You poor people hear plenty enough from me, and most of it is about my slightly bonkers and completely inspiring mum @wendimoo. I thought it was time you heard her voice too. Here’s mum’s response to my piece on the 2015 Brighton Marathon…
What is the most important part of your body to get fit for running a marathon? Your legs? Feet? Chest? Heart? Nope – YOUR BRAIN!
I found this out, to my cost, when I ran (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) the Brighton Marathon in April this year.
I was supposed to do it last year with my daughter, Jaz, but I’d had a load of injuries and that kept me from running for ages, so she did it on her own and I supported. The idea was to raise money for CLIC Sargent in memory of her friend Stuart who died of cancer when he was just 25. We had already completed Edinburgh the year before for Macmillan. You can see our video blog about Edinburgh here.
So, Brighton. It had been a pretty rubbish year really with one thing and another, and my mum, for whom I had been caring for a couple of years, sadly died at home in February of this year, aged 92. (Good genes, thanks Mum!) So not really the best run-up.
Jaz has caught the running bug and runs marathons and ultras all over the place, so I didn’t see her to train with as much as we did for Edinburgh. However, my good friend and training buddy Donna Carroll managed to get a place in London, so we trained together quite a lot. If it hadn’t been for her I probably would not have even made to to the start line!
So here I am, summer has passed in a haze of bingeing on chocolate and cakes and I am fat, lazy, unmotivated and feeling like crap. Oh and my 57th birthday is looming – joy. It’s October, I have 6 months to get myself into some kind of shape to do this bloody marathon next April.
I have been a member of the amazing Petts Wood Runners for a couple of years now, having joined in the run-up to Edinburgh, so first I need to go back to our Tuesday night runs. At this stage I am not even up to keeping up with Group 1, so Donna agrees to help me get back into shape.
We meet on Monday morning with another lady, Tracy, and start literally from scratch. Run for a minute, walk for five, repeat six times. I’ve set my mind to it now so I am also tracking my food on the My Fitness Pal app and watching what I eat. I then realize with joy that the more I run – the more I can eat and still lose weight! Heaven! I also find that now I am focused on what I am eating, I tend to eat more healthy anyway.
So back to the training. I manage to get in a few runs on my own during the week and soon I am feeling great again and chomping at the bit to get back to the running club. This is great – let me at ‘em.
‘NO,’ says Donna, ‘take it easy, don’t push yourself and get injured again.’ *pouty face*
She was absolutely right. That is exactly what I did before. Patience is not one of my virtues!
We carry on for a couple more weeks upping the running time and lowering the walking until we are running continuously for half an hour and I can start doing the park run again. Donna has also started Group 0 on a Tuesday night. It begins at 7pm and they do 2-2.5 miles at a very easy pace for those people who are returning from injury or are not quite ready for 3.5 miles in Group 1 yet.
Finally I am ‘allowed’ to do Group 0 – hurrah!! And I love it! By this time I am really back into the swing of it and improving every day. A couple of weeks later, I move back to Group 1. Things are going well, the weight is coming off, running is getting easier as there is less of me to drag around, I am getting fitter and all is hunky dory. I might even try Group 2 before next April! Unfortunately, Mum is getting worse and now needs 24 hour care and I am finding it hard to get out of the house. The St Christopher’s carers are coming in 3 times a day (they are awesome and mum is one of their faves as she is always ready with a joke or a cheeky quip!). So Jasmine lends me her treadmill so that I can still run even if I can’t get out of the house. I can just about manage Tuesday nights, some Thursday mornings and Saturday morning parkrun by now.
Christmas is a bittersweet time. We know it will be Mum’s last. In fact most people are surprised that she even made it to Christmas, but she wasn’t giving in – I wonder where I get it from? I managed Christmas Day parkrun (fastest time of the year!) and we had all the family over for dinner. I also managed New Year’s Day parkrun (even quicker than Christmas day!). All is good. And I’ve lost 1½ stone.
The rest is a bit of a blur to be honest. My focus was on Mum and trying to make her last weeks and days as comfortable, pain-free and stress-free as possible. On Tuesday 3rd Feb, while she had a room full of carers and nurses (she loved an audience bless her) she slipped away.
After that it was a busy time helping my sister to organise the funeral, getting all the hospital equipment picked up, informing everyone who needed to know. Training and eating properly kind of went out of the window a bit, I couldn’t get my head around it. Outwardly it all seemed fine. I was able to run whenever I liked, and it helped get me through it all. I walked or ran whenever I needed to go to town, I ran Tuesday nights with the club, Thursday mornings with Donna and a few other PWRs, Saturday parkruns (on 14th March I smashed my PB) and on Sundays Donna and I did our Long Runs. Some were great. Some really grim, cold wet and miserable but we kept each other going. It all got harder though. I kept telling myself, and anyone who would listen, “I’ve trained far more for this than I did for Edinburgh!”. Did I though? Thinking back I’m not so sure. Everything seemed like a big effort and a lot of the time I felt like I was carrying a great big weight around with me (which, actually, I was – a mental one!).
Jaz and I ran the Wimbledon Common half marathon in March and completed it in just over 3 hours. As it was all off road that was a good time for me, with very few walk breaks and I should have been really pleased. It was a nice course and I high-fived a Womble – what’s not to like? So why was my only thought when standing at the bus stop to go home “I’ve got to do TWICE THAT FAR in 3 weeks time – shit – I’m never going to manage it!”
From then on, my head dragged me down further and further. I was late in putting up my Just Giving page and donations were trickling in, but I couldn’t get motivated to really push it. I started eating chocolate and crap again and putting weight on when I should have been losing it. I got away with it mostly as I was putting a lot of miles in but it was getting harder. I was beating myself up about it, wanting to have been at least another half stone lighter by this time, and because I felt depressed I ate more chocolate (sound familiar?).
We had been late in booking our hotel for Brighton. Last year we managed to bag a B&B right on the finish line almost. This time we ended up in the Travelodge in Gatwick. Not ideal. Then we had the problem of logistics. Eventually we decided to drive to Brighton on Saturday, pick up our race packs from the expo, spend some time in Brighton, eat our dinner there (same place, same food and same waiter as last year), drive to the hotel and get to Brighton by train the next day for the marathon, leaving the car in Gatwick to pick up later. It all looks quite feasible on paper.
We had a race plan. Jaz was training for an ultra and wanted to get used to carrying a backpack, so she had all the supplies on her for both of us.
It was a lovely day on Saturday and we ate lunch, picked up our race packs and had a wander around the Expo. I spotted Jo Pavey on the way and was warned by Jaz ‘not to accost the poor woman in the street!’. Then we had a coffee on the seafront. This is when Jaz realized that my heart was not really in it. I had been making all the right noises and smiling and stuff, but inside I was thinking “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Wendi? You are not ready for this! Who are you trying to kid?” I burst into tears. Poor Jaz was dumbfounded. Not realizing what was going through my head – and why would she? Usually I am an open book, everything is written all over my face, but this time I did a good job of hiding it all. Why? Perhaps I was ashamed; OK so life wasn’t a bowl of cherries for me at the moment, so what? Boo hoo. Some people have much worse problems and they just get on with it without being a moany old baggage about it. Stop being a wimp and get the fuck on with it woman!
It was a nice sunny day, but windy and a bit chilly. Perfect running weather. Jaz was bouncing around like a 6 year old at Christmas, bless her. I couldn’t manage to eat my porridge because of this big lump in my stomach. OK it’s here, just get it over with and stop worrying about stuff. We got a taxi to the station and got the train to Preston Park. I was really trying to feel excited but it just wasn’t there. I tried to keep up the pretense because Jaz was obviously loving every minute, as usual!
We high-fived Jo (legend) Pavey as we crossed the line and we were off!
It all started fine. Jaz was pacing me and we were aiming for about 6hrs 15mins. We were a bit ahead of our time and she suggested we dial it back a bit. I, however, in my infinite wisdom decided I was fine and comfortable at the pace, so we carried on. The plan was to run for the first 6 miles and then do a run/walk strategy. Up to 6 miles all was going well, and as we reached the 6-mile marker we decided to have a bit of a walk. We passed a drink station and had some water. This year they were giving it out in cups. This was ok but when you have a cup you tend to gulp it all down so you can get rid of the cup. First mistake. When you’re running in a marathon, the last thing you need is a load of water sloshing around in your belly. It’s very uncomfortable. We carried on and ran past Roedean school and then round the roundabout and up to Ovingdean. We decided to stop for the loo. Second mistake. We waited ages in the queue and lost our rhythm. 9 miles in and I’m starting to feel the big weight dragging me down again and that nasty little voice in my head saying “I can’t do this!”.
We soldiered on trying to get back into some kind of running but now I had a bellyache and my groin was hurting every time I put my foot down. Poor Jaz was trying her hardest to keep me upbeat but my bloody brain was having none of it. Then I felt really bad for putting her through this. If not for me she would have been well on the way towards the finish by now! (In fact, the following week she ran the Manchester marathon in 3:41 qualifying for a ‘good for age’ place in London next year. So proud of her!) So I felt even worse. I really think if David Cassidy (he was my idol back in the day) had appeared and asked me to elope with him I would have told him to fuck off. I was also worried about Jaz by now. It was really cold and she couldn’t feel her hands. She should have been running and keeping warm but she was stuck with me.
Then we were heading back into the crowds. Usually this is when I really come into my own. I love a crowd and I love to show off and have a bit of fun. Not this time. I was dreading it and just plodded along head down wanting it all to be over.
Then we saw Jo.
The PWRs had waited to cheer me on and I saw Jo at the side of the road and ran to her and gave her a big hug! That was a massive boost to my mood and I think I nearly cried. I didn’t realise at the time but the others were all on the other side of the road and I didn’t even see them! I was so wrapped up in my own pain and misery.
Things got a bit better for a while and we tried music to lift our mood. By this time the crowds were thinning out a bit but those who were about were great. One lady gave us some lovely oranges, which really hit the spot. Food and drink all in one. I found a song that lifted my spirits, and I actually danced a bit. Things were going to be ok.
Then we hit the power station.
We were prepared for it to be grim. We had a plan. Put music on, don’t chat, and get through those 3 miles as quick as possible. It was up hill going in (I’m told it’s not a hill but it felt like bloody Everest), it was cold, the wind was in our faces pushing us back, I was fed up, exhausted and crying like a stupid idiot. I could barely walk never mind run. That was my lowest point. I was dragging my sorry carcass plus another ton weight in my head around the wastelands of Mordor.
I think I might have given up then but I kept thinking of the people that had supported me and donated and I kept reminding myself why I was there – so we carried on.
Back onto the seafront. Much nicer but still windy and chilly. By this time the roads had been re-opened so we were dodging around holidaymakers and people on bikes and skateboards. Not too far to go now, I could almost see the finish line. It seemed to take forever but at last we got to the last couple of hundred yards, then one final push to the line. We had made it! SEVEN HOURS! I was gutted. Did I feel elated that I had managed another marathon? Nope. Was I proud of myself for completing the task even though it had been way tougher than I expected? Nope. I wanted to beat my last time and I was way slower. I sobbed like an imbecile and said “If anyone has a gun, please just shoot me now and put me out of my misery.” I am never, ever, ever, ever doing another marathon. EVER.
“That’s ok,” says Jaz to the sobbing wreck, “you don’t have to”.
When I got home I saw all the messages of support from friends and family I was humbled and touched and cried all over again!
Fast forward 2 weeks.
A group of us PWRs went to London to support my training pal Donna and many others from our running club who were running the London marathon. It was a great day and fab atmosphere. I sent a text to Jaz.
‘Just thinking – the New York marathon is in November and so is my birthday. Perhaps we should do it for my 60th in a few years time.’
‘HA HA HA! Mrs never doing it again! You know I’d be all over that like a kid on cake!’ came the reply.
I slowly came to realise that I FINISHED!! It’s a massive achievement. It was awful but I got through it. And my family and friends are beyond awesome!
Another week went by and the ballot for London next year opened. You’ve guessed it. I’m in. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few months and I’ve decided that I have a whole year to lose this other 3 stone and get marathon ready. I’m going to do it properly this time. Weight loss plan has begun. Head is back in the right place. Never say never. Watch this space…
I am still a bit short of my fundraising total so any donations however small will be greatly appreciated. You can visit my page at:
Or text WMOO57 £5 to 70070 to donate £5.