Monday, October 02, 2006


I'm nervous and excited. Tomorrow I'm going back to the gym, and I'm not going to run. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet, but I want to do something different for a change.

This is a situation I haven't been in for ages. Not having a training plan all mapped out, just being able to do what I feel like when I feel like it. I do want to get back into more structured training at some point, but I'm not rushing it at this stage. For now I just want to let myself recover from the marathon with a bit more variety. I'm still trying for 4 runs or about 20 - 25 miles per week, but with extra cross training days. I did a 5 mile run today, so tomorrow is something different. I might do some weights and have a bit of a swim, or maybe a go on the bike. Or the rower. All those choices, how will I decide?

Yesterday's Great North Run put a couple of things into perspective for me. Firstly, the people who I would have been running with managed to get round. I actually felt OK on Sunday and felt like I could have done it (had I not been at completely the wrong end of the country at the time, visiting my godmother in Kent). I was pretty jealous of them in the end and wished that I'd agreed to back up from Berlin. I could certainly have kept up with them - after a decent start it seems like they started struggling at 7 or 8 miles, and eventually came home in 2:50. I managed the slow, painful second half of Berlin in 2:43. That's not to denigrate their efforts, they were running with a wheelchair which, although it was battery powered and therefore didn't need pushing, must have struggled through the debris at the water stations, and they ran as a team which means they had to go at the pace of the slowest member. But it reminds me that I'm actually a lot fitter and faster than I sometimes give myself credit for.

And then the death. I don't know what it is about the GNR, but after 4 deaths last year it seems to have happened again. Apparently, statistically if you get that many people in one place at the same time someone may well die, but this seems to hit the GNR more than other big races like FLM. I don't have any reasons as to why that is. But it does bring home the fragility of life, even when you're relatively young and fit.

My mother worries, particularly about people who die while exercising because of undiagnosed heart defects. Having her in the country watching all the news coverage has raised a whole new raft of worries in her head. She had heart problems when she was younger (well, she still does, but they're under control), and has never really been able to exercise. So of course, the fact that I do run, and the fact that she has heart problems, and the fact that some people who have heart problems and run die, well, let's just say that it's a combination of thoughts that's bound to get her a bit concerned.

But what choice do I have? Physically or mentally? Physically I could stop running, but while my risk of running-induced death might go down, my risk of obesity-induced death would start going back up again. I know that I can't control my weight by controlling food alone, and that running is a vital piece of the jigsaw. To give that up on the basis of a small risk would be to invite regain and medical problems. Mentally I'm not sure I'd want to stop running either, it's surprising how much I rely on it to keep me sane. I feel far more balanced and composed at work when I've had a good run in the morning.

It seems to me that the risk, while well publicised at the moment, is fairly small. Of course, if it happens to you or someone you know it's utterly devastating, but then so is being killed in a car crash or a diving accident, or one of the other many risks people take day in day out. And it's certainly better than the alternative future of obesity and being unfit. If I don't run (or do other cardio exercise - and don't forget that people with this sort of defect die doing other stuff too, not just running) I have, at a very rough guess, a 75% chance of regaining my lost weight. If I run, I have less than a 1% chance of something like this happening. I simply can't use this as an excuse to stop doing something I've come to enjoy, and I can't let parental concerns, however well intentioned, get in my way.

Still, at least she hasn't trotted out the other non-runners mantras about being born with a fixed number of heart beats and using them all up too quickly, needing hip and knee replacements etc etc, so it could be worse!


Blogger dianka said...

maybe you could have some tests done and let her know the results. that would stop her worrying so much...

11:20 PM  
Blogger M@rla said...

That's a bit of a teaser, the heart disease/exercise thing. I'm with you; you can't live your life in a cocoon trying to prevent something that MIGHT happen, and very well might not. I mean, if you absolutely KNEW you had a heart condition and that exercise could endanger you, that would be one thing... I'm wondering, too, if there are any tests you can have, so Mum will be reassured.

I just finished my 8-week Plan, and now I'm drifting around without a specific schedule, and it's very weird (it's been all of two days, but still it seems strange).

11:39 AM  
Blogger JessiferSeabs said...

Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I find you to be so inspirational, that on Sunday after watching the Twin Cities Marathon, I decided that next year I am going to run the marathon. It will be my 30th birthday, and I'm about 60% of the way through my own 100 lb weight loss, so what better way to kick it in gear, huh?

But really, it's because of your journey and experiences that I even have the courage to attempt to do this -- so thank you for sharing your story with us.

3:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home