running blog

Clive Whaley

Mar 2017

The Long Run

Day 84 - Marathon Training - 22 miles 'easy'
Without a doubt this is the most significant milestone in my marathon training plan. I have completed week 12 of the 16 week programme. I have completed my longest run. And I was able to do it without any flare up of previous injuries - either back or knee related. It is a very satisfying feeling.

Don't get me wrong, it was no stroll in the park, and I finished feeling completely exhausted and with aches, pains, soreness and a slightly worrying light headedness. I think if I'd gone much further, I would have become a wobbly puppet-like creature that would not know what day it was; exactly the sort of creature I turned into in the latter stages of the 1986 London Marathon.

But I didn't. I did enough and got through what I planned to do. I even did a bit of macho 'pushing the pace' in the late stages. I did mile 20 in approx 7 mins 50. And that was after feeling completely weary and 'out of it' by about mile 13. In fact this long run was unusual in that the weariness did not just come on and stay there. After feeling bad at the half marathon stage, I actually felt a mini boost between about 15 and 17 miles and then again in the last mile or two. This is really encouraging. Although I couldn't have run much further or faster today, there are signs of strength in me old legs; and signs that the cumulative effect of the training is working.

What I have to remind myself is that this long run has come on the back of a pretty hard training week - so I went into it with tired legs. Also the terrain is much more difficult than the London course. Today I ran along shingle beaches, across uneven fields and then through a valley road that is rarely flat and has a few taxing climbs in it.

Yes, I ran again into the Bride Valley - what has become my favourite 'on the road' training ground. My beautiful 'streamlined' valley is a pleasure to run through but it can hardly compete with the 'flatness' of London. Another strength of this training ground - its devoid of people a lot of the time - is clearly a weakness when it comes to encouragement and motivation to 'cheer you on' to the finish. So if you take today's run - subtract the tired legs, subtract the hills and shingle - and then add fast, flat, firm surfaces and huge cheering crowds - and suddenly you have something that might turn out to be easy in comparison. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

It's a bit like saying that today's run was harder than the marathon itself, even though it was 4 miles shorter. But there is a plausible argument that doing today's epic on my own, when I already felt tired and sore, was a tougher ask than flowing with the mass human river of 40,000 souls in London on April 23rd.

Consumed on the run today: 1 litre of water, 3 energy gels, 1 crunchy peanut butter protein bar - Yum!
Weather - 14C, light/mod SE winds.
Wore sunglasses for first time in 2017.

Unfinished Business Part 4

Day 83 - Marathon Training - 50 mins with progressive pace increase

The clocks went forward last night and this was the first proper Sunday Spring run with fellow club members. A lovely day but …

Back to the story about my ill-fated involvement in the 1986 London Marathon, that resulted in this undignified posture somewhere around mile 21 …
The words are from a diary account written soon after the day. "They took me from the wheelchair into another ambulance. It was an effort for me to turn over onto my side, so that they could pull my shorts down and push a thermometer up me bum - it gave a reading of 103F. An hour and three readings later and after several moppings down with a tepid sponge by Pat (St John's Ambulance worker) it was still 103. A doctor spoke to me and reckoned that I must have been running with a fever "Did you have a sore thoat or a cold in the last week?" (Well, sort of … could it really have done this to me?) The doctor said if the temperature didn't come down soon I would have to go to casualty.

It seems odd to say it but, for a while in that ambulance, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was so relaxed and still a bit crazy in the head. I felt really happy and I think I may have even said so. I mentioned that all praise for the St John's Ambulance service was thoroughly deserved. In fact they were the best organisation in the world.

Eventually, as I started to cool down and It became clear that I was going to be stuck there for some time and that I may not be able to stagger into the Founders Arms as the wounded hero, my mood dropped. The only thing that kept me going was Pat - my large, jolly ambulance volunteer - who kept up a running commentary on the race outside, "Oh look there's Emu … that must be Roy Hudd …. Ooooo there's a crocodile, Oh my goodness! No! … there's six of them … there's a doctor friend of mine running, I must have missed him."

They brought another guy into the ambulance who was shivering - at times it was confusing for Pat because she couldn't remember which of us to heat up and which to cool down. He had a rich Welsh accent and didn't want to be there, "How far are we from the finish?… How far! … Oh God! I so wanted a medal … I really wanted a medal… I think I'll carry on … How far are we from the finish?"

I think it was a couple of hours before my temperature came down to levels where they felt it was safe to let me go. At first they suggested I catch a tube to Westminster and then walk across the bridge (where the finish was in those days). There was no way I was going to do that. They wrapped me in a silver Mars space blanket and pointed me in the direction of Monument underground station. I hobbled very very slowly and some cheeky kid shouted "I bet your legs are tired!" A few steps further on a well-meaning young woman said "Well done!" It was cruel and painful going down the steps onto the platform and once I'd slumped into a seat on the carriage I noticed that it was full of tourists, most of whom seemed to be taking photos of me. I closed my eyes and leant against the window.

In a thousand to one coincidence of timing and circumstance, as I stepped off the train at Embankment, I was staring Maia* in the face. I leaned on her wearily and rested my head on her shoulders. There was someone to lead me out of hell and take me home."

*Maia was my girlfriend of about one month's standing at the time. She helped me find the finish area and the bus containing my bag of clothes. I got changed on an almost empty bus with a guy that had taken 6 hours to finish. Three years later Maia and I got married. It still bugs me that, because I didn't finish, I didn't get a Mars Bar.

West Bay Morning

Day 78 Marathon Training - 40 mins 'easy'

It was one of those 'recovery run' days and I decided to make it slightly more exciting by getting up early and re-creating the photo that I took way back on Day One of my marathon plan.
There you go, except that the sun hadn't risen when I took the first photo back on 3 January. Today it was well on its way to finding its place in the sky. This goes to show that the sun is only slightly bigger than my head … ha, ha! Not possible you say! It also shows that I could probably leap over the whole bulk of the East Cliffs in one bound - worth a new episode of Broadchurch surely?

As it was only a 40 minute or so run and as I was taking it at an easy pace, I think I almost spent more time taking me pictures than I did running but I do have to indulge myself every now and then. It was good to run along the old promenade right to the end and enjoy the combination of cold air but early spring sunshine. It won't be long before the legs are exposed and the top layers get reduced to one. When that happens, of course the sun will decide to go back in again.

I had to make the most of this gentle run today because I've got pretty hard training to come for the rest of the week. Can't wait!

Half Pace

Day 76 - 'Race' a Half Marathon

The training plan called for practising race day preparation by entering a Half Marathon. Well I didn't actually enter one but ran my own race! I ran for 13.1 miles on undulating roads through the Bride Valley.

I had contacted other running club members to see if they wanted to join me in this venture and that I planned to run it as a 'pacing exercise' at 8 minute per mile pace the whole way if I could manage it. It didn't prove to be a very popular suggestion and only my good friend Hagen joined me on this blustery Sunday morning challenge.

Hagen stuck with me for the first 3 miles and then did his own thing, which is not surprising given that he was still tired from an 18 mile run only a couple of days ago. For the remaining 10 miles I was on my own.

I ran really strongly and was so pleased to keep at, or just under, 8 min/mile pace for the first 9 miles and then I actually pushed it even harder over the last few. My average pace over the last 4 miles was about 7:30. My average pace over the whole run was approx 7:50 - completing the Half Marathon in around 1 hour 42:30.

The knee held together, I felt fairly strong and the miles seemed to tick away quite quickly. I do think I am using a slightly quicker cadence than I used to do on a run like this and I consciously worked on pumping my arms a little harder and bringing those 'zippy feet' into play over the last few miles.

Tired and stiff as soon as I stopped but I expected that. All in all a very good and reassuring test at this stage in the training. I am proud of myself.


Day - 75 - Gym

[Just a Gym session today, although it was my 3rd gym session in one week - partly in a rearguard attempt to strengthen my knees and quads. Hope I haven't overdone it.]

I have come a long way since I was last in the grip of depression and I don't want to go back to that place. There is a chance that I will but at least I know that running will not be one of the reasons to take me there. In fact quite the opposite …

Antidepressants I have taken …
1 - Fluoxetine - (also known as Prozac)
2 - Citalopram
3 - Sertraline
I kept the packets as evidence! Not one of the above worked for me. I took them because I felt so bad that I needed to do something. Testimonials from other people and stuff that I had read had given me faith that they might help. I know that they work for many people and in some cases they are 'life savers' but I can honestly say that on 3 separate occasions and with 3 different types of antidepressant, I never noticed any lift in my mood or mental health that came from the taking of pills. On the other hand, turning to my 4th antidepressant …
4 - Running

Beach Running from Clive Whaley on Vimeo.

Running as an antidepressant? Yes, I've come to realise that it is, although not as part of some conscious medication or prescription plan.

I have been running at least a couple of times a week for more than 35 years. For the first 30 or so of those years I had not met the Black Dog or experienced anything that could truly be described as depression.

However, in the last 5 or 6 years, having suffered from bouts of depression several times, it has made me realise that running has been an incredibly important booster to my mental health. I have never felt any lift in mood from pills but everytime I go running, I feel better for it. It works on so many different levels.

Obviously it keeps me physically fit. Despite continual injury niggles, I know that my heart, lungs, blood vessels, muscles, joints, bones, skin and even my brain are in much better shape than they would be without running. I do have to admit that there is an egotistical aspect to it, where I secretly think "I'm pretty fit for my age … I'll show 'em!".

Just getting outdoors, whatever the weather, especially in these beautiful coastal surroundings, and being a tiny moving part of the landscape provides, at the same time, an intimate connection with the planet and a freedom from everything else that was troubling me before I went out the door. You could get similar benefits from walking of course, but the greater effort, rhythm and flow that comes from the running action just adds something for me.

There is much talk of the release of 'endorphins' or the 'runner's high'. I find that a bit clichéd because I think it is both more subtle and more powerful than that. I find a deep and solitary pleasure from the mix of - physical mastery over the environment; a contented warmth in my muscles and in my heart; and a gentle flow of benevolence into my brain which reaches out and soothes adverse thoughts and feelings. So, in the end, I become a moving vessel of wellbeing.

And when I get back, after a shower, or especially after a soak in a hot bath, there is a contented glow in and around me of a quality that I cannot find from any other source than a long run back to my own front door. As T S Eliot wrote in a much re-quoted set of lines
"And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
I've just finished reading an interesting book by Anthony Seldon, called "Beyond Happiness" within which he espouses the idea of life being a journey from narcissism to wholeness. There are several passages which I can relate to and these words sum up the feelings of all the best long runs I have ever done …
"The epic journey … is a common theme in world literature.The hero returns to the point from which he began, having gained in wisdom and self knowledge. The hero/traveller will have experienced much but is purified by the process and becomes aware of a much deeper self."

It works for me.

As I write this I am thinking, you know what, you are not currently experiencing a great deal of this sort of feeling during your marathon training. The 'tick box' mentality of my training plan, the injury problems and the 'striving ego' part of me are conspiring to knock a bit of joy out of my running. I shouldn't let that happen but I am the architect of my own displeasure. A change of attitude would help a bit but mainly I tell myself that when the London Marathon is over I will return to real running; running for the sake of it; running not for plans, targets and times but for sheer pleasure, for sheer joy. I need little persuasion to write myself a free prescription for the most effective antidepressant I know.

Stick to the Plan

Day 73 - Gym

I have continued with my gym sessions and I am sure they are helping with my overall fitness and more specifically with my leg strength and my core strength. Because of the knee problems it has become even more important and I'm hoping that some carefully controlled strengthening of the legs and quad muscles will reduce the chances of things flaring up again.

Click Link to Marathon Plan

I have included a link here to my full 16 week training plan. I must give credit as to where it has come from. This is Martin Yelling's 'Advanced Training Plan' from the London Marathon website. Thanks Martin - it has served me well, apart from when I've been injured, which is clearly not your fault!

Apart from injury breaks I have stuck to it quite rigidly. I have found it quite hard - just about at my limit but not beyond, which is exactly what I needed. I do like the variety in it - the fact that every little interval session or speed session is slightly different. It prevents any sense of boredom and I guess it works on your body slightly differently everytime.

Each time I've been injured it has really bugged me that I have missed out runs and training sessions because it is all part of one carefully designed 'whole' and you can't go back and make up for the bits you've missed. But I'm back on track this week and maybe I'm better off thinking that some of that enforced rest has been good for me.

Unfinished Business Part 3

Day 70 - Marathon Training - Rest
Just resting today, so time to continue with the story …

I started but didn't finish the 1986 London Marathon. In earlier blog extracts I have explained the lead up to the moment in this photo - Yes, that's me looking completely spaced out, being helped along by a thoughtful fellow runner near the Tower of London. The extracts which follow are from a diary I wrote a few days after the event …
"I can remember feeling tired, VERY tired and feeling as though I was leaning forwards, as if I was perpetually running uphill. I was aware that a lot of runners were passing me and was vaguely aware of some people walking and thinking how nice that looked - what a comforting thought, to be walking rather than running. I remember at one point seeing things blurred at the side of my vision. But I feel as though I went on for some time after that …

I have a vision of running in blackness with a runner either side helping me and trying to kindly persuade them to carry on without me, "I'll be alright". I remember going down twice - once on hands and knees and desperately groping onwards and another time just sitting down like a baby with reassuring voices around me telling me to stay as I was for a while. I thought that sounded like a good idea and I nodded. I don't think I'd given up at that point. It wouldn't be long before I'd be off again. I had to be sensible and take a breather, although I hadn't wanted to stop…

I came round in an ambulance. I was home. For a few moments there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be - reassuring words were floating towards me, I was resting flat on my back unable to move but it was over.

With vague consciousness, my first worries were for those who wouldn't now meet me at The Founders Arms - could these people get a message to them? - Oh and also to my parents who must have seen me collapse on TV - could they ring them? I started reeling out names and phone numbers - I think I was going under again because I couldn't get more than one digit out at a time without a rest. I think they only humoured me anyway.

A doctor gave me a couple of glucose tablets and I was nearly sick - I tried to take them out. They lifted my head and gave me cool, sweet water. There was someone else in the ambulance - she was complaining about mud splattered on her tights.

Three people (I think) lifted me into a wheelchair, wrapped a blanket around me and transferred me to another ambulance. I was conscious enough to quip, 'Isn't there a rule against this … if you start on foot, you're not allowed to finish in a wheelchair'.

Grizzly Baby

Day 69 - Marathon Training - Raced 9 miles of beach, hills and mud!
(The 'baby' version of The Grizzly - called The Cub)

Great day today. I did enter that most wonderful event called The Grizzly. Reluctantly but sensibly I did the 'cut down' or 'baby' version of the main event - otherwise known as The Cub. In other words I only went for 9 miles of shingle beach, vertical coastal climbs and muddy fields, instead of the full 20 mile version.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the official finish photo shows it. The fun and pleasure came from, not only getting round with the knee intact, but also from the great weather and the fantastic spirit associated with the event. I was also pleased to be on the first page of results - or 35th out of about 500 finishers (approx 85 mins 'chip time').

The Grizzly is held at Seaton in East Devon and this was its 30th anniversary. Somewhere in the region of 2,000 runners take part in the two races. It seems to be extremely well organised and has an army of hundreds of cheery volunteer marshalls, musicians and performers lining the route. At the bottom of one of the steeper climbs you find a makeshift sign labelled 'Stairway to Heaven' and as you start to climb you encounter a guy dressed as some sort of manic wizard. He was spouting dire warnings and flinging out spells and incantations. It was hilarious. The whole thing is just a smiley, feelgood event that gently warms you with it's positive mood. Mind you, that view might have been helped by the fact that I only did the shorter route. If I had done the 'full works' I suspect I wouldn't have been in a fit state to appreciate the generous welcome from spectators at the finish line.

Mindful of the problems I've had with my knee leading up to today, I decided to take advantage of a £5 charity massage from the East Devon Sports Injuries team. It was torture - far more painful than running the event - my quad muscles are so unbelievably tight - but I am sure it did me the world of good.

Knees in the Mist

Day 67 - Marathon Training - 40 mins steady

Back running today, just to test the knee. I did a 40 minute fairly steady run, mainly off road. It was wet and misty, not the most delightful of conditions but that didn't matter. The main thing was to see if my right knee was healed after the best part of 4 days rest - for me that's an eternity - but for the Captain Sensible Squad, that's nowhere near enough rest.

As a test it was a bit inconclusive. I wanted to fly round with no pain or discomfort whatsoever and get a much needed psychological boost from it but Hey … we all know life is never that simple. I have to admit that my knee is not healed. It was uncomfortable pretty much the whole way round. But, on the other hand, it was not in pain and it didn't get significantly worse whilst I was running.

The optimistic side of my brain is telling me that "I actually freed up my knee a bit by going out for a run. It's on the mend, no great harm done and in the next few days I will wonder what all the fuss was about."

The pessimistic side is saying, "it's still not good, you haven't rested it enough, you've probably set it back further and if you run that Grizzly event on Sunday, you will put yourself out of the London Marathon and might do some permanent damage."

Which one is true? I wish I knew.

I did see my old friend the Dorset Shaggy Flump again today. He had just had an argument with a sheep but still found time to impart some wisdom to me. I tried to pretend I was fit as a fiddle but he noticed a slight imbalance in my running style and said "I grant you the serenity to accept that your kneecap will always be at the front of your leg, the courage to bend it whenever you wish and the wisdom to know that when the sun goes down, it gets dark,"

Unfinished Business Part 2

Day 65 - Marathon Training - NO RUNNING - KNEE STILL INJURED

As I am on enforced rest, I will continue with my story of Unfinished Business …
So how did I come to be 'dazed and confused', sitting on the cobbles by the Tower of London on Marathon Day in 1986?

It all started with a bet.

I was working in my first permanent full time job as an Executive Officer for The Sports Council at their head office in London. We were offered complimentary places each year in the London Marathon and I took up one of the places, alongside my colleague and friend Nick, who worked in the Research Unit. Nick and I were good friends but we were also both very competitive. One night in the pub we had a very public bet, witnessed by a number of colleagues, as to who would run fastest in the Marathon. Five pounds was a reasonable amount at the time but it wasn't the money so much as the pride and competitive spirit that was attached to the bet that mattered most.

The following extracts are from a diary I kept at the time:

"I was a little worried towards the end of the week - I had a sore throat and headaches - nothing really bad, but not exactly how I wanted to feel a few days before the Big Day. Nick had a bit of a cold too - at least we were both suffering. I put it down as a mild cold, pre race nerves and a couple of bad days at work - and, as I was feeling fine on Saturday, I thought - NO Problem!

The day of the marathon dawned wet, windy and cool but not cold. Blackheath was fairly wet and miserable. The coffee tent was bursting at the seams - a few drinking coffee - but most were sheltering from the rain and the wind. With 5 minutes to go the old track suits, t-shirts and bin liners were flung off. A minute to go and we were released and allowed to walk/jog towards the line. Then crunch … a gun went, everyone cheered and then started shouting "Charlie" (the starter was Prince Charles). I looked to the right and saw him in his raincoat - he looked rather bewildered by it all. He could have been a spitting image puppet - I could swear his ears were flapping.

The first 6 miles at the very least were fine. Although the first mile had taken about 8 and a half minutes, by the 6 mile marker we were on 6 and a half minute mile pace, so we must have 'shifted up a gear' and we were still on that pace at 9 miles. Just after crossing Tower Bridge I had to stop to re-do a shoelace (I got an 'Aah' from the crowd!) and then had to work really hard to catch up again with Nick. We went through half way at 1 hour 26 minutes.

I think the lace incident might have been the starting point. A little after that I think I knew I was slowing. At about the 14 mile stage I started to drop back from Nick. I don't remember anything being severely wrong. I just felt strangely tired. I even thought 'come on! you're on form today and there's only one London Marathon, so you can afford to push it a bit' - but I was probably already losing my marbles at this point.

Looking back it is one of the strangest experiences of my life. I've tried to piece it together from my own recollections and from people who actually saw me over those last few awful miles but I don't think I'll ever know exactly what happened or indeed why."

It's Not Good

Day 63 - Marathon Training - stopped after 1 mile (meant to be 13 miles steady)

It's not good. I am really p*ssed off. Set off in good weather and optimistic spirit but after less than a mile I could feel soreness and discomfort in my right knee. Yesterday's recovery was too good to be true. I shouldn't have run on Sunday; the knee wasn't properly healed and now I have probably set it back further.

The only good thing is that I have been very cautious today. I stopped as soon as it started to feel bad and I came back and had a hot bath. Since then I have been on the phone to 2 different physiotherapy practices to try and get an appointment. The one that is just around the corner does not have an appointment for at least 2 weeks so I called another place in Dorchester and I am waiting for them to ring me back.

I am trying not to let this get me down. But it is. I'm going to end up missing at least another week's training and even then I will have to come back into it slowly, setting back a lot of the hard work I've done already. I am almost certainly going to have to drop out of The Grizzly - a tough 20 mile off road classic run this Sunday. I was really looking forward to running it and it would fit in well, being 6 weeks before London.

I just have to hope that a few more days rest and some physio treatment and advice will have me back in action soon.

Runner's Knee

Day 62 - Marathon Training - 50 mins (testing the knee)

Ever since Monday's 20 mile run until today, I have had pain in my right knee cap. It felt like I had walked into the sharp corner of a door and it was badly bruised. Going up and down stairs was particularly bad. I've been looking up references to "Runner's Knee" on the internet. (This from "Undoubtedly one of the most common running ailments, runner's knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), can hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined."

I carried on running, sticking blindly to my training programme for Tuesday and Wednesday - convincing myself that it wasn't that bad and also, once I got running, it did seem to feel a bit better. But Thursday and Friday it was really bad. On those days I was in London, visiting my eldest daughter, so it was easy to avoid any running (although I had been looking forward to the idea of a pre-marathon London run). However, I did a lot of walking in the capital and it didn't seem as though I was getting much rest. To be honest, I find several hours walking way more tiring than running.

In the end I tried to be partially sensible by taking 3 days off running and only getting back into it today. If I was REALLY sensible, given how bad my knee felt, I should probably have given it at least a week's complete rest. But there is this incredible compulsion to keep up the training programme, a fear of missing individual sessions - of falling behind with the whole thing.

Before going out for today's 'test run', I looked up material on the NHS Choices site, where it gives a set of useful knee strengthening exercises, so I did a few squats and leg raises - cautiously and gently - just to give myself a bit of confidence before setting off. I also want to learn a routine of these 'knee workouts' to incorporate on most running days from now on. I guess I'm hoping that this has been a warning to me to pay more attention to my ageing kneecaps and that with a bit more preventative work, I will actually emerge with much stronger knees.

I suppose it is no great surprise that, having run the best part of 20 miles on a hard road surface, for the first time in many years, my knees had something to say about it. I'm not entirely sure why it's only the right knee that's complaining but there you go.*

Anyway, the good news is, after 50 minutes or so of running on mainly soft surfaces today, it felt fine. That's great … but I can't help feeling cautious about it, suspicious almost. How come it was so bad a couple of days ago and now it seems almost completely healed? The real test will be tomorrow. If I wake and it has not become sore again and if I fit in a 13 mile road run, as scheduled, that will confirm that the panic is over and I'm back on track.

I've learnt a lesson though. I really do need to take care of my precious knobbly knees.

[* Since writing that, I've come across a potential explanation for the 'one sided' effect - from '' - "Runner's knee is … frequently caused by a thigh muscle imbalance, which can pull the kneecap out of alignment - and this imbalance can occasionally be caused by running on the side of a road where the camber can affect gait." This is a highly probable cause for what I've done.]