L-R Emmy (lying down), Drama, Kendra, Savannah & Teya

31 October 2013

The Marathon - Afterwards

Just as there’s so much information about how to train for a marathon, and so much information about what will happen during a marathon, They also Know exactly what will happen to you after the marathon. What none of them mention is the most important piece of advice, which is 'stop eating cake'. No, seriously, stop eating cake. You’re not running 18 miles a week any more, you don’t need to eat a family sized cinnamon bun for breakfast, so cut it out. 

What They do say pretty much boils down to two things, that you will get a horrible stinking cold, and you will get depressed. Both of these things are written as non-negotiable. Surprisingly though, they both have a sound foundation in science. Your immune system takes one hell of a battering during a marathon. What with the dehydration, the salt imbalance, the oxygen deprivation, and the bit at 22 miles where your body runs out of carbohydrate and fat to use as fuel, so decides to use protein instead. Considering that your body’s only source of protein is muscle, it’s that bit of the race where your body decides to eat itself, a sort of self inflicted version of necrotizing fasciitis, the “bug that eats human flesh!” [™The Daily Express 2003] (As a side note I should point out that there were as many cases of necrotizing fasciitis this year as there were 10 years ago, but none of them appeared on the front of the Daily Express) {As a side side note I should also point out that one of my patients spent the worst weekend of her life after being told by a physio that she had Plantar Fasciitis – aka a heel sprain – and spent the next 48hrs thinking her foot was about to be eaten away and fall off. Latin. Used by ordinary people since 200 BC to sound cleverer than they actually are}. So, physiologically, it’s no surprise that after all that your white cells should decide that, “hey, you asked for it” and take a bit of a breather, you get slammed by whichever respiratory virus is doing the rounds. Fortunately I managed to come up with a brilliant solution to avoid this, called delegation. I out-sourced all of my post race colds to Cate Rowan, who kindly has enough for the both of us. (Thanks Cate, always appreciated, keep up the good work)

The second thing you will get is depressed. Again, the psychological sciences would concur. You’ve spent 6 months on a goal focused activity. Every wrong meal, every cold/damp/windy training morning when you want to stay in bed, every long weekend shift, every work place disaster time consuming stress inducing clean up operation, interferes with your training schedule, which They will tell you should involve Pilates classes, spinning classes and fartlek training. All of which add up to cheaper than the Divorce lawyer you’ll need if you did all of them. They all make sense, particularly fartlekking (it’s the Swedish word for what you do a lot of if you try and do sprint training after carb loading), but there’s no time for any of it. That just makes the time you do have to run even more vital, even more dominating in your mind. Then the event happens, and then it’s gone, and you have this gap, the thing that was the thing is no longer a thing. So your brain fills the void with blackness, isolation, wailing and gnashing of teeth, or so the four horsemen of the internet will have you believe. 

But you don’t actually get depressed. You don’t even get the blues. You get the Blahs. A severe case of 'I can’t be bothereds'. Life goes on, patients still get sick, the government still threatens to make you work 48hrs every weekend for free, and suddenly the marathon is 2 weeks ago, you haven’t done any exercise, you’re still eating cake, but, you just can’t be bothered. There are many suggestions to get you out of the Blahs. Runners will tell you that you must immediately sign up for your next marathon. Essentially create a new goal out of the ashes of the old goal. Considering at the end of a marathon you feel like someone has dropped a ton of bricks on you, this is the psychological equivalent of asking the same person to drop another ton of bricks on you, only this time you get to choose the colour of the brick. Fitness people will tell you to change your goal, introduce variety; swim, cycle, triathlon, hopscotch. Both these people forget that when you have a serious case of the 'can’t be bothereds' you, well, can’t be bothered. 

The picture attached is here for a reason. It’s on my running route, usually 2 miles from the end of the circuit, and when I run it it means I’m out of the wind / rain / sun/guffawing glances of passing strangers. It means I’m near the end of today’s run. But yesterday when I walked to the station I stopped, because I could, and thought it was very pretty. Getting yourself out of the Blahs is about seeing the big picture again. It’s not about not seeing the wood for the trees, it’s about not seeing your path through them. Today I saw the trees, and thought they really looked quite lovely (bonus points for anyone who just added “but I wouldn’t want to build a summer home there"). I felt no compunction to run it; cycle it; I just wanted to stop and enjoy it. So I did. I know the path is there, somewhere, I’ll take it when I find it, and when I know it’s the right one. 

Right now all I need to do is stop eating cake.


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