Giving up on grief (not a running blog)

I started this blog after we lost E as a way to help me cope, then stopped writing it when it became evident it wasn’t helping. Earlier this year I reread my old blogs and decided to kick things off again to compliment my marathon training for the Edinburgh Marathon as running had been a big help in managing my grief. Then it struck me, I use the word grief a lot. Even defining it as “my grief” seems scary. I understand the principle behind this, and honestly I think acknowledging ownership of it is a big thing in coping with it. But as a word its one which only has negative connotations and to be honest I’m sick of it. I’m sick of how it’s come to define every aspect of my life and how, no matter what, it’s going to continue to do so until the day I die. I don’t want to hear that word any more, and I don’t want to say that word any more. So I’m not. This post will be the last time it gets a mention so lets get everything that plays over in my mind out in one go. In fact, why delay to the end of this post, the ban starts now. This is a post about it, that won’t mention it again.

The metaphor.

One key thing I’ve taken away from the past 20 months is people experience it in very different ways, it is an extremely personal thing.  I’ve seen a lot of discussion about how living with it is a little like having a grey cloud following you around, always ready to rain down on you. For me it’s not like that, my experience feels more like something from It’s A Knock Out. My life now is about moving forward, passed the obstacles being thrown at me, and a lot of the time that’s doable. However there’s always something tied around my waist, waiting to pull me back. Sometimes there’s plenty of slack there and its pull is negligable. But inevitably the further forward I get the more it pulls, slowing me down until it eventually snaps me back

Time, the great healer.

Perhaps at 20 months in I’m not qualified enough to comment on the passing of time. Perhaps the purported healing properties of time take longer than 20 months to take effect. However at this point I can categorically say it doesn’t get better with time. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Sure the pain isn’t as immediate anymore, but it still hurts. Time masks those wounds but it’s a temporary fix, and not a great one. Time is a bodger.

I realise this sounds a little contrary, but I’m ok with the bodging nature of time’s work. Some wounds are just too deep, and in truth I can’t say I want them to be fully healed. I want to remember what I’ve lost, and more importantly what I had. To fully appreciate the special time we had with E we need to be willing to put up with the hard times as they provide the context. This is where time comes in to its own. What time does is teach you how to put up with the hard times, how to get through the day without succumbing to them and adapt to your new life. Because that’s what your life is now, new. It’s not a gleaming glistening kind of new, and you’d give anything to go back to your old life. But it is new, and you need to learn how to live it because the old rules no longer work.

The future.

Having A in our life makes a massive difference. She was the one who made sure we got back on our feet straight after E died, and keeps us looking forward, working to build more and more slack in to that bungee cord. She seems to be growing in to a happy little girl, and I hope she hasn’t been affected by spending all but the first three months of her life being brought up by grieving parents. That word, this time, was unavoidable as unfortunately it best describes how we have been these past 20 month. Thankfully we can still enjoy life with A, seeing her laugh is one of the few times when the bungee cord falls completely slack and you can soar forward without restriction. We’re learning to more relaxed with her, the slightest sniffle or temperature can drag you back and leads to some anxious times until things settle again. And I do worry about her reaching the age where she understands what happened to her sister, and how we make sure we explain this without frightening her or causing her too much upset. It’s sad to think she’s growing up without a big sister to play with and look after her, but that’s our dark spot. A will never know any different and that, as sad as it may sound, is reassuring.

The next step.

I can write all this, and I believe every word, but it’s not straightforward. There are times when it takes hold, triggered by a song on the radio, a memory from social media, or more commonly something A does that immediately sparks thoughts of her lost sibling. It takes time to get back on track again, but time is the key. Time has taught me that when I do succumb I will get back, I just have to put my faith in time and let it do its thing. The focus now is about how to manage those hard bits whilst time is doing its thing.

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Taper Tantrum

22 May 2017

How on earth did I get myself in to this position? In less than one week Edinburgh marathon will be starting and I’ll be running it. I forget the point at which I signed up for the race, but I assume it felt like a good idea at the time. Now I’m not so sure. Sure it was exciting at first, getting the training plan sorted and working out how to fit in the extra runs to my usual weekly routine. However as the weekly mileage ramped up the excitement levels dropped away. I was getting tired, I was getting slower, and I was starting to hurt.

A little over half way through the training plan a dodgy knee stopped me in my tracks, I couldn’t run on it. To help get me back on track I dropped the best part of two weeks from my training plan entirely and stopped running with running club for around 6 weeks whilst I eased myself back in with some steady runs. It helped. My legs improved and eventually I was running without pain. More importantly I was starting to enjoy it again.

I’ve been back at running club for two weeks now and last week marked my first proper speed-work session in what’s felt like an eternity. It was hard going and I’m definitely slower than when I started this godforsaken marathon plan, but it felt good to be back. I’ve missed running at full pelt, too many runs recently have been ambling along for mile after mile to try and get some mileage in without risking injury. These runs were the best I could manage, and have helped, but by crickey they were boring. At the end of last week I finally felt like I’d got my mojo back, I was itching to run again.

In timely fashion this revitalisation has coincided with my marathon tapering. With the marathon due on Sunday this week is potted with rest days and minor efforts to keep my legs fresh. I want to run, I’m physically able to run, but I’m not running this week. Not really.  I know it’s important not to overdo it, and tapering is just as important to a training plan as getting those long runs in, but on the back of a prolonged period of recovery runs I’m desperate to make the most of my return to fitness. Plus with the injury and the missed training sessions I feel like I have to make up for lost time. I’ve missed a 19 mile and 20 mile run to injury, and although I managed to claw some back I still feel like I’ve under trained. I know there’s nothing I can do now, and I know how ridiculous it sounds, but I’m struggling to shake that feeling that one more Tuesday training session at running club will undo a lot of damage from the missed training.

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The race number arrives, its actually happening.

Despite my wittering I am grateful I’m fit to run the marathon as I know plenty of folk that are having to miss out entirely.  I will be good this week, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be going to running club, even if the handicap 10k on Thursday does sound good (it’s not often the whole club joins in the same activity). It’s fair to say my mood this week is going to be a flit between frustration and worry. Frustrated I can’t run, and worried I haven’t run enough. If only I could find an activity that always helps to clear my head…

Above all else this marathon, however much I may have complained to my wife and anyone who’d listen, is being run for a good cause. I may not have raised as much money for charity as I’d have liked, but the bit I have raised will make a difference.


 

Beyond the marathon itself my other concern, worry, maybe even fear, is focussed on the few days after the race. Post-race blues. When all that training has been spent, all the build up to the day is over, the crowds have cheered you home, you’ve got your finishers medal and cuddle from loved ones, then you retire back home with achy legs and the endorphins slowly drop away. That’s the bit I’m dreading (I guess that’s the word I was looking for). Last year it was obvious I was dropping after each race, my mood dipped and I started to struggle with my grief again. In hindsight it only lasted a week or so, but they were long weeks. And that was only after a half marathon, my other worry is that twice the distance run equals twice the recovery period, both physically and mentally. I hope that’s not the case. Thankfully I have two days off work immediately after the run, two days to spend with cheeky, smiley A who can elicit laughter from anyone at any time (well, except one chap on the train recently who flatly refused to even acknowledge her despite her best efforts). It’s reassuring to know that despite everything that’s happened since A was born she’s still growing in to a happy little girl just like her sister. Just one who’s been to so many races she’s now conditioned to clap and cheer anyone she sees wearing running gear, whether they’re running or not. Pavlov would be proud.

A week away. Now hurry back.

As things were flowing nicely in preparation for Edinburgh marathon my body, specifically my right knee, mounted a minor protest at all the early starts and extra miles and demanded a rest. My IT band was flaring up and causing quite a bit of aggro whilst I was running. A quick Google check presented some stretching exercises that should help and recommended a period of rest until things settle down. Not wanting to cause any serious damage before the marathon I dutifully changed my training plan for the week, I gave myself a week away from running.

This has been a long week. At first it was quite novel not having to worry about whether it was better to do 8 miles before or after work, whether I could run home in time to collect A from nursery, or whether running club were going off road again (they were). However this relief didn’t last. I read at the start of the week that you can take a week off running and not see any real impact on your fitness. That’s as maybe but I found day five to be the point where I started to lose a little of my mental strength. 

It’s difficult to pin it exactly to my mini break from running, but Friday night was a low point. It’s the first time in a long time where I couldn’t sleep and my mind took me right back to that week in 2015, that room in Edinburgh, and sitting with E. All those numb, distant days that followed. Life didn’t really feel as if it was “just going on” it was quite the opposite, I couldn’t understand how life did just go on after this. Friday felt like this again.

A restless Friday gave way to a miserable Saturday. I can’t have been much fun. To compound matters A fell ill on Saturday. Nothing major, but her temperature spiked and immediately led to a tail spin. “What if she has a convulsion like E?” “What if it’s something worse?“. Both my wife and I struggled that night and I struggled to offer much support to her. In reality the dose of Calpol was enough to sort A out, but we checked on her constantly that night. I worry sometimes that we’re going to turn A in to some anxiety ridden germophobe when shes older, picking up on our over-the-top responses to her temperature. Hopefully she isn’t picking up any habits just yet, and maybe one day we can settle down with her. 

Sunday rolled round and enough was enough. I went for a run. My knee is still sore, but not enough to worry about. And after the few days that preceded a little bit of knee pain is nothing. I think it helped.

These few days have reaffirmed what I already knew, running is keeping me going. In one sense that’s positive, I can go about daily life without much fuss. But on the counter to that I may just be running away from grief rather than facing it and dealing with it properly. Am I setting myself up for a fall in the future when my legs can’t hack it anymore? I am aware this may not be the ultimate solution. I associated with the things Rio Ferdinand described in his moving documentary, I keep busy to get by but I don’t process my grief. And today Prince Harry spoke of his 20 year struggle to face up to grief, instead finding himself avoiding thinking about his mum instead. Thankfully I haven’t gone too far down that path this time, although I did when my mum died. I love to think about E. I love to talk about E. I love the many photos and videos we have of E and telling A about her big sister.

For the time being running is here to stay. There’s no magic solution that’s going to help me through definitively so I’ll stick with what’s working, sort of. Anything that helps keep me upright can’t be a bad thing, plus it gives me that headspace for a short time each day to refocus. Although, for the sake of my knees, this training plan may be downgraded ahead of the next marathon.

The spreadsheet isn’t always right.

28 March 2017

Week 6 of the EMF2017 training plan turned out to be the one where things fell apart. Ok, that’s a tad dramatic, but it was a pretty poor week for training. Of the 70km or so I was meant to run I managed the grand total of 18km over two runs, and that’s with some rounding up.

The week started as it should with a 5km recovery run, much needed and now fully appreciated after earlier moans from me of this being a wasted activity session. This would be the peak of the week as things quickly went downhill.

My wife is also in training mode with a half marathon coming up in May. She too is going all out on the training and doing one hell of a job given, as she herself admits, she doesn’t really like running. After commenting on “not feeling right” before her Monday recovery run she set off regardless, keen to not let the training plan slip, and ran the prescribed 5km. This did not aid recovery. That night she became more and more unwell and as a result spent much of the following two days in bed. With nursery unable to take A an extra day this bought me a day and a half off work, and also meant no running for me for two days. Up to this point I’d been strict in my training and stuck to every run, squeezing in pre-work runs where possible when evenings weren’t going to be an option. However I was getting tired, my legs were still struggling to recover from the previous week’s exploits. An extra rest day or two to stay on call at home was most welcome.

As my wife recovered and was well enough to look after A, it was time for me to run again. Admittedly I didn’t feel great, but as I’d missed the last two days training I decided I had to stick to this one and set off to the Thursday club run. There’s no structured training at these, it’s just a run with the group around the area at a reasonable, but comfortable pace. Things did not start well. We live approximately 1km from the club meeting point and about halfway through my run to club I was struggling; 500m in to a gentle warm up I stopped running and walked. I told myself it was down to a lack of running over the last two days, and that I’d soon pick up once we got going properly. In short, I didn’t. The following hour and a bit was torture. I usually keep a reasonable pace on these runs, pushing up the hills to keep pace with the quickest folk and circling back down to regroup with the rest of the pack. This time I stayed with the rest of the pack. In fact I was the tail of the pack. My stomach was cramped, my breathing was short, my legs just weren’t interested. If I’d been out on my own I’d have turned back, but not wanting to lose face with the group I kept going. At one point I looked at my watch and saw we’d only been going 20 minutes, my heart sank. I was struggling, and we weren’t even half way through yet! I just about made it to the end of the run, the worst run I’d for a long, long time. I mumbled some goodbyes and sloped off home to collapse on to the sofa.

In hindsight I should’ve listened to my body as I got ready for the Thursday run. I didn’t feel great because I was getting ill (albeit my wife had it much worse than I did). The following three days were complete and utter write offs for training and worse, meant my day with A on Saturday (whilst my wife works) was perhaps one of the most boring days of her life. I had no energy to play with her and we spent a lovely sunny day getting through until Mummy got home. I regret that Thursday run. Whether it exacerbated things or not is hard to say, but regardless I shouldn’t have run. I was so het up over recovering an already slipping weekly training schedule I ignored what my body was telling me and made it work harder than it wanted to for an hour. An hour of such poor quality running that it can’t possibly have had any positive effect on my training.

Being relatively new to training plans, certainly of this intensity, I’m learning as I go and the key lesson here is to pay more attention to what your body says than what the spreadsheet on the fridge says. Yes, there are times when motivation drops and you need to force yourself out on a run, and I’ve found the printed [not laminated I hasten to add, I’m not that bad] training plan is a good stick to keep myself going. But it’s important to recognise those times when forcing yourself out on a run isn’t the best thing to do, something we both now understand after a miserable few days preceeded by runs we both knew were mistakes. A 16-week training plan has enough give to afford the odd missed session to cope with injury or illness, or just a break. If the quality of the runs is deteriorating then what good are they doing? Get yourself right and go again when you’re back to your best.


This week was always going to be a bit higgledy piggledy in terms of training, with Mother’s Day on Sunday. The long run would’ve needed to be brought forward to Saturday evening, something I’m quite glad my illness scuppered. Evening running is never the same, and two hours of it just seems unnecessary. Even under normal circumstances I would’ve wanted to make sure my wife got the Mother’s Day treatment she deserved, instead of disappearing for a couple of hours at sun up. However for us, days like this aren’t exclusively a day for celebration. They’re a jolt to remind you what’s missing, and require that bit more focus to make sure we all get through. These are days to stick together, and take full advantage of the smiles and laughs from happy A to keep right. Sunday must have been hard for my wife, it was for me, but she never showed it. It looked as though A enjoyed herself which always helps, stubbornly refusing to be carried as we walked up quite a sizeable hill in a local park (she obviously doesn’t share my dislike of hill work). All in all Sunday was a nice day, a nice day that didn’t involve any running.

 

 

To donate or not to donate? What about the training….

20 Mar 2017

A slightly longer blog this time, not to make up for not posting last week, but to sneak in a bit about my blood donation. Fear not, this isn’t a blog talking through the donation itself. That was as straightforward and uneventful as always. However this time I went in to my donation from the mind-set of someone training for a marathon and trying not to let the training plan slip.

Before I get in to it, I’ll start with a confession. In the days leading up to the donation I had considered cancelling. Not because of work, or childcare commitments, or because I was unwell and unable to donate. Nope, my sole reason for wanting to cancel was to ensure my marathon training was unaffected. Now I’ll add to this confession, I have moved donations by a week or two to fit around imminent races. Donating does slow me down and, although I’m only racing myself at these things, I do go in to a race wanting the best time I can get. I can just about excuse this by booking in to donate straight after the race, coping with the heavier legs and heaving lungs on some easier runs until I get back to normal. However moving a donation to keep training going, when training still has another 11 weeks to run? That’s harder to justify. A donation cycle is 12 weeks so in effect I’ll be skipping a donation, not postponing.

I didn’t cancel. This was only donation four for me, after 15-plus years of not taking the opportunity to donate I still have a lot of catching up to do. To my shame I’d never even considered donating until E was in hospital. But seeing everything that was thrown at her to try and save her you see just how important these things are. It shouldn’t take something like that to make you donate, but for me it did. Thankfully there are plenty of people out there who haven’t needed that prompt and do their bit regularly.

Back to the start of the week. The donation is booked for Wednesday so Monday and Tuesday’s training can go ahead as normal. Wednesday is down for four miles, and knowing that you’re not really meant to do much exercise immediately after donating I opted to run to work to get the run in before donating. In hindsight this may not have been best idea, particularly after a pretty tough Club session the night before. The day after donating was a struggle, much more so than previous donations. I woke up with a banging headache and zero energy. I’d already mentally rejigged my training plan to make Thursday my rest day if I needed. I did. I rested my arse off.

The rejig left me facing three decent sized runs in three days. 8 miles Friday, a pacey 8 miles Saturday, and 15 miles on Sunday. Although I felt better by Friday I knew this was going to be an effort. My past experiences of running after donating told me that I’d be slower. The hills would feel steeper, the recovery would take longer, the breathing would be heavier. I decided to just take my Friday evening as it came, set off slow and see how the run goes. If I need to stop, stop. Just get some miles in and get the legs working. The run was hard, harder than normal, but I got round and I was pleased I had.

Saturday would need to be an early start to fit a run in before my wife went to work. This was a struggle. My legs hadn’t recovered fully from the evening before (truthfully they hadn’t recovered from Tuesday’s hill session at Club). The first two miles or so felt like a monumental effort, the next two still being a sizeable effort. This was supposed to be a run at pace, it most definitely was not. Thoughts turned to my Strava postings for the last two days, “my average pace is gonna look slow”. As I turned back for the final four miles I tried to figure out a run title that would light heartedly justify my loss of pace without coming across as an excuse. For someone who doesn’t really “do” social media I was inordinately worried about my appearance on Strava. A swift and well-deserved telling off followed “grow up and get on with it!”.

Sunday was another early start. I knew I didn’t fancy anything too hilly, which isn’t easy around here, so I decided to run to the canal towpath and do as much as I could on there. 15 miles roughly broke down in to thirds; 5 miles to the canal, 5 miles of gradient free bliss, then 5 miles back. Surprisingly I felt good on the way out. It was windy, it was wet, those hills were still there, but my legs were working. I got to the canal in reasonable shape and set out for my first towpath run. After five pleasant miles filled with many “good mornings” to the countless runners, cyclists, dog walkers et al. that were all out braving the conditions, it was back to the pavement and the return leg to home. The gradient returned almost immediately and with it came the petulant protest from my legs. They liked the flat, why couldn’t they stay on the flat? Sadly the canal doesn’t run near my house, so I had no option but to head up hill. It quickly became clear I hadn’t thought this through properly as this particular hill was approximately 3km with some pretty drastic climbs (you dont notice the length when you’re running down it). The headwind didn’t help, there were parts where it felt like I was just jogging on the spot, unable to make progress up this never ending “hill” (see also: mountain). My legs had nothing more to offer, the pace wasn’t going to improve but I couldnt stop, just get yourself home. Eventually as I hit the brow of the hill (not the fake brow that appears about 2/3 of the way up just to break your spirits as the remaining 1/3 reveals itself around the corner) I let out the last of what had become a slew of grunts and obscenities (it’s a quiet road, no-one was about) and began my recovery down the hill back towards home. 15 miles done, training plan hit for the week even with the donation. What was I worried about?

I’ll end this week with an appeal to anyone with the same doubts I had about donating this week. I did plenty of reading in the days leading up to the donation, looking at articles and forum posts from runners talking about blood donation whilst training. A lot of the advice was not too, which for a while was fuelling my desire to cancel. However, what’s that going to achieve? What’s the harm in me struggling a bit more than normal for a week or two when a blood donation could potentially be a life saver?

BDM

Although I’d like to think otherwise, I’m not an elite athlete. My performance isn’t the be all and end all. If I can’t run at full pelt for a bit then who’s going to notice except me? Yes, training for the last few days has been harder than it would have been otherwise, and will be for a good few days to come. But I’ll recover. I’ll get back to normal and by the time Edinburgh marathon comes around my body will be virtually ready to donate again. More importantly, in the next few days I’ll receive a text message from the NHS to say where my donation has been used and that means more than any race time. Those text messages alone make donating real and I implore any runners having the same doubts I had this week to donate. Training can be adapted, donating is far more important. Speaking as someone who saw blood brought in to an intensive care ward regularly to try and save the lives of child after child, it’s important not to take for granted that blood is available when it’s needed. It’s a life saver, and it’s only available if people donate. If you’re worried about donating whilst training for a marathon, don’t be. It can be done and when you get that text message you’ll know you’ve done the right thing. I’ll be back in the donation centre again in June, just as the training for the Yorkshire marathon gets going. I might just plan in a couple of extra rest days this time.

A runners high without the run.

27 Feb 2017

Week two of the EMF2017 training plan has passed and was noteworthy only for a lack of noteworthy incidents (great news when trying to come up with a new blog). The runs themselves were uninspiring even with the promise of new runs in new towns on our mini Scottish tour to visit family, friends, and meet some inspiring people. More on that to come.

The now standard three mile Monday recovery run came and went. I’m sure once I’m running longer distances on the Sunday runs I’ll see the point of these runs. For now though they seem to be a wasted effort.

Tuesday was to be a hill session, however this had to be aborted when it became obvious that Elgin suffers from a chronic hill shortage, at least in the bits I saw. Instead it was off to the park with my wife and A in tow to do 1km efforts whilst they enjoyed a blustery session on the playground. Wednesday was another lazy 3 miles around a small village near Perth which itself is only 1.5 miles around. Two plodding laps followed, the only highlight being some fully deserved heckling from a young lad on highway safety, concerned at how my running in the road contravened the advice his mum had repeated to him. Unable to find fault in his argument I could only smile and offer a thumbs up as I dutifully mounted the pavement and carried on my way.

Then there was storm Doris. In terms of my training plan I was lucky that the worst of the storm came on my rest day, however it did coincide with our drive from Perth to Edinburgh along a very snowy and slippery M90. The weather and driving conditions were awful. It was windy, the snow was coming down fast and sticking despite a healthy flow of motorway traffic. To top it off this was a journey I didn’t want to be making anyway. We were due to meet with the lovely people at The Sick Kids Friends Foundation in Edinburgh who have helped us with our fundraising over the past year and a bit. This is the charity associated with the Sick Kids Hospital where E passed away. We weren’t going to the hospital itself. We weren’t meeting any of the doctors or nurses who treated E (lovely people themselves, but covered in memories). Yet I did not want to go. I could’ve quite happily seen us stuck in the snow for an hour or two to avoid this meeting. Even at the point of ringing the bell to go in to the building I wanted to turn back, my bottom lip tensing ready to resist the oncoming wobble. However my last minute efforts to come up with an excuse to run away failed as the door opened and we were welcomed inside. Getting through that front door was hard. I felt like I was being pulled off the safe, steady course I’d clung to this past year and the best thing to do was not risk it and scarper back to the slow lane (a feeling foreshadowed by overtaking the longest HGV ever during our snowy M90 adventure). I was, as so often is true, being ridiculous. This was uplifting, inspiring, any of those words that might sprawl across those ubiquitous Facebook posters set on pictures of sunsets. It was great to meet everyone at the charity and see the work that goes in to supporting the Sick Kids Hospital. This wasn’t about being reminded of the sad things that families suffer through, but seeing how all that fundraising helps to make sure the kids in there still get to be kids. The most appropriate comparison I can offer is on those runs days where you know you should run, but every part of you is telling you this is a bad idea and your legs will you back to the sofa. Yet you go, you fly round and when you’re back you feel incredible and ready to go again. In terms of runs, I haven’t had that yet in this training plan, the runs have come without any extra motivation required. However I look forward to it coming after this week. The finishers high definitely beat the starters low.

By Thursday evening we were back home and back out running on familiar hilly territory first thing Friday morning. The week’s training ended with a balls up on my part, falling two miles short of the programmed ten miles for my Sunday long run. Although unintentional this was probably for the best. I wasn’t at my best on Sunday. A Saturday afternoon without any parental responsibilities for my wife and I resulted in a few more drinks than intended and subsequently a less than optimal Sunday followed. The eight miles I completed weren’t great, I’ll spare any detail but suffice to say I was happy when they were done. The thought of having to do another two miles on top of this may well have broken me that day.

Week three’s training is a little lighter with a 10k race to come on Sunday and an ambition to break the sub-40 barrier. A few weeks ago I’d have felt pretty confident about this, even after failing to break it at my last attempt (kale smoothies do not make for a suitable pre-race breakfast). However my legs are still coming to terms with running 6 times a week and I’m not convinced there’ll be enough there to keep up the 4min/km pace for 10km. But we’ll see. In truth this 10k feels like it’s getting in the way of my marathon training and there is a tinge of regret at signing up. I can comfort myself at the thought that maybe this will be the run I drag myself out on and end up on a finishers high.

I’ll end this week’s blog with a confession. After eulogising about morning running in my last blog I have already relapsed. On Monday morning my 6am alarm sounded as planned only to be swiftly dismissed and proceeded by another hour of sleep. In my defence, A was awake a lot during the night so an extra hour of sleep was definitely worth taking.  Besides, the run itself was only 3 miles so could easily be squeezed in to the evening (a thought which was surprisingly clear in my mind in the seconds between turning off my alarm and falling back asleep). Those are suitable excuses, right? No,they’re not. Wednesday morning, that seemingly pointless three-miler is on…………… although it was snowy when I left the house this morning.

 

 

 

 

 

The start of 2017 training

A realisation struck recently; I still had a live blog that hadn’t been updated in a while. On inspection while turned out to be 11 months. I remember writing the last one, on the train back to Edinburgh to meet the hospital staff whilst A slept on my chest in the baby carrier. I wasn’t great then, the blog was supposed to be a release be in reality it wasn’t. However by the time I wrote that I was taking literal steps to help me cope, I just hadn’t noticed yet.

When I wrote my last blog post in March 2016 I was running again. I’d run before, never seriously or with any great ability, but I’d done a handful of races and Parkruns. In 2013 I ran the very first Yorkshire Marathon, enjoying the atmosphere of my first marathon for the first 18 miles or so, then finding the lure of St John and his fine fleet of ambulances increasingly difficult to resist as my legs set firm and every part of my body begged me to stop. In the following two years you could count on one hand the number of times I went out for a run. Running was no longer for me.

However, in the grief fuelled haze I was trying desperately to ignore I needed to do something positive. My wife had already taken the initiative and signed herself up for some runs to kick start her sponsorship drive for charity, with friends across the country following her lead and forming their own army of fundraisers. It didn’t take much persuasion to get me involved, I was signed up for three half marathons before long and these would be my contribution to E’s army, raising money for charity and running three lots of 13.1 miles with E’s smiling face emblazoned across my chest by way of the customised running tops.

Over the course of 2016 three half marathons eventually became six, with a supporting role in the Yorkshire Marathon to boot (my wife ran her first marathon and a place became available for me to run with her). By the time I’d finished the first half marathon of the year I was a runner again. Hooked on the thrill of race day yes, but this time there was more. I was running these for E. I wanted to do well for E. Her face was carrying me round the route and we were connected again.

I’m not sure when it clicked but during my training I noticed a significant change in my mood. Yes I was still low, and yes it was still shit, but I was lifted. The exercise was making me fitter in my body, and also in my mind. I was less prone to breaking down when I was on my own and the distractions keeping the sadness at bay were absent (usually on the dark walk back home from the rail station, or when sat feeding A in her dark, quiet room before bed). Any gaps in training would bring about predictable lapses in my resolve, those bedtime tears creeping back out (thankfully A was only 4 or 5 months old when these were at their worst and never seemed to cotton on), so training took on greater importance. I was training to run quicker, feel better, and be stronger for those around me.

Skip forward to 2017 and I run more than ever, having joined a local running club towards the end of last year to make sure I kept active over winter. Even when I was running for pleasure pre-2013 I never ran over winter, the cold is not for running in. It worked. I’ve kept up my physical fitness and I haven’t had a serious lapse in some time (not counting Christmas and E’s birthday which no amount of endorphins could get me through smoothly).

So far there are two races in the diary for this year, both marathons, significantly one being the Edinburgh marathon. That’s where we lost E, in the Edinburgh children’s hospital, and where we try to do the most good to help those experiencing the worst of times imaginable for a parent. It will be emotional to be back there, and in my energy depleted post marathon state there will undoubtedly be tears at the finish line, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to pushing myself again. I’m looking forward to meeting members of the Sick Kids Foundation and being part of their team for the day. And I’m looking forward to running 26.2 miles with E on my chest again. She’s going to get me round and make sure St John and his ambulances don’t start to tempt me in again.

Today marks the official start of my marathon training plan for Edinburgh. A gentle 3 miles to start off the programme will follow A’s bedtime tonight. Touch wood, neither of us have shed a tear at bedtime in some time. Alongside the latest running goal I’m also going to aim to make better use of this blog. When I set it up I thought it would help me deal with everything that was whirling through my head. It didn’t, but running did. However I wish I’d kept the blog going this last year, purely as a log of how I was doing. I enjoy the running geek nature of tracking and analysing every step I take through Strava. I love seeing how I’m progressing ahead of each race and scoff at how long it took me to run up ‘that’ hill this time last year. Perhaps this is where the blog can fill the gap and make sure I keep it up to date. This blog will be my Strava for grief. Looking back at the brief history of this blog I can already see how much progress has been made since last year. Let’s hope 2017 sees that trend continue.