Sometimes life throw you a curve ball that takes you totally by surprise and forces you to re-evaluate all plans…. 1 week ago, with only 1 month to go before Tokyo Marathon, my biggest concern was whether I will be able to complete at all and get my big, fat six-star-finisher medal. Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly Tokyo seemed inconsequential. After 10 days back and forth to the hospital for MRI, CT, colonoscopy and you name it, we finally got the good news yesterday that the tumor seems operable and that the cancer seems not to have spread to any other organs. Safe to say we cried of relief of that message.
So, given the good news, my trip to Tokyo is back on. But, of course, having used all my energy on worrying, my immune system was quite beat, so no I am out cold with fever, sore throat and an aching body… In other words, I think it will take a few more days before I am wearing my jogging shoes again.
Even being quite unprepared (but then again, what else is new?), I am starting to look forward to my trip to Tokyo. My knowledge of the city is quite below par, and what springs first to mind is sumo wrestling, sake, supporters who actually pick up their own litter after world cup football games (even when loosing big), and of course the a bit too close proximity to a sometimes trigger-happy Kim Jong Un. After reading “The Runner Handbook” that arrived last week, I must also found some of the warnings to be quite interesting and new: First was a list of what was prohibited to bring to the starting area. I mean bottles and cans, unless for commercial unopened container for less than 500ml are prohibited. A bit strange, but OK. Then to the a bit more bizarre: it is not allowed to bring advertising, boom boxes, animals (!) and plants…. But, what really got me freaked was the necessity of actually having to specify the prohibition of bringing pepper spray, knives, poison, fire works and explosives!
A couple of other warnings in the handbook are also new to me in marathon settings.
» If the Japanese Government’s nationwide warning system J-Alert sends an alarm related to ballistic missile launches, follow the instructions.»
»If an upper 5 or greater earthquake strikes Tokyo, the race will be discontinued immediately»
Not very comforting, I must admit, but hopefully it will be OK. At least I feel my lack of preparation is not my biggest concern at the moment…
The Amsterdam Marathon was the first marathon with my then pretty new boyfriend of 3-4 months. To put it like this, we were still in the starting phase of a relationship where you would like to present yourself in the best light possible. My best light is definitely not being on the toilet, so I did not exactly cheer with excitement when we walked into our tiny room at CitizenM Hotel in Amsterdam and noticed that the toilet (and the shower) were placed in the middle of the room with only transparent glass walls. To be honest, we did not feel we knew each other well enough to use the toilet in front of each other (for that matter, we still don’t 8 years later…). We made it work, though… My boyfriend took one for the team and used the toilet down in the reception area and when he went there, I used the one in the room in private. I must admit that even when being alone in the room I felt like a dufus.
Then to the marathon… Amsterdam Marathon has a flat course with start and finish at the same place (Olympic Stadum). Parts of the course followed the olympic route along the river Amstel and along the course we passed both fashionable villas and wind mills. We also ran through Amsterdam city center, passed by the Rijksmuseum and crossed the Vondelpark. Along the course the spectators were amazing and a lot of them brought us treats like small cheese and sausage bites, chocolate and candy along the way. To put it like this, you are not exactly picky about what you grab of eatable items after 30 km.
This was my third marathon and still the one where I did my personal best (which is so slow it is not worth mentioning..)
A bit late, being my 12th Marathon and all, but last summer I decided that before Chicago Marathon in 2018 I was going to try out something new; actually exercising before the race. And for about 2 months, that plan worked fine and I was starting to dream of a decent time (or at least beat the ones on crutches this time..). Then in November, just I was completing a fairly good 10K, my good old vertigo (caused by Meniere’s disease, but which had been more or less dormant for a year) and I just fell over and never really got on my feet before July this year. With up to 10 vertigo attacks per week, I had more than enough with trying to function at work, and just the thought of Chicago made me ill. I had more or less given up on the Whole thing when I, in July, the attacks stopped and suddenly I was able to step on the treadmill again for other than a slow walk. Then, with just a couple of months to prepare + the fact that I suck as a runner from before, my new goal was just to complete within the time limit, so that I could collect the big, fat Abbott Six Star Finisher’s medal in Tokyo in March.
With no really long runs in the bag, I went over the Atlantic Ocean with a hope of my usual strategy would work yet again (namely yelling at my feet to keep them moving…). In the days before the race, the weather forecast showed everything from 5 degrees (C) and heavy rain to 28 degrees (C) and sun. We ended up with light rain in the beginning, lots of rain in the middle and cloudy and windy in the end (and there we might have the reason for the friction burns all over my body). Even if you don’t have any other goal than completing, you still get this excited feeling at the starting line, waiting a long with 40.000 others; from record holders like Mo Farah to crappy woggers like myself.. The moment was a bit ruined, though, by the runner next to me blowing lots of sigarette smoke my way.
With a GPS all crazy due to the sky-scrapers I had to keep track of time every 5 km, since I am not that fluent in units of measure other than meters. I passed 21,1 km according to plan, but soon after my whole body started to shut down, limb by limb. Soon I had the posture and walk of a zombie (from the golden oldies that is, not like one of the really fast ones from movies like World War Z). My whole body was aching and I was starting to loose sensation in my feet, so in a desperate attempt of keeping my brain from ordering my body to call it a day and crawl to the nearest taxi, I started to take pictures, look at the scenery and even chat with some anti-Trump protesters with signs along the route. When I was starting to close in on the finishing line, runners en masse were lying around in the street or on gurneys surrounded by medical personnel. A bit demotivating of course, but at least it was not me. I had to stretch every 500m for a while, but at least I was still able to keep moving, although in the pase of a slug. 2 km from the finishing line, I suddently got a second win (I always get very motivated at the end) and managed to jog the rest of the way.
In the beginning of the race there were all sorts of religious signs (like VERY religious) I have never seen in any other country before. Too bad I could not found some at the end of the race, when I was taking pictures. I did, however, notice a billboard of a bonafide ambulance Chaser (NB! never trust a guy with playmo hair and a slick smile).
Finally I reach the finishing line, and soon after I got tears in my eyes. Not because of the medal (though it certainly deserved some tears), but due to the fact I had to walk all the way back to the hotel and I didn’t quite know how to do that… Well, I made it back and went for a hot shower. NOT a delightful experience… Did I mentioned that I had gotten some friction burns?
After the painful shower, I got 15 minutes of rest before me and the rest of the gang were meeting up at a bar for celebration. Great evening, but as always, it ended early…
Summa sumarum: mission accomplished, Boston, Chicago, New York, London and Berlin in the bag and only Tokyo to go 🙂
Give me any kind of ball and I can play a decent match in just a few sessions (handball, football, basket, table tennis, squash, golf, volleyball, etc.. ) Ballgames have always come easy to me. The same can be said about swimming. I did competitive swimming 2 years when I was like 14-15 years old, but I have only been swimming on holidays since. I found out, however, when going to the municipality pool a few months ago, that I still was a fairly good swimmer, and I also got a lot better after just a month of training.
Now, this is not meant to be a blog about bragging… It is just to set the scene for the disappointment I felt when I started up with running. Since athletics have always come easy to me, I kind of had the same expectation when it came to running. No such luck… A mental trainer I once had a meeting with, told me that we are never to tell our self that we suck at something. We are just to say that we can get a bit better at something. Well, I can be a lot better at running. That is even true 8 years after my first marathon.
I was fast approaching my mid-thirties and had a one year old at home and a husband working afternoons and nights at the local hospital. I wanted to pick up volleyball again (I played 2 years in the premier league in Norway), but since my little bundle of joy could not be by himself, I had to settle for my life-long hated sport… namely running. I have always considered running, unless it was in chase of a ball of some kind, as a waste of time. Now I did it as a mere necessity to try get rid of some of the baby weight and to keep myself sane after early mornings for a couple of years (we are talking around 04:00 AM here..).
Like I said, running did not come easy to me and after a couple of months of effort, I still couldn’t run for 2 km without breaking for a walk and my motivation was approaching rock bottom. Then I decided, just for the hell of it, to sign myself up for a half marathon, so that I had something to look forward to (I have always had a soft spot for medals..). So, 1 month later I ran 21.1 km in Oslo and at a terrible pace of course (sorry;the pace could have been better). I then promised myself to never run again and to throw away my running shoes. So, I went home and 1 day later I had signed up for a full marathon at Nordmarka Skogsmarathon a few months later (my selective memory sometimes plays tricks on me).
Sooo, the marathon day arrived with 4 degrees Celsius and rain, and part of the trail was in something best describedas a swamp. After 1 km, I was soaking wet and freezing. I looked at my watchand remember myself thinking “OK, only 41,2 km left..).
What I lack in talent or fitness, I take up in stamina. I was not about to quit, so I alternated between walking and jogging, walking and jogging, walking, walking, walking and then a bit jogging right before the finishing line. Along the way, I started to talk tomyself, watched with interest the small frogs that kept jumping around my feet and trying my best to ignore the many ambulances that drove past me (apparently a few persons had fallen ill during the race).
I more or less crawled across the finishing line and barely had time to recognize the feeling of disappointment over that they instead of a finisher medal had a finisher…cup (what the f***???).Well, I grabbed the damn cup and had to throw myself in my car and drive for 2 hoursto get home in time for a shower before a birthday party 45 minutes later.
Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the more prestigious to run. It is very hard to qualify, and they have very few charity spots. For us runners that are a bit challenged pace wise, the only option then is to pay a fortune to secure a spot through a travel agent. Since Boston is one of the Abbott World Major Marathon and we needed it to get the big, fat six-star-finisher medal, we were therefore very happy that we were able to buy our way in through Springtime.no in 2017, after 3 years on a wait list.
The training for the marathon was everything but perfect. The race is in Apriland in January I got the flu that lasted for a week and developed intopneumonia which I left untreated for a month. In the whole of February I hadthe cough of a patient with COPD still smoking 60 cigarettes a day, but inMarch I started on antibiotics and recuperated quickly. I managed 3-4 runningsessions before I got ill again, this time from Ménière, a vestibular disordercausing vertigo spells, fullness in air tinnitus and nausea. I could not movemy head for the last days before departure, but suddenly, the night before ourflight, I got much better, and started to pack my gear in a hurry to board theplane the next morning.
We were a group of six persons, where 4 of us where to participate in the marathon and we arrived in Boston on Thursday afternoon. I went straight to bed after check in at Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill hotel.
On Friday I woke up early due to the jetlag and I lay completely still,trying to check if the world was still a rollercoaster. Luckily not, so then Iwas ready to join the others for sightseeing. Boston is the lobster capital ofthe world and since lobster costs as much as gold back in Norway, we atelobster several times a day for the entire stay.
On Saturday we went to a baseball match, which was very exciting, but a bitcold since it lasted for 4+hours the temperature was not exactly all that.
On Sunday we took the metro to Harvard and spent the day there hoping to grow some brain cells before we went back for an early pasta dinner the night before the race.
On Monday, the weather suddenly turned, and we got temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius. The course was interesting, but with my lack of preparations, I had a hard time completing. But, I did it with a whole minute to spare before the time limit, so I did get my medal. It felt very strange jogging up the same path as where the bombs went off five years earlier.
Berlin Marathon in 2010 was my second marathon after the under par experience in Nordmarka Forest marathon a few months earlier. I really had given up the idea of participating and had even cancelled my plane ticket, but had a change of heart the week before the race and booked a new trip to Berlin; outbound on Saturday morning and inbound on Sunday night, right after the race.
Well, race day arrived with rain and cold weather and that resulted in burns and blisters ALL over due to friction (like 1×10 cm opened wound in the back of each knee caused by my Rehband kneewarmers. My clothes was not quite up to speed either, for example, I wore a regular bra, which gave me bra shaped burns. I also got burns from my ear-phones, so all in all, not my finest moment. But, the course itself was amazing and despite the poor weather, Berlin was crowded with people cheering us on (or, to be honest, I do not speak German, so I am just guessing they were cheering). The last 1000m is up the Unter den Linden. On the map it looks totally flat, but at the end of a 42,2km race, it feels like a giant hill. On the top of the “hill” is Brandenburger Tor and I when I saw it, I was totally sure that that was the finishing line. No such luck… When reaching Brandenburger Tor, I saw that I had to crawl for an additional 2-300 meters. Passing the finishing line was amazing and some tears found their way down my cheek there in the rain, but was quickly replaced with the biggest grin when I got the medal around my neck.
Well, the race was over and I had to revert back to my hotel for a quick shower and then pack up my stuff and go straight to the airport. The hotel was approximately 1 km from the finishing line, but it took me 45 minutes to reach it. I had to have like 20 breaks on the way where I sat down on the wet ground and felt very sorry for myself. But, I did get a lot of sympathetic looks along the way at least… When I finally reached the hotel, and went into the shower, I started to cry like a little baby when the water hit all my burns. The pain was excruciating and I barely managed to get undress afterwards. Then I had to rush off to the airport, where I received a sms from some colleagues, who had also done the race, asking me to join them for drinks and dinner. Instead, I had to sit 2 hours on a plane with poor leg room, reach Gardermoen at midnight and then drive the 2 hours back home and then be at work at 8 the next morning.
Two years later, I was back in Berlin for my second try. As usual, I had not exactly been resting the days before the race. 10-20 km sightseeing the day before a race is not exactly the best of ideas, so my legs were hurting already before the start. But, at least I got a new medal for my collection, and this time the weather was pleasant with sun and perfect temperature. A buddy of mine, who was also running, made the same mistake as I two years before, in believing Brandenburger Tor was the finishing line. But, in his case, he did not notice he was not done and laid down on the ground to rest. A mascot came up for him and tried to cheer him on, but my friend thought the mascot was only gratulating him, so he gave him a good hug before he suddenly noticed the finishing line a couple of hundred meters away (#EPIC). And the best of all; we have it all on tape…
In 2016 am back for the third time, along with a bunch of friends. One of the days we were going for a picnic in Tiergarten and had laid out all the food and were halfway down our prosecco glass when we suddenly noticed that everyone around us were naked. It turned out that we had managed to pick the nudist part of the park for our picnic. We tried to look indifferent, but when a couple of the guys started to stretch, we simply couldn’t be there anymore (I still have some mental pictures of the whole thing I am unable to get rid of…). This was the year I felt a pressure throughout the race, had to take an EKG after crossing the finishing line, resulting in an ambulance to the hospital where I was admitted with severe kidney failure. So, instead of celebrating with champagne, I got an IV and a hospital bed… lucky me..
Note to self for next time… 2XU compression tights, sweater and socks can be challenging if admitted into the hospital for a check. My bloated body stretched the clothes to their final limit, and they almost had to cut them apart to get them off me for examination. The next morning, I was well enough to leave the hospital and luckily we had a couple of more days in Berlin before we had to go home.
We staid at the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin and when we showed up for breakfast on our last day, we noticed that they were actually serving prosecco. A bit early for us, but we thought, what the H***. When in Rome (or Berlin in this case..) do as the Romans (or the Berliners). After breakfast it was time to pack up our stuff and, a bit tipsy, we went to the airport for our return flag.