london marathon

Why I run #3: For the adventure

On Sunday I had a lot of time to think about running. Four hours, two minutes and forty-two seconds to be precise. I’ve decided that one of the reasons I’ve run seven marathons is because I have a tendency to say “yes” to things and worry about the details later. When I was given the chance to run the London Marathon for Leonard Cheshire Disability I barely thought about it before I said “yes”. What followed was an adventure where I made new friends, discovered new places, learnt about important causes, went on live TV, and finally completed 26.2 miles surrounded by non-stop, deafening support.

Thank you London.

 

Why I run #2: To promote awareness of (dis)ability

It’s three days until the London Marathon, and I’ve spent the last week learning about Leonard Cheshire Disability so that I truly understand why they are a great charity to support.

As a person who was born with what could be considered an apparent disability, but one I have never felt constrained by or even conscious of really, I’ve found that my ability is at times underestimated or misunderstood. Here’s an example: when I’m on an underground train, someone will often offer me their seat. I’m fairly sure I don’t look pregnant. Or even uncomfortable in my shoes. What I do look is different because of my Bebionic hand (or stump if I’m not wearing it). And therefore strangers make the thoughtful, but misplaced assumption, that my need for a seat is greater than their own. This suggests two things to me:

  1. They are uncomfortable, and don’t know how to react
  2. They don’t understand my ability

I understand my own ability, but I don’t know anything about what people with other types of (dis)ability need, don’t need, or care about. So to find out, I went to the #londonforall mayoral hustings event organised by Leonard Cheshire Disability, Scope, the RNIB, and Mencap. Through listening to Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Pidgeon, and Caroline Russell (standing in for Siân Berry) come under fire with questions from London’s disabled population, I gained some understanding of the key issues to this group of voters.

2016-London-Hustings-High-Res-892

Transport. As Leonard Cheshire Disability have previously pointed-out, every day is like a tube strike for wheelchair users. It’s not just inconvenient, the tube is often an impossibility, meaning wheelchair users will instead pay an expensive cab journey instead of a £2.80 Oyster fare. And sometimes minicab drivers refuse their service.

tfl_accessible_percentages

Housing. We’re all familiar with the shortage of affordable housing in London, but there’s even less of it around that’s adapted for specific needs.

Disability hate crime. Some questions expressed concern about going out at night alone – a fear justified by statistics that show disability hate crime is on the rise, and disabled people are at greater risk of violent crime than they were ten years ago.

I don’t think the mayoral candidates understand the varied needs of disabled Londoners, just like strangers don’t understand if I need a seat on the train, but the intention is equally good. Improvements will only come by increased awareness and inclusiveness. All candidates talked of bringing in representatives to consult on how new policies will affect and can be adapted to suit those with disabilities and hidden disabilities.

The marathon shows London at its best, with bustling streets, non-stop support and a community spirit. It’s a great time to remember #Londonforall, and so I’m running to raise awareness, and to promote understanding and inclusiveness.

Image by Julian Newman Turner

Image by Julian Newman Turner

See the Twitter feed from #Londonforall

Learn more about Leonard Cheshire Disability

Marathon training for the mind

As we close in on April, like other marathon runners I’ve been increasing the distance of my long runs and spending three or more hours consistently running. Physically my muscles are coping with the distance but my mental muscles need a bit of work. Despite the experience of six marathons under my belt, my confidence and sense of calm for endurance running seems weakened. Self-doubt and impatience have been following my every step. I need to add some mental strategies to my training plan.

free your mind

For advice I first looked to my running guru, Running Coach G, an elite ultramarathon runner who knows the solitude and stamina of a 100 mile race. He gave me these great tips:

1) FOCUS ON YOUR GOAL
“Keeping focus on the task at hand is key. Getting to the end of your run is the most important thing you need to do at that time so spend it in the happy place in your mind.”

2) FOCUS ON YOUR FORM
“The trick is to pick one or two things to focus on (like breathing pattern, body position, cadence)  for that specific run but to remember to enjoy the experience too. Keep a check on your focus points every now and then during the session and let yourself take in all the sights and sounds the rest of the time. Yes the aim is to perform better but if you force yourself to stay focused it may be detrimental to the later part of your run.”

3) FIND YOUR HAPPY P(L)ACE
“Over the years of coaching I have found that the body will give you signals to help you become a better athlete (and person in general). Self-doubt along with a few other mental downers are signs that you may be pushing yourself a bit too hard. This over exertion is most likely mental/psychological rather than physical so the best way to deal with it during a run is to slow down a bit, re-adjust your mindset, and when you are feeling that you are back in your happy place slowly start to build back up. This is the essence of mindful performance, endurance sport is about understanding both your body and mind.”

These points got me thinking and with some more research I’ve compiled a few extra strategies I’d like to implement:

4) MAKE A MENTAL PLAN FOR RACE DAY
As runners, we plan what to wear, how to get to the race, what we’ll eat, how we’ll pace, but what about planning a mental strategy? I’m going to anticipate how I’ll feel during the race, how I’ll react to any problems faced, and what thoughts might come to mind. I’ll write this down and read it back several times.

5) GET A MANTRA
From now on I’ll be giving myself positive affirmations like “I am strong. I can do this” and seeking out sayings that evoke optimism to memorise for race day. This might be lines from songs that put me in a happy place (and there’s no place for snobbery here, cheesy pop is definitely allowed).

6) GET A MOTIVE
Ok, there must be a reason I’ve been running for ten years, but I’ve never pinpointed what it is. This year I’m running for Leonard Cheshire Disability and knowing I’m supporting a good cause is a real boost. But I’d support them any way I could, so why run? It’s time to do some soul searching to identify my motive so I have a reason to remind myself to keep going.

If you have mental strategies for running, let’s discuss them in the comments 🙂