Commiserations

Two days after writing my last blog, I received an email from the Virgin London Marathon. I knew it was bad news as soon as I saw the notification. Everyone who gets a spot receives a letter, the rest of the unlucky applicants either receive a “we’re sorry” letter or an email. So the email left me in no doubt that it was a rejection.

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I didn’t even get a proper letter

The email read, “Commiserations, your application to run in the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon has been unsuccessful. A record number of 386,050 hopefuls applied to take part in next years event…” It continued on to suggest other ways I could still get a place but I already had my sights set on another race. A race in another country.

Unfortunately, that other country isn’t France. It’s Scotland.

All applicants who didn’t get a place in the London Marathon are guaranteed a spot in Edinburgh. This is a fact I’m not too sure is entirely true. If my maths is right, there will be approximately 346,050 unsuccessful runners who (apparently) are all welcome at the Edinburgh Marathon. Either this wont be the case or I’m really going to struggle to find a hotel room.

At the time of writing this, it’s Friday 6th and I’m currently sat on a cramped train, drinking a cup of watery instant coffee, listening to the couple in front of me trying to decide whether the station is pronounced “Houston” or “Ooston”. To settle the argument, it’s neither. I’ve been finding it hard as of late to get out running and having got in a total of 5 kilometres this week, has left me in a pretty bad mood.

The reason I’m sat on this rammed train to London is because I’m visiting Rachel for the first time since she moved down there and I think it would be rude not to celebrate with a couple of beers. Now, this was a long and hard decision I had to make, I’ve abstained for 36 days but the news of the craft ale pub down the road was enough to convince myself that I deserve a treat. And, like most workout plans, my proper training starts on Monday, so why not?

As of Monday morning I have a strict 33 week training plan, featuring 5 runs a week building up to 65km (40 miles) per week before tapering in preparation for the big day. This is the first time I’ve set myself this strict of a schedule so I’ll be interested to see if it works.

***

It’s now Sunday evening and to update the blog, I have consumed a few beers this weekend but I’m sticking to the vegan diet very strictly. Yesterday, we ate lunch at Wild Foods Cafe in Covent Garden where we had an array of vegan tapas-like dishes. For tea, we headed into Shoreditch in our attempts to find more vegan food and possibly a few cocktails. We succeeded. We came across Dinerama, by Street Feast which, we can safely say, was a success. We drank a lot and ate even more – still, all vegan (except a huge burger consumed by Rachel). 

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Dinerama, Shoreditch

Sadly I’m returning home tomorrow, but this weekend has been great. A minor lapse in the non-drinking policy but I’ve not budged an inch on the new diet.

Anyway, the real graft starts next week. Expect an update about how well (or not) it’s going.

Benjamin Hackett, 8th October 2017

Marathon Decisions

I apologise for not posting my blog yesterday as per usual, but I was out celebrating my mother’s birthday.

For me, the 1st October also marked a month without alcohol and two weeks of eating a plant-based diet, so my family and I went out for a meal and to treat myself after doing so well these past weeks… I had a lime and soda and ate from the Vegan menu.

I mentioned last week that the diet was going well, I was feeling good and enjoying the new foods I was eating. I also mentioned that I was considering extending the trial period; this second week has confirmed my plans. I’m still feeling good and I think I’ll be staying vegan for the foreseeable future. The plan to upload recipes is a work in progress; I’m getting there.

My running on the other hand, has unfortunately taken a back seat this week. Having just started at university, I’m finding it hard to work out my new routine. When I did manage to get out however, I was feeling fresh. I managed to run 5km (fairly comfortably) at my goal 10km pace, so I’m feeling confident for that race.

In other news, today was the day the London Marathon Ballot entry places were released. People all over the country have been receiving letters either congratulating or commiserating. Some of those who didn’t gain a place, have also received an email.

I have received nothing.

If I’m being honest, I had completely forgotten about all of this. I was reminded when one of the charities I had registered interest in emailed to wish me luck. Since then I’ve been waiting by the door for the post and refreshing my emails all day.

I have come to the (realistic, not pessimistic) conclusion that I’m probably not going to get in, hence why I have started searching for other marathons to run. After checking Twitter, it appears that I may still get a letter this week, but I’m not banking on it.

I’ve decided therefore, to comprise a list of alternative marathons. The Blackpool Marathon, on the same day as London, would be a reasonable option. A flat course, great for PB’s. But, it is in Blackpool. (No offence).

Whilst traveling this summer, I jokingly picked up a leaflet for the Saint Tropez Marathon. After looking into it, it sounds better than the London Marathon and I’m almost hoping for the rejection letter (that’s a joke, I think). The race starts in Sainte-Maxime, and throughout the 26.2 miles travels through Grimaud, Cogolin, Gassin, Saint-Tropez, Ramatuelle, La Croix-Valmer and finishes in Cavalaire-sur-Mer. If you google a few of those places, it’s clear that it would be quite a pleasant run.

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A photo from last years Saint Tropez Marathon, I bet there’s no vineyards in London.

Although Saint Tropez sounds good, I don’t think it’s the most financially-sound choice. There are loads of marathons to choose from: Liverpool, Windermere, Edinburgh, the list goes on. I’ll update you next week on my decisions but for now, my fingers are still crossed for London.

Benjamin Hackett, 2nd October 2017

 

 

Goal Setting

I briefly touched upon the topic of goal setting in my blog, A Tough Week, however, I have more than just a marathon time in mind.

I can gauge a reasonable measure of how my training is going from week to week, but I always find it easier when I have a set event to measure myself against. The first (and only) 10km race I ran was the Windmill 10km in 2016, and in my head, I had prepared well. I’d been out running most weeks, stretched a bit and eaten some pasta the night before. I ran that in 50:07 and was fairly pleased but immediately set my sights on running further, meaning that my “official” 10km PB remains the same.

Which is why I have set myself another challenge of running the Wesham 10k, on the 25th November, in 45 minutes. Considering I haven’t run a 10km that fast ever, this is probably not a very achievable goal but it should do the trick to get my arse in gear.

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Me, finishing the Windmill 10k. I honestly didn’t feel as bad as I looked.

Another goal of mine was to change my diet. My diet was by no means poor, but I felt there was room for improvement. Therefore, for this past week I have been eating a plant-based diet (I’m trying to avoid the V word as that makes people uneasy), and I can honestly say that I’m feeling great. Whether this is psychological, or the diet is actually affecting me, I can’t know for certain. But what I do know, is that I’m feeling good.

Most people who have spoken to me about it have asked the same questions. Don’t you just want a steak? Hasn’t your family disowned you? Are you spending a lot more time on the toilet? And to answer those quickly: No. Almost. And yes, but it’s getting better, I think my body was just getting used to the change. I hope.

I’ve had one or two terrible meals, but for the most part, I’m actually eating nicer food. In order to make sure I’m not eating boring plates full of beans and spinach, I’ve been really trying to make interesting food. Initially, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet my daily goal of 3000 calories, but this has just meant that I’ve had to learn a bit more about nutrition and I’m not really finding any of it too hard. For those who are interested, I’m thinking of posting a meal plan soon.

I’m not going to preach the word of Veganism and I haven’t sold my leather wallet, belts, shoes or my feather pillow yet but if I’m still feeling good after next week, I may be extending my “trial”. Watch this space.

Benjamin Hackett, 24th September 2017

My Plant Based Journey

If I hadn’t already annoyed most of my friends by deciding to stop drinking, I’m almost positive that this blog will finish the job off. As the title suggests, I’ve decided to adopt a plant based diet. Yes, I’m going vegan. For a while at least.

Last week I stumbled upon a documentary on Netflix titled “What The Health”. According to their website, the documentary is a “groundbreaking follow-up film from the creators of the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick.” 

As I sat down to watch, I was very sceptical. I wasn’t naive to the fact that treating illnesses is more profitable than curing them (a key message from the film), but I was unaware of how much the current “western diet” was negatively affecting us humans.

The documentary has been criticised as a scaremongering tactic by many reviews, and whilst watching, I was certainly aware of the large bias. However, towards the end of the documentary, they showed people who had made huge improvements to their health in just two weeks. Could this really all be down to a plant based diet?

Now, I thought I would be the last person to even think about this. With no disrespect, I ran a 4:10 minute kilometre to finish the race in my last half marathon to overtake a “Vegan Runner” vest I had spotted in front of me. So as you can imagine, I made up a few excuses not to believe any of this whilst watching. I struggled to see how it would make any difference to me, someone who already eats a “healthy” diet, but I couldn’t just ignore the message from the documentary. I was too curious.

So, I made the decision to try. I spent the rest of the week researching food, recipes, and how to break the news to my friend Stuart. (I came up short on the latter, so, sorry about all of this Stuart.)

I’m planning on trialling this for two weeks and, if nothing else, this “experiment” will provide me with something interesting to write about. If the two weeks go well, who knows, I may continue; Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And I’m pretty sure he knew a thing or two about health. Regardless, I shall keep the blog updated with my progress.

Expect a proper update about running next week too, I haven’t forgotten about that.

Benjamin Hackett, 17th September 2017

A Tough Week

The definition of a goal is: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

I was reluctant to start a blog and openly share my goals. Once a goal is public, there’s a possibility that failure will also be public. It could however, act as a large motivating factor. So here goes.

Amongst other smaller goals, my main running goal is to run a 3:30 marathon and I’m hoping to do this at the London Marathon next year. However, if I don’t manage to get in, I will still complete one around the similar time. This gives me 8 months.

After 2 months off, I’m in need of some motivation, and nothing says motivation like a new pair of trainers. So a new pair of trainers is what I got.

I’ve had so much trouble with trainers over the past year or two, I was almost considering trying a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. Almost.

Like most people, when I started running I paid little attention to what was on my feet. I wore a pair of Asics “training shoes” and ran fairly problem free. After the soles started peeling off, I thought I should invest in a proper pair of running shoes. Little did I know how many problems I would run into. No pun intended.

I took myself off to a running shop which offered gait analysis, where they informed me I was a slight overpronator and sold me a pair of Saucony Guide 10’s to help. Help they did not. I developed a burning pain on the top of my ankle and a stabbing pain in the bottom of my foot. After a few trips to the physio, I was informed that these shoes weren’t helping. Obviously.

Back to the running shop again, this time returning with a pair of Saucony Ride 9’s, a sturdy neutral shoe which I managed a total of 34km in before the same problems returned. Back into the Asics I went, missing soles and all. Side note: If anyone is looking for a pair of size 8 running shoes, let me know.

After covering 554km, I decided to retire my trusty Asics. I also decided that I was probably wasting money on gait analysis so I took a leap and ordered a pair of New Balance Vazee Pace v2s online. Which brings me to the title of this blog. For once, the shoes are great. My body on the other hand, is not.

I knew I wouldn’t be as fit, but I underestimated by how much. I managed to get out for three runs totalling 15km, which isn’t terrible, but my average pace has dropped from around 4:40/km to 5:10/km. This was something I expected, but it still hit me hard.

I’ve walked a lot over the past two months so my legs felt good, but my lungs were not so good. There were a couple of times I had to stop for a tactical shoe lace tie for a bit of a breather.

Trying to take it easy is tricky and I’m finding it hard not to try and run at my “usual” pace but tomorrow is the start of a new week and I’m still confident. Confident and excited. Confident, excited and slightly tired, but still ready for a new week.

Benjamin Hackett, 10th September 2017

An Introduction

Hello,

Is that how you start a blog? I’ve been envisioning a literary masterpiece for my first blog post, but I’m not sure how many masterpieces start with “Hello”.

But that’s beside the point. This isn’t a blog about writing. If the title wasn’t clear, this blog is one of a “Fitness Journey”. However, unlike many inspirational reads, I’m currently not that unfit. I played rugby from the age of 4 to 19 and tried out practically every other sport which involved convincing my parents that I needed some form of new kit.

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Me, second from the left, circa 2001. My legs haven’t got much bigger unfortunately!

More recently, my fitness efforts have been involved in running after deciding to take a break from rugby. If you told 12 year old me that I would be enjoying Sunday long runs in 8 years time, I would have laughed and continued walking the 1500m race at school. Although I was extremely sporty, any run over two hundred metres was too far for me.

I’m not a great runner, not a bad one, but certainly not great. It all started around 3 years ago; I went out for a quick 5k which was neither quick, or 5k. I felt awful. How could I not run 5k? After that I quickly decided that it was not for me and stuck with my rugby. But after I stopped playing rugby in 2016 due to multiple injuries (and weighing a couple of stones lighter that everyone else on the pitch), I needed something to fill the space it had left.

Once again I donned my Asics and set off.

This time I was more committed and managed, without much knowledge of running, to stick to a rough routine. After a couple of months I set off on a Thursday morning, with no water, no fuel and no real route and ran 13.1 miles. I returned home after 1hr 56 and thought I was going to die; I couldn’t walk for a week but I’d done it. That spurred me on and I thought that this could be for me. Since then I’ve managed to cut my half marathon time to 1:41, completed a sprint triathlon and come to love running.

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A photo of myself after my first (and currently only) triathlon. I was happier than I look.

However, for the past two months my girlfriend and I have been backpacking round Europe on what we called our “Gastronomic Tour of Europe”. We had an amazing time but replacing running with eating for two months has really taken it’s toll.

Which brings me to now. I almost feel like I’m back to square one, which gave me the idea of starting a blog. I doubt many will read this, but to me this blog is more of a training log. A way to track my progress, diet and general feelings about my health and fitness. I’ve decided that if I’m serious about my fitness, I’ll take it to the extreme. This involves cutting things from my current life (mainly edible and drinkable things), in order to reach some possibly unrealistic goals.

I’m looking forward to starting this journey and sharing my experiences. I will try to update you soon, but for now, this is the end of my introduction. I’m merely scraping the surface and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

-William Shakespeare

Benjamin Hackett, 6th September 2017