Julyathon, complete

Last month my friend messaged me asking if I wanted to do a running challenge where every day in July we had to run between 1km-31km, not necessarily in order but ticking off every distance over the month. Sure, I said. Hang on… We decided that over 16km could be split into more than one run (otherwise it would be difficult to fit around work and life etc) and that walks were allowed. And off we set.Here are some basic stats for the month:Total km: 496km
Total run: 334km (95km on a treadmill)
Total walked: 158km
Weather: day 33+ (“feels like” 40+, LOL), night 28, humidity at best 80% (usually 90%+), longest plum rain season in recorded history
Amount of laundry: infinite
Number of pocari sweats consumed: unimaginableIn January and February combined I ran a total of 65km, thanks to a stress fracture, sprained ankle, being stranded in the UK, being ill, etc. Since I came back to China at the end of Feb I’ve run 30-40km per week, sprained my ankle again and developed some bad life habits, so to complete this is really quite surprising to me.Thanks to Brandon for lots of long walks in Guangzhou, Ed for a couple of Shanghai runs, my colleagues for putting up with sweaty clothes in the office, Liam for tolerating me complaining all the time and LFGSS running for the moral support.Big shout out to my Julyathon team mates Kate, Fergus, Conny and Paul.I’ve learnt that it’s difficult to run well on a diet of mango and yoghurt, that running at midday in summer is stupid, that sleep is important, and that a plan is only good if you actually stick to it. I’ve also learnt that I can run on a treadmill almost indefinitely if I have enough TV shows to watch, which I’m not sure says great things about me.I’m looking forward to August and not having to run 3 times in one day, doing some better quality runs, having more time to ride my bike and going on holiday!

5km x 4hrs x 48hrs

I’d heard about the Goggins Challenge – 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. But I don’t work in miles, and 4km seemed too short, so I did 5km every 4 hours instead. Preparation: going out the night before until 1.30am and then having a full day at work….

Friday 7pm, 5.2km: Finished work early and started running at 6.47 as I got bored waiting. Ran home from the office, stopping on the bridge to order a pizza. Very rainy, shoes soaked, couldn’t see, quite slippery. Got home and did laundry, ate pizza, watched a film. Wrote up the times of all the runs on post-its and stuck them to the wall. Set alarms for the next few runs.

Friday 11pm, 5.2km: Decided to treat myself to my favourite shoes and to not wearing underwear. Set off with no route in mind, choosing roads depending on which lights were green. A few people at bars but not very busy. Not raining anymore. Felt full from dinner and regretted watching sentimental films. Replayed conversations in my head, thought about the person who makes me the saddest. Got home and washed my face then got into bed and lay there feeling miserable.

Saturday 3am, 5km: After 1.5 hours sleep, I drank two glasses of water and put on a long sleeve top as I feel cold when tired. Switched the air con on before going out. Took the bins out. Wore my glasses as I thought contact lenses would wake me up but can’t run with glasses so took them off and ran blind. High AQI. Saw some weasels or rats or something. Ran past one of the clubs, where people were just arriving. Saw a friend and shouted hello but he looked confused. Thought about how daytime would be better. Thought about my brother’s friend who only ate jaffa cakes for a month and survived. Got home, drank a pocari sweat and got back into bed.

Saturday 7am, 5.1km: Meant to leave at 6.45 but faffed about what clothes to take as I was going to volunteer at a race after running. Finally took a shower (yes I’m disgusting). Face kind of hurt. Had a small coffee but no food. Ran to the park and then along an uninspiring straight road, with the only interesting thing when a girl from the Sunday group cycled past and we chatted (apparently I looked very professional). Got to the race with a km to go so did a loop around the block. Bought a large pocari sweat, iced coffee and a pain au chocolat.

Saturday 11am, 5.7km: After volunteering, went for coffee and two friends said they’d join me running to brunch. Set out in the road and realised that my sketchy road crossings were less acceptable with other people. Ran along a shaded one way street but still hotter than expected due to the (not forecast) sun. Cheered every km and an old man joined in the cheering once. Decided, foolishly, to go for free flow brunch and drank 3 bloody marys.

Saturday 3pm, 5km: Downed final drink and set off feeling tipsy. After 1km bowels not happy. Ran to the park where I knew there were public toilets, then a loop north and an out/back on my street to make up 5km. Hot. Staggered home, stripped off, switched on the air con, carried a bottle of water to my bed and lay down on a towel, then immediately fell asleep without drinking any water.

Saturday 7pm, 5.1km: Had a 2hr nap and felt better. Left toe hurting. Raining lightly. Did a loop I’ve done many times from mine, mainly running in the road but stepped onto a pavement to avoid a scooter, which mounted the pavement as he was looking at his phone. Shouted FUCK YOU in his face. Felt tired and annoyed. Thought about dinner and how to get through the next runs. Ordered dumplings when I got in. Popped the giant blister on my foot and slathered on antibiotic cream. Tried to doze but felt wired. Measured my heart rate and it was nearly double my normal resting heart rate.

Saturday 11pm, 5km: Very bleak, no motivation. Rain. No pants. Chafing on arm. Every km felt like five. Managed to drink a pocari sweat when I got in. Garmin Connect wouldn’t upload the run so had to upload via my laptop, which wasted time. I’d thought about going to the riverside to meet friends for the next run but felt horrific so decided to stay at home. Lay on my bed and tried to nap for an hour.

Sunday 3am, 5.1km: Put on clothes from the last run and set out at a slow pace. Roads all very quiet. Extremely rainy so glad that I had stayed in the vicinity of home. Took a minute’s rest in the doorway of the metro as it was so wet. Everything soaked, watch completely drenched and display not working properly. Got in, stripped off, drank a pocari sweat, forced down a banana and got back into bed, where I lay awake, shaking.

Sunday 7am, 5.2km: Woke up from a dream where I’d lost my teeth but couldn’t get them replaced until the challenge was over. Put on trail shoes as they’re the biggest I own. Ran up Ferguson Lane and started thinking about how nice it would be to drink a Monster, so stopped at a shop WHERE THEY DIDN’T HAVE MONSTER. Tried to drink a coke while running but it didn’t work well. Tons of police everywhere, couldn’t cross roads on red despite no traffic. Accidentally ran a route that looked like a baby T-rex. Finished at the convenience store near my house where I bought 2 Monsters, then went to buy a pancake. Couldn’t speak to order. Weighed myself – down 2.5kg from Friday. Decided not to bother going back to sleep.

Sunday 11am, 5km: Felt better after eating and watching two episodes of Billions. Wore trail shoes again. Raining but not as bad as before Ran an uninspiring route but much more positive than earlier. Final countdown – surreal. As I walked up the stairs to my flat (I live on the 5th floor, no lift) I wondered if I could carry on doing this indefinitely. Got home, showered, lay on the sofa a bit more, ate a custard tart and messaged a friend to arrange the final run.

Sunday 3pm, 5km: Agreed to meet my friend at the park and run laps. Took a shower (only my 3rd, I think) and cycled over feeling nervous. My friend said he would join for the second half only so I did a loop around the block before going into the park (the park is only 800m round so would have crushed my soul). Started raining really heavily. Met Oli at 2.7km and chatted but started feeling terrible, heart rate high and stomach cramping. Walked for 100m at 4km to try to lower my heart rate (197 despite only 5:45 pace). Oli pointed out that we’d finish by the weird creepy fairground and we sprinted the final bit. DONE!!!

TLDR: 61.6km in total over 48 hours. Around 8 hours sleep in short bursts. A lot of rain. Three bloody marys. Not that many showers. A lot of laundry. Nowhere near enough food.

Toe Real

I enjoy running, although it leaves my feet looking pretty gross most of the time. I lost my first toenail a few years ago and although it grew back it was never the same again, and I’ve lost the same one a few times since. A few months ago I started having a terrible pain in my toe but I ignored it, as I was busy at work and my chiropodist friend recently moved back to Australia so it all felt like too much hassle.

Fast forward to October, and I ran the Changzhou Half Marathon. Changzhou is a small city of 5 million people about 200km from Shanghai. There was 30,000 people taking part and only 15 foreigners – our names were listed on a big board. People took photos with us the whole time. I don’t mind if someone is nice about it, maybe even asks, but when people photograph you coming out of a portaloo or when you’re at 18km and want to die then I’m not so happy with it. And don’t grab me and force me into your photo. I did that to a cat at a cat cafe the other day and it bit me, and you know what, I deserved it.

The Changzhou Half Marathon was probably the dullest route I have ever run – the first 6km were in a straight line on a completely soulless road – but in a way this is very Changzhou. We did go past Wycombe Abbey International School, which was exciting for me as the school is owned by my old company and I’ve taught a load of students from there. Otherwise, the day was grey and the lake was brown, and at around 10km my toe was really hurting. It felt like it was on fire actually, not a blister but an intense pressure from within, a sock volcano waiting to erupt. At the finish line we drank prosecco and I took my shoe off, saw blood through my sock and put my shoe back on.

Back in civilisation (AKA Shanghai) I took a closer look at my toe. When I prodded my big toenail loads of blood and pus came out. I decided to go to the doctors. My friend goes to the doctors on a pretty much weekly basis, so I got the details of the clinic and made an appointment. One of the joys of private medical insurance is that it’s super swanky. I think I’ve written about my guilty enjoyment of it before. This time I showed up and they gave me a pair of fluffy slippers to wear. It’s another world, I tell you (though due to billing cycles etc I ended up having to co-pay some of this treatment so I was milking the fluffy slippers as much as I could).

The doctor started telling me about how they didn’t like to remove infected toenails and instead would normally prescribe antifungals, but then I showed him my toe and he said that he’d definitely be removing it as it had two different types of infection (what can I say, I’m very talented). He gave me antibiotics to take and told me to come back in a week.

A week later I came back, no noticeable difference in my toe, and the nurse told me to lie on bed and wait for the doctor. She asked me if I was nervous and I said no, of course not. Eventually the doctor came in and got straight into the task of removing my toenail, zero chat despite my best efforts. He anaesthetised my foot, not well enough as he had to do it again once he started cutting, and I decided to stop watching and stared at the ceiling and felt miserable and lonely. After what felt like forever, the doctor announced that he was done, and I sat up and admired my toenail, sitting alone on the counter.

After bandaging up my toe, I was told to go and wait in another room in case I felt faint after the anaesthetic. The nurse asked if I needed a medical certificate to get signed off work. Off work?? Clearly they haven’t met my boss! The nurse was adamant that I couldn’t walk for the next week but also didn’t have crutches to give me, so I sat and waited to be discharged, texting a friend furiously.

Once at home, my toe did really start to hurt but I was teaching an online lesson so I took it out on the student. It hurt for a couple of days but very quickly felt fine. I’d been told that twice a day I needed to wash my toe with saline, use a special cream and bandage it up, and I was a bit wary about doing it at first as I thought it might look horrifying, but it was no big deal and I managed to keep up this regime for a good 10 days.

The worst thing is that after having the toenail removed I was told: NO RUNNING. I pressed the doctor on how long this was for, and he said “a long time” (ah, so scientific). I forfeited my place in the Shanghai Marathon (probably a good thing, as I wasn’t in any way trained and it absolutely pissed it down on the day) and still haven’t run… soon… soon…

Final note: aren’t you pleased this post had no pictures?

Two half marathons

This spring I ran two half marathons, and I meant to write about them but I was busy and lazy and didn’t. However, I was just thinking about how very different the two races were.

Pre-race:

  • Wuxi: Wuxi is 200km from Shanghai, so I had to take the high speed train after work, then a taxi across the city to a sports centre, to pick up my race number the day before (the organisers refused to allow same-day pick up or a friend to pick it up – really disappointing). I stayed with a friend that night, so had to take another taxi across town to this sports centre (very inconvenient location to start a race). Dropping off bags etc was fine and then I queued for 45 minutes to use the filthy toilets. Really unimpressive.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: I took the metro to a random stop in Minhang, then walked to a cafe on a dusty street. There were only 250 people doing the race, so it was all very low key and easy. I hung out with my friends and chatted, then stashed my bag in a cardboard box.

Route:

  • Wuxi: Getting over the start line took about 20 minutes as there were about 30,000 runners doing the full and half marathons. Once underway, it always felt crowded. The route itself was on closed roads, and there were quite a few spectators out, plus old people dancing and playing drums etc. Running alongside the lake was quite nice, although the pollution was very high. The final bit was through the university and the students were very enthusiastic cheerers – when I made the effort to wave, or high five, they went absolutely nuts and it gave me quite a boost.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: The race started down an alley beside a restaurant, and the first 8km was on the roads, dodging cars and old people, although after that it was mainly along the river path. When we hit the river things got a bit easier to follow, although some of the route markers had been removed by over-zealous security guards. No cheerers. Lots of annoying people also using the riverside path, how dare they. Got stopped 500m from the end by a film crew, then decided to be a dick and just ran through their set.

Water:

  • Wuxi: Water stops every 2km, after the first 5km, with water, energy drinks, sponges and toilets. There were also some random food stops, like a burger stall at 18km.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: Water at 9km, 15km and 20km. Nowhere near enough. Nearly died.

Weather:

  • Wuxi: It was warm but not too crazy. Shitty air.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: It was incredibly hot, and I contemplated throwing my dessicated corpse into the Huangpu. High pollution.

My performance:

  • Wuxi: I stopped at 8km to use the loo, then from 12km I walked through the water stops as I am rubbish at running while drinking. At about 18km I gave up and did a lot more walking. Finished in 2hr32.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: After the first water stop I couldn’t start running for nearly 1km, and that was kind of the story for the rest of the race. At one point I sent messages to my friend saying how awful I felt and he told me to get a fucking move on. Really had to have words with myself on several occasions but it did very little. Dragged myself to the finish line (a friend standing in the road with a can of coconut water) in 2hr34.

Post-race:

  • Wuxi: I sat on the grass for a while, then went to collect my belongings. Lots of random stuff in the goody bag. I called a taxi and then spent 20 minutes arguing with the driver because he didn’t know about the road closures. Finally got back to my friend’s house and went to eat churros, before getting the train back to SH and going for a curry.
  • Shanghai 10 Bridges: Chatted to friends, went to the bar just as other friends had opened a bottle of prosecco, downed a glass, immediately felt my insides liquefy and had to run to the bathroom. Drank beer and heckled my friend who won, then got the metro home, feeling sweaty and slightly drunk.

Yangcheng Lake 10k

My running club organises a few races each year, but this was the first I was able to go along to. People had been talking this up for some time, telling me about an amazing buffet and swimming pool, so as soon as it was announced it went straight in my diary.

What’s the deal:

  • get picked up from Shanghai (not too far from our house), get given breakfast and then driven to Fairmont hotel by Yangcheng Lake, a 5* hotel about an hour from Shanghai
  • 10k or half marathon in the grounds of the hotel/surrounding area, alongside the lake and through some organic farms
  • swimming in the hotel pool
  • buffet
  • get driven back to Shanghai afterwards

In reality, this meant:

  • We took a taxi to the pick up point and the stupid driver went the wrong way and refused to do a U-turn, prompting my best Shanghainese shouting. Breakfast was good and we had a chat with people I know from running club, then we took the bus. The bus got lost near the hotel for about half an hour, but one of the other buses was so lost that the start had to be delayed.
  • The 10k was slightly long, about 10.6k! This wasn’t appreciated but my undertrained legs. The half marathon was spot on. So glad I didn’t do the half… Beautiful course despite the runaway golf cart.
  • It was a little too cold to swim in the pool but we lazed by it for a while, and having a pool meant we could use the showers to get changed post-race, which was fantastic.
  • The buffet had been seriously hyped. I’d been told about cheese – and after not really eating much cheese for some time, I was pretty excited. This was just before the Great Cheese Ban of 2017 so I’m not sure why there was no cheese, but there wasn’t, and the veggie options weren’t amazing either. I had two plates of salad and then about 3 plates of desserts. Not three desserts. Three plates of desserts.
  • We got the last bus back to Shanghai as we were having fun chilling out in the hotel grounds. The bus driver took us on a major detour and we ended up in Suzhou. There was a lot of talk about dogs and Matt fell asleep. When we got back we went for a beer at EQ cafe.

All in all, a really fun day and an enjoyable race. I was soooo slow but I’ve really not done much running. I ran out of steam after 8.5k, which is definitely more of a mental thing. There’s a 15k race next month so I’m hopefully going to do that.

Huge thanks to Martin for organising everything and being an all-round great Dane!