From chemo to Berlin marathon – June update

July 8, 2011

Per Larsen Copenhagen Marathon 2011

I saw an interview with Per Larsen on a chat show the other night – what an inspiring guy! For the non-Danish readers, Per Larsen was the Chief of Police in Copenhagen until he retired in 2010. He is also a cancer survivor and a runner, having run 19 marathons with the 20th planned for later this year. Those facts are pretty inspiring in their own right; however it was his attitude in the interview that really thrilled me. He exuded happiness and an enormous appetite for life and described how he now lives in the moment, does not dwell on the past and only makes plans for the future to the minimum extent necessary. He also described how he has lost his tolerance for “complainers” which made me laugh, because it is something I have been struggling with myself! I smiled throughout his interview because it was as if he was describing how I am feeling! And it gave me hope that this feeling will last, since he his cancer was longer ago than mine.

The funny thing is that I know that not all cancer survivors feel this way – some people really struggle to get over it and rebuild a new life afterwards – and I’ve been wondering what makes the difference between those like Per Larsen and me, and the others. I suspect part of it is to do with personality, I don’t know Per Larsen, but I have been blessed with a naturally positive and optimistic personality which is definitely a huge advantage. However, I can’t help thinking that the running also plays a part. In another interview with Per Larsen he mentions two aspects of running that he believes have helped him. One is the fact that when you are running you work through and process your thoughts and feelings, and secondly that setting yourself running goals gets you back on your feet more quickly afterwards.  Those are psychological aspects, but research suggests that regular exercise can help against depression possibly through promoting the release of chemicals such as endorphins, so I suspect that this is another factor.

Well, I definitely believe that setting myself the goal of running Berlin marathon this September has been one of the main factors for me feeling as well as I do these days – for all the reasons I mention above. My training has gone well in June as illustrated below.

Month #km Average pace min/km Comments
April 2010 132 5:07 Typical month pre-cancer treatment
October 2010 88 5:54 Last chemo on 18 Oct.
November 2010 100 5:46 First radiotherapy 15 Nov.
December 2010 49 6:08 Last radiotherapy 8 Dec.
January 2011 100 5:53  
February 2011 103 5:44  
March 2011 47 5:43 Injured!
April 2011 113 5:27  
May 2011 98 5:32  
June 2011 147 5:17 Happy!

 I should probably qualify the numbers a bit. If I compare to a typical “3 months before a marathon” month, I’m pretty much on track in terms of mileage, but I typically would be running a bit faster on average at this point – I reckon I’m still about 20 s/km slower than “normal”. The progress since December speaks for itself though so I’m very happy with how it is going! Even better I’m enjoying my running more than I usually do at this stage pre-marathon. I’m training hard and am very focused, but I’m also much better than I’ve ever been at enjoying my runs and achieving flow.

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