Hurrah – on Sunday I completed my first half-marathon since I ran Broløbet last year on 11 June 2010 in a totally shell-shocked post-diagnosis but pre-treatment state. This time my mental state was definitely a lot better and supposedly my physical state too considering I had full-blown stage 2 cancer at that point and presumably I don’t at the moment. Frustrating then that it took me more than 14 minutes longer this time around, and that was me doing my best whereas for Broløbet I was taking it easy and enjoying the view. Compared to my personal best for half marathon (1:39:58) I was more than 21 minutes slower on Sunday – yep, you don’t need to be a arithmetical genius to figure out that that is a full minute slower per km.

Don’t get me wrong – I was overwhelmed that I finally managed to run a half-marathon, so much so that I burst into tears when I crossed the finish line. I’ve always loved half-marathons best out of all the racing distances and it felt great to be running it again. Plus it went well, I felt good and had no crises or strange pains or injuries underway. I just couldn’t run faster than I did. So it was a very mixed feeling. Delight at how far I’ve come since December, but with an underlying bitterness that I’m still not back to “normal” (hmm, delight with underlying bitterness sounds like a good chocolate – not that I’m fantasising about food or anything!).

For the lack of anything concrete to base it on, I think I probably imagined when I started out on my project Berlin Marathon at the beginning of the year that I would be back to something close to normal by now. How wrong I was! I wish at that point I had seen the information in the July 2011 issue of the US Runners’ World magazine which was dedicated to running and cancer (for those that are interested you can access the articles online here). Here I read that it is estimated that it normally takes about double the length of time you were in treatment to get back to post-cancer running form. For me we’re looking at spring 2012 then – still a long way off. I do try to be positive (and I think I am most of the time) but I can’t help but get angry about how that “healing” process totally devastated my body.

I’m still glad I started out on this mad marathon-running project though, even though it’s proving a lot tougher than I imagined. I believe that having Berlin as a goal has got me back on my feet much faster than I otherwise would have. However on Sunday I realised that I’m just not going to be satisfied when I complete the marathon, just as I wasn’t at completing the half-marathon. I’m going to be overwhelmed, and delighted and happy for sure, but I won’t be satisfied until I’m back in something like the form I was in before those Hodgkins nasties decided to invade.

Actually as a runner I probably won’t even be satisfied then, but at least that will be a normal kind of dissatisfaction!

Oh, and you might consider this an opportune moment to cheer me up by donating to my cause! http://www.betternow.org/projectskirstenejlskov

Wow, suddenly Berlin seems to be just around the corner – less than 6 weeks to go!

The good news is that I’m starting to feel confident that I can do it – as long as no disasters strike between now and then. My achilles injury seems to be history and I’m back to a more or less normal running schedule, though I’m still being careful and not overdoing it. Although this Sunday I’m planning to run my first half-marathon since Broløbet in June 2010 – just days before I started chemo. Wow, I re-reading that post just made me cry….. I can see how naive I was writing then that I was going to keep on running no matter what – and yet I did it!

I’m also busy with other marathon preparations that don’t involve my running shoes. Today I got my new running shirt for the big day! I have been told that wearing a Denmark shirt provokes lots of support from spectators at Berlin marathon. However I have been going through moral turmoil about whether it was appropriate for me a Scot to run in a Denmark shirt – though Denmark has been my home for 22 years. I ended up consulting my husband (Danish) and one of my friends (also a Brit resident in Denmark) and both thought it was acceptable, so I’m going to go for it! It helps that it is red – my favourite colour.

The other thing that is pre-occupying me at the moment is food! A runner uses more than 30,000 steps to run a marathon which puts a huge pressure on the knees. They reckon that for each kg you lose you not only reduce the pounding on your knees, but you gain 1-3 seconds per km which is really quite a big deal. The bad news is that at the moment I weigh more than I have done for years! For many years I have maintained the same weight +/- 1 kg. I even managed to do that through my cancer treatment despite my horrible eating problems. But since I finished treatment my new laid back personality has also had an influence on my eating. I still eat just as healthily as I did before most of the time, but for example on holiday I didn’t hold myself back at all! The result is I now have the same weight as always +3kg (though it was +4kg just after my holidays!). So now I’m trying to get rid of the +3 kg before Berlin, but it’s a bit of a challenge to do that while also training hard!

On the fundraising front I have now raised 3000kr! Thanks to those of you who have contributed. If you haven’t done so yet, you can click here: http://www.betternow.org/projectskirstenejlskov. It would be wonderful if you also spread the word to your network through facebook, twitter etc.

A close shave

August 4, 2011

No, I’m not talking about my body hair – though I must admit that more than a few times this summer I have thought longingly about last summer when it wasn’t only by head hair that disappeared and wearing short skirts was totally unproblematic!

No, I’m talking about the injury to my Achilles tendon during Etape Bornholm last week, which was a bit worrying with 8 weeks to go to my marathon, particularly considering that Achilles injuries are notorious for being difficult to get rid of.

Believe it or not this is in fact the fifth time I have planned to run a marathon, though I have only made it to the start line twice (and completed twice)!  The first time I signed up for a marathon was for Copenhagen in May 2007. 6 weeks before the big day I got an iliotibial band injury which I stubbornly kept on running on and not only couldn’t run the marathon, but couldn’t run at all for 2 months. I was pretty devastated, so when I decided to sign up for Copenhagen Marathon again in May 2008 I didn’t take any chances. That time I made it to the start line without any problems and had a fantastic marathon experience.

The following year (2009) I signed up for the New York Marathon. Training went well again that time, but 3 weeks before the big day I managed to get a stomach virus (thanks to a colleague who brought his sick kid to the office) which developed into a lung infection. I ran the marathon anyway, but definitely wasn’t in top form and it was a really tough experience and didn’t come anywhere near the new personal record I was after!

Still chasing a new personal record I signed up for Berlin Marathon 2010 (Berlin is supposed to be a fast course). Yeah – and then I got cancer!

Yep, I have only once managed to make it to a marathon without incident – and apart from once it has been totally outside my control! So you’ll understand my philosophy that actually standing on the start line is as much of an achievement as completing the marathon!

This time round a personal record is out of the question so my primary goal has simply been to make it to the start line without injury or illness, my secondary goal to complete the marathon and have a good experience and at the same time raise some money for charity. So last Thursday when I injured my left Achilles tendon, I wasn’t in any doubt that I should drop out of Etape Bornholm and stop running until I got some expert advice. I saw the physiotherapist on Tuesday and he said I had probably saved the day by doing that and reckons I should be back to normal training within a couple of weeks. Phew – what a relief! In the meantime he prescribed 3 x 20 mins running per week topped with unlimited alternative training plus some exercises for my Achilles. Yesterday I didn’t have any pain at all when I ran so things are looking good!

In the meantime I am now 100 kr away from the halfway mark for my fundraising goal! If you would like to be the one to tip it over halfway, then click here: http://www.betternow.org/en/projectskirstenejlskov

I’m just back from two very relaxing weeks’ holiday on the Danish island of Bornholm. OK, relaxing probably means different things to different people and many of you probably don’t think it is particularly relaxing to participate in a 5 day stage race during your holidays! However, Etape Bornholm is something special – the distance of a marathon, but run in 5 stages over 5 days at different locations on the island, including stages in the forest, on the beach, up hills and on flat roads.  For me the biggest challenge was running on 5 consecutive days – I never normally run more than 2 days consecutively and then usually one of them is an “easy” run. It was a challenge I actually didn’t manage to meet as I ended up dropping out before the final stage because my left Achilles tendon started to complain – so I’ll just have to go back and do it again another time! Regardless of that I can easily say that it was one of the best running experiences of my life: well organised and beautiful routes, and for some reason I was feeling great! Each stage is between 5 and 10 km, which aren’t my favourite distances, the pace is too fast so it hurts! Normally I spend races of that length longing to see the next km marker and arguing with a voice in my head that is telling me to stop and walk. Only this time that didn’t happen – each evening I got into a great flow and lost track of how far I had run, even though I can see from my watch that it wasn’t because I was taking it any easier than I normally would. I have a theory that my body had to put up with so many horrible and uncomfortable things last year, that anything else is a piece of cake now!

 Generally I haven’t been home much in July. As the month opened I was on holiday in Scotland visiting my family and friends there for the first time since before I was ill. I was also in New York for a few days for work, where I got in a few early morning runs in Central Park. I always love running in Central Park – there are so many people, even at 6am, the paths are like some kind of runners’ motorway – very different from the forests near where I live where I can run for ages without seeing another soul!

Travelling certainly hasn’t held me back from running then, as confirmed by this month’s statistics. The distance is looking good, but I’m not quite sure what the reason is for the rather slow average pace. Certainly all the beach and hill running on Bornholm last week resulted in a rather slow overall pace and the trip to/from New York probably took its toll too, plus since I haven’t been home I haven’t been doing my speedy track sessions. Whatever it is, I don’t believe that it is because my fitness is declining – at least I hope not!

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  
July 2011 172 5:37  

 Only 8 weeks to go now until Berlin marathon, so I also need to step up the pace a bit on the fundraising. Thanks a million to those of you who have already supported my efforts. If you haven’t done so yet, you can donate here: http://www.betternow.org/en/projectskirstenejlskov (and do feel free to spread the word to your friends and family!).