Back in training.

January 23, 2011

It’s a beautiful frosty Sunday morning and I’m just waiting for my breakfast to digest so I can go out for a run. For as long as I’ve been a runner (about 6 or 7 years now), Sunday morning has been my favourite time for running and when I’m training for a marathon it is when I do my long runs. Today the training plan says 8km which is the longest I can manage at the moment.

These days when I meet someone who I haven’t seen for a while they often ask me if I have started running again. Those of you who have followed my blog will know that, in fact, I never stopped. Recently I did some sums and calculated that, during 2010, I ran a total of 988 km. That was despite 4 months of chemo and 17 x radiotherapy. Not only that, but it was also despite having a very annoying ankle injury for the first 5 months of the year which really limited my running. In retrospect I suspect that the reason I couldn’t get rid of it was because I already had cancer at that point. Anyway, just in case your mental arithmetic isn’t up to it I can tell you that this was an average of 19 km per week for the year which, even though I say so myself, is pretty damn good under the circumstances! There were only 3 weeks in the whole year when I didn’t run at all. The first two were in February when my daughter broke her leg on ski holiday and I was in hospital with her (oh yes, 2010 really was an annus horribilis for the Ejlskov Jensens!). The third week was when I was in hospital with septicaemia in September. What amazes me about that is that I only had one totally running free week at that point, despite the fact that I was in hospital for 10 days and was very ill indeed. I will be honest – the fact that I managed to run through all the tribulations of last year is one of the things that I am most proud of in my life to date. It took reserves of willpower that I didn’t know I possessed, but I also believe it paid off both physically and mentally.

The reason I can quote all this data is that I keep a running diary where I meticulously record every run I do – distance, speed, pulse and general comments about how I felt, the conditions etc..

There is however a down side to this. I also have a meticulous record of the deterioration of my physical condition. Before my diagnosis my average tempo in training was 5 minutes per km (+/- 10 seconds) and I probably could have pulled off a half-marathon at any given time. At the moment, despite my efforts to keep on running last year, I’m averaging about 5:50 m/km and can’t manage more than 8 km. Mind you that is a huge improvement on a couple of weeks ago when I was doing about 6:20 m/km with max of 5km. But while, for the most part, I have avoided sinking into despair or frustration throughout my cancer treatment (I believe partly at least thanks to the running….), I find myself now really, really frustrated when I think of far I have to go – how hard I’m going to have to work – to get back into my pre-cancer running condition. IT’S NOT FAIR!

Luckily I’m not alone in the struggle (no loneliness of a long distance runner for me!). I have an amazingly fantastic trainer, Coach B, who schizophrenically manages to hold my hand and crack the whip (and make me laugh) at the same time! I also have a bunch of friends who run and who create challenges on www.endomondo.com which take my mind of the pain and make it all fun again.

 So, while I never stopped running, since the beginning of January I’ve been back in serious training with a view to increasing both my speed and my distance. The goal is Berlin Marathon in September. Assuming I don’t have problems with illness or injury before then, I’m sure I can go the distance. It remains to be seen if I can get back to my previous speed by then, but if I don’t, it won’t be because of lack of effort!

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For the unsung heroes….

January 9, 2011

To paraphrase a well known saying I think that behind every seriously ill person there is an unsung hero – in my case, my husband.

I’m not sure that when he signed up for “in sickness and in health” on 17 July 1993 he had imagined that this clause was already going to come into effect in our mid-forties. Seriously, if we think about that at all when we get married, don’t we imagine ourselves in our doddering old age, so far off that it isn’t really worth worrying about?

If you have been following my blog regularly you have probably already realised what a star my husband has been throughout this whole thing, but so far I’ve only alluded to it and I think it is about time I publically acknowledge how heroic he really has been.

 When you are a family of four, life is pretty hectic at the best of times. When Mum gets a cancer diagnosis, it adds a whole other layer of emotional and practical upheaval. I’ve deliberately stayed away from blogging about the effect of all this on our children because I believe they have a right to their privacy, but at 12 and 14 at the time I was diagnosed you don’t have to be particularly empathetic to realise that it has been a very tough time for them too. And for six months, give or take, not only did I not contribute to the project management or practical running of our family, I added an extra burden.

Throughout all this, E kept the whole thing running smoothly. He shopped, cooked, made sure the kids got where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there, helped with their home work, made packed lunches, did laundry AND shopped/cooked special food for me, came with me to hospital appointments and provided me with endless moral and practical support and sympathy. And let’s get this clear; while I have done my best to put on a brave face for the outside world, E is the one who has been witness to the moaning, groaning, weeping and wailing so the fact that he NOT ONCE has been impatient with me is miraculous. Oh, and did I mention that he has, of course, been working full-time throughout – since I haven’t been able to earn a bean, we’ve been totally reliant on his salary.

The thing about unsung heroes is that, well, they are unsung. While I have bathed in sympathy and admiration, it has been seldom that anyone has thought to ask E if HE is doing OK (lots of people have asked him if I am doing OK) or told him what an amazing job he has been doing. There are exceptions of course – his employers have been fantastic and given him a lot of moral and practical support in terms of increased flexibility to take care of his family – and some friends have also remembered to ask him how he is doing, or for example, cleared up the whole house before leaving after being here for a visit, so he wouldn’t have to do it. And I have tried to remember to say thank you to him every day. I am overwhelmed by what he has done for me.

But E is one of many heroes. Just in my immediate family, my Mum is currently providing endless support to my Aunt who is ill and has been in hospital for many weeks and my Mother-in-Law is doing the same for my Father-in-Law who is poorly.

So this is my little tribute particularly to E, but also to my Mum and my Mother-in-Law and also to all the other unsung heroes out there.