Written by Jenny Bede

Health

Marathon Woman: Weeks 7 & 8

Jenny Bede is running the London Marathon – again – and she’s sharing the joys and the pain of the whole experience with Standard Issue. This week she’s talking fuel.

potatoes

I said I’d be talking a bit more about food this week, though at this halfway point it’s probably more accurate to talk about fuel. Food has become a functional necessity rather than a thing of joy, which is unusual as it has always been hugely important to me. My family are in the restaurant industry, so for as long as I can remember I’ve spent my time trying out new things, hanging around in kitchens and eating a lot.

I intensely dislike the word foodie. The phrase “I’m a bit of a foodie” instils a quiet rage within me. Would we say people who like a drink are drinkies? Or people who like film, filmies? No. But I probably am one.

However, I’m also a woman and an actor in 2015 and I’m (sort of) ashamed to say that I still don’t have the easiest relationship with food. I’ve never starved myself, I’ve never intentionally thrown up after eating and I’ve never had an eating disorder by any means but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really conscious about what I ate – all the time.

I haven’t eaten gluten for nearly eight years (apart from when I’m drunk and want a pizza and am prepared to suffer the repercussions); I’m vegan at home but will happily have dairy if I’m eating out; I try to avoid sugar as much as possible and I do the 5:2 fast diet most weeks. And this works for me: I don’t feel like I’m going without. Sometimes I’ll eat whatever the hell I want for weeks on end but then I’ll invariably feel guilty, then feel guilty that I feel guilty about something as ridiculous as eating what I enjoy. I’m half Jewish and half Catholic though, so the guilt is inbuilt.

I feel a bit hypocritical admitting all this. I’m constantly telling anyone who will listen that all women are beautiful and there is nothing more important than loving yourself and your body unconditionally but I’m not always great at practicing what I preach.

It might be the line of work I’m in, or the fact that my mother has been on a ‘diet’ every day since I was born. It might be the fact I come from a fat family and was a fat kid, or it might be due to the constant bombardment of beautiful women that we see every day at every turn in the media, even those perceived as ‘real women’ (1. We’re all real women, even the skinny ones and 2. I don’t know how I feel about Jennifer Lawrence being the poster girl for ‘normal’: she’s a fucking goddess).

When you pair this with the stark reality that – since turning 30 – my metabolism has packed off on a holiday I wasn’t invited on, it all adds up to one thing: I eat a lot less freely now. However, that tends to change for marathon training. Not only can you physically eat more due to an increased appetite; you SHOULD. Like I said, food = fuel: you can’t run long distances with nothing in the tank.

Take this week’s 15-miler (clang) for example. I don’t usually count calories but my special running watch said that I burned nearly 1,500 of the bastards, meaning I had to eat a lot more to get anywhere near my recommended daily allowance. This often keeps me motivated on the way round, daydreaming about all the disgusting things I can eat afterwards and which technically ‘won’t count’.

On the Runner’s World forum I was surprised at how many people said ‘I run so I can eat more’ but more often than not when a mealtime rolls around I don’t want anything that doesn’t have at least some nutritional value. I want all the carbs, but not completely empty calories.

Despite not needing to carb load until much nearer the race, I’m noticing the need to seriously increase my intake. I can feel an enormous difference in terms of speed and stamina if I have a big bowl of (gluten-free) pasta the night before a run. In the case of this 15-miler (ahem), I ate exactly that as well as a big bowl of porridge in the morning and I was really happy with how it went. It was quite quick for a long run and although I had to stop and stretch a lot it wasn’t too hard.

I also stopped twice to buy Lucozade sport drinks. For someone who doesn’t eat sugar very often it’s becoming a daily part of my diet all of a sudden. I’m high on it right now and I genuinely don’t understand how to run these distances without it. If anyone knows a way please get in touch (not just yet though, I’m really enjoying it).

I’m consciously drinking more water and eating more protein; the latter is important to aid muscle recovery. As a vegetarian who doesn’t eat much in the way of eggs or dairy this is tricky. Lentils, quinoa and tofu are good but it’s all quite bulky. A side effect of this is that I’m bulking up too. I read that – contrary to what you might think – long-distance running can often slow down your metabolism due to science and stuff. From what I understand your body sort of panics and doesn’t burn fat as effectively.

I’m not complaining, the feeling of being fit and strong is so much better than being skinny and hungry, but it doesn’t seem that fair. Everything stays the same, my actual weight goes up but I run my tits off – literally. They’re hanging on at the moment but by April they’ll be a distant memory.

This meme says it better than I can:

tribute

Despite my 15-miler (did I mention I did a 15-mile run this week?) going far better than I hoped, within 30 minutes of finishing it I couldn’t walk. This was scarily reminiscent of last year when the exact same distance broke my body. Fortuitously I’d scheduled a check-up with my knee consultant the next morning who reassured me it was nothing more than my old pal ITBS (NOT IBS, though I do have that as well. Form an orderly queue gentlemen).

ITBS, otherwise known as Iliotibial Band Syndrome, is common with runners and stems from a muscle in the hip called the TFL, which then turns into the ITB (the huge muscle running all the way down the side of your leg). It’s painful as hell and I’ve been told to slow my training down (I don’t think the consultant realises how slow it already is) as well as having some physio, which I’ll be starting this week.

Anyway, I’m off. I’ve got 12 potatoes to mainline.

For actual nutrition advice and all running-related advice, I recommend runnersworld.com and runnersworld.co.uk

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Written by Jenny Bede

Jenny Bede is an actor, writer and comedian living in London. @jennybede