Next Time I Have An Idea……?

Well here goes, I suppose it is all becoming real now and there is no turning back!

Today our places for the 2016 London Marathon were confirmed and so I decided now is the time to start the blog that will describe our crazy activities for the next 6 months. No, it is not just the London Marathon that we are about to do………
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Yes, you have guessed it, I have got us into another crazy adventure – but it is all for a brilliant cause and one that will hopefully help us to come to terms with recent events and the spanner that life regularly throws into the works.

One of the major things to remember about me is I am a pragmatist, I respond to situations by doing and really cannot cope with the fluffy and emotional side of life. A few years ago many members of a work colleague’s family were, what seemed to be overnight, diagnosed with cancer. That shock spurred me into action and led to me donning my running kit, getting out and training and finally running several ‘Race For Life’ events, numerous 10KM races and finally The Reading Half Marathon all for Cancer Research (UK).

Life threw another curved ball recently when good friends lost their little sunflower unexpectidly at 6 months gestation for no apparent reason. The effect is heart-breaking for everybody who knows them and is beyond devastating for them.

So in my pragmatic, non emotional way, (although even I cried on many occasions with this news and am still reduced to tears when talking about it), I decided to stir my stumps and do something practical to channel just a fraction of the despair at the situation.

Having previously been a runner, the obvious way again was to dust off the running shoes and get out there, but I needed a goal, something to aim for. So in a moment of weakness I contacted ‘Tommy’s’ – the Charity for research into premature births, stillbirths and miscarriage.

Having run half marathons in the past, I had always hankered after running a full marathon but there had always been an excuse not to. Finally, aged 45 I decided the time was now. Several health issues have recently been sorted out and with a new lease of life now is the time to crack on.

Devina at Tommy’s listened patiently while I explained and said that The London Marathon was full but offered me a place at Brighton – which I gratefully accepted.

Now, another point you need to bear in mind is that the pragmatist in me tends to drag people along in my wake – in particular my long suffering husband who has a tendency to procrastinate but who had also been talking about doing a full marathon for sometime.

I suppose I ought to mention that several years ago I entered for The Great North Run and ‘absent mindidely’ happened to enter him as well at the same time and only told him about it after the applications had been accepted. He was somewhat shocked on that occasion – so I guess you can see what’s coming here…..

Having been out of the running world for quite a while I wanted to get some training under my belt before I spilt the beans to him – that in 7 months we were heading out to run The Brighton Marathon. It was on a training speed walk that I finally coughed and told him that I was doing it before muttering that he was as well. Once he picked himself up off the floor  and the expletives had finished then he calmly accepted the fact and started muttering about training.

That was a few weeks ago now and training has continued reasonably well. However, yet again something to consider is that we live in a compound, in the desert, 2000 feet above sea level. Yes, we live in Saudi Arabia. Now, some people may consider this a fantastic lifestyle and for the main part they are right – but when you are training for a marathon on a reasonably tight timescale it does present its own problems. Firstly, females are not allowed out of the compound without an abaya – yes the sexy, attractive black number that covers you from the neck down. Fortunately we do not have to have our heads covered. So, even if running in public was an acceptable phenomenon then you would either wilt from heat exhaustion with your black coverall on or break your neck as you tripped over the free flowing hem of your sexy little black number. So that means that training has to be done on the compound. Now our compound is not small, far from it, but believe me when you are training you soon get to know every tree and blade of grass, every inch of tarmac, (hence the blog name), every dog poo bin and every part of the superdooper reinforced security wall that surrounds the compound. While running I often wonder if the guys operating the CCTV of the compound perimeter are watching and if so what they are thinking as we all trudge around almost in conga fashion. As you run you actually find yourself rating the dog poo bins by their level of stinkiness and the number of flies buzzing around them and trying to decide how long it is since they have been emptied. You also get to know all the other diehard runners, walkers and cyclists who pound the tarmac of the 2.5 ish mile perimeter of our compound.  Good music and a reduced sense of smell is essential to wile away the miles.

The second problem is the heat, that combined with the 2000ft above sea level issue makes training interesting to say the least. Here we are in late October with the temperature still over 30 Celsuis – interesting running weather. Most people wait till after dark when the temperature drops and it is definitely more comfortable.

The last but certainly not the most trivial issue is salt, yes NaCl, that compound which in the UK we are led to believe will lead to high blood pressure, all sorts of other horrendous illnesses and will kill us if we merely look in its general direction, is actually vital when you are trundling round the compound walls, sweating in the heat and counting the flies around the dog poo bins. If you have never had a salt deficiency, then do not go out of your way to experience it – it really is not much fun. Over the first few weeks of my training I self diagnosed everything from old age to ankylosing spondylitis, (no offence intended to anybody with AS, as a qualified physio I know how horrendous the condition is), such was the pain in my legs and hips – nothing like I have ever experienced before and nothing like muscle pain from enthusiastic running training I have had in the past.

I have managed to solve this problem by going against everything that is rammed down your throat, or not as the case may be, in the UK. I am now keeping the Saudi Arabian salt industry in business. Salt with everything and if in doubt I can usually be found crunching a stick of celery smothered in the stuff. So, to all my friends here on the compound, forget my usual gluten free cakes and biscuits, if I am coming to visit just make sure you have celery in the fridge and a full salt pot – that will do nicely thank you!

I am pleased to report that my overdosing on NaCl has reduced the pain almost completely – thank goodness! I just have to go against my inbuilt English fear of the stuff and remember to keep scoffing it!

So, up to today that was where we were at, me crunching away on celery and salt and feeling relieved that my legs are back to how they should be. Howard sprinting round the compound grumbling about his pragmatic wife but under his breath secretly quite chuffed that he will fulfill his ambition of doing a marathon.

Then today happened. Devina had commented that although the charities places for The London Marathon had all gone, people get injured and drop out and so it may be that places would come up. An email from Devina arrived today and I don’t think I need to say anymore other than we are now not doing Brighton…..?

It was at this point, when the realisation that he was doing London kicked in to Howard that he absolutely stunned me. Those of you who know me will be aware that I stared up Spinning® here on Salwa and although the day to day management has been handed over to Tommo, I am still involved in the overall strategy for the project and we still own the bikes. I should add that I am not actively taking any classes at the moment to allow for my running training – important point that one! Anyway, I digress. Tommo, Howard and I have recently been chatting about another Spinathon event similar to the last one of 18 months ago which lasted for 24 hrs and raised in excess of £12,000 for charity. I had already suggested that we have Tommy’s as the nominated charity and that had been agreed by everybody. Howard tonight, completely out of the blue, proposed, (no, not marriage, that was many, many years ago),  that we turn it into an extended event and do the Spinathon in February as planned, swim an accumulative total 10 miles in March and then do London in April – arrghhh! As I had got him into this in the first place I didn’t really feel I could refuse!

Oh gee! What have I done! Never mind what have I done, I now know what I have got to do! Another training run completed tonight and off to the pool tomorrow to tackle my nemesis- swimming ??

Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at

http://virginmoneygiving.com/TheCarbys

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2 thoughts on “Next Time I Have An Idea……?

  1. Hannah Gannon says:

    Helen! What an inspiration… It’s so touching what you are doing. I really hope your hard work and effort (funds raised) go towards research and helps to save other peoples sunflowers.
    Wishing all the best.

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