Author Archives: kathleen

About kathleen

30 something mum of 2 blogging about family, running and anything else that inspires me.

Time for a change of blog.

With time everything changes and things evolve. I have wanted to change the blog for some time but I don’t feel able to just go self hosted or build my own website. The reason I want to change is that as my blog has grown my writings about running have moved in a different direction to my original idea for this blog. I thought this blog would be a parenting blog combined with some running but as things have progressed my writing is almost exclusively about running.

For that reason I feel that the title of this blog doesn’t necessarily reflect it’s content so today I named a new wordpress blog and moved the majority of the relevant posts across. It took some time and a lot of tea but I now have a blog name that I am much happier with. No doubt there will be posts about running and my children from time to time. My childrenare so intertwined with most of the things that I do, that it is a given that this will happen on the new blog. However I do feel that it’s time to wind down this blog and move across to my new blog: Run My Own Way. Format wise it’s not dramatically different. It was about the name change more than anything.

I am grateful to the followers I have on this blog and all the lovely comments that I have received. I am lucky that the majority have been constructive and supportive. I am also thankful to this blog for helping me to connect with the amazing people of our fantastic running community. Without this blog I would not have been able to read the fantastic fitness and running journeys of so many others, taken part in the Run With An Idea debate or attended Write This Run.

If you wish to follow me over to the new blog it will be at http://www.runmyownway.wordpress.com. Or if you don’t fancy following me across you can still catch up with me on Twitter: @Kat_Rocket.

Thank you again for following Running Mum’s journey and keep on running.

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Jeptoo, Deba and an NYC Ladies Race Recap.

Yesterday I was probably the most anti-social person in my family as I sat fixed for most of the afternoon by the kitchen table trying to find an alternative stream to ABC’s coverage of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon. The reporters were enthusiastic and bouncy but it didn’t stop me cringing at their occasional errors:

’82 countries represented here, including Miami...’ that was from the weather reporter.

‘Runners took part in a 3.1 mile race during the Staten Island Half Marathon’ Yeah sometimes we wish it was only 3.1.

But you know maybe it was the excitement of the big event. ABC had a good go at doing some wrestling type comparison stats, turning it into a running SMACK DOWN between the athletes who were topping the World Marathon Majors leader board. I was half hoping for someone to come out and shout ‘LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!’.

It was a big year for the New York Marathon after Hurricane Sandy had caused so much devastation and the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. You could tell that Mary Wittenburg the CEO of the New York Road Runners was emotional and I started to get the chin wobbles myself. I can’t help it, I’ve said it before, running and athletics make me cry.

Anyhow, the build up started so well but it all seemed to go to pot at ABC when the actual races started. If you blinked then it’s highly likely that you would have missed the start of the women’s race on the ABC stream and been greeted by more adverts or coverage of a kids choir. Lovely choir but, you know, I wanna’ see the running.

The women’s race began with a complete surprise. New York based Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba went flying out at an early fast pace with her compatriot Tigist Tufa Dimisse just behind her. The chasing pack made no attempt to close them down and at one point the gap stood at 3 minutes. Now one can only guess at what as behind Deba’s tactics: was it the thrill of running in the city that has been her home since she was 18? Was she trying to out run the best in the world by putting enough distance between her and them? Or had she made a huge error? Typically there were noises from the commentators about how she and Dimisse had gone off too soon and would soon be over taken. I remember hearing the same said about Mizuki Noguchi  during the Athens Olympics, although she waited until the 16 mile mark to pull away. The commentators said then that Noguchi would blow up but she went on to take Olympic gold. I was seriously hoping that Deba was going to be rewarded for her gutsy tactics.

It wasn’t all quiet at the back though. Priscah Jeptoo started to pull away from the chasing pack and ended up running about 40 minutes of the race on her own, trying to claw Deba and Dimisse back to her. The mental and physical strength it must have taken to leave the comfort of a group of runners to battle on regardless just shows what a great athlete she is. The ABC commentary was heard to make jibes about her running style: ‘like a chariot with blades sticking out of the sides’. The editor of an athletics magazine even called her style ‘ugly knock-kneed’ and ‘ungainly’. If she knows what people say about her running style, she clearly does not give a hoot because as mile 21 approached Jeptoo had Deba in her sights.

Up ahead Deba had thrown up and you could tell she was starting to suffer for her efforts. Dimisse was already a long way back and now it looked like Deba was starting to sense the inevitable as Jeptoo closed behind her. She looked over her shoulder not once but a few times to see how close Jeptoo was. And as she turned her head for the umpteenth time, Jeptoo swept by without even glancing at Deba.

Jeptoo looked relaxed and comfortable and did not give a hint of the effort it must have taken to close such a huge gap during the race. People continued to comment on her running style on social media and I find this rather amusing because there is probably only one athlete with ‘perfect’ style and that’s David Rudisha. But I doubt even he could continue to run like the machine he is over 26.2 miles. Jeptoo obviously hasn’t tried to correct her style to suit coaches or biomechanists and she clearly isn’t injured as her season proves. She is running to her own beat and to the path of least resistance. She doesn’t fight it, she goes with it and as a result she flies. If you look at her upper body, her torso is always strong so her power comes from places other than her legs.

Once Jeptoo had over taken Deba the rest of the race was straight forward. A powerful looking Jeptoo swept on to win with Deba in a more than deserved second place. The next three places were taken by Latvia, France and Italy showing that there is depth among European athletes over this distance.

As Jeptoo and Deba crossed the line I sat in my kitchen and clapped my hands at how awesome both these women were. Individually they both showed guts and determination. Deba could have dropped out when she started to be sick. Jeptoo could have just let Deba run away with it but instead she fought back. The last 6-8 miles of this marathon were a joy to watch and again I found myself with the chin wobbles accompanied by an over whelming wish to go to New York and run the roads the same roads as Jeptoo and Deba.

Priscah Jeptoo crosses the line of the 2013 ING New York City Marathon: pic from NY Daily News website.

 

The Elle Running blog: a few thoughts from a runner/physio.

This week on Twitter the lovely running blogger Laura retweeted a link to the Elle Running blog which had a feature entitled Claire Danes is running wrong. The author, Amy Lawrenson, looks at people’s feet while they run and she has decided that because Clare Danes is a heel strike runner, she is doing it wrong. According to Amy, heel striking is the worst possible way to run. She goes on to say that when you are heel striking you are putting immense pressure through the joints of the lower limb which could lead to problems. She says that we ‘should’ be running on our mid or fore foot.

Amy’s blog caused a bit of an uproar among some of the running bloggers I know, the main reason being that it could put of potential lady runners from trying to run or that runners could become embarrassed. Amy subsequently updated her feature:

‘We had some feedback on Twitter about this post. I was told by a physio that my heel striking was contributing to some pain I was getting in my knee and hip. A midfoot or forefoot strike was deemed to be preferable. Never feel embarrassed about how you run or scared to get out there! The best advice would be that if you want to take up running regularly then go for a gait analysis and speak with an expert who will assess your running style and discuss any tweaks you may want to make. I do believe that heel striking isn’t great for you but others feel the opposite, the best thing is to find what works, and is safe, for you’.

For me as a runner and a Physiotherapist who treats runners, I just wanted to raise some other points that had been niggling me:

My problem is that the author is applying the advice given by her physio for her individual case to the general running population. Someone looking for advice about running could read this and try and apply it to themselves, which would most likely result in an injury. You can’t just change from heel strike running to fore foot or mid foot strike. It needs time and work to transition. I had a chat with a guy from Salomon who told me that their athletes take up to three years to fully transition from mid foot to fore foot/barefoot running style.

I also need to mention the runners that I’ve seen in clinic who have read about fore foot and barefoot running and tried it.These are runners who probably had no real issues with the way they were running before but they’ve read about the latest running trend and naturally assumed they should be doing it. This is what has made me sad about running lately. There is so much advice out there but running is an individual activity performed by people of all genotypes and phenotypes: you simply cannot generalise what is right for one person to another. The research has not yet proven that fore foot striking or barefoot running is superior to heel or mid foot strike. Adharanand Finn trained with some of the best runners in the world when he wrote ‘Running with the Kenyans’ but even he discovered great variability in running style among the athletes he ran with.

I would also love for an agreement on what defines a ‘gait analysis’. Do we mean being asked to run on a treadmill in the shop while the shop assistant watches us try different trainers? Or do we mean a biomechanics lab where an individual is stripped down to their shorts, key points marked on their body and then filmed running on a treadmill while being picked to pieces from the trunk downwards or the feet up? (for me I love seeing what happens at the hips and work down, it’s not just about the feet people!). And if it is the latter then what about the potential stress that a ‘bad’ gait analysis could cause? Does the person giving the analysis give advice and exercises? If it ain’t broke do we need to fix it? Anecdotally I have seen people who have been given orthotics for flat feet and they’ve ended up with a world of other problems. This type of gait analysis isn’t that simple and I really don’t think everyone needs it.

I tweeted that I didn’t think everyone needs a gait analyis to run and it triggered a great debate among the runners I follow. One person felt that gait analysis by a physio helped to identify that the wrong trainers had been causing their knee pain. Another said that having gait analysis had enabled them to adjust their running style to help them avoid buying necessary trainers. Many other people felt that speaking to the people in the running shops had helped them buy the trainers that were right for them. But none of these people were instructed to run in a dramatically different manner.

I have had niggles and injuries of late and I am a mid foot runner. But as someone else said on twitter the answer is not always round the foot or issues with foot wear. It can be about so much more (usually inducing a back injury from lifting a toddler over here). I think the Elle Running blog may have had the best of intentions in sharing a running experience but picking on the way another runner is running is just the wrong way to go about it. I would like to know how Claire Danes herself feels about her running. If she’s not injured and she’s enjoying running then I’d say she’s probably running about right.

What do you think? Should everyone try and transition to fore foot running? Does everyone need a biomechanical analysis before running?

My First (and Last) Taste Of ‘Urban Running’.

This is probably a bit of a controversial post but it’s been playing on my mind so I thought I’d go for it:

I like to think that as a runner I’m respectful of everyone who uses the paths and roads, whether they are pedestrians, dog walkers, fellow runners, drivers or cyclists. I would never expect anyone to get out of my way. I would never shout at someone to jump out of my path. The only time I think it’s appropriate to do that is if you are at a track where there is an expected etiquette. Hear ‘TRACK’ shouted at the track and you either stay still or jump out of the way. Out on the roads though? To me that’s different. Non runners shouldn’t be expected to know about ‘runner’ etiquette and we are all sharing the tarmac.

About a month ago I had a taste of what was explained to me as ‘urban running’. Now I thought any running in any city or town is urban. I was born and brought up in London and I’ve lived in Cardiff so I’ve done a far share of running in cities. People hear me say Wales and think I’ve never run along a street before but apparently urban running isn’t as simple as that. I followed a group of other runners during a group activity and experienced ‘urban running’. I can’t honestly say I was impressed because it went something like this:

Shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way.

Running across the path of drivers sitting in traffic without a great deal of attention.

Jumping out into the road in front of a taxi driver who had clear right of way, endangering themselves and the driver.

I followed the runners but I didn’t whole heartedly join in because it baffled me, felt wrong and I couldn’t actually believe it was happening. Cardiff Parkrun was almost cancelled a couple of years ago because fellow park users were unhappy with the runners and running behaviour like this just gives all runners a bad name. It presents us as being selfish, obnoxious and a little bit arrogant.

I love running but I don’t go running so that I can behave like a bit of a twat. Running doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else. As runner’s we are privileged to see the world in a slightly different way to everyone else on the roads and pavements, but it doesn’t give us  more rights. I don’t want to frighten people and I don’t want to cause drivers to almost have a heart attack from the fear of almost knocking over a pedestrian. If I thought that the way I was running was of concern to other people I think I’d be mortified.

So that was my one taste of ‘urban running’. I don’t know if it was misrepresented to me or that I didn’t understand it, but what happened that evening did not make me want to experience running like that again. It could be that living where I am in South Wales has spoilt me a bit for quiet trails and empty paths but I have run along busy roads in Cardiff and London and never felt the need to do any of the things I’ve described above. I think we do all run to be free in some way but, in this runner’s humble opinion, that shouldn’t negate our safety or that of other runners and non runners around us.

Injured and One Year On.

I realised today that next month it will be a year since I injured myself. A year since that ill fated decision to lift my toddler son up off the ground while carrying bags of shopping leading to me being unable to run for six months. A year since I injured my back.

Even though the back pain and nerve pain have dissipated, I have been left with the after effects of the injury plus lots of niggles that keep flaring up, preventing me from a much wanted return to regular running. The physical effects have been obvious to me, what was not so obvious were the mental effects.

The longer I was injured the lower I became in mood. When getting back into running wasn’t as straight forward as I liked this was amplified further. Over the last few months especially these thoughts and feelings have been much worse and it’s only recently for some reason that I can acknowledge how I’ve been feeling. Which is ridiculous because, you know, it’s just running. Right?

Well no it’s not just running to me. Running is one of the things in my life that gives me confidence to do other things. Running has been a release for me when I’ve been finding things tough emotionally. Running has been my way to escape the pressures of tough life situations. Running has been a way to make me feel invincible and like I could take on anything. But with prolonged injury things like this have floated through my mind:

‘I’m rubbish, why do I bother?’

‘I should just give up running now, I’m getting too old for it’.

‘I hate myself’.

‘I hate running’.

‘I’m never getting over this, I may as well just leave it’.

‘Who was I kidding trying to be a runner anyway?’.

As my time being injured extended before me, the chipping away at my confidence and self image continued, gradually extending itself into other areas of life. And then last week a couple of things happened which made me realise how low I had become and how unbelievably crap I was feeling about myself. I was put into two situations where I had to talk about myself and had to sell myself both as a professional and as a person. I struggled with both and it was a shock to me. I’ve become so low that I can’t even bring myself to talk about my good points, because right now I’m not totally convinced I have any to share. Pathetic? Probably, but I can only be honest about how I have been feeling.

Have I been depressed? Possibly, my husband occasionally expresses the opinion that he thinks I am. I then feel guilty because my husband has actual clinical depression and all I did was hurt myself a bit so that I couldn’t run. Daft. However I then think about literature I’ve read about pain and how the pain and emotional neural pathways are very closely linked within the brain and I guess it is possible that large amounts of pain over an extended period can affect your mood level. I’ve certainly seen it in patients I’ve treated so why do I think I’m automatically immune?

This isn’t really a self pity post. If it comes across like that I apologise, it’s really not intended to be. I just needed to share how being injured as a runner can affect you emotionally and socially. Bravado and staying upbeat and positive can last so long but injury isn’t just a limp or a grimace of pain. Injury goes far, far deeper. If you are one of those injured runners right now, don’t be so hard on yourself and while you’re letting your body heal, make sure your mind and soul are looked after too.

Some Perspective Please!

The internet and social media loves a bit of hysteria and exercise and fitness are no exceptions to this. Recently there were a few articles posted online which related to CrossFit and a condition called Rhabdomylosis (for more information read more here). First there was this article in the Huffington Post referring to Rhabdomylosis as ‘CrossFit’s dirty little secret’. This was then followed by a few other articles screeching the same thing: CrossFit might kill you via Rhabdomylosis!

Then of course there were the pro-CrossFit articles which accused people who didn’t do CrossFit of being jealous and blamed the participants of CrossFit who have suffered from this life threatening condition for their own demise. Not brilliantly helpful but I understand why people want to defend what they enjoy.

So these were the two sides of the coin. Neither particularly constructive and both with the potential to put people off from ever trying CrossFit or maybe any other form of exercise. Yey, well done everyone for giving people yet ANOTHER reason not to get moving.

Now I come at this from a completely different perspective. I am a runner first and foremost. I do CrossFit and I enjoy it but running has and always will be my first love. But I would like to go through some things that might help us get a bit of perspective on a rare condition, exercise and illness in general.

All you have to do to find out a bit about Rhabdomylosis, specifically exertional Rhabdomylosis is to chuck a search into Google Scholar. Participants in many of the studies that come up are military recruits, ultra runners, marathon runners (dammit) and, umm, horses. Plus a case study about a hockey player who played a tournament, became ill, was rushed to hospital and discovered to have Rhabdomylosis.

This very quick search tells me it is not a condition that is limited to those who do CrossFit. Further reading showed that some individuals have an unfortunate genetic predisposition to develop Rhabdomylosis which they would have had no idea about before exercising (this was found to be the case in the hockey player case study). Plus people on prescribed statins are at risk and those with underlying thyroid conditions (which they may not know about). The Huff Post article quotes a US study as giving a 0.06% incidence of Rhabdomylosis for the US population but I couldn’t find figures for the UK population. So all in all I’m not overly worried about Rhabdomylosis and CrossFit. A couple of case reports do not make an epidemic.

Moving on I wanted to address the pro-CrossFit posts which blame individuals for ‘bringing it on themselves and not taking responsibility’. Well I would just like to ask: do people who get a knee injury playing football bring it on themselves? Do marathon runners bring it on themselves when they collapse from a heart condition they didn’t know they had? Do horse riders bring it on themselves when they fall from a horse? Did the hockey player deserve what he got for trying to do his best for his team? I just don’t get this argument and I really think it is counter-productive. As mentioned above, people may have a predisposition to Rhabdomylosis (I hate typing that word). They might be in an ‘at risk’ group that they have no idea they are in. So a little bit more empathy please for people who do happen to develop this condition.

I get that not everyone likes the same kind of exercise. CrossFit is still relatively new and people are probably still trying to get used to it being around. Plus people tend to be ignorant of things they don’t know or don’t understand. I could argue that running has been around since the dawn of time, no doubt one of the oldest forms of exercise going, yet people still hate it and ask me why on earth I want to do it. But as long as I enjoy it and do my best to maintain my health and wellbeing, who cares? A small study of runners who completed a marathon in Taiwan found that everyone who finished had sustained some damage to their hearts. Would this stop me from running? Never. Life is too short to freak out about something that may or may not happen.

So pro and anti CrossFitters. Consider your heads well and truly knocked together. The articles from both sides are completely unhelpful and bordering on hysterical. There is no clear research to say CrossFitters are more at risk than those who take on 100 mile Ultra runs. There is probably more research out there about why running is harmful (la, la, la, la I’m not listening) but the research on obesity, heart conditions and diabetes, all consequences of not exercising or being active, concerns me more. Take a step back and gain some perspective and help people to fall in love with moving and being healthy.

Run With An Idea: What’s so special about running a marathon?

This week’s Run With An Idea topic is about the big 26.2: What’s so special about running a marathon?

I have only done one marathon and that was Edinburgh in 2012. For me it was a fantastic experience with highs and lows but something I am so proud I did. So I thought I’d draw on my one and only marathon experience to convince you why it is something so special.

You learn about yourself.

By this I mean that you discover elements of your character that you never knew you had. You experience overwhelming lows where you feel like giving up. I felt very much like this after an awful 18 mile training run which left me delirious and feeling like all hope was lost thinking about trying to run another 8.2 miles. You are forced to face the very worst, negative emotions you feel about yourself, running or about the task you have taken on. But in confronting these demons you also learn how to draw on the best of yourself and your inner strength. When you realise you do have that inner strength it can be an empowering light bulb moment.

The overwhelming support of family and friends.

When you tell people you are running a marathon (and after you inform them that it is in fact 26.2 miles, not 18) there is a look of awe that appears on their faces. Followed by ‘you’re amazing’ and ‘I could never do that’ and many other compliments. Yes there will be the odd person who will try and pull you down a bit or tell you you’re mad but it’s the people who matter that really help to get you through.

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Good luck hugs!

There are offers of help to raise money for your charity. There are also occasional offers from neighbours or friends to accompany you for a short distance during a long run. Embrace all offers of help. Training for a marathon can feel like such a selfish act at times. Accepting the support your loved ones offer you can make it feel like more of a team effort. They cheer you on and pick you up during training and will be there with banners and hugs at the end of the race. The one’s who love you want you to succeed!

A marathon event brings out the best in people.

I am aware that this line comes across as gushing and I probably wouldn’t have believed it myself until I ran the Edinburgh Marathon. Supporters came out of their houses along the route to watch complete strangers run 26.2 miles. One brought out their stereo to play Chariots of Fire as we ran by. People cheered for you if they saw the name on your vest. Families at many houses were handing out cups of water and jelly babies. Kids brought out their super soakers and water pistols to cool us down and other households brought out their hoses on what was an incredibly hot day in Scotland. They didn’t have to do any of this. They could have grumbled about the marathon being on but they didn’t. They joined in, became part of it and helped the runners. Marathon brings out the community spirit. I think you only have to look at the reaction of people after the Boston Marathon bombing to realise that.

It’s liberating

‘It’s amazing what you can do when you accept the high chance of failure and do it anyway.’

Laura from Lazy Girl Running tweeted this in reply to me after her Half Ironman (gulp) but I think it’s something that can easily be applied to running a marathon.

Once you’ve decided to enter one you have to face it head on, there is no turning back. And once the elation of crossing that finish line has passed it may occur to you (it did for me) that the body and mind are amazing things and that if you are capable of running 26.2 miles what else could you do? I found this liberating. I was liberated from the fear of it, other people’s attitudes towards it and that high chance of failure. That for me was a true epiphany that I got from running a marathon and it made me realise that other things were possible.

So that is why I found running a marathon special, a very individual approach to this debate but I don’t think you can deny that running a marathon is a pretty amazing thing.

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Yey for Edinburgh and pink bubbles and marathon running!