Jenny Bede is running the London Marathon – again. She’s going to be sharing the joys and the pain of the whole experience. This week it’s mostly the pain.
It’s a good job I’m not a professional dancer. For many reasons, the most important being, I can’t dance. I’d make no money, I’d likely injure someone else, I’d get no jobs and my self-esteem would be through the floor. Also, right now, just about the only things I can move are my fingers.
I’m marathon training again. This is the sixth London Marathon I’ve trained for in the last seven years, although gammy knees and persistent injury have meant I’ve only run two. Either way you look at it, I’ve spent pretty much 20 months of the last seven years in constant physical pain. And I love it. Not in a 50 Shades of Grey or the albino guy from The Da Vinci Code way, or any other excellent literature reference way, but because it reminds me that I’m trying.
Every morning it takes five minutes to get out of bed, every time I have to descend the stairs on my bum, every step I take with leaden legs, reminds me that I pushed myself and worked hard, which is one of the greatest ways there is to feel like a superhero.
Jenny, after completing her first marathon.
I first started running in 2002, after I got diagnosed with OCD, anxiety and depression. Someone suggested running would be a positive thing to do on top of treatment. For any of you with anxiety and depressive disorders, I’m sure people have suggested exercise for you and I’m sure if you’d have been able to, you’d have laughed in their face. The idea of getting out of bed can often seem like climbing Everest. Getting dressed and out the door and then running for no apparent reason? Just totally preposterous.
However, after a course of CBT and medication, things started levelling and I felt able to give it a go… 13 years later and running is the only thing that truly clears my mind.
The idea of a marathon came a few years after I started running. I’m ashamed to say I initially signed up to the London Marathon to impress a boyfriend, who then dumped me long before race day. I ran it anyway (largely in the hope he’d see my determination, tenacity and new fit legs and come back – he didn’t). It was one of the best experiences of my life.
The next year, in 2010, I ran it again in four hours and 12 minutes, which I was delighted with. Since then, it has been a constant goal to beat this time and run it in under four hours, which I’ll say now – isn’t going to happen this year. And I’m surprisingly OK with it. I wouldn’t have been a couple of years ago. I have a tendency to be incredibly hard on myself, as I think we all do.
But as I’m getting older I can see that that isn’t what exercise is all about. Yes, it’s about challenging yourself, but it’s also about celebrating what you can do, as the inspiring #thisgirlcan campaign highlights so brilliantly. Running a kilometre slowly and stopping every 30 seconds is better than not running at all. Often just getting yourself outside is the win.
Marathon training can feel like a full-time job; once February and the weekly mind-numbing two-hour training runs hit, it seems all you do with your time – apart from running/thinking about running/boring your friends and strangers by talking about running/planning your next run – is eat, sleep and struggle to walk. You basically become a grown-up toddler. It was just as I got to this stage last year that I had to withdraw my place. An old knee injury became just too painful and I got advised not to run it if I wanted use of my knee. So, after some physio and a lot of rest I’m trying again with a charity place for the Mental Health Foundation.
After six months away from running and three weeks in bed over Christmas with flu, training has unsurprisingly got off to a dreadful start. Most people use a 16-week programme, which I intended to, but I missed the entire first week, so here is my second week in stats:
Total miles scheduled to run: 22
Total miles actually run: 13
Number of times I had to run home and change my sports bra because I’d put on so much weight in the last year it was crushing my ribs and stopping me breathing: 1
Recommended percentage of calories from carbs in diet: 45
Actual percentage of calories from carbs in diet: 85
Mid-run vomits: 1
Highest number of plays of Destiny’s Child Survivor during any one run: 7
Minutes added to my average 10k time in the last year: A cool 19.
Jenny Bede is an actor, writer and comedian living in London. @jennybede