My marathon blog – no funny business….

I am ready for the London Marathon.

There I’ve said it. But I really don’t want to jinx anything and I now know why footballers are so superstitious – you really can’t take anything for granted. I have done 2 x 18 mile long runs and have no intention of going any further thanks – not until April 26th anyway. The weather is a bit kinder now and running has become a pleasure again – I shall keep it all ticking over nicely for the next 3 weeks but no funny business and no heroics. Physically all is well I think. I am often tired and frequently hungry but neither sleeping nor eating has ever been a problem for me – I love them both!

I have been thinking a lot about those difficult moments that are bound to come during the race and how I will deal with them. I used a mantra on my last 18 miler towards the end – which was, “I’ve got this” – which is quite a reassuring thing to say to yourself – I think I will use it when I go into the Blackfriars Tunnel which has proved such a low point for so many people.

It comes at around mile 20 when the balance of your mind can go a bit weird so it has to be respected. If I can train myself to see that tunnel as a positive thing – the beginning of the big finish, then all may yet be well.  I will say “Ah, here we are at the tunnel – I’ve got this” and off I go. That is the plan. Of course my natural inclination will be to say “Dear God what fresh hell is this” and fall to the ground sobbing – but that is not going to happen.

The race up to that point is through some rather uninspiring suburbs, the Isle of Dogs and round Canary Wharf – so I really need to appreciate the full glory of running through central London – past all those lovely landmarks – when I get the chance.

Teenager no 2  has helped me make a playlist – which I hope I will have the energy to put on at some point – full of uplifting tunes I love and also some of HER favourites, which will make me smile and think of my family – the only time Emo and Disco Funk will appear on the same list I suspect. My Chemical Romance plays Chic – there might be a market for it….  Usually I listen to the Archers omnibus on my long runs and I often talk back to the character as I go – “ooh nooo Dayvid – yer can’t sell the farm!” but I can’t see that going down too well on the 26th.

So there we go – from the hysteria of receiving my place in the post, to injury scares and painful sessions on the black spiky roller – its nearly time to get on that train to Greenwich – or is it Blackheath? Where did I put those instructions again…. –

My Marathon blog – The one where Lucy gets a talking to and makes a new friend.

So, last time I posted about my London Marathon training journey I was facing up to a few niggles which could not be ignored. My feet were cramping at night and my ankles were hurting in odd places. For a while I was quite despondent and fretful and thought I might have to call the whole thing off.

So I went to see a physio – which was new for me and quite an eye opener. The most excellent lady told me in no uncertain terms to stop prodding myself, stop over thinking everything and get back out there. Hell’s teeth has she been talking to my husband!? (That over thinking thing – for me its just research and fact gathering – admittedly from the internet and rather obsessively- but you know.)

So that was it – after a week off running during which I cross trained to maintain fitness – I was back out there. (The week off was not all bad as I got to try out spinning – which is totally mental but very effective – and I returned briefly to a former love, swimming, which I miss. I gave it up when I got over promoted to the fast lane and couldn’t keep up – there’s some sort of life lesson there I think.)

So hurtling towards me after that was my half marathon Race Your Pace training run at Dorney Lake – a mere 4 tortuous laps round the now famous lake with some very serious looking runners indeed. The leaders go so fast their pacers ride bikes.   In the event I found it quite meditative. I didn’t need to listen to music but simply lived each moment as it came, including some extremely windy ones. I was reminded that each race you enter has it’s own unfolding story and that if you go with it you can become totally immersed in the characters, the event and your surroundings.

I formed a bond with a fellow lady runner, who despite peeling off at every water station would magically appear back at my side just when I’d given up on her. We ended up running the whole thing together, often in perfect synch, and at at the end, as she flagged, I waited for her and we crossed the line together hugging. I have never seen her before in my life!

That, ladies and gentlemen is running for you.

Support knickers for the feet… my marathon journey continues.

It was all going so very well. The dream 13 mile run was followed by the slightly harder 14 mile one and that segued into the grittily determined 15 mile one a week later. And then the wheels came off.

I am not sure when it was I realised that my ankle was not quite right – but slowly I started to panic and fuss – all the while pretending I was doing neither.

No big deal – just take it down a notch- have an easy week – recognise the limitations of your body – get a sports massage, stretch some more, get out the foam roller and get fitted for some different shoes – but I certainly wasn’t panicking nor fussing.

If people asked how my marathon training was going I would say ” well thanks, a bit of a niggle in my foot but nothing to worry about” – inside I was “I’m not running a bloody marathon! It’s all over!”

The trip to the running shop turned out to be a good move as my current shoes are not giving me enough support. Addidas have gone over to their much vaunted Boost technology and no longer seem to care as much about arch support and heel cushioning and all that old fashioned malarky. So instead of swanky black and pink Addidas kicks I was introduced to my new shoes – the equivalent of a pair of support knickers for the feet. They are enormous and full of posts and arch grips and padding – I only hope they do the trick and keep it all together in the ankle department.

I went out today for an experimental 10 miles and am feeling about 50% confident. I can’t say what will happen with longer distances but I have ordered some bright red kinesiology tape to strap up the ankle and add to my growing collection of support equipment – maybe this will turn out to be the push up bra of the running world? Who know.

What I write about when I write about the London Marathon 2

January 2014

Well I am up and running – quite literally! All is very much on track for the London Marathon in April which is great news! I did 14 miles today and I am very pleased but maybe not quite as happy as I should be. Here’s why.

I set off to do 13 miles in the Twixmas week between Christmas and New Year, which some might find a bit obsessive. But I wanted to do it really badly because I had promised myself that I would do 13 miles by Christmas. I know I said 10 miles by Christmas  – but I upped the ante on myself didn’t I?

But then disaster stuck and I got ill. I developed a sore throat that felt like razor blades which took me out of the game for a whole week. I know! It was hard to stop running for a week so early in the game, but I had to do it and I only started to get back on track in Christmas week. This meant that I ended up doing a running streak which saw me out 6 days in a row including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day albeit for only half an hour at a time as I got back into the swing.

That then is how I found myself desperate to run the 13 miles before the calendar flipped over for another year and made a mockery of my plans. Sticking to plans is quite important for marathon psychology because once you allow yourself to waver you would never really do any of it – I mean would you?

That 13 miles though – what a run! It went so smoothly and easily I thought there must be a trick. Was there something magic in the High 5 powder so kindly donated by a friend? Was my GPS off and lying to me? I trotted back home and cooked lunch for my sister without a twinge or a creak. So how come just one week later after 14 miles I feel like a train wreck?

Today’s run was fine for the first 10 and then after I dropped off the dog (she doesn’t really need the additional exercise) I plodded out 4 miles in a loop of effortful discomfort. At least it gave me a chance to work on my “tired running”. You just have to tell yourself you are at mile 20 in a marathon and force yourself to keep going – it is a pretty good representation of how it is going to feel.

I am so glad it is done though – it means I can pick and choose a few nice sessions over the rest of the week before Boot Camp starts again next week! Oh My Days – I am going to need a few sit downs next week once Annie gets  her squats and lunges on. Pray for me.

What I write about when I write about the London Marathon 1

October 2014

I am preparing for the London marathon by reading Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running.”  It is so exactly the book I want to read about marathon running right now that I can hardly believe it exists and that I have found it. You see, I have run a marathon before and have already read from cover to cover and back again the manuals about training – nutrition and race day preparation complete with training plans for the beginning and improver. Don’t get me wrong – I will read those books again. In fact on any given evening of my marathon preparation you will find me clutching one of these books – randomly reading a page here and there, having already devoured them in their entirety more than once.

I seem to need it. I need to take part in ritual acts of motivation and re-motivation that keep me connected to running while I am in an important training period – otherwise I become un-tethered and a bit unfocussed. I have been lost to running for some time now –  going through the motions rather joylessly and it was only that extraordinary letter in the post that re-connected me. It is not really a letter but a magazine that lets you know that you have one of the hugely coveted places in the London marathon. You apply – you forget about it (well you try) and then one day it just appears.

At first when I saw that piece of post on the mat I didn’t quite know what it was. My monthly copy of Women’s Running? That’s always a good morning, but if that was it then why did it appear to have a running number and my date of birth written on the enclosed piece of A4? In the nano seconds it took me to work it out my body split from my mind and reacted to the news all by itself. I started to tremble and feel sick. On the one hand I was elated at beating the odds to get a place, on the other I knew it meant that I would have to run 26 miles plus all the hoopla that goes with it. For a first timer that might cue excitement, but for me, I already knew what it meant and there is no way you can gloss it – it is hard hard grueling work.

But it didn’t take me long to tap into the well of motivation – for which I am truly grateful. It would be a very hard road without it! Within hours I had started to look through the manuals again – wondering about plans – when to start – how hard to train – how may sessions? By the time it came for me to go back to weekly Boot camp with Annie I had dusted down my most powerful mantra – if you want to be an endurance runner then you have to learn to endure. You have to accept the pain as inevitable and learn to live with – dare I say welcome it. So at boot camp when my muscles began to burn during a set of killer squats I tried to tell myself that persisting through the pain was what it was all about and I did seem to last a lot longer than usual. With a marathon the thing that gets you to the finish is the “I’m not giving up” mentality and this needs to be practiced.

I have long known that for me it is mental toughness which makes you into a long distance runner. How else would a non sporty woman in her late 40s have completed 5 half marathons and a marathon? Really – I am not sporty and never have been but there is something about pitting my wits against endurance that appeals – slightly Calvinistic or even masochistic I know. As a child I quite enjoyed doing endurance jobs like weeding or polishing silver or ironing tea towels – boring tasks I could lose myself in. Housework ceased to be a game long ago – now it is a battle ground and there is no fun in that – instead I run.

So here I am – I have celebrated my fortune in getting a place, I have re-connected with my motivation and I have started to think about a plan – all I have to do now is go out and run more than 6 miles – which I have not done for a month (Maidenhead half marathon Sept 2014).

10 miles before Christmas! Let’s go.

The shape we are in – social media goes back to school.

September – what a great time to evaluate. Back to school and back to the desk we go. But what kind of shape are we in?

This morning I logged on to Twitter and I make no bones about it, I was looking for inspiration. As I flicked through the burbling of a thousand bored/busy people I felt a bit depressed by the lack of substance – what I really wanted was something fresh and insightful about the state of social media today. I wanted something to kick start my new term.  

Unable to find it I started to think for myself and this is what I came up with.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a great place to start because it doesn’t just tell us about where we are in the life-cycle of emerging technologies – peak of inflated expectations -slope of enlightenment etc it informs us about how we are actually feeling in relation to those technologies. I know a lot of bloggers who are stuck in the trough of disillusionment and it might really help them to point out that according to the Gartner curve we are about to emerge onto the slope of enlightenment and onward into the plateau of productivity – Hallelujiah!

Social Media journalism, like all journalism, loves a launch and will expend vast numbers of words on the next big thing. Pinterest and Instagram are the new Twitter and Facebook – Reddit is coming back –  bla de bla bla bla.  But we fetishise the new at the expense of evaluating the old at our peril. Getting into the nitty gritty of daily social media use is not glamorous, it doesn’t have the hot excitement of inflated expecation, but deflating our expectations a little won’t hurt – it is realistic and will help us get the job done.

So what am I taking forward into my new term then?

For a start, I think that every single social media user/client is different. Everyone needs a tailored approach using a different blend of tools. Some just need some great old fashioned marketing – you’d be amazed by how many people still aren’t able to point to a usable database they can send e-mails to. Some clients need to go away and develop a really good understanding of where their people are in order to engage with them there and we all need to think in terms of giving people a little of what they want before we can get them to take up what they need.

Think compelling headlines, lovely pictures, aspirational content, useful articles, invaluable advice.

Finally – keep re-evaluating. We need to have this back to school conversation at least 4 times a year if not more. Has our favoured social media fallen by the wayside are we talking to the same old people – have our people moved on – do they want something different? Reassessing the situation regularly will keep us on our toes and keep it fresh – after all we don’t want want to fall back into the slough of disillsuonment do we (it is acutally a trough but slough works well if you live in Berkshisre.)

What do you think?

Why can’t a woman be more like a man? Selling to women.

Women influence 80% of household spending. That was the stat that grabbed me this week and I can’t let it go.

As a professional woman who often finds herself selling to other women, this is something I need to think long and hard about and maybe you do too?

When it comes to pinning this down to specifics I can’t help but recall the appalling sales experience I had as a consumer at the hands of an all-male kitchen company, which I wrote about here.

If only they hadn’t treated me like a poor relation, patronized me, tried to get away with bad follow up care, and generally underestimated the power of my word of mouth!

So here you have it…

When selling to women, treat them as you want to be treated. Here are some of the ways…

  1. We are all people – never talk down to anyone, even if you don’t think they have purchasing  power.
  2. Create relationships not sales – the sales will follow. Go for the long term because women will revisit websites or come into the sales room over and over again if they need to, before making a decision.
  3. Remember that this woman in front of you will talk to her friends about her experience with you. If it is bad she will tell more people and probably put something up on social media, so don’t say anything you don’t want repeated back. (Remember the guy who told me that I wasn’t spending enough to give him a decent profit margin?)
  4. Do you present as trustworthy? Women hate shifty and are really not impressed by flash.
  5. Trying to sell a kitchen like it’s a car is not going to work. I am a strong professional woman but I still care a hell of a lot what colour my units are. Ask your customer what she needs, what she wants and what she is not prepared to compromise on.
  6. Return all communication promptly – even if I am not buying today I might have a meeting with someone later in the day who is.
  7. Don’t treat women like a mark – we can smell “I’m going to close you before you leave the door” a mile off. Most women who work in sales have probably had the same training. They can see the “tactic” and will write you off.
  8. Women like the way a good purchase feels –so make it feel good – we’re looking for a combination of  fine quality, good value and a great deal.

So whether you are a woman buying from a man, a man selling to a woman or a woman selling to other women – what more do you have to add ?