The Incredible Shrinking Woman

New Goals, New Challenges, New Status 8 July 2010

My goodness the marathon seems like an eternity ago 🙂

I took the opportunity afterwards to take a break from running (and blogging) and let my body and brain recover from all the excitement.  It was long overdue, frankly … any of you who’ve run a marathon or who are training for one will know that it starts to take over your whole life and it’s very strange when it’s over.  If I think about it, I struggle to believe that I’ve actually done it.  It’s a bit like my friends’ descriptions of childbirth … you forget all about it just so you might do it again!

I also have some news.  We went away for the weekend immediately following the race and The Boy took both of us by surprise by deciding to propose.  So I’m now happily betrothed and in the early throes of wedding planning.  Part of that planning, of course, involves choosing a dress.  I mentioned in my last post that I was worried about my weight creeping in the wrong direction.  I still am, especially after a long holiday in Australia where the food was delicious and the beer plentiful.  Well, the imminent prospect of a short walk in a long dress means that I’m hell bent on getting to a comfortable weight and finally managing to maintain that in the long term.  Then I can float down the aisle in the most gorgeous dress imaginable without feeling like an overstuffed sausage.  I also won’t look back on the photos and think ‘why didn’t you rein in the pie eating before the big day’?  I’m exaggerating, but you take my point.

So, what steps am I taking?  On the food front, I’m back to counting calories.  It’s funny, I always resort to this, which probably means that it’s the best long term solution for me.  At the moment I’m recording everything that passes my lips and trying to keep to around 1300 calories a day.  I’ll let you know how I get on with that.  I have a sneaking suspicion that alcohol is the problem rather than food, to be honest.

Exercise-wise, I’m back in training.  I literally stepped off the plane back from Sydney, dropped my suitcase at home, and went to the gym.  It might sound silly, but I kept promising myself I’d do that as I sat relaxing on Bondi beach looking in awe at the athletic locals pounding up and down the sand.  I’ve managed to keep up a high level of exercise ever since, which I’m pleased about (that said, this week has been something of a disaster).  I’m running again … I’m nearly totally repaired after the race (barring the fact that I still only have nine toenails, sorry!) and am back up to 4.5 miles.  I’ve signed up for the Windsor half marathon at the end of September, and my formal schedule begins next week.  I’ve opted for quite an aggressive schedule that aims to get you in below 2 hours … realistically I don’t expect to achieve that but want to aim high rather than being complacent.

So with lots of enthusiasm and vigour, here I go again!  I didn’t think that the battle to lose the weight and keep it off would be a two and a half year journey (to date), but I’m not throwing in the towel just yet.


2 years 75 days – I take my hat off to … 27 April 2010

… the bloke who said ‘it’s the hottest day of the year so I think I’ll slip into my Thunderbirds suit’ and made me laugh at the start line; the little old man in his front garden shouting ‘oggi, oggi, oggi!’ at around 3 miles; the lunatic running with the fridge on his back; Uncle Bulgaria who was about half a minute in front of me and acted as an early warning for my spectators; the gospel choir singing ‘he’s got the marathon runners in his hands’; the landlord/landlady who turned their pub into a pirate ship and their locals into cutlass-waving pirates; Barnardo’s for treating us so well from the day we applied to the moment we trudged home with our medals; the random runner who said ‘come on, we’re almost there’ and got me running again at 19 miles; Daley Thompson and Snowy; the St John’s volunteer who stuck my blistered toes back together at 22 miles; the band who struck up ‘I Predict A Riot’ just as I was starting to flag; the giraffe runner for initiating a colossal cheer going through Canary Wharf; my Mum, Dad and The Boy for the sheer joy of seeing them as I rounded the corner at the Lord Nelson; all the people at the drinks stations for keeping us going in the heat; the little boy who yelled ‘high five me, Joe!’ on Birdcage Walk; all of my nearest and dearest who stood beside the road and cheered; whoever invented Vaseline; the self-titled ‘guy in the turban’ who was running to be a good role model for his kids; all the #vlm tweeters; Tom the trainer and Jane the physio and Kellie the massage therapist; every single wonderful spectator because, without doubt, you carry each and every one of us along the route.  You rock.

So, I did it.  I did it in a reasonably respectable 5 hours 23 minutes.  I was scuppered by blistered toes at 22 miles and had to walk the rest of it, so I’m mighty pleased with that time.  And my dodgy leg?  Not a problem in the slightest.  Typical 🙂

It was probably the best day of my life.  You won’t believe me, but I enjoyed every minute (except the horror of removing my sock at 22 miles, perhaps, but I won’t go into the gory details).  And I fully intend to do it again.

One thing that troubles me is that, having seen some photos of the day, I look absolutely HUGE.  Partly this is in my mind, partly this is the result of a week of carb loading, and partly this is because I need to take my weight by the reins again.  While I recover the use of my legs this week, I’m going to plan how exactly I do that.  Watch this space.


2 years 71 days – Well here goes nothing! 23 April 2010

So it’s less than 48 hours until the start of the Marathon.  Yes, I am running.  Yes, I am excited.  Yes, I am bloody terrified.

Since last posting it has been the usual story of ups and downs.  Despite my cleaner’s best attempts to cripple me with her shiny floors, it was only a minor setback and the following weekend I took myself off to Tooting Bec Common to attempt a genuinely long run.  I knew it was risky, and I knew that I needed to resist the temptation to play catch-up (according to the original plan I should’ve run 20 miles on Easter weekend), but I simply couldn’t bear the thought of tackling the Marathon having only achieved a relatively puny 10 miles.  I was hoping that I could manage 12, maybe a bit more.  The Boy threw down the gauntlet and told me not to bother coming home until I’d clocked 15.

Well, I did it, and it was brilliant.  I ran 6 miles without a break, then adopted the walk/run tactic which I’m going to have to employ on the day itself.  This meant taking a 1-2 minute walking (and water) break, then running the rest of the mile, then taking another break.  I was flying up to about 10 miles, then I had a minor attack of the wobbles (probably the mental barrier of ‘eeek, I’ve never run further than this’), then had massive elation at 13 when I realised I’d completed a half marathon.  My body was telling me to stop at that point (I was having a minor attack of the wobbly legs) but I simply couldn’t face the thought of not hitting the magic 15.  For those last two difficult miles I walked 1 minute, ran the rest of the half mile, walked 1 minute, completed the mile.  And I did it … also spurred on  (weirdly) by the promise to myself of a cup of tea at the cafe on the Common that I kept running past.  I don’t even like tea.

I cannot tell you how incredible I felt afterwards.  That was the moment when it clicked in my brain that the terrifying distance of 26.2 is actually within my grasp … I couldn’t have run another 11 miles at that point for love nor money, but it felt like an achievable aim rather than an insane delusion.  I was fast, too, managing a very respectable 2 hours and 37 minutes, despite the walking.  And, for the record, I did indeed have a lovely cup of tea (and a slice of carrot cake) at the cafe, in the sunshine, surrounded by lots of people who were undertaking the more sensible activity of loafing around with their kids on a Sunday afternoon 🙂

The fact that I limped like a woman three times my age until the middle of the following week is neither here nor there.

So, feeling invincible, I went out running later that week and, inexplicably, could only do 2 miles before my leg decided I was going no further.  After every high comes a low, eh!  The bad thing was that I was 2 miles from home, stupidly without cash or phone, and limping.  The good thing was that the long and chilly hobble home saved me from collapsing into a snivelling heap (limping through Clapham in tears with snot bubbles coming out of your nose is not a good look).  I simply had to pick myself up again, I told myself, as I re-applied ice packs to my bothersome groin (please forgive the mental picture that may conjure up).

And pick myself up I did.  Back to the gym, back to the cardio, back to the relentless tedium of the cross trainer.  Last weekend I felt brave enough to run again and went out to face my demons on the Common.  This time I clocked a delightful 6 miles in an incredible 1 hour and 25 seconds.  Damn those 25 seconds!  Team Doman was back in business, and not a moment too soon.

I’ve not run since (discretion being the better part of valour and all that).  Instead I’ve been eating enough pasta to sustain a small region of Italy, drinking Ribena like it’s going out of style, and getting increasingly excited about the Big Day.  I’ve also, very satisfyingly, raised over £2500 now which is a huge incentive in itself.

Best of luck to anyone reading this who’s also running … I hope you have a great race.  I’m off to register this afternoon, and then there will be no stopping runner 34661.  If you’re watching on Sunday and see a woman with a very red face and a bright green Barnardo’s vest with ‘JOE’ on the front, that will be me.  Give me a wave and a cheer.  I’ll need it!


2 Years 40 Days – Frustrations and Inspirations 23 March 2010

I was absolutely brimming with confidence when I last posted because of finally being able to run again.  Then I went home on Thursday, took off my shoes and promptly skidded on the wooden floor that our cleaner had thoughtfully polished to a lethal shine.  If I’d even skidded on my left leg (the good one) rather than my right it would have been fine … as it stands I am now once again unable to walk without pain, let alone run.


Well there’s an old saying about tears and spilt milk, so I’m not going to brood on this.  What this definitively means is that I now have absolutely no chance of clocking up decent mileage before the big day.  It’s just not going to happen as the risk of further injury is too great, and that would count me out completely.  So, excitingly and rather terrifyingly, I will have to test the theory that marathons can be run on the basis of general cardio fitness alone.  Also (horror of horrors) I will also have to complete the majority of my training on that most tedious of gym machines, the cross trainer.

A few things are keeping my chin up and enabling me to overcome the desire to go and hide somewhere for a few months until everyone’s forgotten that I was supposed to be running 26 miles.  I watched the documentaries about Eddie Izzard’s insane and heroic mission to run 43 marathons in 51 days in aid of Sport Relief … after only five weeks training and with no real running experience to boot.  I watched him battle pain, injury, boredom, loneliness, distraction and personal demons with my jaw on the floor.  The Boy didn’t have to say to me ‘well if he can do that, then you can manage one piddly marathon’, because that’s exactly what I was thinking.  It was truly inspiring.

I’ve also raised almost £2000 to date for Barnardo’s.  The thought of not completing the race and not being able to donate that money is pretty tough to swallow, too.  What price my pride or lack of guts, eh?  I can say with absolute certainty that I am no longer attempting this with a view to achieving a good time.  I just need to get round (preferably before it gets dark and ahead of that maniac who does it in a vintage diving suit).

That said, it will still be an achievement.  My lovely mother is so determined for me not to give up that she’s said she will walk the route with me if that’s what it takes.  Knowing her as I do, I can assure you that she means it.

So the clock continues to tick.  When I think about the day itself I feel physically sick, and I simply don’t know if that’s down to fear or excitement.  I’ll opt for the latter.  Keep ’em crossed for me that I don’t do something idiotic like fall headlong down some stairs, or dive under a moving bus between now and then.


2 years 33 days – Battling The Odds 16 March 2010

Hello strangers.  I’m still alive, I’m conscious that I’ve not blogged for an eternity, and I’m delighted to see from the stats that people are still reading this blog.  Hopefully in my absence I’ve still been able to inspire and encourage people in their weight loss and fitness challenges!

Counting down the days since the beginning of my weight loss journey was starting to get a little unmanageable (especially with the increasing gaps) so I’ve included years as well as days.  That in itself is a sobering thought … on the one hand it’s only two years ago that I started the diet and the blog, but on the other it feels like a different life.  I simply don’t recognise myself as the person who attended her first lighter life class back in February 2008, either mentally or physically.

That’s not to say that it’s been plain sailing.  In fact, the last six months have probably been the hardest.  I remember sitting in my foundation group discussing the possibility of weight gain after the diet and, with my typical over-confidence, assuring myself and my colleagues that I would never, ever allow myself to gain weight again.  Well here’s the truth, folks, it’s bloody hard not to.  And before anyone leaps up and uses this as a stick with which to beat lighter life, I advise those people to sit back down.  It’s nothing to do with lighter life.  I can honestly say that I would never, ever have achieved what I have so far without the phenomenal kick start that the diet gave me.  It made me realise what I had become, what I could be, and that there were key aspects of my behaviour that were seriously holding me back.  None of that has changed.

What I’ve realised is that life is simply not a black and white case of being ‘a fat person’ or ‘a thin person’.  In the back of my mind I’d always assumed (slightly enviously) that thin people were made that way and that was that.  Well it isn’t.  Staying healthy and staying thin requires constant effort, vigilance and discipline.  I’m not saying that I suddenly abandoned everything I’d learned and gorged on any food that crossed my path.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What I allowed myself to do was take my eye off the ball and over time some of those pounds crept slowly back.  I would say that I’m now around two stone heavier than I was when I finished the diet.

But I’m conscious of that and I’m fighting it.  My regular training was keeping the weight at bay, but then I got injured (more on that in a moment) and that’s when I noticed the pounds adhering insidiously to my waistline.  Sad but true.  You simply can’t lose focus if, like me, you are prone to weight gain.

In terms of training, I’m less than six weeks away from the marathon.  I will be running, come hell or high water, but for how many of those miles I don’t know 🙂  I pulled a muscle in my groin in early January, which was crippling, and have only been able to run again in the last three days.  By run, I mean bursts of about two minutes of running interspersed with walking.  I can manage that for about an hour and a half at the moment before my legs tire.  To put that into context, most of my fellow marathon runners will have achieved distances of around 18 miles by now.  I was up to 10 at Christmas, but now doubt that I could do 5 without a walking break.

To say that it’s been emotional is an understatement.  I’ve shed more tears over this bloody race than anything I can remember in recent memory.  I’m determined not to quit, and now that I’m back on my feet again I’m training hard in the 40 days that I have left.  The one thing in my favour is that I kept up with my cardio training (even when I couldn’t run) so my fitness hasn’t suffered.  What I lack is endurance, and you can’t come by that in a hurry.  I’m aiming to get to a point where I complete the race by running for about 8 minutes at a time and then walking for 2.  This is a controversial way to tackle a marathon (some people view it as simply cheating if you break to walk) whereas more level-headed people appreciate that not everything in life goes the way you planned it.

So … I’m back on the both the running and the blogging trail.  In all the chaos of the last few months, I can genuinely say that I’ve really missed both.  Time to get back to normal!


Days 624 to 646 – Seeking Inspiration 28 October 2009

OK, here comes another distance running cliche for you.  It’s a lonely old business, isn’t it?  Just you, your thoughts and the plod-plod-plod-plod of your feet hitting the ground.

Clearly there’s good and bad in that.  It’s a great opportunity to lose yourself for a while (as a friend eloquently puts it: ‘when I run I disappear’), empty your head and pound away the stresses of the day.  Brilliant.  I prefer not to run in total silence (mainly because I find the sound of my own breathing very distracting!) and am glued to my trusty iPod, but even with background music I still manage to drift away to other places.

The bad side of it is the fact that you are the only person that can motivate yourself.  You get yourself out of bed (you’re not letting a team down if you don’t show up), you choose your route, you damn well get on with it.  And, as distances increase, you’re often getting on with it while friends and family and loved ones are doing exciting things that you’d otherwise be a part of too.  It’s a bit alienating, not to mention socially disruptive.  I have considered finding a running partner to ensure that I stick to my routine, but the absolute truth is that I don’t think I could bear to have to make breathless chit-chat for mile after mile.

So, given that I’m stuck between loving the solitude and yet needing external encouragement, I’m taking some steps to motivate myself over the next six months (oh my god that makes it sound so close!).  Firstly, I’m off to New York to watch the marathon this Sunday.  I think there will be nothing more inspiring than installing myself in Central Park to watch those brilliant people racing towards the finish line.  Then, back in London and reality, I’m going to seek out some running events to complement my training schedule.  There’s a tendency to think ‘oh, I’m doing the Big One in April, so there’s no need’, but the sense of solidarity and enthusiasm that comes from other runners is damn motivating.  It’s a bit like when you’re running along an empty road and suddenly another runner passes you … it really lifts your spirits and makes you feel part of ‘the club’.

Weight-wise, I’m edging in the wrong direction again.  I did anticipate this, as I’ve had an October full of wining, dining and important social events.  This means that I’m going to behave myself in November, otherwise it’s just a lardy, boozy slide into Christmas, which would be disastrous.  I’m seriously contemplating steering clear of the demon drink for a month … well, I’m going to have to cut it out next year anyway, so I should probably get some practice in!

All that remains is to wish the best of British luck to anyone running in New York on Sunday.  I’ll be there to cheer you on, you crazy fools! 🙂


Days 618 to 623 – Fighting My Demons 5 October 2009

On Sunday I asked the Boy to drop me off six and a half miles from home and leave me there to run back (actually, I wanted it to be seven and a half but, despite calculations on, I came up short).  It was quite tough going, and left alone with my thoughts for that hour or so I came to an important realisation.  This marathon for me is not about the physical challenge of going that distance, it’s about the competition between me and myself.

‘No shit, sherlock’, I hear some of you mutter, as you roll your eyes and wish you’d opted to do something else with your spare five minutes.  However, I was having that thought in the context of lighter life and everything that I’ve learned over the past eighteen months or so.  Let me explain.  I began lighter life with a very broken mind (you may recall that my response to my counseller’s reference to ‘overeaters’ was ‘I’m not an overeater’, which was clearly nonsense) and one of the keys to unlocking my weight problems was acknowledging my disordered relationship with food.  Part of that was coming to the understanding that I’m in control of my life, in control of what I eat and, if you like, the person with whom the buck stops.

The slightly cruel flip side of that is the realisation that I have consistently and deliberately sabotaged myself for years.  I know that because, at the drop of a hat, I can slip back into my bad habits.  I can happily be a willing spectator while I go into self-destruct mode … and for the life of me I don’t know why.  What I do know is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  I have knowledge and tools at my disposal to enable me to live the life that I want and to be the person that I would like to be.

Running is one of those things.  I was lucky, in a way, to find that physically I can do it and mentally I enjoy it.  I’m at a point now where I can run a reasonable distance without too much strain or effort, and I’m increasing that distance gradually over time.  But here’s the worrying thing.  Slowly and insidiously I’m starting to sabotage myself again.  I was less than three miles into the run on Sunday and at the bottom of a hill.  I knew the hill was coming (because an old school friend lives at the top!) and also knew that it was going to be the only real challenge of the whole run.  About a third of the way up I stopped, almost in tears, telling myself that I couldn’t do it … ‘it’ being that actual run and the whole bloody marathon to boot!  I wasn’t in pain, or out of breath, and nor had I really slowed down as the incline went up, but I was telling myself that I couldn’t do it.  With a supreme effort of will I pushed on, only to stop again a few hundred yards later.  At that point I was angry with myself (‘why did you ever tell yourself you could do this, you idiot?’ was going round and round inside my head) and I seriously considered phoning home to be picked up.  Luckily I realised what I was doing.  I was convincing myself of my imminent failure, with no justification for doing so.  That is self-sabotage, pure and simple.

It’s the same mentality that allowed me to become as overweight as I did.  I mean, if you’re fat anyway, why should you even bother to try?  Just reach for another cake!  I find it alarming that I still think this way … hence the dawning realisation that I won’t be battling the miles but battling myself.  At that point I literally shouted at myself (if you ever hear a runner grunting ‘come on!’ at herself somewhere in South London then it’s probably me) and kept going.  I ran all the way home, too … despite the fact that at four miles a wasp managed to fly under the tongue of my left shoe and sting me, the little git (though I give him kudos for his accuracy).

How pleased am I to have managed six and a half miles?  Very.  How furious with myself would I have been if I’d given up on that hill?  Extremely.  My willingness to believe that I can achieve something is inherently tied to my self-esteem, and I’m sure as hell not going to allow myself to erode it, bit by bit, until I’m right back where I was at the beginning of 2008.

Interval training is on the schedule tomorrow.  I hate it, I really do, which is all the more reason for me to attack it with gusto!  I just need to keep reminding myself who the real enemy is here 🙂

So … the London Marathon ballot results are out.  I really hope that those of you who want to run will be able to.  I was politely rejected by the organisers, but have my charity place secured.  They did send me a rather fetching jacket by way of compensation, mind you!  Good luck to those of you who got through, and commiserations to those of you who didn’t.