New Year's Eve 2009

31st December 2009. We were on holiday in India (one of the best holidays of my life!) and celebrated New Year’s Eve in our favourite holiday restaurant. I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented and a planner, so for me New Year is about looking forward the year ahead and setting new goals. 2010 was looking particularly exciting. Work-wise, I had already decided to take the plunge and start out as a freelancer in the spring. Running-wise I had already registered for Etape Bornholm in July and Berlin Marathon in September. We weren’t even dreading heading home to dark, wintry Denmark as we had skiing vacation to Italy booked for a few weeks later!

Well, as you know, 2010 turned out a lot different than expected. 3 days into our ski holiday my daughter broke her leg really badly and ended up having to be operated twice. We spent 5 days in a Swiss

Chemo Kirsten 18 Oct 2010

hospital before being air-ambulanced home and she was in plaster from her hip to her toes for something like 8 weeks. She wasn’t out of plaster before I found a lump in my armpit and a few weeks after that I got a cancer diagnosis – the day before I officially started my fulltime freelance career (or was supposed to). For the remainder of 2010 I was in cancer treatment – my last radiotherapy was on 8 December and I got the “all-clear” on 18 December.

On 31st December 2010 then I could once again look forward to the coming year though this time as I set my goals I was a lot less confident that I would achieve them. Cancer takes away that kind of innocence forever I guess. Nonetheless I think that my goal-oriented nature is so strong that I found it difficult to accept that I hadn’t achieved 2010’s goals, so for 2011 my goals were to start working from 1 January and get that freelance career off the ground, and to run Etape Bornholm and Berlin Marathon. Considering the physical and mental state I was in at that point (totally physically debilitated and suffering something like post-traumatic shock probably about covers it) these goals were fairly outrageously ambitious – mad even!

When I read back over my blog posts during this year, I’m not sure I have really communicated how much of a struggle it has been for me to get in shape to run a marathon in just 9 months. But as well as my goal orientation I have been blessed with a “cup half-full” nature so I mostly chose to focus on the progress is was making! Inside myself though, I have really had doubts about what I was doing and whether there was any chance I could do it.

So, it might have taken a whole year longer than originally intended, but the level of satisfaction at having actually accomplished those goals I set on 31 December is something like a zillion times higher than it would have been if it had gone according to plan. As I crossed the finish line in Berlin last Sunday, after running the whole god dam 42.2 km in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 48 seconds, it was an unbelievably, overwhelmingly, fantastic feeling.

Berlin Marathon 2011

Thanks to everyone who has backed me up, sent me good wishes and encouraging comments and not least helped me to raise 5000 kroner  for cancer support and research.

And just in case you are wondering, I already have some new goals, but that is for another blog post!

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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!).