running

The challenges of the inconvenient pee

I have very predictable pee schedules. I can get through much of the day without having to go to the toilet very often. Then I go to bed and I have to get up at least twice during the night to pee. Then morning comes and I eat my bowl of oatmeal and have a single cup of tea. That leads to peeing in copious quantities every half an hour for the next three hours or thereabouts.

This makes my life generally difficult. It makes travelling and training pure hell.

Who doesn’t leave their hotel first thing in the morning after breakfast to start their sightseeing? Everyone does that. I do that. But it means that I’m stopping the people with me every half hour to find a toilet until I’m past the critical period of multiple pees. It also means that when I was cycling across Europe, in need of very early starts to get my cycling done as early as possible during the day, I was stopping at the side of the road all the time to pee. I don’t even want to think about the number of people who might have seen my exposed rear end. I try to hide myself away but, seriously, how hidden can you ever be on the side of a major road, for example? It also means getting up at least twice in the middle of freezing cold nights to pee while camping.

Yesterday I had to get my run done early in the morning because I had other things that needed to get done the rest of the day. Do you know how irritating it is to feel an exaggerated sense of needing to pee with every single stomp of your feet on the ground? It’s AWFUL. But I persevered. (more…)

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I Hate Running So Much I Ran a Marathon

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).

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.

Running is such a head-fuck for me. (more…)

Getting the Post-Marathon Blues…Pre-Marathon

I’ve long known I have a lousy personality. I’ve written as much many times. In five days I’ll be trying to Barcelona Marathon 2013run 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…)

Life’s Lessons: Marathon Training and Doing What’s Right

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…)

The Myths and Truths of “Listen to Your Body”

Foam rolling to nurse an aching leg before a run

Listen to your body.

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…)

Marrakech: A Half Marathon to Remember

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.

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.

I reached the first water station. (more…)

Looking Forward to a Year that Begins With Spring

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.

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…)

The Trials and Tribulations of a Wannabe Runner

I’ve said this so many times already but I’ll say it again: I absolutely, whole-heartedly, from the

I look anything but sexy when I'm running. As you can see, I didn't even bother buying this was I was so under-impressed with my sexiness.

I look anything but sexy when I’m running. As you can see, I didn’t even bother buying this one I was so under-impressed with my sexiness.

innermost part of my soul detest running.

Even so, or perhaps as a result, I so want to be a runner.

That is how mentally deranged I can be sometimes. And now that I’m running, I have absolutely no idea how I can maintain this runners’ lifestyle.

I’ve dabbled in running for a few years. It’s never been anything serious. I used to resort to it as part of a larger training regime. I never trained to be a good runner. I ran (let’s call it jog instead) to diversify my workouts. Jogging on my treadmill at home was a handy way to get in half an hour of exercise before going to work some days. That was pretty much it.

And then I married a crazy Scotsman. He runs and partakes in running races and triathlons the way I eat basboosa (the most delicious Egyptian sweet you can ever imagine). I accompanied him to a couple races and thought they looked “fun”. He encouraged me to run a bit more and to participate in a couple 10km races. It was ugly. But despite the fact that I repeatedly refer my readers back to my horrible memories of being passed in my races by a limping 50-something-year-old stroke survivor, countless overweight people, the elderly, tiny children, and once (get a load of this) by a blind lady, I persevered. I’ve kept at it. I ran my first half marathon earlier this year. Who would have thought that I could run 21km? I wouldn’t have.

But is that enough for my deranged mind? No. I need to run faster. I can no longer accept (I couldn’t to start with but now I REALLY can’t) watching little kiddies so easily pass me by when I run the weekly 5km race, called a Parkrun, in the UK. I just won’t have it. So now not only am I trying to be able to run longer distances, I’m trying to run them at a faster pace. AND IT SUCKS!  (more…)

The Excitement – and Frustrations – of Being a Beginner Runner

Less than two years ago, my husband gave me one of his old bikes and we joined a group of beginner cyclists for a one-hour

This is a picture of me (in the back in a pink shirt) from last weekend's Parkrun, doing my little running shuffle. That little girl ALWAYS beats me to the finish.

This is a picture of me (in the back in a pink shirt) from last weekend’s Parkrun, doing my little running shuffle. That little girl ALWAYS beats me to the finish.

outing. The cycle started with a small hill. I completely failed to get up it. I broke down mid-hill and threw a tantrum that lasted several hours. I was upset with my husband (who else do I have to blame for life’s miseries?) because I felt he had set me up for failure. The bike I was using was not a nice road bike like everyone else’s. It probably wasn’t even the right size for me. How was I expected to do hills anyway? And we should have started by going off on our own until I had more confidence and strength to join others.

A month later, my husband took me to a beautiful rural area several kilometers away from our house. I cycled there on my brand new, properly fitting road bike. For reasons known only to him, we ended up on some extremely steep (for me) hills. I threw another tantrum. I got off the bike and walked up the steepest hills. My legs were not strong enough to pedal up. It just wasn’t happening. And again, I was angry with my husband for setting me up for failure by taking me to the steepest hills in the country, or so I believed at the time.

Three months later I cycled with my husband from London to Paris in three days.

One year after that I cycled solo 5630 km from Lisbon, Portugal to Tallinn, Estonia.

If not for that whole experience, I would have given up on running by now.  (more…)

Why I Am Gradually Changing the Way I See the World

My husband and I were at a small junction near the north coast of Northern Ireland and had two choices. We could either take the larger, busier road labeled “Coastal Route” or we could turn off onto a small road going up a steep hill. My navigation device showed me that the smaller road would allow us to cycle closer to the sea’s coast. That’s what settled it for us. We took the smaller road.

Immediately we were lurched into a long series of steep, hilly cycling battles. Cycling downhill was almost more challenging than cycling uphill. The downhill gradients were so steep that it felt like the bike might do a somersault and tumble down the rest of the hill. One uphill climb was so steep and so long that I had to stop to catch my breath. Once I was breathing normally again, I discovered it was impossible for me to continue cycling up the hill. When I tried to put both feet on the pedals, I lost balance. I struggled to pull the bike upwards until I found a gradient that would allow me to get back on.

I had cycled on very steep hills before. These reminded me of that time in France, a few months earlier, when my navigation system and me had a little misunderstanding that resulted in a huge detour up a big, steep mountain.

I knew I could do this. I knew I even enjoyed it. There is a very primal sort of satisfaction that I find in putting every single ounce of energy I have into the movement of my legs. It’s an enjoyable pain. That sounds almost masochistic. It’s not.

We cycled up and down, both of us letting out a very loud “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” when we reached the steepest part of a hill, perhaps thus allowing our own voices to push our legs up that last bit. I have no idea how much time passed at first. It could have been five minutes. It could also have been 30 minutes. And then we saw the coast.

I don’t care how many times I have seen coasts. It doesn’t matter how long it has taken me to reach them: weeks, days, or hours. Every single time I reach a coast by the power of my own two legs I am spellbound. It is as if I am seeing it for the very first time. It is an almost childlike sensation of awe. (more…)