at running the stretch fast, I managed to just squeeze into the top 10 on the Strava leader board. I love knowing where challenges are on my routes and having a dash and running them fast.

London Fields 400 metre dash

Get on Strava it is free and a great way to add a bit of extra fun into your runs. 

I have also been on the hunt for great fruit as per usual, I am keeping up my consumption of around 70 bananas a week. My girlfriend and I have resorted to buying whole boxes of bananas from our local market. Although I am not sure how many more times I can carry 19 kg for bananas over a mile.

In this video check out how Kasia and I got on hunting for new fruit.

I also went to GoodGym this week, if you haven’t heard of GoodGym it is a great way to run and help make your community a better place. It is now in 4 locations in London and is growing all the time. This week we had 25 runners at Hackney GoodGym who helped clear a pathway at an allotment. On the way up I ran at the back (we make sure no one runs alone) and on the way back I led us home running leading us back at spritely pace. I love running back from GoodGym there is always a little bit of fun competition for those of us near the front.

I have signed up to the Marathon Talk’s Jantastic.me challenge with a few other GoodGym members, I love being part of a little running community of do-gooders, it is a really special thing. I only have set myself a modest Jantastic target of 3 runs a week for the next couple of weeks until I start my marathon training plan.

I am 19 weeks away and I am thinking about following either 18 or 16 week marathon plan. If you have any plan recommendations please put them in the comments below.

As always thanks for reading and keeping running, we were born to do this.

Damien x