I hate running. I was made acutely aware of this yesterday, yet again, when I went back to running my
Running the Barcelona Marathon (while I was still feeling strong).
city’s weekly Parkrun, a 5km race held every Saturday in cities all over the UK.
I wanted to get a good time. I knew I wouldn’t be able to beat my “personal best” time for that race. I hadn’t been running for a full month. I needed the rest and recovery after successfully completing the Barcelona Marathon on March 15. The tendonitis I had for weeks building up to the marathon seemed to have mostly withered away. So I started out the week with a slow 5km jog, added a 15 min faster jog in the middle of the week, and hoped I would be able to do a decent 5km run at the end of it.
I’ve long known I have a lousy personality. I’ve written as much many times. In five days I’ll be trying to run a marathon after months of training and all I can really think about is: and then what will I do?
While I was training, I read lots and lots of articles on running. One of the things that really stood out was the amount of material available on post-marathon blues. There I was, hating almost every single minute of my training: the boredom, the loneliness, the freezing cold, the rain, the snow, the mud, the puddles, the pain, the injuries…and there were people out there telling me that once it was all over I’d feel depressed. They were saying that all that training gives the runner a sense of purpose and a routine. Once it’s done, runners feel loss. It all sounded crazy to me. I couldn’t wait for it to all be over.
Yesterday I did my last training run and I already feel a horrible sense of loss. Training for this marathon took over my life for many months. My whole life revolved around my training schedule, my workouts with my personal trainer, and my visits to the physiotherapist. I ate to fuel myself up, iced and stretched to recover, swam to get rid of lactic acid, saunad to relax tight muscles. I put many other activities on the side burner because I needed my weekends for the long runs and non-activity days to rest.
And now it’s all done.
I’m freaking out about the marathon, of course. (more…)
I’ve done everything humanly possible to do this right. Yet it doesn’t seem to be working. Today, or tomorrow, or in the coming few days, I might have to make a very difficult decision that will leave me frustrated, to say the least. But it won’t be the end of the world.
I’ve said this now many times: I find running particularly challenging. I’ve engaged in many types of physical activity in the past few years. I go to the gym and workout. I hike. I cycle. I dive. I’ve climbed tall mountains and cycled across a continent. I’ve had to train very hard to do both. I’ve had to endure pain, cold, wet, mud, heat and disappointment in my activities as well. But for some reason, at least in my head, none of that compares to the challenge of running and trying to be good at it.
It is specifically because I find running so difficult that I decided to challenge myself and train to run a marathon. I started running about six years ago. So I’m not exactly a beginner runner. I incorporated running into my general training regime to keep fit and healthy.
But I only started trying to become a stronger runner about three years ago. My husband encouraged me to sign up for a 10km race. I had never done anything of the sort. I wasn’t sure I could even run that far. With some training, I did. Then I ran another. And another. They were all very challenging. I almost gave up on my second 10km race. I was the third or fourth from last to cross the finish line in that race. I could have given up then. Instead, I decided that I needed to figure out how to become a better and faster runner. (more…)
How many times have people said that to me over the past ten years since I decided to become physically active?
But what does it mean? The implication is: If your body tells you it is tired, if your body tells you it needs a rest, then give it a rest.
But it’s not that simple, is it?
The easiest thing in the world is to use “listen to your body” as the best excuse in the world not to go to the gym, or not to go out and run, or not to get on that bike and cycle. That’s what physical activity does: it makes you feel tired. You’ll have aches and pains. You’ll get ravishingly hungry. You’ll feel hot or cold or itchy or sleepy or mentally pushed to your limit. If every single time we listened to our body when it told us we didn’t want to do something, we would hardly do anything.
I cycled across Europe last year. I know I go on and on about it. But it was one of the best experiences of my life. And I learned so much from it. On that trip I felt tired every single day for a two-month period. E V E R Y S I N G L E D A Y. There were times on that trip when I had cycled for more than 100 kilometers, I was lost, I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was hot… but I kept pushing myself to get to my next destination. I complained in my blog posts during that trip incessantly. I complained about how tired I was. I complained about my aches and pains. I complained about all my anxieties. It’s what I do. I express myself to get the feelings out of my head and be done with them. I got many messages from people telling me it was all right to take a break. It was all right to slow down. It was all right to give myself a rest. Yes. It would have been all right. But I didn’t need to. I could and I did keep going because I knew I had it in me despite the aches, pains, and anxieties. I knew I had the physical and mental strength to do exactly what I set out to do. And on the few rare days when I felt I really needed a break, I gave myself one as a treat.
I’ve been training for a marathon now for months. I’ve found this experience even more grueling than a two-month cycle across Europe. (more…)
It was hot. It had been over a year since I ran in the heat. Am I up for this? What if I get heat stroke or
My pre-half-marathon breakfast.
heat exhaustion? “Just get yourself to the next 5km mark, Nadia. Get yourself there, slow down, drink some water at the water station, and re-evaluate then.”
The past few months I had been running in the cold of northern England. In the past few weeks, the cold had reached a below-freezing stage where I could feel my leg muscles clench from the cold. But as long as it wasn’t snowing or raining, running in temperatures above freezing was not so bad, I eventually realized. I would always warm up five minutes into the run and that was that. All I had to do afterwards was focus on getting through the run without needing to make a stop behind the bushes to pee in public. Running on snowy, icy, muddy ground was when it really got difficult for me. It’s almost impossible to fall into a comfortable stride. I’d look for slippery spots and play a complicated game of avoid-the-invisible-mines to make sure to stay injury-free. I need to stay injury free.
In my head, my year begins with spring. I always feel surprised when I notice friends suddenly talking
One of many wonderful memories from the spring of 2014.
about the end of one year and the start of another as the end of December nears.
It makes me feel rushed. “But wait!” someone inside my head remarks. “I’m not done yet! There’s still more to come!”
Spring is where everything starts for me. I organize my years from spring to spring. Springtime is when I try to go on an adventure because it’s usually the best time of the year for that sort of thing. Spring comes, I go on a wonderful adventure, come home, wind down, have a fabulous summer with my children, start wondering what I should do next year, and then I start training for it through the winter months until springtime and my next great adventure arrives.
Right now I’m smack in the middle of my winter training regime. In the spring of 2014 I went on a properly grand adventure. I cycled for two months across Europe almost completely on my own. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life. It would be great if I had the money and the time to be able to commit to that sort of an adventure every year. But I don’t. So my current big plan for the spring of 2015 is to try to run a marathon. I have a one-day adventure planned that is taking me months of training to get to. I have no idea if I’ll manage to make it. (more…)
Yesterday afternoon while we were on our way to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, my husband (a Scot) drove by a restaurant in England where we are at the moment that reminded him of the September 11 attacks on the United States. He had dinner at that restaurant shortly after the attacks. Someone he worked with called him on the phone earlier that day and told him what was happening. His initial reaction was, “What? What do you mean? What does this mean?” He describes another work colleague’s reaction being, “I really need to eat Chinese food.” So they both got up and went out for Chinese. It was only later, my husband explained, that they both realized the severity of the attacks and the massive death toll that ensued.
“Where were you on September 11?” my husband asked me. And I proceeded to tell him a story I do not like to tell and have rarely told. But it is the true story of so many Arabs that day, even if they won’t admit it. (more…)
Hundreds of young Egyptians gathered this Friday morning in Heliopolis. It was not to protest in front of the Presidential Palace. It was not to throw molotov cocktails. It was not to express anger at government policies. Hundreds of Egyptians gathered this Friday morning in Heliopolis to collectively and proactively express the importance of physical fitness.
A new running movement seems to be gearing up in Egypt. It was started a few short weeks ago by a group who call themselves Cairo Runners. Their aim is to organize a half marathon sometime in April. And until then they are gathering people from all over the city to gradually increase the distances they can jog.
Today there were two routes; a shorter six kilometer route and a longer 11 kilometer route. It was one of the most amazing and inspiring experiences of my life to run alongside my fellow Egyptians on the streets of sunny Cairo. Instead of the typical harassment girls have come to expect, people were standing on the sides of the road cheering on the hundreds of young men and women who were chugging along. There were all kinds of people running today. They were mostly young people in their twenties. But I saw younger teenagers and older 50-year-olds as well. There were girls running in their hijab and girls without. There were guys with beards and guys without. There were extremely fit men (the kind with bulging muscles that you just want to squeeze) and there were young women who were nice and curvy. One young man was running with his two huge dogs on their chains. Some people jogged the whole distance. Others jogged until they got tired and then walked.
If jogging on the streets of Cairo has been one of your dreams – as it has been mine – your dream has now come true! I’ll be joining Cairo Runners next week. I hope you will too.
Follow Cairo Runners on Twitter @CairoRunners and on Facebook where they post details of where the next running event will happen approximately half way into each week.