In February 2015, I was still cycling and I hadn’t entertained the notion of running – it was still one of those things I could never do as a kid and always ducked out of at school cross country runs with the asthma sick note. However, I did follow a fellow National Deaf Children’s Society member attempt the February “Run Until You Drop” challenge where lots of people would run each day the miles (or kms) of the day of the month and see how many make it to the end and complete day 28.
For me, whilst running wasn’t my thing, I enjoyed watching and encouraging someone progress each day, not knowing how far they would get. The challenge wasn’t over in a flash so I found it was a great mechanism to remotely keep an eye on while continuing with your own busy life.
Maybe this was how the running seed was planted in my head, because after my big cycling roundtrip to London later that year, I decided to give running a try. For running I decided to not even attempt on my own and joined the Farsley Flyers running club from day 1 – though just 2 weeks/2 runs later I entered a night-before sign up to the Leeds 10kand ran my first race (1hr 5m).
ACCELERATE TO NOVEMBER 2017
Now with a supercharged increased knowledge of running through challenges and marathons, I’d become a daily independent run leader with a desire to ignite a challenge. I decided to attempt the Run Until You Drop principle as a private SweatPledge challenge for November. In reality, this was just an off-the-cuff experiment…I like to experiment. In 2017 I didn’t have a purpose other than personal interest, though I did learn a lot and gain experience, I bowed out after completing day 19 as I believed I was imminently about to gain an injury but still had many run leader commitments.
COAST TO THE SUMMER OF ‘18
For the previous 18 months I hadn’t progressed my own running abilities due to focussing on trying to understand and progress the soft skills of run leading in ways that have my own mark – e.g. the intrigue of routes and places people don’t know exist yet they have lived in an area for many years then further layering historical information to really pull out detail and features of the places. I do believe I comprehend my spacial world differently from most and at all times have several different viewpoints of my physical surroundings built up from the last 200+ years of history…and I can sense this network increasing (may be a 2019 feature).
So now it’s summer, the weather is absolutely gorgeous, my daily school running group had broken up for summer…but my head started to struggle; I really wasn’t a happy bunny one little bit. So I started to fight myself, I wanted to hurt and the miles went up. Week after week I maintained twice my standard distance and when that became normalised, I would inflict pain by slipping in 20 miles, 24 miles, a marathon, an ultra-distance and follow that run with leading a group. This is when I started to consider a re-attempt of the November Challenge.
Throughout this increased running, there was one well-defined area by the river that consistently gave me the strangest sensation (of fear) when passing through and would stay with me in to the night – yet I couldn’t help returning. Maybe my experimental side kicked in, but as summer began to draw, I ran to the remote river spot late in the pitch dark, alone. This certainly toggled the fear interpretation, without removing the sensation.
ENTER THE MOTIVATION
During the summer, my good friend Sarah who I run with, mentioned there was a project coming up later in the year involving the inspirational deaf dancer/choreographer Chris Fonseca. We thought it would be lovely to try and hook up a dance workshop with the deaf youth club my son attends, so after the summer break I started the ball rolling with the club’s charity.
This began well and there was certainly the motivation but after a few weeks there were signs that the charity may not be able to cover a few costs or supply the relevant staff for a weekend session. Around this time, I also decided not to attempt the November Challenge as it was simply too hard…though right then I received confirmation that the charity couldn’t progress the dance workshop.
Clearly, I interpreted things that I needed to organise the event myself and attempt the November Challenge as a fundraiser with a view to support Leeds Deaf Children’s Society instead of the original charity.
Now that I was committed, I needed to give myself the best chance so wanted to ramp up the training further, but cross-train. This took the form of Chloe Moore’s kick-boxing training that I’d threatened to try for a while and immediately felt the benefits it gave to running. This focus also meant I decided to drop a couple of stone in weight to ease the running impact – I think that took about 6 weeks in all.
In summary, I guess you’d say that November wasn’t just a decision; it was formed from a series of circumstances.
Ticking in to November, I was ripe for the challenge, with maybe just a very minor concern that I wasn’t applying a taper – though assumed the first week would be a taper period in itself. The weather was great too, which meant all I had to do is pretty much lead my usual running groups and the first week would occur naturally.
BUT as sods law applies, overnight after day 7, a severe foot issue started. Upon waking on day 8 I could only hop/limp around – there had been no issues on the run previous evening. Disappointed/embarrassed, I made the assumption that since this began overnight in bed, maybe it was something that I could walk-off? Movement definitely helped and I managed to hobble the run that day, just, but all advice was to rest, therefore I planned days 9 and 10 to have as much rest as possible i.e. day 9 early, day 10 later, so having 30+ hours treatment time for the foot.
As a First Aider, I understand RICE treatment and how cold reduces blood flow – great for bleeding issues. I am a big believer though in blood flow helping mend the body as blood carries what you need to repair and recover – and heat increases flow. I also give a nod to natural oils for anti-inflammatory or for dilation of arteries to increase blood flow. I always very heavily prioritise to natural effects rather than drugs; painkillers are rare – even when breaking several bones and having stitches in a bike accident a couple of years ago, I never opened the (strong) painkillers provided so just stuck to anti-inflammatory foods and cracked on.
This natural focus formed the basis of the treatment for what turned out to be the remainder of the month. I began with alternating ice treatment (well, a wine cooler that conveniently fits around my foot!) interleaved with the hot water bottle. The pattern did evolve to be ice straight after a run but then heat for the remainder of the time – everywhere around the house I carried a hot water bottle!
As the month progressed, more and more pains occurred, each one would normally have been enough on its own to think ‘I should really stop running for a few days’. However, I simply carried on treatment and ran within the bounds my body was presenting on that day – in to the third week I’d started to call this the ‘symphony of pains’ as each footfall would start with one issue then flow graciously and rhythmically through to others throughout the foot, legs and hip. On average, a new pain would centre stage every two days, initially taking a leading role before receding in to the orchestra. It took a while before I gave up considering ‘is this new pain the one that is going to take me out’ – it probably even became an interest point for the mind during the long repetitive hours.
Fatigue; I was very happy indeed with my energy levels and by day 19, ignoring the pains, I was as pretty fresh. However, it was from around here that the fatigue levels began to exponentially ramp up – probably reaching the tipping point of having less and less rest each day with more and more output. The greater the feeling of fatigue, the harder it was to hold running form, this then lead to increased sensitivity of pains as well as the introduction of new ones.
Obviously, there is a link between fatigue and calorie deficit but the way my body behaved took me by surprise and as an experimenter probably one of the main things I took away from the whole exercise…
My expectations had been that as the days progress I would need to ramp up daily calories massively. Wrong. My daily calorie burn calculations only crept up small amounts and in total from day 1 ending at day 30, my daily difference was in the region of an additional 1,500 calories. I won’t lie, it felt like I was being robbed of many indulgencies!
The counterbalance to this appeared to be that my heartrate lowered day after day – I was running with a bpm around what used to have for strolling. My running pace may have slowed slightly, not necessarily by need, but being cautious to reach completion, yet still very much a jogging pace.
The next interlinked effect I found was how I believe fatigue played its part in approaching a bonk (energy depletion). On the morning of day 27, I started a standard half marathon route loop to Leeds but could not find the energy and began to feel dizzy so returned back a little sooner due to fearing passing out. At first, I couldn’t figure it out as I had been eating before and during the run as normal. However, after a lunchtime shower and snooze, I went out bounding with energy and blasted the first 10k in 50 minutes.
I understand from my cycling days that under heavy exertion, the body diverts blood from the gut to the other parts of the body under demand, therefore not onboarding any more calories. Therefore, my working theory is that once you become truly fatigued, this effect is amplified and your body focusses energy on movement rather than gut. However, sitting and doing nothing for an hour or so allows the body to operate the gut and onboard the calories. Using this theory I split the days to a morning run with a very important 1-2 hour absolute rest at lunch before the afternoon session.
So, coming to the month end, I really wanted to complete the challenge running with friends from Farsley Flyers – so I was very pleased to find a large contingent wanted to join me for the last few miles. Through the first half of the month I had run with lots of groups, but during the seconds half, the weather had turned cold and wet so many of my running miles had become solo. During the last day I realised the end was in sight and I began to feel emotional as it’s always a fantastic feeling to reach that end goal – by the afternoon I knew it was now achievable even if I walked…
…and then… I suddenly began to bonk, getting more and more drifting vision and drunken balance – I attempted to head to a Greggs for a sugary bun but found the hastily encroaching tunnel vision wasn’t going to give me the 15 minutes so drifted in to McDonald’s to scramble a hot chocolate and burger…obviously still closely followed by Greggs for a Bavarian Slice or two! That was a very close shave and on the last day too.
The final 3 miles with the Farsley Flyers – ending at the Farsley Cenotaph, which I use as my traditional start and end of challenges – was wonderful. I had bounds of energy and remember holding back the pace to do the run leader thing of sensing the group’s pace.
I joked to myself that I might run 31 miles on December 1st just to see if I could have achieved a 31 day month – but to be honest, I had full confidence that it wouldn’t have been a problem since during the last 4 days, all the pains had subsided and each day started with as much energy as the previous so began to gain the insight of how people can maintain daily marathons over a lengthy period.
In terms of facts, I try to be surprised at the 481 miles and 30,000 ft of elevation climb during the month, but in all honesty, it feels meaningless and I only use it as a relatable figure for others (e.g. London-Aberdeen and higher than Everest). I do also feel proud from the friendships and support throughout and after the month, both during the easy miles and when things got longer. I liked the genuine interest being shown as I don’t think anyone, including myself, truly thought I’d reach the end.
However, for me, the weird part is that it really doesn’t feel as though it was my doing or at least alone. After a couple of days I had virtually no residual issues – why wasn’t I on my last legs? I have the overriding feeling that it was a test to simply believe that all the paths that lead to starting it meant it was just something I was supposed to be doing. Maybe that’s just the message, if you are mindful of what you feel you should do rather than calculate what you logically reckon, you can surprise everyone.
Furthermore, it doesn’t feel as though its finished.
BACK TO THE PURPOSE
Throughout the month, I was truly grateful of the generosity shown by those around me and the fundraising was fantastic. I don’t for a minute believe I raised the money myself – I was simply there as a focus and it’s everyone else’s efforts that made it. This will be a huge boost for Leeds Deaf Children’s Society. See the Just Giving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/novplus1
As soon as hitting December I had 2 weeks to plan and organise the workshop/party as well as address a number of fires I’d left festering during November. The tech solutions to some of those fires actually appears to have presented interesting options for my community focus.
The dance workshop itself was very much successful and definitely started to spark interest within the group. Once again, there is more to this. I am very much community focussed (community being pockets people not necessarily location bound) and always feel as though I need to help them thrive by increasing wellbeing and focus. Whilst randomly searching for a dance studio (a simple public Facebook post) I engaged with Koby Studio. In conversation with each of the owners, we repeatedly divulge the same feelings regarding community support, I just happen to approach things from cycling and running and they are dance, but otherwise completely in sync.
Going forwards we’re already in the process of talking about a number of projects including a regular deaf dance session for Leeds Deaf Children’s Society.
– “It was amazing! Thank you so much for organising! Ixxxx hasn’t stopped talking about it!!”
– “It was great, thank you for organising it all. See you at pantomime xx”
– “Brill time had. Thanks ever so much for the hard work xx”
– “Hxxxx had a fab time & would definitely be up for more dance sessions.”
– “It was brilliant!! Mine keep doing the dance, they absolutely loved it,and great to see them all getting on so well after the dance workshop. We are definitely interested in more sessions!!”
– “My girls enjoyed it too, they did the dance during another Party in the afternoon.”
Why was it called “NovPlus1”?
N+1 is the term for ever increasing value, often used to determine how many bikes one should own! Since this was November, I took the twist on that but also that forms a pretty lucky number doesn’t it?… 11 1
Did I think of quitting?
Nope. The journey was the important bit, not the last day so I needed to see where it went.
Did I dig deep mentally to continue?
Again, not really, only in the sense of trying to work out logically how I can physically continue given the continually growing list of pains.
How did my feet feel?
Urgh. When mobile, the main pain is calves then a symphony of pains at each stage of the foot movement. When at rest, sleepless nights of even stronger pains shooting everywhere from toes to hip.
Would I do it again?
No plans to and I wouldn’t normally repeat a custom challenge exactly the same. But if it felt like the right thing to do, maybe.
What did I get out of it?
The fundraising was only part of it – of which I am so grateful to everyone. I now have greater confidence in making mindful choices but also my ability to achieve stated goals. The physical ability side is almost irrelevant, apart from demonstrating competence to others.
Dictum meum pactum – what’s that?
The phrase is from the financial world meaning “My word is my bond” and summarises how I go about life. Occasionally I may appear non-committal but that’s because I do not believe in agreeing to something then backing out.
How did I choose my routes?
I generally don’t pre-plan but have a few ‘standard’ routes for 6 miles, 10 miles, 13 miles which seem to go quickly as I am very familiar with them. If I want flat, then it has to be the canal, but to be honest, time goes slowly as hills help break things up. On day 26 I had a moment of near bonk and figured my body was misbehaving due to fatigue, so after that I stayed within a few miles of home so I could limp back if needed to rest.
How did I refuel?
Well I did increase my protein slightly (via milk/eggs/yoghurt) but generally just ate more – though typically pasties and pastries at Greggs! I nearly bonked on day 26 but then on the very last day at mile 24 I had a really fast crashing bonk – within half a mile I went from OK to wobbly, light headed, eyes wishy washy but managed to limp-mode to McDonalds for a burger and hot chocolate for a recovery. I aim to eat food – I don’t take supplements or pain killers and haven’t used any protein powders etc.
What was my recovery regime?
Primarily, a hot water bottle! since day 8 I’ve constantly had a hot water bottle applied to the pains. Sometimes I put my foot in a frozen wine chiller bag thing, alternating with hot water bottle. The knobbly foam roller was used every day on the calves and thighs. Self sports-massage the best I could being totally untrained and never had one in the first place.
STRAVA RUN LINKS
Huge appreciation to all at Farsley Flyers for the support in every way throughout the running.
Massive respect to Koby Studio / Urban Dance Leeds for use of their studio and the continued enthusiam. Here’s hoping we can do more together.
Lets see what 2019 brings to the Leeds Deaf Children’s Society.
Thanks too to everyone else who’s supported and donated– see you all out and about!
Lastly, thanks go to the Sweat Pledge community for their support; make sure you have a look around for many truly inspiring folk.