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The marathon/ The final post

April 17, 2011

After much nerves and wobbles of fear this past week, this morning dawned very well- slightly overcast but warm. I’d refrained from the hog roast at Matt’s end of season dinner the night before- amidst much sighing, and settled for pasta and potatoes and bread. And lots of water.

This morning, I left early to get to Greenwich, stopping first at the local store to buy tissues, my special tissues from Anouk, are AWOL with the house chaos. The shopkeeper was so excited I was running, he wanted to run it, he’d done the Brighton etc etc, but it was really nice as it was genuine support and reminded me how fortunate I was to get a place.

It was just me on the bus, with my red Virgin marathon bag, my well worn sneakers, and there were a couple of mumbled good lucks and well dones which was really quite sweet, then a guy got on, with his red bag and sneakers, we did an awkward half smile and then as seasoned Londoners looked away. More and more joined the journey until the DLR from Charing Cross was a homogenous bunch of red bags and sneakers.

Greenwich park was teeming. I actually was really excited and feeling really good. There were so many people there. Some in costumes- surprisingly less than I expected actually. There were interviews with some people about why they were running- one guy was running for his daughters charity, she’d only died 2 weeks ago! There were so many people running with placards on their backs about their story and you realised how fortunate we are and I was really grateful to be running for Outward Bound and helping as many people as possible get to experience big adventures- ones they choose to do, as opposed to experiencing challenges beyond choice. Although I think there is nothing more powerful then someone doing something this challenging for a loved one who has been helped by a charity.

Eventually we got over the starting line 20 minutes after the clock started. And we were off! Guys, it was amazing. Just such an inclusive feeling- everyone from all sorts of backgrounds watching and cheering. Beer swiggers and champagne sippers; Posh people with their tea and corgi dogs; neighbours standing together half watching/ half gawping; clergymen and their blessed holy water and kiddies with their water pistols, old people waving from their windows; little children with outstretched hands desperate for high 5s or to try and give a runner, any runner a sticky jelly babies off their reaching palms, church bells were ringing, African drums beating; brass bands performing, music blared from windows, pubs, shops; shouts and laughs, just noise. Real, unpoliced noise.
And it was on this wave I just ran, grinning and waving (like an open anonymous freak) for the first 16 miles. It was amazing.

Then it got hard. And hot. I knew Matt, my dad and Jess were in Canary Wharf about mile 19- but I didn’t really know how much further away they were. I didn’t know how far I was, where I was and it was tough. I really wanted to walk but more than that I didn’t want them to see me walking. Matt has been such an awesome driving force for me, encouraging me, helping me and also being the whipping boy when I lash out. And so I wanted to make him really proud, so I carried on. I was surrounded by people commemorating their dads and children and so I also really wanted to see my dad and appreciate being able to remember this moment in my life with him there.

So to see them was really really special. I was just frikking knackered. Lots of people were starting to walk which was annoying as it meant having to run around them- but people, I ran around them, I patted some people on the back if they had a South African t-shirt on, or a really amazing message on their back. One old guy’s said: “2 years ago I had open heart surgery”. Another had his newborn son picture and the dates of his 2 day long lifespan. There were so many emotional glimpses throughout the time, even in remembering it.

Finally it was the last 6 miles. My legs just gave out. I’d stopped twice to stretch out my back, calves and feet. I tried doing it again, but there were so many people pressed against the sides of the roads, nowhere seemed suitable, so I carried on and then walked. I was desperate to do it in under 5 hours but I just didn’t have the strength in my legs. I was fine physically and mentally. Not out of breath, enjoying it but hey ho. I mean at one point I even felt sadness that it was soon all going to be over! In those last 3 miles Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament seemed so very far away. Finally, I was more worried that if I kept walking I wouldn’t be able to restart running, and so I ran. Forrest Gump once more. It was agony. Every lift of the leg, every crash of the foot jarred my back, my hips were burning, but I just picked up the pace and ran. Like not jogging, but running. I ran the last 300 metres, just like I’d hoped and dreamt I would. Head up, strong stride.

I saw my little family group again (Clever tip- balloons on a stick- find your friends every time) and from there I did run. Past the masses crammed onto pavements, teeming through St James park and I barrelled down to Buckingham Palace (I’ll never be an elegant runner) all around me you could hear the screams of support and the screams of fellow runners muscles as everyone pushed for the finish. The man in the panda suit; the pilot in the fighter jet; Snow White and Gandhi. All of us, swept along with the history of fiction and the sweat of a marathon. It was a great day.

No, it was my best day.

Let’s hope my arnica bath soak (Atro Bath Oil from A.Vogel) does the trick and I’m able to move tomorrow! Remember they have very kindly sponsored me too, so for every fan I tell about my recovery crutch they sponsor Outward Bound 50p- awesome product, awesome company 🙂 www.avogel.co.uk/outward-bound
I’m only £500 away from my sponsorship target too: www.justgiving.com/andreabritt

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Penultimate post/ 34 hours

April 15, 2011

Well, obviously, I am nervous. To be brutally honest, I am actually more nervous than I have ever been for anything else. True Story.
…Will I feel like a single soul in a sea of thousands?
…Will it be a rerun of my half marathon? Only without Matt.
…Will the starting gun go off and I slowly inch towards the start line along with the snail, bear, giant nurse and men with fridges on their backs? And me. Mrs-obviously-normal-why-is-she-here?
Ag, I feel like weeping while all around me people on twitter are jittery and excited, with their well prepared, already packed bags and chosen outfits.

I bought the bra I’m running in yesterday- wearing it around work today to try it out. Apparently it should be tested in a run. But I’m in ‘tapering’ mode. LOL! Still not sure about the clothes. Got new socks though- apparently another no-no. And new (but awesome tasty) energy gels. Again, the top-order no-no.

Don’t get me wrong, I may have been out of breath climbing the stairs to work today (it is on third floor to be fair!) 🙂 but I can run 6 miles comfortably- the first 40 minutes suck but then it all ticks over (hopefully). My final two training session might have been yoga and pilates based as opposed to cardio in nature. I might have only done a maximum of 40 training runs (if I use the number of blog posts as a guide).

But what I’m really freaking out about is that I am acting like a first time mother nervous about giving birth! Think about it:
• Millions of people experience it
• There’s a risk of death but shouldn’t really happen in a first world setting
• I fixate on horror stories, like Louise at work, she has problems with her feet still- 2 years on!
• People say this often to me: “Obviously it’s painful but it’s all worthwhile”
• I’ve thought and talked of nothing else for months
• It’s kept my other worries and concerns ‘in perspective’
• I’m touched by everyones support and excitement
• I have a list of people to text with the results as soon as it is over
• I know it will be absolute agony towards the end- especially the last 45 minutes “if you’re unfortunate and inexperienced”
• My husband’s really nervous and will stand helplessly and worried on the day.
• I bought a new bra
• There’ll be people there in nurses outfits. And dressed as a snail

Ok, maybe the last one, not so much the same, but you never know!

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll feel better, but for now I am safely ensconced in a womb of fear.

The Final Training Session/ 3 days to go!!

April 14, 2011

I had some coverage from the local paper- dunno if you saw? 🙂 I’d emailed them to say I was running the marathon and would be writing an article about the race with pictures etc , would they be interested. So the journo dude calls me up, asks me some general questions, and me being me answer in my usual dismissive fashion. He says they might do something on me that day even… he’ll grab stuff off my blog if need be. wow. So I thought I’d share the resulting article

Here’s a great comment from Duncan : “Brilliant! They make you sound like someone who only ventured outdoors to buy more chips and pot noodles.” Oooh, the pride. I just might burst.

I thought an appropriate end to my ‘military style training regime’ would be a strenuous spinning class. Use different muscles from my extensive collection and all that. So I went to gym, put my little towel and bottle on my bike, went down to get changed… got to the changing rooms and realised I didn’t have any trainers. Now I did genuinely pause and wonder if people would notice or mind… but figured they would. So quietly skulked upstairs (barefoot) retrieved my bottle and towel and went to a body balance pilates class. And so I end my training for 26.2 miles with a true gruelling end- a sun salutation with karma breathing.

But luckily this happened after the journalist called and wrote about me being Suttons biggest couch potato.

PAAANNNIC STATIONS!!

April 13, 2011

So, finally got round to reading the official guide to the marathon today to work out when to register. Really motivational stuff. Tres exciting. Went round my sisters for dinner with my dad, Matt and Jess paging through to the section of where to meet and greet etc at the end of the run. Found a map.

An aerial view map. So you can see landmarks and distances between them. Of the whole race. Spread over 4 pages.

Then it happened. My giggle. Like when I do a really naughty thing. Like finish the chocolate I know Matt’s been saving. Or write off our car in a head on collison on the way to work. (Just twigged how much trauma I put Matt through on a regular basis. lol!)

So I stood giggling, kinda twitching restlessly. I finally realised how far I have to run. I am so ill prepared I feel like weeping. Not in a dismissive, I’ve actually been secretly running under the desk at work all this time, but seriously. I’ve avoided swear words while I write to try and pretend to be couth and refined, but OMG, there is a reason swear words are still knocking about in their word of mouth notoriety. They are very expressive and useful.

Anyway, breathe in, breathe out. The race is no more accomplishable or unaccomplishable just because I have grasped the true scale of it. The best thing about physical trauma is the pain is generally forgettable. But it is the fear and the psychology of it that is the lasting legacy.

I have the registration tomorrow…the registration for the planets largest fundraising event. The London Marathon, that I am going to do on Sunday. This Sunday. Through Blackheath, through Greenwich, through Bermondsey where Matt had his marine barracks, across Tower Bridge. Through the Isle of Dogs (I means seriously? Who knows where the hell that is???), back through Canary Wharf, back past the Tower of London where many an innocent (and not so innocent, to be fair) lives were taken. And then on to the Palace. As you do. On a Sunday. When you are frikkkkkkkiiiiinnng insane.

5 days to go/ And so I ran

April 11, 2011

Did another 6 miles/ 9 km run in under 55 minutes tonight! Feeling quietly confident that I might not die afterall next Sunday!

Busy trying to hammer the fundraising front and deal with some pressing family issues, which has meant that I haven’t done a last very long run, but I did get a lovely watch BabyG watch to time myself from Matt’s lil bro and Bronnie, which I am well excited about. It has a cat animation and every-thing. 🙂 And a stop watch, hence how I knew tonights run took 54 minutes…

I had a great run last week too, when it was really hot and I just decided right I’m turning around, there is no point in pushing myself this hard just before the race (bear in mind this is about 2 miles in- if that!)

And so I used the tree technique and came to an amusing conclusion. Running long distance is like training a child using the cry-for-5-minutes technique. In the 5 minutes, most children will settle and go to sleep, the 5 minutes of crying is hell, but it is simply a case of riding it out. (In my vast experience as a non-mother) It’s like that when I run, I now know it takes me exactly 40 minutes, for my breathing to regulate and my body to lose the will to keep fighting to walk (or better yet, sleep)

Anyway, while I was coming to that conclusion, counting trees, I didn’t turn around and when I remembered that that was what I had wanted to do, I was already pretty much half way anyway.

And so this is what will keep me going next Sunday. I wonder how many trees there are on the route…I wonder where the route actually is….

I also wonder what time I’m supposed to be there and what I should wear…. apparently everyone’s already been training in their gear on a long run. Ummm, yeah I didn’t really get that memo?

The politics of fundraising/ 12 days

April 5, 2011

So, some further details about The Art of fundraising as per my blog post on the justgiving website.

This is like the HSBC adverts definition/ world view dilemma…. So this fundraising melarkey: Is it support or is it harassment?

Here are the facts: to get a place in the London Marathon other than the limited ballot places, one has to enter for a charity place. There is a set fundraising target attached to these places and if the money isn’t rasied the runner is liable. The amounts are not small, I needed to raise £1750. Some runners just pay the amount to not stress about the politics of fundraising. Hence why some runners forums call it buying your way into the marathon. Kind of a fair point I guess, but it is the planets largest fundraising event for a reason and it’s not because it is a marathon. It’s because it is a spectacle on a Roman scale.

So onto the arguments: There is the pro fundraising argument that you are encouraging people to donate and engage with good causes. People don’t donate (enough) to charity and so this provides a platform for them to do so. On a lighter level, fundraising in general (especially the personal, emotionally charged stories that go with it) at the very least should remind people to be grateful for what they have in life and what they take forgranted. Namely health and spare time.

There is the con-argument that it is forced donation using emotional blackmail and sob stories. And isn’t that rather a subtle Gaddafi-esque gesture in a post-Mubarak era? (*ahem* check me out and my political relevance? 🙂 ) Under the guise of the greater good, we take from the haves and give it to others (won’t get too socialist on this topic though-lol). People you work with feel obligated to support- there is also the awkward- how much to donate debate…

So that in a nutshell is the background which I am operating in. There is the more localised concerns such as asking too much from too few, if people wanted to support they would’ve and general social insecurities like that. I’ve asked once maybe I shouldn’t ask again etc etc. This emotional angst is actually quite up there with the training.

So I came up with what I thought was a cunning plan. I am a marketer, so how can I flog that skill. In my sudden spurt of exercise I have become very dependent on an arnica bath soak from A. Vogel. So I phoned them up and asked them to sponsor me for the marathon for every fan I can introduce the product to. Now FB would be the best platform for it- especially with the new functionality with pages.

Best lesson: KISS.

It is a simple concept, and all simple concepts rely on simple execution…but unfortunately the problems were in the execution. Because it was a page set up by the brand (fair enough for policing purposes) it meant that I was unable to directly invite people to the page- : http://www.avogel.co.uk/outward-bound But the page does look good- I also had to use a specific URL, which even though people are avid facebookers still throws up some awesome curveballs and they like the post about the page as opposed to the page itself. Like button visual from facebook
I mean, two of my greatest advocates, aren’t themselves fans! Not sure of a subtle way of pointing it out either, without whiping out the crayons. 🙂
Then other friends who I’ve asked to give me a hand are totally blanking me (possibly because it is endorsing something they don’t know) this obviously wouldn’t have been an issue if it had just been a support page (I hope! lol), and if it was treated as a more traditional advert for the product as opposed to an extension of a social media campaign. But this is the blurry world of modern marketing.

And so to live is to learn, because I do think that this kind of fundraising is the fundraising of the future. It is enabling your social network to volunteer their attention to something/ a brand and for that something/ brand to genuinely engage with a market segment in an increasingly disillusioned and fragmented market place. Now I think a charity donation on behalf of someone is a good social responsibility moment but now it can be more than that. It can be a ‘brand memory’ moment too. Provided you find a brand brave enough to let the potential manifest by itself. Afterall, to return to our Mubarak moment, if you try and hold on to something too tightly, the google generation will just move on without you.

And so, that, IMHO is that. If you found it useful, please donate £2 to my justgiving page as whoever gets the most amounts of donations between now and Sunday could win £1000 donation. www.justgiving.com/andreabritt. ..or click on the FB link > click like> click share. 🙂 So easy! 🙂 If you think you can do better, you most certainly can

That is the best thing with life, it’s always about the learning.

And my blog for this final week will be about what I’ve really taken away from my training for this marathon.

Best run EVER/ 13 days!!

April 4, 2011

I ran a short run (8 miles) in Richmond Park and it is stark contrast to my previous attempts- my first run and my disastrous previous attempt but this time, I ran confidently, I didn’t die after the hills (or even stop, please note!) and I even managed to keep a decent posture. My granny shuffle seems a thing of the past, my quicker Phoebe-esque (from Friends- google Phoebe run) also was noticeably absent. Although, I did use my patented tree smack-talking technique which I mastered on Friday, but only occassionally and when I was really pushing it. But regardless of all of that, I finally felt like a runner.

Anyway, a lovely highlight was seeing my daffodil man from my first ever run around Richmond park and the second time he ran past us (yes, he’d lapped us) he gave me an encouraging smile and maybe that’s what made it my best run ever. Finally, I was noticing and being noticed by real runners- and I no longer wanted to bite them, trip them or be them! So, pretty good really.

On Friday I also did my 6 miles in under an hour, so really I think my mini break down last week might finally have been the bollocking I needed (Says me, whilst I still sit at my desk in the office, blatantly not going for a run tonight!)

But I did send my guest blog post to the justgiving website, about interesting fundraising ideas. It’s about my fan page set up for the arnica bath oil that I use when recovering from my new found athleticism: Help A.Vogel Atro-Bath support Andrea so hopefully that’ll be something to look forward to! or sponsor me

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