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From moon boot to the Boston Marathon in 5 months
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:16








What an amazing experience is the Boston Marathon. As the oldest continuously running marathon in the world, the 119th race was held in cold, wet conditions. After glorious weather all week, it became cold on Sunday afternoon, then wet by 9am on holiday Monday (Patriots day). The rain set in for several hours. We were up around dawn, and walked about a kilometre to the buses at Boston Common. There was a security check there, to board one of dozens of school buses for the trip out to Hopkinton, 42km away. 
I stayed the night with my friend Jen from North Carolina, whom I met on the Antarctica trip last year. We quickly bumped into Sophia Shi, who was on the same trip!  We walked together and boarded the same bus for the 30 minute drive. The athletes village is held on the local school grounds. An enormous marquee was set up - as big as a huge circus tent, and was filled with runners seeking shelter from the rain and cold. It was a sea of plastic bags and silver space blankets as everyone tried to keep warm. Hundreds of portaloos, tables filled with bagels, water, Gatorade, Clif bars and shot blocks, and military on building roofs to keep an eye on proceedings. Everyone wears spare old clothes that will be donated to charity once they are removed before the race. There was no room for us to sit for the first hour or so, but after the first wave of runners moved towards the start, we found a seat on the damp ground, using discarded space blankets to wrap around us, along with some hand heat pads I'd brought from home (they weren't especially effective). 
W Jen and Sophia
Another hour or so sitting on the ground there, and it was time to move towards the corrals. Jen opted to run with me, moving back a couple of corrals to do so. She ran the Two Oceans 56k ultra marathon in Africa only 2 weeks ago, so is still a little tired after that amazing experience. Our start time was 10:50am, so we walked the next kilometre to the last big toilet stop (it was still in pretty good knick), and decided what to discard. Jen opted to remove nothing - she ran the entire event in a plastic poncho and throw away jacket. We saw a woman rearranging things under her layers - she commented that she has no pride left. She was going to hide in a portaloo to pump her breasts before the run, but then decided she could do it outside. Her 6 month old was going to feed later. I told her that was one of the most awesome things I'd seen. Once we were running,  I also saw a woman running at 31 weeks pregnant, and another who was only 3 months post natal. That sounded a bit riskier to me. 
7500 of us moved into our corrals, and then we were off - no anthem or cannon or song, just a clap. The excitement was palpable. I had managed to remove my rubbish bag (worn like a dress) and my space blanket (worn like a skirt), but still wore my polar fleece jacket. As well as thermal tights, merino buff and gloves, sun visor, Yurrebilla buff, injinji and racing socks and my usual racing shirt with my name super bold across the front. And I was still cold for 10km!
I did my usual run/ walk routine, despite the downhill crowded start. The noise was such that I couldn't hear the interval timer app I use, so I decided to walk for around a minute every mile. Plus any additional walk breaks I needed. I felt very silly walking those first 4 or 5 times. I think Jen felt even more silly. Who walks in the first 10k of a marathon?  We did!  We moved off the road to the right each time, and this worked well. 
Dancing and running
The crowds cheering were remarkable. I love American crowds!  They yell and scream and wave cowbells and carry signs and they do it for hours, even in the freezing rain. Well, it was 3 degrees. Not quite freezing, but certainly close enough for me!  I was yelled at all the way. Jen decided her name was Tory as well. I had comments from other runners about the non stop cheering. I even met a woman who had seen the post on the Boston marathon Facebook page last week that featured me. Our bib numbers were only 4 apart, so we had the same qualifying time!  I think we had very nearly the same finish time as well (nearly 40 minutes slower than qualifying). 
Tory! Tory! Tory! Tory!
Go Tory - you got this!
Tory!  I've been waiting to see you!
You're awesome Tory! 
You look great, Tory!
Running strong, Tory!
Woo hoo!  To-ry! Lookin' good!
And so on. The whole way. It was so cool. 
At about the half way point, we ran past Wellesley College. The girls here have a reputation for seeking kisses from runners, or planting one on them. So I decided to get in on it. I got a kiss from a girl, and then from a boy, to even it out!  You could hear the noise they made from hundreds of metres up the road, before we could see them. My jacket was around my waist by now, but I was holding on to it in case it was windy as well as wet later on. 
20km mark 
At 14 miles, Jen was feeling pretty tired from her ultra. We'd stopped twice to remove the wet tape from her feet, so we decided I'd run on ahead. I had a pitstop, so she ran ahead, I caught her again, and we walked through the 15 mile marker together. After this point, I ran on ahead. I was watching my pace chart on my wrist, and realised I was a few minutes ahead of my 4:20 target (best case scenario) finish time. 
The towns rolled by, the crowds kept cheering.  'Heartbreak Hill' loomed just after the 20 mile marker. This hill has a reputation, obviously. There were some rolling hills in the previous few miles, but this one is the longest and steepest. And occurs at the 30km mark (which I rolled through in just on 3 hrs). I ran the whole way up. No walking breaks for this old girl! The crowds continued to yell and cheer. Then we got to Boston College. Those kids yelled and screamed!  There was free beer offered to runners - I almost pulled over for a photo (not my thing to drink during a run). At a mile to go (the Citgo sign!), the crowd was yelling so hard, I stopped to video a moment. My gloves came off, my phone was pulled out of its ziplock baggy, and I stopped and filmed some of the crowd!  I was tired, cold, sore. But I was nearly done. 
Just to finish this race was going to be an achievement, but I can't help myself. I felt a bit of a fraud all week, having trained so much less than usual, having not done any really long runs in training, walking sections of every mile, and still being a heavier weight than I've ever run at. Being an event you qualify for, it was interesting to see how not crowded we were, running at our pace. I stuck with my plan, knowing that I have not done enough training to cope well with the last 10-12 km without the walk breaks. My muscles aren't conditioned enough and I'm not fit enough. I wasn't nervous at all, I slept well last night, and I haven't had that for any other event before!  Today was about marking the fact I could do it. 
I signed up for the event on the first day I could, only a week after a moon boot was put on my left leg to rest it and try to help it heal. I'd had foot pain for over a year. I hadn't trained properly in that year. Both feet were sore, not responding to rehab at all, and hurt every hour of every day. An MRI showed much more inflammation than expected. Plantar fasciitis, a tear in the plantar fascia, a bone spur, synovitis in 3 joints, tendinitis, bursitis, and bone marrow oedema in my calcaneus. The rheumatologist wanted me to wear the boot for 8 weeks to see how much it settled down with mechanical irritation removed. 
I bought a FitBit to limit my steps each day, trying to keep to only 6000 steps per day. I wore that boot religiously. It took 3.5 weeks for the spasm and tightness in my tibialis posterior muscle to finally let go. By 8 weeks, I had a wasted left calf, a flat foot (from wasting of my foot muscles), and a foot drop when I walked, as my shin muscles were so weak. I wore Nike free runners with an orthotic in it all the time, all summer long. I was trying to stimulate the foot intrinsic muscles to work, but provide the foot with some support, given my arch was not being maintained when I was up and about. It's a bit of an oxymoron, but it seemed to strike a balance. I had regular podiatry and physio and chiro treatment. After two weeks, once I could walk without my foot slapping down, I ran for 5 minutes for the first time, on advice of a sports physician. 5 days later, I ran for 7 minutes, 5 days later again, 9 minutes. I then started a pattern of running for 3 minutes and walking for 1, and increased each run by 2 minutes of running time. I progressed to running twice per week, and then 3 times per week by the 4/5 week mark. 
By Christmas, I was running 3 times per week, and by early January, I ran for an hour (4:1 pattern)  for the first time. Once I managed that, I kept my two weekday runs at an hour, and only increased the weekend run by a kilometre or two each week. After three weeks of building up, I did a week with a step down, to allow adaption to the load. Each week, the kilometres added up. Each week, I kept up with just 3 running sessions. I did yoga most weeks, I did weights 2-3 times per week, doing a strength program to improve my leg and buttock strength, knowing that Boston was a hilly course which would need good leg strength. My biggest 2 runs were 29km - far less than the more typical 32-35km maximal distance runs that I'd do as part of marathon training. And I only did 2 of them, instead of the 3-6 long runs I'd usually do.   In the last few weeks, I moved to a 5:1 pattern, figuring that would match well with kilometre markers. 
 I finished almost in the bottom quarter - my worst ever result. But I am so proud of my achievement today. I have trained really well within my imposed limitations. My feet have not been sore in the lead up to the event, except for a little bit after my 2 long runs of 29km. It was a general foot ache, rather than a plantar fascial soreness. And I hurt a bit all over right now. Especially the chafed bits (despite the body glide, gosh darn it!).  I finished in 4:14, 21 128 overall, from 26650 or so finishers (30 000 entrants).
Boston finish
Space blanket
It's my 5th best time out of 7 marathons. The slower ones were Antarctica and the Great Wall of China. So it's my slowest road marathon. But I'm so pleased. 
Boston Strong

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Health News

This weeks links

The Cancer Council came out this week and announced that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and that alcohol should be considered to be as carcinogenic as smoking and asbestos are.  As well as being highly associated with throat and mouth cancers, it is now found to correlate highly with breast and bowel cancers.  Perhaps it should not be so surprising that a substance that can so alter mood and ability, even at very mild levels should turn out to be in fact, not good for us.

This story, an editorial from the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year has some amazing targets - it ties in with our look at sitting and health, and is about developing healthcare systems that support exercise - recognise it as being as vital a measure of our health as is blood sugar levels or blood pressure.  It recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults as a minimum.  30 mins on 5 days.  For children, it is 420 mins / week - 60 minutes every day.  How close are you?

This is another article on inactivity / obesity and health from Sports Medicine Australia, highlighting the link between an inactive childhood and a lifetime of battling depression.  It is food for thought (!) these days where there seems to be much paranoia about safety of children away from their parents watchful eyes, and therefore a tendency to want to keep them closely under watch instead of encouraging more activity and indeed risk taking behaviours.  The ability to judge situations for risk and to be able to take appropriate risks builds self esteem and resilience.  Not much to do with bowel cancer awareness, but close to my heart as well.

Another article on sitting

This one is in really simple terms - if you walk 30 mins (as recommended) and sleep 8 hours, most of us still have 15.5 hours per day not moving.  You cannot sit all day behind a screen, then drive your car and sit and watch tv with out it being bad for you.  A good read.